“My lens on what is right, what it means to be part of a community and how our obligation as Jews is to build a just society – I learned all that here.”
A member of one of Sinai Akiba’s earliest classes, Berman is still in awe of the institution’s remarkable ability to foster intellectual growth and nurture religious identity – and to accomplish both in the course of a normal school day.
“When I think about how, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., I got two separate curricula, was fully prepared for both religious and secular life and got into the colleges I wanted – I don’t know how the school did it,” she marvels. “My preparation for the future was because of Akiba for sure.”
Today, Berman is a senior staffer at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and she notes that her commitment to Los Angeles Jewish life is shared by many of her Sinai Akiba peers. “If you look at the people who are leading Jewish institutions across the city, either as lay people or as professionals, it’s all Akiba alumni,” she says. “Among my cohort, I’d estimate 90 percent are still actively engaged in the Jewish community – which, given national statistics on assimilation, is pretty impressive.”
Berman easily recalls indelible memories of her years at Sinai Akiba. “There was this great afterschool program where you could learn calligraphy, Torah trope or arts and crafts,” she says. “I remember learning Rashi in sixth grade, in the original script, and we had Israeli dancing, which I particularly loved.”
She also remembers teachers who were both mentors and adult role models. “Bathsheba Abraham was really a standout,” she says. “She was so loving and rigorous, and everything was about participation; she was just the greatest.”
For Berman, the most compelling thing about a Sinai Akiba education was how it empowered her to forge a strong identity. “I’m a huge believer in Jewish day school because of my experience at Sinai Akiba. It gave me a facility with Judaism: I can go to any synagogue around the world and know where we are, listen to a sermon and understand it and hear the Torah reading and know what’s happening,” she says. “The only way you can really choose Judaism is by knowing what it is, and to know what it is you have to study it, like anything else. I am incredibly grateful to Sinai Akiba for giving me the tools to choose.”