Gandel Young Leaders get to work

May 26, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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The two winners of the Gandel Young Leader awards have completed a Stand Up course and are now putting what they learned into practice.

You don’t just wake up a socially responsible ‘mensch’ on the day of your Bar or Bat Mitzvah. There are many global issues and social inequities for today’s Jewish youth to navigate; and many ways they can help change the world for the better. The two inaugural Gandel Young Leader Award winners, have taken up the challenge to become ‘mensches’, after completing the eight-week Stand Up ABC (And Be Counted) program for Bnei Mitzvah aged kids.


Lillian Kline, Arielle Rutman, Abby Slonim and Gary Samowitz

Lillian Kline, Arielle Rutman, Abby Slonim and Gary Samowitz

Melbourne award winner, Abby Slonim, has used her love of cooking to help disadvantaged community groups. Abby was encouraged by Stand Up ABC to start her own small social enterprise, ‘Abbacookie’. Through ‘Abbacookie’ she bakes and sells cookies, and donates the profits to charities supporting people living with disabilities. Abby found inspiration after attending Stand Up ABC’s cultural exchange visits with new refugee communities. The result has been a cookbook combining traditional Jewish and Sudanese recipes, and a challah baking party together with refugee youth, at Stand Up’s Homework Support Club.

Abby explains that many Bnei Mitzvah aged students often think, “I don’t need to change the world. How am I going to change it if I’m only 12 years old? Someone else can change the world.” Abby’s advice is, “If everyone thinks like that, and no one stands up to make a difference, the world will never change.” Abby is one student who chose to “stand up.”

Liat Ziegler

Liat Ziegler

Sydney award winner Liat Ziegler created an initiative centered on helping asylum seekers. Liat established a pen pal relationship with a young female asylum seeker detained on Manus Island. Through their correspondence, Liat learnt about the living conditions her friend was experiencing, which included limited play opportunities and no access to toys. This revelation motivated Liat to arrange a toy donation drive at her school, Mount Sinai College. Liat campaigned to raise the money needed to post the hundreds of toys collected to the island.

The Gandel Young Leader Awards were created in recognition of Gandel Philanthropy’s generous support of the Stand Up ABC program. Grants Manager for Jewish and Israel programs, Nicole Brittain, says, “Seeing the impact that the Stand Up ABC Program has had on these two young girls is amazing. The program really does open the world for young people to learn and explore social justice, and the importance and relevance of having a strong moral compass. Gandel Philanthropy funded this program in 2013 as a one-off grant. However, we were so impressed by the outcomes and results of this program that funding has been extended for a further three years, supporting both the Melbourne and Sydney activities”.

Stand Up ABC’s popularity continues to rise amongst Bnei Mitzvah ‘tweens’, with attendance numbers more than doubling over the last 12 months. The program attracts boys and girls from Jewish and non-Jewish schools, through its affiliation with UJEB, and a number of Jewish congregations including Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, Shira Hadasha and the Masorti (Conservative) congregation Kehilat Nitzan.

Stand Up’s CEO, Gary Samowitz, remarked that “both Abby and Liat have demonstrated real initiative and entrepreneurial spirit towards making positive change. We had dozens of incredible action projects for the Stand Up ABC participants, but these two girls really stood out as young leaders who are committed to pursuing social justice. Mazaltov to both of them.”

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