Shira Kahn-Samuelson, Yavneh Class of 2012
Currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Shira attended Yavneh for kindergarten, first grade, and fifth through eighth grade. Shira is a research assistant in the Infant Cognition and the Self-Regulation, Emotions, and Early Development (SEED) labs at the university. Shira is also a teaching assistant of adolescent psychology and cognitive psychology, and has been on the dean’s list throughout her time at U Mass. This summer, Shira has been a research assistant at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University.Read More
While attending Yavneh, Shira fondly recalls listening to Mrs. Pensler’s stories at recess, and singing along with Morah Angela to One Day, her favorite Yavneh song.
Describing her Yavneh experience, Shira notes that “Yavneh not only prepared me academically for high school, but it also allowed me to go into high school feeling confident that I could succeed, no matter what life threw at me.”
Indeed, Yavneh science teacher David Oliver got upper grader Shira interested in science as a field of study, and ultimately, a career. “Because of Mr. Oliver,” says Shira, “I competed in the county and state science fairs and discovered my passion for psychology.”
As for the future? Shira’s goal after completing her undergraduate studies is to earn her Ph.D. in developmental psychology. Go Shira!
Michelle Agroskin, Yavneh (2000-2004)
Now working in Field Marketing Events at a cybersecurity company called HackerOne, Michelle Agroskin attended Yavneh from 2000-2004. A graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) where Michelle was class president, she also served an active role in Jewish life on the USC campus as Hillel’s VP of Events and Programming. Michelle says she has amazing memories during her time at Yavneh, “from the incredible staff to the awesome holiday events and fun classroom activities, Yavneh gave me a great foundation for the rest of my education,” she says. “I will never forget Morah Shulah from Kindergarten, and how she sang songs with us after lunch every day, and how loving and kind she was.”Read More
Warm educational memories like these inspired her to help others in the community, too. While at Kehillah Jewish High School, Michelle started a club where student volunteers worked at an East Palo Alto charter school, helping students with math or reading. “I also volunteered for Friendship Circle for a few years and became a board member to help develop the events,” Michelle adds. While in college, Michelle continued her work as a volunteer with Troy Camp, an organization serving school districts in Los Angeles. Active in Jewish life at USC, Michelle did a lot of Israel advocacy work including participating in Birthright, a summer internship in Israel, and helping guide the creation of the Jewish leadership board at Hillel as part of the Greek community life on campus.
Because her Yavneh experience was an integral part of her development, Michelle sought out events and activities that created the same feeling of community. “Yavneh is a true community and one that I have always looked to find over and over again in my life; a place where I can truly feel at home.”
Carmel Moyal, Yavneh (1998-2004)
Alumna Carmel Moyal is a UC Santa Barbara graduate and is currently working as a Business Operations and Workplace Strategy Manager at Palantir Technologies. Carmel was a Yavneh student from 1998 until her fifth grade graduation in 2004.Read More
Having created fond lifelong memories and friendships, Carmel attributes much of her success to those early years. Since attending Yavneh, Carmel is glad to have been able to work at great Bay Area companies including Tesla and Palantir. She also worked at the APJCC camp for a few summers, and then for two years at Yavneh’s Hamoadon program. Carmel is proud to say she can still read, write, and speak Hebrew and looks back with nostalgia on many Yavneh experiences. “I loved our Shabbat services in the old wood amphitheater with friends (before it was remodeled) and playing with our Tamagotchis,” she says.
Yavneh helped Carmel in ways she didn’t realize at the time. Educationally and emotionally, her Yavneh experiences were pivotal to her success. This includes the top-tier education as well as the interpersonal relationships she experienced. “Allowing myself to just be me and be accepted for it, having great friends that have supported me, a great Jewish community that always has my back,” she says. “I feel like I’m a part of something.” Carmel says Yavneh made a big difference in her life. “I had the most incredible teachers.”
Hannah Michelberg, Yavneh Class of 2008
Hannah Michelberg attended Yavneh until fifth grade, followed by Willow Glen Middle School and Lincoln High School where she was active in theater, dance, and choir.
Nearly ready to graduate from college now, Hannah has accomplished quite a bit in the last decade. She is an honors student studying Retail Management at Purdue University in Indiana. She spends her time as a staff member at the Purdue chapter of College Mentors for Kids, a nonprofit organization that pairs college students with at-risk youth in their community. She is also a Teaching Assistant for a Professional Development course at Purdue. Read More
Last year, during her junior year at Purdue, Hannah was fortunate to land a one-year transfer program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. “Through this program, I earned an associate’s in Fashion Business Management while also interning at Derek Lam International—a luxury designer,” Hannah says.
As a young adult, Hannah looks back fondly on her experiences at Yavneh. “ I loved all of the field trips we took, especially the Gold Rush field trip Mrs. Fine took us on in fourth grade,” Hannah says. In addition to the great field trips, Hannah says the advanced academics and small class sizes at Yavneh permitted her to focus on both academics and interpersonal relationships. “Yavneh was very academically advanced while also flexible with my academic needs,” says Hannah. “My class was small, so I got to know each of my teachers very well. This allowed me to feel more comfortable with every teacher I have had since then.”
One of the most impressionable memories Hannah has of the Yavneh is its sense of community. While Hannah was a student at Yavneh, she says her family went through a very traumatic experience and it was the Yavneh family that got her through.“We were very lucky to be a part of the Yavneh community, which embraced us with open arms,” she says. “Countless families helped take care of us, and we never felt alone.” Yavneh fostered meaningful social and cultural experiences for Hannah too. “Yavneh gave me a great insight into my Jewish heritage, and what it means to be a part of a community,” she says. “I am forever grateful that I spent most of my childhood there.”
Eden Rousso, Yavneh Class of 2010
Alumna Eden Rousso attended Yavneh from Kindergarten to 8th grade. “Yavneh gave me the confidence to be my loud self, gave me my best friends, and taught me that a healthy level of competition with your peers and yourself is a good thing. Yavneh also gave me a Jewish foundation which I will always have,” Eden shares.Read More
Becky Pressman, Yavneh (1995-2001)
Becky Pressman attended Yavneh from 1995-2001. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Bilingual Speech-Language Pathology at San Diego State University. “Yavneh gave me a foundation of knowledge that helped me throughout my education. Yavneh encouraged learning and intellectual curiosity. That kind of encouragement at such a young age is invaluable.
Omri Rahmil, Yavneh (1995-1999)
Since attending Yavneh, Omri graduated with honors from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 with a degree in political science. During his time there, Omri worked for a non profit in Accra, Ghana called the Ghana Sports Initiative and studied abroad for a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Omri recalls, “My best Yavneh memories are the friends I made there and P.E. with Coach Joe!” He adds, “Yavneh gave me a strong basis for my Jewish education.”
Omri currently resides in Washington D.C where he works as a legislative assistant in the Office of Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois. Omri advises Rep. Roskam on U.S. Middle East policy, counter-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, and methods to combat the growing threat of anti-Semitism.
Anna Goldberg, Yavneh Class of 2001
After graduating from Pitzer College in 2012, Anna began working at Deloitte Consulting in 2014 as a management consultant. Anna’s favorite Yavneh memories include her 4th grade field trip to Gold Rush and singing the Yavneh Day School song. To this day, she can still sing the whole song and still remains friends with many of her Yavneh classmates.
Noa Hadar, Yavneh Class of 2009
Noa tells us that she “discovered [her] love of music at Yavneh.” She recalls, “My best Yavneh memory is singing ‘Yihiyeh Tov’ with musician David Broza and my fellow Yavneh classmates.” Noa attributes Yavneh to helping her make friends quickly, as well as teaching her more about Judaism.
Jared Bernstein, Yavneh Class of 2001
Jared Bernstein attended Yavneh from 1996-2001. He currently works as Media Activation Supervisor at Essence Digital, an Advertising Agency in San Francisco. Jared graduated with a degree in Economics-Accounting & Legal Studies from Claremont McKenna College where he played on the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer team for four years, and was part of the first class to qualify for the NCAA tournament all four years.
Jared shares, “I’ll always remember the golden rule from the days hanging out on the playground: You can’t say, “you can’t play.” This idea of inclusiveness and compassion has stuck with me since my time at Yavneh, and will remain an important pillar in my life. Additionally, I’ve realized the value of the close-knit community at Yavneh, and it is something I strive to recreate for myself whenever I find myself in a new environment.”
Adee Peer, Yavneh Class of 2011
Adee Peer graduated from Yavneh in 2011. Some of her favorite memories include cooking class with Morah Judy and Lag Ba’Omer field day. Adee recalls, “My specialty was hula hooping, and my best friend Heather liked jump rope. We always brought in the championship in those two categories.”
After graduating from Yavneh, Adee went on to Norte Dame High School where she was active in athletics as captain on the JV soccer team and Varsity track senior year. She was also a board member of the school’s Jewish Cultural Club, established by Yavneh alumni Izzy Ullmann and Rochelle Malter. Adee became the club president her senior year and spent two high school summers abroad in Central America through Amigos de las Americas volunteering in host villages and learning Spanish.
According to Adee, “Yavneh’s small environment helped me gain the confidence I needed to thrive in high school. Aside from making best friends at Yavneh that I’m still in touch with today, Yavneh planted the seeds of my Zionism and love for Jewish tradition and Israel that led me to where I am today.”
About half way through her senior year and after coming back from a family trip to Israel, Adee decided that she wanted to make Aliya and draft into the IDF. She shares, “Although I identified as an American-Israeli Jew, I felt that my Israeli identity was incomplete. In August I packed my entire life into 3 suitcases, Nefesh B’Nefesh sent me a one way ticket to Tel Aviv, and I made Aliya.” Adee moved to a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley, and was then placed in the navy to be a commander in their basic training on a base in Haifa. Soon after, Adee was accepted into an officers course. Adee is now a Second Lieutenant in the IDF in charge of a platoon (up to 60 newly drafted soldiers for 4-6 week periods) and their personal commanders. Adee shares, “My job is difficult and demanding, not to mention the distance between me and my family back home in the Bay Area, but I am happy and thriving and learning a lot every day.”
Jennie Pierson, Yavneh Class of 1991
Jennie Pierson attended Yavneh from 1986-1991. Jennie shares, “I made some amazing long-lasting friendships at Yavneh. My three closest friends from my class are, to this day, my best and dearest friends. We’ve stayed close for over 30 years! I’ll always have Yavneh to thank for that.”
One of Jennie’s life highlights and successes since attending Yavneh was moving to Los Angeles to pursue her acting, writing, and comedy career. According to Jennie, “It has been the best decision and most interesting experience of my life.” Jennie has also written and starred in a few episodes of the HBO show called Funny or Die Presents. She shares, “It was my first television show and incredibly exciting to have full creative control over my content.” More recently, this year she was a regular on the NBC show Powerless.
Alumni Ben Talei went to UCLA where he earned his undergraduate degree in physiological sciences. Ben continued his studies at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, where he received his medical degree. Ben now operates a successful practice in Beverly Hills with a focus on facial reconstruction and congenital anomalies. Throughout his career Ben has made a commitment serving the community donating his time as well as a portion of surgical proceeds to charitable causes.
Ben said he made lifelong friends at Yavneh that he couldn’t have found anywhere else and attributes some of his success to his time at Yavneh—noting in particular, “the culture of family at Yavneh.”
“Our teachers there truly loved us,” he said. “The culture was not one of giving kids meaningless tasks and testing. Instead we were nurtured.” As an adult, Ben gives back to the community in a variety of ways and highlights experiences during his time at Yavneh certainly contributed to his desire to help others. “At Yavneh we were just surrounded by nice people everywhere,” he said. “Growing up like that you know it’s your duty to help others less fortunate.”
Not only is Ben good with his hands, but he has music in his heart. Ben excelled as a piano teacher and composer. He has taught children in underserved communities. At the same time, he served as a youth mentor with COPE (Community Outreach for Prevention and Education) in Venice and East Los Angeles and with the Big Brothers of UCLA.