June 6, 2024
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Bronfman Fellowship Announces 38th Cohort

Outstanding high school students from diverse Jewish backgrounds selected to study together and join a dynamic community of North American and Israeli leaders.

(Courtesy of The Bronfman Fellowship) The Bronfman Fellowship has selected its 38th cohort of intellectually curious 11th graders from across North America. The 26 Fellows, who come from a broad spectrum of the Jewish community, will participate in a transformative, free fellowship-year experience in which they explore a rich, complex tapestry of Jewish texts and ideas in conversation with one another and a faculty team of leading rabbis, educators and artists. They also interact with a group of Israeli peers who were chosen through a parallel selection process as part of the Israeli Fellowship, Amitei Bronfman. The new class of Fellows will join a vibrant, lifelong alumni community that includes some of today’s most exciting Jewish writers, thinkers and leaders.

The Bronfman Fellowship year typically begins with a five-week immersive summer in Israel. Due to the ongoing uncertainty around security in Israel, the majority of the Fellowship summer will take place in the U.S. this year, with an optional trip to Israel at the end of July. The Fellows will have an unparalleled opportunity to delve deeply into the Jewish experience, both in America and Israel. The Fellowship year continues with winter and spring seminars in the U.S. and monthly virtual meetings.

The Bronfman Fellowship was founded in 1987 by Edgar M. Bronfman, z”l, formerly CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. and a visionary Jewish philanthropist. Bronfman passed away in December 2013.

Below are five of the 2024 Bronfman Fellows:

Mussia Poltorak, a student at Yeshivat Frisch, is passionate about self-expression; she is poetry editor for her school’s literary magazine, Kalliope, and has won awards on the debate team. She is rising editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper, the Paw Print, for which she has written about topics ranging from the movement to de-gender Hebrew to Hasidic education. Poltorak also enjoys the sciences: She medaled in multiple events at Science Olympiad, is a member of her school’s math team, and is an FTC dean’s list semi-finalist for her work as outreach captain of Frisch’s Robotics team.

Poltorak sequences and analyzes genes through the Waksman Student Scholars Program, under the supervision of Rutgers University, and will publish her sequence to the NCBI database this year. Outside of school, Poltorak completed the Civics Unplugged Civic Innovation Fellowship and participated in Girls-Who-Code SIP. She spent this past summer living with a Muslim host family in Indonesia through NSLI-Y, a U.S. Department of State-funded scholarship, which was an enriching experience that allowed her to explore her Jewish identity in a different cultural context.

Batya Sperling-Milner is a junior at SAR High School. She is an active member of her school community, participating in Model U.N., track, student leadership, and after-school Torah learning. She is passionate about the intersection of Torah and disability justice and runs a disability discussion club at her school, as well as a mentorship program for visually impaired students in NYC. When she’s not in school, you can find her reading, tandem biking, and spending time with her friends and family outdoors.

Leo Lewittes Eigen is a student at the Ramaz School. He is co- editor-in-chief of Ramaz’s literary magazine, Parallax, and its Jewish studies publication, Likrat Shabbat. He is also a student ambassador, and is active in model congress, newspaper, college bowl and peer tutoring. He spent 10 summers at Camp Ramah (Nyack and the Poconos), frequently attends the teen minyan at Park East Synagogue, and is a founding member of the Altneu Synagogue. He is also an award-winning playwright whose works have been staged in Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. His play “Lox” will be produced as a short film.

Beyond his writing, he is an avid NBA fan. He wrote an original research paper on the history of player empowerment in professional basketball and presented it at Queen’s University Belfast’s American studies conference, in addition to several other academic conferences. He is currently a student fellow for the Manhattan Borough President, Mark D. Levine, and was a teen fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Samantha Ryba is an honors student at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School, who is passionate about solving issues affecting modern Jewish teens in her community. For three years, she’s been an editor of her school’s award-winning newspaper, The Phoenix, and on Saturdays, she enjoys visiting her community’s senior citizen center. After attending Genesis at Brandeis, a summer seminar focused on Jewish learning and identity building for teens, she developed a greater appreciation for Jewish learning with peers of different religious backgrounds. Ryba looks forward to joining this year’s Bronfman Fellowship cohort and engaging in meaningful conversations while exploring the rich culture of Israel.

Abel Weiner Bellows is a junior at Stuyvesant High School. He is a current Hartman Teen Fellow and assistant teacher at Congregation Beth Elohim’s Yachad. He is an active member of his parliamentary debate team, SING! musical theater competition costume crew member, and a volunteer lifeguard. He plays the fiddle, knits voraciously, and loves to read and swim.

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