Our Awesome Staff
Email Adam; ext. 111
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman is the Executive Director of Berkeley Hillel. Before coming to Berkeley Hillel he served as the Director of Hillel at the University of Colorado at Boulder, upon completing his Rabbinic Studies at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. Adam grew up in Los Angeles, went to Jewish Day School for 10 years and then went to public high school. He attended the University of Rhode Island where he studied Accounting and Management Information Systems. While at URI he started a student run coffee house called 193 degrees. Upon completion of college he began work for Arthur Andersen as a business consultant. After working for Arthur Andersen he spent five years in Rabbinical School which then led him to the Hillel world. Adam loves living in the Bay Area and the active lifestyle. At anytime you will find him training for a triathlon, Marathon or some other race. He has completed a half-Ironman and hopes one day to compete in a full Ironman. Adam lives in Berkeley with his wife Elana and three sons Yair, Nevo and Etai.
Director of Jewish Student Life
Email Oren; ext. 121
Oren Persing is Berkeley Hillel’s Assistant Director of Jewish Student Life. His favorite part of working for Hillel is being able to wear so many different hats throughout a given day. From planning and leading immersive experiences, to leading Shabbat services, to dorking-out trying to perfect Hillel’s organizational systems, he loves it all. Before coming to Berkeley Hillel, Oren graduated UMass Amherst with a degree in Building Materials and Wood Technology – a degree that he tries to put to use daily as Hillel’s AD. After college, Oren spent several years working as REI’s Outreach Specialist coordinating service projects and teaching Leave No Trace to underserved youth. Oren can’t sit still for very long. If he’s not in his office and you’re trying to track him down, you are likely to find him either working at Strada, playing guitar or piano, outback at the BBQ grill, or exploring the Berkeley hills by mountain bike.
Rabbi Martin Ballonoff Memorial Senior Jewish Educator
Email Leah; ext. 123
Leah Is beyond excited to be joining the Berkeley Hillel team! She spent the last three years living in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband Darrell, where she studied at The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, taught yoga, and was a member of the dance ensemble, “Merchav Mechol” (DanceSpace). Before Israel, Leah lived in Chicago for 10 years, where she completed an undergraduate degree in Arts Entrepreneurship and Dance and a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies and Experiential Education. Leah worked at the University of Chicago Hillel for six years as the Director of Engagement, and was instrumental in building an innovative engagement approach to working with students. She is super excited about living in Berkeley and plans to ride her bike all year long (even in the winter, what??), plant an awesome garden in her backyard, and eat at as many vegetarian restaurants as possible!
Email Lisa; ext. 118
Lisa left the heat and humidity of South Florida to freeze in Boston at Tufts University where she majored in Spanish and Child Development. Afterwards, she spent three years in Israel as a participant or staff member of nearly every post-college Israel experience program that existed at the time. After a few years return to the chill of Boston for work at the Jewish Federation and a Masters in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Lisa headed south, to the balmy jungles of Costa Rica where she led educational ecotours with her brother and their company, Costa Rican Adventures. Living off the grid in the jungle sure was an adventure but the lack of a vibrant Jewish community brought her, somewhat randomly, to the incredibly rich community of the East Bay. It doesn’t hurt that the weather is perfect! It’s here that she finally set down roots. An active member of Chochmat HaLev, a Jewish Renewal congregation in Berkeley, she is also a member of Congregation Beth Israel and has served on the boards of both Chochmat HaLev and Wilderness Torah. She lives in North Oakland with her husband, Brian and two children, Eidan and Anyah.
Jewish Student Life Coordinator
Email Emily G.; ext. 124
To say Emily is ecstatic about starting her professional life as the Jewish Student Life Coordinator at Berkeley Hillel is not an overstatement. Emily just graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a certificate in Jewish Studies. In the midst of being a Wisconsin student, studying abroad in Israel for eight months and working at a camp in California for the past six summers (and seven summers as a camper), it’s hard to locate where Emily grew up calling home—the lovely city of Tucson, Arizona. Emily is excited to be able to come out of hibernation (finally) and see daylight between October and April, but mostly she is excited to get to know everyone at Berkeley Hillel, starting with you! Yes, enough about Emily and more about you: she would love to get coffee or tea with you, or be shown to the wonders of Berkeley. If you like climbing stairs, come in to her office at any time to say hello and introduce yourself, see some of the most advanced card tricks in the world, or to tell her about a good running/hiking trail. By the way, if she learned anything in college, it definitely wasn’t how to write a witty staff biography.
Email Dror; ext. 122
Dror is our Israel Fellow, growing up in the sunny desert resort town Eilat, the southernmost town of Israel.
Thanks to a wonderful childhood by the Red Sea, Dror has a special fondness for sailing, scuba diving and well… sun! Any day of discovering a new coral or a wondering octopus underwater is a great day.
While serving in the IDF, Dror had various jobs and tasks as an officer, she had the opportunity to experience living in Jerusalem, Gedera and Be’er Sheva, and to meet the people that create the Israeli interesting society.. Eventually Dror settled down in the awesome city of Tel Aviv for her B.A in social sciences and human resources.
Along with her love of travel, Dror is always happy to hear about Israel and Israel experiences, moreover, she loves to meet new people in new places and believes there is always something to learn from everyone we meet. Therefore, Dror would love to meet you and hear about your experience at Berkeley, in Israel and in general. You are always welcome! Bruchim Ha’baim.
Communications and Operations Manager
Email Emily H.; ext. 120
Emily Hirschman is joining Berkeley Hillel after coming right out of a long-term Masa program teaching English and volunteering in Israel. Emily grew up in Oakland and Berkeley but left for college in northern California to study public relations and sustainability management. Before spending 10 months in Ashdod, Israel working with underserved school children, Emily worked in environmental non-profit communications and program planning in Portland, Oregon for three years. Emily is very excited to return to the Bay Area and bring her nonprofit and communications experience to Berkeley Hillel and the Jewish community.
Email Noam; ext. 119
Noam graduated from UCLA in 2013 where he studied history. While taking classes he was heavily involved on campus including UCLA’s own Hillel. Most recently he has been helping develop vocational skills for young adults with special needs. But not before he spent close to four months traveling through India, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Noam is a Northern California native and enjoys the outdoors, hiking, slackling, yoga and reading.
Daniel has been a member of the Hillel staff for longer than anyone can remember, and in the far reaches of memory, no one can remember Daniel doing anything but an exceptional job.