Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith Actress Natalie Portman Is A Harvard Graduate

August 18, 2016
By SSLI Alumni Department

As seen on the University Herald, August 11, 2016

Not a lot of people know that some celebrities hold a degree. They are often hidden from the fact that they excel in acting and Hollywood likes to push their movies and television shows towards audiences.

For an actress like Natalie Portman who starred in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), Black Swan and Thor, it can't be hidden for too long. According to Sioux City Journal, Portman holds a degree in psychology from Harvard College.

Currently, she is not only an actress but a film producer and director too. Born in 1981, she was born in Jerusalem but then moved to the United States. While living in Washington, DC, Natalie Portman attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. Later on, she also attended a Jewish Elementary school called the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County in Jericho, New York.

At a young age, she studied dancing and acting in New York. She started acting at 1994 but her break out role was in Star Wars: Episode I - the Phantom Menace. She acted in this film while she was still in high school on Long Island. She was enrolled at Syosset High School. She also enrolled at the American Theater Dance Workshop and attended the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. One thing to note, she did not attend the premiere episode of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode I) because she needed to study for her high school final exams.

Later on, she went to Harvard University to study psychology. They call it Artium Baccalaureus. She studied while she acted. She was able to complete her degree in 2003. During that same time, she also starred in a second Star Wars movie. Talk about a working student. "I don't care if college ruins my career," says Natalie Portman. She explained that she would rather be smart than a movie star.

Watch Natalie Portman's official Harvard commencement speech here.

Posted in Class of 1999

A Time for Service

February 26, 2016
By SSLI Alumni Department


Where will you serve?

Tikkun Olam: Repair the World. That’s a pretty ambitious goal. Luckily, in the field of Jewish service, with great ambition comes great programming. There are so many organizations out there working every day to make a difference, and providing volunteers with the opportunity, knowledge, and partnership to have a positive impact on the world. But, with so many options and so much to be done, how do you choose the service program that is not only right for you, but the program in which YOU can make the biggest difference?

We know how.

This year, six Jewish non profit organizations are joining forces, as a force for good. We want you to be able to dedicate your time and energy to the causes you are passionate about through a year of service or long-term immersive service program. We also want to make sure you have everything you need to find the program that is the best fit for YOU, all in one place. Below you'll find a range of excellent long-term service programs, and links to all of the information you need to thoroughly explore each program, your questions and qualifications, and the potential impact you can have on the world.

The Opportunities


Apply to AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and spend next year fighting poverty, building community and gaining leadership skills for a lifetime. Work full-time at a local nonprofit in Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, or Washington DC, gaining substantive experience on crucial issues like immigration, housing rights, food justice, education, public health, and domestic violence. Learn from veteran organizers, activists, and educators about how to make change while viewing your work through a Jewish lens. Live together with your fellow corps members (age 21-26) and build a community committed to integrating social justice and Jewish values. Join the AVODAH Alumni Network, a group of hundreds of leaders who will provide community and support throughout your career. You'll get a monthly living stipend, travel money, health insurance, and may be eligible for an AmeriCorps Education Award. The Priority Application deadline is January 31st. The program begins in late August 2016 and runs to mid August 2017. Reach out to Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Russ Agdern at with any questions.

Hazon offers multiple immersive opportunities to build healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond:

42 hens, 12 goats, 10 acres of land, a dozen young Jews and 5776 years of cultural evolution: Adamah. Learn skills, build community and feed the soil and your soul at Adamah. The Adamah Fellowship is a three-month leadership training program for Jewish young adults that integrates organic farming, sustainable living, Jewish learning, community building, and contemplative spiritual practice. Adamah is located in the Connecticut Berkshires, where fellows live surrounded by the beauty of the natural world and Hazon's unique all-stream Jewish Retreat Center. Applications are currently open for all 2016 cohorts: 
Spring: April 11th - June 19th 
Summer: June 15th - August 21st 
Fall: August 17th - November 20th

Work for Teva! Our longest-running environmental education program works to fundamentally transform Jewish education through experiential learning that fosters sustainability through the lenses of ecology, food, and place-based learning. As a Teva educator, you will have the opportunity to explore the deep connections between ecology and Judaism, strengthen your teaching skills, live in a vibrant and pluralistic Jewish community, and form long-lasting relationships with fellow educators. Teva is now accepting applications for the Summer Topsy Turvy Bus Tour and the Fall 2016 Season.

The JOFEE Fellowship seeks to invigorate the Jewish educational landscape by seeding Jewish communities with a cadre of outstanding Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Educators. The core of our year-long fellowship and certification program is built around professional placements at host institutions throughout the country. Fellows will also receive intensive training, mentorship, and support from leading educators and other professionals in the JOFEE field. Applications for 2017-2018 will open in late summer 2016. Please be in touch with to be notified when applications open.

Can't wait to get involved? Attend the first annual JOFEE Network Gathering June 6-9th at Isabella Freedman!

This summer, come live, teach, farm, and celebrate on The Pearlstone Campus—a gorgeous 160-acre ball of light located in Reisterstown, MD - 30 minutes outside Baltimore. Fellows will live in our beautiful new Eco-Cabin, adjacent to our 7-acre working organic farm featuring orchards, vineyard, educational gardens, goats, chickens, and sheep. Fellows will be empowered and supported while leading dynamic experiential youth programs Monday-Thursday in Jewish Outdoor Food & Environmental Education (JOFEE), integrating DIY farm-to-table food, natural building, wilderness skills and forest ecology, low and high ropes adventure course, music, nature art, and more. In May we focus on our immersive Chesapeake Teva program for Jewish day schools; in June we work with underprivileged students from Baltimore City Public Schools; and mid June-August we will knock the socks off of local JCC campers. Prior informal education experience is required. Fellows will receive financial compensation along with room, board, and a life-changing experience. Join us! To find out more info, or to apply, contact Casey Yurow:


APPLY NOW  for the 2016-17 Repair the World Fellowship, an 11-month opportunity for young adults ages 21 to 26 to engage and challenge the Jewish community to address social justice issues through meaningful volunteering. Fellows will recruit, train, and serve alongside volunteers to bring about real community change around education justice and food justice. Fellows gain skills in volunteer engagement, program planning and facilitation, service learning, and deep knowledge in food or education justice. The Fellowship takes place in four dynamic cities — Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Repair the World will provide training, a living stipend, communal housing, health insurance, and other perks. The first deadline to apply is January 31. Learn more and apply here.


Earth, Community, Social Justice, Jewish Spirituality.   The Urban Adamah Fellowship, based in Berkeley, CA, is a three-month residential training program for young adults (ages 2131) that combines urban organic farming, social justice training and progressive Jewish learning and living in intentional community. Through the operation of Urban Adamah’s one-acre organic farm and internships with social justice organizations, fellows gain significant skills, training and experience in sustainable urban agriculture, Jewish spirituality, intentional community, social justice and leadership development.

Upcoming 2016 Fellowships:
-Summer, June 9 - August 26
-Fall, September 4 - November 22

We accept 12­14 fellows per season with admission on a rolling basis. Visit the Urban Adamah website to learn more and to request an application.

JOIN for Justice is seeking courageous and dynamic justice-seekers for a year-long training program for aspiring community organizers committed to working with communities to build their own power. The Jewish Organizing Fellowship runs from September 2016 to August 2017. It is a paid Boston-based professional development opportunity for Jewish young adults (21-30) to become full-time community organizers for social justice organizations, explore their Jewish identity together, and grow as leaders in pursuit of social justice.  The early bird deadline is January 20, and the regular deadline is April 6. Apply online here.

JOIN for Justice also invites people of all ages to learn organizing through our online course Don't Kvetch, Organize! Registration opens January 5th for our Spring session, and you can find out more here.


We hope you find the service program that is the right fit for you! Whatever program you choose, we’re thrilled you’re considering doing a long-term immersive service program, and doing your part to make an impact. - Thank You

We work to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community,
and a healthier and more sustainable world for all.

NEW YORK Makom Hadash, 125 Maiden Lane, Suite 8B, New York, NY 10038 | 212.644.2332 |

860.824.5991 |

BOULDER 303.886.5865 |

DENVER 303.886.4894 |

DETROIT 248.494.4144 |

SAN DIEGO & NORTHCOUNTY 212.908.2520 |



Why the Kotel Compromise Just Isn't Good Enough

February 04, 2016
By SSLI Alumni Department

Published by on January 31, 2016 - click here.

By Gabriela Geselowitz

When I woke to the news about the new policy for the Kotel, I was surprised to see so many of my friends celebrating. I suppose I should be, too: I’ve been wearing tefillin since I was bat mitzvahed over a decade ago. In that time, I have been to Israel twice, first with my high school, and then on Birthright one year ago. I’ve always closely followed the Women of the Wall and waited for a time when I, too, might worship the way I want at the Kotel.

The new compromise is just that: a compromise. While it’s nice that now it won’t take a treasure map to find the egalitarian section, and that the section will no longer be the size of a New York City loft, it hurts that if I want to pray at such a holy site in a way that feels meaningful to me, I have to go to a part that isn’t from the postcards, the documentaries, the images of Jewish Jerusalem that the world knows.

When I was 18 — my first time in Israel — my greatest wish was to get to the Kotel, which I visited twice that trip. I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to pray there with my tefillin, an act that makes me feel closer to God. I didn’t know that I had picked the wrong T-shirt; the “Modesty Police” told me that my sleeves were too short, and made me wear a shawl that felt as though it had touched lots of sweaty shoulders already that day. But despite this, I had a rich spiritual experience. I felt like I had spent my life waiting to fulfill clichés that felt rich with meaning anyway: to daven, to find a spot to slip in a note, to kiss the stone.

When I returned at the age of 23, I looked forward to the Kotel once again. But when the group got there, the experience felt more strained, more frustrating. A few short years of living as a woman in the “real world” had drained me. As I tried to pray, a group of Orthodox women behind me giggled and took selfies. I tried to remind myself that their experiences were just as valid as mine; that not everyone had to be rocking and mouthing words to have a spiritual connection. But I felt almost naked; I wanted my tallit and my tefillin, and I felt that I desperately needed those things to have the experience that my boyfriend might be having on the other side of the wall — the much, much larger area where the men were unafraid to loudly celebrate.

Posted in Class of 2009


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