Alumni Spotlight: Ali Janower ’18

by | Apr 24, 2023 | Alumni Class Notes, Our Stories

What have you been up to since graduating Rashi?

I attended Noble and Greenough School for high school and adored it. I loved applying what I learned from Mike Finke at Rashi about building elaborate sets in technical theater, running cross country, participating in a myriad of music groups, and being active in several other clubs and competitions.


Among other things, I served as co-president of Kehilla, Nobles’ Jewish affinity group, along with fellow Rashi alumnae Danielle Frankel (’18) and Molly Hughes (’19). We hosted frequent and well-attended meetings (with approximately 40 Jewish-identifying students, and often some non-Jewish identifying students, as well) in which we created a sense of Jewish community, ate a LOT of rugelach, and educated the rest of the school about our traditions. I like to think that some of the non-Rashi-affiliated Jewish students were inspired by the Rashi alumni’s knowledge and passion to strengthen their Jewish cultural identity, and I’m proud of that.


Over the summers, I participated in a number of programs with The Road Less Traveled, a company that takes teenagers on outdoor recreation trips with community service elements, and this summer I’ll be a trip leader. Next year I’m off to Wesleyan University, but for now, I’ve been bouncing around the globe on a gap year, including a family history tour of Europe, diving in Belize, and three months of backpacking in Bolivia. I’m currently interning for a marine-sustainability focused company called SeaAhead, walking dogs, and most importantly, helping out Rashi’s Development Office! I feel truly lucky to be back.


What was your favorite class at Rashi?

I always particularly enjoyed middle school social studies. Some of my favorite writing projects included a fake memoir from the perspective of a shtetl emigrant, an autobiographical essay from the perspective of Czar Nicholas’s pet cat, and a fake newspaper article about the installation of the Weimar constitution. I loved exercising my creativity and honing my writing skills, not to mention the fascinating concrete history we were studying. I also really looked up to my teachers, Keith Civin and Zach Albert.


I also loved middle school Jewish studies with Hilary (Caplan) Lerner and Rabbi Clevenger. We studied complex ethical dilemmas, Jewish mysticism, and the origins of Jewish rules that may not make sense in today’s society. Previously, I had viewed the religious side of Judaism as the practice of study and worship, and the Talmud as an archaic text written by old male conservatives. This class made Judaism and Jewish texts feel applicable to my everyday life.


What is your favorite Rashi memory?

As a Kindergartener, I would pull out a two foot tall copy of the book “Over in the Meadow” every day during rest hour, and sing the song quietly while all of my classmates took their naps.


What is something you have learned at Rashi that has stayed with you since graduating?

I heavily credit Rashi for my academic success, particularly in writing and speaking. It’s no secret that Rashi offers a really strong humanities education. My teachers at Nobles noted that their former Rashi students wrote distinctly organized essays and could decipher particularly difficult texts, such as Shakespeare, with ease (with which I think studying Torah helped). Rashi also gave me a voice, because my teachers listened to their students. For example, the other day I overheard the kindergarten class figure out if their collective height is taller than the Rashi building. As the kids voiced suggestions and questions, the teachers encouraged their collaboration and commended them for speaking up to share their thoughts. Not only was this a lesson in addition and prediction, it more broadly planted the seed that every voice has an impact–a seed that Rashi continues to nurture in a variety of ways as students grow. As a result, I became known at Nobles as a leader and a strong speaker. I’m proud to say that I was chosen among my senior class of 140 students to receive both the Little Memorial Essay Award for Creative Writing and the Public Speaking Award.

What was your favorite activity at Rashi?

Hard to choose… perhaps making balloon-powered cars made out of recycled materials in middle school science class. We were challenged to gather (not buy) all of the materials ourselves, and the cars were assessed based on the distance they were able to travel and the creativity they displayed. Mine was Kermit the Frog themed, and totalllly would’ve reached the farthest distance if we hadn’t shown it off too much beforehand, thus stretching out the balloon and reducing its efficacy.


What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

Reading: I recently read all of Jennifer Egan’s works, and most of Jon Krakauer’s, and now I’m working my way through John Green’s. I highly recommend it all!


Watching: I watch a big variety of vaguely educational content on Youtube, mostly. Some highlights include Blacktail Studios (a skilled and funny woodworker who specializes in tables), Dr. Geoff Lindsey (a witty and extremely knowledgeable linguist), JackSucksAtGeography (a dude who likes maps), and Taskmaster (a British comedy reality TV show in which celebrities have to complete useless tasks). I’m also watching a Spanish show on Netflix called Merlí, which is a dramatic romance comedy about philosophy students coping with death, class divide, and sexuality in Barcelona.


Listening: My mom describes my music taste as “one sad dude playing guitar.” My favorite indie folk artists are Sam Burchfield, Gregory Alan Isakov, Watchhouse, and Yoke Lore, among others. I also listen to a lot of cumbia (a vestige of my time spent in Bolivia), classic rock (a byproduct of collecting vinyl), 90’s rap (a consequence of all the time I’ve spent biking with my dad), and modern psychedelia. Lately, I’ve been big on jazz and R&B because I’m going to Jazz Fest in New Orleans in a few weeks on a month-long road trip.