Shapiro ’18 Selected for Immersive Israel Study Program

Shapiro ’18 Selected for Immersive Israel Study Program

June 2, 2017 – The Bronfman Fellowship has selected its 31st cohort of eleventh grade high school students, among them a Page in the U.S. Senate, the founder of a charitable organization that has fed nearly 20,000 people, a speaker at UNICEF’s International Day of the Girl, and a specialist in close-up card magic who has won several national science awards. Avi Shapiro ’18 has been named one of this year’s fellows.

The twenty-six Fellows, chosen from two hundred and fifty-two applicants across North America, will participate in a transformative five-week program of study and travel in Israel, followed by a rigorous year of programming centered around pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts. The new class of Fellows will join a vibrant alumni network that includes some of today’s most exciting Jewish writers, thinkers and leaders.

The program was founded by Edgar M. Bronfman, z”l, formerly CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. and a visionary Jewish philanthropist. Mr. Bronfman passed away in December 2013.

“Edgar Bronfman would have relished the opportunity to get to know this year’s Fellows,” said Becky Voorwinde, Executive Director of The Bronfman Fellowship. “They are a passionate, inquisitive, talented and incredibly bright bunch. I look forward to seeing them challenge and inspire one another not only this summer, but throughout their lives as members of our alumni community.”

Adam R. Bronfman, president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, said he was “impressed and heartened” by the new cohort. “The energy, diversity and intellectual firepower of this group speak to my father’s belief that young people can change the world in ways that previous generations couldn’t have envisioned,” he said. “My father treasured the Fellowship as an investment in the Jewish future, and I am proud to continue his work. It brings me joy to witness the magic that happens when people from different levels of observance come together to access Jewish wisdom and have important conversations. I look forward to getting to know the 2017 Fellows personally, and to joining some of those conversations myself.”

Following a competitive application process, the 2017 Fellows are from fourteen states and Canada and represent a wide range of Jewish backgrounds, including Chabad, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and, secularly/culturally Jewish. The Fellows, who have already distinguished themselves as leaders in their communities, will spearhead Jewish community or social action projects upon returning home after the summer, as part of the Bronfman curriculum.

The Fellowship promotes the study of Jewish texts, traditions, history and culture as a way for Fellows to engage with each other and the world. The Fellows study with an esteemed faculty, including Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Executive Director of the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU; Rabbi Dahlia Kronish, Director of Jewish and Student Life at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York; Jon A. Levisohn, Professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis University; and Hannah Kapnik Ashar, Bronfman ’04, Faculty Member and Manager of Fellowship Year Experience with The Bronfman Fellowship. Hannah plans, choreographs, and teaches on the Fellowship seminars, and supports Fellows’ community engagement projects throughout the Fellowship year.

Over the summer, Fellows meet with political and cultural figures in Israel such as authors Etgar Keret and A.B. Yehoshua, politician Ruth Calderon, activist Anat Hoffman and journalist Matti Friedman, Bronfman ’94, author of Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story and The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of One of the World’s Most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books. They also spend a week with a group of Israeli peers who were chosen through a parallel selection process as part of the Israeli Fellowship, Amitei Bronfman. This aspect of the program reflects Mr. Bronfman’s early recognition that the future of Jewish peoplehood should be considered a global enterprise, forged through deep collaboration, discourse and friendship between Israelis and Americans.

Alumni of The Bronfman Fellowship are leaders in their community, playing key roles in fields such as social justice, academia, law, and the arts. There are now over 1,100 Bronfman Fellowship alumni across North America and Israel. Among them are seven Rhodes Scholars, four former Supreme Court clerks, eighteen Fulbright Scholars, twenty-nine Wexner Fellows, and twenty-two Dorot Fellows. Young leaders of note among Fellowship alumni include Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, author of the best-selling Series of Unfortunate Events children’s books; Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Here I am: A Novel, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and editor of the New American Haggadah (featuring commentary from Lemony Snicket, among others); and Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, the first woman to be named Senior Rabbi at New York’s Central Synagogue and the first Asian-American person to be ordained as a rabbi and cantor. Others include Igor Timofeyev, former Supreme Court clerk and former Special Advisor for Refugee and Asylum Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Dara Horn, author of A Guide for the Perplexed: A Novel, In the Image, The World to Come and All Other Nights; and Anya Kamenetz, lead education blogger at NPR and one of the youngest people ever nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her Village Voice series “Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young.”

Our Israeli alumni have also ascended to positions of influence in government, civil groups, the private sector and cultural institutions. Israeli alumni include attorneys at the State Justice Department, noted journalists, successful filmmakers (including a Tribeca Film Festival winner), political advisers to Members of Knesset, members of elite IDF units and university lecturers.

About The Bronfman Fellowship

The Bronfman Fellowship, the flagship program for outstanding young Jews, taps twenty-six North American teenagers at a formative point in their lives, the year before college, when an intense, immersive experience will have the most impact. The Fellowship year functions as a Jewish identity incubator, with serious text study, lessons taught by some of the world’s premier Jewish educators, and sustained discourse about pluralism, social justice and the future of Jewish peoplehood. The year begins with a five-week summer study program in Israel that includes a transformative week-long encounter with a parallel cadre of outstanding Israeli teenagers. Programming continues with two seminars in the United States focused on North American Jewish identity. Upon graduating high school, the Fellows join an alumni community whose members challenge one another to contribute their talents and vision to the Jewish community and society at large.

The Fellowship, now in its thirty-first year was founded in 1987 by Edgar M. Bronfman, z”l, reflects Mr. Bronfman’s early and impassioned belief that for the Jewish people to thrive, Israeli and American Jews from a variety of backgrounds must be engaged in open and creative discourse with one another. The alumni embody Mr. Bronfman’s vision that young people who are enriched and energized by their Judaism are poised to contribute not only to Jewish life, but to improving the world.

For more information about The Bronfman Fellowship, including how to apply, please visit

Congratulations to Avi and his family!