2018-06-06 / Voice at the Shore

Avoda club provides generous awards to three promising local teens

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor

Tonight, Avoda club members will celebrate the three promising high school seniors selected to receive generous support from the club over their college careers. The club’s annual award of nearly $100,000 over the course of four years will be divided between Jocelyn Schwartz of Mainland High School, Miranda Targum of Middle Township High School, and William David Locke of Atlantic City High School.

The three winners will be honored at the club’s Annual Avoda Award Dinner at Mays Landing Country Club.

Avoda, a not-for-profit organization started by five local Jewish businessmen in 1928, now has more than 100 members. The club’s primary purpose is to provide financial awards to promising Jewish college-bound students from Atlantic and Cape May Counties. Awardees are chosen based on their financial need, academic performance, test scores, extracurricular interests and participation, and level of Jewish and community involvement.

Jocelyn Schwartz, this year’s main award winner, has spent her high school career as an advocate for environmental justice, lobbying Congressman Frank LoBiondo, raising money for Greenpeace, and canvassing for Bernie Sanders. A graduate of Kulanu high school of Jewish studies, Jocelyn spent the past year as a teaching assistant (Madricha) there, and has also been an active member of Beth Israel’s Temple Youth and NFTY throughout high school.

Schwartz will attend Rutgers University-New Brunswick in the fall, where she will study biochemistry as a way to further her passion for the environment. She hopes to also pursue graduate environmental studies and to eventually work for a government agency that protects the environment.

Miranda Targum is the first Avoda awardee from Cape May County, which became part of Avoda’s applicant pool around five years ago. Targum will attend Temple University in the fall, where she plans to do a 5-year program in neuroscience and graduate with a master’s degree. She then plans to do research and pursue a Ph.D., and to eventually study the brain and its relationship to cognitive perception.

The third 2018 Avoda awardee, William David Locke, will also attend Rutgers University-New Brunswick in the fall. Locke plans to pursue a double major in Public Policy and African, Middle Eastern, South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL). He also plans to study Arabic and Farsi, and to study abroad. Locke ultimately hopes to work in national security and to author defense policies.

This year, said Avoda President Arthur Sklar, “each of our applicants was outstanding.” Although the pool of applicants is typically small, most applicants are extremely accomplished, making the selection of winners a difficult job for Avoda’s selection committee, noted Sklar.

“It’s honestly just so humbling to win this award. There were so many good candidates— I feel really fortunate,” said Schwartz.

“The award is life-changing,” she added. “It is making things so much more achievable. Now I will be able to focus more on my studies instead of worrying so much about student loans,” said Schwartz, who added that pursuing graduate education also seems less financially daunting because of the award.

With the financial support of Avoda, (which also assigns each awardee a mentor from its club), Avoda winners go on to do impressive things. According to a booklet published for the club’s 75th anniversary last fall, many awardees have gone on to accomplished careers in law, medicine, academia and more.

The Avoda Award application is available through the Margate JCC website at www.jccatlantic.org. Applications are due at the beginning of March, and awardees are announced by early June. 

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