“In many ways, Sinai Akiba Academy is where I found my voice,” Arielle acknowledged. “My first grade Hebrew teacher, Rivka Shaked, gave me my first Magen David Adom tzedakah box. In doing so, she taught me the importance of giving to those in need, and she gave me the means to connect with my great grandmother.”
That voice was also encouraged by future teachers. Her fourth-grade general studies teacher, Ginny Zempstef, brought the Gold Rush to life Arielle and taught her the power of experiential learning. In 8th grade, Arielle was elected to serve as the Student Council President, an opportunity that helped her learn about the responsibility of leadership.
But one experience that really stood out to Arielle. In seventh grade, they read “The Giver” in English class. “After we finished reading the book, Mr. Pennay explained to us that the book was on a national list of banned books.” The class was to undergo a mock trial to debate the merits of exposing young minds to the challenges presented in the text. “I was placed on the defense team and charged with delivering the closing statement. I agonized over this speech for weeks. But as soon as it was done, I knew I had found my love for public speaking and my passion for advocacy and justice.”
The experience foreshadowed the success that Arielle was to experience in college. “On my grading rubric for the assignment, Mr. Pennay wrote that he knew that someday we’d be introducing ‘President Mokhtarzadeh.’ Little did he know, eight years later I would be elected UCLA’s first ever Iranian American Jewish Student Body President.”
Since graduating from Sinai Akiba, Arielle has been a nation-wide model of Israel advocacy. During high school, she served in the inaugural class of the Sinai Temple Israel Center Nazarian Youth Fellowship where she began the "Israel Matters" social media campaign attracting an international following of over 1,800 people.
Before even attending her first class at UCLA, Arielle was accepted to serve on the board of UCLA's premiere Israel group on campus, Bruins for Israel. In her first year, Arielle served as Director of Public Relations and submitted several opinion pieces to UCLA's Daily Bruin. As a sophomore, Arielle served as Vice President of Bruins for Israel and as a Henry Waxman Fellow at Hillel where she co-hosted UCLA's annual Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration with over 400 students in attendance. The same year, Arielle served as Chief of Staff to UC Student Regent, Avi Oved, the sole student voting member of the UC Board of Regents.
When the Board decided to tackle a wave of anti-Semitism that swept across the UC system, Arielle went to work. She organized a petition with over 4,000 signatures urging the UC Board of Regents to take student testimonials seriously; authored an open letter to the Regents, co-signed by over 100 Jewish student leaders from across UC; and organized groups of students to attend the Regents’ meetings to share their stories.
As a junior, Arielle served as President of Bruins for Israel and sought to identify a new strategy to address the annual "Israel Apartheid Week." Together, with her board, she developed "Choose Love" week with events dedicated to showing partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to peace. “Together we created a series of events and campaigns hosted in Bruin Plaza, the heart of our campus.”
Among the numerous projects that were part of this effort, they created t-shirts with the word “love” written in English, Hebrew and Arabic. Students—the majority of whom had never engaged with Bruins for Israel before—continued to wear the shirts for the rest of the academic year. “Within a year, the campaign was adopted by close to a dozen campuses across the country,” Arielle shared. “I am proud to see that even two years after our first Choose Love Week, the campaign still serves as a highlight of the campus calendar.”
As a senior at UCLA, Arielle served as the Undergraduate Students Association President—serving proudly as a Jewish and Zionist student, UCLA’s first-ever Iranian American Jewish Student Body President. Her voice, the same voice that had spent the following three years advocating for Jewish students, the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, was now the voice advocating on behalf of all 30,383 undergraduates at UCLA.
In the middle of her term, the mezuzah she had posted on her office door was torn from the doorpost. Rather than retaliate with anger, Arielle exemplified strong leadership and invited the entire campus community to join her in rededicating the new mezuzah.
Her leadership, dedication, and advocacy made her the perfect candidate for Sinai Akiba’s Lisa and Benjamin Nissanoff Israel Advocacy Alumni Award. On June 13, Arielle joined the Sinai Akiba community at the Class of 2019 graduation to be honored for this award, which honors talented alumni who help ensure effective support for Israel thrives on campuses and in our local communities by positively influencing discourse, attitudes, and engagement regarding Israel.
Arielle now works as an Associate for Global Programming at the Milken Institute, where she continues to use her passion for leadership, community, and advocacy to bring together the greatest minds in the world to tackle some of its greatest challenges.