URJ Heller High (formerly NFTY-EIE) has a dedicated team of staff members with years of experience working with high school teens. They are passionate about teaching and caring for the health and well-being of each of our participants.
Rabbi Loren Sykes, Principal
Rabbi Loren Sykes grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago where Rabbi Joseph Strauss z"l of Temple Menorah played a significant role in his early Jewish experiences. Loren was a lifelong Jewish camper and active member in synagogue and youth group life. He holds BA degrees in both European History and in Talmud, as well as an MA in Jewish studies and rabbinic ordination.
Loren brings seventeen years of senior leadership in Jewish camping to his position as principal of Heller High. He was the founding executive director of Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia. He also created Camp Yofi: Family Camp for Jewish Families with Children with Autism, a groundbreaking program for which he received the Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2006. Rabbi Sykes has vast experience in not-for-profit leadership and management as well as years of volunteer service on the boards of directors of several Jewish day schools.
Loren met his wife, Rebecca at Jewish overnight camp. He and Rebecca have three children - Elan Mira and Amalya. Elan attends college in the US. Loren, Rebecca, Mira and Amalya made Aliyah in August, 2013 and live in the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
David Solomon, Assistant Principal
David has worked with NFTY in Israel and the Heller High program for the past 16 years in many different capacities. In addition to his own teaching responsibilities in the general studies program, he works as the general studies coordinator. David, known and loved for his very special sense of humor, hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, and made aliyah in 1985. After completing a B.A. in History and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, David gained certification as a qualified secondary school teacher and has been teaching in some of the most prestigious high schools in Jerusalem ever since.
Hadas Zaken, Director of Student Services
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Hadas moved with her family to Jerusalem in 1990. A former Israeli Scout, she spent a gap year before her army service volunteering with Young Judea Year Course in communities at risk in Bat Yam. Hadas spent her army service as a nature guide at Naot Kedumim. She served as a madricha for the academic year 2010-2011 at what was then known as NFTY- EIE High School in Israel. She completed her BSW at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2016. While at Hebrew University, Hadas facilitated women's groups around Jerusalem, examining with these women the many facets of feminism in Israeli culture. After graduation she worked as a coordinator for Shin-Shenui, a project of the Jewish Agency that does service learning with Israeli pre-army youth doing volunteer work before the army. Hadas just completed serving as a year-long JDC fellow in the small Jewish community of Izmir, Turkey. She loves to run and cycle and does yoga in Ein Kerem, her 'hood' in Jerusalem.
Rachel Garber M.A., Hebrew Ulpan Coordinator
Rachel is a well known and much sought after Hebrew language educator, with extensive experience in supervising Hebrew language teachers working with new immigrant students, and instructing soldier teachers in the IDF as to the methodology for effective Hebrew language instruction with immigrant high school pupils. Rachel is the author of the popular and user friendly Hebrew text Hebrew on the Tip of the Tongue , published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1997. Rachel has worked with Heller High for many years in creating a most effective Hebrew language immersion program and supervising our Hebrew faculty. It is with pleasure that we welcome Rachel back to our faculty this semester.
Paul Reichenbach, Director of Camp and Israel Programs
Paul J. Reichenbach has been a senior member of the Union for Reform Judaism staff for over 30 years. He has served as Co-Director of the Kutz Camp, Director of the college department and for 25 years as Director of Israel Programs. He is presently the Director of Camping and Israel Programs with principal responsibilities for the 15 URJ Camps and high school and college programs in Israel. A leader in the field of Informal Jewish Education, Paul has been Chairman of the North American Conference on Informal Jewish Education. A proud alumnus of NFTY and New York University, Paul has three wonderful children who are all alumni of NFTY.
Robin Kulwin, Director of Admissions
Robin Kulwin has lived in Montclair, New Jersey since 1990. Her professional career had included stints in commercial banking in Mississippi, public service in the state governments there and in Pennsylvania, and a decade with the Project Finance/Global Power Group at Chase Securities Inc. She served six years on the Montclair Board of Education, two as President, and she and her husband are the parents of two post-high school EIE alums and a son and daughter-in-law who live in Atlanta.
Casey Wright, Recruitment and Marketing Director
Casey Wright has worked full time for the URJ since 2015. She spent two years as NFTY's Program Coordinator before joining the Heller High team. She grew up attending URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI), and worked there for five summers as a counselor, ropes course director, art specialist, and unit head. She is an alum of EIE (Spring 2010), as well as the Tel Aviv University Overseas Program (Spring 2014). She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 2015.
Denise Bulnes, Bursar for NFTY in Israel Programs
Denise, a Bronx Native, started with the URJ in the fall of 2002 as an assistant to the comptroller. In the summer of 2006 Denise took over as the Bursar for the NFTY in Israel programs as well as the Bookkeeper for Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. Denise enjoys living in Warwick and appreciates her short commute to work!
David Alon M.A.
David, a NFTY alum, grew up in the Reform Movement and was formerly a madrich for NFTY's summer program and the education director at URJ Camp Harlam. He received his BA in religion from the University of Rochester in 1999, and spent the next year in Israel as a participant in the Jewish Agency's Project Otzma for young leadership. As part of this experience, he chose to engage in a course of studies at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. David subsequently received his MA from Brandeis University in 2003 in the field of management and also pursued a graduate cluster in Jewish studies. Upon completing his Masters, David made Aliyah to Israel and enrolled for another year of learning at the WUJS Institute-Arad, focusing on Hebrew language, Tanakh, Jewish history, and Zionism. Later, he enlisted for six months in the IDF and trained with the artillery corps, where he still serves as a reserve soldier. Before coming to Heller High, David was a teacher in the Israeli public school system in the Negev. David is excited to be a part of the Jewish History faculty, where he has the great opportunity to share with the students his passion for Eretz Yisrael and being a part of the Jewish people.
Shira was raised in New Jersey, as the child of Jewish educators. As a result, Jewish education always had a strong presence in her life. As a NFTY alum, camper, and staff member at URJ Eisner Camp, and graduate of the Solomon Schechter Day School, Shira found her own passion for Jewish education. While attending Muhlenberg College, she taught several early childhood Hebrew school classes and developed a "Jewish decisions" course for post b’nei mitzvah students. She was also the full-time Program Assistant for Muhlenberg's Hillel. Immediately following graduation, with degrees in psychology and religion studies, Shira made aliyah. She served as a madricha at Heller High for two semesters and as an educator for NFTY summer programs. Since 2013, Shira has served as a Jewish history teacher for Heller High and coordinator of the NFTY Mitzvah Corps in Israel, and she is excited to share the beauty of Jewish life, tradition, and the Jewish homeland of Israel with youth from North America.
Aaron was born in Tallahassee, FL. In high school, he was a Heller High participant in the Fall of 2001. He attended Washington University in St. Louis, graduated in 2007, then returned to work as a madrich on Heller High. After making aliyah, he joined the IDF and served as a combat engineer, and he continues to serve in the reserves. He completed Israel's two year tour guide course in 2014 and will soon be a licensed tour guide. He also helps run Florida State University's FSUIsrael program. You can read the blog he uses with his students called "From Tallahassee to the Holy Land."
Evan grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he developed a lifelong love for the Jewish People and Israel. His Jewish identity was shaped by a home committed to Judaism, active participation in synagogue life, and NFTY events (especially his trip to Israel in 1999). Upon finishing his BA at George Washington University, Evan served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program working with people with special needs. In 2007, he made aliyah and has continued to be involved in Jewish life, especially as a member of Beit Tefilah Israeli, a synagogue that is a shining example of pluralistic Jewish life in Tel Aviv. He is studying towards his MA in Tanakh and Talmud at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. Evan is thrilled to be a part of the staff and share his love for Am Yisrael with the students.
Josh grew up in Saint Louis, MO. He graduated from Yale in 2013 with a B.A. in history and was a member of the varsity baseball team for four years. After graduation, Josh spent the year teaching English in an Israeli elementary school through Masa Israel Teaching Fellows. After the year in Israel, he worked for The David Project doing Israel advocacy on college campuses, bringing back both his passion for Israel and all that he learned to the States. Since moving back to Israel in 2015, Josh has worked both as an educator for NFTY in Israel as well as a coach/project coordinator for the Israel Association of Baseball. Josh is incredibly excited to join the Jewish History faculty at Heller High in order to share and develop his passion for Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael with the students.
Eitana Knaan, Hebrew
Sima Miller, Hebrew
Ela Ochayun, Hebrew
Sheila Ben-Yehudah, Mathematics
Bonnie Singer, Mathematics
Hoshea Allen, Chemistry and Anatomy
Jeremy Jordan, Chemistry and Physics
Lance Levenson, Chemistry, Physics, and Anthropology
Dr. Graciela Pillemer, Biology
Barry Geltman, English
Dvorah Levin, English
Ephraim Weintraub, English
Aryeh Ben-Yehudah, History
Jeff Gates, Social Studies
Scott Kuperberg, Social Studies
Jacob Solomon- Economics, Psychology, Environmental
Science, and Theory of Knowledge
Mariana Bar, Spanish
Daniel Santacruz, Spanish
Lilian Stein, French