AWB 2018: Meet the Staff

Itamar Bliman

I’m Itamar Bliman and I’m the Young Judaea Shaliach in South Florida and CJ. I was born in Haifa, Israel. I was an active participant and leader in the Israeli scouts in Haifa, and then I was a scout on the Young Judaea Year Course during my additional year of service before the army. In the IDF I was a combat soldier and a commander in infantry.

I was a counselor in CYJ Midwest and CYJ Texas, and this summer I was in charge of Israel education in CJ.

Last year I was a Madrich on AWB in Charleston. It was an amazing experience to be involved in the hard work of our teens that want to make a difference and help build a better world. Ezra Lazulat (help to those in need) and Mitzva are values I learned in the Israeli Scouts and Young Judaea. I look forward to translating these values into action and change on AWB 2018. See you in Puerto Rico!

Adam Cooper




My name is Adam Cooper and I am a 2nd year at the University of Virginia. I am intending to study public policy and leadership with a double major in music with a performance concentration. I am the President of Hoos for Israel at UVa, play in the Charlottesville Symphony, sing in a co-ed a cappella group, and am a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. I am excited to be a madrich on AWB this year because I want to connect chanichim to meaningful acts of tikkun olam that they will continue after the trip. I want to inspire each chanich/a to find their own connection to the work we do on the trip, and be able to sustain the change they make during the trip in their hometowns.

Michaela Davenport

Hello everyone! My name is Michaela Davenport, I’m from Tucson Arizona, and am currently a Junior at the University of Arizona. I study Politics, Philosophy, Economics and Law. I also work for my university’s food pantry which works to alleviate food insecurity on my campus. This will be my second time staffing AWB and I couldn’t be more excited! As a chanicha, AWB opened up my world-view and inspired me to get more involved in my own community. I can only hope to pass along that message to my chanichim this AWB! See you all in Puerto Rico!

Adina Gitomer

Hello friends!! My name is Adina and I’m currently studying computer science and social theory at Wesleyan University. Outside of that, I organize havdalah every week (some call me the havdalah queen), teach a hebrew school class to extraordinarily loud 4-6 graders, and work at the campus grocery store, which is like a Whole Foods condensed into the size of a convenience store (i.e. a magical place). I can’t wait to be madricha on AWB after having done it for 3 years as a participant; I’m super looking forward to learning, growing, and taking action with the AWB team!

Ethan Gertzman

Hey everyone! My name is Ethan Gertzman and I am incredibly excited and honored to be staffing Alternative Winter Break 2018! I am junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Political Science and Psychology, along with Nonprofit Management. Before going to Pitt, I went on Young Judaea Year Course in 2015, and I have worked at Camp Tel Yehudah for the past few summers as well. It has been a while since I myself have been on AWB; I was on AWB Los Angeles and AWB New Orleans back in 2013 and 2014, and had an incredible experience! The memories and experiences I made on those trips without a doubt opened my eyes and changed my life. Alternative Winter Break is among the best programs that YJ has to offer, and I can’t wait to spend this December in Puerto Rico!

Ariel Glueck

Hey all! My name is Ariel and I’m thrilled to be staffing AWB for the fourth time. This past May, I graduated from Hunter College with a major in political science and a minor in educational policy. Now, I’m a teacher’s apprentice with an Americorps program called Blue Engine which focuses on team teaching and small group instruction. I teach 10th grade in a public school in the South Bronx. I’m so grateful to have Young Judaea as a constant in my life through all the changes of graduating college and starting a new job. I was and advisor for NJYJ

Rayna Landa

HI! My name is Rayna and I’m a junior at Penn State University! My major is Education and Public Policy with a minor in Political Science. At school I’m involved in my sorority AOII, Hillel, and THON which is the largest student run philanthropy in the world and raised over 10 million dollars last year in the fight against childhood cancer! I’m so excited for my first year as a madricha for AWB after having done it all four years of high school! Each of my AWB experiences were some of the best weeks of my life and I CANT WAIT to be a part and help create the best week possible for all of you!

Kareem Rabbat

Hello! My name is Kareem Rabbat and I am currently studying Environmental Engineering with a certificate in Engineering for Humanity at the University of Pittsburgh. I am the co-president of Engineers for a Sustainable World and The Aquaponics Project, both striving to implement sustainable solutions to some of Pittsburgh’s most pressing issues. This past summer I studied abroad in South Africa and did a two month internship in Brazil. I participated in AWB LA in 2013 and had such a positive & impactful experience. Being a madrich on AWB is important to me because I want to facilitate that same experience for this year’s chanichim. Staffing this trip is important because I want to do all I can to heal the world and this is a small stepping stone on the path to doing just that.

Young Judaea Delegation at the AIPAC Schusterman High School Summit

Young Judaea’s Delegation from left to right: Elan Krakow (Teaneck, NJ), Jess Siegal (Needham, MA), Tamar Lerner (Chesterfield, MO), Morgan Isbitts (Weston, FL), Julia Kamen (Manchester, NH), Mollie Nadolne (Roswell, GA), Hannah Slavsky (Plainview, NY), Eitan Weinkle (Pittsburgh, PA), Ari Julius (Fairlawn, NJ). Not Pictured: Rachel Lock (New York, NY).

AIPAC partners with a select number of Jewish Day schools, synagogues, national youth groups, and teen leadership organizations to bring 400 high school student leaders from across the country to Washington, D.C. for Israel advocacy and political activism training. The goal of the Summit is to educate students on the U.S.-Israel relationship and to help them become effective pro-Israel political activists on and beyond their school campus.

The Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit took place in Washington, D.C. from October 28, 2018 to October 30, 2018.  On the final day of the conference, participants had the opportunity to turn their political activism training into action by lobbying their members of Congress.

Young Judaea’s delegation included teens from all over the US and representing all of Young Judaea’s camps.

Jess Siegal

This past week, ten delegates from Young Judaea spent three days at the AIPAC Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit along with over 400 other teens from around the country. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, holds this conference in order to educate students on the US-Israel relationship and to inspire them to be effective political activists.

After arriving on Sunday afternoon, we began with a breakout session entitled “Why We Commit: Telling Our Stories”. We listened to stories from AIPAC field officers, college student facilitators, and our peers. We then participated in a variety of sessions and workshops regarding lobbying, issues and relationships in the Middle East, the importance of engagement, the history of AIPAC, and advocacy skills. Next, we attended a college fair led by AIPAC liaisons from many of the country’s top schools, and enjoyed a carnival and some free time.

Throughout our time at the conference, we convened in groups split by district and prepared for our meetings with congressional offices on Tuesday morning. Eight other students and I met with staffers from Joseph Kennedy’s office in order to urge the Congressman to continue being a strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship, and to thank him for all the work he has done thus far. Finally, we spent some free time exploring Washington DC before boarding the bus back to the hotel and leaving for our respective flights back home.

Not only did I get to spend a few days with some of my close friends, but my experiences at the Summit inspired me. I learned a lot about the complicated situation Israel is facing in the Middle East, and how the US is involved in those issues. I believe that it is up to us to use our voices to make a difference and strengthen the relationship between our two homelands.

~ Jess is an 11th grader from Needham, MA and is the Mazkira of the New England Region of Young Judaea.

Julia Kamen

My time at the AIPAC Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit was a great experience. I participated in lobbying a Massachusetts congressional staff member where I spoke on behalf of AIPAC as well as myself regarding pertinent issues in Israel and why having close US relations is important.

At the summit I sat through several conferences with college students who run an AIPAC club at their school. They explained to participants that regardless of political affiliation, advocating for safety in Israel through US connections is very important. This experience made me realize just how much Israel relies on US support. If the US did not support Israeli interests, Israel’s military, economy, and day to day living would suffer greatly.

Having friends that live in Israel and understanding the dangers they face has made me want to advocate more on this issue. I plan on taking what I’ve gained from this experience back to my local community to continue the conversation!

~ Julia is an 11th grader from Manchester NH and is the Social Media/Communications VP for New England, Young Judaea.

Eitan Weinkle

The Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit run by AIPAC was an incredibly valuable experience. I was able to learn so much about Israel and its relations with other countries, Israel’s security situation, and I also gained valuable advocacy skills. A large part of the summit that really stuck with me was the first session we attended: Why We Commit. This session really helped me understand how I have built such a strong Jewish identity over the course of my life. This was extremely helpful, especially when we were advocating on Capitol Hill, because I was able to explain my personal connection to Israel and not just acknowledge that I had a strong one.

~ Eitan is an 11th grader from Pittsburgh, PA and is Social Action programmer for the Midwest Region of Young Judaea.


A Note from Young Judaea’s National Mazkirut on the Tree of Life Synagogue

A note from the 2018-19 National Mazkirut:

We would be remiss to release an issue of Kol Ha T’nua at this moment without recognizing the horrific act of anti-semitism that occurred this past Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the lives lost, the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, and the Young Judaea community of Pittsburgh. That being said, we also want to encourage everyone to take this tragedy to create dialogue surrounding what we can do to take action against anti-semitism. We will continue to condemn gun violence and anti-semitism, and we strive to bring about the world that ought to be:

אני ואתה נשנה את העולם
Ani ve’ata neshaneh et ha’olam.
You and I will change the world

The 2018-19 National Mazkirut

Young Judaea’s National Social Action Initiative: Sara Kasler

At Young Judaea’s National Convention in 2017, the T’nua (Movement) voted to create the Anne Heyman National Initiative for Social Change. Named after a Judaean who truly made a difference in the world, the goal of the National initiative is to give the movement a focus for the year in terms of social action.

During National Convention this past February, multiple topics were presented to potentially be chosen to become our initiative for the next year. It was ultimately voted that we would focus on women’s health. The idea for this topic came from Campon, a project that many teens have participated in at Camp Tel Yehudah throughout the past few summers. At the end of the summer, a few teens go from bunk to bunk to collect extra pads and tampons to donate as these are things that many people tend to overlook when making donations. Throughout this programming year, we plan to not just collect donations but we will educate and work to destigmatize the topic of women’s health throughout the Movement and in our communities.

~ Sara Kasler, National Social Action Programmer 2018-2019

Reflections from a Pittsburgh Young Judaean: Eitan Weinkle

My name is Eitan Weinkle and I am a proud Judean, Pittsburgher, and above all else, a proud Jew. When I woke up on October 27, I had no idea that the deadliest attack against the Jewish people to ever take place in the United States was about to occur just blocks from my home. The Squirrel Hill neighborhood is an incredibly vibrant and tightly knit community and the home to Pittsburgh’s biggest Jewish community.

No one foresaw Saturday’s tragedy, which took place right in the heart of our Jewish community. This shooting has impacted every single person I know, Jews and non-Jews alike, whether they knew a victim personally or not at all. We lost eleven incredible, kind, loving souls who will leave a gaping hole in our community. As we grieve this terrible tragedy, we must remember to stay united. It is times like these where we must not recede into the shadows and hide our Judaism, but show the whole world that we are proud to be Jewish.  The Jewish community is the strongest group of people I know and if we stand together we will make it through this difficult time. The entire city of Pittsburgh is extremely grateful for the incredible unity and support shown from Jews and non-Jews across the globe. We would not be able to move forward without the overwhelming support for which we are incredibly grateful. We ask you to continue to stand with us and remind the world: A City of Steel cannot be broken.

~ Eitan Weinkle is an 11th grader from Pittsburgh and is the Social Action Program for the Midwest region of Young Judaea

Young Judaea Message on the Shooting at Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh

The entire Young Judaea community grieves for those who were killed in Saturday’s horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and we stand together with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh in the face of this tragedy.

Words cannot express the shock, sadness, and deep loss that we all feel. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to those who survived this heinous attack, and to all those who have tragically lost loved ones.

Yesterday, children from Young Judaea Pittsburgh had planned to gather at one of our families’ homes to celebrate their community at Camp Young Judaea Midwest. How can it be that on a day when they were supposed to be having fun, playing games and talking about camp with their friends, these children are instead struggling to understand the unimaginable? How can it be that on a day when our parents were meant to be sharing their wonderful camp experiences with new families, they instead need to have conversations with their children about anti-Semitism, hatred and death? In the face of these unanswerable questions, the families decided to gather together as planned at this home, now to support and comfort one another.

We mourn the loss of these eleven souls. May their memories be for a blessing. Many of us now worry about our and others’ safety. We struggle with how we should discuss with our teens and children this killing of innocent people and the hate and anti-Semitism that motivated the shooter. There will be time to learn and to teach. Young Judaea has always been, and will always be, a place for Jewish young people to come together to confront, reflect and learn from difficult and challenging ideas and, sometimes, tragedies. For now, we must simply mourn this loss and stand with our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh.

So, in addition to sharing our love and support, offering our solidarity and comfort to the Pittsburgh community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to empowering our children to change the world – in spite of the hatred that inspired this tragedy.


Simon Klarfeld
Executive Director, Young Judaea

Evan Ressel
National Mazkir
Young Judaea National Mazkirut

David Weinsten
Executive Director, Tel Yehudah

Frank Silberlicht
Executive Director, Camp Young Judaea Texas

Walter Synalovski
Executive Director, Camp Judaea

Robin Anderson
Executive Director, Camp Young Judaea Midwest

Helene Drobenare
Executive Director, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake

Sharon Schoenfeld
Director US Programs, Young Judaea