One is the newly elected international president of an organization with thousands of members; the other speaks her mind to elected officials on Capitol Hill and is about to launch her own weekly radio program. Perhaps most extraordinary is that both young women, Ariella Freedman and Rivka Abbe, are still in high school at Yeshiva University High School for Girls, also known as “Central,” in Holliswood, Queens.
Freedman, of Lawrence, NY, was recently elected to a one-year term as international president of the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY). Her new responsibilities are in addition to her previous post as vice president of the organization’s New York region. Freedman, 17, is a senior and a member of ARISTA, the national honor society, as well as an active member of Central’s performing arts program, but in addition to schoolwork, most weekends find her on the road, traveling to NCSY Shabbatons and other events.
“Most people mistake Ariella for a collegiate because she is so poised and full of passion that she gives off the impression of being much older,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, managing director of the OU and international director of NCSY. “Yet, she’s very down to earth and can speak to teens of any background and relate to them. Those are the qualities that we look for in a leader.”
“We are so proud of Ariella’s achievements,” said CB Neugroschl, Central’s head of school. “But even more than specific roles that she has played, Ariella is a consummate mentsh. Her kindness and warmth are always apparent. She truly has a sense of the promise of leadership and we are excited for her to continue serving Klal Yisrael.”
Abbe, a junior, will launch her own radio show, “Teen Spirit with Rivka Abbe” (Tuesdays 7:00–8:00 p.m. EST) on the Nachum Segal Network beginning October 17. She hopes to use the weekly program as a platform to address issues that concern teens and to influence her listeners to become active in their communities and in the Jewish world.
On Sunday, October 14, the 17-year-old from the Upper West Side plans to convene 250 of her peers—Jewish students from high schools across the New York region—on Yeshiva University’s uptown Wilf campus to introduce them to the mechanics of lawmaking, Israel advocacy, and lobbying. The next day, she’ll lead the group to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of congress and discuss U.S. policy concerning Israel. The lobbying mission will be Abbe’s second. She developed the program after founding C-PAC, Central’s Political Awareness Committee. It was a response to “Israel Apartheid Week” programs on college campuses.
“When Jewish students who received 12-plus years of a yeshiva education cannot respond to these claims, and G-d forbid start to believe it themselves, we realize that we are creating a generation that is our own worst enemy,” said Abbe. “If our own people do not know the truth and cannot stand up for it, then who will do so and how do we expect others to believe it?”
C-PAC, led by a board of Central students, educates the rest of the student body about Israel, Middle East politics, and Jewish history; brings in outside speakers; and arranges the lobbying missions.
“Rivka has a true passion for Israel… that is inspiring for the entire school,” said Neugroschl.
Learn more about Yeshiva University High School for Girls at its upcoming October 28 Open House (www.yuhsg.org).