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Pierson 6 Under 36

The Marjorie Oberdorfer Bronner Pierson and Theodore Pierson Family Endowment for the Jewish Future “Six Under 36” program celebrates six noteworthy Jewish Central New Yorkers, all 36 years old or younger, who make Jewish Central New York and the larger community better by bringing remarkable energy and new ideas to religion, philanthropy, the arts, learning, social action and inclusion. These talented young adults are changing our community for good by building a more just society and creating community in innovative ways. The six award recipients. chosen by a panel of community members from nominations made by the community, received a donor advised fund of $1,000 at the Jewish Community Foundation of Central New York, to be used to support an organization with which they have worked or a cause they support. 

A photo of two guys

                 ALAN CHELNITSKY AND ALEXANDER GABRIEL met in Israel when Alex was                     discharging from the IDF Alan was enlisting. They stayed in touch over the years. Learning  about Moishe House, they asked each other, “How come we don’t open one in Syracuse?” They joined forces, applied and were approved to open a Moishe Pod in downtown Syracuse. They reached out to the Central New York Jewish community to identify young Jewish adults aged 22-32 who are interested in building and leading their dream Jewish community with their friends.

MELISSA HARKAVY’s creative problem-solving and “let’s find a way to make that work” 

attitude was put to the test when faced with managing the Congregation Beth                          Sholom-Chevra Shas response to COVID, a rabbinic transition, new staff positions and         

ongoing security upgrades. Melissa relates to and cares about people of all ages and backgrounds. She obtained a Scientists and Synagogues grant linking professional scientists as mentors to students, partnering with Syracuse University Hillel. She reached across congregational boundaries to create one Syracuse area United Synagogue Youth chapter to better serve local teens and has served as Zoom master for Federation’s Super Sundays for two years.

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               DIANA KOESTER is passionate about teaching the next generation. As soon as she                         relocated to the  Syracuse area she dove into teaching 7th grade at Temple Concord,                       taking on the difficult task of untangling  Jewish history from the Holocaust to present day. She studies antisemitism and its causes with them and helps them process what it means to be Jewish in today’s world. When the opportunity arose to join the faculty of the Syracuse Hebrew Day School, she jumped at the chance and also taught Jewish art electives at the Epstein School. Diana is currently serving on the team overseeing the year-one projects of Temple Concord’s five-year strategic plan, developing intergenerational dialogues around issues of tikun olam. 


HUGHIE AND AVERY STONE FISH are co-founders of Stone Fish Studios. Hughie

Stone Fish wrote and produced a city-wide project called “Welcome to Syracuse,” which                  showcased Syracuse businesses, organizations, choirs and citizens to draw positive attention to the city and bring everyone together in song. The brothers founded The Arts Project Syracuse to benefit those less fortunate. Hughie received an Emmy award for outstanding original song for a video that used historical cartoon drawings of racist and antisemitic stereotypes to educate viewers on how images may have helped normalize the idea of Jewish people as villains. They are both deeply rooted in their Jewish identities, having grown up in Central New York, attended the Day School and the JCC summer camp. 

                 MOOKEY VAN ORDEN is an educator, writer, actress, director, teacher and artist. She                   works in a school as an engagement specialist and is also involved in many theatre and performing arts companies. Black stories, female stories, stories of mental illness and the inclusion of marginalized voices are paramount to Mookey’s process and artistic works. She is working on a filmed production of a new work, “Kill Move Paradise” for the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company and directed the Central New York Playhouse’s presentation of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Mookey is a graduate of the Syracuse Hebrew Day School and the Epstein School of Jewish Studies, where she recently co-taught a class on “How to Be a Jewish Antiracist.” As a person of color and a person with a strong Jewish identity, Mookey has had to work out her own pathway. 


 SARA WEILER contributes to the local Jewish community and beyond through the                 selfless donation of her time and talent to many local arts organizations and charities                     by fundraising and facilitating valuable civic programs. As the adjudication coordinator of the prestigious Syracuse High School Theatre Awards, she spearheaded the creation of the official handbook and grading rubric used to encourage the achievements and growth of hundreds of high school theatre students from 2015-2020. Through charity partnerships with local performing arts companies, Sara has actively raised thousands of dollars for non-profit organizations. As performing is Sara’s passion, she has created, produced and performed in musical theatre cabarets at The Oaks at Menorah Park and at Temple Concord, emceed musical theatre nights and performed with numerous local companies in starring and supporting roles.

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