A Holocaust story teller, documentarian, pediatric doctor and professor
There were many proud people at the Jericho Public Library on April 27.
Four new Jericho High School alums would be joining the ranks of the Jericho High School Alumni Hall of Fame. Represented by a plaque, the names of these successful alumni have been passed by students and faculty each school day since the ‘90s.
The first hall of fame alums were inducted in 1991. The hall of fame was founded by Robert Hoffman.
After the Masters of Ceremonies Matt DeMarinis and Meredith Hynes exchanged some friendly jests, something that the audience has come to look forward to and enjoy every year, the audience, made up mostly by Jericho retirees, faculty and community members, were invited to discuss fond memories they’ve made over the years at these induction events.
Co-Principal David Cohen, Jericho Board of Education President Jill Citron and Superintendent Henry L. Grishman then delivered some proud remarks.
“To know that one of our core beliefs of the district aligns so strongly with the outstanding accomplishments of tonight’s inductees is both affirming and inspiring,” said Cohen. “Tonight marks a joyous and special event, a night where we will honor and celebrate four spectacular individuals who will be forever recognized in the Jericho Hall of Fame. I look forward to walking the halls of the high school, and taking the time to admire four new plaques on the wall of honor.”
Four seniors are selected to present an inductee. And DeMarinis and Hynes present each senior.
Hynes said there were many parallels between student Andres deGrasse and inductee Dr. Christopher Kelly, a pediatric doctor and a member of the class of 1992.
Student deGrasse’s passions include baseball, current events and government functions. Currently, he plans to go to school at Columbia University on a pre-med track. He wants to become a surgeon.
Student deGrasse went up to the podium to introduce Dr. Kelly.
“It is certainly a valiant life purpose to serve others in a time of serious crisis,” deGrasse said. “Coordinating a sound plan, directing others as a leader, making split-second decisions and providing a degree of comfort to people amid their perfect storm are some of the qualities that emergency pediatrics demands and that Dr. Chris Kelly embodies.”
As a student. Dr. Kelly was a multi-faceted scholar, as well as member of the track team and the captain of the swim team. He also worked on the school musical.
Dr. Kelly received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Binghamton and he attended medical school at SUNY Upstate. His first rotation was in pediatrics, and that was the field Dr. Kelly would choose to focus on. Dr. Kelly has worked with the New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital since 2005. Since, he became the chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. As the chief of the department, Dr. Kelly is able to conduct research.
Dr. Kelly said he was sad to say there is a mental health crisis among adolescents, and, along with his colleagues, he was on the front lines during the pandemic.
During that time, he was tending to mostly adults since the hospital was overwhelmed with sick and dying people. Eventually, Dr. Kelly would have to treat children again when they were coming into the hospital with the Covid-like illness, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.
“Kids happen to be awesome patients, they want to get better,” Dr. Kelly said.
But unfortunately, not all children do get better.
“This is when my job gets tough,” Dr. Kelly said. “Sometimes their headache that they’ve been suffering from for a few weeks isn’t due to having more screen time, but it’s due to an inoperable brain tumor that I have to tell a parent about… Sometimes the injury from the car accident weren’t minor after all, and I need to talk to a parent and say ‘despite my best efforts, I’m sorry but your child is dead.’ These moments, thankfully, are very infrequent and not when I need to be a good doctor, but when I need to be a good human being.”
Next up was student Ava Thanus presenting two-time Emmy award-winning journalist Dana Arschin Kraslow, a member of the class of 2005.
“Ava has the most incredible ability to connect with others,” Hynes said. “Not only is she friendly and kind, but she is somehow always engaged in what other people have to say as well as engaging with what she shares about herself. I don’t know how she has the energy.”
Like the inductee she would present, Thanus is a journalist, working for the student publication JerEcho. Thanus will be heading to New York University in the fall to study biology.
“The city does not even know what’s going to hit it,” Hynes said.
Thanus began her presentation by thanking Hynes, and appreciating the feedback at a time when she was reflecting on her impact on the school community.
Arschin has never missed an opportunity, Thanus said. In high school, Arschin played basketball, varsity softball and served as captain of the varsity volleyball team. She excelled in academics and extracurriculars as well. Arschin has always loved journalism, and that’s the field she would choose, working locally for News 12 and then Fox 5.
“She loved meeting people and telling their stories, but she came to realize that there was a greater story she wanted to tell,” Thanus said.
Arschin’s ancestors were murdered during the Holocaust, But her grandfather lived to tell Arschin his story, as well as the stories of other Holocaust victims. Arschin would go on to interview Holocaust survivors as part of a series on Fox 5. She now works as a storyteller at the Nassau County Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center (HMTC) in Glen Cove.
In 2018, Arschin traveled to Poland to visit concentration camps and learn more about her family’s story. She would document this journey for Fox 5.
Arschin said getting inducted is incredibly meaningful for her since she grew up in the district from kindergarten on.
“My passion for [sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors] comes from my maternal grandfather, my poppi,” Arschin said. “He is an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor. We just celebrated his 101st birthday.”
Her trip to Poland inspired Arschin to strictly tell stories of Holocaust survivors. Through her company DJK Communications, Arschin is the first-ever story teller at HMTC, using all the skills she’s picked up throughout her career to tell the stories of Holocaust survivors through short films. She’s interviewed 21 survivors since September. She also uses social media to tell their stories.
Following Arschin was student Kathryn Weinberger presenting documentarian and political advisor Blake Zeff, class of 1995.
“Kathryn is the kind of person whose personality comes through from the first moment when you are in conversation,” DeMarinis said. “Kathryn is energetic, curious, well-read, fun and interesting.”
Weinberger said joining the theater program has been among her greatest memories during her high school career. She helped co-write the winning application of the U.S. Frozen’s Love Is An Open Door contest, which made Jericho High School one of the few first schools to stage the musical, Frozen. Weinberger will be attending Yale University in the fall.
“When I learned that I would be introducing Mr. Blake Zeff at the Jericho Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the first thing I did was Google him to find out more information,” Weinberger said. “And to be honest, I was a little intimidated. To say that he wore many different hats is an understatement. He’s worked for Chuck Schumer [as a communication director] and Barack Obama [as an aide.] He’s been an MSNBC guest host. He’s been a director in the New York Attorney General’s Office. And that’s just to name a few.”
Even as a high school student, Zeff would run for positions in student government. He attended Brown University.
While working on Capital Hill and learning more about government and policy, Zeff realized he wanted to share his own voice. This led him down the path of media and journalism.
“After seeing his wife struggling to pay off her student loans, he was moved to begin conducting research on the student loan debt crisis in America,” Weinberger said. “Six years later, his work culminated in an incredible documentary exposing the true impacts of student loan debt on a personal and nationwide level.”
The documentary is called Loan Wolves.
“I remember being a Jericho student in 1995, on this stage, presenting this same honor…,” Zeff said. “But I also remember at that time believing that I might do something with my life that would make my family and community proud.”
When Zeff found out that he was going to be inducted into the hall of fame, he started reflecting on his memories in the Jericho community, including playing sports until it was dark, having family dinners with parents and siblings, participating in Little League and much more.
“Being a student at Jericho High School gave me the courage to believe we could achieve anything,” Zeff said.
And finally, Breanna Crossman presented Robert Hahn, a professor of philosophy and Greek studies and an author. He is a member of the class of 1970.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Breanna now for three years and it’s an honor to introduce her tonight,” DeMarinis said.
Faculty members called her a wonderfully curious person, a strong academic and a brilliant person who can challenge others’ ideas in a respectful manner. She is well-read and kind. Crossman volunteered as a youth leader for Camp Color, where middle school students could build connections after a period of online learning during the pandemic. Her English teacher said she fostered a great sense of community among the campers.
Crossman said she was beyond excited to present Hahn, as she is a fan of history classics.
Hahn is the author of books like Metaphysics of the Pythagorean Theorem and Anaximander.
He received a phD in philosophy at age 23.
As a student at Jericho High School, Hahn was involved with the student council, published his poetry, played trombone and played Varsity tennis.
“In the summer of 1971, he took a class of transcendental meditation, a choice that would change his life forever,” Crossman said. “With improved energy and focus, he graduated as valedictorian from the College of Arts… He was commended as a real scholar by the president of the college. He heard of Yale’s new program in classics, philosophy and ancient sciences from another student and was admitted on a full scholarship.”
As an educator, Hahn takes learning to a new level through his study abroad program, where he takes students to Greece, Egypt and Turkey. He teaches students about ancient civilizations through hands-on activities like re-creating the trial of Socrates in an ancient council chamber.
Hahn showed the audience a presentation he made and talked about his days in high school, his family, how the people he knew and connections he made helped him to get to where he is today and about his study abroad program. He also talked about his books and brought copies to donate locally.
He also spoke about how his older daughter is graduating from college and how his younger daughter is finishing her freshman year in college. Just last year, he said, he was in Crossman’s shoes of preparing for college.
He touched on how different the Birchwood area was when he moved there as a child in 1956.
“When we were moving in, the houses were just being built,” Hahn said. “All the roads were dirt. There was no pavement… There was no mail delivery, we had to go up and get the mail [from the general store that doubled as a post office].”