To Candice Daneshvar, walking into the School feels like coming home. The 1998 graduate, who attended Sinai Akiba for more than a decade, recently enrolled her two-year-old daughter in the Douglas Family Early Childhood Center (preschool) and notes that just being in the building fills her with a sense of contentment.
“These halls are my halls,” she says. “I remember the cracks in the staircases, the original carpets and floor plan. Coming to school with my daughter the first day, it was like nothing had changed.”
Of course, some things have changed: Today, Daneshvar is a highly accomplished obstetrician-gynecologist at a successful practice at Cedars-Sinai. Her road from Sinai Akiba has taken her across the city (to the Brentwood School and then on to UCLA) and around the nation (to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine), but no matter how far she has traveled, she always comes back to where it all began.
“I remember every single teacher at Sinai Akiba, from every single year I was there. They became part of my family,” Daneshvar says. The school was also where she built some of her most enduring friendships. “Two of my classmates walked down the aisle at my wedding,” she says. “We’re totally different people than we were when we were here, but the bonds have withstood the test of time. We may not see each other often, but if one of my Sinai Akiba friends called me now and said, ‘Drop everything,’ I would.”
Daneshvar says her formative years at the school had a profound influence on the person she would become. The curriculum at Sinai Akiba fostered a love of science that came out of growing up with a physician father, and the Jewish feeling that permeated every aspect of the school continues to inform her strong spiritual and cultural affiliation.
“Sinai Akiba definitely set the Jewish foundation for my life,” she says. “I might not be the most religious person, but what I took away from the school was an understanding of where I come from and what that means.” Daneshvar hopes the school will help plant the same seed of self-awareness in her daughter. “When you think Sinai, you think \ community, and that’s what I want for my own kid,” she says.
Other Sinai Akiba memories hold particular resonance for Daneshvar, as well. “I loved playing basketball, and we went all the way to the championships!” she says. “We were the first all-girls team to get that far.” She also loved the bi-monthly visits to a local old-age home. “It left a huge impact on me,” she says. “I really enjoyed being able to brighten seniors’ days and put smiles on their faces.”
Looking back, Daneshvar says her elementary and junior high school experience left an indelible impression – more so than other rites of passage. “I may not remember a lot of things from high school and beyond, but I have not forgotten many of my moments from Sinai,” she says.