AJA Model K’nesset Offers Opportunity to Develop Leadership Skills
AJA K'nesset candidates campaigned for three weeks with platforms ranging from spreading AJA’s core values to forming an AJA baseball team. Credit: Stacey Eisenberg.
By Risa Ferdman
On Nov. 5, Austin Jewish Academy students wore iconic “I voted” stickers, not just to encourage their parents to vote on Election Day, but as a proud signal that they had participated in the school’s K’nesset elections.
K’nesset is AJA’s student government. Members help make decisions to promote positive change in school by organizing and carrying out activities and service projects. In addition to planning events that contribute to school spirit and community welfare, AJA’s K’nesset is the voice of the student body. As such, K’nesset helps share students' ideas, interests and concerns with teachers and the principal.
Participation in K’nesset allows students to develop and exercise leadership skills. Effective student leaders must exhibit honesty and integrity while inspiring others. They practice delegating and become empowered leaders in order to work toward achieving tasks effectively. This requires efficient decision-making capabilities, practicing accountability, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and provides the opportunity to learn the art of building relationships within teams.
Candidates campaigned for three weeks with an emphasis on positive goals and choices. Platforms included ideas ranging from spreading AJA’s core values of integrity, tradition, empowerment, community, excellence and tikkun olam to forming an AJA baseball team.
One candidate aptly expressed their common goals, stating, “K’nesset will incorporate (AJA)’s core values … by showing kindness in our activities … showing the richness of Judaism, making our class a second family, safely trying new things and showing simple ways that we can fix our world.”
Another K’nesset member will chair a committee to offer monthly lessons to younger students about national holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday and Memorial Day. All K’nesset members will collaborate to bring their ideas to life.
AJA’s newly elected K’nesset includes Isaac Fox, president; Ilan Ben-Avi, vice president/treasurer; Yael Behar, secretary; Joseph Ross, eighth grade class representative; Aria Minns-Fink, seventh grade class representative; and members-at-large Noah Kraus, Ava Miller and Ken Schumer. All fifth through eighth grade AJA students are welcome to attend and participate in weekly K’nesset meetings.
Student leaders strive to change the world by starting with their own community. Some of these seventh and eighth grade students are in their eighth and ninth years at AJA and express passion and commitment to their school.
One member said, “Remembering the community, the world, the past, and the future will allow us to ensure a fulfilling, bright, and full-bodied next year in our K’nesset, school and world as a whole.”
Past AJA K’nesset members have gone on to occupy positions of leadership in their high schools, colleges and Jewish youth organizations. ■