Student Life Staff Team
Director of Student Life
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Ben is a born and raised New Yorker, and worked for several Jewish educational organizations and synagogues in Manhattan before moving to LA. He received his master's in Jewish Education and master's in Jewish History from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Ben is passionate about creating warm, engaging experiences for students to connect with living life Jewishly. He looks forward to a year of building relationships and creating great programs with whole Student Life Team! When Ben is not at Hillel, he loves cuddling with his mutt, Wallace, doting on his new daughter, Liora, and exploring LA with his incredible wife Sara.
Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan
OU Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus
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Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and Sharona Kaplan, MSW are in their second decade as the JLIC couple at UCLA. Originally from Teaneck, NJ, the Kaplans – who met in High School - now live in Westwood with their six young children. Bringing with them expansive experience in informal Jewish education, programming, community building and engagement, the Kaplans’ warmth, sincerity and passion attracts and inspires students and community members alike. The Kaplans are sought after mentors, teaching brides and grooms before their weddings, escorting students through an array of defining life cycle events and offering advice and personal counsel to students.
Rabbi Alex Kress
Reform Senior Jewish Educator
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Ordained in 2017 from HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, Rabbi Alex Kress is passionate about innovating Jewish practice and making Judaism fun and meaningful. After serving two years at a synagogue on Long Island, Rabbi Kress and his family have returned to LA to join the Bruin family. No matter your background, Rabbi Kress looks forward to exploring Judaism, repairing the world, and dreaming what the future can be future together.
Jewish Agency Israel Fellow
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Amit was born and raised in Herzliya, one of the most beautiful beach cities in Israel, just north of Tel Aviv. She served 3.5 years in the IDF as an Air Force Intelligence Officer and is currently a Captain in the reserved forces. Amit received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Human Resources from Tel Aviv University. Her work with the Jewish community started on her Birthright trip, which made her become a student leader in Hillel at her campus. In the past two years, she had the honor of leading Masa and Onward groups through their Israel journey and creating internship opportunities in Israel for American students. Her favorite things to do include riding her bicycle, discovering street art and drinking a lot of coffee. If you are interested in different experiences in Israel, Israel programming on campus or a good conversation over a cup of coffee, feel free to reach out!
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Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Monica went on to school in Chicago and is now ready to endure a Los Angeles winter. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College Chicago and spent all of her time at Hillel there. She served as President of Hillel and couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the organization that was so transformative for her during her college years. Monica’s passions are television, movies, musicals, and all things pop culture. Monica can’t wait to meet you. Send her an email - she’d love to take you to coffee. Go Bruins!
Springboard Innovation Fellow
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Maya is originally from Albany, NY and has an intense passion for northeastern Fall foliage and cider doughnuts. After receiving bachelor's degrees in Biochemistry and Mathematics and a master's degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Rochester, she followed her nice Jewish boy to LA to pursue a career in the startup community on the shores of the "Silicon Beach". Maya joins the UCLA Hillel team as the Springboard Innovation Fellow and is excited to redesign, reinvent, and reimagine what Jewish engagement means on campus. Get in touch with Maya if you're interested in pushing the boundaries of Jewish life at UCLA or if you know of any amazing ice cream places in Los Angeles.
Springboard Ezra Fellow
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Izzy is a native Marylander who decided to travel up the east coast for four years to freeze to death to study theater and journalism at UMass Amherst. He then realized he preferred the warmth and relocated to Los Angeles. During his time at UMass, he lived in the Hillel House, which isn’t an exaggeration, that was his actual housing. While he won’t be living there, Izzy is incredibly excited to work for UCLA Hillel as the Springboard Ezra Fellow, and can’t wait to meet you all! Other than theater, his passions include writing and Washington Sports. He is also a practicing magician. He’d love to get to know you, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Director of Community Philanthropy
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A third generation Los Angeleno, Gisele was born, raised, and educated in Los Angeles. After earning her undergraduate degree at Occidental College in art and religious studies, Gisele went on to earn her MBA in Nonprofit Management at American Jewish University. Thereafter, Gisele served as the Director of Development at Valley Beth Shalom Day School and most recently, she worked with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Women’s Philanthropy Division. Growing up, Gisele was fortunate to attend Camp Alonim, A.J. Heschel Day School, de Toledo High School, and Brandeis Collegiate Institute. She adores spending time with her sweet dog Frankie!