Well known in their respective schools as exceptional students, natural leaders and charismatic personalities, Asa Weinstein, an 8th grader at Hillel Day School, and Sophia Gawel, a junior at Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA), have been selected as the recipients of the 2016-17 David Hermelin Scholarship Award.

On a grey afternoon in January, standing proud for pictures on the steps of FJA, where Asa will enter as a freshman next year, the two teens are a study in contrasts reflecting their three-year gap in age. Asa is the shy one, self-conscious in the spotlight. Sophia is the bubbly one, talkative and all-smiles. Together, they have been recognized as stand-outs among their peers to share the honor of this year’s prestigious Scholarship which awards each of them a full-year tuition, $12,000 towards their next year of studies at Frankel. 

About Asa Weinstein

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Asa Weinstein

Funny Face Productions. That’s Asa on YouTube and, yes, the kid’s got talent as a comic. A Hillel student since kindergarten, Asa is the middle son of Dori Weinstein, Life Coach of Life Matters Coaching, and Mike Weinstein, proprietor of Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills. Between life coaching and awesome pizza, Asa has developed his own unique sense of humor and creative style which he demonstrates almost daily in Hillel’s MakerSpace. A self-described roller-coaster freak, he can speak with authority on the history, location, stats, technology and physics of thrill rides throughout the country.

Favorite subjects in school: History and Math

Passions: Videography, communications, roller coasters!

Activities: Asa is stage manager and head of the Sound and Light crew for his school video and theater productions. He plays trombone in the school band and studies piano. He enjoys basketball, “making stuff” in MakerSpace and producing his own quirky videos with friends.

Comments from his teachers:

“Asa’s profound authenticity draws others into his orbit, and he effects all of them for the better.”

“Asa naturally attracts friends and followers as he is an interesting and inquisitive person who, while thoughtful and deliberate, also knows how to get things done.”

“Mindful of tradition, he is also quick to create his own way of doing things.”

Proud moments: “Winning the David Hermelin Scholarship was probably the proudest moment of my life.”

Definition of a leader: “Leadership is the ability to inspire and create. A good leader is a person whom people can turn to for advice or help – a friend they can feel comfortable around – no matter what.”

Favorite Websites: “YouTube – because it is such a vast website where anyone can put up any creative thing you can imagine. And, it’s just a giant pool of weird, silly and great ideas.”

Favorite Holiday: “Purim, because anyone can show their insane creativity and talents.”

Favorite Vacation spots: Cedar Point!!

Best Movie in the last year: Sully for cinematography and Deadpool for comedy.

Hopes and Dreams: “One day, I would love to be a popular filmmaker, actor and writer.”

About Sophia Gawel

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Sophia Gawel

Will she become a rabbi, a lawyer, a journalist, a writer? Time will tell with Sophia, an all-star student who holds the FJA record for Cross Country (19 minutes, 20 seconds). While a series of stress fractures temporarily have curbed her sport, she’s learned balance, discovered new talents in the school theater, student government, debate team and mock court. In her freshman year,  Sophia transferred to Frankel from Novi Public Schools.“The minute I walked into Frankel, I knew I was home,” she says.  In her family life, academics are a strong suit; Sophia’s parents, Leah and Randall Gawel, are both former English teachers; mom now teaches at Congregation Shaarey Zedek and dad is Principal of Berkley High School. Sophia describes her younger brother Sam, a sophomore at FJA, as her very best friend.

Favorite subject in school: English

Activities: At 17, Sophia has built an impressive résumé, both inside and outside of school. She is President of High School 101 – a student-led organization and web platform founded by FJA alumnus Jonah Erlich – that provides tools for study and seminars for freshmen in high schools across the country. Sophia is also a participant in Motor City USY- the Metro Detroit Chapter of United Synagogue Youth, active in volunteering and tikun olam. Two summers ago, Sophia attended Yeshiva’s Dr. Beth Samuel’s High School Program in New York City and last summer she participated in the National Student Leadership Conference at American University in DC as well as the National Student Leadership Conference on Israel Studies Brandeis University in Boston.

Comments from her teachers:

“In my teaching career, I have encountered few students who compare to Sophia Gawel. Her sincere love of learning and personal growth are infused in every task she endeavors to pursue. Additionally, her extremely high level of achievement is complemented by her unassuming nature, respectful demeanor and overwhelming sincerity.”

“Sophia is the student every teacher wants in their classroom.”

Proud moments: “I was extremely proud of being nominated for the David Hermelin Scholarship. I’m also proud of the different leadership opportunities that I’ve been given the chance to seize and run with.”

Definition of a leader: “I have learned that effective leadership comes when I focus all my efforts into what I am passionate about. A good leader also listens and learns from others and leads from the strength of self-knowledge and understanding of others. Leadership is never static or complacent.”

Favorite Websites: “I am a ‘Pinterest girl’ and of course my go-to site is High School 101.”  hs101online.com

Favorite Holiday: “Thanksgiving. I love to bake and see the table all set for the holiday.”

Favorite Detroit destinations: “Tiger Stadium, Greenfield Village and, lately, my father started a project visiting the historic shuls in Detroit.”

Reading now and again: “My all-time favorite book is Jane Eyre – I like to re-read that every once in a while.”

Hopes and Dreams: “My most immediate hope is to get into my dream college, Middlebury in Vermont, or Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.”

Past recipients of the David Hermelin Scholarship Award

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), Nathaniel Faber, (Farber Hebrew Day School).