Looking back, looking forward
The class of 2006
Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer
As the end of the school year approaches, more than 30 Jewish teenagers across the Miami Valley prepare to leave their high school days behind, embarking on the next stage of their lives. For them, this is a time of looking back and looking forward.
Annie Greene, daughter of Mindy and Garry Greene, will graduate from Oakwood High School. After a summer as a counselor at GUCI summer camp, she’ll attend McGill University in Montreal.
She said that one of her most difficult trials so far, as well as one of her biggest triumphs, came when she spent her junior year studying in Israel.
“It was difficult to be far from my family and dealing with the language barrier,” Annie said. “Even though it was hard to manage time and stress, I learned how to assess history in the world as a Jew — and how to look for patterns in the future.”
Mandy Dubro, daughter of Ronna and Mike Dubro, said her biggest challenge at Centerville High School was “taking lots of college classes that were pretty intense — lots of writing! It takes a lot of organization to fit it into a regular high school schedule.” Mandy, an aide with Temple Beth Or’s religious school and president of the congregation’s youth group, will attend Miami University in the fall.
“The toughest challenge,” said Josh Mikutis, “was to strike a balance.” Josh is the son of Suzi and Dr. Jeff Mikutis. The editor of his school newspaper, he graduates from The Miami Valley School and will attend Haverford College.
“Everyone has conniption fits about how full a resume has to be,” he said. “Kids are doing everything they can to load up and they should be pursuing things they are genuinely interested in.”
Mori Rothman, son of Randi and Jay Rothman, lives in Yellow Springs where he attends high school. The Rothman family will spend next year in Israel where Mori will finish his senior year of high school and then plans to attend college in the United States when he returns.
All four students have been active members of BBYO and youth group organizations. Annie tutored Hebrew students, was a regional and local youth group board member, and Josh was a social action vice-president of NFTY and completed a work study program at a Jewish camp.
“Judaism played a huge role for me — every second of the day I am conscious that I am a Jew,” Mori said. “My parents have raised me to be who I am and I love them so much. We’ve never had the standard Jewish life. In Yellow Springs there is not a strong Jewish community, but that actually strengthened my Jewish identity.”
Experiencing anti-semitism was, unfortunately, also a part of each student’s high school experience.
Josh felt that although The Miami Valley School is such an accepting community, there were subtle things that became noticeable after learning in the same place for 14 years.
“Being Jewish becomes your defining subtitle and it’s frustrating,” he said. “It doesn’t just happen for Jews, but people with any minority affiliation. Some people like to remind themselves that they are not prejudiced because they know you. But then there are other people who are genuinely interested in what you believe.”
“Freshman year, there were kids making Jew jokes, but I stood up to them and ultimately, they stopped,” Mori said. “I feel like they respect me now. For the most part, people are accepting and fascinated by my Judaism. My family keeps Shabbat, and when I couldn’t go out, my friends would keep Shabbat with me.”
Annie said that she sometimes would hear the word “Jew” being used with a negative connotation during her high school years. Mandy experienced antisemitism during her sophomore year when she played the role of Anne Frank in a play. “At one of the middle schools where we were performing, some of the kids started yelling out Nazi taunts. The principal and teachers were very apologetic, though.”
Mandy had mixed feelings about venturing out into the world. “It’s kind of bittersweet to leave, but I’m excited to go.”
“I’m ready to go see the world again,” Annie said. “It was hard to come back to high school after Israel. I’m ready to think big again and face problems other than calculus.”
Mori plans to study international relations, politics and peace work. “With as much privilege as I’m coming from, and as a Jew, it is my obligation to give back. I love my town, my friends, my life. I worry that wherever I go won’t compare. But I’m ready to move on. I’m confident that the future will be great.”
“I’m looking forward to not waking up at 7:30 a.m.!” Josh said. “I’m really looking forward to being in a community of people who have the same values. Like MVS, people come to Haverford to learn.”
“I’m definitely going to be involved in Hillel,” Mandy said. Annie wants to get active in Jewish groups on campus and possibly offer her Hebrew tutoring services to a congregation in her second year. “I may also minor in Jewish studies.”
Josh is going to assess his options for Jewish involvement at college. “We’ll see. I’d like to check out the Reform Jewish group that they have there.”
Mori doesn’t have his plans pinned down but knows that he will remain involved. “I hope to maintain and build on Judaism — I don’t know exactly where it will lead me, but I know it will be a driving factor.”
What will go with them when they embark upon their new paths?
Mandy plans to take “little things that remind me of my family and friends.” Mori will bring “everything that formed who I am — shaped me as a person.”
“The future is always kind of scary,” said Annie. “I hope I do the right thing and if not, I hope that I have the courage to admit it and start over.”
When asked what he would bring, Josh said, “My guitar! No really, it’s hard to put what my parents have taught me in a box, but I know I will take the values they have endowed me with — and I will transport them to college.”
© 2006 The Dayton Jewish Observer