Our Team

  • Stephanie Bekerman

    Birthright Israel IACT Coordinator

    Stephanie Bekerman

    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!

  • Elan Burman

    Capital Campaign Director

    Elan Burman

    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 Donaldson

    Office Manager

    Liz Donaldson

    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.

  • Sapir Frieman

    Jewish Agency Israel Fellow

    Sapir Frieman

    Sapir Frieman is the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at the University of Maryland Hillel. Sapir was born and raised by the beaches of center-north of Israel. After being a part of Bney Hamoshavim youth movement for most of her life, she served for two years as commander in the Israeli education force. With a B.A. in education- learning disabilities combiner with art at Tel Hai College, Sapir worked for the students union as head of culture department from planning a concept party through meaningful lectures of all topics. In her free time Sapir enjoys knitting, musicals, everything Disney, music, traveling and of course would love to share her passion and love for Israel with all of the students and UMD.

  • Maddie Friedman

    Operations and Communications Associate

    Maddie Friedman

    Maddie is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘Em), where she received her B.S. in Public Relations with a Business Minor. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, she spent her time involved in the local Jewish community, as well as her summers at URJ OSRUI. Maddie is excited to be joining the team at Maryland Hillel as the Special Events and Catering Coordinator. Maddie previously served as a Public Relations Intern at Beck Media & Marketing, working with technology clients on media outreach and awards nominations. In her free time you can find Maddie in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, front row at a country concert, or looking up plane fares for her next big adventure. Maddie looks forward to becoming a part of the Maryland Hillel community, and cannot wait to see what being a Terp is all about!

  • Maya Guthman

    Springboard Innovation Fellow

    Maya Guthman

    Originally from Bethesda, Maya returned home to join the Maryland Hillel team as the Springboard Innovation Fellow. She recently graduated from Indiana University, where she studied Psychology, Political Science, and Jewish Studies. On campus, she was involved in IU’s Dance Marathon and panhellenic life. Maya also spent a semester abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with the Nachshon Project. You can usually find Maya cheering on the Washington Capitals, in a corepower yoga class, or trying out the newest foodie spots in D.C.

  • Noa Havivi

    Engagement Associate

    Noa Havivi

    Noa grew up in the small town of Greensboro, North Carolina. She was very involved in Hillel during her time at UNC Chapel Hill, where she graduated in 2017 with degrees in Exercise & Sport Science, and Psychology. Noa is a college basketball fanatic, coffee addict, and all-star meal prepper. You can almost always catch her Yelping DC’s newest foodie places. Noa is incredibly passionate about Jewish camping, especially her home away from home tucked away in the mountains of Georgia, Camp Ramah Darom, and is so excited to bring her passion for Jewish life to UMD!


  • Avital Hirschhorn

    OU-JLIC Maryland Hillel Torah Educator

    Avital Hirschhorn

    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 Hirschhorn

    OU-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 Israel

    Executive Director

    Ari Israel

    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-Lasky

    Assistant Director (Student Life)

    MJ Kurs-Lasky

    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 Orencel

    Director of Engagement & Social Justice

    Talia Orencel

    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!