Alexa Broida has been with Mitzvah Corps since 2010. She graduated from UCLA with degrees in Public Health and Developmental Psychology, and obtained a Master's in Business and Organizational Science from GWU. Currently living in Philadelphia, Alexa is passionate about discovering people and places around the world, and connecting others with life changing experiences.
Jonah Freelander, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Development Email Jonah, 212-650-4077Pronouns: He/Him/His
Jonah grew up in the Reform movement and was heavily involved in the NFTY and URJ Eisner camp communities through his time at Trinity College. Jonah has since dedicated his professional life to the creation and development of innovative educational experiences, designed to guide Jewish youth toward living meaningful Jewish lives in an ever-changing complex world.
Ilana Schear, Registrar, URJ Teen Travel Programs Email Ilana, 212-452-6517Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Ilana graduated from Goucher College with a degree in Communication and Media Studies and a minor in Political Science. She was actively involved in NFTY, as well as participated in Mitzvah Corps and NFTY in Israel, and joined the URJ Teen Travel Programs team in 2016. In her spare time, Ilana is an enthusiastic traveler discovering different cultures, sites, and sounds of our global world.
Denise Bulnes, Bursar, URJ Teen Travel Programs Email Denise, 212-452-6520Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Denise has served URJ Teen Travel Programs since 2006. She is a Lehman College Certified Business Bookkeeper and Assistant Accountant; also, as a notary public, she has over 30 years of experience in accounting and auditing. Denise sits on the Board of Directors of the Warwick Lions Club, is a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and is an avid community activist. Married to her high school sweetheart for over 30 years, she has two children and four grandchildren.
Dan Lange, Director of Youth Programs, URJ Email Dan, 212-650-4078Pronouns: He/Him/His
Dan holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Program, where he was named a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar. He joined the URJ in 2014, and has overseen professional development, international staffing, safety, security, and other programmatic and operational aspects for our network of 16 camps and nearly 120 full time employees in our youth system.
Beth Lipschutz, MSWPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Beth is the Regional Director for Youth Engagement for NFTY Missouri Valley, where she mentors teen leaders as they plan and lead immersive educational, religious, and social programming for their peers. Additionally, she serves as NFTY’s National Inclusion Project Coordinator, researching inclusion practices and consulting around areas for improvement. Beth is thrilled for her third summer working with Mitzvah Corps to facilitate learning about racial, economic, and civil rights in the Deep South.
Josh HepnerPronouns: He/Him/His
Josh brings a plethora of experience from many summers as a staff member at camp, overseeing justice and adventure programming. He now works with middle and high school religious school students out of Temple Emanuel in Denver, Colorado, where he has built a curriculum introducing students to the world of nonprofits, direct service, and social justice. Next year he’ll be heading to Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion and the University of Southern California, where he’ll obtain a dual Master’s in Jewish Nonprofit Management and Social Work.
Amy SingerPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Amy is an alumna of Mitzvah Corps of the American South, which inspired her to build her academic and career trajectories around direct service. As an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, she planned and led Alternative Spring Break programming for her peers, worked with Jewish Women International, and interned on Capitol Hill with Senator Ben Cardin. This fall, she will head to a job with AmeriCorps, and is so excited to bring her passion and experience back to the place where it all began.
Zach PlesentPronouns: He/Him/His
Zach is thrilled to be returning for a second summer with Mitzvah Corps! Zach is a rising third year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew Union College, and has proudly served the Jewish community of Laramie, WY while in school. Zach graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Political Science and Jewish Studies, and worked full time as an educator and song leader at Central Synagogue in Manhattan before beginning his rabbinical studies. When not in school, Zach enjoys playing his guitar, seeing theater, and watching West Wing reruns.
Debbie ShapiroPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Debbie is a product of NFTY’s Ohio Valley which served as a center for her Jewish learning and leadership both as a participant and then TYG advisor; she is a former Urban Mitzvah Corps Program Leader (1989). She spent most of her early teaching career in Arts Education and is currently a high school Health & Life Skills teacher living with her two youngest children in Tacoma WA. Debbie has a passion for mentoring teens towards self- advocacy, personal growth and healthy relationships practices.
David ThalenbergPronouns: He/Him/His
David was born in Israel, but has lived in the United States since the age of 10 and calls Flagstaff, Arizona his home. Since graduating from Northern Arizona University in 2013 with a degree in International Affairs, David has worked a wide-array of jobs including being as a US Visa Specialist in China, a Study Abroad Advisor in California, and most recently as an Economic Development Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Paraguay. Having staffed Mitzvah Corps programs in New Orleans and Washington DC, David is very excited to be a part of the Mitzvah Corps team once again this summer in the Pacific Northwest.
Kate ThomasPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Kate is an alumna of Mitzvah Corps, and has been involved in a wide array of social justice experiences since. She has worked with children with emotional and behavioral challenges at Wediko Children’s Services, as a community organizer around worker’s rights with Rutger University’s United Students Against Sweatshops, and was an in-house peer leader at the Human Rights House. She’s studied abroad in South Africa and Argentina, and served as a Repair the World Fellow in Baltimore in 2014-2015. Kate now serves on the Mitzvah Corps Alumni Committee, and is excited to come back to her roots with us in the Pacific Northwest this summer!
Billy BloombergPronouns: He/Him/His
Billy is an alumnus of Urban Mitzvah New Jersey 2012, which launched him into an academic and career trajectory of service learning and Jewish youth engagement. After graduating from high school in 2014, Billy spent a year in Portland as part of the Tivnu: Building Justice gap year program. Since then, he has been enrolled in William Paterson University, where he is the Philanthropy and Community Service Chair of Phi Kappa Tau and majors in Sociology and Religious Studies. He is a leader in the New Jersey Jewish youth community as the Head Resident Advisor for NFTY’s Garden Empire Region, and is thrilled to be back at UMC this summer.
Ezra Oliff-LiebermanPronouns: He/Him/His
Ezra is returning to Mitzvah Corps after having spent last summer working for our program in the Pacific Northwest. At Bates College, he graduated in 2018 with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, having spent time as a Multifaith Fellow for the Bates College Multifaith Chaplaincy, the Northeast Vice President of J Street U, where he focused on community organizing and social justice advocacy, and an activist with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence. His mother was an Urban Mitzvah Corps New Jersey alumna, and he can’t wait to come full circle back to New Brunswick.
Emily SellmanPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Emily is a Baltimore native who has since lived in Washington, DC and now Brookline, MA. She is a graduate of University of Maryland, College Park where she studied environmental policy and business administration. Go Terps! Currently, she works at an elementary school with a special needs student, is a Moishe House resident organizer, a Hebrew School teacher, and is studying to become a certified yoga teacher. She loves travel, all things outdoors, movement of the body and mind, and exploring Judaism as a catalyst for community and social change. She is thrilled to be able to combine those things with UMC this summer.
Julia ZinnPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Julia currently serves as a Jewish educator in Boston, both at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, and at Temple Beth Am in Framingham. Social justice is a huge part of her own connection to Judaism, and she’s brought it fully into her career as she exposes middle and high school students to ways to deepen their civic engagement, service learning, and connection to the URJ and Religious Action Center networks. She’s seen many of her students go through incredible transformations while on Mitzvah Corps programs, and cannot wait to be a part of the program firsthand.
Osnat Guide; Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Information about Osnat coming soon!
Melissa HessePronouns: She/Her/Hers
Information about Melissa coming soon!
Rachel BarnehamaPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Information about Rachel coming soon!
Federico BielawskiPronouns: He/Him/His
Information about Federico coming soon!
Rabbi Peter Rigler Pronouns: He/Him/His
Peter was ordained by HUC-JIR in 2002, and currently serves as the Rabbi of Temple Sholom in Broomall, Pennsylvania. He is an active board member for the URJ Camp Harlam, where he serves on the faculty for two weeks each summer. He is involved at the Broad Street Ministry homeless shelter and in many social action projects throughout Philadelphia. He is also a graduate of the Synagogue Transformation and Renewal Program and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and currently serves as a member of the Board of Rabbis of Philadelphia, is the President of the local Clergy Counsel, and serves on the Mitzvah Corps Advisory Committee. Rabbi Rigler is returning to Mitzvah Corps for the third time this summer, and is excited to bring another group of teens to Central America!
Eliza Scheffler Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Eliza is a Rabbinical Student at HUC-JIR. Prior to her rabbinical studies, Eliza received her B.A. from Yale University and worked in charity evaluation in San Francisco, CA. Eliza has travelled all over the world, from Canada to Argentina to Senegal to China, and she has led backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail. Eliza cannot wait to meet the awesome teens who have chosen to spend their summer exploring Costa Rica and working side-by-side with locals to contribute to their community.
Maya BrodkeyPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Maya currently works as a teacher in Oakland, CA, and is simultaneously working toward her Master’s in Education from the Mills College School of Education. A graduate of the AmeriCorps Youth Leadership Institute, and several American Jewish World Service international service trips, Maya has also led numerous Birthright trips to Israel. Prior to becoming a public school teacher, she was the Community Programs Coordinator for KESHET in San Francisco, and is thrilled to combine her love of teaching, travel, Judaism, and social justice into an incredible Mitzvah Corps experience this summer.
Morissa FreibergPronouns: She/Her/Hers
Morissa is the Director of Education at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington, OH, where she has introduced an entire curriculum of educational social justice experiences for students ages 4-18 years old. Traveling to Israel twice on service learning programs instilled a deep love of travel and direct impact on Morissa, which she’s brought with her to all of her endeavors. She currently also represents Columbus, OH as part of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism’s ReformOH initiative, where she lobbies for criminal justice reform, and is so excited to bring her expertise to Mitzvah Corps.