Meet YU High School for Girls’ Ariella Freedman and Rivka Abbe
One is the newly elected international president of an organization with thousands of members; the other is welcomed on Capitol Hill to speak her mind to government leaders and is about launch her own weekly radio program. Perhaps most extraordinary, is that both young woman, Ariella Freedman and Rivka Abbe, are still in high school at the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG), known as “Central”.
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, and in addition to schoolwork, most weekends find her on the road, travelling 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.”
Freedman is also an active member of YUHSG’s performing arts program. For the past two years she’s headed up the school’s award-winning choir and lent her voice to the annual play and cultural arts productions.
“We are so proud of Ariella’s achievements,” said CB Neugroschl, head of school at YUHSG. “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 fellow senior, will launch her own radio show, “Teen Spirit with Rivka Abbe” (Tuesdays from 7-8 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 Manhattan’s 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. Abbe will be joined by Rabbi Seth Grauer, YUHSG’s assistant principal; Matthew Shwartz, Yeshiva University’s assistant director of recruitment and high school programming; and two members of YU’s Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership, Daniel Elefant and Ethan Wasserman.
The upcoming lobbying trip 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?”
Led by a board of YUHSG students, C-PAC educates 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,” said Neugroschl, who called Abbe’s commitment to furthering awareness of issues facing Israel, “inspiring for the entire school.”
This past summer Abbe held a six-week internship with NCSY’s associate director of education, Dovid Bashevkin. She used the time to compile source material and do some writing of her own about Israeli history and current events that she hopes will engage American teens about the significance of Israel and Jewish life.
“When I met her the first time I was so impressed that we immediately offered her an internship and all of our resources to help plan her march on Washington to lobby for Israel with students of many high schools, coordinated with Yeshiva University,” said NCSY’s Burg. “I’ve never met a teen with that level of drive to get things accomplished for the Jewish people.”
Learn more about Yeshiva University High School for Girls at its October 28 Open House.