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Where Are They Now: Meet Isaac Freedman

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When I was included as one of 18 Under 18 honorees in 2018, I underestimated the transition it marked. Yes, I was thrilled to be recognized on a community-wide level for the work that I was immensely proud of doing. I was filled with gratitude for my role models and teachers who enabled my work and helped me find my place in the world of Jewish music.

At the time however, I did not realize that place was about to change as I moved ahead to the next stages of my life.  My excitement to begin the next chapter of my life at Northwestern blinded me from the reality that my platform to contribute to and participate in Jewish life was about to change drastically. I left behind the luxury of a regular songleading gig in a building full of supportive childhood mentors actively providing me opportunities to function as a leader. Now, it was up to me to decide how, when, and how often I was to be involved.

Isaac Freedman at work

This challenge would have been far more difficult if it were not for the 18 Under 18 program. First, it instilled the confidence in my leadership skills that I needed. Because of the recognition I received, I knew my place in the community as a leader, even when it did not necessarily feel that way. In addition, the program introduced me to 17 other peers facing a similar dilemma and a host of adult leadership with the resources to resolve my uneasy transition into over 18 life. Finally, 18 Under 18 provided me with a point of reflection. It functions as a constant reminder of the importance of this community in my life and provides the concrete reasons why I chose to invest my time in high school and why I choose to continue to invest my time now. For my cohort of 18 Under 18, we each spoke on the Jewish value that keeps us involved. In 2018, I said:

 “The one primary motivation for me to be a Jewish leader is Tradition. I firmly believe that I have a responsibility to carry out and pass on the great traditions that accompany our faith… My true goal is to inspire and light that same flame that was once lit for me that encourages our youth to recognize their responsibility to carry on tradition.” 

While much about my life today feels different than it was in high school, I am proud that these words still hold true. Judaism survives on the basis of tradition and ​L’dor V’dor (from generation to generation). ​I am so glad that because of the connections I made through 18 Under 18 I was able to find new and larger platforms to continue my work to achieve this goal. I am excited to continue supporting the work that our teens do to elevate and carry-on tradition. In this work, I have already been so impressed with the potential of the next generation. Now, as an 18 Under 18 nominator, I know my role in carrying on tradition is fulfilled and the program is sure to instill that same lesson in each subsequent cohort.  

Isaac Freedman portrait

Isaac Freedman is an undergraduate student at Northwestern University where he is pursuing degrees in both Biology and Human Culture, Health, & Disease. As he moves ahead on his path to a career in medicine, Isaac has continued to be involved in the world of Jewish music. In 2018, Isaac was recognized as one of 18 Under 18 for his contributions to the North Shore Congregation Israel and greater community as a music and hebrew teacher, among other roles. Isaac now volunteers his time with NFTY-CAR to develop and support the songleading cohort. He has taught annually with Alan Goodis for Chicago’s Nashir Songleading Institute and joins Cantor Rosalie Will as a mentor for 2021’s cohort of URJ Songleading fellows

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