Elana Loeffler Grauer ’11S was majoring in English communications, with a focus in public relations, at Stern College for Women when she and her friend realized there was no official public relations club.
“We decided then and there to found one,” says Loeffler. “There’s no reason why students interested in pursuing a PR career should have to attend marketing club events to get relevant information or career advice. We were very gratified by the support and encouragement of the Stern administration and the club quickly got off the ground and became a success.”
Though she was only a sophomore, Loeffler was used to establishing new initiatives in service of others: she is the founder of the AMIT Future Leaders Initiative (AFLI), the first student chapter of AMIT, an organization that enables underserved children of Israel to reach their full potential and become productive members of Israeli society. AMIT operates nearly 100 schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs in Israel.
Grauer became involved with AMIT during her traditional post-high school year studying at a seminary in Israel.
“As high school students, you quickly learn about the many different seminaries in Israel, and most have some chesed component for their students, but it’s often something like one day out of a month,” explains Grauer, who, at the time, lived in Boca Raton, FL, and attended Hillel Community Day School in North Miami Beach. “I was looking for a school that incorporated chesed into its schedule on a more regular basis.”
She found it in Midreshet AMIT, a women’s seminary in Yerushalayim, which was launching its first year just in time for her to attend. “To my knowledge, Midreshet AMIT is the first seminary in Israel that integrates chesed to its daily curriculum,” says Grauer. “Students live in Beit Hayeled, one of AMIT’s foster homes. We spend time each morning with the children who also live there before they attend school and, when they return, we help them with their homework. While they’re in school, we have a traditional class schedule of learning ourselves.”
While Grauer says it was a little risky for her to attend since it was the school’s first year, she is thrilled with her decision, which cemented her passion for giving to others.
Grauer explains, “My parents always impressed upon me to not take anything for granted, but it wasn’t until I got to Midreshet AMIT that I truly saw the impact of things like helping with homework and tucking someone in at bedtime – it just makes the children feel so loved knowing they have someone in their corner.”
Even before she left Israel to attend her sophomore year at Stern, Grauer was thinking of ways to continue the work she had been doing back in the U.S. She reached out to AMIT’s board and discussed how to establish a chapter of AMIT for college students. Soon after, AFLI was born. At Stern, her friends from Israel quickly became involved, and, by virtue of YU’s close-knit nature and dormitory living, word about AFLI spread quickly. “I had a built-in audience right away, as many YU students share ideals of chesed and giving back to others,” says Grauer.
AFLI’s first fundraising event was a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, which raised close to $20,000 and has since become an annual event. Combined with other fundraisers for the college-age set, such as flag football tournaments and movie screenings, AFLI has generated over $100,000.
For her work, Grauer was profiled in the 2012 issue of The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36,” which highlights young men and women in the Jewish community who are making a difference in the community and society at large.
Amy Oppenheim, development officer at AMIT, declared, “Elana’s passion to help the children of Israel is continually demonstrated through her dedicated work for AFLI and AMIT. Her desire to make a difference has helped to galvanize a whole group of young Jewish leaders and philanthropists.”
Grauer, who always intended to use her undergraduate English degree to attend law school, just finished her first year at New York Law School. Always mindful of helping those in need, she plans to focus on family law and is currently interning at Kings County Family Court.
Though she was busy with law school this past year, Grauer still found time to attend AFLI events and meetings, and has taken on the role of president emeritus. “Though I will always maintain some level of involvement with AMIT, AFLI is really about college students taking active roles in managing the fundraising events,” she says. “My new role is to supervise and mentor those students whose turn it is to take the reins of AFLI leadership. It’s very gratifying for me to see the next generation of students assume this next level of involvement.”
Grauer lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, Matthew Grauer ’11SSB, who works in investment banking.