His teachers describe him as an exemplary student, a natural leader, a consensus builder and a role model. His favorite subjects in school? Biology, Calculus and Talmud. With plans to study next year in Israel, he dreams of becoming a doctor. Or a rabbi. Or perhaps even both. “That’s a lot of schooling,” he admits. But at 17, he has demonstrated that he has the mind and heart to pursue his goals. This is Nathaniel Faber – “Nati” as his friends and family call him – a senior at Akiva and the recipient of the prestigious 2015 David Hermelin Scholarship Award.
Sponsored by Sam and Nancy Shamie, the annual David Hermelin Scholarship Award was established in 2008 to honor the memory of David Hermelin, a beloved leader in the Detroit Jewish community, well known as a philanthropist, business entrepreneur and United States ambassador to Norway (1997-2000). Recipients of the award receive a full-year tuition scholarship of $12,000 in their junior or senior year of studies at a Jewish day school affiliated with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Though academic achievement is a factor in evaluating candidates for the award, the scholarship primarily recognizes young people in the Detroit community who show great potential to follow in David Hermelin’s footsteps. David Hermelin’s wife, Doreen, is a member of the selection committee for the Scholarship.
Emphasizing that it was her husband, Sam Shamie, who was motivated to establish the award, Nancy Shamie stated that David Hermelin was a close friend whose leadership touched many others in the Jewish Detroit community and beyond. “The scholarship was Sam’s way of keeping David’s legacy alive,” she says. “Those of us who had the great privilege of knowing David remember how he could walk into a room and light it up with his energy, his sense of fun and community spirit. David was our cheerleader. He used his charisma to inspire others to do great things. When we look at the young people whom we have recognized since establishing the award, we see those same qualities emerging and coming to fruition to the benefit of our community.”
“David Hermelin was one of the giants of our community, a great ambassador and diplomat,” recalls Sam Shamie. “He was a fervent supporter of Jewish education and would often say to us, that if he had but one wish, it would be that he could play a part to translate his joy of being Jewish to all people. It is my hope that the David Hermelin Scholarship Award continues to set the bar in our high schools and to inspire the highest levels of leadership and achievement in our students.”
Past recipients include Gabriel Pachter (2008, Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy); Shulamis Berger (2009, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah); Amichai Nadiv (2010, Hillel Day School); Tzvi Klein (2011, Akiva Hebrew Day School); Nechie Levitz (2012, Yeshiva Beth Yehuda); Jordan Menczer (2013, Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy); and Wendy Kelman (2014, Akiva Hebrew Day School).
An Akiva student since pre-school, Nati is the youngest son of Karyn and Mark Faber of Southfield. He has three siblings and notes with pride that they are all Akiva alumni. Nati’s oldest sib, Michelle,is a pediatrician; Nati’s older brother, Joshua, is an attorney with the Berlin Family Law Group, married to Jessica, also an attorney; they are the parents to Charlotte Hannah, 4 months old, and plan to send her to Akiva as well. Second oldest brother, Gabe, has recently married Ilana, another Akiva alum; the couple have moved to Israel to attend Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv.
As part of the application process for the David Hermelin Scholarship, Nati wrote an essay describing his vision of leadership. “Leadership can be an everyday, moment-by-moment opportunity for anyone,” he writes. “Sometimes it is about changing someone’s day, hour or just one moment in their life. Everyone has the chance to be an informal leader.”
“Nati Faber is certainly an exemplary representative of Akiva’s graduating Class of 2016,” observes Jordana Wolfson, Akiva’s Interim CEO. “Nati has been a part of our family and proud tradition throughout his entire academic journey and we are incredibly proud of the caring and hard-working young man he has become. It was an honor for Akiva that he won this award, but we are not surprised as he is truly deserving.”
Defining Young Leadership: Q&A with Nati
Extra-curricular activities: President of Bnei Akiva Detroit (a local branch of the largest Zionist youth movement in the world); Akiva Student Council Co-President, responsible for leading Bnei Akiva community events including Yom Hazikaron (Israeli’s Memorial Day) ceremony; Manager of the Akiva basketball team; National Honor Society member; AIPAC volunteer, recently attended AIPAC’s Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit in DC; organizes and leads Shabbat Youth groups at Young Israel Southfield.
Passionate about: Israel! His studies and school activities. Community service, helping in any way needed to run events
Proudest moment: Becoming an uncle for the first time!
Definition of a leader: Someone who helps in the best way he or she can to make other people’s lives better
Favorite sport: Football
Favorite websites: bneiakivadetroit.org and Facebook
Favorite holiday: Sukkot. Because fall is a beautiful time to be in Detroit
Favorite places in Detroit: Franklin Cider Mill and downtown Detroit near the Joe Louis Arena
Favorite vacation spots: We’re not a big vacation family, but definitely I’ve enjoyed our trips to Myrtle Beach and to Disney World.
Favorite places in Israel: The Old City in Jerusalem and Tsefat (Safed); been to Israel twice with plans to visit again in February
Recently read: Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt
Best movie you’ve seen in the last year: Inside Out, (Disney Pixar movies are some of my favorites.)
Fun fact: My favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Words to live by: “Be the change you want to see.” – that’s my approach to leadership too
Hopes and dreams: To live in Israel. To go skydiving one day. And to visit all 50 states in the USA. (I have visited most of the East Coast, California, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.)