Stephanie Jekowsky 88 248.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Stephanie Jekowsky may be the great-niece of the woman credited with the discovery of DNA, Rosalind Franklin, but science has never been her favorite subject. "If I didn't do well on a science test, I'd pull out my great-aunt's image of DNA in the encyclopedia and that always helped," says Jekowsky with a big smile.
Franklin, known as the Dark Lady of DNA because she was Jewish and had to work in a basement at King's College London, died at 37 from cancer that is thought to have been brought on by her experiments. "It wasn't public knowledge for many years," Jekowsky explains, "but it was her work that Watson and Crick used for their 1953 hypothesis regarding the structure of DNA, which earned them a Nobel Prize. Time magazine named her as one of last century's greatest women."
Born in New York, Jekowsky moved to San Francisco when she was a baby and grew up there. She attended Brandeis Hillel Day School until third grade, St. Mark's for middle school and graduated from Redwood High School. In 2005, at 18, she came here for a Young Judaea program.
"I really came in 2005, but I didn't make aliya until a few years later," she says. The first three months of the Young Judaea program were spent in the Naval Academy in Acre, where she wore a uniform and taught English in the afternoons. Then she went to Bat Yam and worked as a first responder for Magen David Adom. The last three months of the program she took religion courses in Jerusalem at the University of Judaism, an extension program of the Los Angeles branch. After she finished the year, she applied to the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, where she will receive her BA this year in government, diplomacy and strategy.
Aside from being the great-niece of Rosalind Franklin, for whom her mother is named, Jekowsky's great-uncle was Herbert Samuel, the first high commissioner for the British Mandate of Palestine. Her grandfather, a London merchant, moved to New York with his wife and six children after World War II. Her mother works for the Jewish federation in San Francisco and her father is an orchestral conductor. She has two younger brothers, 19 and 13. Although she says it can sometimes be lonely without them, her friends here have become like family and she has many cousins here. "It was good that the first year was supervised," she says. "It gave me time to acclimate and get adjusted."
Aside from doing two internships, one in Tel Aviv at the Moshe Dayan School and another in Herzliya at the Counterterrorism Institute, she also works at CafÃ© CafÃ© as a waitress. "It's a pretty easy job," she says.
Jekowsky shares a three-bedroom, spacious apartment in Herzliya with two of her closest friends from school, one from Holland and the other from New York. "It's great because we have a roof, lots of room and it's a beautiful place," she says.
"I don't really have a routine. I schedule my life around my classes." In the evenings, she usually has dinner with friends and spends a lot of time with her boyfriend, who made aliya from the small Jewish community in Luxembourg.
Aside from taking long trips every summer, often to visit her maternal grandparents who are now retired and live on the small Caribbean island of Antigua, she loves all things related to the sea. "I love to surf and scuba dive," she says. "Last summer I was a surf instructor in Herzliya. I'm a real fish."
"I don't think I have two friends from the same place," she says. Most of her friends are people she met in school, and they are from all over the world, including the US, France, Germany, Kenya and Singapore. "I have friends from my first year here in the Young Judaea program and four really close girlfriends. I also hang out with my boyfriend's friends."
She has spoken Hebrew for as long as she can remember. She understands French and is in the process of learning Arabic. "My mom speaks Hebrew, French, Italian and Spanish, and I'd like to learn a romance language too. Arabic is really hard, but it will be a good language to have for my profession."
Her grandparents are traditional Orthodox, and Jekowsky says that her family keeps kosher in San Francisco but didn't keep Shabbat. "We didn't answer the phone on Friday nights and here in Israel I'm not keeping Shabbat as of now, but I'm not too far from it," she says.
Her boyfriend, whose father is the cantor in Luxembourg, keeps kosher and Shabbat. "I tried it once while I was here with him and I'm very open to the idea. My family in the US is pretty much Conservative/Reform."
"I'm torn about my identity," she says. "I am Stephanie and I am Jewish, but I don't feel American."
When she returns home, she has little to nothing in common with her American friends. "I guess above all I'm Jewish. I have three passports, British, American and Israeli, but I don't really feel like I could say any of those is my nationality. I embody all of them."
Although she wants to work in the field of policy-making either for the government or in the private sector and she knows that working with people is a goal, her future plans are still being made. "I may go travel for a while and work in Australia, but I could end up in Israel, England or anywhere in Europe eventually."
Although she appreciates the efficiency of her birthplace - especially the banks - and life here is a struggle, she doesn't think she will ever end up moving back to the US. "I just don't feel like I have the same values as my American friends anymore, and all I have left there is my family."
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