Shira Aronow The 35th Recipient of the Howie Stillman Young Leadership Award

Despite being unable to host its annual event because of COVID-19, the Howie Stillman Young Leadership Fund still found a way to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Jewish high school seniors in the Twin Cities. A sub-committee conducted interviews via Zoom in mid-April and selected Shira Aronow as this year’s recipient of their leadership award. 

“It was extremely difficult to decide who should get this year’s award,” Interview Award Committee Co-Chair Joel Glaser said. “It was a very impressive group. The fact that Shira started her own charitable magazine helped her to stand out. Her enthusiastic attitude and genuine desire to help others reminded me a lot of Howie.”

Aronow created Planet Empower, a digital magazine to empower youth, support families, and instill a love for community service. She served as the Chair and was a founder of the Crisis Nursery Youth Advisory Board for the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery. During her time at The Blake School, she served as Chair of the Community Service Board Leadership Committee, was a founding member of the school’s Student Diversity Leadership Council, played on the Ultimate Frisbee team, and served as a Student Director of Admissions Ambassadors. At Beth El, Shira volunteered weekly as an Assistant to the Master Teacher for the synagogue’s TaRBuT program and served as President of the USY Chapter. 

Upon learning that she has been selected as this year’s recipient, Shira said, “I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the Howie Stillman Young Leadership Award, and this award is a privilege that I will continue to take very seriously as I carry on with this important leadership work. Thank you also for allowing me this opportunity to be a part of carrying on Howie’s legacy.”

“It’s always so inspiring to meet with the finalists and hear about their incredible accomplishments,” Interview Award Committee Co-Chair Bruce Goldfarb said. “This year it was especially impressive to see how much they accomplished despite the fact that we were in the middle of the pandemic. All of the finalists worked very hard to make the world a better place.” 

The 2021 finalists, in alphabetical order, including their high school, synagogue, and a few noteworthy leadership accomplishments were: Madeline Bagdade, St. Paul Central, Mount Zion, Shalom Hartman Jewish Thought Fellowship, League of Women Voters Fellowship, and Central High School Student Leader; Nora Cornell, The Blake School, Shir Tikvah, Executive Board Member of Heilicher Day School Alumni Board, Head of High School Preparedness Committee of Heilicher Day School Alumni Board, and President of Shir Tikvah Federation of Temple Youth; Koby Davis, St. Louis Park High School, Beth El, Chapter President of Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Business Manager for Letters of Love, USY Vice President of Engagement; Josh Furman, Breck, Temple Israel, President of the Student Integrity Council, President of Temple Israel Programming for Temple Youth, and, Captain of the JV Soccer Team; Tamar Gewirtz, St. Louis Park High School, Beth El, awarded Minnesota Scholar of Distinction by the Minnesota Department of Education, Co-Founder and Co-President of Girls United, Founder and President of MIND; Maya Halpern, St. Louis Park High School, Shir Tikvah, Co-Founder of Civics in the Park Club, winner of the Jewish Star North American Talent Search Season 3, winner of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Letters Project: Conversing Across Narratives essay contest; Tyler Herman, Wayzata High School, Adath, Youth Advisory Council for Congressman Dean Philips, USY Chapter Executive Vice President, Mock Trial Team Captain; Gabriel Kaplan, St. Louis Park High School, Beth El, Regional USY President, Dartmouth Book Award, Campaign Manager for Rep. Frank Hornstein; Shayna Kaplan, Hopkins High School, Adath, Chapter President BBYO, member of the Hopkins High School Principal Search Committee, Social Media Coordinator for Girls United; Emma Locketz, Hopkins High School, Bet Shalom, US Figure Skating Gold Medalist in Moves in the Field, Solo Free Dance, and Free Skate, USY Chapter President, Co-Chair of Plant Parent and Technology; Ellie Long, Roseville High School, Mount Zion, Roseville Athletic Leadership Council, Captain of the Cross Country Team, Mount Zion Teaching Assistant; and Arielle Shofman, Lakeville High School, Temple of Aaron, USY Chapter President, RAJMN Teen Fellow connecting Russian Jews to the greater Jewish community, recipient of the Dr. Jeffrey Weingarten Award.

As the recipient of this year’s leadership award, Shira received a beautiful Menorah. The Committee gives out a Menorah to the recipient with the hopes that each year they use it in the future, the candles will serve as a reminder of the light that Howie brought into everyone’s lives as well as the light that they bring into their community through their leadership.

The Howie Stillman Young Leadership Award was created to recognize the leadership and personal qualities of a high school senior who is active in a Twin Cities’ synagogue youth group or BBYO. Nominees are selected based on a number of criteria including youth group involvement; engagement in educational, community, and school-related activities; leadership qualities, and personal qualities of warmth and concern for others. The Howie Stillman Young Leadership Award is an attempt to honor a high school senior who demonstrates these qualities in the spirit of someone who embraced them so well.

The Howie Stillman Young Leadership Fund was established in the summer of 1986 by a group of Howie’s friends. It is a permanent memorial to a young man who touched the lives of so many with his warmth, courage, and optimism. Each year interest earned from the fund is used to sponsor an annual lecture given by a prominent journalist which is free and open to the public. The lecture is in recognition of Howie’s aspiring career as a journalist. The group had to cancel the event this year because of COVID-19. 

The 36th Annual Howie Stillman Young Leadership Lecture will take place on May 15, 2022, at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka. Be sure to mark your calendars now.