Updated: Sep 18, 2022
By Maya Shavit
Every year, the Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy community welcomes a new group of eager seniors to JLI, Barrack’s Jewish Leadership Initiative. The group of students is led by Rav Will Keller, Director of Jewish Life, and is focused on expanding Jewish life at Barrack. Rav Will is especially excited about the JLI of 2020-2021, who are equipped “with diverse Jewish backgrounds. This JLI class is well suited to support our school's rich tapestry of programming, prayer and connection.” To get to know the ambitions of JBHA’s JLI of 2020-2021, the Chronicle sat down with a few of the incoming members - - Daniela Barow, Ethan Simon, Eli Beaubien, and David Meles, all of the class of 2021 - - to hear about the importance of Barrack’s Jewish programming and how this year’s group of students will bring a fresh spirit to this longstanding leadership board at Barrack.
Why is JLI important at Barrack?
Barow: I think it's especially important for the middle school to have role models that are close to their age to help shape their Jewish identity. For the upper school, it's more convenient to have leaders who are part of the student body who can engage their peers.
Simon: JLI is important in nurturing the Jewish life that we have at Barrack. Our initiative is to be able to improve the Jewish spirit in Barrack and teach Jewish Life so that all students are able to understand the inner and outer workings of our rich history, and that no student is left out of understanding our culture.
Beaubien: Barrack is a pluralistic Jewish day school, meaning that everyone is entitled to practice and believe in their own flavor of Judaism openly. But not everyone has really figured out their own spiritualism yet, and it is my job as a student Jewish leader to relate with, educate, and encourage these kids along their own path of self growth and discovery.
Meles: It is an extremely important leadership role for a senior to hold. To be in JLI, you are setting an example and encouraging all the younger students to continue practicing Judaism in the way they feel most comfortable. Also JLI allows the student body to experience Jewish holidays and events in a fun and interactive way, because the JLI plans [activities for] the students to make sure they’re learning but having as much fun as possible.
What does being a JLIer mean to you?
Barow: Being a JLIer means I have the opportunity to give back to a community that has helped me fall in love with Judaism.
Simon: Being a JLIer means that I now have the ability to teach people about different parts of Judaism. Additionally, being a JLIer can give the younger students a leader to look up to that they will see in all different parts of their time at Barrack; from Shabbatons to their daily minyan.
Beaubien: Judaism was never a large part of my life before Barrack, in fact, in elementary school I told my friends I was Christian to fit in. But when I entered into the Barrack community, I felt a sense of belonging -- that these are my people. In sixth grade, I knew that I wanted to be one of those few twelfth graders jumping around on stage performing a Hanukkah skit in such a humorous and eye-opening way I’d never been exposed to before. And now I'm finally here, and I hope to evoke those same feelings in the Barrack community just as it was done for me.
Meles: To me, JLI means a ton. I love to show those who are younger, my age, and older, how I practice Judaism and this is the perfect opportunity. Also I can express my ideas and make things happen for future assemblies, Shabbatons, etc.
What do you most look forward to doing as a part of JLI?
Barow: I am looking forward to participating on Shabbatonim and connecting with grades I wouldn't otherwise talk to.
Simon: I look forward to building towards the ideal Jewish experience for my peers and helping to improve and achieve a greater connection to Judaism for the whole student body.
Beaubien: I can not wait for the Shabbatons because I am able to connect more with the students and my fellow JLIers.
Meles: I look forward to working with really good friends of mine and making sure the whole student body can experience Judaism in the way which each student prefers. The Shabbatons will also be something I’ll definitely look forward to, because we will have some memorable activities planned while bonding the grades together.
How do you plan to make the JLI of 2020-2021 special?
Barow: I will help make JLI 20-21 special by working together with other amazing JLIers to create fun and educational programs.
Simon: I plan on trying to have lots of contests/games/kahoots with prizes. Everyone loves competitions, whether it is a school-wide March Madness style Hanukkah dreidel tournament or a Quizzo about Sukkot. Games are a great way to learn about our traditions but also to have fun playing them. This JLI is a great group of juniors and we have the ability to make JLI assemblies/Shabbatons/activities an ideal experience for students, and something that they will look forward to.
Beaubien: Lots of comedy, music, and spirit. Also, I hope to engage in very deep and profound discussions about Judaism, morality, philosophy, etc., because students need to talk about these things and think critically. And as a fellow student, hopefully I can allow them to be more comfortable with them sharing their thoughts and emotions.
Meles: I want you guys to remember me as one of the best seniors to ever be part of JLI. To [make people] think that, I plan on creating some of the best grade-bonding activities on the Shabbatons, continue the pre-Shabbos dance parties on Fridays at break, make the holiday assemblies even more interactive, and so much more.
The Cougar Chronicle wants to congratulate the entire JLI of 2020-2021: Allee Hochhauser, Daniela Barow, David Meles, Dylan Mandel, Eli Beaubien, Ethan Simon, Ida Narli, Ilan Gordon, Jonah Katz, Lexi Schachter, Maria Lehman, Matthew Garber, Micah Israel, Mikey Andelman, Ronen Adler, Shira Amar.