Shaina Potash and Charlie Herman are proud Kadimah Academy graduates who are making an impact as teen leaders. Shaina is a sophomore Kadimah Scholar at the Park School of Buffalo and is a member of the Buffalo Jewish Teen Leadership Fellowship, while Charlie is a Junior at Williamsville North High School and is President of Gilgool USY. Both are participating in a pilot high school peer education program called Student to Student, a collaboration of the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning, the Holocaust Resource Center, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
The goal of Student to Student is to reduce prejudice and bigotry and foster understanding among high school peers. The program brings together Jewish students from different backgrounds, trains them to talk about their lives as young Jews, and to facilitate discussion among their non-Jewish peers to dismantle antisemitism.
“I would have never known about the Student to Student program if it wasn’t for the CJEL Buffalo Jewish Teen Initiative retreat that I attended in September 2020,” reflected Shaina. “At that event, I watched several other teens give a mock presentation, and I knew this was a way that I could contribute.” Charlie added: “Last spring, I prepared to be a presenter for Student to Student but unfortunately as COVID sprung up and schools became fully virtual, we had to postpone all of our plans. This year, as all of our schools became more adept in virtual spaces, our team was finally able to give our first series of presentations at Hamburg High School in November.”
Both students attribute their ability to be an effective peer educator in Student to Student to the education they received at Kadimah. Shaina shared that Kadimah helped her to prepare to talk about all the things she experienced as a Jewish person. “It’s given me a chance to teach others who may not know anything about Judaism, or those who have never even met anyone Jewish, about my culture.” For Charlie, growing up in a Jewish environment taught him that there are many different ways to live a Jewish life beyond the traditional Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements. “Each person or family chooses traits or components that are meaningful to them,” he said. “And having a Kadimah education gave me a step up and allowed me to learn more deeply than I would have otherwise have been able to.”
Jewish Buffalo is fortunate to have such exceptional teen leaders who are proud to share their Jewish values with their peers. For more information on teen programming through the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning, please contact Mike Steklof here.