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October 04, 2012 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-10-04

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Teen bridges
the diversity gap between
Jews Christians, Muslims.

Youth Awards

NCJW annual program honors
teens leaders with scholarships.


he National Council of Jewish Women,
Greater Detroit Sectiori has awarded
10 Youth Awards to students who
graduated from high school last spring.
Joshua Morof, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, was
named the first-place winner and received
$2,500. Josh is a graduate of Andover High
School and is attending the University of
Applicants were judged on their leadership
positions and other involvement in the Jewish
and/or secular community and on an essay on
the topic: What experience or person has had
the greatest impact on your Jewish identity?
Josh's essay was titled "My Jewish Identity
Looked at Face to Faith."

Aleza Lichterman received the $1,500
second-place award. Two runner-up awards in
the amount of $500 each were given to Rachel
Berlin and Molly Rott. Six $250 honorable men-
tion awards were won by Polina Fradkin, Emily
Goodman, Anna Rubin, Jonathan Schiff, Lexie
Sittsamer and Ari Weil.
The awards were presented at NCJW's annual
Jewish Youth Awards ceremony in May. Judging
this year's awards were Randi Berris, Lenny
Hutton, M.D., Sarah LoPatin and Andy Meisner.
Sponsorship and funding of the program is
provided by Dina and the late Herman Brodsky
and Esther and the late Nathan Katz.
The youth awards program was co-chaired
this year by Julie Silberg and Barrie Frankel. ❑

Jewish Youth Award winners with donors Dina Brodsky and Esther

Katz (left to right): Rachel Berlin, Emily Goodman, Aleza Lichterman,

Polina Fradkin, Jonathan Schiff, Joshua Morof, Molly Rott, Anna Rubin,

Lexie Sittsamer and Ari Weil.

Winning Essay

`My Jewish Identity Looked at Face to Faith'

Joshua Morof

ust one year ago, I could not
honestly say that I had more
than one or two non-Jewish
friends. I did not even recognize the
importance of diversity. However, when
I was assigned to a table in ceram-
ics class during junior year with one
Christian, one Muslim and no other
Jewish students, everything changed.
When we sculpted heads, Tahas
taught us that Muslims are not allowed
to draw or sculpt the human body. Nate
taught us about Christianity through
a poem he etched on the side of his
project. I spent an entire class period
teaching them about the Hebrew alpha-
bet when I made a mezuzah. As I read
the letters aloud, Tahas excitedly told
me how similar they are to those of the
Arabic alphabet and, for the first time,
our similarities began to outweigh our
As our friendships blossomed, I
realized that my school and community
were just as divided as my ceramics
class had been. I had always known
that the Christian students congregated


October 4 = 2012


by the benches in the school's main
hallway, the Muslims in the library and
the Jews in front of the staircase, but it
had never bothered me as it did now.
I needed to step up and take action,
because if I did not, who would and
when? These questions inspired me
to create Face to Faith, an interfaith
program that brought together Jewish,
Christian and Muslim teens from all
over Metro Detroit.
Religious leaders and teen represen-
tatives from each faith helped me to
create Face to Faith. During our meet-
ings, we discussed topics ranging from
how to get teens to attend and how to
ensure interaction, to how to show the
similarities between the faiths.
Three months later, almost 100
Jewish, Muslim and Christian teens
filled the Jewish Community Center.
Everyone received a colored wristband,
which matched the color of a table.
Earlier in the year, when I had served
on a different interfaith panel, the
Jewish and Chaldean students auto-
matically sat on different sides of the
room; the wrist bands we passed out
prevented that from happening.

We spoke for almost an hour, the
religious leaders about their religions
and the teens about our experiences;
we then gave the participants an oppor-
tunity to discuss the importance of
diversity and the struggles that come
along with it.
Afterward, everyone went downstairs
to the Teen Center. As I followed a few
minutes later, I expected everyone to be
playing foosball and air hockey, or to
be watching a movie. Instead, they were
talking. The barriers that had separated
all of us, the same barriers that took
an entire semester of ceramics class
to break down, had crumbled in just
As Face to Faith came to a close and
everyone was sharing phone numbers,
email addresses and Facebook informa-
tion, all 100 participants made it clear
that we needed more events in the
I had successfully taken my passion
from ceramics class and turned it into
this amazing organization that would
bring together hundreds of teens again
the following year for events at a local
church, mosque, synagogue and school.

More importantly, I had embarked on
a journey that would impact my Jewish
identity unlike any experience that I
have ever had before. Through Face
to Faith, I have learned about other
religions, made new Jewish and non-
Jewish friends, and have become an
overall better person.
Ironically, however, the greatest
impact that Face to Faith has had on me
has been on my JeWish identity. I have
learned about myself as a Jew and my
role as a leader in the Jewish communi-
ty. I have taken actions to educate Jewish
and non-Jewish teens alike in this com-
munity, and I have worked throughout
this year to break down the boundaries
separating our teens in hopes of building
community and inspiring other teens to
find their identities.

Joshua Morof, 18, of

Bloomfield Hills is

a freshman at the

University of Michigan

in Ann Arbor.

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