Our Alumni
Lainer School gave me... my mission to advocate for the voiceless

Ari Beth Berman ’11

Humanitarian, Debate Enthusiast, Writer

Ari Beth Berman’s world is filled with conversations. Whether it’s spending six hours at the DMV helping a refugee family with identification paperwork, or leading a Harvard campus panel event, this 2011 Lainer School alumna, currently a student at Harvard University, is a skilled facilitator of difficult dialogues and discussions.

The very first recipient of Lainer School’s Nissanoff Israel Zionism Advocacy Alumni Award (launched in 2018), which recognized her pro-Israel advocacy work on campus, Ari’s knack for delving into the intricacies of complex geopolitical conflict began early on.

During her freshman year at Harvard, Ari represented a pro-Israel perspective on a panel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This experience led her to more closely examine the role of empathy in the context of this conflict, in a 2015 Times of Israel op-ed entitled The Conversation No One Knows How to Have.

In the article, Ari writes, “What many people seem to forget in a debate is that certain ideas that seem completely irrational to one person are normal to another. I believe that how we are raised, the communities we live in, and our exposure to the world shape our opinions, ideas, and perceptions.”

The propensity towards fostering meaningful conversation with those whose ideas and experiences may differ is a quality nurtured from toddlerhood at Lainer School, which was then called Sinai Akiba Academy. The School’s core value of derech eretz (mutual respect) toward her fellow classmates has permeated her work since those early days, setting her on a foundation for success in her current pursuits.

Ari’s desire to heal the world (Tikkun Olam) stems from an innate curiosity fed by her habit of constantly reading and consuming literature. At Sinai Akiba, Ari remembers Mr. Parker, an art teacher, who once gave her a comic book as a trivia prize that inspired her love of reading. Today, Ari is a voracious reader, averaging a whopping 50 books per year.

Her Judaic studies, Ari says, channeled this same inquisitive nature. “Judaism is quite unique in that it encourages people to question. That foundation, whether in Introductory Talmud or Judaic studies, allows one to find a source and question it from every angle,” she said.

Matriculating to Harvard-Westlake, Ari stayed connected to her love of the people of Israel, also a Lainer School core value (ahavat Yisrael), through United Synagogue Youth (USY), as a member of the Israel Affairs International General Board. She directed YouTube videos to educate USYers about Israel’s government, and created a series of social media campaigns, including one which prompted followers to study the IDF Code of Ethics, to promote awareness about Israel.

Fast forward to freshman year at Harvard University, when Ari took on an internship in refugee resettlement and placement with the non-governmental organization Heartland Alliance. Together with a later internship with the United States Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration the opportunity led Ari to discover a true passion and calling for humanitarian work. The long hours she devoted to helping Syrian and Burmese refugees wade through the bureaucracy required to attain proper documentation and find suitable shelter was truly an eye-opening experience. Her ability to help those living through the often seemingly invisible struggle of those seeking asylum in the U.S. emboldened her to continue pursuing her passion in the humanitarian field.

This summer, Ari will combine her passions for human rights and Israel advocacy by joining a mission with IsraAID to assist and advise the humanitarian team on the island of Dominica.

When Ari is not volunteering at a homeless shelter or joining a march for refugees before attending Shabbat services at Harvard’s Hillel, she is a talented vocalist who participates in the Radcliffe Choir Society on campus and enjoys playwriting. These two distinct hobbies allow her to project her voice and the voice of others.

When asked what message she’d like to add to the conversation with today’s Lainer School students, Ari answers, “It’s the idea that you can shape the future that you want… you can create the space to be active in and repair the world.”

“You can shape the future that you want… you can create the space to be active in and repair the world.”