New chesed coordinator plans out-of-state trips


Ezra Fax

SERVICE: Mrs. Sarah Leah Gormin’s passion for Judaism led her to become religious as a college student.

By Eva Suissa, Staff Writer

As a high schooler, Mrs. Sarah Leah Gormin spent her time cheering for the Pacifica High School Seadogs in Orange County, creating art, making her own clothes and jamming out to punk rock music.

But though she loved going to high-energy concerts of rock bands like Ransed and the Dead Kennedys, there was something she found even more exciting — Judaism.

To her it was as exciting as concerts.

“It’s that same [feeling of] a whole group of people out for the same cause,” said Mrs. Gormin, Shalhevet’s new chessed – community service — coordinator. “Like when you’re all singing ‘Lecha dodi’ on Friday night. It gives you a lot of energy and power to your neshama,” or soul.

Now she will try to bring that spirit to chessed at Shalhevet. Dates have already been set for her to take juniors and sophomores on first-ever out-of-town mitzvah trips, one in December and one in February, and probably outside of California.

Although the exact details have not been finalized, the plan is to help both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, through local synagogues and organizations like Habitat for Humanity. 

Mrs. Gormin said it gives Jewish communities a lot of chizook, or strength, to see passionate teens helping shuls by running the kids program, setting up Kiddush and leading prayers.

Administrators Mr. Weslow, general studies principal, and Reb Weissman, Judaics studies principal, are both excited for these trips.

Mr. Weslow thinks an out-of-town trip will have a great impact.

“Typically we just stay local for those kind of trips, and so to kind of have a real impact outside of Los Angeles community, it’s going to be powerful,” said Weslow.

Reb Weissman hopes the trip will help instill chessed into Shalhevet students.

“What I want students to accomplish is to internalize the value of chessed as an incredibly important part of their both Jewish identity and human identity,” said Weissman.

Details of the trip are still in progress. The10th grade was originally going to San Francisco, but Mrs. Gormin now wants to take them somewhere further. And for the 11th grade she’s deciding between South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Texas.

Along with these trips, Mrs. Gormin wants to bring chessed opportunities into school, so students can “focus more on the actual act of giving versus how many hours and ‘How am I going to get there, and where am I gonna go,’” she said.

Because she was always “the super Jew” of her family, involved both in synagogue and a Jewish youth group, it felt natural for her to turn Orthodox at age 19.  Mrs. Gormin is married to Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Derek Gormin, whom she met at UC Irvine’s Hillel. They became more observant together. 

Mrs. Gormin later worked for the Orange County Hillel, Jewlicious — a Shabbat festival for college students — and NCSY, where she’s been working alongside Rabbi Gormin for five years.

She studied art and art history at Cal State Long Beach and enjoys drawing, pottery and sewing.

She also is busy being a mother. The Gormins’ four children range in age from 7 to 1 and attend Yeshiva Ketana in the San Fernando Valley. Their 4-year-old, Zissel, like her mother enjoys drawing.

Mrs. Gormin decided not to pursue an art career after college because she wanted to focus on her newborn baby. But she later decided to go back to school for a year at Emperor’s College in Santa Monica to pursue another one of her passions — holistic medicine, specifically acupuncture, because she loves helping people.

And loving to help people is exactly Mrs. Gormin’s job description for the coming year.