|NIF/SHATIL Social Justice Fellow Bios 2013 ‐ 2014|
|Written by Tamara Symonds|
Ariana Siegel (Richard J. Israel Fellow) grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., affording her a strong political consciousness and interest in activism. In high school, Ariana became acquainted with Jewish activism through the B’nai Brith Youth Organization and as a participant in Operation Understanding DC, a program that brings together Jewish and African-American youth to become leaders against racism and anti-Semitism. She spent time in Israel through a BBYO “Passport to Israel” program and on the March of the Living, and later interned at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. Ariana graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a degree in Peace and Justice Studies and English Literature. She put her study of social justice to practice while interning at organizations such as United for a Fair Economy and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. Ariana also studied Arabic at Tufts, and spent a semester in Alexandria, Egypt, through Middlebury Schools Abroad. Following graduation, Ariana served in Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps in New York, working at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center as a grassroots organizer for community empowerment.
In addition to her commitment to social justice, Ariana is passionate about writing. She completed a Senior Honors Thesis in Creative Writing, served as an editor for The Tufts Observer, won Tufts' 2011 short-story contest, and upon graduation was awarded the English department prize for creative writing. Ariana is eager to discover how The New Israel Fund Social Justice fellowship will inspire her writing and activism in the coming year.
Aurel Diamond (U.K. William Frankel Fellow), originally from Montreal, Canada, spent most of his life in rural England, where he and his family were the Jewish community in its entirety. Aurel’s exposure to the Jewish world developed during his undergraduate studies at the University of Bath, where he became involved in the Jewish Society. He was elected as president in his fourth year, and subsequently helped a tight-knit circle of four friends flourish into a dynamic community of over fifty people. During his time at Bath, Aurel also lead interfaith initiatives, and was awarded prizes within the city and nationally for promoting dialogue and friendly relations between faith groups on campus.
Aurel’s interest in social justice continued to develop at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated from his master’s in education with distinction. Through researching the issue of gender inequity within mathematics education, Aurel became more interested in the issue of educational disparity as a whole. He also was active in the Cambridge Jewish community where he sat on the University Chaplaincy Committee, and founded Ga’avah Cambridge – a student society whose purpose was to support the needs of LGBT Jews in the city.
After leaving Cambridge, Aurel spent a year teaching English at a primary school in Petah Tikva. He looks forward to taking what he learnt from his time as a teacher in Israel to help kick-start social action projects in the Israeli education system.
Jacob Udell (Nomi Fein Fellow) is from New York City, and graduated from Middlebury College in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy. While at Middlebury, Jacob helped found 'the Raven's Garden', an urban garden at a school in the South Bronx. He was also an educator for two seasons in the garden's summer program, where students explored environmentalism, community organizing, activism, and creative arts. This past year, Jacob was part of the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. As a fellow, Jacob studied Hebrew calligraphy, Israeli politics, and social thought, and worked at Storefront Advocacy Centers in Jerusalem and Lod run by Singur Kehilati (Community Advocacy).
Jacob spent summers studying Jewish texts at Yeshivat Hadar, the Drisha Institute, and the Kayam Farm Kollel. He loves chatting about politics, economics, ideology, and the NY Knicks, and is excited to have the opportunity to think critically about (almost) all of those things as a NIF/Shatil Fellow.
Jeremy Elster was born and raised in Orange County, California. He grew up with a strong Jewish education lovingly cultivated by his parents. Jeremy has travelled extensively to Israel including a year spent in Jerusalem 'testing out aliyah' with his family from 2004-2005. Upon his arrival at UC Berkeley, Jeremy became active in the organization Kesher Enoshi: Progressives for Activism in Israel/Palestine. Through this transformative organization he learned about the work of the New Israel Fund's grantees and activists and developed a passion for social change and ending the occupation. In the summer of 2010, Jeremy worked to map and organize Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem with the NGO Grassroots Jerusalem.
Last May, Jeremy graduated from UC Berkeley with degrees in Cognitive Science and Anthropology. He continues to live and work in Berkeley as a soccer video analyst and as a field organizer and development assistant for J Street in their San Francisco office. Jeremy also sits on the NIF New Generations Leadership Council. When missing, Jeremy can most likely be found at a yoga studio, on a hike or bike ride in the Berkeley hills or patronizing a local taqueria.
Leanne Gale is thrilled to dedicate next year to Tzedek and Tikkun Olam in Israel as a NIF-Shatil Social Justice Fellow! A native of Winnipeg, Canada, Leanne moved to Long Island, New York at a young age and grew up attending Solomon Schechter Day School. During her high school years, she was active in the North American Federation for Temple Youth and a proud camper and counselor at the URJ Eisner Camp. Leanne went on to study Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors in her major. During her time at Penn, Leanne studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and participated in the US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program for intensive Arabic in Morocco. During her study abroad experience, she interned at Shatil’s Jerusalem office, where she learned first-hand about social justice work in the Israeli nonprofit world. Leanne wrote her senior thesis on joint Israeli-Palestinian nonviolent activism, winning the Goldin Award for the most outstanding thesis in Jewish Studies, the Rose Award for outstanding undergraduate research, and the College Emerging Scholar Award for excellence in scholarship and public speaking.
Outside of the classroom, Leanne served as the Chair of Penn’s Reform Jewish Community, working to foster an environment of religious pluralism at Penn Hillel. She also helped co-found Penn’s J Street U chapter, eventually serving as its president. As the leader of the organization, Leanne spearheaded a successful campaign to bring Breaking the Silence to Penn Hillel. In her capacity as a J Street U activist, Leanne also piloted a program offering alternative political tours for American study abroad students in Israel. Additionally, Leanne served as the Editor-in-Chief of Kedma, Penn’s Journal of Jewish Thought, Jewish Culture, and Israel. Before she moves to Israel to continue her journey of social justice activism in the coming year, Leanne looks forward to spending a summer of Jewish learning at Hadar, an egalitarian Yeshiva in Manhattan.
In her free time, Leanne enjoys getting lost in novels, exploring Philadelphia (or Jerusalem, as the case may be), and perusing feminist literature.
Oraneet Orevi (Jay E. Orlin Fellow) was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, where she grew up with her amazing parents and four fantastic siblings. Despite being born in the States, she felt a deep love and connection to Israel, proudly identifying as an Israeli-American. In high school, she explored her Israeli identity in USY through more of a Jewish American lens. In college, however, her identity and love for Israel was challenged while majoring in Ethnic Studies at UCSD. She became actively committed to social justice work, facilitating workshops on intersectionality, privilege, and the -isms. Within this framework, Oraneet began a journey to engage her social justice activism with thoughtful self-reflection and consciousness around her identity and Israel, developing a more mature love of, appreciation for, and critique of her homeland.
In her senior year at UCSD, Oraneet wrote an honors thesis to shed light on identity formation of 1st and 2nd generation Sephardic Israelis in the United States, which was the first time that many people in her community became aware of the different Jewish ethnicities. That year she also created an event, "Israel and Palestine: An Open Dialogue," to facilitate communication across religious and ethnic lines and collaborated with Lebanese and Palestinian UCSD students to put together "Concert Coexist" – an evening dedicated to the victims of war in Lebanon and Israel.
In May 2013, Oraneet will graduate from Golden Gate University, School of Law – with specialization certificates in public interest law and international law – to pursue a career in U.S. domestic civil rights and international human rights. Her article, A Holistic Approach to Israel and Palestine: Where We Are Now and Where We Can Go will be published in the 2013 Annual Survey of International and Comparative Law; her paper explores and promotes the various methods of non-violence utilized by activists in Israel, Palestine, and abroad to make progress towards peace and a two-State solution. Oraneet is deeply committed to positive social change informed by self-reflective and conscious advocacy and is thrilled to engage in this work as an NIF fellow!
Yardena Schwartz was born and raised in New Jersey by a family of Zionists. She grew up Orthodox, and up until middle school, attended Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy. When her family grew less observant, Yardena moved to public school, but maintained her close bond with Zionism through her active participation in USY and eight summers at YMHA-YWHA sleep away camps. Yardena’s first visit to Israel was right before college, on a summer-long trip with Young Judaea. While receiving her undergraduate degree in International Relations at the University of Delaware, Yardena was active in Chabad, the Jewish Heritage Program, and served as the Vice president of Blue Hens for Israel. As a college representative for the Jewish National Fund’s Caravan for Democracy, Yardena traveled to Israel with a cohort of young Jewish leaders from campuses across the country. Her first internship was with the Jewish Federation, but during her semester abroad in Tel Aviv, Yardena become more interested in journalism. Yardena's experience as a journalist, learning about and covering a wide range of issues and perspectives, has profoundly transformed her views of Israel and shaped her vision for a more just and democratic Jewish state. She went on to intern at ABC News and The New York Times, where she covered the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential Primary. After graduating college, Yardena worked at ABC News Primetime and NBC News Today, before returning to school for her Master’s in Journalism at Columbia University. As a Columbia journalism student, Yardena reported for The New York Times, The Forward, and traveled to Israel to cover coexistence efforts. Following journalism school, Yardena spent a year working at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and is currently a producer at Andrea Mitchell Reports. To see samples of Yardena’s work, visit www.yardenaschwartz.com
Zach Fenster was born and raised in New York City. After graduating from high school, he participated in a gap-year program for Israelis called Beit Yisrael, which was located in an underserved community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The experience was a formative one, and planted the seed to come back to Israel and work in the field of social justice. Zach returned to the United States after that year and attended Middlebury College, where he studied Middle Eastern History. Within this framework, he studied Arabic in the US and abroad in Morocco and Jordan. Since graduating in May 2012, Zach has worked as the Assistant to the CEO at the Jerusalem International YMCA, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, and a summer academic coach at NYU Abu Dhabi. He is thrilled to be part of the Fellowship and is looking forward to meeting all of the fellows.
To read the bios from the 2012-2013 cohort of NIF/SHATIL Social Justice Fellows, click here.