Our Awesome Staff
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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.
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My name is Mila, which in Hebrew means “a word”, and so, it’s no wonder then that words are my favorite thing. When words come together they become a story – and nobody can resist a good story. I like many combinations of words: poems, plays, books and especially discussions. Words are the reason I became a competitive debater at the Interdisciplinary Canter in Herzliya; they led me to participate at the Cardozo Kagan Program for Jewish Leadership; encouraged me to participate at a Post-Colonial Feminism Discussion Group; it’s words that I used while at IDC Hillel where I co-founded the website “Talmud Aviv”, words also served me while hosting and producing a weekly radio program and when I was representing Israel on a peace delegation to Japan (via The Peres Center for Peace). In college, I studied communication because I realized that sometimes words are not enough – the medium we use to convey the messages is just as important. For the past year I worked as an executive trainer in the field of public speaking, debate and business presentation at Gilad Adin LTD. In public speaking our medium is our body. Our words, our minds and our bodies tell a story. I enjoy helping people learn how to tell their story in a way that makes other want to listen. I would love for you to tell me your story!
Jewish Student Life Coordinator
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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.
Rabbi Martin Ballonoff Memorial Jewish Educator
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Gabe geographically hails from suburban Boston, but emotionally has always transcended coastal distinctions. He attended Wesleyan University, where among other activities he co-authored a book about American views on Muslims and Islam. Following graduation, he lived and studied for several years in Israel, as well as working for the gap-year program Kivunim in its inaugural year. Gabe is an alum of the Adamah program, a fellowship of sustainable farming, community building, and Jewish education. Following this, he directed the Kayam Farm Summer Kollel outside of Baltimore. On campus, Gabe is excited to learn Torah with students, ask Jewish questions, garden, and sing together.
Gabe is excited to meet you! And you! But ESPECIALLY you… shoot an email or just walk right up and say hey!
Assistant Director of Jewish Student Life
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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.
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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.
CalGrads @Hillel Coordinator
Nice to meet you all! My name is Olivia Zieve and I’m the new CalGrads student coordinator here at Berkeley Hillel. I’m so excited to get to know you all and do some awesome events! A little about me- I’m originally from Seattle and moved here a few months ago to get my masters in Public Health and Social Welfare.
I would love input from everyone- let me know what type of events you all want to see! If we haven’t met yet, please say hi at the next event!
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.