Alumni 2016


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Alissa Fagin

Brandeis University

Alissa spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet HaRova. She graduated from SKA high school and is now attending Brandeis University. Alissa decided to come to Israel for a few reasons. The first was to further her Judaic studies, and to be inspired by them. She also decided to come because she wanted to really feel and internalize the history and conflict surrounding this land, in order to feel like she is a part of something bigger than herself. Core18 is an incredible program because it exposed her to so much diversity in leadership among Israeli notables, and implored her to become inspired and take action as a result of that exposure. It also connected her with like-minded gap-year students who similarly love and want to defend Israel, and who will unfortunately be confronted with similar challenges on college campuses. She hopes to use what Core18 taught her to be able to defend her college campus, and to eventually be able to make films and documentaries that shed a positive and honest light on Israel. Throughout high school Alissa was Captain of the College Bowl team, the NORPAC liaison to her high school, co-founder of her school’s Healthy Lifestyle Committee, and was on the soccer team. She went on NCSY and JOLT and was the Editor of National and Foreign News on her high school’s newspaper. Alissa also interned at Video Activism on her gap-year.

Arielle Zoken

University of California, Davis

Arielle spent her gap-year studying at Young Judaea Year Course. She graduated from San Rafael High School and is now attending UC Davis. Through Core18 Arielle hoped to learn more about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She hoped to sharpen her advocacy skills so she can be a leader and effectively advocate for Israel at UC Davis where the conflict and BDS movement have been very present. Arielle came to Israel to learn more about the conflict as well as immerse herself in Israeli life and culture. Arielle has spent her past few summers lifeguarding, swim coaching and being a counselor at Camp Ramah in California. Before that she was a counselor at Marinwood Day Camp, she was also Head Junior Swim Coach. Arielle played the trumpet in the wind ensemble for three years. Arielle ran track and was on the varsity swim team as well as the varsity water-polo team. She interned for Len Rifkind and Associated during the summer of 2012. She attended a weekly Midrasha program for the past three years. Arielle founded the Mock Trial club at her school she held positions of founder, president, and co-captain. In addition Arielle volunteered as a swim coach for the Special Olympics and a peer tutor.

Avi Solomon

Washington University

Avi spent his gap-year studying at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. He graduated from Barrack Hebrew Academy and is now attending Washington University in St. Louis. He plans to study math and International business and be an advocate for Israel. He came to Israel to deepen and develop his religious connection and make concrete decisions about his future as a Jew. These reasons, the same that brought him to yeshiva, brought him to Core18. Avi chose Core18 because he wanted to be sufficiently educated to defend Israel in a respectful and convincing manner. He hopes that after Core18 he is ready to defend Israel on a university stage. Core18 shares that goal. Throughout high school Avi played varsity basketball and soccer and was captain for both teams his senior year. Avi participated in the school musicals playing roles such as Captain Von Trapp (The Sound of Music) and Shrek (Shrek the Musical). He was the class treasurer his last two years of school and on his school's Jewish Leadership Initiative which planned and executed Jewish events for the school. He wrote and edited the yearbook, the school’s foreign policy journal and the Hebrew newspaper. In addition he participated in the Business Club and attended DECA. Avi was an active member in his school’s Israel advocacy club and attended the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Deena Nerwen

Washington University

Deena spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet Torah V’Avoda. She graduated from SAR High School and is now attending Washington University in St. Louis. Deena came to Israel because she wanted to further develop her personal connection to Judaism through learning. Through her midrasha, the experience of living in Israel, and Core18 she also hoped to deepen her appreciation and understanding of the country, in part so that she can better advocate for it in the future. Deena was a reporter and the Editor-in-Chief for her school newspaper. She was part of the Yachad club. She was also a math peer tutor, and on the math team. During the summers she was a counselor at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack.

Elisheva Fridman

Barnard College

Elisheva spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She graduated from the Frisch School and is now attending Barnard College. Elisheva came to Israel for the opportunity to connect with her religion and the land, and to form relationships. She chose to join Core18 to continue to be involved in the community around her and learn how to do it more skillfully. In high school Elisheva participated in Write on For Israel, a two year program including monthly seminars and a trip to Israel. She was also involved in AIPAC, NORPAC, and the debate team. She was her yearbook editor and a volunteer with The Friendship Circle. In addition she was a youth group's leader at her synagogue.

Emily Firestone

Boston University

Emily spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet Moriah. She graduated from Weinbaum Yeshiva High School and is now attending Boston University. Emily came to Israel to have a year to learn, grow and strengthen her beliefs. She chose to participate in Core18 because she believed it would provide her with an opportunity to deepen her knowledge and skills to help her be a better advocate for Israel. Emily was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook. She became involved with Israel advocacy through AIPAC. She has attended three Policy Conferences, the High School Summit, and the Saban Leadership Seminar. Emily is also interested in the fashion industry and interned at a fashion showroom. She also worked as a sales associate at Nordstrom.

Erin Wernick

University of Maryland

Erin spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet Torah V’Avoda. She graduated from Yavneh Academy of Dallas and is now attending the University of Maryland. She is studying in the School of Business. Erin believes as a Jew it is important to live in Israel, even if it is only for a year. She felt that the experiences she would gain on her gap-year while delving deeper into her Judaism would allow her to truly find herself as a Jew. Core18 offered her a chance to expand her Israeli knowledge while learning how to combat those who oppose her views. The program helped further inform her about the current Israeli situations so that she could better communicate her love of the land to fellow classmates on her college campus. Erin was the Student Council President, a Student Teacher Intern, Captain of the Lady Bulldogs Varsity Basketball team and Copy Editor for her high school newspaper, The Bulldog Print. She was the volunteer coordinator for Students Against Terrorism, a student run organization that raises over $50,000 for victims of terror. She organized a basketball fundraising event and coordinated over 100 volunteers. She participated in March of the Living last spring along with 15,000 international participants. Erin has played the piano for 12 years.

Geoffrey Handelman

Ryerson University

Geoffrey spent his gap-year studying at Nativ. He graduated from TanenbaumCHAT high school. Geoffrey is now attending Ryerson University and majoring in hospitality and tourism management. His huge love and appreciation for this Jewish state is why he chose to spend a year in Israel. Geoffrey hoped to get as much out of Israel as possible and hoped to gain more Jewish values and experiences during his gap-year. He hopes that he will be able to continue to take on a leadership role in his community, on campus and beyond. Geoffrey joined Core18 because he feels it is his duty and obligation to defend Israel and stand up for what is right. He believes that having the proper knowledge and skills is very important, and something that Core18 is able to instill in its fellows. He hoped to gain a network of like-minded Jewish leaders, and a newfound appreciation for Israel and Judaism as a whole. Geoffrey was a youth leader at his synagogue, and a madrich on Shabbatons where he planned activities and led programs. He was a peer coach and tutor helping students with the transition into high school. He was on the interfaith committee where they met and conversed with 18 year olds of other faiths and religions. Geoffrey was in the band for three years, and ran cross country, and track & field throughout high school. He was a member of DECA business team for two years. He was a basketball specialist at camp for two summers. Geoffrey has attended March of the living.

Isaac Wolfe

Princeton University

Isaac spent his gap-year studying at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah. He graduated from Akiva Hebrew Day School and is now attending Princeton University, where he is studying whatever his mom tells him to. Isaac was born and raised in suburban Detroit, he spent most of his life on 11 Mile road - three miles and an entire world away from 8 Mile. He came to Israel to learn about his homeland, his heritage, and himself. For those same reasons, Core18 was a natural fit. He hopes to use the knowledge and skills he gained to be a stronger leader on campus and beyond. Throughout high school Isaac was Friendship Circle Teen President, NCSY Regional Board Member, and Teens 4 Israel Club President. He was the Best Delegate and received an Honorable Mention at Model United Nations. Isaac was also the Editor in Chief of the Akiva Yearbook, Captain of the Soccer Team and an AIPAC activist.

Jacob Schwartz

Harvard University

Jacob spent his gap-year studying at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah. He graduated from The International School of the Americas in San Antonio, and is now attending Harvard University. Jacob came to Israel because he wanted to find answers to his many questions about God and religion, to build lifelong relationships with peers and Rabbis, and to experience the land of Israel as a student and temporary resident, rather than a tourist. Although he is currently unsure what he will study, he is interested in business, law and nonprofit work. After college he plans to eventually make Aliyah. Jacob chose to participate in the Core18 Leaders Lab because he is passionate about the state of Israel and wants to do everything he can to support it. He recognizes that while attending school in America, he is likely to encounter a fair amount of anti-Israel activity and he wanted to ensure that he knows how to properly combat those occurrences. Jacob also wanted to build his support system of peers at other universities who will be dealing with similar issues and discuss his love for Israel with like-minded individuals. Throughout high school Jacob was the Varsity Swim Team Captain, and President and Founder of Junior Statesman of America at his school.He was the Director General of Model United Nations, San Antonio XIX, the largest student-run Model UN conference in the world.

Karen Yehoshua

The Cooper Union

Karen spent her gap-year studying at Shaalavim for Women. She graduated from Yeshiva University High School for Girls and is now attending The Cooper Union. She is studying civil engineering after completing her year of spiritual preparation at Shaalavim for Women. The Core18 fellowship was critical for her to have the ability to defend Israel on campus. With the knowledge that she gained from Core18, she returned to NY ready to defend Israel with her words as others defend her from within with their bodies. During high school Karen was Captain of ACE (architecture, construction, and engineering club). She was also Captain of the math team, and President and Founder of Coding Club. She was involved with NCSY’s Great Neck chapter and President of the NY region.

Max Kasler

Muhlenberg College

Max spent his gap-year studying at Young Judaea Year Course. He graduated from The Union Academy for Allied Health Sciences and is now attending Muhlenberg College. He is studying Music with a concentration on theory/composition and performance. Max is a musician and educator and has always felt a connection to Judaism through music. When Max was in Israel in February 2015 a speaker asked his group “How many of you are spending next year here?”. Approximately half of the hands went up and his first thought was “What is this gap-year bandwagon and why am I not on it?”. He believes that spending a year in Israel is one of the best decisions he could have made. He spent the first part of his year volunteering in an elementary school teaching English, as well as taking classes. Max believes that Core18 was a great program for him to sharpen his Israel advocacy skills which are proving to be very valuable. In the future, Max hopes to be able to travel across the country visiting congregations and summer camps to share Jewish music and build community through the power of music. Throughout high school Max was very involved in the Student Movement Against Cancer holding positions of Team Captain, Fundraising chair, Top Fundraiser and more. He was the song leader and communications vice president for North American Federation of Temple Youth. Max acted in High School and held many roles including Cogsworth (Beauty and the Beast), Piragua Guy (In the Heights), and Shane Gray (Camp Rock). Max was a Diller Teen Fellow and a Write on For Israel student advocate. He was the music educator at Temple Shaarei Tefilo-Israel in South Orange and Temple Emanuel in Westfield. He was also a member of HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America).

Maxwell Charlat

Yeshiva University

Maxwell spent his gap-year studying at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah. He graduated from TanenbaumCHAT high school and is now attending Yeshiva University. Maxwell spent his gap-year studying in Ramat Bet Shemesh where he focused on learning and growing Jewishly through Torah study and fantastic Israel experiences. He hopes to bring the energy and passion he developed here back home. In high school Maxwell was the Student Council President. He was a madrich on school shabbatonim, a school choir member and the lead in a school play. He played ice hockey and was the teen chair of the United Jewish Appeak’s B’nai Tzedek program.

Noya Hanoch

University of Pennsylvania

Noya spent her gap-year studying at MMY. She graduated from Maayanot Yeshiva High School and is now attending the University of Pennsylvania. Noya came to Israel to develop a deeper connection to her homeland and grow religiously. Through Core18, she hoped to gain skills and advocate for Israel on campus and to feel more confident when facing challenges. During high school she was an active member on multiple teams and committees including the Maayanot Political Advocacy Committee, Remembrance Committee, Junior Varsity and Varsity Basketball teams, math team and Model Congress. She also took part in various publications such as publishing manager and editor for Ma’ayanei Torah (holiday publication), chief layout editor for her senior yearbook, and technology staff member and writer for her school newspaper. Noya was also a student ambassador, peer tutor and a regular volunteer for Yachad. She volunteered weekly at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital during her gap-year.

Rachel Mitchell

University of Texas at Austin

Rachel spent her gap-year studying at Nativ. She graduated from Plano West Senior High School and is now attending the University of Texas at Austin. She is studying Plan II and International Relations and Global Studies. Rachel came to Israel in order to get a deeper understanding of what it means to be both Jewish and pro-Israel, and to experience what it is like to live in the Jewish State. In the future, she hopes to go into American politics or possibly make Aliyah. Throughout high school Rachel was in Trombone Choir and a Trombonist in her school’s marching band. She was on the Eco Teen Youth Board, part of the national Honor Society, and the National Spanish Honor Society. Rachel was on the BBYO International Global Networking Committee, and was BBYO Chapter Vice President of Programming. She was also a StandWithUS MZ Intern.

Rebecca Perl

Drake University

Rebecca spent her gap-year studying at Nativ. She graduated from Nicolet High School and is now attending Drake University. She hopes to somehow make a difference in the world, or open a pretty cool coffee shop in a pretty cool city. Rebecca is a lover of tea, funky knee socks, camping on the beach and making friends with everyone. She came to Israel because she wanted to gain a broader understanding of the world through adventures in this wonderful country. Rebecca wanted to participate in Core18 because she believes the tools she gained through the program would be things that she will carry with her not only to campus, but through her life with supporting Israel and her Jewish identity. Rebecca was the Executive Vice President of CHUSY region, and the director of The Validation Project. She interned at BizStarts, was the CEO of DiabeTECH and was a StandWithUs MZ intern. She volunteered with Friendship Circle and was the Social Action Chair for USY International General Board. She was involved with the Milwaukee Jewish Youth Council, the Community Service Club and the Literary Magazine.

Sarah Broniscer

Barnard College

Sarah spent her gap-year studying at MMY. She graduated from Goldie Margolin High School for Girls and is now attending Barnard College. She plans on studying psychology and education, although she is undecided on a career. Sarah came to Israel to grow in her Jewish identity and knowledge, as well as to cultivate a passion for Judaism that she can carry into her adult life. Israel advocacy has always been a passion of her, and she was looking for a program that would help fill the void and prepare her for the anti-semitism and anti-Israel sentiment on her college campus. Beginning in 10th grade, Sarah attended AIPAC programming. She attended their Policy Conference and joined the Baron Hirsch’s Teen Leadership Council for Israel where she tried to get students interested in Israel advocacy through educational videos. She served as a StandWithUs MZ Teen Intern and ran programming including a “Beneath The Helmet” screening. Sarah ran the Israel Club at her school during her senior year. Sarah attended NCSY GIVE and NCSY JOLT, she served on Memphis NCSY chapter board for two years and joined NCSY’s International Board as part of the Israel advocacy committee. She was the MIFA (Metropolitan Inter Faith Association) liaison for interfaith volunteering and was invited to speak at an event representing Judaism. Sarah served as a student council member for her last two years of school. Sarah also acted in the school drama productions and figure skated competitively for nine years.

Sarah Casteel

Stern College

Sarah spent her gap-year studying at Tomer Devorah Seminary. She graduated from Clayton High School and is now attending Stern College with a double major in political science and business. Sarah came to Israel after discovering and connecting to her Jewish identity during the summer before senior year. After years of experience in lobbying and advocacy, Sarah plans to take advantage of her prior skills and connections, as well as what she gained from Core18, to build a career in the realm of Israel advocacy. She was inclined to participate in Core18 for this exact reason - it would allow her to hone in on the issue she cares most about and plans to advocate for as a career. In her spare time she plans to bring her non profit, St. Louis Food Rescue, to Stern and Yeshiva University, to work with Tomchei Shabbos, and to be an NCSY adviser. Sarah was the president of the Clayton High School student ambassadors, GSA, Jewish Student Union and Freshman Mentors. She participated in the JCRC student to student program, the senator John Danforth Israel Scholars, NCSY, and VP Chesed. She also attended the AIPIC policy conference for two years.Sarah worked for two campaigns and volunteered for several more, and participated in several grassroots political movements. Sarah is the director of the St. Louis food rescue where they provide food for the homeless and hungry, and Tomchei Shabbos.

Sarah Pomeranz

Rutgers University

Sarah spent her gap-year studying at Aardvark Israel. She graduated from Maimonides School and is now attending the Honors College and Business School at Rutgers University. Sarah came to Israel since she wanted a year to mature between high school and college; a year to live on her own and explore her Judaism and Zionism. She wanted to learn about Israel through first hand experiences and immerse herself in the culture. Core18 appealed to her because every seminar she had attended regarding Israel advocacy made her feel as though she needed to learn more, to do more. Sarah strongly believes that one of the most meaningful ways to spend a gap-year is by preparing to bring the love and faith one has for Israel home with them. Sarah was a youth group's leader at the Young Israel of Brookline. She ran the childcare program at Minyan Kol Rinah. In 2013 she was counselor in training at Camp Yavneh. There she participated in a leadership training program and acted as a substitute counselor for certain activities. In the fall of 2015 Sarah interned at Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit organization based out of Boston. She assisted the youth coordinator by imputing data and compiled a workbook. This past summer she was a counselor at Camp Yavneh. Sarah was the leader of the soup kitchen club which ran Gittle’s Soup Kitchen. She was also the head of the board at her school for New England Yachad. In high school she volunteered for an organization called Telem. She participated in social justice programs such as assisting the elderly homeless and reading to inner city youth. Sarah fundraised and volunteered for ROFEH international. During her senior year she was the class representative for Student Council. Sarah was on the varsity volleyball team and was captain her senior year. She played basketball and was on the varsity team her last two years. Sarah participated in her school's Student Ambassador Program by representing the school at local events and assisting in the PR department. She was chief layout editor and a columnist for her school’s newspaper, The Spectrum. She competed in a national Stock-Market competition and head from leaders in the industry in Business Club. During her senior year she got very involved with AIPAC and attended their High School Summit and Policy Conference.

Yonina Keschner

University of Maryland

Yonina spent her gap-year studying at Midreshet Torah V’Avoda. She graduated from HAFTR High School and is now attending the University of Maryland. She has not decided on a major but is leaning towards something in the math/science field as those are the subjects that have always interested her and which she’s always succeeded in the most. She thinks that the Honors program at the University of Maryland will help her explore her options and choose which interest she should delve into. Yonina was midway through her senior year when she decided that coming to Israel was a must for her. She was more than ready for the college experience, but realized how important it was to take a year to focus on herself, learn, and tour. Midreshet Torah V’Avoda seemed like the best fit for her and she values it’s emphasis on combining learning with independence and the necessity to travel the land and develop personal connections with it. It gave her the opportunity to intern, volunteer and do chessed which is something she has always loved. Yonina is thankful to have had the opportunity to be a member of Core18 which added a new dynamic to her year. She hoped to gain newfound knowledge on how to outwardly express the Zionist in her and to combat those who will oppose her ideas and the existence of Israel. She believes Core18 will be a great guide in helping her take an active role on her college campus in Israel advocacy. Throughout high school Yonina strived to partake in a well-rounded amount of extra curricula. She pushed and challenged herself to expand her range of knowledge so she could participate in more activities. In high school Yonina participated in annual school and Long Island science fairs where she received honor awards, Animal Rescue Club, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Yeshiva Girls Peer Group and was the president of the Yeshiva League Model Congress. She wrote for her school newspaper, The Tattler and was a writer and illustrator for her school’s Spanish newspaper. She was also the copy editor of her senior yearbook. She was the scenic designer of annual school plays, and volunteered at Pet Haven Animal Hospital, Tomchai Shabbos, Levi Yitzchak’s Children Library, Camp Koby and Woodmere Rehabilitation & Health Care Center. Yonina participated in a fundraiser for Shaare Tzedik getting family and friends to donate money. She has been playing piano for 9 years and loves to do it whenever she has time.