When I called Max Hurwitz, he was happily settled at the University of Southern California after a week of orientation and one day of classes. 'It's great,' he said, but so hot that 'I had to buy all new clothes!'
'I haven't done any cool stuff yet,' he added, 'but I'm going to a drive-in movie in Santa Monica tonight.'
Sounds cool enough for a young man who was not only accepted into USC'a tough enough proposition'but was also accepted into the School of Film-Television, a separate and competitive process.
Max's interest in film began in a biology class at Bellevue High School, from which he graduated in June. Given an assignment to complete in any media they chose, Max and some friends decided to make a movie. A friend of his mom, Marta Hurwitz, taught Max to use film editing equipment.
'I was up until 2 a.m. just getting it right,' recalls Max. 'It was amazing.'
Fortunately for Max, his high school offered film courses.
'Halfway through junior year I couldn't see myself doing anything else for a living,' he said.
He made a one-hour film with the help of the school's drama department, which 'consumed most of my entire senior year.' Yet he still found time to be class president, giving him the opportunity to speak at graduation. He also played lacrosse at BHS, and participated in both peer mediation and Link Crew, helping incoming freshmen adjust.
It's traditional, I learned, for graduating seniors to decorate their caps, and Max was stuck for an idea.
'I didn't want to be the nerd who put a movie reel on his cap,' he said.
He and a friend decided to plaster their caps with 'diamonds,' but found that even the fake kind were expensive.
'We didn't want to spend more than four dollars,' he said. Somehow the two of them'both Jewish'decided to make rhinestone Stars of David.
'People thought it was funny, because I'm not the most Jewish person.' Also, 'my hat didn't fit well and hung to the side. A lot of people thought it was a political statement, but it wasn't.'
Despite his Jewish protestations, Max has already visited the local Hillel and expects to attend High Holiday services there. He became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple B'nai Torah, where his dad, Larry Hurwitz, is a member.
When I asked him about his future, he laughed, and pointed out that he'd only been in college for a week. Then he went on to present a well-thought out plan. 'I'm thinking of being a staff writer or executive producer of a TV show. TV just looks more interesting'more flexible, fast paced and stable.'
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The competitive Bronfman Youth Fellowships annually selects 26 U.S. high school students for an intensive five weeks of study and travel in Israel. One of this summer's honorees was Seattleite Elisheva Naomi Goldberg, the daughter of Karen Treiger and Dr. Sheldon Goldberg.
Elisheva described her trip to me in the most glowing terms. While it emphasizes study and leadership development, one of its most important points is to cement ties among a diverse group of young Jewish people, from Orthodox to unaffiliated.
'I made lifelong friends. I love them. They're incredible.' says Elisheva, who thinks pluralism is the most important issue and challenge of our times. Her best friend in the program 'was probably the kid who was most opposite me'she and I would stay up until three o'clock discussing things. That was the quintessential Bronfman experience.'
Goldberg, one of five Orthodox students on the trip, described spending a lot of time upholding the conservative end of the religious and political spectrum.
She spent an additional two weeks in Israel investigating two programs to which she will apply to study after graduating from Northwest Yeshiva High School next June. Both are Israeli religious programs, offered in Hebrew, where she can pursue her interest in Talmud. The language will be a challenge, she admits.
'I understand everything, but speaking conversational Hebrew is tough.'
Meanwhile, she still has a busy senior year ahead with many school activities. In addition, she is a Lieberman fellow, which sends her to at least two major Jewish conferences. April will find her in Spain for Pesach and a family wedding, and then in Poland for the annual March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau. (www.motl.org.)
Elisheva says the Bronfman program drove home one thing to her. 'I really am so lucky,' she says, 'that's what I discovered.'
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Rabbi Seth Goldstein, whose words we enjoyed in the rabbis' column last issue, was recently accepted into STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal). This national leadership program helps young rabbis grow spiritually and professionally with peer feedback, mentoring and education.
Goldstein, who serves Olympia's Temple Beth Hatfiloh, Washington's only Reconstructionist congregation, notes that 'congregations are becoming different institutions'rabbis need to be more than religious leaders.' This is especially true at a small, somewhat isolated congregation like TBH which becomes the central Jewish institution, as much a community center as a house of worship.
'I started to see how synagogues could play this dynamic role, and could provide multiple doors into the building for people who identify in different ways.'
STAR will help him better lead that kind of congregation.
Originally from back East, Seth says he 'married into the Northwest.' His wife, Yohanna Kinberg, assistant rabbi at Bellevue's Temple B'nai Torah, is from Oregon. The couple met while interning for Tikkun magazine, before either one of them entered rabbinical school. Even then, Rabbi Kinberg made it clear that she wanted to live near home. 'She loves it out here,' said Goldstein.