Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.

Meet Our Alumni

“PJA prepared me to be an independent thinker, while simultaneously teaching me the value of community. This allowed me to build strong friendships with both teachers and students in middle school, which I also carried over into my high school education.” - Nathan Gruenberg, Class of 2009

"PJA was a big part of the reason that I was able to successfully attend Riverdale High School. At PJA, the teachers were always supportive, helpful, and gave great guidance. Without PJA and their incredible faculty, I not only wouldn't have the great memories I made there, but I wouldn't be as successful or independent in school. " - Maya Hendin, Class of 2009

“At PJA I learned how to effectively communicate - verbally and in written form. I am so glad I received a Jewish foundation at PJA.” - Sam Rosenberg, Class of 2009

Featured Alumni

Naomi Sherman: Class of 2009

“After graduation, I will be heading to Alaska where I will spend three months backpacking, kayaking, and mountaineering as part of a semester course through the National Outdoor Leadership School. Then, in the fall I will be attending Colorado College.

PJA has shaped me as a student in ways I couldn't have anticipated in middle school. The caring staff, talented teachers, and driven students create an atmosphere that welcomes curiosity and facilitates independent thinking - qualities that go a long way in education.”

Francie Smith-Korn: Class of 2009

“Next year I am going to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and plan on double majoring in theater and environmental science. Over the summer, I am going to be a theatre and technical theatre counselor at Young Musicians and Artists summer camp.

I am excited to delve further into my interests in theatre, as a college campus will have more opportunities in that aspect, and to participate in new activities. For example, St. Olaf has a climbing wall on campus, as well as a quidditch team, which I plan on joining. I first got involved with theatre at PJA, being in both "Night and the Proofreader" and "Cyrano de Bergerac." This is an interest that I plan on pursuing as a career.”

Ella Sugarman: Class of 2009

“In the fall I'm heading to California Polytechnic State University to study Biomedical Engineering. PJA was influential for me mostly due to my PJA 8th Grade science teacher [Mr. Minato], who sparked my curiosity and taught me that I shouldn't expect scientific research to answer my questions, but instead to lead me toward new ones.”

Jacob Krall: Class of 2008

PJA’s Class of 1998 was the first official eighth grade the school offered. The class consisted of seven rambunctious (but studious!) boys. Within this class was Jacob Krall, who entered the school as a first grader. Krall’s favorite teacher at PJA is unclear to him due to the fact that there were “too many great teachers to pick one!” However, his eighth grade trip to Israel stands clear in his mind as being by far his best memory of the school.

Since graduating from PJA in 1998, Krall has been involved in various Jewish organizations including BBYO and Wednesday Night School at Neveh Shalom. Additionally, the Stanford Hillel played a large role in his graduate school career, where he served as a graduate student representative on the board. Krall applies the Jewish education he received at PJA to his current education and says, “I very much appreciate the Jewish knowledge I gained.” This knowledge helped him appreciate different sects of Judaism, and enables him to feel comfortable in any given Jewish setting. Krall explains that this is all thanks to PJA. In addition to cementing his religious foundation, PJA’s academic curriculum had a crucial impact on Krall’s transition to Wilson high school. He says he was well prepared for high school academically. He stresses PJA’s importance to him, specifically towards his development as a Jew and as a student.

Krall went on to excel academically at rigorous institutions of higher education. Upon completion of his B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University’s undergraduate school in 2006, Krall immediately continued to graduate school at Stanford University. He returned to Portland in August 2013 to work with the Water Resources group in the Portland office of Geosyntec Consultants, while also finalizing his PhD dissertation. His PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford was officially awarded in January 2014. He says that although he does “a better job staying in touch with some of [his PJA classmates] than others,” he wishes them all the best! He has an immense amount of respect for each of them and knows that they are each leading impressive lives (something he claims he could have predicted all those years ago while they were still attending PJA together!).

Mimi Kaplan: Class of 2007

Mimi (on right) and a friend bike riding on the fringes of Jerusalem with the Arava Institute for Environmental studies

Mimi Kaplan (Class of 2007) attended PJA from 4th through 8th grade. Mimi moved to California for high school and graduated in 2011 from Berkeley High School. Mimi is currently enrolled in Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City where she is majoring in Sustainable Development and Midrash. She expects to graduate with a BA from each institution in 2015.

Mimi fondly remembers her time at PJA, particularly Harriet Wingard’s fifth grade class. “From worldly wise to lunch time books read alouds to moon journals, it was a wonderful year.” PJA also gave her a strong foundation in t’fillah; her passion for studying religion grew particularly strong after attending an Israel program during high school.

During the spring semester this year, Mimi studied at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava in Israel. The program focused on environmental studies and drew its participants from Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the international community. Mimi enjoyed speaking to the diverse people in her program, hearing their stories, and “learning how people see the world differently [from herself].”

Next year Mimi has lined up a Fellowship in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship where she hopes to work with a sustainable food/food access equality group in New York. Past volunteer roles have included working with Peace by Peace, an organization that teaches non-violent conflict resolution to elementary students in New York public schools.

We have enjoyed reconnecting with Mimi and learning about the fascinating ways she is working towards Tikkun Olam, repairing the world and making the world a better place.

Maya Gordon-Zwerling: Class of 2005

Grades/number of years attended:
TK(Transitional Kindergarten) through 8th Grade

High School Attended: Catlin Gabel

College Attended: Bryn Mawr College

After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 2013, Maiya began working on Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobby for the public interest. For Maiya, transition to FCNL proved to be both “easy and logical because the organization stands for values central to [her] Jewish identity: seeking social justice and a peaceful world.” Focusing on Middle East Policy at FCNL allows Maiya to advocate for “a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue [she] cares deeply about.”

The years Maiya spent at PJA helped to form her Jewish identity and her commitment to Tikkun Olam, which, in her words, means “that we share the responsibility to restore, repair and transform the world around us beginning with our own community.” There are many meaningful and fond memories Maiya has from her 11 years at PJA that continue to impact her life today. She enjoyed her teachers and her classes, made lifelong friends, participated in on-site afterschool activities—her entire life was rooted around PJA, the MJCC and Portland’s Jewish community.

When we asked Maiya about her favorite teachers, she mentioned her 5th grade teacher, Harriet Wingard. “Harriet encouraged us to engage in the world around us. Each morning, a student would present on a news story of the day. This practice became particularly challenging after 9/11/2001. But struggling with the incomprehensible helped our class to better understand a tough moment in American history. And struggling with the difficult aftermath of a massive terrorist attack made us appreciate that day that social issues lay outside of our small Jewish bubble.”

It is clear that Maiya’s commitment to social justice and to understanding the world beyond our community started during her years at PJA. We are PJA Proud of Maiya, one of our many outstanding alumni.

Dana Bacharach: Class of 2005

PJA Class of 2005 and 2009 Valedictorian, Lincoln High School

"Thankfully, my closest PJA friends still surround me today; I am lucky to have formed bonds that have stayed strong and are still alive. We will treasure our memories from growing up, but are continuing to grow with one another and form many more memorable moments."

Dana Bacharach attended PJA for 11 years, beginning in Transitional kindergarten. She is part of PJA's 8th grade Class of 2005. She is a graduate of Barnard College in New York.

Talia Goldberg: Class of 2005

PJA Class of 2005 and 2009 Valedictorian, Lincoln High School

"Not only does PJA provide a nurturing environment that is supportive of all its students as individuals, it also offers one of the best secular educations available while teaching students Hebrew and allowing them to explore their Jewish identities and Jewish traditions."

Talia Goldberg attended PJA for nine years, beginning with kindergarten. She is part of PJA's 8th grade Class of 2005. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania..

Hadas Horenstein: Class of 2005

PJA Class of 2005 and 2009 Valedictorian, Wilson High School

"It's important to support PJA, because Judaism lives on through the education that we provide for the younger generation; if we teach our youth about the importance of Jewish values today, that is the means by which Judaism will thrive in the future."

Hadas Horenstein attended PJA for nine years, beginning with kindergarten. She is part of PJA's 8th grade class of 2005. She is a graduate of the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.

Jeremy Druckman: Class of 2004

PJA Class of 2004 and 2008 Valedictorian, Wilson High School

"I always had the feeling that all the teachers at PJA genuinely wanted us to learn what they were teaching. During my time at the school, I had some excellent classes that I will always remember."

Jeremy Druckman attended PJA for nine years, beginning with kindergarten. He is part of PJA's 8th grade Class of 2004. He excelled in math and science courses, while playing basketball for four years. He's a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania..