AMOS & CELIA HEILICHER MINNEAPOLIS JEWISH DAY SCHOOL

Success Stories



Reflections from the Heilicher Graduating Class of 2021

Each year at graduation time, Heilicher 8th graders reflect on their academic, spiritual, and social journey. Here are a few excerpts from the 2021 graduating class. We wish them all well in high school and beyond. L’hitraot! Until we see you again!

Heilicher Graduating Class of 2021

“When I first walked through Heilicher’s halls at the beginning of first grade, I was nervous, I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t have any friends. The class brought me into their community and they became my family.”

—Dahlia H.

“From reading with Ms. Ziessman in Kindergarten to talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Wendy [this year], you helped me learn, inform, and grow as a student. This is something I am grateful for, and I wouldn't be here today without all of my teachers.”

—Micah S.

“Heilicher has not only taught me about the core value of ‘Get yourself a mentor and make yourself a friend,’ but it has also taught me about what it truly means to be a mentor and a friend to other people.”

—Sarah T.

“I am very grateful to Heilicher for giving me the confidence to be able to move on to the next [step]—high school—stronger than ever. Thank you.”

—Josh F.

“Probably what this school does best is accepting everybody for who they are.”

—Jack S.


 

Read about the difference our amazing alumni are making in the world.

  • Alumni Story
  • Jewish Life
Heilicher Alum Manufactures PPE for Local Distribution

Heilicher alumnus Ronen Pink is making a difference by manufacturing face shields for local health care organizations, nursing homes, and other non profits.

Spring 2021

When Ronen Pink, Heilicher class of ‘2013 (and now a senior at the University of Miami), learned last spring of organizations’ pressing needs for personal protective equipment (PPE), he jumped in to make a difference. 

Temporarily home in Minneapolis when his university moved online, Ronen discovered that local hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes were short on PPE. Using a 3D printer and an instructional file from the National Institutes of Health, Ronen began to manufacture face shields. He first reached out to Sholom Home and sent over face shields to meet their emerging needs. He expanded his network throughout the summer providing face shields to the University of Minnesota Physicians and distributing them through other nonprofit organizations, including the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.

Now back at college, Ronen reflected on how his Heilicher education influenced his decision to become involved. “Heilicher taught me that we are all responsible for making the world a better place,” he says. “If you have the ability to do good in the world, you need to reach out to help others.”

  • Alumni Story
  • Israel
  • Jewish Life
Cultivating a Lifelong Love of Israel Q & A with Julia Birnberg

Heilicher alumna Julia Birnberg has found multipe ways to merge her passion for Israel activism with her interests in business and entrepreneurship. 

Fall 2019

Heilicher alumna Julia Birnberg (Heilicher ‘12) is no stranger to Jewish community leadership. A rising senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she has already distinguished herself as a pro-Israel student activist and campus leader. We had the opportunity to interview Julia this summer about her activism and how Heilicher assisted in shaping her Jewish identity. 

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR OWN JEWISH UPBRINGING AND INVOLVEMENT. HOW DID IT INFLUENCE YOUR CURRENT PATH?

I grew up in a welcoming and supportive Jewish home. We had Shabbat dinners every week, attended synagogue regularly, and celebrated holidays with my extended family. Growing up, both of my parents were heavily involved in the Jewish community and are still very active. It was important to them to raise children with strong Jewish values and identities. Attending Heilicher helped me truly understand what it means to be a Jewish American in my generation. Even as a little girl, I always had solid core values which guided me throughout my time at Heilicher and afterwards. I enjoyed having Jewish Studies and Hebrew every day. These classes really helped me develop a strong identity which carried on throughout high school and college. 

WHAT IS SPECIAL TO YOU ABOUT HEILICHER AND YOUR JEWISH DAY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE?

I cannot thank the school enough for creating such a welcoming and inclusive environment. The school was a really amazing place to explore my Jewish identity and also create friendships with people who believe different things. The teachers supported every student’s individual needs and encouraged us to get involved in our broader community. Some of my most memorable experiences were the intimate conversations I was able to have with my classmates and teachers. I was able to connect with my teachers on a personal level and learn their stories. In particular, I loved how Heilicher was able to weave in Jewish values and learning in all courses. Specifically, I remember connecting the Jewish core values with a variety of songs in music class. 

WHAT DRIVES YOUR ISRAEL ADVOCACY AND WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY DOING?

My initial connection to Israel was through my Jewish identity and family. The first time I visited Israel was during middle school with my family, and I immediately felt a strong connection to this vibrant and innovative country. After visiting, I knew that I wanted to do my part in ensuring Israel’s right to exist. A high school USY Eastern Europe Pilgrimage trip to Israel strengthened my connection and introduced me to students from across the country, some of whom I am still close with today. This trip changed my perspective on Israel activism because I was able to engage with students who shared my passion and wanted to do something about it.

During high school, I decided that it was my duty to ensure and continue to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. I realized that as an American, I could impact Israel’s security and safety. When I arrived on campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I knew I wanted to get involved with the pro-Israel groups on campus. I immediately joined Badgers for Israel, the AIPAC-affiliated student organization, where I learned the importance of building relationships with members of Congress and influential student leaders. I attended multiple AIPAC Policy Conferences in Washington D.C., participated in AIPAC student training conferences, and interned last summer as an AIPAC Diamond Summer Intern. I also had the opportunity to speak as a student activist at various AIPAC Annual Events across the country.

During my freshman year, I also got involved with the student organization called TAMID, which connects college students with Israeli startup companies to offer advising and consulting services. I have remained highly involved with the organization throughout college and even interned during the summers for the two startup companies I found through TAMID. 

I was really grateful for the impactful experiences I had at Heilicher and through my trips to Israel and wanted to give other students the opportunity to strengthen their connections to Judaism and Israel. This past winter, I led a Birthright trip with students from UWMadison and across the country. During my junior year abroad at Tel Aviv University, I participated in their Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Business program, where I had the opportunity to personally engage with and learn from successful Israeli startup companies. Overall, I have found ways to merge my passions for Israel activism with my interests in business and entrepreneurship. 

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE FOR THE CURRENT GENERATION OF HEILICHER STUDENTS?

I would tell current students at Heilicher that it is important to figure out what you’re most passionate about and run with it. Find a cause or issue that ignites your fire and motivates you to want to make changes in our world. I can tell you from firsthand experience that it isn’t always going to be easy to fight for what you believe in, but it’ll definitely be worthwhile and fulfilling.

I also think it’s important to listen and be open minded to other people’s beliefs and values. You can learn so much from just engaging with other individuals with differing perspectives and upbringings. Heilicher gave me so much confidence in who I am and what I believe, and helped me develop the skills that now underpin my Israel advocacy.

Julia Birnberg

Julia Birnberg

 

  • Alumni Story
  • Jewish Life
Living Jewishly Into Their Best Selves: Q & A with Zachariah and Emmanuelle Sippy

Zachariah and Emmanuelle Sippy are Heilicher alumni living Jewishly and making a difference in their community.

Fall 2018

Zachariah Sippy graduated from Heilicher in 2014 and is heading to Princeton University this fall. His sister and current high school student Emmanuelle attended Heilicher through sixth grade, after which their family moved to Lexington, Kentucky. It was a delight to learn how they are involved in Jewish life in Kentucky and how their Jewish education at Heilicher shaped their current path.

Q. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR OWN JEWISH BACKGROUND. HOW DID IT INFLUENCE YOUR CURRENT PATH?

Zachariah: Our dad is Rabbi David Wirtschafter, now the rabbi at Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky. He was the Rabbi-in-Residence at HMJDS when we first came to Minneapolis in 2008, and we were jointly affiliated with Beth El Synagogue and Temple Israel. Being a rabbi’s kid definitely helped shape my Judaism.

Emmanuelle: Although I love songs sung in services and making challah every week, the emphasis on pursuing justice has influenced me the most. 

Q. WHAT IS SPECIAL TO YOU ABOUT HEILICHER AND YOUR JEWISH DAY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE?

E: One of my happiest memories is making peanut butter sandwiches on VOICE night every year. Those sticky gloves and dirty t-shirts were the foundation of my activism interests. Every Heilicher teacher is committed to their students, whether nurturing, comedic, or serious—they are all transformative.

Z: The Heilicher teachers that affected me the most were Lynn Slobodien (5/6 Language Arts teacher) and Robert Portnoe (Rabbinic Studies). Mr. Portnoe’s eighth-grade Judaics class still remains one of the best (and most challenging) courses that I have ever taken. The small discussion-style nature forced us to improve as readers, writers, and thinkers. In fifth grade, my friend Isaac Wert and I established a school newspaper, the HMJDS Roar. This foray into writing, editing, management, and journalism has proven to be influential. 

Q. WHAT DOES YOUR JEWISH INVOLVEMENT LOOK LIKE POST-HEILICHER?

E: Currently, I am the Social Action Vice President of my NFTY chapter and attend regional events along with services. Weekly, I help fourth and fifth graders prepare for their B’nei Mitzvah and will be in Confirmation class next year. I wrote two articles this year, which center around the Jewish values I learned at HMJDS and came to fruition because of Jewish outlets. “We Too” was published in the American Jewish World, Women of Reform Judaism Blog, and Jgirls magazine. “We Remain Slaves: A Free People Beholden to Righteousness” was published on the Reform Judaism Blog and in our local Federation magazine.

Z: I have published articles and worked with media groups like The Atlantic, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lexington Herald-Leader, and others. I have served as the President of my temple’s NFTY group and on the general board of NFTY Ohio-Valley, in addition to actively raising my voice regarding anti-semitism in Kentucky. 

Q. TELL US WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU.

E: As a sophomore at Henry Clay High School, I am on the leadership of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, which seeks to improve Kentucky Schools and amplify the narratives of students who are all too often unheard. I partner with Unlearn Fear + Hate, an organization that uses art to foster community. I help them plan interfaith events as well as translating into Hebrew. These projects are communal efforts of tikkun olam (repairing the world) that also fulfill me personally.

Z: I will attend Princeton University in the fall, likely studying religion or history. I spent much of my high school career as a debater, and as a member of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, where I have worked to involve students in both the worlds of education policy and practice in Kentucky. Q. 

ANY CLOSING THOUGHTS FOR THE HEILICHER COMMUNITY?

Z: Heilicher teachers challenged me to be my best self while remaining true to my values and character. I am grateful for the small classes, peers, devoted teachers, and hardworking administration.

E: The HMJDS community of parents, peers, and teachers taught me the merits of hard work and to love learning. Heilicher did not set a trajectory for what I would do, but rather why I would choose to do it.

Emmanuelle Sippy (Zachariah Sippy pictured at top)

 

  • Alumni Story
  • Holocaust Education
Carly Joseph

Meet Carly Joseph (Heilicher '17), who co-wrote and produced a play about a Holocaust survivor.

Spring 2020

Alumna Carly Joseph (Heilicher ‘17) is on a mission to educate people about what happened in the Holocaust. Her mission is born from years of solid Jewish education at Heilicher, experience in theater performance, and a deeply held belief that “Never Again” should mean “Never Again.” 

ORIGINS OF A THEATER PROJECT
While a junior at St. Louis Park High School, Carly and her friend Abby Anderson co-wrote and co-directed a play based on Abby’s great-grandmother’s life story. The new play, entitled The Only Star I Remember, chronicles the life of Esther (Reicher) Begam, who was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. Esther is currently 92 years old and resides in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

As freshmen, Carly and Abby participated in the Witness Theater Project that brought Jewish teens together with Holocaust survivors to create a new play based on personal stories of the Shoah.

“Witness Theater was an incredible experience that put me in awe of these brave survivors,” Carly explained. “This made me want to hear as many stories as possible, especially as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles.”

The Only Star I Remember became a year-long labor of love that involved many new and daunting tasks. Carly and Abby spearheaded all aspects of the production, including writing the script, casting the show, securing funding, and pitching their idea to the Board of Directors of Blue Water Theatre, a Wayzata youth theater company where Carly has often performed. The play received rave reviews for late-January performances at Blue Water Theatre. 

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION SEMINARS
Carly felt an urgency to get the word out about the lessons of the Holocaust. “Holocaust education is so important, especially now that anti-semitism is becoming more prevalent,” she said. In order to provide Holocaust education for the cast and crew, Carly enlisted the help of former Heilicher Associate Head of School Helen Siegel to coordinate a speaker series leading up to the production.

“Carly has always been a natural leader,” recalled Helen, who retired after 27 years at Heilicher. “She is a self-advocate with a positive and lively personality. She gets things done.” Helen, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, was delighted to help bring Carly and Abby’s vision to fruition through four two-hour Holocaust education sessions for the cast, crew, and extended Blue Water Theatre community. 

HEILICHER EDUCATION AS A LAUNCHING PAD
Carly credits her K-8 education at Heilicher as significant to shaping her into the person she is today. She looks back fondly on her years in the seventh- and eighth-grade plays, which were some of her most memorable theater experiences. She also enjoyed the small class sizes that allowed her to know her teachers well.

“I loved how we could delve into topics we were curious about and learn as much as possible,” she recalled. She remembers how Hebrew teacher BatSheva Berman made language learning fun and accessible.

“My Hebrew language skills and knowledge about Israel came into play in a big way when I went on the Alexander Muss High School in Israel summer program,” Carly noted. Heilicher’s Holocaust education also had a profound impact on Carly. As for core values, Carly believes they were so important for her Jewishly and as a guidepost for how to live life in general. In the future, Carly hopes to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree and perhaps live in New York City someday. She hopes to be able to produce her play in other venues in the future as well. 

THE BIG TAKEAWAY
When asked what she hopes theatergoers will take away from the experience of her play, Carly offered: “My hope is that audiences will gain a respect for the gravity of what happened. Even more importantly, I want them to leave the theater understanding that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference.”


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