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 PrincipalDavid 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, Associate Director of Student ServicesOriginally 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 CoordinatorRachel 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 ProgramsPaul 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 AdmissionsRobin 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 DirectorCasey 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.
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.
Evan WertheimEvan 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 ScharffJosh 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
Talia JacobsonTalia is so excited to return to Tzuba as a teacher. After her semester as a student in Spring 2009, Talia has been dreaming of returning to teach. She grew up in numerous Jewish settings in Chicago and the Midwest, among them Skokie Solomon Schechter Day School and camp URJ OSRUI. Talia also grew up watching her parents serve the Jewish community through Chicago Jewish Funerals and many other programs and events in Chicago. Talia's passion for Israel was ignited by her 8th grade trip, Ta'am Yisrael, continued through her semester on EIE and led her to an army preparatory gap year here in Israel. She has a BA in Judaic Studies and Arabic Language from SUNY Binghamton and now lives joyfully in Jerusalem. In Talia's free time, she studies to be a tour guide and leads tours at Yad Vashem. Talia is so excited to share her passion of the Jewish people, our land, language and religion, with the students and is overjoyed at the opportunity to teach.