Avital Stein, picutred second from left, is with friends Meredith Shapiro, Danya Allswang and Shelby Weller prior to heading to the JUF Annual Meeting.

The author, pictured second from left, with friends, Samantha Carl, Danya Allswang and Shelby Weller, on a senior trip downtown.

 I remember that on the first day of my ninth grade Chumash class, my teacher asked us to tell her everything we knew about Avraham. We spent 10 minutes spewing out “facts” we had been told as children. My teacher then proceeded to respond: “Well those stories are very nice, but those are all midrashim. None of that is actually in the text of the Torah.” Needless to say, we were all shocked. Not only that class, but all my Judaic and secular studies classes have taught me to not accept everything I hear, but to question. Ask until satisfaction is reached, and if it is not, think of an original answer. ICJA welcomes creativity and helps to further it. Ida Crown has provided me with a forum to feel comfortable asking any question and explore not only Torah, but my religiosity and life.

Academically, all my teachers not only challenge me in the classroom, but they develop a relationship with me outside of class. I have seen teachers outside of school on the weekend and have happily walked over and engaged them in conversation. I sit with my friends in my math teacher’s room and we eat and laugh with her. This comfort that is ubiquitously felt among students helps ensure comfort in the classroom as well so that all students are taught at their highest potential.

Finally, I am a student who came from Solomon Schechter Day School while none of my close friends continued on to ICJA with me. Although I had a hard time at first going to school with new students for the first time in nine years, now that I’m a senior, my grade has meshed into one big family. It is no longer evident who came from what school. I am now good friends with people that in ninth grade I never believed I would talk with. This is not only a feeling in my grade, but among the entire student body. Walking down the halls, everyone is wishing someone they’ve never talked to a happy birthday, complimenting someone in a different grade’s outfit, and even asking homework help of the person who happens to be sitting next to them in the library. The genuine happiness of every student in school makes it possible to build new friendship every day. Now when I got to new places or summer programs, I have the confidence to talk up to a stranger and introduce myself.

By Avital Stein, class of ’14