Victoria Ardelean reaches out to her community
Photo: Courtesy Victoria Ardelean
“What is your intention, your kavanah, for today?” said Victoria Ardelean, a freshman at the Joint Program of Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. “I want to help my supporters realize their kavanah, in order to greater impact their own lives and that of their community.”

Freshman determined to finance college with kavanah, Fundly

By Deb Silverthorn
A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. For one whose Hebrew name is Vered, the life of Victoria Ardelean, 19, gets sweeter every day. Ardelean’s path to Judaism has been unconventional and began at the Aaron Family JCC’s preschool. She loved everything Jewish, and as she grew a bit older she realized it wasn’t her religion. She began attending religious school at Temple Shalom and eventually went through conversion with Rabbi Andrew Paley.
Now, the freshman at the Joint Program between the School of General Studies of Columbia University and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary has planted herself deeply into her studies (economics and Jewish ethics) and is reaching out to the community, with kavanah, with intention, to help her grow.
“I grew up in a household where the focus wasn’t yesterday, or tomorrow, but to remember what you stand for today. What is your intention, your kavanah, for today,” Ardelean said. “I want to help my supporters realize their kavanah, in order to greater impact their own lives and that of their community.”
To fund her education, Ardelean has received scholarships, saved earnings since she began working at age 14 and has secured student loans. In addition to her 20-hour course load, she works at a New York Hebrew school, while remotely continuing her marketing efforts for Dallas’ Coffee House Café. On a tight budget (she’s skipped the school’s meal plan and is cooking for herself), she’s cleared 75% of her tuition for this year. She still needs nearly $76,000 to complete her program.
As such, she turned to Fundly. Depending on the amount shared (giving levels start at $10), donors can receive stickers, bookmarks, notebooks and/or leather and silver bracelets – with the word kavanah in Hebrew – all items designed by Ardelean, an entrepreneur extraordinaire. At graduation, any monies raised over her schooling needs will be donated to BBYO.
Ardelean’s path to Judaism has been unconventional and she chose to formalize it with a conversion at Temple Shalom.
“Feeling Jewish is all I’ve ever known,” said Ardelean, whose mother visited 19 preschools before choosing the Jewish Community Center. “I made apples and honey Rosh Hashanah projects, paper chains for Sukkot and waited to be the Shabbos Queen. I didn’t know Judaism wasn’t ‘mine. When I did, I wanted, needed, it to be. Judaism allows me to fully and authentically embrace myself.”
Temple Shalom’s Rabbi Andrew Paley, who’s known Ardelean since she was young, was honored she chose him to oversee her conversion, a decision she made herself. “Victoria’s always been a thoughtful seeker and lover of Judaism with a Jewish soul needing a way to sprout and grow,” He said.
“For her the more philosophical or more learned her studies the better,” the rabbi continued. “Studying, mikvah and beit din were just the start to her story and I’m honored to have played a part.”
A Dallas native, Ardelean is the daughter of Carrie Stein and Marius Ardelean and sister of Chloe, Evan, Harper and Lainey. A Plano West Senior High graduate, and former BBYO Weinstein chapter member, she also served on BBYO’s Regional Board.
“I can’t support Victoria enough. She’s determined, intent and true – everything a parent could hope for,” Stein said. “We used to sit at the breakfast table discussing our day’s ‘kavanah,’ our plan. Now, 1,500 miles apart, we still have those conversations, they’re just over FaceTime.”
A future, with stamps from Columbia and The Jewish Theological Seminary, are the absolute definitions of intention, as Ardelean comes to the schools, to her name Vered and to the Jewish life that is hers.
“Each year, roses are born anew, just as I was within the Jewish faith. They develop into a layered, three-dimensional organism as I hope to,” Ardelean said of her Hebrew moniker. “Vered is a reminder of who I am, what my past in this faith was, and who I hope to be.”
To participate in the Kavanah Fundly effort, visit

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