Success Stories

HMJDS Alumni Become High School Valedictorians

Mazel tov to Heilicher Class of 2013 alumni Sam Orloff (pictured below left) and Jesse Schwartz (right) on becoming valedictorians of their St. Louis Park High School 2017 graduating class. Both earned top honors and gave speeches at their commencement ceremony in June. Heilicher is proud of these young men and all of the alumni who are achieving great things post-day school.

Reflections from the Heilicher Graduating Class of 2017

Each year at graduation time, Heilicher 8th graders reflect on their academic, spiritual, and social journey. Here are a few excerpts from the 2017 graduating class. We wish them all well in high school and beyond. L’hitraot! Until we see you again!

One of Heilicher’s core values is…

וְגֵר לֹא-תוֹנֶה, וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ, כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

“And you shall not wrong, nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

We must be welcoming of strangers for once we too were strangers. It is a mitzvah to welcome guests. A person who has welcomed me and has chosen to be my friend is Bella K. Through my three years at Heilicher, spending time with her was probably the highlight of being at the school. She welcomed me into the school and helped me become who I am today.

When I go into high school I will accept people and try to welcome them into the community.


I have always wanted to make strangers feel at home and this concept really speaks to my heart.


In 7th grade, we walked down Cedar Lake road and picked up garbage. Even though that trash did not really affect me, it affected other people in the area. We are responsible for our community and our neighbor’s. I learned that just because this might not matter to me, it matters to the whole community. This experience changed my view.


During my nine years here I have learned a lot, not only the essentials to go to high school, but Heilicher taught me more about our people and our past, Mishnah, Torah, The Holocaust, and many other important things. I am proud to graduate from this school knowing that I have a great foundation… I have been taught to be a leader, to be a friend, to be a student, and to self-advocate. I have also learned to have a fun time.


Our school has supported those in our community who have experienced a loss. This school has taught me to support others when they are in need. This is a value that I will forever live with and that I have learned from this school. In the future, I will work hard to support others in my community.


“It is not up to you to finish the job. Neither are you free to withdraw from it.”

לא עליך המלכה לגמור ולא אתה בין חורים להבדל מימנה

I will never be able to completely get rid of poverty or homelessness in my community, but I can always start and help. Every little thing I do can change a life. And who knows, maybe me helping out could inspire someone else to do the same.


The teachers here have helped me become the person I am today, they have all inspired me to be a student who will change our future and stand up for what I believe in.


Work Hard, Have Fun
Daniel Vinitsky Learned the Right Balance at HMJDS

Walking onto campus brought back a flood of memories for HMJDS alumnus Daniel Vinitsky. Daniel graduated from eighth grade at HMJDS in 2005 but has since spent many hours on campus assisting with the HMJDS play as well as acting in local community performances. He now makes a living performing in plays throughout the Twin Cities area and working for the National Theater for Children, helping to schedule tours of educational shows.

Many people at HMJDS helped shaped the man he has become, Daniel said. A smile appeared on his face as reflected on a particular teacher who had a lasting impact on him as a person.

“Mr. Adler was my science teacher in seventh and eighth grade at HMJDS,” Daniel explained. “He was always very passionate about [the] subject he taught, and he set the bar high. But he was also very friendly and open. He was able to create a friendship with his students and helped me see that you can be very serious about your work but also have fun with it.”

Daniel didn’t find his passion for theater right away. He attended the University of Minnesota for theater but shifted focus to accounting and economics. The passion, however, just wasn’t there for him. Remembering what he learned from Mr. Adler, that success should be based on hard work and having fun, Daniel made the big decision to transfer to a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin to pursue his passion.

Daniel offered this for advice for current HMJDS students: “Students should remember to work hard at whatever they decide to do. No matter what it is that you choose, put focused time and effort into it. Whether it is sports, arts, schoolwork, friendships, etc., always dedicate yourself 110 percent.”

Vinitsky is proud of his HMJDS education and hopes that all students will find their passion, work hard, and have fun while pursuing it.

What I Learned at the Day School
HMJDS Alumni Matan Appelbaum Reflects

This spring I graduated college and, for the first time in many years, had no immediate obligations, projects, or work of any kind. Reflecting back on all of the experiences leading up to graduation from Princeton, there were a few parts of my time at HMJDS (then known as MJDS) that proved critical in my growth as a student, leader, and community member.

One of my fondest memories from the day school was a semi-regular occurrence in Mr. Portnoe’s math and Judaica classes, where the structured part of a lesson would end and we would have an open question-and-answer session. Students chose the questions. We might ask to review a difficult concept or inquire about a new, advanced topic. This gave us practice in coming up with the right questions, not just the right answers. Years later, as a mathematics major, I would often work on problems where progress was best made by challenging the questions, or looking to see how far I could push the concepts I learned in class.

The teachers at HMJDS were all extremely supportive of me as a student and encouraged me to engage deeply in what I was learning. They also encouraged me to study the subjects that interested me most, which at the time were math and sciences. My decision to major in mathematics and minor in computer science came partially from the confidence I received from my teachers that I would be successful.

Between day school and Princeton I attended St. Louis Park High School. I went in with a group of friends from HMJDS and remained connected to the HMJDS community and the Jewish community as a whole. The support and connections I had at HMJDS taught me the value of finding a strong community and being an engaged member. At Princeton I sought out communities of value and took on leadership roles in the communities I joined. The volunteer involvement at HMJDS taught me how to connect my volunteer and leadership activities to the needs of the community.

In October I started working as a software engineer at Facebook. I quickly learned my new surroundings and selected a team to join. I am certain the experiences and lessons learned from HMJDS will help guide me as I go forward.

HMJDS Alumna Honored

HMJDS alumna and St. Louis Park High School senior Jamie Halper (second from left) at a gathering of National Merit Semifinalists to honor their inspirational teachers in December, 2015. Jamie invited her HMJDS fifth grade teacher Maia Poling, HMJDS math teacher Tim Broms (at right), and St. Louis Park High science teacher Alan Wachutka (far left). Jamie chose to honor these teachers “because each one has helped me love learning,” she said.

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