The Hornstein Program's Class of 2015 with Hornstein faculty, May 17, 2015, Brandeis University

Hornstein Class of 2015

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, twelve talented Hornstein students graduated in a diploma ceremony at 2:00 p.m. at the Mandel Forum, Mandel Center for the Humanities. The ceremony was preceded by a luncheon and followed by a dessert reception.

The afternoon was highlighted by keynote speaker, Dr. Zohar Raviv, Class of 2000. Dr. Raviv is the International Vice President of Education for Taglit-Birthright Israel and this year's recipient of the Bernard Reisman Award for Professional Excellence. (Read our press release announcing this award.) Dr. Raviv's address is published at and here.

Graduating student Sabrina Taran chaired the planning committee under the guidance of Prof. Mark Rosen.

Hornstein Program Class of 2015 Commencement Ceremony, Brandeis University
Click on the image to watch a video recording of the commencement program.

Hornstein Class of 2015*

Edana AppelEdana Appel (MA/MBA) is from El Paso, Texas and graduated in 2008 with a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and Women's and Gender studies with a minor in Hebrew Language and Literature from Brandeis University. Upon graduation she received the Rachel Oliveri Prize for her outstanding work in the Women's and Gender studies department and the Student Life Award. Edana has worked as the assistant director at two different Jewish overnight camps, Camp Young Judaea –West and Camp Livingston. During her years at Camp Livingston, she was chosen to participate in the JCC Association’s Merrin Teen Professional Fellowship Program as well as the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yitro Leadership Program. Most recently, Edana worked at Camp Interlaken JCC where she was the Chizuk Fellow. Her excitement about returning to Brandeis is only bolstered by the fact that she was chosen as a JCC Association Graduate Scholar and the JFEW/Brandeis Scholar Graduate Student Mentor. She looks forward to a future of working for the Jewish community where she can create innovative Jewish and Israel experiences, build environments for personal growth, and conceive new means of leadership development.

Ashley ArnoldAshley Arnold (MA/MBA) is originally from Wichita, Kansas. Ashley. For her undergraduate degree, she attended Wichita State University where she studied Communication and Political Science. After graduation, Ashley worked internationally on social justice issues around the topics of nutrition, public health, and poverty alleviation. She spent six months living and working in Jerusalem for one of Israel’s largest food banks. In 2011, Ashley joined the United States Peace Corps working in Mali, West Africa. There she managed the introduction of a nutritious, sustainable crop to fight food insecurity through training small groups in four garden cooperatives. After her Peace Corps service in Mali was cut short by a coup d'etat, Ashley became a regional adviser for Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a U.S. State Department program aiming to reduce maternal mortality in Zambia. Since returning to the states, Ashley has worked domestically in civic engagement and leadership development in the communities of Wichita, Kansas and Roxbury, Massachusetts. In the summer of 2014, Ashley worked for JOIN for Justice (Jewish Organizing Institute and Network) to develop a strategic plan for the organization’s mentoring and consulting services focused on training the next generation of community organizers and Jewish leaders. In the summer of 2015, she went to the former Soviet country of Georgia with JDC Entwine, a program of the American Joint Distribution Council for young Jewish leaders seeking to make a meaningful impact on global Jewish needs and international humanitarian issues. Upon her return, she was hired by Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation, as a Development Officer in Women’s Philanthropy. 

Photo of David BigioDavid Bigio (MA/MBA) was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, where he was director of the local youth movement, Atid Tnuat Noar, running activities, camps, training new madrichim, and participating in informal education training programs with Hanoar Hatzioni across Latin America. David earned a B.A. in Intercultural Business Administration from the Lauder Business School in Vienna, Austria. In college, David volunteered at the European “Maccabi Games 2011” and served as a student representative for ECJS in Austria. Additionally, David has worked in an online focused marketing agency as a campaign specialist for Latin American countries. After graduating, David returned to Colombia and worked as a local representative for Israel Soul Train, a non-profit organization that strengthens small Jewish communities around the world. He was responsible for running programs for local Jewish students and coordinating artistic events for the community. Simultaneously, he was involved in the for-profit sector, working as a sales manager for a leather company. David is excited to be part of the Brandeis community, and hopes to incorporate business practices into his work in the Jewish community.

Photo of Eli CohnEli Cohn (MA/MA) was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He went to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where he graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy. While in school Eli helped found the Greater Portland Hillel and served as its first president. After graduation, Eli spent a year in Israel on the OTZMA program, where he volunteered, worked, and traveled throughout the country. For the past two years Eli has worked as the Coordinator for Israel Engagement for the Hillel at Brandeis University. He also serves on the committee for ReachOut, an organization committed to engaging Jewish young adults in community service. The product of a lifetime of Jewish camping, youth groups, Hillel, and more, Eli has special interests in Jewish education, Israel, and Jewish peoplehood.

Meredith GrabekMeredith Grabek (MA/MBA), originally from Paxton, Massachusetts, attended the University of Delaware where she studied sociology and art history. In 2008 she moved to New Orleans as a Corps Member with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps where she studied social justice in the community and served elderly, disabled, low income clients as the Intake Assistant with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, a project of the Preservation Resource Center (PRC). Meredith is glad to have remained in New Orleans following her AVODAH year.  She worked as the Development and Next Gen Manager with the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans where she assisted with the Federation's Annual Campaign and collaborated with colleagues and lay leaders to develop a re-energized Jewish Next Gen program called JNOLA: Your Hub for Next Gen Jewish Life. The experience allowed Meredith the opportunity to network among the local and international Jewish community. Meredith is eager to explore the intersection of social justice and Judaism through the Hornstein/Heller program.

Photo of Joe HyamsJoe Hyams (MA/MBA) was born in the U.K., where he pursued an unusual undergraduate mix of Jewish Studies and Photography. His love of teaching, creativity and an interest in Media, combined to earn him key roles at some of London’s longest established Advertising Agencies. Joe’s affinity with Israel, and ad-campaign experience earned him an invitation to join the Tel Aviv office of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising as a Strategic Planner for major international clients including P&G. Connecting his media know-how to a desire to improve Israel’s image abroad, Joe made Aliyah, joining in 2005, where he continues to lead the organizations efforts to ensure fair media coverage for Israel. At Hornstein, Joe looks forward to augmenting his experience with the finest tools and mentoring to help meet the increasingly professional standards demanded of the NGO community. Joe feels strongly that his work in the field of not-for-profit best practice, and effective cause-driven communications are assets to be developed, nurtured and made accessible to every facet of Jewish Leadership.

Photo of Heather KufertHeather Kufert (MA/MA), who grew up in Charlotte, NC, began shaping her Jewish identity through the lens of the URJ's youth movement and camping system. At Florida State University, she studied elementary education, while becoming deeply involved with FSU Hillel. Inspired to work in the Jewish community, Heather has spent the last five years as Program Director at Temple Israel in Tallahassee, Florida, where she created and developed innovative programs for all ages including a Jewish 20s and 30s group, and frequently led services as Cantorial Soloist the past two years. Meanwhile, she served on the board of the Holocaust Education Resource Council, where she co-founded a successful interfaith Holocaust book club. Heather is a recipient of the Jewish Community Center Association Graduate Scholarship, and plans to work at a JCC after graduating from Hornstein.

Photo of Beth LeschBeth Lesch (MA/MBA) grew up in Long Island, NY and received her B.A. in History from Yale University in 2009, with a focus on modern Jewish history. Upon graduation, she was a Jewish Organizing Fellow with JOIN for Justice. She worked for over two years as a Synagogue Organizer for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston where she trained Jewish adults and teenagers to design and implement political campaigns and to become leaders in their synagogues. In 2011, she moved to Jerusalem to pursue full-time Torah study at Midreshet Rachel v'Chaya and at Nishmat, where she fell in love with the study of halacha and Talmud. She is passionate about expanding resources for Torah study across denominations. In addition to her studies at Brandeis, Beth is the Executive Director of Ma'ayan: Torah Study from the Sources. Beth is very excited to be a part of the Hornstein program, to learn from teachers and peers who share her aspiration to strengthen the Jewish community. She lives with her husband Charlie in Brookline.

Photo of David ManchesterDavid Manchester (MA/MPP) grew up in Scarsdale, NY and received a B.A. in International Relations from American University. After college, David worked as a legislative assistant in Hadassah's Washington Action Office and then as an operations analyst at Blackboard, Inc. where he honed his skills in quantitative metrics and evaluation. He currently serves as a research analyst at Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies working on a socio-demographic study to predict the population of the American Jewish community. David is also the VP of the Board of Directors of American University Hillel and has served on the Advisory Board of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Birthright Israel NEXT DC, and Young Leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. In 2012, David was chosen for the Washington Jewish Week’s Minyan List composed of the 10 most interesting Jews in the DC area. Upon graduating, David looks forward to working with Jewish organizations to evaluate the impact of their work and promote the use of research to track trends, needs, and desires of different Jewish communities.

Photo of Evan TaksarEvan Taksar (MA/MA) grew up in Los Angeles, California. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a minor in Jewish Studies. At CU Boulder, Evan served as a board member of the CU Hillel and was active in the Program in Jewish Studies. She spent her senior year as the Development Intern at the Boulder Jewish Community Center. Evan has spent the past 15 summers at Camp JCA Shalom Malibu, 7 as a camper, and 8 in various staff and administrative positions. She considers her time spent at camp to be the most defining Jewish experience of her life, both personally and professionally. After graduating college, Evan has continued to be engaged with the Jewish community, most recently as a youth director and as a Jewish educator. In her spare time, Evan enjoys cooking, live music, reading and going on adventures. Evan is excited to attend the Hornstein/NEJS program and continue her work within the Jewish communal world.

Photo of Sabrina TaranSabrina Taran (MA/MBA) comes from Montreal, Quebec. She graduated from McGill University with a B.A. in Jewish Studies and a concentration in Education. During her time at McGill, Sabrina had the opportunity to deepen her appreciation for the Yiddish language, having assisted on a research and translation project on Yiddish poetry, and was the recipient of the Sarah Rozenfeld Prize for Yiddish. She is also a graduate of the Uriel Weinreich Summer Yiddish Program at YIVO in New York and worked as a translator and archivist for the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre Archive in Montreal. Sabrina has a passion for Jewish education, and has experience as an educator in both the Jewish day school system and in after-school supplemental programming. During her final undergraduate year, Sabrina was a student intern for the Bronfman Israel Experience Centre where she worked on the March of the Living program and was hired as the Program Associate upon graduating. Sabrina hopes to develop creative approaches to informal and experiential Jewish learning while engaging individuals in communal involvement.

Photo of Nathan VaughnNathan Vaughan (MA/MPP) is a Jewish professional and experiential educator, hailing from small-town southern Kentucky.  A 2009 graduate of the University of Louisville with a self designed B.A. in Middle Eastern Affairs, Nathan has worked in a variety of Jewish communities and organizations. Immediately after college, Nathan joined the faculty of the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, NC as a Teaching Fellow and Media Specialist. In 2011, Nathan moved to the Greater Boston area and began work as a Development Associate for Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston. Most recently, Nathan joined the staff of URJ Camp Harlam, working to build a Jewishly engaged outdoor education program. Nathan is passionate about college basketball, engaging children in Judaism through nature, and great music.

Photo of Aaron WeinbergAaron Weinberg (BA/MA), originally from the Chicago area, received his B.A. from Brandeis, studying Sociology, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Hebrew, and Social Justice and Social Policy. He completed his fieldwork at Makom Israel, an initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Aaron previously worked as an iEngage Intern and research assistant to Gil Troy at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He spent the spring 2013 semester studying Jewish education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem, Aaron co-chaired Ta Shema, J Street U’s on-the-ground educational initiative, planning trips to parts of Israel and the West Bank. In fall 2012 while participating in American University’s Washington Semester where he studied communal change and political speechwriting, Aaron worked as a D.C. Jewish Outreach Fellow on President Obama’s re-election campaign. Aaron has participated in Machon Kaplan at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, was a Counselor on the Eisendrath International Exchange, and interned at the iCenter. Before college, Aaron participated in Kivunim: New Directions—a Jerusalem-based program that studies and travels to Jewish communities around the world. Aaron was a student delegate to the first Conference on the Holocaust in the Arab World and is an alumnus of the Bronfman Youth Fellowship.

*Bios on this page were updated as of May 2015.