Meet Hillel International’s Summer 2020 Interns



July 10, 2020

This year’s summer interns couldn’t physically be at Hillel International in Washington, D.C, but that didn’t stop a cohort of 10 talented college students from working virtually to make Hillel International’s mission a reality in these challenging times. They have adapted to remote work and enjoy having Zoom lunches together. Each intern has a story about their Jewish journey, passion for the Hillel movement and goals for the future.

Jenna Berlinberg, Loyola Marymount University ‘21 (Tech Services)

Jenna Berlinberg, who is from the San Francisco Bay Area, is the youngest of three sisters. Before she was born, Jenna’s mother converted to Judaism, and Jenna attended religious school, had a bat mitzvah and was involved in the BBYO chapter her sisters founded. She attended a Jewish day school for two years and spent a year of high school in Utah. In high school, Jenna enjoyed participating in marching band, theater and choir. As a quiet and independent computer science student, Jenna appreciates her professors and peers, both of whom she plays video games with and talks about technology. After a meaningful conversation with her school’s campus support director under the Hillel sukkah, Jenna connected with her campus rabbi. She became the measuring excellence representative for her Hillel and joined the student board. Jenna loves Hillel because it is a space for spiritual connection and meeting other students. Outside of Hilell, Jenna is involved in the ethnic intercultural and LGBTQ student services on campus. (Fun Fact: Jenna is excited to be using her computer science talents in a Jewish space.)

Zachary Berman, Washington University in St. Louis ‘21 (Communications)

Zach Berman has always felt that Jewish values are his guiding principles. From age 2 to 18, Zach attended Temple Dor Dorim in Weston, Florida for preschool, religious school, confirmation and youth group. His temple has always felt like a second home to him, especially when he switched to a new high school and moved to nearby Fort Lauderdale. After attending Blue Star Camps, Zach became involved in his temple youth group, serving as president his senior year of high school. He spent four summers at URJ Kutz Camp, a Reform Jewish leadership experience, mostly working with teens with special needs. Zach loves everything about WashU Hillel and has taken advantage of many opportunities there. He serves as social programming vice president on the student board and is president of Challah for Hunger at WashU, an organization that fights food insecurity while baking and selling challah. His involvement with WashU Hillel motivated him to intern with Hillel International this summer. As a political science and urban studies student with a minor in film and media, Zach is interested in pursuing a career in communications and/or public policy. This past semester, Zach studied abroad in London and interned with a member of the UK Parliament. Zach enjoys biking, cooking, learning about Israel, exploring St. Louis and is now a huge Cardinals fan! (Fun Fact: Zach has been learning to play golf with his two younger brothers.)

Sarah Birch, University of Oregon ‘21 (Wellness)

Sarah Birch’s earliest memories were attending Jewish day school in Folsom, California. “I was very immersed in Jewish culture and Jewish values from a very young age,” she said. In middle school, she attended Jewish summer camp for two summers before attending URJ Camp Newman. In high school, Sarah helped create her temple’s youth group and was introduced to NFTY, a place where she found her closest friends. Sarah knew she wanted to be involved in Hillel in college. “The reason I went to University of Oregon was similar to why I was drawn to Hillel. Everything at Oregon is community-oriented.” Sarah attends Shabbat dinners, is a song leader at her Hillel and plans an annual women’s retreat among other Hillel events. She also works at SafeRide, a campus sexual assault prevention shuttle, and her campus wellness center as a peer wellness advocate. As a sociology student with minors in Spanish and nonprofit administration, Sarah is excited to join the engagement, inclusion and wellness team at Hillel International. (Fun Fact: Someday, Sarah hopes to open a bookstore.)

Lani Chavin, George Washington University ‘21 (Marketing)

Lani Chavin has always loved the Jewish community in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. She attended religious school, was involved in her temple youth group and loved spending her summers at URJ Camp Coleman. Her strong Jewish roots drove her to attend NFTY Southern Area Region events in high school, where she served as religious and cultural vice president, and URJ Kutz Camp. “My summers at Kutz inspired my interest in social justice,” she said. Lani is very passionate about working with children. Combining her love of children, summer camp and social justice, Lani serves on GW’s executive board for Camp Kesem, a summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. Lani is also on the board of Dance Marathon and is in the Kappa Delta sorority and Alpha Phi Omega community service fraternity. She chose to double major in psychology and sociology because she was interested in learning about child development. GW’s strong Jewish life and internship opportunities in D.C. made it the perfect school for Lani. She explained that she wanted to find a summer internship that put her values into action and hoped to explore the connection between marketing and psychology at Hillel International. (Fun Fact: Lani loves going to the beach and playing volleyball.)

Samantha Chessen, Elon University ‘21 (Measurement)

Growing up with a Christian mother and a Jewish father in San Francisco, Sam Chessen chose her own religious path. As a child, she attended JCC preschool, Hebrew school and Camp Tawonga, a Jewish sleepaway camp, but was not involved in Jewish life at her all-girls boarding school in Connecticut. “I had no idea what Hillel was going into college,” Sam explained. After an engagement intern at Elon University Hillel, who also lived in San Francisco, reached out to Sam to meet for coffee, she began attending Hillel events her freshman year and eventually became an engagement intern herself. She hopes to give incoming students the same warm welcome she received at Elon Hillel. As a statistics major who has found a home at her campus Hillel, Sam is excited to join Hillel International’s measurement team this summer. At Elon, Sam is in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, on the swim team and works at the student center. (Fun Fact: Sam is fluent in Chinese. She attended a Chinese immersion school and lived in Shanghai for two months last summer.)

Dionna Dash, University of Pittsburgh ‘22 (Communications)

Dionna Dash “was lucky to be immersed in Jewish culture growing up.” Beth Sholom Synagogue, near her hometown of Glenside, Pennsylvania, was always filled with tourists admiring the famed architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright during her time at religious school or as a Hebrew tutor. As a child, Dionna enjoyed being a ballet dancer and even participated in the Pennsylvania Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. In high school, Dionna volunteered with the Friendship Circle, an organization that supports young people with special needs. Aware of her desire to continue her Jewish education as her two older sisters did, Dionna was drawn to the Hillel Jewish University Center quickly when she became a student at the University of Pittsburgh. “I came into college with the goal of one day becoming Hillel president,” she said. After staff at Hillel JUC asked Dionna to become a student business manager, she realized her Hillel had little social media presence. As a communications and linguistics student with a French minor, Dionna took it upon herself to expand Hillel JUC’s reach on social media. She wanted to give back to the Hillel community that provided her a core group of friends and a pathway to navigate the aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Dionna serves as vice president of the Hillel student board, is a freelance writer for Hillel International, works at a student-run public relations firm and loves Hebrew classes. Though she deeply values personal connections, Dionna performs stand-up comedy at open-mic nights around Pittsburgh and joined an improv group because “it challenges her outside of academics.” (Fun Fact: Dionna has recently regained her passion for fitness. She goes on 10-mile walks and participates in Zoomba and Pilates classes.)

Chana Ellenberger, University of San Francisco ‘22 (Hillel@Home)

Chana Ellenberger has always enjoyed attending synagogue and religious school at her synagogue in Fair Oaks, California. Chana loved spending her summers at URJ Camp Newman. After her b’not mitzvah with her twin sister, Chana attended BBYO and NFTY events at her summer camp. Chana and her sister were two of the only Jews at their arts-focused high school. During her freshman year of college at Dominican University of California, Chana didn’t think much about being involved in Jewish life, especially as the only Jew there, too. After her friends at larger state schools told Chana about their involvement in Hillel, she craved a similar experience. She transferred to University of San Francisco for her sophomore year and hopes to attend Brandeis University next spring, where she can be involved with Hillel. As a business student interested in marketing, she was ecstatic about the opportunity to join Hillel International as the first-ever Hillel@Home intern. (Fun Fact: Hillel has helped Chana realize that she wants to work in the Jewish nonprofit world.)

Emily Kramer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ‘21 (Marketing)

Emily Kramer’s two main passions are music and Judaism. In her hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, Emily attended religious school and youth group at Congregation B’nai Israel until she graduated high school. In middle and high school, Emily was interested in engaging with Judaism socially and culturally. She attributes her values and admiration of Judaism to her religious school. “Being Jewish was an active choice for me,” she said. Emily attended an arts-focused high school where she played the French horn. Emily shared her talent on the French horn and piano as a member of her synagogue’s band. As a former song leader and programming vice president of her temple youth group, Emily knew she wanted a Jewish experience in college. She also realized she would be the first Jew many of her friends would meet at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She thought it was important to attend Hillel events, but didn’t think she’d like them as much as she now does. One Friday evening at Hillel Shabbat services, Emily noticed there was no guitar, something she grew up hearing at camp and synagogue during services. Her campus rabbi encouraged her to add music to services and become a song leader, an unexpected role that Emily now adores in addition to serving as the communications vice president of her Hillel board. Emily has enjoyed the two Jewish Learning Fellowship classes she has taken and feels her Hillel community has helped her step out of her comfort zone. Emily’s family now lives in Durham, North Carolina. (Fun Fact: Emily’s favorite Jewish tradition is Havdalah. She loves the ceremony’s music and message.)

Manning Martus, Bucknell University ‘21 (Talent Acquisition)

Manning Martus was raised in the tight-knit Jewish community of Weston, Florida. After her bat mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Aviv, Manning joined the synagogue’s High Holiday choir. Just before junior year of high school, Manning and her family moved to Washington, D.C. Switching schools and being away from family and friends made Manning apprehensive about celebrating Jewish holidays and rejoining youth group. When visiting Bucknell University during admitted students weekend, Manning attended a Hillel barbecue. “I had so much fun. I met some of my best friends that night,” Manning said. Manning instantly found a home at Bucknell Hillel, and became the interfaith council representative. She became president at the end of her first year, a position she is privileged to still hold. As a political science major with a minor in Jewish studies, Manning is interested in journalism and politics aside from Hillel. She has been involved with College Republicans, written for Campus Reform, conducted research with a political science professor and recently began her honors thesis. Manning is excited to be interning at an organization she has benefited immensely from during her time at Bucknell. (Fun Fact: Before college, Manning didn’t expect to be involved in Jewish life. She plans to serve as president of Bucknell Hillel all four years of college.)

Rachel Siegel, American University ‘22 (Conference and Events)

Although Rachel moved around a few times as a child, she always felt her home was in Las Vegas. Rachel learned to love Judaism because it meant spending time with family and friends on holidays and in religious school. For Rachel and her family, Jewish values inspired them to engage in tikkun olam and value education. Throughout high school, Rachel volunteered at an animal rescue and continues to do so when home. She explained, “Growing up with parents who are both educators, school and learning was always a priority. Anything you can learn from in life is important.” The main reason Rachel chose to attend American University was for that reason. “I love D.C. for all it has to offer,” she said. “The learning experience there is infinite.” Since her older sister was also involved in her campus Hillel, Rachel was confident that she would find a home at Hillel. She was an engagement and entrepreneurship intern at Hillel, focused on welcoming first year students. Hillel has also allowed Rachel to create volunteer opportunities for herself and her peers, such as an annual food drive at a local synagogue. Rachel was a member of the Holocaust Remembrance Committee that coordinated events for the entire university and is a committee member on the honors student advisory. She is an international studies major with a minor in leadership and management business in her school’s honors program. Rachel loves working with and getting to know the conferences and events team. She is thankful to have the opportunity to work at Hillel and meet the other interns over Zoom. (Fun Fact: Although Rachel is a club softball player, she is a huge Golden Knights hockey fan.)