Hillel International Welcomes New Executive Directors



July 3, 2024

Hillel International is pleased to welcome our newest executive directors to campuses across the country this fall! Meet these incredible professionals, who are dedicated to bringing Jewish community, education, and joy to Jewish college students. 

Julie Boden Adams, Ithaca College Hillel

Ithaca College Hillel’s new executive director, Julie Boden Adams, calls the opportunity to lead experiences and programming for Jewish students at the college a “dream come true.” Ithaca College is home to a vibrant, thriving Jewish community of 1,050 undergraduate Jewish students – roughly 20% of its student body,

Julie brings extensive expertise as a higher education administrator, both serving as an attorney by trade and consulting with clients such as NYU and Long Island University. Most recently she operated her own boutique law firm. She has also served in a volunteer capacity in the Jewish community and has several years of fundraising and nonprofit experience through leadership roles in Cornell Law School Dean’s Special Leadership Committee and as Chair of the Board Advancement Committee of Speyer Legacy School.

“I look forward to using my skills to further my passion for Jewish education and community-building in this very special place that values diversity and inclusivity,” Julie said. “My family is thrilled to move back to Ithaca, which holds a special place in our hearts and is where my husband and I met and were married.”

Gary Brandt

Gary Brandt, Tulane Hillel

This spring, Tulane Hillel announced the appointment of Gary Brandt as its new executive director. Gary, who joined Tulane Hillel in 2022 as assistant director, succeeds Ron Gubitz, Tulane Hillel’s executive director since 2020. Tulane University has one of the largest Jewish student populations in the country, with more than 2,500 Jewish undergraduates and 500 Jewish graduate students. 

“I’m excited to step into the executive director role at Tulane Hillel. Our students are the real leaders here, and we work hard to support them in creating vibrant Jewish life on campus,” he said. “I’m honored to work with our staff and students, our Board and supporters across the country, and with Tulane University.”

Gary is a seasoned outdoorsman, cyclist, and foodie who brings a big smile and growth-oriented approach to all of his endeavors.  He has been a Jewish professional for the past decade and a half with time at summer camps, JCC’s, and startups across the country. He has worked previously as an EMT, English teacher in Japan, carpenter/welder, and ropes course facilitator. Gary is a proud Eagle Scout and former student leader of Hillel at his alma mater, the University of Arizona.

Abbii Cook

Abbii Cook, Hillels of North Texas

Abbii Cook is the new executive director at Hillels of North Texas, succeeding outgoing executive director Melissa Duchin Friedensohn. In this role, Abbii will oversee Hillels of North Texas’s efforts to create meaningful experiences, programming, and community for the 400 Jewish undergraduate and 30 Jewish graduate students at the University of North Texas; Dallas College; Texas Woman’s University; University of Texas, Dallas; Collin College.

Most recently, Abbii served as director at the Weintraub Israel Center, a partnership between the Tucson Jewish Community Center and Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona. Her new role marks a return to Hillel, as Abbii was previously the assistant director of Hillel at the University of Arizona and senior engagement coordinator at Hofstra University Hillel. Additionally, she was the Youth and Teen Director at the Aaron Family JCC in Dallas.

“I am thrilled to join the great community at Hillels of North Texas, which is doing such great work supporting the vibrant Jewish community across our campuses,” said Abbii. “The most meaningful moments of my career have involved supporting and engaging Jewish youth, and it is one of the many reasons why I am so grateful to take on this new role.”

Elyana Funk

Elyana Funk, University of Colorado Boulder Hillel

Elyana Funk is the University of Colorado Boulder Hillel’s new executive director, succeeding past executive director Seth Reder and interim executive director Megan Burmeister. In this role, Elyana will oversee CU Boulder Hillel’s five-person team to create engaging programming, experiences, and community for the 2,500 Jewish undergraduate and 350 Jewish graduate students on campus.

Elyana brings extensive community experience and organizational leadership in the nonprofit sector in Boulder, Colorado. She currently serves as the lead senior director of the “I Have A Dream”​ Foundation of Boulder County, where she’s held various positions for 24 years, beginning with a 12 year journey with a group of “Dreamer Scholars,” from their second grade through their senior year of high school. Working with over 500 young professionals, Elyana brings with her a career in leading teams that foster a strong sense of belonging, cultivating connections with students, and creating meaningful partnerships in the community. She is deeply committed to strengthening the Jewish community, serves on the board of directors at Congregation Har HaShem, is a member of the Wexner Heritage Program, and lives in Lafayette, Colorado with her husband and three children.

“It is an honor to join the team at CU Boulder Hillel, who are already so dedicated to creating opportunities for Jewish students on campus to connect with and learn from one another,” said Elyana. “My own personal connections to Hillel drew me to this role and I’m thrilled to blend my nonprofit experience with my passion for my own Jewish community. I am humbled by the history and success of Hillel International and I am eager to join its legacy of impact now, more than ever.  I’m ready to champion CU Boulder Hillel’s mission to enrich Jewish student life, serving as a true home away from home for those students.”

Ethan Helfand

Ethan Helfand, Kansas University Hillel

Ethan Helfand is the new executive director at the University of Kansas Hillel, succeeding past executive director Suzy Sostrin and interim executive director Bailey Nakelsky. In this role, he will continue an innovative and strategic approach to Jewish life on a campus that serves a population of 1,300 Jewish undergraduate students. 

Ethan was born and raised in Kansas City, and has focused his career around building Jewish community. His past work experience includes positions at Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, USY’s EMTZA Region, and Jewish Life at Duke (the Hillel at Duke University). In his most recent position, Ethan innovated Jewish programming and educational efforts in Kansas City as the Director of Jewish Experiences, a collaboration of Jewish Federation and The J.

“I cannot wait to work alongside the wonderful students, dedicated board and incredibly talented staff that make KU Hillel a destination campus for Jewish students from all over the country,” Ethan recently told The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.

“I would not be where I am today without my time as a student, as a leader and as a professional at Hillel, and I’m so proud to have the chance to sustain and grow the incredible legacy of this institution,” he added.

Brian Pelc

Brian Pelc, Hillel at Florida State University

Hillel at FSU announced that Brian Pelc will serve as its next executive director, after serving as associate director since August 2022. He will succeed previous executive director Jesse Feld. In this role, Pelc will lead Hillel at FSU’s efforts to serve 3,500 Jewish undergraduate and 800 Jewish graduate students at Florida State University.

Before joining Hillel at FSU, Brian worked for 12 years as a restoration forester and program manager for The Nature Conservancy, advancing the Jewish value of tikkun olam – repairing the world. Previously, he taught at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel in the religious school and helped lead its youth group. He also led services for Shabbat, high holidays, and b’nai mitzvahs as a soloist and created new Jewish music with the local Jewish Southern Folk band, Bagels and Biscuits. Brian’s wife, Melanie, serves as FSU Hillel’s director of leadership and wellness.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to take on this new role leading Hillel at Florida State University, where I have already experienced why this community is so special,” said Brian. “I am deeply committed to the notion of tikkun olam, guided by the belief that improving the world can happen in so many ways and in so many places, including here on campus.”

Lenny Steinberg

Lenny Steinberg, Oregon Hillel

Lenny Steinberg is Oregon Hillel’s new executive director, succeeding executive director Andy Gitelson, who recently joined Hillel International as a campus support director.  Lenny will oversee Oregon Hillel’s team to create meaningful experiences, programming, and community for the 2,000 Jewish undergraduate and 400 Jewish graduate students at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

Lenny brings extensive expertise as a nonprofit professional, especially within the Jewish communal world. His career started with Hillel as a program associate for Hillels of the Florida Suncoast. Since then, he has served in roles with the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (with their Teen Leadership Mission to Israel), Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Alzheimer’s Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and most recently, Alpha Epsilon Pi.

“I am honored to return to the Hillel community, this time in Oregon, where I feel a deep personal connection to what the organization is doing for Jewish students during a tenuous time,” said Lenny. “Engaging with students has been among the highlights of my career, and it is extremely meaningful to return to this work by continuing to foster a vibrant, thriving community for future generations on Oregon Hillel’s campuses.”

Annie Weinberg

Annie Weinberg, Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia

The Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at the University of Virginia announced that Annie Weinberg will serve as its next executive director, after serving as co-managing director this past school year. She will succeed previous executive director Jake Rubin, who recently joined Hillel International as the Associate Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Search. In her new role, Annie will oversee Hillel at UVA’s efforts to create meaningful experiences, programming, and community for the 1,000 Jewish undergraduate and 600 Jewish graduate students at the University of Virginia.

After graduating from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in youth and social innovation and psychology, Annie returned to UVA Hillel as a development associate, then assistant director, and later, as the co-managing director working alongside Truman Brody-Boyd. During her five years with UVA Hillel, Annie created leadership development programs, led educational courses, reimagined the First Year WaJew experience for incoming students, and formed meaningful connections across Grounds. Annie also holds a master’s degree in nonprofit studies from the University of Richmond.