Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

American Hebrew Academy Honor Society inducts seven local students


The American Hebrew Academy recently extended invitations to a select number of students worldwide for admittance into the esteemed American Hebrew Academy Honor Society. Now in its sixth year, the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society, modeled after the National Honor Society, is an international honor society that acknowledges exceptional 8th and 9th grade students who have demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, the arts, leadership and service to their communities.

Last year, six students from the Central Florida area were inducted into the prestigious organization. This year, seven remarkable students have been selected. Six of the students attend the Jewish Academy of Orlando, and one is a student at Lake Mary High School.

The Heritage congratulates the following students on their inductions:

Elie Basher of Orlando: Elie, son of David and Yael Basher, is an outstanding student, actor, and athlete. He is passionate about basketball, soccer, swimming, and running. He has dedicated more than 10 years to learning and practicing karate, and has earned a leadership role as assistant sensei in his class. Elie values the way Judaism helps him live a meaningful life, and is an active member in his local BBYO chapter. On receiving his invitation, Elie had this to say, ““I feel that being inducted into the AHA honor society is an enormous opportunity for me. It is a privilege and an honor to be receiving this position as an inductee. Thank you.

Ofree Basher of Orlando: “I am very thankful for the opportunity to be recognized as an inductee to the American Hebrew Academy honor society and to be a receiver of this amazing award,” said Ofree, who is the daughter of David and Yael Basher (and Elie’s sister). She is a capable leader who is dedicated to making a difference in all aspects of her life. When she is not volunteering with the Jewish Community Center, she is the student government secretary, an avid tennis player, and actress in her school’s theater productions. Ofree is also a member of her local BBYO chapter.

Eli Finkelstein of Orlando: Eli is the son of Greg and Cheryl Finkelstein. Upon learning of his selection, he said, “It is such an honor to be selected for this award and to be recognized among my peers for academic and Jewish achievement.” Eli is an outstanding student and dedicated athlete. When he is not playing either tennis or basketball, he is participating in the Jewish Academy of Orlando’s theater productions. He has proven himself to be a leader not only as a co-captain on the soccer team, but also as a madrich for Congregation Ohev Shalom. Eli’s dedication and character shine both in and out of the classroom.

Jordan Harris of Maitland: The daughter of Brian and Tara Harris, Jordan is a remarkable individual whose character is defined by her leadership, compassion, and devotion to community service. “I feel honored and privileged to be accepted into the AHA Honor Society. I am fortunate to have a strong sense of my heritage and Jewish education. It means so much to me to be inducted alongside my peers at the Jewish Academy of Orlando,” she told the Heritage. As an 8th grader at the Jewish Academy of Orlando, Jordan demonstrates great determination in her academics and extracurricular activities, especially in the Performing Arts department. She is especially committed to performing tikkun olam within her Jewish community through J-Serve Teen Task Force and her youth group.

Frances Hoffen of Lake Mary: Frances is an exceptional student and artist who is extremely passionate about her Judaism. “I am honored to receive this award as a member of the Orlando Jewish community,” she said. The daughter of Dr. Bruce and Debra Hoffen is a 9th grader at Lake Mary High School and earns straight As while dancing with the Lake Mary Marionettes and playing in the school’s wind ensemble and marching band. Frances displays her commitment to Judaism as a longtime Ramah Darom camper, a madricha at Congregation Ohev Shalom, and active member of her local USY chapter. One of Frances’ favorite quotes (anonymous) is “Some people succeed because they are destined, but most people succeed because they are determined.”

Aaron Soll of Winter Park: Aaron is a true student leader, serving as president of his middle school at the Jewish Academy of Orlando and a member of National Honor Society. The son of Michael and Stacey Soll, he is both musical and athletic, Aaron plays the piano and guitar, and is a member of his soccer team and co-captain of the basketball team. He is a high achieving student and a caring volunteer for his synagogue and the Coalition for the Homeless. “This induction has been a great reflection of how The Jewish Academy has shaped me both academically and personally,” he told the Heritage. “I have also gained much religious experience and wisdom from my years of intense discussions and lectures. Becoming a member of the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society has given me a great chance to think about myself and my goals in life. For example, I enjoy spending my time with many extra-curriculars like sports and music, and I enjoy volunteering my time on a weekly basis. I am also the class president, and one of my passions is debating and thinking about things in new ways. My current goal for the future is to become a lawyer, a career I feel would fit my interests very well.” 

Ashlinn Thomas of Longwood: Ashlinn, the daughter of Robert and Lauren Thomas, never fails to light up a room, making her a fantastic friend and ideal student. She has been recognized for her academic achievements as a member of the National Junior Honor Society, a participant in the Duke TIP Program, as well as the National Young Leaders Conference. “I am excited because I love being a part of the Jewish community,” she said of the recognition. “The American Hebrew Honor Society is a great opportunity to expand my Jewish connection to other teens with my same values and beliefs.”

While maintaining an impressive GPA, Ashlinn still finds time to figure skate competitively, act in her school play, and volunteer as a madricha at her synagogue.

“To be named a member of the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society is a great achievement,” said Mark Spielman, director of the Honor Society. “We look forward to meeting each of the honorees and following their successes as they make great contributions to our society.” Academy Executive Director Glenn Drew added, “The Academy is an exceptional institution with an outstanding faculty and student body. Identifying stellar students follows our mission of mentoring the Jewish leaders of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society, please visit our website at http://www.AHAHonorSociety.org.


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