Stephanie BekermanIACT Coordinator
Stephanie Bekerman is a transplant to UMD, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2015 where she studied marketing and management. As Maryland Hillel’s IACT Coordinator, Stephanie loves everything about Israel from exploring Tzfat to eating delicious rugelach in the Shuk! Stephanie is excited to share Birthright Israel experiences with Maryland Hillel. In her spare time, she is always ready to watch a romcom movie marathon, loves dancing, traveling, and makes latkes like your grandma!
Allison BuchmanDirector of Operations
Allison Buchman is the Associate Director at Maryland Hillel, where she has been on staff in various roles for the past 10 years. Prior to working at Maryland Hillel, Allison worked for BBYO for many years, honing her Jewish education and leadership training skills in both the Michigan Region and Northern Region East. Allison is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, teaching Jewish Leadership. Allison lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband Ira Miller, who is also in the Jewish education field, and their two super cute daughters!
Elan BurmanCapital Campaign Director
After moving back home to South Africa for a few years, Elan returned to the Washington DC area in 2014 where he was working as the Director of Planned and Major Giving for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. In 2016, he decided to “return home” and assumed the role of Capital Campaign Director for Maryland Hillel, steering financial resource development efforts for our new building. Elan completed a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, majoring in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Cape Town. He holds a Masters Degree in Jewish Communal Service with an emphasis in fundraising from Brandeis University. In 2016, he completed his Masters in Information Systems degree through Northwestern University. He is married to Jackie and is the proud father of Dina and Ariel. In his spare time he enjoys cooking (well eating actually), swimming, reading biographies and current affairs, and volunteering.
Liz DonaldsonOffice Manager
Liz Donaldson has served as the Office Manager since 2007. She handles the administrative and financial needs of the office. Liz has been working within the Jewish Community since 1999. Prior to working at Maryland Hillel, she was the Office Manager at the Bernice Rabovsky Religious School at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, MD. Liz grew up in Maryland and went to UMUC. She looks forward to helping and interacting with parents, students and staff. Students enjoy her positive personality and friendly demeanor. In her free time, Liz enjoys quality time with her husband Jason, their two children and two adorable dogs.
Shira GabayJewish Agency Israel Fellow
Shira Gabay is the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow (Shlicha) at The University of Maryland Hillel. Shira was born and raised in the center of Israel. After joining the Israeli Scouts Movement she served for two years as a commander in the Israeli Air Force. With a B.A. in Political science and Geography from the Hebrew University, Shira worked for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, in the marketing department, bringing tourists to experience Israel. In her free time, Shira enjoys traveling, camping, extreme sports, and dancing, and love bringing her love of Israel to all students UMD!
Avital HirschhornOU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah Educator
Avital made Aliyah with her family at the age of 10, from Baltimore, MD to Bet Shemesh. At the age of 15, her family moved once again, this time to Neve Daniel. After high school, Avital chose to do Sherut Leumi, a National Service program for religious girls. Avital worked with holocaust survivors in Jerusalem as a friend and companion. The following year Avital studied at Midreshet Nishamt, and went on to study at Bar Ilan University, where she received her BA in Logistics and Management. Avital has been studying at Matan, a Women’s Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem and is a certified Kallah Teacher. She enjoys being outdoors, finding interesting recipes on Pintrest, DIY projects, and spending time with her husband, Yonaton, and their two precious girls, Nava and Tamar. Avital always keeps her door open for students, enjoys meeting new faces, and is always excited to plan the next big BBQ!
Rabbi Yonaton HirschhornOU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah Educator
Rabbi Yonaton Hirschhorn
Rabbi Yonaton Hirschhorn was born and raised in Neve Daniel, Israel. After high school he joined the Hesder program, and studied at Yeshivat Otniel and Yeshivat Bat Ayin. Yonaton joined the IDF in 2008, and served as part of the Golani Brigade. When Yonaton finished the 5 year Hesder program, he began teaching at Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh in the Old City. After teaching at Netiv Aryeh, Yonaton went on to teach at MATARA, a Jewish therapeutic boarding school for teenage boys, Bnei Chayil High School for boys, Midreshet Darkaynu, and Midreshet Moriah. For the past two years, Yonaton has been running and teaching an evening Beit Midrash program for youth in Neve Daniel, “Mevakshei Panecha”. When Yonaton is not learning or teaching Torah, he enjoys watching and analyzing movies, watching TED talks (one day he will be giving his own!), and hiking the beautiful land of Israel. Yonaton loves being behind the grill and cooking up delicious meals for students almost as much as he loves teaching! Yonaton is the proud husband of Avital, and his two beautiful girls, Nava and Tamar.
Ari IsraelExecutive Director
Rabbi Ari Israel is in his twenty second year as a Hillel Executive Director in College Park. In addition to Rabbinic ordination, Ari has Masters Degrees in Medieval Jewish History as well as Secondary Education. Ari is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, teaching Jewish Leadership, and also teaches for the Acharai Jewish Leadership Institute in Baltimore. He is married to Suzy and their six children reside in Silver Spring, MD. He is also an amateur photographer trying to pick up golf to avert a mid-life crisis.
MJ Kurs-LaskyDirector of Student Life
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, MJ knows the true value of excellent ketchup, a great football team, and a strong Jewish community. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2010, MJ worked at the non-profit KaBOOM! prior to joining the Maryland Hillel team in August 2015. In his spare time, he enjoys running, traveling, and cheering for the Terps!
Talia OrencelDirector of Engagement & Social Justice
Talia Orencel is the Director of Engagement and Social Justice at The University of Maryland Hillel. Originally from Argentina, but grew up in Maryland, Talia is a proud Terp Alumni who joined the Maryland Hillel team in 2015. She runs the Tzedek and Hillel Greek Life Fellowship, coordinates small and large scale social justice programs, and has staffed several Alternative Break and Birthright Israel trips. After receiving an MPA in Non-Profit Management from George Mason University, Talia served 2.5 years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador working on women and youth empowerment projects. She has always been a strong activist for social change in the local and global community, and enjoys bringing that energy for Tikkun Olam to her students here at Maryland Hillel!
Rabbi Elie SchwartzOU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah Educator
Rabbi Elie Schwartz
Rabbi Elie Schwartz is originally from Cleveland, OH, and a die-hard Cavs fan. Rabbi Schwartz spent two years studying at Yeshivat Sha’arei Mevaseret Zion and a third year at Yeshivat Keren B’Yavneh. After Israel, he attended Yeshiva University where he graduated cum laude with a BA in Philosophy. He then completed semikha at RIETS and completed his masters in Medieval Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He has served as the interim assistant Rabbi at Congregation Ohab Zedek on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and as an OU-JLIC Fellow at Queens College. For the past two years, he has been a Fellow of the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel in Chicago, where he has had the privilege to spend time furthering his learning while also creating innovative educational programming for the entire Jewish community. Rabbi Schwartz has many interests ranging from quantum physics to politics. In his spare time he enjoys reading and listening to podcasts at 2x speed, and is always looking to learn something new. Rabbi Schwartz looks forward to both learning and getting on the court with the rising stars of the UMD community!
Miriam SchwartzOU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah Educator
Miriam Schwartz is originally from Great Neck, NY. She spent a year studying at Migdal Oz and attended Stern College for Women. She was a fellow at the Legacy Heritage Jewish Educators Project, a program that trains Jewish educators through courses in education, psychology and Judaic studies, as well as intensive fieldwork in classroom settings. Miriam was an OU-JLIC Fellow at Queens College and the co-director of Student Activities. She completed her Masters in Jewish Education from the Azrieli School of Jewish Education and is still pursuing a masters in Bible at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. Miriam loves watching the West Wing and Shark Tank, reading, and cooking different ethnic cuisines. She also does Tai Chi and Yoga (and can sometimes convince Rabbi Schwartz to join her). She loves to cook delicious food for her husband, and especially her students! Miriam and her husband, Elie are so excited to become part of the UMD family!