By Madelyn Schaeffer, for Mitzpeh, @mschaef3
This year, Maryland Hillel welcomed four new staff members to its professional crew. These staff members carry a variety of responsibilities and are bringing new programs to Hillel as well as continuing old ones. They come from different backgrounds, but are “committed to and excited to work for Hillel for similar reasons including the welcoming staff and the spirited student body” as all of the staff members expressed in interviews.
Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz
Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz is the new senior Jewish educator from Potomac, MD. Buckholtz has spent a large amount of his adult life living both in Israel and in the U.S. He spent six years living in Jerusalem working for The Hartman Institute, a pluralistic research and leadership center at the forefront of Jewish thought and education in Israel. Coming back to the U.S., Buckholtz said he looked forward to going nearby to where he grew up and where his family lives. Buckholtz will provide education opportunities within Hillel through a wide range of programs. Buckholtz said he hopes to create new learning opportunities and get really involved in the current programs already put in place, like the Jewish Fellowships program.
Chen Portnoy is Hillel’s new Israel fellow and a recent graduate from Hebrew University in Israel. Portnoy said she came to Hillel with the fellowship program because she fell in love with the staff and felt a community. Portnoy said she feels as though it is her responsibility as the Israel fellow to welcome and guide students interested in Israel with the Israeli programs offered through Hillel. She said she wants to be the person “with the answers” for anyone that is interested in Israel. Portnoy said she plans to engage as many students as possible with the variety of programs offered so that each student can find a way to get involved.
MJ Kurs-Lasky is a University of Maryland graduate from the class of 2010 and is from Pittsburgh, PA. Kurs-Lasky was very involved with Hillel as a student, specifically with Hillel’s Alternative Break (AB) program, going on and staffing a total of seven trips. MJ said he sees a lot of similarities in Hillel from when he was a student, but being on staff has proved to be different. As a staff member, Kurs-Lasky focuses on every step of the AB trip planning as well as recruiting and more. Before coming to Hillel, Kurs-Lasky worked in D.C. with social media. He said he is excited to be back at Hillel working with a more direct connection to students. “Hillel made a large impact on me as a student and I’m excited to be back on campus working with current students at the place that I know and love,” Kurs-Lasky said.
Talia Orencel is the new director of engagement and social justices at Maryland Hillel. Read about some of Orencel’s work in the article “Hillel’s fellowship encourages Greek involvement.”