An Interview with Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, Senior Director of the Tikvah Fund

On Sunday, June 19, The Truman Scholars Program Capstone Event & Graduation took place in the law offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Over 200 people were in attendance, with students from 17 Truman schools, located in nine states, represented at the Graduation.

YCQ Grade 8 seniors Chani Orenbuch and Max Olsen completed the Truman Scholars Program and attended the Truman Scholars event and graduation. The Truman Scholars Program, sponsored by the Tikvah Fund, builds Jewish leaders through learning about American and Israeli Jewish history.

Mrs. Jen Jaffe, in attendance, reported, “It was a privilege to attend the graduation from the Truman Scholars Program for our students chosen to participate. This program is of vital importance. Our students learn to strengthen their moral confidence and become strong leaders of the Jewish nation.”

“The students who participated in the Truman Scholar Program are kids who are interested in history and philosophy and eager to learn and read more in their free time,” reported Ms. Odelia Schlisser, YCQ JHS General Studies Assistant Principal.

“I am so proud of all our YCQ participants, and especially our graduates, who demonstrate maturity, dedication, and thirst for knowledge. They are leaders in their grade and poised to be leaders in the community.”

“We are so proud of our students who participated and excelled in the Truman Scholars Program,” stated Rabbi Mark Landsman, YCQ Principal. “Programs such as these allow our most exceptional students to have the opportunity to further develop their academic skills in order to expand their knowledge in content areas that they enjoy so much.”

Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, Senior Director of the Tikvah Fund, answered questions about the event and program.

Tell us about the Truman Scholars Award Program Graduation. What was unique about the graduation this year?

Students participated in seminars with the Truman faculty on the topic of “Why Do We – As Jews – Study History?” Afterwards, students and parents were inspired by Elan Carr – the former US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism – who called on the students to pursue leadership opportunities in all aspects of their lives. Truman seminars throughout the two years of the program have all been on Zoom, so the students were excited to meet each other in person for the first time. The Graduation was a meaningful event for all who attended, including [Truman] Scholars, parents, grandparents, Truman faculty, heads of school, and more. We at Tikvah are very proud of this cohort of Truman Scholars – our first graduating class.

Were any special awards given out to students?

Each Scholar was given a “Certificate of Graduation,” and four Scholars were awarded with “Certificates of Achievement” for their exceptional participation in the Truman seminars.

After speaking with the graduating Scholars, what were the most interesting remarks made about the program?

Scholars and their families appreciate that the Truman Program takes its students seriously and expects them to excel. The learning is on a very high level – generally a few years above grade level. Scholars read challenging primary sources and then participated in intense discussions and debates in their seminars. We hope that the Scholars take themselves and their potential seriously, too.

Based on this year’s experience, how do you think the Truman Scholar’s Program will evolve next year?

We look forward to growing the Truman Scholars Program in the coming years by expanding our network of schools and students. Currently, we have 25 schools in our network from 13 States; we hope to expand those numbers next year and beyond, while still maintaining the highest standards of selectivity and educational content.