Meet and Greet with IACT Coordinators Alina and Brian



October 3, 2023

Photo of IACT Coordinators Rina Gersten (Washington University in St. Louis), Jacob Wilson (University of Colorado, Boulder), Alina Mizrahi (Northeastern University), and Ellie Fromstein (Boston University)

What is IACT? 

While IACT Coordinators work at 29 campus Hillels across the country, they often find themselves answering the question, “What is IACT?” Alina Mizrahi, IACT Coordinator at Northeastern Hillel, and Brian Burke, IACT Coordinator at the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, which serves several campuses in the Pittsburgh area, decided it was time to set the record straight and share the important and meaningful work they do every day. 

IACT (Inspired, Active, Committed, Transformed) Coordinators focus on helping students build relationships with their Jewish identities through a deep and authentic connection to Israel. As Alina said, “We get to know students as people and then we help them find ways to connect Jewishly and with Israel in ways that work for them. Taking students on Birthright Israel gives us 10 intense days in Israel to deeply connect with students and gives students an opportunity to reflect on their Jewish identities and connect that with the rest of their world.” 

Who are Brian and Alina?

Brian, right, with Noah Hirsch-Rechter (Harvard University) at the IACT Conference 2023

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Brian went to Israel for the first time when he was 14 years old. That first trip with his school inspired a love and passion for connecting his community in the United States with Israel. While a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Brian traveled to Israel three times with three different student programs. Each of these experiences deepened his interest in how a connection to Israel can inspire a love for Jewish peoplehood and identity. 

As an IACT Coordinator, Brian sees the impact that immersive Israel travel programs like Birthright and Onward Israel have on students. Part of his job is to activate that impact and help students turn it into longer-term leadership opportunities through Hillel. Brian reflected that each campus he works with has unique needs and styles of building relationships with Israeli culture and Jewish identity, but the common thread is how students are often inspired to build those relationships through their transformative Israel trip experiences.

Alina, right, with fellow first-year IACT Coordinators Sasha Stadnik (Virginia Tech University), Gabrielle Peck (University of Pennsylvania), and Rina Gersten (Washington University in St. Louis) at the IACT Conference 2023

Growing up in Mexico City and Chicago, Alina was familiar with small, tight-knit Jewish communities. Her time as a student at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel introduced her, for the first time, to the idea that she could build a Jewish identity that was connected with and complemented other aspects of her identity. She is inspired by that experience, and her work in the Jewish community, to help students find similarly individualized and unique paths to their own Jewish identities. She believes that, as an IACT Coordinator, she has the chance to help each student think through a relationship with Israel and Judaism that is meaningful and uplifting for them. 

IACT Inspo

Over the summer, Brian, Alina, and the rest of their IACT cohort gathered together for a three day conference where they connected as a cohort and thought together about their work for the upcoming year. Brian and Alina both found the camaraderie and friendship among their cohort to be one of the most impactful aspects of the conference.

They both highlighted two sessions that they’ll be thinking about as they kick off a new academic year. The first session was with Dr. Jonathan Golden from the Shalom Hartman Institute. Dr. Golden spoke about the interplay of Jewish power and vulnerability and how that dynamic can play out in different aspects of Jewish identity. Alina and Brian were both struck by how relevant those questions are for their students, and they’re excited to continue the conversation in the months ahead.

The second session that they are each still thinking about was a discussion, led by fellow IACT Coordinator Sade Storthz (University of Texas, Austin), about self-expression through social media communications. Alina was particularly interested in how she could model a celebration of her individuality and Jewish identity for her students through creative social media work. 

As Brian and Alina begin a new year of supporting students, they are inspired and excited by the opportunity to help students build meaningful relationships with Israel and their Jewish identities. 

Header photo of IACT Coordinators Rina Gersten (Washington University in St. Louis), Jacob Wilson (University of Colorado, Boulder), Alina Mizrahi (Northeastern University), and Ellie Fromstein (Boston University)