Weinberg ACCELERATE: Hillel’s Executive Training Program
Eleven Hillel professionals from across North America have been selected to participate in the Debra S. and Joseph S. Weinberg ACCELERATE Executive Training Program, an executive training program that prepares individuals to become Hillel directors. Launched in 2009, ACCELERATE has proven to be a successful training ground for top-level Hillel professionals.
Susan Becker serves as the assistant director at Hillel at Temple University where she has worked since 2016. Additionally, she works part-time for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia as a facilitator for the Teen Giving Project. Rounding out her involvement in the Philly Jewish community, Susan sits on the steering committee of JCoalition, a group for young Jewish professionals in the area, and is the vice president of membership on the board of her Hadassah chapter, Neshama. A New Jersey native, Susan has previously worked at Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, Temple Emanu-El in Edison and the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC. Susan found her passion for working with Jewish youth and emerging adults during her time in college at Penn State University. She was avidly involved in the Hillel community and taught religious school at Congregation Brit Shalom in State College, Pa. Following graduation, Susan interned at Beit Tefilah Israeli in Tel Aviv before returning to Jewish life in the Unites States. Susan earned her Master of Arts in Jewish education at Gratz College in Philadelphia. She also holds certificates in supervisory leadership and experiential Jewish education.
Grant Bigman is the assistant director for Hillel at Virginia Tech, where he advises the day-to-day operations of the office and engagement staff. Originally from Connecticut, Grant enjoys spending time in the great state of Virginia. In 2012, he received his bachelor’s degree in communications from James Madison University and then worked for the international Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, for four years. It was during this time Grant discovered his passion for Judaism and connecting with Jewish students. Grant engaged with over 140 campuses in seven countries while working as an educational leadership consultant and later as the director of chapter services. After working for the fraternity, Grant pursued a master’s degree in higher education administration from North Carolina State University, where his program concentrated on social justice and inclusion. During this experience, Grant worked with students from many different backgrounds as well as different types of institutions ranging from large public universities to small, private single-sex colleges. It was from all of these unique experiences that led to his work in Blacksburg, Virginia with Hillel at Virginia Tech. Outside of the office, his passions include sports, hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains and reading books. He knows all the in and outs of traveling and has seen 43 out of our 50 states. Grant enjoys engaging students in casual conversations as they try to navigate their Jewish identity on college campuses. He is known to be joyful, positive and outrageously extroverted. You will never see him without a smile.
Juli Goodman is so excited to be begin her sixth year at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University. Juli attended Rutgers University for undergraduate school, where she studied art history. She then went on to receive a master’s degree in educational leadership in Jewish communal settings from the Jewish Theological Seminary. While in graduate school, Juli spent a semester in Jerusalem earning a certificate as an Israel educator and interning at the 92nd Street Y, Resource Center for Jewish Diversity. Juli has previously worked and learned in a variety of Jewish institutions, both large and small, from the time she was 16. Juli lives in New Haven, Conn. and spends her time playing rugby, eating tacos, falling behind on podcasts and TV shows, and discussing the formation(s) of Jewish Identity.
Ben Greenberg is a born and raised New Yorker and current Los Angeles transplant. Before moving to Los Angeles, he worked for several Jewish educational organizations and synagogues in Manhattan, and spent a year in Jerusalem studying at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Ben received his master’s degree in Jewish education and master’s in Jewish history from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has been serving as the director of student life for Hillel at UCLA for three years, and has overseen the growth of the Hillel team to include a new chief operating officer, two Springboard Fellows, and a Reform senior Jewish educator. Ben is passionate about creating warm, engaging opportunities and experiences for students to connect with living life Jewishly. When Ben is not at Hillel, he is doting on his daughter Liora, exploring Los Angeles with his incredible wife Sara, and cuddling with his mutt, Wallace.
Paula Harlan joined Hillel International’s Immersive Israel Experiences Department in 2017 after four years at Cincinnati Hillel, serving as assistant director in her final year. In Paula’s four years as a Bearcat, the Hillel team grew from two full-time professionals to a team of five, and achieved significant student growth as well as an expansion of student leadership opportunities. In 2016, Paula was awarded The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Harris K. and Alice F. Weston Jr. Avodah Award, which recognizes outstanding Jewish communal professionals. Born and raised in Toronto, Paula holds a bachelor’s degree from York University, and a master’s degree in nonprofit management from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After graduating, Paula remained in Israel, spending three years working for Aardvark Israel Immersion Programs, a Masa gap-year program, which ignited her passion for working with Jewish young adults. Currently, as associate director of Immersive Israel Experiences, Paula enhances Hillel’s partnership with long-term Israel programs, including Onward Israel and Masa, and administers Repair the World Alternative Break Grants. Paula lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband Seth and daughter Bari.
Robyn Hughey is the associate director at the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State University and the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan. A 2008 graduate of Michigan State University, Robyn received a Bachelor of Arts in communication with honors. She has worked at Hillel for eleven years, engaging students, empowering student leaders, mentoring staff, advancing Hillel’s mission and building community for Jewish students on 11 campuses statewide. Robyn was recently recognized as part of the Detroit Jewish Communities 36 Under 36 program and is a graduate of the East Lansing Emerging Leaders program. Robyn currently volunteers as a JPRO Detroit committee member, serves as the secretary of the Michigan State University Religious Advisors Association and advocates for her community as the marketing coordinator for the Whitehills Neighborhood Association. Robyn resides in East Lansing, Mich. with her husband Eric and their son, Cooper. In her free time, she enjoys using her creative side to dabble in website design, binge Netflix shows and chase her very adorable and very rambunctious toddler around the park.
Jessica Lemons is originally from Long Island, N.Y. and graduated cum laude from the University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in English. During her time in Buffalo, she served in numerous leadership and internship capacities within the Buffalo Jewish community. She interned at the Teen Department of The Jewish Education Project in New York in 2014. In 2015, she was named a Woman of Distinction by the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo. She joined the Syracuse Hillel team as the coordinator of advancement in 2015 for two years and then served as interim executive director for two years while Syracuse Hillel embarked on a national talent search. Jessica now serves as Syracuse Hillel’s chief operations officer. Jessica is based in New York City, but makes frequent appearances on campus. In her free time, Jessica enjoys sipping lattes, seeking out the nearest alpaca farm and traveling the world.
Dr. Oded Oron is an educator, activist and community organizer. Oded grew up in Israel in one of Tel-Aviv’s suburbs. Serving as the assistant director at Cornell University Hillel marks for him a return to Hillel after nearly 10 years. Between 2009-2011, Oded was a Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow at Hillel at UCLA. In Israel, Oded worked as a journalist in leading media outlets, such as Ynet News and Ha’aretz, as well as a senior manager for Israel’s Government Press Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from Bar-Ilan University and a master’s degree in politics and government from Ben-Gurion University. Prior to joining Cornell Hillel, Oded completed his doctorate at the Jackson School of International Studies at University of Washington in Seattle. His dissertation compared African migrants mobilizing in Israel with undocumented migrant movements in Washington State. Oded is married to Yochai, a die-hard Liverpool fan (YNWA!). In his spare time, he likes to hike, listen to KEXP, check out live music gigs and travel to new places. In addition to his native Hebrew, Oded is conversant in Spanish.
Jeremy Ragent, a San Francisco Bay Area native, has learned that a little humor goes a long way. After studying history at UCLA, he spent a year living and volunteering in Israel through program called Otzma (z”l). He began his career at Hillel at Stanford in 2010, taking Jewish Stanford students out to coffee, hearing their stories and working with them to make Jewish life happe on campus. After some fun in Los Angeles, getting a master’s degree in Jewish nonprofit management and public administration from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and University of Southern California, doing development work for a Jewish public interest law firm called Bet Tzedek and a synagogue’s free summer literacy program called Wise Freedom School, he returned to Hillel at Stanford in 2015 to work with those same energetic, passionate and fun students (and Hillel’s fantastic professional and lay team) to enrich Jewish life on campus. Jeremy loves learning and speaking Hebrew (it brings out his chutzpah), singing and playing music, exploring nature and spending time with his friends and family.
Rachel Nilson Ralston first became connected with San Francisco Hillel as a curious student at San Francisco State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in history and Jewish studies. She loved it so much that she never left, transitioning from undergraduate student to staff member in 2011. Since then, she has worn many hats in the organization and was named associate executive director in 2019. Rachel appreciates the professional lessons provided by her unique Hillel journey and is particularly proud of SF Hillel’s recent growth and achievements. In the past four years, SF Hillel underwent an organizational redesign utilizing Design Thinking, expanded from SF Hillel’s strong base at SF State to launch programs at University of San Francisco, University of California Hastings College of the Law and University of California San Francisco, and received recognition with Hillel International’s Best Place to Work Award in 2017. When she’s not at Hillel, Rachel also serves the broader community in alignment with her passion for inclusion and justice. She serves as a Federation fellow, on the board of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (San Francisco’s historically queer synagogue) and as a representative on the Jewish Community Relations Assembly. She resides just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, where she loves to hike and eat burritos with her husband Ricky.
Rabbi Lyle Rothman is a proud Long Islander from East Meadow, New York. He joined the University of Miami family in 2016 as the campus rabbi and Jewish chaplain for University of Miami Hillel. In 2017, he was elected to be the Chair of the University Chaplains Association, a group of clergy trained to provide spiritual guidance and support to the greater UM community. During rabbinical school, he served as a rabbinic intern at Columbia/Barnard Hillel and most recently as the director of Jewish life and learning at Hofstra University Hillel. Rabbi Lyle was ordained and received a master’s degree in religious education from Hebrew Union College-JIR in May 2012. Rabbi Lyle is passionately dedicated to multifaith work and is part of a group of clergy who traveled to Abu Dhabi, UAE and Rabat, Morocco as part of the American Peace Caravan and My Neighbor’s Keeper initiative. He loves British comedy, cooking, and takes pride in his knowledge of local news and weather personalities.
Scott Brown holds a certificate in Leadership Coaching from the Institute for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown University, a renowned program in the coaching world. He has been designated at an advanced level, as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Scott’s clients often come from personal referrals from his outstanding reputation earned nationally and locally, and the relationships he formed as a professional coach, trainer, consultant and volunteer leader.
He served as executive vice president and vice president for talent at Hillel International, focusing on professional leadership, recruitment and hiring for thousands of employees. This included creating and launching an executive training program to prepare mid-level professionals to become directors, a fellowship to support the professional development of directors and training institutes for professionals at various stages in their careers. Through his commitment to innovation and leadership, he earned Hillel the prestigious Prism Award from the Metro DC chapter of ICF. He was honored by the Washington Business Journal Human Resources Leadership Awards for ethics and mentoring, and Hillel awarded him the Exemplar of Excellence Award, its highest honor for professional staff.
Before joining Hillel’s International headquarters, he was executive director of Hillel at University of Maryland, where he transformed board and staff engagement, supervised construction of a new facility and oversaw programming for 6,000 students per year. As associate executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, Scott designed and developed new programs while overseeing the transition to a new facility.
He currently serves as vice president on the executive board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and is immediate past president of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. Scott earned a master’s degree in management from Webster University and a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University. He is the proud husband of author, Jane Schapiro Brown, and father of three kind and successful daughters. He also claims that his granddaughter and grandson are brilliant. Outside of coaching, he enjoys having fun with his enthusiastic Irish Setter, going on biking trips and competes in local and national racquetball tournaments.
Brian Cohen is the Lavine Family Executive Director at Columbia/Barnard Hillel, the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. In addition to his responsibilities at Columbia/Barnard Hillel, Brian teaches new Hillel executive directors and serves as a coach for aspiring executive directors. In 2019, Brian was selected for the Schusterman Fellowship. He previously worked as the director of campus services for Hillel’s Schusterman International Center in New York, where he consulted with Hillels around the country. Brian was the executive director of the University of Virginia Hillel from 2004-2009 and the assistant director of the Hillel at Binghamton University from 2001-2004. In 2006, Brian was awarded the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence from Hillel International for transforming the University of Virginia Hillel. Prior to working for Hillel, Brian was an account executive for an internet marketing firm. A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Brian lives in New Jersey with his wife Lisa and two kids.
Beth Gansky is the executive director of ACHARAI: Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Leadership Institute. She holds a leadership coaching certification and a certification facilitation from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in higher education administration from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton
University. Beth is an experienced facilitator and has been a coach and part of the faculty team of ACCELERATE since its second cohort.
Beth helps people bring their best selves to their professional and personal lives. Over the last 25 years, Beth has trained, consulted and coached both volunteer and professional leaders for local and national organizations. In 2012, she launched The Gansky Group, LLC, a consulting practice that specializes in coaching and training, particularly with non-profit organizations. Beth was with Hillel of Greater Baltimore for 14 years until 2009, as the executive director for the last five. She led the decentralization of that regional operation to four self-sustaining Hillel campus foundations and played a significant role in the opening of The Smokler Center at Johns Hopkins University. Beth is a board member at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and is involved with the leadership team of the Soul Center in Baltimore.
Outside of her professional life, Beth loves to travel, cook, reader and go to the theatre.
Rhoda Weisman is the founder and chief creative officer of Rhoda+Co, a boutique coaching and consulting firm providing professional coaching, program design, and facilitation services to organizations that foster the social good.
Rhoda specializes in talent and leadership development in the workplace, at all levels. She advises and coaches organization to hire, train, retain and leverage their best talent, and transform their community impact through innovative program design and facilitation. A recognized expert in “next generation” talent development, Rhoda has been at the forefront of innovation for the Jewish community.
Most recently, Rhoda was the Dean of the Graduate School in Nonprofit Management at the American Jewish University from 2014-2019. She redesigned the curriculum, hired an outstanding faculty, built the first alumni network and recruited a diverse and multi-generational student body of working professionals with a 90% graduation and placement rate. They increasingly became social entrepreneurs who founded new organizations dedicated to the pressing issues of our time, and intrapreneurs who positively disrupted established organizations to highly increasing their relevancy.
Rhoda was the founding executive director of the Professional Leaders Project, conceptualized in 2004 to address the talent crisis in the Jewish community. PLP became a model for developing and mentoring next generation leaders and “turning Jewish leadership over to the next generation.” Both the “Wall Street Journal” and the “Los Angeles Times” dubbed her a trendsetter in leadership training and development.
Previously, during more than a decade as chief creative officer at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Rhoda envisioned and co-founded 15 national and global ventures for college students, millennials and Gen X leaders. Ventures included the inaugural Hillel Birthright Israel program and the Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corp, Campus Leaders Initiative among others. Rhoda coached and trained thousands of professional, student and volunteers leaders in community building and engagement techniques being utilized and taught today. Graduates from the ventures Rhoda spearheaded are professional/volunteer leaders in Jewish and secular life across the globe.
Adina Danzig Epelman returned to Hillel in late 2015, as Hillel’s vice president for talent growth and Hillel U. Since that time, Adina has led the conceptualization and implementation of Hillel U, arguably the most robust professional training and development initiative in the Jewish nonprofit sector.
From 2000 – 2010, Adina worked at Hillel at Stanford, serving as its executive director for seven of those years. During that time, Adina led Hillel at Stanford in moving from a basement space to two beautiful buildings; developing its first-ever partnerships with Stanford Dining and Development; and was recognized with Hillel’s “Exemplar of Excellence” and “Great Place to Work” awards. Later, Adina served as a consultant to numerous Bay Area Hillels, providing services in executive coaching, board development and program evaluation. From 2011 – 2015, Adina worked as a program officer for the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, launching a new Impact Grants Initiative in the South Peninsula.
A native Californian who completed her bachelor’s degree at U.C. Berkeley, Adina holds an MPA from New York University and an M.A. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Adina was a co-founder of New York University’s dual master’s program in non-profit management and Judaic studies; is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship; and served on Leading Edge’s Leading Places to Work Task Force. Adina lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children, Lia,10, Noam, 8, and Ayelet, 6.