Mr. Waterman,
I want to thank you for all of the wisdom you’ve gifted me. Your classes have been the highlight of 11th grade at Hebrew High for me because of how much you value human life and human experiences. It amazes me how many times I’ve sat in your class and wished that I could transcribe all of your thoughts, ideas, insight, and beliefs so that I will never be able to forget them.

Teachers like you are the people who remind me why it’s worthwhile to pursue great things and people in my life.  And when I imagine what schooling, in general, would be like if most educators held the same stance on some of life’s experiences as you do as well as taught about them, then I have a feeling that the world would be a significantly happier and more fulfilling place for the majority of people.

Two or three weeks ago during your class, you listed several things that we should do to take advantage of our time in lockdown. I made sure to take notes on this. One of the listed items was to interview our parents and grandparents. Well, what you didn’t know is that I have been doing just that for the past year, interviewing my grandma about her life and her wisdom. Along with her, last summer I interviewed several seniors about their lives, recording all of them for a future edited video compilation that I will soon create. During class when you talked about this interview idea, I had an idea myself… would you be willing to have a recorded interview with me about your life, wisdom, hopes, and expectations about the future? Your mind is rich with the secrets and truths about life, specifically through the deeply Jewish perspective, and I value that immensely.

Thank you again for everything, I hope we stay in touch beyond Hebrew High.

Maya Rosenberg

“My most memorable experience at Hebrew High was senior seminar. The speakers were extremely interesting and the class was fun and at times, very entertaining. Being able to have a class with every senior was a unique experience I’ll never forget.”
–Cara Failer

“During my five years at Hebrew High, I have had a number of memorable experiences; the two that stand out include Washington DC and Camp Ramah Jr. Year. Both of these brought the community together. At DC, I learned about Jewish advocacy and our responsibility to the world. It influenced me to be a better person and take charge.”
– Gabrielle Gordon

Students celebrating at an LAHHS Yom Ha'atzmaut assembly

“I want to get involved and make a difference but I don’t even know where to begin. However, I know that I can act if I choose to, and Hebrew High, especially Senior Seminar has given me a sense of social justice so that I want to get involved. I hope that I will find a way to benefit struggling people, even on a small, local scale, and I really hope that I can defend Israel, verbally, should the occasion arise in college. Thanks for everything.”
– Jenessa Irvine

Students learn about Israel advocacy in Washington, D.C.

“I think the most important thing I learned is that everyone has a voice. Before this Seminar class, I never really thought that I, just a teenager, could make a difference in issues that I care about. I have learned that anyone can make a difference.”

“Judaism leads me to go to Hebrew High, keep Jewish traditions like Shabbat, and to try to be a mensch.”

“I learned at Hebrew High how to express my Judaism, where to express it and how constant it truly is in my life.”
– Danielle Goordenzik

“I identify as being Jewish and I will always defend Zionism and oppose anti-Semitism. Also, I feel a deeper appreciation for Jewish law and tradition since starting at LAHHS.”

Junior and Senior Seminars teacher, Mike Waterman, with graduates at the 2013 LAHHS Graduation Reception

“My most memorable experience at Hebrew High was the partnership experience that I had in 9th and 10th grade. I made the most amazing friends from Israel. I am still in touch with my partner and I even saw her in Israel last December. I think this is an experience everyone should go on. My Hebrew skills improved and so did my knowledge of the cultures and practices in Israel that were different from being a Jew in America.”
– Dara Baltin

“Going to LA Hebrew High gave me a solid foundation in the traditions and values of Judaism that have influenced me as I’ve grown and engaged in public service. It was a very positive experience that helped me feel connected with our local Jewish community and the larger Jewish world. I have fond memories of my time at LA Hebrew High, and will always be grateful for what I have learned there.” -State Senator Ben Allen

“Between 5 fantastic Kamenir Shabbatons, 2 years of Seminar class, 8 hours a week of Jewish learning, and many 20 minute breaks, we have developed outstanding friendships with one another. The bonds that we made in 8th grade grew stronger each year, and every year we made new friends and shared new jokes. In the Judaic classes that I took over my five years at Hebrew High, I not only learned the proper way of practicing Judaism, I also learned to love the rules and stories that set Jews a part from all other religions of the world. When you take a greater look into the stories, you really can see how special Judaism is.”

“LAHHS provided me with the building materials that we’ve been using to construct our Jewish home.” – Will Fritz, ‘81

“I learned a lot more about Judaism than I ever bargained for. Every year, from the first simple Judaic Studies class, I would continue to study extremely important lessons and interpretations in both my Tuesday and Sunday classes. Without even trying I would culminate these classes with a fairly educated opinion on most of the heated debates that circulate Conservative Judaism today. I am now able to defend the reasoning of keeping Kosher beyond the quick response of, because my parents told me too. In the Judaic classes that I took over my five years at Hebrew High, I not only learned the proper way of practicing Judaism, I also learned to love the rules and stories that set Jews apart from all other religions of the world. When you take a greater look into the stories, you really can see how special Judaism is.”
– Mor Frankle

“3 things I got from LAHHS that help me feel more clear about being Jewish:
> A true connection to Israel (Yay, Partnership)
> Furthered my understanding of the Hebrew language
> I feel more knowledgeable with regard to the stories in the Torah
All of this helps me feel closer to Judaism because I feel I am in a better place to be an effective advocate and critic of Israel. I am able to converse in the language of my people, and I can discuss with others how/why Jews do certain things based off our connection to the stories in the Torah.”
– Ashley Sares

“A Must Read”

2010 Graduation Speech by Student, Micah Rodman

I want you to imagine a bagel, actually 125 bagels. Everyone close your eyes and imagine these 125 sesame bagels floating right in-front of you. It might seem weird that but thanks for doing that, and for those who listed, you can open your eyes now. Each one of these floating bagels has individually been my Sunday breakfast purchased at Hebrew High. Two bagels a week, 25 weeks a year, 5 years, 125 bagels. It’s an achievement that I’m proud of, and together they symbolize an acquisition of Jewish knowledge and learning. And when you think about it, with the cumulative 3.69 liters of cream cheese shmeared in the middle, we’re talking more than a few Shabbos lunches.

The first Sunday of class, when I got off the bus at Pierce College, I saw the impossibly large amalgamation of Jewish teenagers gathered from every corner of Los Angeles, who all had been dragged out of bed at an un-teenagerly early hour; and pushed out the door for of early morning Jewish education.

At the end of that first day there was an assembly, where Bill Cohen, the principal then, asked all of the 8th graders to stand up to be acknowledged by the whole community. I sheepishly stood-up and looked around the room at my new classmates. Most of the faces were new but a few were others familiar from USY and summer camp, but all were equally embarrassed. On a basic level, Hebrew High would become a place from where I would learn to recognize these faces. Hebrew High became its own unique community, and our class, the class of 2010, would come to lead it.

The first year, classes at Hebrew High, were unlike any other experiences in my Jewish Education. Not that I had an unsatisfactory Hebrw-school experience before, but Hebrew High presented opportunities for us to learn Jewishly in a familiar way, with classes, electives, and passing periods, just like high-school, except for that cow-bell. The classes were focused and taught by knowledgeable and experienced teachers, who are themselves passionate learners, often studying on their own what they taught in the classroom. The subject matter has always been advanced and the teachers have always treated students as adults, even though at times I can’t say I exactly acted like one.

The first year’s worth of bagels was interesting. It was marked by Parshat Hashavua and Jewish Ethics, and this class, a class my friends and sarcastically referred to as Jewish Ethnics were the two required courses for all 8th graders that set the tone for the later courses on Israel and Modern Jewish History, the Meaning of T’filah, Rabbinics, and Jews in Media, that we’d all eventually share together. And the result- a complete perspective into the basics of Jewish culture, liturgy, history and ethics.

As I learned more, evidence of this new knowledge would spillover from Hebrew High into what I guess I’ll call my Los Angeles English High without me noticing. How else can I explain writing an essay on the Diaspora for World History, or casually referencing Hassidism in a discussion about Puritan New England in English class?

Senior year, the last 25 bagels. Throughout the year, we seniors took our Senior Seminar course organized and advised by the wonderful Erica Solomon. Every week we had a new speaker for a fresh topic or perspective, to name a few: Talks on Jewish Ethics in War, Judaism and Homosexuality, Fate v. Free-Will, and an influential and meaningful three part program with Beit T’Shuvah. Each course helped to synthesize the knowledge acquired throughout the previous years. And with each week there would be a fresh look of wonder on that new speaker’s face, provoked by the surprise that a group of teenagers could really know that much.

Wednesdays and Sundays started to pass by. The weeks went each marked with a perfectly shmeared and well deserved sesame bagel. And nobody can argue that bagel wasn’t well deserved. The cancelled late-night Saturday plans or school-nights up late doing homework which was pushed back by an interesting Halacha class are sacrifices I’m sure we’ve all had to make to be here at graduation tonight. But this time has been traded for something meaningful, something concrete.

Hebrew High has been anything but a Jewish supplemental education. Hebrew High has engrained an educated Jewish perspective in me that wouldn’t be as prevalent otherwise. We have been taught here that the Jewish people are unique in their religious, historical and ethical traditions, like other cultural or ethnic groups.

Now it means a lot to walk through the secular world, like we all do, with this affirmed and active perspective. And from this self-understanding I have found empathy with the plight of other minority communities across our country and globe, a strength that has inspired social action, and an understanding that has come to shape many of my own opinions and beliefs.

I learned that everyone shares their own historical, cultural and religious perspective. So with my Jewish education, Hebrew High has taught me to celebrate pluralism and multicultural understanding. It is this perspective and learning that we will all go out and expand, and I am sure that my classmates like our teachers before us will become the movers and shakers in the Jewish community who too have attended LA Hebrew High.

So I guess here- I’m down to my last bagel. It’s disappointing I have to admit it, and scary to think that I won’t be attending Hebrew High School next year. It’s been a long run, but if my time here has proven anything, it is that sticking with this stuff really works towards a firmer grasp on Jewish identity and its breadth of knowledge. So in learning and Bagels, I see two things that I won’t get tired of anytime soon.

Todah Rabbah and B’Hatzlacha.

Student Testimonial- Excerpt from a 12th Grader’s Essay on Jewish Identity

“Being Jewish means a lot to me. I go to a secular private school where the majority of kids are Jewish, and although many of them had Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s, their Jewish learning concluded after that time. Nearly all of the Jewish kids at my school are just Jews by birth, but have no Jewish identity and their religion does not impact them in the slightest. I like to think of my relationship with the religion different, not only because I continued my Jewish learning past my thirteenth birthday, but also because I embrace the sense of community and the relationships that are formed because of my Judaism. I am obviously not a very religious Jew, but to me Judaism is less of a way to live your life, but more of a communal religion where people who share common beliefs can live together and create friendships. Any religious Jew would see me and my family as completely secular as none of us keep kosher, or are shomer Shabbat, but that is not what I see is the most important part of being Jewish. I personally love the Shabbat dinners my family and I can share together where my entire family can get together one night every week and just spend time together. Although none of us are that religious, my parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents always come together for one day a week and spend it together and if not for Judaism and Shabbat, we likely would not do that. Another thing that I have noticed in my life is that my closest friends tend to always be Jewish. Regardless of where I go and no matter how few Jews are where I am, I always tend to befriend the Jewish kids. I have thought about this for a long time because neither I nor nearly all of my friends are at all religious, but for some reason we tend to form the closest friendships with each other. I think this is because regardless of how religious someone is, the sense of community and family that is instilled in all Jewish kids makes them gravitate towards each other. At the end of the day what it means to me to be Jewish is that sense of community that regardless of religious devotion is somehow passed on to nearly all Jewish kids. I think even at a place like Hebrew High were not so many of the families are particularly religious, I relate more with those kids that with average kids, and the only reasonable explanation is that they are Jewish.”

“I loved my years in LAHHS. Despite graduating close to a 24 years ago, I still talk about all the positive experiences I had as a student there.” – Adina Weber, ‘92

“LAHHS represents a pillar in the Los Angeles Jewish Community for a strong Jewish education, identity, and social connections for a lifetime!” – Anon., ‘82

“As the school’s mission statement used to say, Hebrew High prepared me to be a Jewishly knowledgeable, ethically sensitive, young Jewish adult through immersion in Hebrew language, introduction to serious Jewish study and exposure to Jewish values, taught by outstanding faculty within the context of a youth community.”  – Steve Sass, ‘73

“LAHHS gave me the knowledge and beginnings of a well-rounded Jewish education which then continued to adulthood.” – Sherri Schreiber, ‘76

The foundation of Jewish knowledge and wisdom that has motivated me to embrace Judaism in every aspect of my life.” – Anon., ‘65

“As a graduate, LAHHS gave me a connection to the Southern California Jewish Community and skills which allow me to be a leader in both ritual and synagogue organization.  As a parent, I feel I am continuing a family tradition of involvement and study.  As a student, I was privileged to learn from scholars like Zioni Zeve, Elliot Dorff and Joel Rembaum in the early days of their professional careers.  I was able to enter my adulthood with the confidence to knowledgably deal with challenges to my Jewish identity.” — LAHHS alum (1975) and past parent

“When I did confront anti-Semitism I was able to stand up to it.  Understanding our history and traditions gave me the knowledge to provide answers when people challenged my Judaism.  Most importantly I was not afraid of it because I had answers and knowledge.” – Adina Klaus, ‘90

Sisters and LAHHS alumni, Camila (left of middle) and Bianca (right of middle), with proud mom/LAHHS teacher, Mariel Seta.

“…through LAHHS, I have given my teenagers the tools and the knowledge to live a Jewish life on a college campus, to speak up against anti-Semitism, anti-Israeli sentiment, to speak knowledgeably about Judaism, and to become future Jewish leaders.”  — LAHHS parent

“Hebrew High means there is a place of learning and growing for Jewish youth to strengthen their Judaism, as well as their friendships and connections.  LAHHS is a venue for character development and Jewish learning.” – Erica Solomon, ‘04

LAHHS has given meThe reassurance to know that my children
1) have positive self-determination as Jews; 2) have an understanding of the role of Jews – historically and in current day America; 3) have a love of Israel; and 4) can converse in Hebrew!!!–Jesse Sharf, parent of alumni Joshua (2008), Jeremiah (2010), Jonah (2014)

“LAHHS gave me a Jewish network and a great foundation for my future Jewish life.” – Calah Hardin, ‘10