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Graduation 2014, 5774




Graduation 2013, 5773



is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values and beliefs that guide their daily lives. These short statements of belief, written by the famous and the unknown, have been featured in weekly broadcasts on public radio. 

THE GRADUATING CLASS OF 5773 shares their beliefs with you.


Being at the Kotel is not the only time I have felt a strong connection to my Jewish heritage; it has always been important to me.  I am reminded of it every Friday night when my family and I celebrate Shabbat with candles and Challah.  When I recite the blessings, I feel connected to those that share my beliefs and values.


EDWARD BASSIN Five of my friends and I got stuck in an elevator while at USY's International Convention. Even though we were trapped in a metal  box 20 floors above the ground we somehow stayed very calm...At some point one of us decided to sit down, causing all of us to sit down and just relax. As we sat and talked we all bonded with each other a little more than we did before and somehow we started singing slow ruach songs in the elevator. We learned these songs through USY, and they connected me with Judaism even more than usual. We finally made it out after 50 minutes, though a part of me wished that we were stuck for a bit longer. I feel some of the others hoped so, too. I believe that if we think or try a little harder to have Judaism in our lives a little bit every day, we can realize that every situation we are in, whether extremely dangerous, fun, or even small and bland, can connect us to our Jewish identity and to Judaism.


ELKA BRESLER I believe that family is the bond that you have with the people that share your blood, and in the way the blood you share becomes one. Through tradition and Judaism and finding ways to take the ideas that people were practicing thousands of years ago and applying them to your life in whatever way has meaning to you. This is what I have my family to thank for along with so many other things, I have my family to thank for raising me in a Jewish household, and giving me a sense of belonging with the ones around me through the values of religion. 

KALI COHEN I believe that the Jews are a people, and religion and culture come along with them. Though anti-semitism is strong and Jews have a horrid past, I am so proud to call myself a Jew. I don’t hide it or deny it, because what if there is a fellow Jew just a few feet away from me wondering if there is another Jew around him/her? My pride in my heritage will forever be with me. I thank my time at Adath Israel, Camp Livingston, and BBYO for that. It is important that Jewish teens have a place where they can be themselves, where they can be Jewish. I’ve been lucky enough to look around a room full of Jews countless times.

DANIEL DOLZHANSKY  I am a Russian Jew born in America. Our families both went through acts of hostility against Jews and the promotion of anti-Semitic views in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. As a result, many Russian Jews immigrated to the United  States, Israel, and countries all over the world. Once living in a new country they are free to become more religious due to the nearly non-existing hostility against Jews, specifically in Israel, or continued to be secular in the Jewish traditions. I keep the Jewish traditions and holidays to have the connection alive. It's your choice whether you want a Jewish education, cultural and religious experiences...It's up to you how you define your Jewish identity.


ZACHARY FISHER  I believe that Israel is essential to the Jewish People. The state of Israel is the religious and cultural center of the Jewish People. It not only ensures our safety and continuity as a nation, but fosters among us rich innovation and culture. Additionally, I can think of no better steward other than the Jews to protect a land that means so much for so many people throughout the world. Having been to Israel twice, myself, most recently in December 2012, I have seen first hand the state of the art technologies, striking artistic projects, and a diverse and lively culture that combines the best of our illustrious history as well as the cutting edge.


LOUIS GOLDSMITH  This past summer I traveled to Israel for the first time expecting to see and learn a little bit more about the Jewish people. The trip indeed did cover these premises, but also so much more. We participated in a Shabbat service in Tzafat as us guys danced and sang with the rabbi and the congregation all seeking G-d's wisdom and security. I overlooked the Western Wall filled with thousands of Jewish people celebrating Tish-a-bav. Through these holy experiences I further understood what being Jewish meant to me, as the meaning altered greatly throughout the trip...Through tracing the Jewish peoples history I came to the realization that being Jewish involves so much more than going to synagogue on Shabbat. Now with this knowledge I know what being Jewish really means, and I will try to relay this message to others.


JOSHUA GREENFIELD We’re one of the oldest religions in the world and we’re on our way to being extinct. Be different and be proud. We’re all different for a reason and we should embrace that, not despise it. I believe we should move away from the norm and do what makes us happy and not everyone else.  I believe we shouldn’t be scared to stand out and express who we really are. I believe in the individual.


DANIEL GUSHIN One of my strongest beliefs is helping others, and is a large part of my personal identity. My Jewish identity is responsible for this in many ways by both instilling this value into my mind and by also creating opportunities for me to practice it.  Since my days at Yavneh up through now, I take money of my own every year and donate it to a cause of my choice, a tradition that my parents instilled in me at an early age.  I have helped the less fortunate by working in soup kitchens with my synagogue, an activity that I find very meaningful.


SAMUEL ISIDOR  Being the grandchild to Holocaust survivors definitely made me feel a closer bond to my Jewish roots. Having to go through something so awful just because of a religion you were born into is really unbelievable. My family persevered through all the awful times so I could grow up a happy Jewish kid and I really thank them for that. To me being a Jew is not about the religious aspect at all, but the culture and rich background of our people. We are an amazing race that can make it through anything. Despite being a minority, there is a staggering amount of extremely successful Jews out there that really makes you proud. 


REBECCA KAHN Helping the poor is one of Judaism’s most basic tenets. But Rambam acknowledged the power of solidarity over charity; his highest level of tzedakah describes not giving charity but instead enabling people to become self-reliant. While in Guatemala this past summer, my first impulse was to give the children bracelets and other small gifts. Yet I soon realized it is impossible to present such neatly tied solutions to issues like poverty and hunger. I saw the power of solidarity when we built a classroom for the children and built connections with them through conversations and art. I now know that shared stories, empathetic connections, and mutual respect are more sustainable than any charitable gift.


BENJAMIN KRINER  Although Mercaz hasn’t been my number one choice of things to do on a Sunday night, Mercaz has been a big part of my high school years.  It connected me with Jewish teens around the city and brought to light new ideas about Conservative Judaism.  I believe that Mercaz has shaped me as a person and will have further impact on me for the rest of my life. And it’s physically shaped me as a person from enjoying all of the good food that Dara cooked for us.


I know what my parents have brought to the table, a kosher home, Jewish values, holiday observances, Shabbat and history. I have my own morals and beliefs that I have gained from my own life experiences as well. My morals/beliefs will be changing for the rest of my life the further I travel along; walking down a path to see what is at the end of the trail. 


There is one thing that all my life changing events have in common. What does my bris, Bar Mitzvah, first time visiting Israel, and visiting Eastern Europe all have in common? I was wearing a kippah. I believe wearing a kippah is one of the most important things a Jewish male should do. I believe that when I decided to wear my kippah all the time it has changed my life. I believe it has made me a better person...The last reason why I believe wearing a kippah is important is pride in our religion.  I am proud to be who I am and believe in the things I believe in.

Wearing is my way of screaming at the world that “I AM JEWISH AND I AM PROUD. ” no matter what people hear on the news about Israel I will always be proud to be a Jew.

JACOB PAUL  Just over ten years ago, my family experienced a life-altering event, challenging our family connection, relationship, and strength. My twin brother, Max Paul, was diagnosed with a  brain tumor. When one is faced with this kind of life changing event, the immediate questions are asked such as, “why me” or ” why us?” My mom took the brave leap forward and started looking at our situation from a positive point of view. I think that’s the arduous part, taking a horrible, unwanted situation and having to do a back flip into a pool of gratefulness and appreciation. I believe our Judaism has instilled in our family this sense of optimism and has really brought our family to a much better state emotionally and physically. Having attended many services at Adath Israel, praying for my brother, has helped me immensely.


ALLISON SCHWARTZ  Throughout my life, I've been part of many "families." Each important and each have shaped my life in their own ways. From starting off at Yavneh Day School, I was taught the basics of Judaism: the prayers, the language and the customs. Yavneh was my first "family" and it shaped my childhood...Then when I went to public, I was opened to a whole new world. I then started going to Mercaz and I realized that just because I was assimilated into high school, didn't mean I had to give up on Judaism. I could still learn about my religion with friends while I joined a world I barely knew. Soon after, I joined USY and they gave me a new "family" to be a part of...I believe that as long as you're willing to always learn and ask questions, it doesn't matter how religious you are, you're still a Jew and that will never change. You will always have a family and people to connect to. This class is a family and we went into this place together and soon we're going to leave together.



Judaism continues to be a big part of my life. From going to a Hebrew day school to attending synagogue to becoming the president of Walnut Hills High School’s Jewish Culture Club, it has taken up much of my life. Most of my strongest friendships have been formed due to my participation in the Jewish community. I believe that some of the greatest memories and friendships can be made because of the Jewish community, especially the one at Mercaz. As soon as you tell a fellow Jew you are Jewish as well an instant bond is created. This is what I love so much about Judaism. You are instantly welcomed into the community with open arms and no judgments. This community sticks together and helps each other out. I have made some great friendships throughout my four years at Mercaz and I hope that in the future I end up in another community and program just like this.


HANNAH WISE  I believe that being Jewish will always be an important part of my identity. My entire life I have been engulfed in the Jewish religion and Jewish culture. Through this I have developed enormous pride in my Judaism, and a desire to continue my Jewish education. Celebrating the Jewish holidays and learning Jewish history has always been an important part of my life. Through becoming a Bat Mitzvah, being a part of BBYO, attending a Jewish day school and going to synagogue for the High Holy Days, I have actively engaged in my Judaism. These things have shown me that being Jewish isn't just something that you are, but something you take part in.



Friendship: A relationship between friends. This connection is what makes us who we are. Everyone is able to make numerous friendships but only few of these have importance behind them. I believe that my Jewish Identity and experiences at Mercaz High School have been built around the friendships I have been able to make. Attending Sunday school, Hebrew school, and Mercaz for the past twelve years has only been successful through the relationships with other Jewish kids my age. Being able to relate to each and everyone of my classmates has made up my Jewish identity. 

Class of 2011-2012


Mercaz has been quite an interesting experience. Not only have I been taught what Jews believe but also what they practice and how they do it.  I cannot say I have always been a passionate Jew, but it has been a pleasure to have a higher knowledge of my religion.  I have been able to see firsthand what interesting practices and rituals they have and how the rest of society is affected by them. I have met many people and also been reintroduced to some old friend that I had lost contact with.  Being given the opportunity to learn more about my religion has given me another notch in my belt that I can fasten. New knowledge is always better than none at all.



When I first started attending Mercaz I didn’t have high hopes for it. I thought of it as something I was just doing to please my parents.  Looking back, however, I am glad to have attended Mercaz for the past five years.  I have made so many new friends, and become closer with old friends. Of course, not every class is fun, but I have enjoyed many of them, especially my Hebrew classes with Zahava Rendler.  Overall, I think Mercaz has helped me connect to my Judaism and I have enjoyed attending it. 




Honestly, most people say that our parents make us go to Mercaz. However, we all make a choice to actually show up and participate.  Over my five years at Mercaz I have learned valuable lessons about not only Judaism, but life that I will continue to prosper from.  I have created friendships that make me treasure the 10 minute break we have in between classes so I can catch up and talk.  Mercaz has given me the initiative to pursue my Judaism and I will miss all my friends next year when I am in Israel!


Five years ago I walked into Mercaz recovering from my stint at Yavneh and ready for the next step in my Jewish life. Today, I emerge from this formative period, ready to face the challenges of the Jewish lifestyle in an inherently secular world. I would like to thank my instructors, most notably repeat offenders Rabbi Travis and Phyllis Binik-Thomas. But also everyone here to share my happiness. Todah Rabah!



Throughout my time at Mercaz I have gained so much from all the classes I’ve taken. Some classes which I enjoyed were Kabbalah and Conversational Hebrew. Also, “Paint Your Jewish World” and “An Illuminated Prayer Book” were great classes where we could be creative and connect our art projects to Judaism.  I also learned so much about the Torah portions and prayer.  During my five years at Mercaz I’ve learned in so many different subjects and in such a large variety of classes.  Next year, I hope to continue taking classes in Judaism. My plan is to major in Elementary Education or Spanish Education. 


Over the last five years at Mercaz I have learned more about Judaism than I ever thought possible.  In a weird way  I now know less about Judaism because I learned there is so much about Judaism that I never knew existed before attending Mercaz.  My earlier experiences with Sunday school have been nice, but Mercaz took it to the next level.  I took classes relating Judaism to Star Trek, prepared hummus and tabouli, and even learned about the influence of the Holocaust on art.  Without these classes I would never have watched an episode of Star Trek or have made such delicious Middle Eastern delicacies.  Besides these experiences gained in the classroom, snack time provided a great way to make new friends and to recharge my mental batteries to prepare me for my Jewish Education.




Graduation April 25, 2010, 5770


Mercaz graduation 2010 / 5770








Graduation April 5, 2009
11 Nisan, 5769


30 selected photos (see all 300 below)


About 300 photos from Graduation April 5, 2009
Click slideshow to view the photo gallery


Michael Hoffman
What a long surprising trip Mercaz has been. It has allowed me to grow as a Jew. I appreciate the classes I have taken and the friends that I have made. Now I can take what I have learned with me next year when I head down south.

Arthur Kurtzman
Just when I thought Mercaz had just started it has already come to pass. Every year and every teacher has been so good to me. Where would my Jewish education be without it? I can't believe all these great times are over. So many of my friends and I have loved going here and will miss it sorely. Hopefully I will continue my Jewish education in the future.

Jenna Rubin
These past years have been pleasantly surprising. Mercaz has given me a chance to learn more about certain subjects in Judaism. Next year I will be going to University of Cincinnati for early childhood education.

Eric Schwartz
Hi, my name is Eric Schwartz. I have an older brother named Dan. Being the youngest in the family has always been hard, but it has shaped me into who I am today. Mercaz has helped me see how Judaism has evolved over the years into what it is today to me. It has revealed how I feel about myself and my Jewish identity and I will miss the courses in the future.

Zachary Sosna
I have been attending Mercaz for five years. I have used a lot of my time at Mercaz to practice my communication and debate skills. From "Jews line is it anyway?", to "That's debatable" I have learned many ways to respond to different situations.

Jeremy Spiegel
Mercaz has been an interesting five years. It has been a great way to continue my Jewish education. Some of my highlights include learning about current events, improv skills, Jewish athletes, and much more. Next year I hope to continue to be involved in Hillel in college, and my Mercaz eduation is a major reason why.

Erik Stillpass
I started Mercaz 5 years ago and have learned too much to mention. I've had great experiences dancing, laughing and, of course, socializing. Mercaz has taught me to be more and more appreciative of my Jewish background and I am leaving ready to take the Jewish world as a knowledgeable Jewish man.

Melanie Swartz
I have been attending Mercaz for the past five years and I am glad that I stuck with it all these years. The people I have met have become a part of my life and I've had so much fun with them. It was a great way to get to know other Jewish people and learn together with one another. As I venture off to college I hope to continue my involvement in the Jewish community wherever I go.

Adam Weber
It is hard to believe I am leaving Mercaz. All the people that I have met and I might not see them again. Part of me is happy to move on to new things, but another part is truly saddened by the loss of something so important to me for all these years. I know that I'll never forget all the great experiences I've had here. Shalom!

Aliza Weinberger
In forming my Jewish identity over the past few years. I have learned a lot from the people around me and from my time at Jewish summer camps, but much of what I have learned was from Mercaz. Being surrounded by other Jewish teens at Mercaz gave me insight into others' Jewish identities. Coming from a very secular public school with mainly non-Jewish friends, going to Mercaz taught me how to interact with other Jews my age. And while I was encouraged to expand my horizons and study in Israel and on my own, Mercaz was always a place where I found support and a school where I could share what I have learned and in turn teach others. Without Mercaz, and years of Adath Israel Hebrew school before it, I would not be the person I am today.

Tammy Winkler
I have truly enjoyed coming to Mercaz these past five years and have learned a variety of subjects within the Jewish religion. I will use all I have learned from Yavneh Day school and Mercaz to continue my life as a proud Jew. I hope to become a doctor and go to Israel many, many more times! I will strive to live life giving back to others and making the world a better place.

Freddie Wolf
Mercaz is sweet! It has done great things in my pursuit to improve my Jewish education. From honing my improv skills to watching Jewish movies I have learned so much! I also like hanging out with my fellow Jewish friends!

Rachel Wolkoff
My name is Rachel Wolkoff, I have been a part of Mercaz for 5 years. I have enjoyed coming because I have made new friends and met many new Jewish people. I am continuing my Jewish education by joining the Hillel at University of Cincinnati where I will be pursuing my career in nursing. I will miss being with my senior class as well as Andrew Greenfield and
D-woods! I will also miss getting my picture taken with all my friends during the course of the Mercaz school year.







2008 Graduation

Slideshow from Mercaz Graduation 2008

Click to view the Photo Gallery

Mercaz High School graduation took place on April 13th. The beautiful ceremony celebrated the graduation of 15 seniors who completed their studies at Mercaz.

Below are excerpts from each graduate which were included in the Mercaz graduation program. You can read the students' own words how Mercaz helped them grow their Jewish identities, build friendships, and continue their Jewish education.

Michael Backman (Adath Israel)
My name is Michael Backman and I have definitely benefited from Mercaz. I learned a lot of more in depth things about the torah from my teachers. I especially enjoyed my classes with Rabbi Travis. I will continue to learn more about Jewish Identity next year at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jacob Bergman (Adath Israel)
Through Mercaz I have learned a diverse amount of knowledge about Judaism. I am happy to have brought myself closer to my religion and what I believe in. I hope to carry my gained knowledge throughout my life. I am glad to have had classes with Rabbi Wise and to know the values with which he teachers. Mercaz was an excellent five year experience which I will cherish forever.

Meryl Meisner (Adath Israel)
I can actually say that I'm happy my parents pushed me into going to Mercaz these last five years. yes, it meant giving up my Sunday night homework slot to two hours of sitting in a classroom, but I feel that it has kept my knowledge of Judaism intact. Mercaz has taught me new things about the Jewish belief on heaven and hell, why the kashurt rules are what they are, brushed up on my Hebrew a little bit and much more. It's very important to me that I retain what I have learned because I want to be able to explain the Jewish religion to anyone who asks about it.

Kean Mervis (Ohav Shalom)
Mercaz has taught me much about a wide variety of topics and Jewish perspectives. I am graduating from Sycamore High School in the spring. I plan on studying engineering at The Ohio State University in the fall.

Isaac Privitera (Adath Israel)
My name is Isaac Privitera. I am a senior at Walnut Hills High and a National Merit Finalist. I play rugby and this year I am captain of Walnut Hill's rugby club. My Jewish identity is something that I have continually developed since my first days of learning the alef-bet. My past five years at Mercaz have allowed me to put into perspective my religious beliefs. I will always remember Sunday nights as well spent.

Seth Rau (Northern Hills Synagogue)
Instead of spending my Sunday nights watching TV or just wasting time, I have spent four productive years at Mercaz. I have learned so much more about my Jewish identity and about my culture. Besides fulfilling requirements for USY, the people at Mercaz have added a new dimension to my life. In the coming months, I will be graduating from the Seven Hills Schools, and I will attend Tufts University in the Fall.

Jessica Reiser (Adath Israel)
Mercaz Rocks! What a great two hours a week! I have learned so much over these past 5 years. I love to go and hang out with my friends every week. It is a great time to catch up! I really have learned a lot and I will miss all my friends next year when I'm in Israel!

Benjamin Robinson (B'nai Tzedek)
In my five years at Mercaz I have been exposed to so many things. From Kabbalah to Music to Israeli culture to world issues, Mercaz has offered me an opportunity to discover the Jewish perspective on all of these things. I have learned more about myself and plan on taking my Mercaz experience wherever I go in the future. I am thankful for all the efforts my teachers, friends, and parents have made to further my Jewish education.

Jonathan Robinson (B'nai Tzedek)
I cam to Mercaz a youth and now when I graduate I will have become a man. I learned, laughed and I hope became a better person along the way. If it had not been for teachers like Rabbi Travis, I would not be the person I am today. Next year as I go to college I will be sure to take forth the lessons I have learned at Mercaz with me.

Elana Satin (Northern Hills Synagogue)
The best thing about Mercaz is definitely the friendships I've made with Jewish kids from other synagogues. Without Mercaz I probably would not have met these people who I have now become really good friends with. I am graduating from Walnut Hills and will attend Case Western Reserve University in the Fall.

Morris Satin (Northern Hills Synagogue)
Going to Mercaz every Sunday night for the past five years has allowed me to keep in touch with my Jewish identity through a continuous high-school level education. I have been able to keep in touch with my Jewish friends from across the city and I have gained a sense of my place in the Jewish community. I am graduating from both Mercaz and Walnut Hills High School this year and will be going to Case Western next year.

Brooke Siegel (Adath Israel)
The two hours a week that I have spent at Mercaz are so memorable that a short paragraph cannot describe it. Five years went by so fast. Rabbi Travis had the best classes. I will be graduating from Sycamore High School and I am going to West Virginia University next year.

Aaron Slovin (Ohav Shalom)
During my time at Mercaz, I have learned a lot. I feel I have learned so much about my Jewish identity. Mercaz has been a great place for me to continue my Jewish education. Mercaz has definitely made me want to pursue my Jewish education further.

Rebecca Wood (Adath Israel)
My favorite class at Mercaz has been an art class that I took with Kathy Wise. I learned a lot of details about the holidays that I didn't know and had a lot of fun. I have also really enjoyed Senior Seminar this semester. We had some great discussions and came together as a class to create our graduation program. Mercaz helped me to explore different aspects of Judaism and helped to further my Jewish identity.

Lauren Zakem (Adath Israel)
At Mercaz I have made so many friends who I will keep for a lifetime. Also, the food at snack is amazing! I am graduating from Indian Hill High School and will be attending Ohio University in the fall. Overall, Mercaz is the best way to spend every Sunday night during the school year!



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, ari@mercazhs.org