Bronfman Youth Fellowships Awarded for Program’s 28th Year

BYFI logo 2014The Bronfman Fellowships has selected its 28th cohort of high school students, among them a varsity hockey player who founded a popular prayer service at her school; a saxophonist, clarinetist and composer who has performed at Lincoln Center; an avid participant in Revolutionary War reenactments; and a budding scientist who works at a Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory.

The 26 fellows, chosen from hundreds of applicants across North America, will participate in a transformative five-week program of study and travel in Israel, followed by a rigorous year of programming centered around pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts. The new class of fellows will join a vibrant alumni network that includes some of today’s most inspiring Jewish writers, thinkers and leaders.

The program was founded by Edgar M. Bronfman, z”l, formerly CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. and a visionary Jewish philanthropist. Mr. Bronfman passed away in December.

“Edgar Bronfman placed enormous faith in young people’s ability to see the world not just as it is, but as it ought to be,” said Rabbi Mishael Zion, co-director of the Fellowships. “He believed that young people energized by their Judaism were best equipped to both shape a Jewish ‘Renaissance’ and improve the world. This year’s Fellows are already a remarkable group; we have the privilege of instilling in them a love for learning Jewish texts and a commitment to pluralism and communal responsibility that will serve us all into the future.”

Following a competitive application process, the 2014 Fellows are from 14 states across the United States and Canada. They represent diverse Jewish backgrounds, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, unaffiliated and non- denominational. The Fellows, who have already distinguished themselves as leaders in their communities, will spearhead Jewish community or social action projects upon returning home after the summer.

The Fellows will study with an esteemed faculty, including Rabbi Zion; Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Executive Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University and the subject of a new documentary produced by Chelsea Clinton; Rabbi Or Rose, Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College; Dr. Judith Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Archive; and Rabbi Laurence Edwards, former Hillel Director at Dartmouth College and Cornell University.

Over the summer, Fellows meet with political and cultural figures in Israel such as authors Etgar Keret and A.B. Yehoshua, politician Ruth Calderon, activist Anat Hoffman and journalist Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief. They also spend a week with a group of Israeli peers who were chosen through a parallel selection process as part of the Israeli Youth Fellowship, Amitei Bronfman. This aspect of the program reflects Mr. Bronfman’s early recognition that the future of Jewish peoplehood should be considered a global enterprise, forged through deep collaboration, discourse and friendship between Israelis and Americans.

There are now over 1,000 Bronfman Fellowships alumni across North America and Israel, among them 8 Rhodes Scholars, 4 former Supreme Court clerks, 15 Fulbright Scholars, 27 Wexner Fellows and 21 Dorot Fellows. Young leaders of note among Fellowship alumni include Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, author of the best- selling “Series of Unfortunate Events” children’s books; Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and editor of the New American Haggadah (featuring commentary from Lemony Snicket, among others); and Angela Warnick Buchdahl, the first woman to be named Senior Rabbi at New York’s Central Synagogue and the first Asian-American person to be ordained as a rabbi and cantor. Others include: Igor Timofeyev, former Supreme Court clerk and former Special Advisor for Refugee and Asylum Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Dara Horn, author of In the Image, The World to Come and All Other Nights; and Anya Kamenetz, the youngest person ever nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her Village Voice series “Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young.”

Their Israeli alumni have also ascended to positions of influence in government, civil groups, the private sector and cultural institutions. Israeli alumni include attorneys at the State Justice Department, a member of the Yokneam City Council, noted journalists, successful filmmakers including a Tribeca Film Festival winner, political advisers to Members of Knesset, members of elite IDF units and university lecturers.

“We are thrilled to welcome the latest class of Fellows into a community that has grown to become a talent bank for the Jewish people,” said Rebecca Voorwinde, co-director of the Fellowships. “As the past three decades have shown, the five weeks in Israel are just the beginning.”

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