Meet the 2018 Masa-Hillel Fellows
We are so excited to welcome our fifth cohort of Masa-Hillel Fellows. The fellowship is a six-month professional development seminar designed to prepare current Masa participants for Hillel work. Through Hillel’s partnership with Masa, Hillel provides a Fellowship experience for current Masa participants who were at the Masa Israel Leadership Summit in November. The goal of the Masa-Hillel Fellowship is to build a talent pipeline and populate Hillel’s professional cohort with talented individuals and budding leaders who are actively exploring Israel and reinforcing their Jewish and Israel connections. Learn more about the Fellowship and the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 cohorts on our blog.
Heather was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey before attending school at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. She majored in elementary education and obtained a second grade teaching position in Florida after graduation in December 2016. After she participated in a Birthright-Israel trip in 2014, she knew she wanted to return to Israel, and was thrilled to find the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program while still in school. She applied while working full-time as a teacher in Florida, and had zero hesitations when she was accepted into the program. In addition to teaching, some of her other passions and hobbies include running, swimming, yoga, reading and cooking. Heather is currently training for the Tel Aviv half marathon in February and is very excited to run a race in another country. While in college, she was never involved in her campus Hillel. If she were to have changed one thing about her college experience, it would have been to involve herself more in the Jewish community on campus. Part of the reason Heather was so drawn to this leadership track was to learn more about Hillel as an organization and the job opportunities available. Heather is looking forward to pursuing this track and building upon her past and present experiences.
Zachary grew up in Chappaqua, New York before attending the University of Virginia. At university, he was heavily involved in Jewish life, taking on various leadership roles at Hillel, including vice president of the Jewish Leadership Council and the student representative to the Brody Jewish Center Board of Directors. He was also a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed community service organization. Zachary is an avid traveler, and spent his semester abroad on Semester at Sea, in which he lived on a ship for 100 days traveling to three different continents. Zachary is currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Jerusalem. This is his fourth time in Israel; the other trips were a family trip, Birthright-Israel and IsraeLinks/Onward Israel.
Shayna is originally from New York and currently a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Ashdod, Israel. She studied history, political science and Chinese at Union College. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude and was awarded the Minerva Prize for her honors thesis — featured in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education —
on literary titian Nancy Drew and her activism in combating sexual assault on campus. She was also a member of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa and active in her campus Hillel. For Shayna, Hillel was always home. She became part of Hillel’s kitchen crew the very first Friday of her freshman year, spearheaded Hillel’s signature charity event known as Sandwich Brigades and designed and edited the annual Hillel newsletter. Last year, she taught English in Spain at a small school in Castilla la Mancha. Prior to traveling, she interned in Manhattan for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and NBCUniversal. Her passions include reading and writing, women’s empowerment, tikkun olam, art and history museums, Murphy Brown and Downton Abbey and vintage Nancy Drew books.
Sofie was born in Tbilisi, Georgia and was adopted when she was just 1-month-old. She grew up in Vancouver, Canada but attended preschool in Australia and New Zealand. Her parents took her traveling all around the world and as a result, she was always very adventurous. Sofie moved to Montreal for university and at age 19, decided she wanted to be an EFL teacher and live abroad. Sofie has lived in Vietnam and China. Her dad lived in Israel for four years, so she always dreamed of living there. During her Birthright-Israel interview, she learned about Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. Now, Sofie lives in Ashdod, Israel. She loves reading, travelling and learning languages.
Spencer Shiff is from Long Island, New York. He has been working with children for the past eight years at a Jewish summer camp and in schools. He has always thrived in this field, and so he thought he should try teaching. Masa has given him the opportunity to learn and to grow in that field. Spencer wants to continue to be there for people when they need a helping hand and give guidance to those who ask for it. Spencer’s goal is to have an everlasting impact on young people, encouraging them to better themselves and their community.
As a first generation college graduate, Jordenne is passionate about the world of higher education and building access to that world. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011, and went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education administration while working full time at the university. During her time in college, she worked as a mentor to first-year students, helping them adjust to life at UT. After graduation, she began working as an academic counselor with student athletes at UT, where she continued to build her skill set in academic advising and university administration. In Jordenne’s spare time, she likes yoga, traveling and finding ways to channel her creativity. She also loves helping people explore what paths they want to take in life, and hopes that Hillel provides new and exciting ways to continue that passion.
Avi is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is very passionate about Jewish education, primarily through youth movements. While growing up, Avi was very involved in the Jewish youth group USY, and when he got older, he wanted to help USY and other Jewish organizations. Avi’s passions include music and skateboarding. He is enjoying living in Israel, and is very excited for this internship opportunity.
Over the past nine years, Makai has worked in various educational settings in the Minneapolis Jewish community, including Jewish after school programs, Hebrew school for children with special needs, Jewish day camps and preschools. While participating in the Experiential Educator’s Program at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, he is studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary to receive his master’s in Jewish education.
Shelly grew up in New Jersey and attended Solomon Schechter Day School until eighth grade. After completing high school, she enrolled at Rider University. Shelly was the event planner for Hillel and public relations for the dorms. After graduating from college, she worked as a realtor and in the teaching field before working for the lawyers of the New York Giants, New York Jets and Ford Motors as a secretary and a paralegal. Shelly grew up traveling to Israel every so often and learned Hebrew at a young age. She always had a calling to Israel, or as she says, an inner compass pointing there. Shelly came to Israel in September to teach English as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya, Israel. Shelly loves making a difference in the lives of her students and those around her. In her free time, she loves exploring and photography.
Melissa Goldberg is from Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago last May with a degree in English, and is now part of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows in Petach Tikva, Israel. Melissa was very active in Hillel on her university’s campus, and served as president from 2016 to 2017.
Jordan is passionate about her Jewish heritage and forging connections between the Jewish individual and the Jewish community at large. Raised in a small Texas town, she is familiar with the difficulty of growing up without the embrace of a strong, local Jewish community. After moving to Naperville, Illinois, she found herself in an environment in need of someone who could strengthen the bond between the Jewish individual and the community. This is where she thrived. Involving herself in youth and religious programming drove her to expand her community building efforts. In the fall of 2017, Jordan embarked on a yearlong teaching fellowship in Petah Tikva, Israel, devoting her time and efforts to enriching the educational experiences of Israeli teens. In her spare time, you can find Jordan knitting, cooking and singing along to The Sound of Music.
Matt Altman was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up at a Reform synagogue. Throughout high school, he participated in NFTY, BBYO, NCSY and JSU. Teaching others is a passion of his. Since he was 14, he has taught young Jewish students in Hebrew school and now as a participant in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. Over the past 10 years, Matt has been very active in the political arena. He has worked on half a dozen local, statewide and national campaigns as well as worked for various local, state and national political entities. He also worked with the Humane Society of American lobbying the Georgia State Capitol for animal protections and rights during two legislative sessions. Throughout college, he was very involved on campus. He served as president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, president of Hillel, a Chabad board member, a presidential ambassador in The 1913 Society and a senator in the Student Government Association. After college, he worked as the director of youth programs and activities at Congregation Etz Chaim in Atlanta. In this position, Matt had the honor of working with over 100 kindergarten through twelfth graders and created, implemented and managed dozens of youth-led programs. The experiences he has had in his life so far have given him the tools to help mold and grow the next generation of young Jewish leaders. Matt is hoping to work for the Hillel family in the upcoming year.
Galia graduated from the University of Houston in Texas where she studied nutrition and chemistry. Currently, she is a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow, teaching first through sixth graders. As someone who is passionate about the Jewish world and making a difference in students’ lives, she feels inspired and prepared to work for Hillel — an organization filled with responsibility, challenge and room for growth. Hillel was a fundamental building block of her personal college experience and has continued to open doors and opportunities for her as an alumna; Galia is excited to give back to this organization and become a part of it on a professional level. Her skills include event planning, organization, leadership and a proficiency in social media and Microsoft Word. She has a passion for making meaningful connections with people and working in a team-based, fast-paced environment. Galia hopes to learn a lot from Hillel and make a positive impact on students the way this organization did for her.
Aly Pitt was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia but currently lives in Netanya, Israel. She attended Kennesaw State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in human services with a focus in case management. She has a passion for working with people, and great experience in the field. Aly has worked in various roles, including camp counselor, facilitator to children and adults with specials needs, office secretary, religious school teacher and currently English teacher. She has held many different roles already, but is always eager to fill new ones and continue growing as a young Jewish professional.