Jew You Should Know: Akiva Futter

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By Jacqueline Hyman, opinion editor, @jacqbh58

Akiva Futter prepares to give closing remarks at JHacks, the Shabbat-friendly hackathon the senior computer science major organized in February. Photo courtesy of Akiva Futter.

Akiva Futter prepares to give closing remarks at JHacks, the Shabbat-friendly hackathon the senior computer science major organized in February. Photo courtesy of Akiva Futter.

When senior computer science major Akiva Futter noticed that most hackathons take place between Friday and Saturday nights, impeding observant Jews from participating, he created JHacks.

JHacks’s purpose is to plan hackathons that occur from Saturday to Sunday nights, allowing Jews and anyone else to participate.

“The idea behind the event was to meet a need of the community, the broader community,” said Futter, who is president of JHacks. “Not just the Maryland Hillel community or the Maryland community, but this broader Jewish need.”

Futter created JHacks almost a year before the actual hackathon took place and used that time to plan the event, which occurred the weekend of Feb. 12.

As if planning a nationally attended hackathon wasn’t enough, Futter has also had several leadership positions in other campus organizations, such as Kedma board member, director of legislative affairs for Terps for Israel and American Israel Public Affairs Committee campus liaison.

“I kind of view him as someone who’s always trying to accomplish a little more than what he’s already done,” said junior computer engineering major Jeremy Felder, who is the vice president of JHacks.

Futter said being involved with so many groups allows him to take an active role in issues he is passionate about.

“When you leave college, I feel like you don’t get those type of leadership opportunities until you’re much older and you’ve been around much longer,” Futter said. “I feel like, it’s just you have such an opportunity to make an impact on a lot of people.”

He said after the hackathon, JHacks learned a lot about which aspects of the hackathon should be kept, and what they should change for next year.

Futter, who was originally planning on becoming an architecture major, decided to switch to computer science while on gap year in Israel in 2012.

“I’m planning on moving to Israel this summer, and the computer science scene out there is huge, unemployment’s like next to nothing,” Futter said, “and … it’s a very usable skill that’s very needed.”

He also practices daf yomi, which means he studies one folio of the Talmud per day, said junior mechanical engineering major Gedaliah Knizhnik, who also engages in this custom.

“I would describe Akiva as very hard-working and goal-oriented and determined,” Knizhnik said. “He is one of the most determined people I know. When he decides he’s going to do something he gets it done.”

Learning in chevruta, or with a partner, at Kedma's "Partner Up" Jewish learning event in Feb. 2016. Photo courtesy of Akiva Futter.

Learning in chevruta, or with a partner, at Kedma’s “Partner Up” Jewish learning event this spring. Photo courtesy of Akiva Futter.

Felder said Futter is very detail-oriented and will stay up until 3 a.m. perfecting one paragraph of an essay if he has to.

“[It’s] good for keeping track of things and getting things done in a timely matter,” said Felder, who worked with Futter to plan the JHacks hackathon.

Futter said he is very focused and driven and always has something on his mind, but some hobbies help him relax.

“Running’s the one time when I’m not thinking,” Futter said.

Regardless, he enjoys all of his activities.

“It’s really fulfilling and rewarding when people come up and say, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” Futter said.

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