Berkeley teen wins coveted Bronfman Youth Fellowship

And that has its benefits. In fact, the Berkeley teen thinks it was this blend of qualities that earned her one of 26 coveted Bronfman Youth Fellowships for an all-expenses-paid, five-week trip to Israel this summer.

The Youth Fellowship program, founded 11 years ago by Edgar M. Bronfman, chair of the Seagram Co. Ltd. and president of the World Jewish Congress, develops young leadership in the Jewish community. The program's goal is to foster understanding, open lines of communication and identify a common agenda that cuts across lines of diversity in world Jewry.

"I'm an Orthodox Jew, but I'm also open to other kinds of Jews," says Rosen.

"Orthodoxy has the reputation of being strict and not approving of other types of Jews. I made sure [the interviewing committee] knew that wasn't the kind of Orthodox Jew I am."

Rosen was one of 450 high school juniors to submit an application to the program last fall. That pool narrowed to 50 candidates who were invited to Los Angeles for personal interviews. This spring Rosen was told she had made the final cut and would receive one of the fellowships.

"I was very surprised," said Rosen, who felt that just being selected as a finalist was a major accomplishment. She is the only Californian in the group, whose members come from throughout the United States and Canada.

The fellowship recipients represent all factions of the Jewish community, including the three major Jewish movements, Reconstructionists and unaffiliated. While in Israel, participants will meet with political leaders, members of the Knesset, educators and literary figures, including Rosen's favorite poet, Yehuda Amichai. They will explore the political, social and religious issues facing world Jewry.

They will also have time for some fun. The group will camp at Masada, tour the Golan and take a trip to the Negev.

The daughter of Lawrence Livermore scientist Mordecai Rosen and Lafayette attorney Rena Rosen, Rosen has just completed her junior year at the College Preparatory School in Oakland. She was student body secretary and a member of the jazz choir, student-faculty curriculum committee, environmental committee and the school's chapter of the National Organization for Women. She also writes for the school paper and is a member of the varsity cross-country team.

She is active in Berkeley's Congregation Ahavat Yisrael, where she attends Talmud and Tanakh classes.

She studied Hebrew at Tehiyah Day School, now in El Cerrito, and with four previous trips to Israel under her belt, she's had an opportunity to test her language skills.

Last summer in Israel, "I found that all my Hebrew was coming back." She worked at the Technion Institute in Haifa as a research assistant to a team developing a new method of ovarian cancer detection.

"One of my dreams has always been to live in Israel," Rosen said. "A lot of us have that dream. It's not so realistic these days. It's not so safe. It's hard to get a job."

But taking a year off between high school and college to study in Israel is a real possibility. Which college she'll attend is still an open question.

Rosen has toured schools in the East but has not yet made any decisions. She will get a taste of college life next year when, as a high school senior, she plans to take a class at U.C. Berkeley.

"I love everything I'm doing now," said Rosen, whose interests are so varied that deciding which course to take is a conundrum. "I love my studies. It's more a matter of indecision than lack of ambition."