Here's the latest in our series of profiles of some of the very talented and interesting individuals, of all ages, who make up our diverse Jewish community. We look forward to sharing a new profile with you every couple of weeks.

 

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  • Halle Rogoff

  • Occupation: Senior at Penfield High School

  • Volunteer efforts: Chapter President/Regional Board member of United Synagogue Youth

 

What does being Jewish mean to you? “I went to Hillel through third grade, then moved to a public school where there are only four Jews out of 400 kids. I told my parents, ‘You need to sign me up for Hebrew school!’ because I found I missed that part of my life. But I appreciate the opportunity to educate my friends in Penfield about being Jewish. Some people wouldn’t feel so secure and confident about being in a school with so few Jewish students, but my involvement has made me confident and I love sharing my traditions, my culture, my knowledge. When my friend saw my Star of David and asked, ‘Is that a Hanukah star?,’ I’m happy to have the chance to educate them.”

 

Between student life and competitive dance, how and why do you find time to volunteer? “My mom worked at Federation, planning all their events. I’ve been helping her since I was little; I remember going into meeting rooms and setting up goody bags. My Dad was president of Jewish Family Services. Their involvement made me want to do the same. When it came time for my Bat Mitzvah project, I organized a fundraiser dance party at Midvale Country Club for Brighton Your Wardrobe and Brighton Food Cupboard. The food, d.j. and room were all donated and it felt like a real party—photo booth, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks. We raised $1,000 and 500 pieces of clothing. From there I wanted to volunteer more, starting at my Hebrew School, at Temple Beth El, as a madricha.

 

How did you spend your summer vacation? “I went on the Federation's Journey for Identity: 12 Americans partnered with 14 Israelis, all of us between 15 and 17. The Israelis came for seven days and stayed in our home; we went to Poland together; then we went to Israel to stay with their families. We volunteered at FoodLink here and in a greenhouse garden in Israel, pulling up weeds and potting soil. It was a group of friends that turned into a family. My partner Lir and I were perfect matches; we still talk every single day. And I realized that culturally, the Israelis are very Jewish; but we Americans are the ones who know all the prayers, blessings and songs; they just knew how to speak Hebrew. That experience opened my eyes – being shocked that we knew the prayers and they didn’t. But that’s how I connect with Judaism. And it enhanced my love for being Jewish.”

 

What does the future hold? “I want to work for the FBI. I’ve already researched the requirements, because they’re very selective. And I want to keep volunteering—like my dad, who still teaches Sunday school!”

 

-Interview by Melissa Pheterson