Three Chicago-area high schoolers selected for Bronfman Fellowship

Three local students entering their senior year of high school have been selected to the Bronfman Fellowship's 31st cohort.

Meitav Aaron and Gabi Wallk of Chicago and Sydney Bakal of South Barrington are among the 26 Fellows chosen from 252 applicants across North America that will participate in a transformative five-week program of study and travel in Israel, followed by a rigorous year of programming centered around pluralism, social responsibility and Jewish texts. 

Meitav Aaron is a rising senior at Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago. He is a student in the Senn Arts magnet program majoring in Visual Arts and has won a number of regional and national art awards for his work including several pieces that explored Jewish identity and the Holocaust. Aaron's work has been exhibited in state and local galleries, and he has curated two galleries comprised of teen artists from his school and community. Aaron was also a past board member of Voices: The Chicago Jewish Teen Foundation, and is currently on the Young Adult Council of the Steppenwolf Theater Company. He is also a member of Senn's Louder Than A Bomb slam poetry team.

Gabriella (Gabi) Wallk is a rising senior at Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago, and an alumna of the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago (class of 2014). She is a graduate of JUF's second Research Training Internship (RTI) cohort. Wallk also serves as a leader for Walter Payton's Jewish Student Connection club and co-leads the Women's Interfaith Seminar at Payton. She is currently building a virtual tutoring mobile application to serve disadvantaged Chicago. She co-founded and co-leads Walter Payton's computer science club, "Get Coding," aimed at empowering students in innovative technology. She also serves in the Model United Nations team and volunteers as a math tutor, and has participated in the national student SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program. 

Sydney Bakal is a rising senior at Barrington High School in Barrington. Bakal founded and is the president of BHS's Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and is part of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance youth committee, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, plans youth events, and creates and teaches curriculum for inclusivity at schools. Bakal attends Beth Tikvah Congregation and is the Social Action Vice President on the temple youth board. Recently selected for Springboard's 18 Under 18 as one of 18 Jewish teens in the Chicago area, Bakal is devoted to social justice and community organizing. 

The Bronfman Fellowship year functions as a Jewish identity incubator, with serious text study, lessons taught by some of the leading Jewish educators, and sustained discourse about pluralism, social justice, and the future of Jewish peoplehood.

The program was founded by Edgar M. Bronfman, z"l, formerly CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. and a visionary Jewish philanthropist who passed away in December 2013. 

For more information about The Bronfman Fellowship, including how to apply, please visit


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