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Cohort II

 

Cohort II Profile

Cohort II is a diverse group of 21 educators. Participants range in age, affiliation, work experience, and areas of field interest.
 

Organizations represented: 

Aish Hatorah, Beth Jacob of Oakland Synagogue, Birthright Israel, B’nei Brith Youth Organization, Camp Stone, Cedar Sinai Synagogue, Chabad, Fuchs Mizrachi School, Hillel, Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, Joint Distribution Committee, Kehillah School, Maayanot, Manhattan Day School, Mendel Jewish Community Center, National Council of Synagogue Youth, San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education, SAR Academy, Yeshiva University, Yeshiva University Los Angeles High School 

 

Cohort II Participants

 

Michael Davies

Ross Diamond

Adam Eilath

Sarah Gordon

Jessie Greenspan

Melissa Hertwig

Hezzy Jesin

Kayla Kahn

Shalom Kantor

Aaron Levi

Mordechai Lightstone

Kenny Pollack

Judith Schiller

Gaby Schoenfeld

Avraham Shandrovsky

Sara Smith

Samantha Star

Zachary Truboff

Levi Zeffren


Michael Davies

Associate Rabbi – Beth Jacob Congregation. Oakland, California.

Michael Davies grew up in Northern New Jersey where he attended yeshiva day school and high school. He spent two years studying in Israel after high school at Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Zion and then went on to receive his Bachelor’s Degree in accounting from Yeshiva University. While completing his studies for ordination at RIETS, Michael was privileged to spend an additional two years of study at the RIETS Israel Kollel (Gruss). In his final year of Semicha, he interned at Ramaz Upper School of Manhattan, East Hill Synagogue in Englewood, NJ and the Riverdale Jewish Center in Bronx, NY. After completing Semicha, he became the first Assistant then Associate Rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, California. Michael lives in Oakland with his wife, Ora, and their two wonderful children.

Through his experiences, aside from his work at Beth Jacob, Michael has had the opportunity to take part in many areas of education. From formal teaching in a day school classroom at Oakland Hebrew Day School, to informal settings as a counselor and then division head in a number of sleep away camps, to mentoring staff as a coordinator in NCSY. He looks forward to the chance to hone his skills in the EJE certificate program.


Ross Diamond

Executive Director, George Mason University Hillel, Fairfax, VA

In 2004 Ross was approached while volunteering at Penn State’s dance marathon and asked “Are you Jewish?” and “Do you want to go on Birthright?” These questions changed Ross’ life forever. After a year of being a leader in Hillel at Penn State Ross ventured back to Israel only to meet an amazing Canadian named Sarah at the JFK airport in New York. An amazing conversation at the Kotel (Western Wall) left them both feeling a connection to each other that carried them through four years of dating internationally. They were married under the Chuppah on July 5th 2009. The morning of his wedding he jumped in the famous Rideau Canal for a ritual mikvah.

After immigrating to Canada officially in March 2010, Ross began working for KPMG in Ottawa. He realized quickly that his zeal for working with people and community building would not be satisfied with his participation in a Jewish young professional planning committee or leading the first Ottawa Social Action Mission to Israel. After hearing the departure of previous Hillel Ottawa Director he saw an opportunity and served as the Executive Director of Hillel Ottawa for two years.

In the spring of 2012, Ross and Sarah decided to leave Ottawa and begin a new chapter in their life in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Ross’ desire to stay on campus engaging Jewish students made Hillel the obvious organization of choice. Fate would have it that GMU Hillel was engaged in a search for a new Director at the same time Ross was searching for a new campus role. He is incredibly excited about the potential for growth at GMU Hillel. As in Ottawa, Ross intends to continually pay forward the gift that was given to him by working to inspire Jewish students at Mason to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life.


Adam Eilath

Teacher – Kehilla Jewish High School. Palo Alto, California.

Adam Eilath is a Jewish Studies and History teacher at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto. Adam is passionate about engaging in Talmud and Tanakh through pop culture and different artistic mediums. Before moving to the Bay Area, Adam lived in Israel where he worked in a number of educational settings including Mizrach Shemesh and the Nesiya Institute. Adam has a BA in Jewish Studies from McGill University, an MA in Jewish Thought and Talmud from Tel Aviv University and a certificate in Jewish Education from the Shalom Hartman Institute. Adam is thrilled to a part of cohort II!


Sarah Gordon

Director of Student Activities & Teacher – Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School. New York, New York.

Sarah Gordon was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. After finishing high school, she spent a year and a half studying in Israel and then attended Stern College for Women where she majored in Judaic Studies and Philosophy. Sarah then spent two years studying in GPATS and holds dual MA degrees in Jewish Education and Modern Jewish History from Yeshiva University. Sarah has an extensive background in informal Jewish education and has served as a Rosh Eidah (Division Head), Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) and Rosh Machal (Program Head) at Camp Stone, a Rosh Bus (Program Head) for Bnei Akiva’s Mach Hach Ba’Aretz Program and Rosh Chinuch (Educational Director) for Moshava Ba’ir Day Camp. Currently, Sarah teaches Gemara and Jewish Philosophy at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School and serves as its Director of Student Activities where she is in charge of planning programming for chagim, school Shabbatonim and trips, Color War and working with student leaders. Sarah enjoys creating original programs which push students to think outside the box and helping students plan and implement their own programming ideas. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys biking, tennis and hiking anywhere outside of New York City.


Jessie Greenspan

Program Associate – BBYO. Lake Ontario Region, Canada.

Jessie grew up in Toronto Canada, being a very active participant in her Jewish community. She started off at a young age going to her local Conservative Shul with her family every Shabbat and Chag which is where she began to grow her Jewish identity. With both of her parents being very active in synagogue life it was only natural for Jessie to follow. After being an active participant in USY in their leadership roles she went to her local college where she started up the Hillel program, which became very successful. After working in a spa she realized how much she missed being active in her community and began to search for a job that could fulfill that. Jessie is very happy to be working with BBYO and is always looking for ways to connect her teens to their Jewish identities.


Melissa Hertwig

Program Associate – BBYO Pacific Coast Region. Los Angeles, California.

Melissa has both a non-profit and for-profit background. She currently resides in Los Angeles, and is the Program Associate for Pacific Coast Region (PCR) BBYO that spans the Southern California area. Before coming on board with BBYO as a full time staff member, she was a long time advisor in PCR with excellent relationships with local volunteer advisors, parents and teens. Previous to her work in BBYO she had been working for seven years in the entertainment industry in reality television and indie films. In 2006, she co-created Higher Edge Scholars, a 501(c)(3) corporation designed to mentor high-achieving, low-income L.A. public high school students. Through workshops, application coaching, and SAT problem-solving, she successfully saw over eighty teenagers not only earn admission to top ranked schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Brown and UC Berkeley (my alma mater), but also secure substantial scholarships and grants to pay for their higher education.

Melissa strives to serve as a strong, positive, Jewish role model, always looking for ways to promote young Jewish urban growth through exploration and enrichment. She is a solution seeker, and always encourages the teens she works with to strive for excellence. She is thrilled to be working with Yeshiva University, and looks forward to figuring solutions to help the many unaffiliated teens in Los Angeles, her home, and her community.


Hezzy Jesin

Director of Student Life – Yeshiva University. New York, New York.

Hezzy Jesin is the Director of Student Life at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. He holds an MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, as well as a B.Ed. and B.A. from York University. Hezzy has had extensive experience working in the field of informal education in his previous position at CJF, as well as with organizations such as Hillel and Bnei Akiva.


Kayla Kahn

Engagement Associate – Penn State Hillel. University Park, Pennsylvania.

Kayla grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated with honors in May 2010 from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Writing Seminars and French. After visiting Israel on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip that summer, Kayla moved back to Tel Aviv for an internship at Tel Aviv University, where she coordinated programming for international students. She currently works at Penn State Hillel as an Engagement Associate, meeting students for coffee, staffing Israel and Alternative Break service trips, supervising interns, and facilitating campus events. She loves working with Jewish students through Hillel and is excited for the opportunity to grow personally and professionally as a part of the YU Certificate Program!


Shalom Kantor

Hillel Campus Rabbi – Binghamton University. Binghamton, New York.

Rabbi Shalom Kantor is the Hillel Campus Rabbi and an adjunct faculty member of the Judaic studies department at Binghamton University. He oversees everything from empowerment to engagement to making sure that the door is locked at night and loves every minute of it. Originally from Sun Valley Idaho, Rabbi Kantor learned the how to use the natural surroundings as a source for spiritual journey and peer engagement. Before he had to get serious about life and go to rabbinical school he spent a year in Jerusalem pursuing his love of culinary Judaism by working full time as the chief Wine Steward at the King David Hotel. When he is not hanging out with students he spends his time with his wife and two children in and around the Binghamton hills.


Aaron Levi

Program Coordinator – Diller Teen Fellows, Bureau of Jewish Education of San Francisco. San Francisco, California.

A native of Maryland, Aaron Levi grew up in the socialist-Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror. After graduating high school, he participated in his Year of Service in Israel, where he learned Hebrew with relish, lived in a commune, and volunteered. Upon his return, he briefly studied in Boston before settling into New York University. He concentrated in journalism, Judaic studies, and Hebrew. During this heady time, Aaron began teaching Hebrew and Judaic studies in synagogues and community organizations in Brooklyn and discovered his passion for informal education. Two years ago, Aaron once again captured the pioneering spirit by moving out West with his wife to the Bay Area. He now serves as the Diller Teen Fellows Program Coordinator, an international teen leadership program started in San Francisco 15 years ago. His hobbies include ruminations on Peoplehood, riding his motorcycle throughout Northern California, and road tripping with his wife.


Mordechai Lightstone

Director of Social Media and Senior Staff writer – Lubavitch.com. Brooklyn, New York.

Mordechai Lightstone is a rabbi by training, a journalist by profession and a blogger by choice. He has served as assistant rabbi in diverse communities including Poland, Lithuania, Italy and Peru. He is passionate about using New Media to further Jewish identity and community-building. He currently serves as Director of Social Media and Senior Staff writer for Lubavitch.com, the official website for Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters.


Kenny Pollack

Teacher – Fuchs Mizrachi School. Cleveland, Ohio.

Kenny grew up in Los Angeles, CA and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy and YULA High School. Following a year and a half at Sharei Mevaseret in Israel, he enrolled at Yeshiva University where he received his BA in Philosophy, a Masters in Jewish Education from Azrieli and Semicha from RIETS. During the summers throughout much of his young adult life, Kenny worked at Camp Stone in many positions including Rosh Machal and Sgan Rosh Mosh. His most impressive accomplishment from Camp however was meeting his wife Ilana. Kenny spent two years working for New Jersey NCSY both in their Junior division and also running their JSU clubs throughout New Jersey. They currently live in Cleveland, OH with their three boys where they both teach Judaic Studies in the Fuchs Mizrachi School.


Judith Schiller

Director – Retreat Institute, the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. Cleveland, Ohio.

Judith Schiller is the Director of the Retreat Institute (RI) of the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC). The RI works in collaboration with Jewish institutions in the Cleveland community to develop and integrate informal/experiential Jewish education retreats and programs with more formal Jewish education, for youth, families, and educators. She has been with the RI since 1997. Previously, she held positions in administration, teaching, and family education in Jewish institutions in the Cleveland community. Earlier career experience was in the field of Marketing and Corporate Training and Development. She earned a B.A. at Case Western Reserve University. She is a graduate of the Cleveland Fellows Program of the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in which she earned a Master’s Degree of Judaic Studies (1993). Judith is co editor with Dr. Jeffrey Schein of the book, Growing Together- Resources, Programs, and Experiences for Jewish Family Education, an ARE Publication, 2001. Originally from New York, she has made Cleveland her home many years, with her husband, Rick, a clinical psychologist. Their daughter lives in Brooklyn, NY and their son lives in Chicago.


Gaby Schoenfeld

Program Director for Service and Leadership, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

Gaby Schoenfeld has been at JDC since February 2011 and is the Program Director for the Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps, overseeing JDC’s multiweek and yearlong Service Corps fellowship programs, as well as its premier leadership opportunity, the Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship in International Jewish Service. Prior to this role, Gaby served as the Program Director of Short-Term Overseas Experiences at JDC where she managed all short-term service and study programs for college students and young professionals and led trips to Belarus, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey.

Gaby came to JDC most recently from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, where she was the assistant director for executive MPA programs and the dual degree program in nonprofit management and Hebrew and Judaic Studies and has worked for several other Jewish organizations in the U.S. and Israel.

Gaby holds a B.S. from Cornell University and an MPA from the Wagner School at NYU and was a Dorot Fellow in Israel in 2005-6.


Avraham Shandrovsky

Co-Director – Self Discovery. Jerusalem, Israel.

Avraham, originally from the Former Soviet Union, has spent the last six years living  in Jerusalem rediscovering, celebrating and sharing his Jewish heritage. He is a qualified Psychospiritual therapist and seminar facilitator with his own private practice. In recent years, he and his wife have introduced the beauty of Jewish family and wisdom to hundreds of Birthright students from America, Germany and FSU. He is Co-Director of Self Discovery, and organization dedicated to sharing Jewish Wisdom through experiential education. He is a member of the prestigious ROI community, recognized for his contribution to strengthening world Jewry. Avraham, Racheli and their beautiful daughter Chaya Orah reside in the northern suburbs of Jerusalem.


Sara Smith

Teacher – YULA Girls High School. Los Angeles, California.

Sara Smith, currently living in her hometown of Los Angeles, teaches Tanakh at YULA Girls School. She received her B.A from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and continued at Brandeis to receive her M.A.T., specializing in teaching high school Tanakh. Sara has spent her last six summers as an educator at Genesis at Brandeis University, working with participants in an experiential setting to build community from a diverse group of Jewish teenagers and engage with questions of Jewish identity.


Samantha Star

Coordinator – Birthright and Summer Programs. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Samantha Star was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. After successfully owning and operating a retail store for five years, she switched her focus to community work. After completing a year long leadership training program in 2010 – 2011, she led her first Taglit-Birthright Israel trip in June 2011. Shortly after, she joined the offices of the Bronfman Israel Experience Center as the Program Associate for the March of the Living. Samantha was responsible for facilitating and organizing various aspects of the program including educational seminars, Shabbatons and all the logistical aspects of the trip, for over 200 participants. Recently, she was promoted to the role of Coordinator of Birthright and Summer Programs. In this position, Samantha encompasses many different responsibilities. She is responsible for helping to coordinate the leadership training program for Taglit-Birthright Israel Madrichim, to organize and plan for participants, as well as to head the Grade 9 Dorot program for Montreal students.


Zachary Truboff

Senior Rabbi – Cedar Sinai Synagogue; Director of Jewish Life and Culture – Mandel JCC; Faculty Member – Torat Tzion Kollel. Cleveland, Ohio.

Since arriving in Cleveland, Zach’s leadership has led to a revitalization of Cedar Sinai Synagogue. Over 70 new member families have joined the shul, and there has been a series of dynamic programs that have engaged the entire Cleveland Jewish community. In addition to his work at the synagogue, Zach also teaches in a variety of adult education settings including the Torat Tzion Kollel and The Alvin and Laura Siegal College of Jewish Studies. At the Mandel JCC, he is working to develop programs that bring a broad segment of the Jewish community together and empower all Jews to deepen their connection to Judaism. Zach is originally from Sharon, Massachusetts and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he received a BS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. He studied and taught at Machon Pardes and received semikha from HaRav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Zach continued with his studies at YCT to pursue an additional semikha and professional training. He and his wife, Jennifer, have to boys, Nahum and Elihai.


Levi Zeffren

Regional Head Advisor and Programs Coordinator – Midwest NCSY; Associate Chapter Director – Skokie NCSY. Skokie, Illinois.

Levi Zeffren grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from Block Yeshiva High School in 2004, Levi spent two years in Israel continuing his Jewish education and beginning his college education. In 2006, Levi returned to the U.S. to continue his education at Touro College in Queens, New York and began working for Long Island NCSY as an informal educator in 2007. He transferred to Chicago, Illinois in January 2008, shortly after getting married, to work for Midwest NCSY and has since been working as an educator and mentor. Levi is a JSU club advisor for 3 schools in the Chicago metropolitan area, the Associate Chapter Director for Skokie NCSY and the Midwest NCSY Regional Head Advisor and Programs Coordinator. Levi served as a board member at Shaarei Tzedek Mishkan Yair in Chicago, and has consulted with Rabbis, teachers, youth directors and other youth organizations about better ways to reach out to teens today. Levi lives in Skokie, Illinois with his wife Alissa and their son, Ozzie.

“The YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education reinvigorated my motivation to creatively engage students in the Jewish Studies classroom. As a result of the program I am learning how to bring greater intentionality to my curriculum planning process and to my classroom protocols. The incredible speakers, dynamic workshops and meaningful communication between seminars are helping me create a cutting edge, multidisciplinary approach to teaching Jewish text in the 21st century.”
 
Adam Eilath, Educator, Kehilla Jewish High School, Palo Alto, CA (Cohort II)

 

“The YU Certificate Program in Experiential Education has helped me fundamentally reframe my approach to programming. I find myself asking more focused questions when planning a program, setting up specific goals before moving to logistics. Instead of asking “When will a program will happen?”, I’m asking “What do I want my students to take away from this program?” and allowing those goals to shape their experience. As a result, my programs are more focused, educational and meaningful for the student body.”
 
Sarah Gordon, Director of Student Activities, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School, New York, NY

 

“By working so closely with some of the most talented and inspiring young educators that I’ve encountered, I was able to pick up on their own subtle teaching-styles. Their approach and understanding of the material we learned brought greater depth and character to it.”
 
Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, Director of Social Media, Lubavitch.com

 

“In any educational position, the context is as important to the learner as it is to the instructor. We spent a lot of time putting things in context by discussing the trends in Judaism, the shifts that have taken place from the past generations to the present, and how these shifts will continue to take place in future generations.”
 
Kayla Kahn, Engagement Coordinator, Penn State Hillel