Jamie Evan Bichelman

The Evolution of Emily Rosenfeld

Emily Rosenfeld in front of the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem in February 2023. Photo Credit: Adina Knopfler

Discussing Broadway, brains, and brawn with the bold Ivy League freshman bound for success

She stands stoic, poised, ready to unleash—symbolically and literally—what feels like limitless potential.

Indeed, the drawn arrow in Emily Rosenfeld’s grip metaphorically represents so much more than a molded combination of wood and metal ready to take flight. From her recruitment as a Division I student-athlete at Ivy League university Columbia to her training with the Israeli national team during this gap year after her graduation from The Ramaz School, in this very moment, the creative, intellectually-gifted, and athletically-talented incoming freshman’s arrow soaring through the sunny Israeli sky feels deeply foretelling of the profound success that awaits her.

“I’ve always been so goal-oriented and followed my own path,” she explained. “I just didn’t think I had the luxury to take a year off with my plan to be a competitive archer and hopefully go to medical school. But truthfully, maybe that’s exactly what I needed!”

Emily Rosenfeld in New York in August 2022. Photo Credit: Jonathan Ressler, Extraordinary Women Exhibit

Though her mother likewise spent a gap year in Israel, it wasn’t always part of Emily’s life plan. The prolific Emily Rosenfeld manned the offensive line on the Ramaz Upper School varsity floor hockey team and is an advanced skier and a brown belt in Taekwondo. Rosenfeld’s prodigious athleticism is matched equally in the classroom, as she graduated from Ramaz with Honors Distinction, was awarded the Bausch + Lomb Honorary Science Award, the Swergold Memorial Talmud Award, and conducted extensive neuroscience research at establishments like Burke Neurological Institute, an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medicine. 

As a recruited athlete accepted to Columbia, she wanted to be certain that joining some close friends in Israel to focus on her Judaic studies at the Midreshet HaRova seminary program was the right decision for her. The idea of asking Columbia Archery head coach Derek Davis if she could take a gap year, however, wasn’t exactly the easiest task on her to-do list.

“I didn’t want to lose my spot on the team or disappoint Coach Davis. I have so much respect for him and wanted to make sure it worked for the team,” she confided. “Once I explained to Coach Davis why I wanted to do this, he was extremely supportive, as he is with all of his archers. He understood why this was important for me to do. This is what makes Coach Davis such a great coach, not just on the range but off. Once he gave his blessing, I submitted the deferral and Columbia approved it.”

A career taking flight

Emily Rosenfeld competes at the SoCal United States Archery Tournament in July 2021. Photo Credit: USA Archery

With the peace of mind granted and support from the university behind her, she knew she wanted to return to Columbia a stronger archer than ever before once the gap year concluded. The summer prior, Emily, who is nationally-ranked in the United States and was the two-time New York State U18 Recurve Indoor Champion in 2021 and 2022, was slated to represent Team USA in the Maccabi Games in Israel. 

That was, until archery was dropped from the competition. Though a disappointing blow, she met Guy Matzkin, an elite archer and sport psychologist who now serves as the Secretary General of the Israel Archery Association.

“I originally planned to shoot at a range in Jerusalem closer to my school, but Guy was so generous and invited me to shoot and train at Wingate in Netanya,” she said of her experience with Matzkin, who also served as IAA’s former head coach. “I also met a few Israeli archers along the way, and one in particular, Shahar Kleiner, was extremely helpful early on in helping me identify places to shoot.”

Intent on never letting her archery skills wane amid the breathtaking spiritual, cultural and social experiences that awaited her, she sacrificed early mornings and long travel to accommodate this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s been so incredible,” she proudly recalled. “I love shooting there. It’s a bit of a commute from Jerusalem to Netanya, but totally worth it, even if I have to sometimes wake up at 6:30 a.m. to get there. Head Coach Richard Priestman has been really helpful with my technique and my shot feels strong. Also, this climate has been great because I can shoot outdoors here all year round, unlike in New York.”

The support from Columbia and Coach Davis, buoyed by the acceptance and encouragement from Coach Priestman, Matzkin, and the Israeli team, allows Emily to thrive both on and off the range during her time in Israel.

Emily Rosenfeld in the Old City of Jerusalem in February 2023. Photo Credit: Adina Knopfler

“I feel incredibly lucky to be living in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Rova, the Jewish Quarter,” she said. “Living here and being able to learn here is so magical. It’s impossible not to feel connected to my Jewish heritage when I get to walk the cobblestone streets of my ancestors. Not only do my seminary classes feed my neshama (soul) and inspire religious growth, but I’m also so close to the Kotel (The Western Wall), the holiest place for Jews!

“Friends and family have asked me to put notes in the Kotel for them and to daven (pray) for sick family members. I just love the energy here, seeing Jews from all walks of life but also people from all religions. It’s also very convenient to see friends. At some point, everyone makes it to the Old City or the Kotel. You eventually run into everyone you know here totally unexpectedly.”

Memory-making off the range

Emily Rosenfeld on the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem in February 2023. Photo Credit: Adina Knopfler

When asked to name her favorite locations, the list was as boundless as her spirit. From Tzfat to Eilat and beyond, the prospect of seeing every nook and cranny of Israel excited her.

“Herzliya is really nice. I’ve spent some time there since it’s close to Wingate. And the beaches in Israel are beautiful,” she said. “But to juxtapose that, I’ve been to Chevron twice, once on Shabbat Chayei Sara. That was an incredible experience, with tens of thousands of Jews camping out in tents and dorms for that special Shabbos and visiting Ma’aras HaMachpela (The Cave of the Patriarchs), another holy site.”

Naturally, our conversation turns to coffee (as many of my discussions often do.) A native New Yorker, she boasts a discerning taste for a great cup of coffee. Could the quality of a Manhattan latte ever be matched in Israel?

Emily Rosenfeld at the Rova Coffee House in the Old City of Jerusalem in February 2023. Photo Credit: Adina Knopfler

“Well, I always thought Manhattan had the best coffee,” she explained. “So when I got to Israel, I figured nothing would live up to that until I found the Rova Coffee House in the Old City. It’s an adorable, cozy local spot with great coffee and yummy things like avocado toast and this delicious oatmeal bowl. They’re also beyond nice and friendly there. Shout-out to Eitan, who always knows my order.”

Her time in Israel will no doubt harness her archery abilities and make her a stronger competitor poised for success once she joins the Columbia team this fall to prepare for the 2024 season. The social experiences, too, have guided a maturation process evident in every word she speaks.

“I’ve become much more independent, street smart, and I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff,” she explained, qualities that will certainly serve her well as a young adult in New York City.

Then, a profound reflection befitting the eloquent incoming freshman: “I realized that taking a gap year in Israel was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and important to building a foundation for my spirituality and Judaism, a connection with Israel, and an opportunity to grow as a person and be independent. Also, there is so much antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the world today that I felt this time spent in Israel would be fundamental to my development and confidence as a proud Jew.”

Emily Rosenfeld’s delicate balancing act

Emily Rosenfeld (bottom center) as Molly in Annie the Musical on Broadway. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

An arrow flying through the air is stabilized by fletching, helping the arrow (ideally) maintain its intended flight path. As Rosenfeld’s arrow flies perfectly on-course, nailing its intended target, I can’t help but think any deviation from one career path to the next is the delicate, intentional act of a skilled archer. 

“The one motto I’ve always lived my life by is ‘always an adventure, never boring,’” she said. “No matter what happens in life, good or bad, I try to look at things this way. And everything here in Israel has definitely been an adventure and definitely not boring!”

By age 7, the talented actor, singer, and dancer auditioned in New York City for the 2012 Broadway revival of Annie the Musical, earning the coveted role of Molly and debuting on Broadway a year later. From performances at Carnegie Hall to appearances at the Tony Awards, New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Katie Couric Show, and countless others, she’s never shied away from the spotlight. 

Ever the sports fan, Rosenfeld’s career highlights also include a solo performance of the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden for more than 18,000 people at a New York Rangers game, as well as singing the anthem with the Broadway Youth Ensemble at Yankee Stadium.

“In the past, balancing my academics, acting jobs, auditions, archery, and commuting meant I had to choose really carefully with whom I was willing to invest my time since it was so limited,” she said. “This gap year has been great because I’m getting the chance to be more social and balance things a bit better.”

The vigorous work ethic she exhibits in every endeavor was cultivated, in many ways, during her early years on stage.

“Being on Broadway and doing professional theater was the most positive experience for me and I loved every single minute,” she explained. “It was definitely a high performing for big audiences, but I also loved the relationships I built with the people I worked with and becoming part of a team and this greater Broadway community.

“It also gave me my work ethic. Being a theater kid is no joke. I have so much respect for theater kids (and their parents!) in everything they have to do in a day.”

Off the stage, amusing anecdotes abound. At the height of the popularity of Annie on Broadway and her performance in the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, passersby who recognized her would call her by the name of the role she played, Molly. “Now, I get ‘Hey, you’re the girl with the bow and arrow!’”

Emily Rosenfeld at Ramaz Upper School on National Signing Day in February 2022. Photo Courtesy of Emily Rosenfeld

While she hones her focus on enjoying the rest of her time in Israel, Rosenfeld is looking forward to meeting her collegiate archery teammates. She’s excited for her future at Columbia, where she plans to major in Neuroscience and align her studies on the pre-med track. This summer she will be joining the staff at Camp Simcha, a camp for children and teens with cancer, as well as conducting cardiovascular research at NYU Langone Health and competing in national archery tournaments.

As for her plans during the occasional time away from the studying, practicing, and work that’s shaped her into the accomplished young adult she is today?

“I’m excited to get a latte with some friends and catch up on all the Broadway Shows I’ve missed!”

About the Author
Jamie Evan Bichelman is a marketing and communications professional, as well as a mental health expert and researcher with a straight-A graduate education at Harvard's Extension School and in New York University's graduate mental health counseling program. Jamie is a proud Jewish man and vegan and has been a lifelong disability rights advocate.
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