Celeste chose to major in History with a concentration in Intellectual History to study the evolution of human thought, culture, and expression. During Celeste’s first semester, she enrolled in Professor Alan Kors’ course on the intellectual history of the 17th century. Compelled by the intellectual vivacity of the syllabus, Celeste grappled with some of the greatest minds in history. At the end of the semester, Professor Kors advised her to declare an intellectual history major, so that she could take both of his final courses at Penn before his retirement. It was the right decision for Celeste, and she has learned that it is impossible to understand the complicated organism humans have become without studying our many roots. She recognizes the intrinsic, universal significance of thought and the importance of thoughtfulness.
Celeste is also a member of the Philomathean Society, founded in 1813 and is the oldest student group at Penn. This intellectual literary society is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operating college literary society in the U.S. Active on campus attending regular meetings, lectures, art shows, and other campus events, Celeste is simultaneously part of Penn’s history and future.
During her time at Penn, Celeste founded and serves as Editor-In-Chief of OR: A Journal of Judaism, Philosophy, Politics, and Culture. OR, which means “light” in Hebrew, is intended to communicate a plurality of views to create a forum for people with varying political and cultural perspectives to communicate about issues that they care about. This national intercollegiate journal has produced six online issues and one print issue since it debuted in February 2016. For Celeste, studying philosophy, art, history, and poetry at Penn has inspired her to further explore her own heritage and to produce the journal, which she hopes will help others do the same.
In her freshman year, Celeste cohosted Penn’s Government and Politics radio show, “The Divided Line,” and served as co-chair of Hillel’s Scholar in Residence Committee. An avid writer, Celeste has been published by The American Thinker, The American Conservative, The Jewish Press, and The Spectrum.
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Celeste is passionate about social change and is seeking new ways to tell stories across all media. With guidance from her advisor, Peter Decherney, a professor of Cinema Studies and English in the College of Arts & Sciences, she found a project that has made a difference. For her independent study through the English department, Celeste chose to work with Philadelphia’s S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School located in southwest Philadelphia. Penn’s chaplain, Chaz Howard, introduced her to the school, which has a reputation for excellence despite challenging economic conditions. During her semester-long independent study, Celeste created a website to raise awareness about the successes and the needs of the school. The site was designed to share Mitchell Elementary School’s impact on the neighborhood through powerful visual storytelling. The website has helped the community better understand how the school acts as a hub for area residents and supports the school’s mission through service projects and fundraising. Inspired by the experience, Celeste has continued to work with the elementary school beyond the conclusion of her independent study.
Celeste is also the founder of Helping Hand, which facilitates the coupling and exchange of supplies between city public and private schools in Philadelphia and its suburbs.
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During her sophomore year, Celeste spent a semester studying at Hebrew University in Israel. While abroad, Celeste wanted to engage in a personal study of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and decided to interview one of her professors about a program for Palestinian students at Hebrew University. The program, of which the professor was a key designer, provides Palestinians with the skills they need to get jobs in Israel. This was an impactful experience for Celeste, and was a highlight of her time in Jerusalem.