Volume 1 Edition 1 24 Jun 2020 2 Tammuz 5780

Where are our Alumni now?

Three amazing alumni

Lirun Rabinowitz – Class of 1993

No matter where in the world one lives, modern technology is amazing. Maintaining a connection with your old school and school-mates is so much easier than it used to be, and for Lirun, who now lives in Gibralta, this is no exception. He started his schooling at Emanuel as a Year 2 student in 1983 – the year the School opened and was then at Emanuel on and off over the ensuing years until Year 10. When not living in Sydney attending Emanuel School, Lirun was living in either Canada or Israel.

It really was an amazing experience – I am very fond of my Emanuel School memories. Travelling the world and living in Canada and Israel was amazing but I often found myself envying those who got to go through the whole program at Emanuel. It was progressive even by today’s standards, with a huge emphasis on experience and community culture and I attribute much of who I am today to the upbringing and nurturing that I received from the School.

I finished Year 12 in Israel in June 1994. It was amazing. My mother had rented me an apartment in Tel-Aviv and all of my Sydney friends came to spend their gap year in Israel, having finished their studies at the end of 1993. I was enjoying the best of both worlds. After graduating, I wanted a broad education, so I went back to Australia and to Bond University where I studied Law while also completing a Communications (Business) degree majoring in Journalism and Marketing. I finished my studies just before turning 21.

Dreaming of an international career, technology seemed like my ticket and so I constantly sought out technology-related legal work and positions that exposed me to technology dealings. It was a process but, ultimately, I was able to secure the positions I wanted and decided to further enhance my skills with a Masters degree in International Law from Sydney University and extensive training in mediation for technology disputes.

In 2002 I enrolled in a mentor program for mock trial competitions and luckily the school I was given to mentor was Emanuel. I got to once again feel like an active part of the community for a few good months and I loved it. The kids were bright and fun and even just being in the buildings felt like home.

I was on holidays in Israel in 2005, when suddenly a wonderful opportunity opened up with an Israeli technology giant that was thirsty for native English speaking lawyers with a technology focus. So, when I got back to Sydney, I immediately prepared to move to Israel and was all set up in Tel-Aviv in my new job within a few weeks. It was quite amazing. My employers in Israel believed very strongly in the value of face-to-face interactions and encouraged us to fly to meetings all over the world, so I was spending a lot of time in Paris and Geneva. They were equally happy for me to travel as much as I wanted and work remotely as long as I kept on top of things, so I did exactly that from New York, Madrid, Casablanca, Reykjavik, Costa Rica and Rio, just to name a few.

I have so many fond memories of my time at Emanuel School, and my kids love to hear the stories – Tuesday afternoon choir trips from Woollahra to the Watsons Bay campus, swimming classes at UNSW

Lirun and Jack Malki in Spain 2019

and the bus rides from Randwick, chatting away with friends in the playground next to Temple Emanuel on High Holidays and playing tennis with friends in Year 10…. Ms Wilson was my favourite teacher.

I try my best to stay in touch with my friends from school. One friend, Jack Malki, came to visit me in the south of Spain last year, while touring the region. It was very cool. I am in quite frequent contact with Simon Palmer as well.

I am a lawyer for an Israeli gaming company that has offices here in Gibraltar (essentially a rock between Europe and Africa). My wife and I have four girls Emanuelle (7), Natalie (5), Leona (3) and Olivia-Claire (born last October) who keep us really busy. We all swim a lot and spend most of the summer at the beach catching waves and making music. We feel very much at home here in Gibraltar but we are also very addicted to travel and learning languages.

We have been in Gibraltar for just over three years. At some point we are hoping to relocate again.

My 11th Birthday party in Year 6

This is a photo from my 11th birthday (Year 6). We had spent the day at a circus and as mum owned Savion, it somehow was a part of every birthday party.

Lockdown during COVID-19 has been an incredible period to experience. Since the Coronavirus outbreak the cars have largely come off our narrow windy roads and the cruise ships have stopped visiting the Gibraltar port. We no longer hear the planes land at our tiny airport or hear them flying overhead and everything has become very quiet and still. The decreased air pollution means we can now see far more distant shores of North Africa from our living room (left side of the horizon in the picture).

At the time of doing this interview, there have been no confirmed deaths on the rock due to Coronavirus and less than 150 confirmed cases of the disease – I think overall there has been an overwhelming sense of gratitude and compliance here. Every night at 8.00 pm sharp you can hear a sea of trumpets playing from the flat roof tops in honour of all the first line responders out there who are doing an excellent job.

Maya Pollak (Greenberg) – Class of 2001

I was very diligent and went straight into a Commerce/Law degree at UNSW at the start of 2002 after finishing school in 2001. I did manage to take a semester off and travel with Noa Ries (Olian) and Mandi Binder (Spero) from Emanuel. I also spent the last semester on exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark and travelling in Asia, followed by Central America with Tara Browne (Shillan) and Mandi again from school. I have great memories from University and made new friends although the degree was certainly dry at times!

I did follow my field of study and started out at a large law firm in Sydney as a summer clerk and continued for many years as a lawyer. I made a great network of friends there, many of whom I still see regularly today. From private practice, I made a move in-house into a private investment company where I was able to work on domestic and cross border Mergers and Acquisitions and travel to some interesting places. The highlight was a project that took me to a quaint little town in Switzerland where the office had a magnificent view over the Rhine waterfalls. Since then, I’ve worked in-house at an energy company, getting involved in some strategic investments including building renewables and ongoing corporate law work.

Maya Pollak and family

On a personal note, I married a wonderful man in 2011 and have three kids – a boy aged six and two girls aged four, and 10 months. I am on parental leave at the moment and there is never a dull moment particularly with the whole family home at present as we “live through Coronavirus”.

As mentioned above, I was lucky to be able to travel around the world twice while at University through the Americas, Europe and Asia with a backpack and a very tight budget! There were some memorable experiences such as travelling through India on my own for two months. There is nowhere else quite like it and I’d love to take my kids back there one day when they are older. I am so grateful to have had these formative experiences and feel very sad for kids finishing school who will likely miss out on such trips but, in the scheme of things, there is such tragedy unfolding around the world that they may just be happy to explore their own backyard as the COVID-19 restrictions ease. There have been many other trips along the way with my husband including honeymooning in Sri Lanka and, of course, most recently and far less intrepid, with our young kids in tow, although the folks at Club Med sure know how to throw a good party!

As for my fondest memories of Emanuel School, there are so many! It was such a warm, close-knit school when I arrived in the later years of High School from Israel. There were 40 of us in the class of 2001 and it was very inclusive – I feel as though I really got to know every one of us in the Year very well. There were always fun adventures and it was the kind of school where you could get ideas off the ground and run with them. I remember organising a round-robin table tennis competition, doing lots of writing and helping Noa Ries choreograph the fashion parade in Year 12. It was very empowering. I think we got away with a bit more then we should have in those days – some things the teachers would rather forget – like prefects in Ugg boots and the occasional pet at school. There was one hilarious time where Benko Ure climbed onto the Year 12 common room to free the pigeons that the School had captured, as they were terrible pests.

I had some great teachers at Emanuel – Ms Batista for English and Mr Fischer for Maths (who has since sadly passed away). They were really inspirational. They only arrived when I was in Year 11 and in those two short years they were able to yield some impressive results for our Year Group. We were an easy cohort in this respect – chess had its many moments in our lunch breaks and we were always trying to solve Mr Fischer’s math teasers. Now that I think about it, it was a bit dorky but it was the kind of environment where getting involved and doing well was respected.

I am still in touch with my group of friends from school. Some live far away and with the benefits of technology thankfully we are able to stay in touch. There are the girls I mentioned above and many others – they know who they are and I’m very grateful to have them in my life!

Camp Sababa

My current occupation is finishing up my last stint of parental leave before returning to corporate law. It’s been a turbulent but very special period with the kids exploring some quieter walks in the area and also keeping busy at home making and baking. My eldest is set on making a diorama of Cooper Park and we just made papier-mâché. We seem to have hit onto a retro 90s crafting theme at the moment. There have been lots of puzzles and I keep getting creamed at Monopoly. Young children are so resilient and happy in the present which has helped me see the current situation in a more positive light.

For the last few years, I have also been involved in organising Camp Sababa which is a four-day recreational camp for children with special needs. We run a junior and senior camp and host around 50 campers each year.

We always have a great bunch of Emanuel Year 12s – they did an awesome dance last year that left everyone wanting more, so we would love to teach it to everyone next camp. It’s a really special community of volunteers and families that come back each year and I am really missing our face-to-face committee meetings. Hopefully we can get back to planning our next camp soon.

As for future plans? Like most people, I am just taking it day-by-day at the moment. These are very uncertain times and all I can hope for is that we all stay healthy and can transition back to normal life safely when the time comes.

Hannah Beder – Class of 2012

After finishing Year 12 at the end of 2012, I went overseas straight away with a friend from school. We travelled around Europe for a couple of months before we were both due to start university the following February.

When I finished High School, I looked at what subjects I had taken and was stumped as to what to pursue… I had studied Advanced English, four units of Maths, Hebrew, Music II and Music Extension, Physics… it was hard to find cohesion or a clear path.

I applied to study music at the International Conservatorium of Music, but despite being awarded a scholarship to study there, I decided I didn’t want to pursue music full-time. I had selected all of my university admission preferences to the different disciplines of engineering, and when I was accepted, I could choose whichever I wanted! I picked Electrical Engineering for no good reason and landed up transferring into Computer Science after one year in Electrical. I completed my Computer Science degree with an Honours thesis in Human Computer Interaction.

During university I was fortunate to have a few jobs which put me in good stead to travel. I visited the USA and Canada frequently to visit friends and family and I lived in Seattle for six months after accepting an internship with Google. I also travelled with my family to Indonesia, the USA and the UK. Australia has so much to offer too — I love road trips and have visited most of the major cities on driving holidays. Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane to Cairns…

Hannah Beder

What are your fondest memories of Emanuel School you ask? I loved the Swimming Carnivals! I’ve always loved swimming and wasn’t particularly good at athletics, so it always felt like I was able to help my House out by doing well. Music Camps were a highlight as well – it’s awesome how much you can learn and improve when focusing that hard for a week. I also enjoyed learning Maths with Ms Laumberg – she always knew how to build students up and make them feel confident in their skills. Something that has really stuck with me is Ms Selinger teaching us how to draw a really really straight line. I don’t know if she remembers it, but it has stuck with me! You’ve got to draw two dots and join them, while keeping your eye on where you want the pen to go rather than looking at your hand.

I am absolutely still in touch with my group of friends from school. I see them regularly – it’s such a nourishing part of my social life to have people around me who have known me for so long. Many of my graduating cohort landed up studying at UNSW (with many of them in STEM degrees!) so I feel lucky to have had four extra years of studying together, and familiar faces on university campus. I’ve had many wonderful holidays visiting school friends who live interstate and overseas as well.

I currently work as a Creative Technologist at a tech education company called Creatable. It is a recent move from the straight and narrow Software Engineering path I’ve been treading since leaving university. I’m so pleased I made the move as it combines my passion for programming, technology, creativity, and education. I feel like I’m doing my best work and being most true to myself. My day-to-day is content development for technical projects and a whole lot of teaching. The projects are based in software, mechatronics, robotics and electrical engineering – how cool is that!

Editor’s note: Late last year, Hannah won the 2019 Young Urban Inspirational Women’s Award “established to recognise women and young women who best exemplify Rotary’s motto of Service Above Self (ie the community service the individual performs above and beyond their normal role”. In February this year, Hannah won the 2020 NSW Young Woman of the Year. We are so proud of Hannah and the work she has done to promote helping young women and STEM. Watch this inspiring interview with Hannah following the announcement of her 2020 award.

Now that I’m working in education I still try and stay on top of software engineering best practices and keep my programming skills sharp. As far as hobbies go, I’m a big reader… if you ever see me on public transport to and from work, I’ll have my nose in a book. I still swim too! I completed the Laps for Life challenge in March, and in the summer months I love doing ocean swims like the North Bondi Classic and the Cole Classic.

I took on my new role at the beginning of March in the tech education space. I had one week in the office before we were all asked to work from home! It’s been an interesting time to be involved in the big upheaval of the education system which has been underway since schools closed as a consequence of COVID-19. I’ve been teaching via online video calls instead of in person and creating content that is fit for online teaching — hard to do when you’re trying to teach soldering, circuitry, and 3D printing. Luckily, I am used to working from home as Software Engineering is a fairly flexible industry, so the change has been less challenging for me than it has been for others.