Profile of OTZMA 2010-2011 Participants
Currently, OTZMA XXV (2010-2011) has 27 participants from 19 different communities across North America. The group is extremely diverse coming from many different backgrounds.
Please see below to learn more about this years group!
Alex Kadis (Cleveland, OH) Alex graduated from Lehigh University in 2010 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Mass Communications. In the spring of 2009 he studied social and political transformation in Durban, South Africa. In Israel, he hopes to continue learning firsthand about human rights and social justice issues. His dream is to help empower young adults in Israeli society in some small, meaningful, way. He loves to travel and take lots of photographs along the way.
Amir Zinkow (Columbus, OH) graduated in June from The Ohio State University with a BA in Anthropology. He spent the past summer in Uganda on an AJWS Volunteer Summer trip working with the Uganda Orphans and Rural Development Program. On this trip, he was educated about many of the issues facing developing nations, and also became an expert in using a hoe and mixing mortar and concrete. While Amir has been to Israel several times, this will be his first trip of any significant period of time.
Ariel Kurland (East Bay, CA) Ariel is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and an emphasis on International Relations. Throughout college she was active with Jewish organizations such as Hillel. She was also active in youth programs, as she was in charge of a tutoring program that matched local elementary school children with UCSB student tutors. She typically spends her summers working at Camp Kee Tov, a Jewish day camp in Berkeley. She loves being outside, working with children, and spontaneous adventures. She studied abroad at Tel Aviv University in Fall 2008, and is very excited to be coming back to Israel for an entire year!
Ariel Sternberg (Boston, MA) Ariel graduated from University of Maryland with a B.S. in Psychology in May, and decided to take the year in Israel to further her studies before settling down in graduate school to obtain her PhD. Israel has always been an important place to her, as her family lives there and she frequently visits and toured as a teen in 2004, yet she has never lived there for any extended period of time. After an incredible six months spent living in Rome, Italy, Ariel decided a year spent in Israel is the perfect way to combine her passion for travel with her decision to take some time off from school. She loves to spend time with her friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, care for children, and relax before the “real world” sets in.
Austen Shantz (Atlanta, GA) Austen is a graduate of The Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with a minor in Music. Austen has been a member of many different music ensembles over the years and in college was president of the symphony orchestra and a member of the symphonic and jazz bands. He's a recent Birthright alum of this past summer and couldn't wait to get back to Israel to see more of the country and give something back. While he's upset to miss the start of college football, he's really excited to start this journey and learn and experience everything he can and bring it back to his local community.
Eli Cohn (Minneapolis, MN) Eli has decided to spend a year in Israel after graduating from Lewis and Clark College in 2010. He was very involved in his high school youth group and NFTY, and continued his service to the Jewish community by helping to start the Greater Portland Hillel while in college. He attended and continues work at Jewish summer camps in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Eli has been to Israel twice, most recently on a vacation in 2008.
Elissa Rae Rosenblatt (Chicago, IL) Elissa graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2010 with a major in Special Education and Rehabilitation. She decided that this would be a good time in her life to travel and enjoy different experiences while helping others. She had two Bat-Mitzvahs as a child, one in Chicago and one in Israel, and it was a wonderful experience. This led her to take part in Birthright during her sophomore year of college. After this trip Elissa knew that she had to go back to Israel one day. One thing that she hopes to continue throughout her life is traveling. She is very excited to help others and to be immersed into the Israeli culture. She is also excited to see her Israeli friends from her birthright experience.
Ellen Holtzman (San Francisco, CA) Ellen is a recent graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Sociology and Education. She attended JCA Shalom summer camp in Malibu for 9 summers, including her work as a CIT and Counselor. Throughout high school, Ellen was quite active in BBYO and re-started the Palo Alto “El Al” chapter as well as serving as president for three years, growing her chapter to be the largest in the Northern California region. Throughout college, Ellen attended weekly Shabbat dinners and events at Hillel while maintaining strong ties with the local Jewish community. Ellen traveled the world over 108 days on Semester at Sea in 2008, and can’t wait to explore Israel during her time on OTZMA.
Erin Lebowitz (Washington, DC) Erin grew up in Rockville, Maryland. She will be returning to Towson University next fall to finish her degree in Women's Studies. She is training to become a Doula and helped deliver her first baby this past spring. She is passionate about reptiles and aquatic life, as she had previously studied Marine Biology. Erin just returned from Birthright and feels extremely blessed to be able to participate in Otzma. She is looking forward to meeting other participants to experience Israel!
Jeff Hast (Pittsburgh, PA) Jeff is 23 years old and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 with a degree in Psychology and a certificate in Children's Literature. This past summer, he worked as a division head at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia, where he has spent his past fourteen summers. Jeff has been to Israel once before on a Jewish leadership program in 2004, but can't wait to return and experience it again on a more long-term and intensive program.
Jennifer Perchonok (Houston, TX) Jennifer recently graduated from the University of Michigan with her Masters in Industrial and Operations Engineering. Her connection to Judaism stems from her many summers spent at Camp Interlaken JCC. She enjoys playing basketball and snowboarding, along with anything that allows her to be active outside. Before returning to school in Fall 2011, she looks forward to taking a year off to volunteer and get to experience Israel in a new light.
Jeremy Zola (Cinncinati, OH) Jeremy recently graduated from The Ohio State University. He majored in zoology and was also a fundraiser for the campus Hillel. He really enjoys watching college football and basketball. He has been to Israel 4 times and led a NFTY in Israel trip this past summer. Jeremy went to a Jewish day school for 7 years, as well as a URJ camp. He is looking forward to Otzma and the opportunity to volunteer for a year, while living in Israel.
Laura Reader (Los Angeles, CA) Laura is a recent University of Washington graduate, with a B.S. in Applied Math and a B.A. in Sociology. While at UW, Laura founded Banot, the Jewish Sisterhood, organized the movement to recolonize AEPhi, the Jewish sorority, worked at Hillel planning events, won the Nashchon Award for Leadership, and committed her free time to building a strong Jewish community. She has led Shabbat services and was the only student asked to speak at Rosh Hashanah 5770 morning services. After visiting Israel for the first time on Birthright during the summer of 2008, she is now returning to Israel to gain more skills in being a successful Jewish leader. Laura loves to travel, to learn new languages, and to help people find their own path in life while finding her own. Yalla!
Lauren Zink (Berkshires, MA) In May of this year, Lauren graduated from Quinnipiac University with a B.A. in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing. She was an active member in the student - run organization, Sleeping Giant Public Relations, and was elected President during her senior year. She was also a member of Quinnipiac's national communications honor society, Lambda Pi Eta. She has traveled to most of the states in the US (yes, even Alaska) and had the opportunity to study abroad in London. It was there that she realized that along with her love for learning, she also loves traveling and immersing herself in other cultures. She has been to Israel on her Birthright trip, but figured that spending ten months in Israel is slightly better than ten days!
Lindsay Strauss (Eastern Fairfield, CT) Lindsay is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut. She majored in Allied Health Sciences with a minor in psychology. Lindsay volunteered at Connecticut Children’s Hospital in hopes of getting into graduate school to become an Occupational Therapist. Lindsay participated in birthright in 2008 and has been anxiously waiting for a chance to get back to Israel.
Madeleine Schnur (Richmond, VA) Madeleine recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Psychology. Madeleine was active in many organizations around campus, including the Jewish Renaissance Fellows program, Bloomers (all female musical sketch comedy), and the Latino Honor Society Cipactli. She loves cooking, music, traveling, and learning languages. She has lived abroad in Spain and Brazil, and is very excited about her first trip to Israel.
Max Amer (Boston, MA) Max grew up in the Boston area and went to school for audio/video production in the city. Immediately following college, he started working at The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel as a sales manager for conferences. Although this job paid his bills and expenses, his real passions are music entertainment, clothing, and business. Max spends his free time working on his businesses, volunteering for horizons for homeless, and traveling. He is looking forward to a jam packed year in Israel and all that it has to offer.
Michael Schwartz (Orange County, CA) Michael graduated from Cal State University Monterey Bay with a BA in Communications with an emphasis in practical and professional ethics. Since graduating in 2007 Michael started up a career with the non profit environmental group, Greenpeace. In March he decided to take a break from Greenpeace and begin travelling. Among other places, he travelled to Israel and Europe this summer, where he fell in love with Israel and wanted to find a way to get back to the country. He is an avid beach goer and is excited to meet new people and make a difference with fellow OTZMA participants.
Nikki Avershal (Pittsburgh, PA) Nikki graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2009 with a BA in Political Science and English Writing and a minor in Children's Development and Literature. She spent the last year working as a Cantorial Soloist and Youth Director at a small Synagogue in Suburban Pittsburgh. As an undergraduate she spent her time dedicated to Pitt's Jewish and American Pop A Cappella group, the Vokols, as well as other groups at the Hillel Jewish University Center. She loves reading good books, playing guitar and piano, and teaching Yoga. In addition to many trips with her family, this is Nikki's 3rd organized trip to Israel (NFTY in Israel 2005, ASB Israel 2008).
Rebecca Bigman (Volusia & Flagler, FL) Rebecca just recently graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. While being a gator, she went to Israel on a birthright trip and knew she needed to go back. She has been attending Blue Star Camps (a Jewish sleep away camp) since she was 10, and is currently still working there as a staff member. She has also been very involved with her temple-- Temple Beth El after moving to Florida as a young child. She is a huge Yankee and Gator fan and enjoys playing sports, traveling, the outdoors, and spending time with her family and friends.
Rebecca Feinstein (New York, NY) Rebecca Feinstein graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Rehabilitation Psychology in 2009. She took a year off between college and “the real world” to discover herself. In that time she realized her immeasurable passion for Israel, and having been there with family and friends about 8 times, she decided to teach English through OTZMA in hopes to make aliyah soon thereafter. Back in 2003, Becca and her family volunteered at the Julis army base through Sar-El for the better part of a summer. She has been involved with many other Jewish organizations, charities and classes through her temple as well. On the whole, Becca is a travel enthusiast and her life goal is to travel the world; hopefully with good friends, a great book, and of course her camera!
Richard Schneider (Washington, DC) Richard graduated from the University of Maryland in 2008 with degrees in both accounting and marketing. Despite the implications of his majors, he most loves language, computers, and physics. Richard is passionate about teaching, speaking, and writing. He wants to be a teacher, though any endeavor rewarding creativity will suit him well. Unsure of his path in life, he has decided to spend a year in Israel in pursuit of introspective knowledge. And to meet new people. And to have fun. Grammar was never his strong suit.
Shoshana Tell (Boston, MA) Shoshana recently graduated from Harvard, where she majored in History and Science and minored in Jewish Studies. In college, she was an active member of Harvard Hillel, and her senior thesis explored how genetic research on Jewish populations reshapes Jewish identity. Shoshana attended University of Haifa's summer ulpan in 2009, and she is very excited to return to Israel for the year. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, and plans to begin medical school following OTZMA.
Tracy McNamara (Boston, MA) Tracy is a recent graduate of the University of Tampa with a major in Psychology. While at Tampa Tracy was the student coordinator of organizations for the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement as well as a volunteer coordinator for the PEACE Volunteer Center. She traveled to Israel on a leadership training program in 2004 and again in 2008 to be a participant in Jewish National Fund's Alternative Spring break. Tracy loves meeting new people and taking on adventures.
Vanessa Friedman (Boston, MA) Vanessa is a recent graduate from New York University, with a BA in English and American Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. She is an outspoken feminist, a stellar scrapbooker, and a dedicated Lady Gaga fan. She also really likes peanut butter, sundresses, and Twitter. While in New York, Vanessa interned at a variety of magazines including CosmoGirl and Time Out New York, contributed to several NYU publications, and volunteered with Planned Parenthood. She also worked as a tutor in the College Learning Center and as a professional Super Fun Babysitter. She played a role in the Jewish community on campus, participating in a semester-long Jewish Learning Fellowship and holding the position of Arts and Culture chair on the Hillel board for one year. After her Birthright trip in May 2008, Vanessa swore she’d return to Israel — she’s very excited about making good on that promise and is looking forward to an incredible year.
Whitney Frost (Richmond, VA) Whitney graduated from High Point University in May 2010 and, for years, has been planning to spend time volunteering in Israel. While in high school, she was a very active participant in Seaboard USY and attended a six week Israeli pilgrimage through USY in 2005. Throughout her college years, Whitney was involved with student government, a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, studied in Oxford, UK for a semester, and was a student ambassador.