Northwest Yeshiva High School grad Gilah Kletenik spent eight weeks this summer on an Orthodox Union-sponsored Congressional internship program in the other Washington.
Gilah discovered the program when she was a Lieberman scholar in high school, a related OU program. She learned to be a “politically active, committed Jewish [high school] student,” and her interest in politics has only increased.
In the office of Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), whose 5th District includes parts of Queens and more of Long Island, Gilah “drafted documents for the Congressional Record, compiled letters from constituents, answered constituent phone calls, attended congressional hearings and sat in…meetings with the congressman and various ambassadors.”
Gilah says the highlight “wasn’t so much a single event, but rather the experience,” which she calls a “true learning experience.”
She did single out as a special highlight: a dinner for the 14 OU interns at the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito, after which they sat in on a lecture he delivered.
After graduating high school in 2005, Gilah studied at Migdal Oz in Israel for 18 months. In January she returned to the States to begin studying at Stern College of Yeshiva University in New York. Now a junior, she will major in Political Science and is thinking of a career either in politics or Jewish leadership.
Did the experience make her cynical?
“I think it made me less cynical,” says Gilah. “As an outsider it’s easier to be cynical because you’re ignorant of what goes on on the inside. As an insider you appreciate the complexities.”
She feels that a lot of voter apathy and cynicism, particularly among her peers, has to do with ignorance of the political process.
“I don’t have much free time,” Gilah confessed to me when I asked. “I spend a lot of time studying Talmud and being active politically on campus.”
She is an officer of two different campus organizations and an editor at a new online publication, Kol Hamevaser, which you can visit at www.kolhamevaser.com.
Bob Kupor got interested in Jesus when he took a teaching job at the University of Tennessee’s Chattenooga campus. The Harvard-educated microbiologist, born and raised in Brooklyn, had switched from research to teaching and, as often happens with junior academics, his first position was in rural America.
“Not surprisingly, I experienced profound culture shock,” he recalls. “I was moving from…the most liberal cities in the country to a medium-size city in the Appalachians — literally hillbilly country.”
And when his students discovered he was Jewish, “I became evangelical catnip for those who wanted to convert me.”
Amused at first, Kupor quickly became troubled by his inability to answer the proselytizers’ pointed questions about why he couldn’t accept the man who cured the sick, gave the Sermon on the Mount and rejoiced at the return of the prodigal son.
“I felt I had to learn who Jesus was. I began reading the New Testament, which was like jumping into an inky lagoon…very alien…[and] almost frightening to me, frankly, because it evoked all these primal emotions that Jews sometimes have when thinking about Jesus.”
Kupor began to realize that the popular image of Jesus has little to do with his representation in the Gospels, which provides four “quite distinct portraits” that are often contradictory.
“I could not believe that so many millions died and were persecuted despite the clear evidence in the New Testament” that Jesus was an observant Jew.
Uncovering who Jesus was became a passion, which culminated in the recent publication of Jesus: The Misunderstood Jew (iUniverse). (He published the book himself after a contract with Gefen Publishing House fell through.)
The intended audience is Jewish and the book is meant to be a New Testament primer for those of us (most, I assume) who haven’t read it.
“I thought it would be far easier for me to approach the Jewish audience because it is smaller and relatively connected, although I see no reason why a ‘non-believing’ or mildly believing Christian might [not want to] read it. A believing Christian would be put off.”
Kupor has lived in Seattle since 1980 when he came here to get an MBA at the University of Washington, with the exception of four years when he worked on Wall Street as a biotech stock analyst for Kidder Peabody. He and his wife, Sara, belong to Congregation Beth Shalom and have three grown daughters, Devra (married and living in New York), Elana (getting a Masters degree in psychology in Seattle) and Daniella, a senior at Brown.
Sara is well-known in the Jewish education biz in Seattle, having taught at both the Jewish Day School and the Jewish Community School and now at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.
Bob’s book is available at Amazon and he will be speaking about it at Bellevue’s Temple B’nai Torah in November. Bob says he will try to attend any book club meetings where his book is being discussed. He can be contacted at 206-218-2030 (cell) or 206-523-8126.