Meet 18 amazing teens making an impact in our community.
This year, the Jewish News has once again partnered with Jteen, a Jfamily program based at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, to recognize 18 remarkable teens in our community who excel in academics, sports, business, activism and tikkun olam — among many other areas.
They all have one thing in common — they are making a difference in their communities. In what has been an exceptionally difficult year for so many, it is wonderful to recognize the positive achievements of the exceptional teens in our community.
Enjoy reading the following snapshots of this year’s crop of Rising Stars, presented in alphabetical order.
Abby Chayet, 16, of West Bloomfield is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School. She is an award-winning dancer, a member of National Honor Society, and an involved student in many clubs such as DECA, Principal’s Advisory Committee, Key Club (benefiting local charities) and Jewish Student Alliance. Abby is also on her high school tennis team and a writer for her school newspaper; perhaps her most endearing qualities are resilience and compassion.
She volunteers with many organizations such as Make A Wish, Housing the Homeless at Temple Israel, Top Soccer and the Friendship Circle, where she serves on the Teen Executive Board.
Since the pandemic began, she participated in five different food drives, delivering meals to frontline workers and those with food insecurity. Abby raised funds for Beaumont Hospital’s Moonbeam program, ensuring pediatric patients could still enjoy bags full of glow items during the holiday time. Last October, she shopped for and dropped off Halloween packages for each and every patient in the pediatric unit at her local hospital. In addition, she volunteers her time reading virtually each week to a young boy in Pontiac through a book buddy program.
Having a sibling with serious medical issues has shaped Abby. She knew firsthand how it felt to be hospitalized and was worried about how kids in the hospital were coping. At the beginning of this pandemic, she reached out to the child life coordinator at Beaumont Hospital to find out their needs. She learned the playroom was closed with no reopen date in sight, and patients weren’t allowed visitors because of the pandemic. She was told that almost all the donated toys from the December toy drives were gone. Since the hospital can’t share/reuse toys, every item became single use. The hospital went through a year’s worth of toys in just four months.
Abby organized and raised more than $6,000 for Beaumont’s pediatric unit and reached out to a local toy store that agreed to match donations — bringing in more than $12,000 of much needed toys, distraction items and learning tools for the pediatric unit. Our community is lucky to have Abby.
Isabella Cimmino, 16, of Farmington Hills is a sophomore at North Farmington High School. She is a committed friend, student (4.1 GPA) and serves as class treasurer. She’s an award-winning figure skater, cello player, and is active at her temple.
Isabella is involved in Sunday night high school at Temple Shir Shalom and is an active member of Shir Shalom Temple Youth (SSTY) and serves on the board as treasurer. In that role, she helps to organize temple activities such as the Purim Carnival and the Tikkun Olam a-thon. Additionally, she volunteers to help on Sunday mornings with the younger kids during religious school. For the past two years, she has participated in the High Holiday services by playing Kol Nidre on her cello for the Temple Shir Shalom family and children’s services.
Outside of temple, she organized a fundraiser for the Detroit Dog Rescue, which raised nearly $1,000 in money and supplies. She also volunteers her time at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena’s Learn to Skate program where she helps teach very young children. In her spare time, she provides free math tutoring to Farmington students in seventh to ninth grade. Additionally, during the COVID pandemic, she and her brother, Jonah, performed an outdoor concert at a senior citizen residence, playing music on her cello for the residents quarantining in their apartments.
Isabella is also a member of Building Entrepreneurship, a group for Jewish teenage girls formed to teach future professionals how to start a business, and has been participating in the online mentorship and lecturing events for that group. She also competed on behalf of North Farmington High School in the Business Professional of America Presentation Management Competition this fall where she won the regional competition and placed seventh in the statewide competition.
Isabella also sought and found a part-time job at a law firm because of her interest in becoming a lawyer. According to the managing partner, “She’s going to make a great lawyer one day.”
Sammi Desmon, 16, of West Bloomfield is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School. She owns an apparel company called Sammi’s Sweats (sammissweats.com). It began as a school project to raise funds for the community. Sammi decided to sell sweats to friends and family and donated the proceeds to an adopted family through Jewish Family Service’s holiday gift drive. Sammi bought the family everything on their wish list and more.
During the pandemic, she obtained a following from several influencers, and her brand took off. She now sells to stores and individuals throughout the country. Giving back to the community is very important to her. She has continued to donate profits to organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to provide lunches to underprivileged children not in school during COVID-19, and Black Lives Matter. Sammi created a Ruth Bader Ginsburg apparel collection and donated the profits to a college scholarship fund for underprivileged teens. She also donated and distributed backpacks and school supplies to kids through the Oakland County Foster Closet and donated over 100 items of clothing to Alternatives for Girls in Detroit.
In addition, she is an involved student, a National Honor Society group leader, a Bloomfield Hills High School Student Ambassador, on the Youth Action Board, UMatter, Community Service Club and the Jewish Student Alliance.
Skylar Elbinger, 16, of Farmington Hills is a junior at Frankel Jewish Academy, where she is the lead student ambassador. In this role, she hosts prospective students when they have their shadow visit at FJA; she attends Open Houses and other evening recruitment events to speak about her experiences at school and acts as an advocate, encouraging other young Jewish students to attend FJA.
She is also a member of Student Government, National Honor Society, and plays on the volleyball and basketball teams.
Outside of school, Skylar is an active member of BBYO’s Ahavah chapter. She is a chapter mazkirah and is responsible for social media marketing. She is on the regional convention and spring/young leadership convention steering committees.
Skylar is involved in the first Michigan cohort of Leaders for Tomorrow, AJC’s leadership development program for high schoolers that empowers young Jews to speak up for Israel and the Jewish people. She is participating in a program called One2One, which is a virtual meeting for Israeli and American high school students; she is the only AJC participant who is involved in this program from Michigan.
Skylar was also a member of the ORT teen board and served as the social media coordinator for two years. She was a chair for two annual teen-led events and volunteered at Camp Hermelin and Rub-a-Dub.
Skylar volunteers at many of Temple Israel’s YFTI community service events. Last year, she was also a TITAN Teen Intern at Temple Israel where she worked in the Family Life Center.
Lev Ershler, 18, of West Bloomfield is a senior at Farber Hebrew Day School. He has served as co-president of the Detroit branch of Bnei Akiva for the past two years and has planned numerous events geared toward educating his peers about Israel and Judaism while also adding in fun elements. He has attended many leadership development weekend retreats through Bnei Akiva that have provided him with tools to better contribute to the Detroit Jewish community as well as train the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Lev’s love of Israel has led to advocacy via AIPAC, taking every opportunity offered to be involved, from attending the Schusterman Teen Summit to working at all local events sponsored by AIPAC and lobbying our congressional delegation.
At Farber, Lev was the co-chair of the David Tanzman Memorial Basketball Tournament in 2020. He was involved with fundraising, committee chair check-ins, actively assisting committee chairs as help was needed, and manning the Livestream of most of the basketball games.
Lev is currently co-representative of his class in the Farber Hebrew Day School-Yeshivat Akiva High School Student Government. He is in the top Talmud class in his school and often studies other Jewish texts that are not part of the curriculum. Lev will attend Yeshivat Har Etzion next year where he will continue his Jewish learning and leadership growth.
Mandi Fealk, 17, of Commerce Township is a senior at Frankel Jewish Academy.
Mandi has been a volunteer at the Friendship Circle since seventh grade, when she immediately felt connected with the children there. She has been volunteering ever since and is now part of the Teen President Board. Mandi has not only volunteered with the participants but has also become their friends, and her enthusiasm is contagious.
Mandi participates in all aspects of Friendship Circle and has been active in helping the staff whenever they call. Even during the pandemic, Mandi was at overnight camp, a regular at Sunday Circle and some weekday after-school programs.
Parents of special needs students constantly exclaim that Mandi brings out the best in their children.
She is looking to continue her studies post high school in a field that continues her involvement in working with special-needs children, teens and adults.
Elan Kluger, 17, of Ann Arbor, is a junior at Skyline High School. He is dedicated to academic excellence, leadership, service and communicating big ideas.
Elan is a knowledgeable and passionate Zionist, committed to his local and worldwide Jewish community. He is an active member of Habonim Dror-Labor Zionist Youth and attends Camp Tavor, a unique, youth-led camp experience in Three Rivers, Mich. He will attend the camper leadership training program this summer. Elan is also a member of the inaugural Detroit community cohort of LFT (Leaders for Tomorrow) run by the JCRC/AJC of Metropolitan Detroit.
Elan restarted the Skyline High School newspaper after years of inactivity and has been editor-in-chief for the past two years. In ninth grade, he founded the school’s Economics Club and leads a team that is training for, and competing in, the Federal Reserve’s High School Fed Challenge. Elan also attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
In May 2020, Elan began a weekly newsletter titled Ruminations, comprising his thoughts across a range of topics (accessible at kluger.substack.com). He is also a founding fellow in the inaugural “On Deck Podcast Fellowship.” This program focuses on helping fellows launch and grow a podcast in eight weeks, while interacting with podcasters across the globe. Elan is the youngest fellow in a cohort of over 100 people. His podcast “IR Talk” is devoted to international relations theory. Season One will be launching at the beginning of May.
Caroline Krell, 17, of Ann Arbor, is a senior at Pioneer High School. She has as a long history of Jewish involvement, starting in preschool at Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park and making her bat mitzvah at Congregation of Moses in Kalamazoo. Caroline also spent a few summers at Camp Tavor after moving to Ann Arbor.
Camp Tavor cemented her desire and obligation to help others. “It was all tikkun olam,” she said about an exercise to build an understanding of privilege — as in who has it, who doesn’t and the long-term effects of not having it. It was a basic map exercise, demonstrating through the lack of grocery stores, public transportation, access to nearby medical care and adverse environmental impacts the vast imbalance in opportunity. She came back from camp that summer with a tikkun olam mindset.
At her high school she became active in the gun-control movement through March for Our Lives and led the Ann Arbor chapter her senior year. When the pandemic shut down the community as we once knew it, she rallied and got involved more than ever, connecting with the Sunrise Movement and began work on climate, jobs and voting rights issues — all virtually. Caroline became a movement leader in 12th grade.
The night after the presidential election, she was on the University of Michigan Diag, giving a speech that the media covered about the necessity of everyone having a voice in a democracy. Her focus on helping elevate the opportunities and voices of others remains a fundamental objective for her.
Jordan Manela, 17, of Farmington Hills is a junior at North Farmington High School where he is a straight-A student while also being dual-enrolled at OCC, taking advanced mathematics courses. He serves on the Student Senate Executive Board, Junior Board and LINK Crew, and is a Peer to Peer tutor as a member of the National Honor Society.
Jordan has been both a regional and state gold medalist for HOSA (Future Health Professionals) and a top-five finalist at HOSA’s International Leadership Conference representing Michigan in medical law and ethics.
Since he was in eighth grade, Jordan has been a madrich at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, where he enjoys helping the students with their learning and love of Jewish culture. He also assists with the Better Together program as part of his madrich responsibilities where he facilitates conversations between pre-b’nai mitzvah students and seniors in the Jewish community.
Jordan plays the cello with the NFHS Symphony Orchestra, was captain of his Junior Varsity bowling team, and enjoys all sports, especially baseball. Whether volunteering with Miracle League baseball or umpiring with NFWB baseball, Jordan loves being part of the game and seeing the joy it brings to everyone.
Jordan is actively involved with the Opening the Doors Madrichim Leadership Training program where his empathetic nature toward those with different abilities and needs has only continued to blossom. Jordan belongs to BBYO Greenberg AZA where he has served on the executive board for the last two years, first as mazkir (secretary) and then as gizbor (treasurer). He is also an active participant with the Mayor’s Youth Council for Farmington/Farmington Hills, where he was recently elected secretary and helps plan events that engage the cities’ youth and volunteers with the local community.
Ethan Marcus, 17, of Birmingham is a junior at Groves High School. His devotion to charity and helping others has been and continues to be his life focus.
When Ethan turned 13, he donated 10% of his bar mitzvah gift money to the Charles A. Main, M.D., Pediatric Cancer Survivor Scholarship Fund at Beaumont Hospital. The fund is designed to assist pediatric cancer patients with college and career opportunities.
He is co-president of Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition’s Youth Action Board (YAB), an organization whose mission is to practice and raise awareness for life strategies as a substance-free teenager. Ethan regularly takes part in YAB functions that focus on mental health, drug avoidance, alcohol avoidance and other stressors common to teens his age.
He is also a member of the ORT Teen Executive Board, helping to plan and organize activities for teenagers about the importance of charitable giving.
Last year, in partnership with his best friend and his (then 13-year-old) brother, Ethan founded Bagel Boys Delivery Service. After taking internet orders all week, the boys run a food delivery service on Sunday mornings featuring bagels, cream cheeses, lox and rotating seasonal niceties, such as ice cream sandwiches, flowers, cookies and vegetable boxes.
During the pandemic, Ethan has made certain that free bagels and monetary donations were delivered to Beaumont Hospital’s health care team working on the COVID-19 virus. Ethan, along with his partners, also picked different charities to receive donations from some of the business’s proceeds, such the Birmingham Public School Parent/Teacher Associations and the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition. Donations have exceeded $3,300.
Estee Moss, 17, of Bloomfield Township is a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School and an active member of BBYO where she currently serves as the regional n’siah (president). Her goal as president this last year was to make sure that teens felt included instead of isolated and she participated in and oversaw many re-imagined programs for teens. Estee previously served on her chapter Ahavah BBG’s executive board and has received awards including Rookie of the Year and the Menorah Pledge Award.
Within BBYO, Estee was the moving force behind two successful community-wide charitable opportunities, including a clothing/household goods drive and a bottle/can recycling drive that raised $4,000 for the International Service Fund.
Estee also loves to write and had articles published in The Shofar, BBYO’s national teen newspaper. She received top recognition for her writing in the Congregation Shaarey Zedek Jeffrey Weisberg Memorial Essay Contest.
Estee is an active member of Congregation Shaarey Zedek where she participates in Teen Talks with the Rabbis. Estee learned how to chant the first Torah portion of Rosh Hashanah and has had the honor of reading Torah for the congregation on Rosh Hashanah every year since she was 14.
Estee is always looking for opportunities to support her community. Last spring, she volunteered for Mediumize, an organization that shops for and delivers groceries to immuno-compromised members of our community. She also held a canned food drive for Yad Ezra, and has volunteered for J-Serve, Fall Fix-up and PeerCorps Detroit.
Estee has a passion for singing and theater and has competed in the MI Solo Vocal Music Association Solo & Ensemble each year, performing pieces in Catalan and Italian, and receiving No. 1 ratings.
Estee is an active member of her school’s National Honor Society, Forensics Team, Key Club, DECA and the International Thespian Society/Broken Leg Theater groups where she performs annually in her high school musicals and plays.
Lily Pazner, 17, of Bloomfield Hills is a junior at Cranbrook Kingswood. She is on the Dean’s List and writes for the school paper, the Crane Clarion. In 2020, Lily
participated in Cranbrook’s World Affairs Day by leading a presentation and workshop on Title IX to fellow students. She is now focusing on getting the English reading curriculum to be more inclusive of women and minorities.
Lily has been active in BBYO and is on the board of the Aliyah chapter. She founded a youth group for Jewish teens, focusing on Judaism and feminism called “Dinah.” This project was a dream of Lily’s and, along with a close friend, they used the downtime brought about by COVID to bring it to fruition. The focus of the group is on what Judaism and feminism teach about various topics and their intersection. They have had sessions on topics such as feminist Torah, the Jewish diaspora, sex education, self-care and many “repair the world” topics. Currently, the group is doing a drive for HAVEN’s (shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence) education program, collecting books and materials.
In 2020, Lily became interested in the Jewish Women’s Archives (JWA). She applied for a “Rising Voices” fellowship and received a position. She writes for their blog. She is also on the editorial board of jGirls Magazine.
Tali Rubenstein, 16, of West Bloomfield is a junior at Groves High School. During the past few years, she has found important ways to incorporate her Jewish learning with her interest in social justice.
Tali was part of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Emerging Jewish Thought Leaders Fellowship during summer 2020. This online opportunity allowed her to study with world-renowned scholars who combine Jewish ideas with current events, such as the pandemic and the upheaval and protests following the murder of George Floyd.
Conversations about racism in the U.S. and unequal treatment of Israeli Arabs in Israel motivated her to continue to examine societal structures and what changes might be needed.
Because of the pandemic, Tali worked with her parents to arrange a semester in Israel, where she participated in the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) program in Hod HaSharon. This program allowed her to continue her high school program while also learning about (and traveling through) Israel.
These programs gave Tali the opportunity to learn and engage in conversation with Jewish teens from throughout the country. As a Jew of Color, Tali brings a unique perspective to these conversations. Her firm footing in the Jewish community (coming both from family and her education) combined with a perspective which is starting to recognize the presence and unique contributions of Jews of Color, gives Tali the opportunity to both share her perspective and help our community take the next steps in this conversation.
Lainie Rubin, 17, of West Bloomfield is a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School and is committed to mental health advocacy.
As a young teenager, Lainie lived with severe anxiety about school. Seeing a therapist helped Lainie understand her anxiety and together they co-created a plan that now sees her living her life … and thriving … instead of her life “living” her.
Lainie soon became involved with UMatter and began incorporating mental health topics into her schoolwork. She even spoke up at a school board meeting in fall 2019, asking the board how it might help students manage their mental health.
Prior to COVID, Lainie visited a juvenile detention center, mental health section of a county jail, and a crisis service agency to explore how an absence of mental health support early in life may impact decisions some of them make later. This newfound understanding gives her perspective and inspires her career aspiration to become a forensic psychologist.
With in-person volunteering options eliminated, she turned to her passion for baking, selling treats in the community, donating the proceeds to organizations funding COVID treatment.
Since September, she has represented her high school on the National Equity Project, an education reform organization specializing in leadership development and leading a charge for greater equity at schools across the country.
Also in September, she was invited to join the programming committee for Camp Tamarack. And, most recently, she was selected for a seat on the Jewish Teen Board, charged with offering ideas for greater teen involvement in activities supported by the JCC and Federation.
In the fall, Lainie will be studying at the University of Wisconsin where plans to study forensic psychology, focusing on mental health within the justice system.
Joshua Schreiber, 17, of Farmington Hills is a senior at North Farmington High School and has been heavily involved in Jewish affiliates throughout his youth as a six-year Tamarack attendee, Hillel Day School alum and Temple Israel member. He shifted his focus in high school to become involved with Jewish nonprofits, Israel education and community engagement.
Joshua has been elected, appointed and served in numerous positions within the Jewish community of Metropolitan Detroit, including a leadership facilitator for the Jewish Fund Teen Board, assisting in providing a total of $100,000 in philanthropy to local and statewide charities over two years, a president at Friendship Circle, co-president of North Farmington’s Jewish Student Union, and as vice president and head of social justice, Israel advocacy and community engagement for BBYO Michigan Region, where he oversaw and managed all programming, conventions and logistics for 800+ members, along with serving as the chair for five committees and overseeing a total of 26 counterparts within two years.
As head of social action and engagement for BBYO Michigan Region, he coordinated a convention with 70+ in attendance in Ann Arbor, working directly with affiliates such as the University of Michigan, JCC and sponsors to create an unforgettable experience for teens of all ages, along with outreach and fundraising for the Flint water crisis. Joshua also utilized his time by becoming a fierce advocate for social justice, hosting programming with immigration experts along with community activists, aiming to strengthen Black-Jewish relations within our community.
Joshua was an AIPAC delegate and attendee who was selected to attend the Schusterman Advocacy High School Summit with full scholarship. He currently sits on the Leaders for Tomorrow-Detroit Cohort for the American Jewish Committee and interns within the state of Michigan for StandWithUs, working to conduct programming, create dialogue and educate diverse populations in the Metro Detroit area on antisemitism.
Meredith Shapiro, 14, of Farmington Hills is a freshman at Cranbrook Kingwood and a graduate of Hillel Day School class of 2020. She is a scholar, scoring in the top percentiles on her PSATs, and an athlete in swimming, skiing and snowboarding. Her biggest passion is as an advocate for equality and against hate. She is currently participating in Cranbrook School’s Bridge the Divide Club as part of her activism for breaking down community barriers and fighting for equality for all.
Meredith’s proudest and most fulfilling achievements are those driven by her Jewish values. She has been deeply committed to volunteering at the Friendship Circle, participating in Mitzvah Days for the past several years, and raising funds for Debate it Forward, a nonprofit organization focused on bringing self-confidence, public speaking and critical thinking skills to children in underserved communities through use of debate activities and games.
In 2020, Meredith was a winner of the Holocaust Memorial Center’s Kappy Family Anne Frank Art & Writing Competition for her poem juxtaposing the hate of the Holocaust to the racial injustice that has spurred the Black Lives Matter movement. She was selected to the Student Leadership Council to plan Detroit’s 2020 Day of Racial Healing, focused on building bridges between different youth communities on the topic of racial injustice.
Among her peers, Meredith is a known confidante and ally to LGBTQ+ friends who are not getting the support they need from their families or communities, or who otherwise face discrimination. She recently completed safeTALK training, a program dedicated to increasing suicide awareness and helping its trainees connect at-risk
individuals to support resources.
Aviel Siegel, 16, of Oak Park is a sophomore at Farber Hebrew Day School. Currently, he is holding a 3.7 GPA. He has attended a Jewish day school since the very beginning, where he has always excelled. Aviel was a student council representative and a student council president. He plays on his school’s basketball team, started an after-school club and works as a waiter at Prime 10 in Southfield.
Aviel is active in many organizations, including chapter boards at NCSY and Bnei Akiva. During his freshman year, with guidance from NCSY, Aviel created the first ever Junior NCSY Board because he felt he could get the kids more active in the organization at middle school age, just like he experienced.
For Bnei Akiva, he helps run the ninth grade Manhigut division, and with NCSY, he continues his mission and helps run the Junior NCSY division.
In his spare time, he does learning programs at Dovid Ben Nochim, Mishmar at Farber and JSP — all Torah learning programs. He also likes being with his family and friends when he is not learning or working.
Aviel said he takes on leadership roles because he wants to be the one to lead the way in helping make a difference and work with others who have that same vision.
Andrew Tukel, 16, of Orchard Lake is a junior at Frankel Jewish Academy and has been a member of student government since his freshman year. He is a member of his school’s National Honor Society, Varsity Cross-Country team, and the Varsity Bowling team. Andy has been recognized as one of the top 20 bowlers in the Division 4 Regionals.
Andy is also a member of the FJA 2021 RoboTraffic Team. RoboTtraffic is an international robotics and traffic safety competition, usually held at the Technion in Israel. This year, it was conducted virtually, and Andy and his team placed second in the Traffic Safety Innovation portion of the competition for their concept of glow-in-the-dark lane lines.
Andy is an active JARC volunteer who is always friendly and engaging with the people JARC serves. He and his brothers participated in many different JARC activities, including monthly Bingo events, Flower-a-thon, Sukkot assembly and holiday parties.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Andy reached out to JARC leadership regarding its teen board, which, at the time, was inactive. He offered to step up and help make the teen board thrive. As president of the board, he handled recruitment. JARC decided to make the board more of a service-learning council to stand out from other boards in the community. Andrew began work on the board in September 2020 and it currently has 13 active members.