Debbie Goldsmith, Director and Co-Founder of Aardvark Israel, has worked in the field of Jewish and Zionist education for the last 20 years. She served as Aardvark’s Assistant Director from its establishment until becoming Director in November 2014. Previously she was the Assistant Director of Young Judaea/FZY Year Course program in Israel. Debbie grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and after spending her gap year in Israel on USY’s Nativ program, she completed her B.A. at Columbia University in Religion and at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Talmud. She also earned an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliya to Israel in 2001, Debbie was a Jewish Family Education coordinator, youth professional, and worked in Jewish summer camps. She also has led Jewish educational tours to Ethiopia, China and Holland. Debbie lives in Yishuv Alon and has three children and an “adopted” 25 year old son.
Simon Cohen, Director of Admissions and Co-Founder of Aardvark Israel, has worked professionally in the field of Jewish and Zionist Education since 1999. He grew up in England as an active participant in the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY) and served as FZY’s National Director of Education prior to moving to Israel in 2000. In addition to participating in Young Judaea/FZY’s Year Course in 1994-95, he dedicated a decade to working for the program as a senior staff member. Among his accomplishments is having founded and directed the Shevet Program which provided participants a structured venue for religious exploration and growth. Simon is also an experienced guide for Jewish educational tours to Poland. He earned his B.A. in Economics and Economic History from Manchester University and his M.A. in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University. Simon lives in Tzur Hadassah with his wife and their three children.
Shay-El Tamir Assistant Director of Aardvark Israel, was born and raised in Israel. As a teenager, he began volunteering in his local community center, where he gained the ability to connect with people of all ages and acquired leadership skills. While in the IDF, Shay-El served as a tank commander in the Armored Corps. Immediately after his army service, his passion for Zionism and Jewish culture led him to work at Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps. He soon realized that his life goal would be to make Jewish youth worldwide more enthusiastic about their roots, and aware of how important it is to cherish their heritage from one generation to the next. Shay-El eventually joined the leadership team of the Summer Shlichim Program in the Jewish Agency for Israel and served the organization for 6 years. He holds B.A in ‘Leadership and Management of Educational Systems’ and Political Science from Bar-Ilan Univeristy.
After working with Jewish youth for more than 15 years, Shay-El noted that joining Aardvark Israel is a natural “next step.”
Eyal Haim Tel Aviv Community Manager, comes from Ness Ziona. Growing up, Eyal was an active member of the youth movement HaNoar HaOved. He served as electronics educator and counselor in the Israeli Air Force. Upon finishing his military service, his passion for education led him to the ‘Gan Vanof’ boarding school, where he worked as a social counselor for four years. He then continued working with youth at ‘Mosinzon’ boarding school as a Counselor for the ‘Naale’ program, through which teenagers come to Israel to get education and preform aliya after high school. Eyal is currently completing his B.A. in Education and Social Science. When not working, Eyal enjoys music and art, writing poems and performing with his band. He lives in Tel Aviv.
Natali Basel, Jerusalem Community Manager, comes from a small village in the Samaria Region of Israel. Her father is originally from Yemen and her mother from Russia. Currently, Natali is completing her studies towards a B.A. in Education and Psychology. Natali has worked with many groups of students including USY Israel Pilgrimage, Solomon Schechter schools from Westchester, New Jersey, and Long Island, and Chicagoland High-School. Natali loves to hike, has traveled to India, and dreams of going on safari in Africa someday. Natali currently resides in Jerusalem
Rabbi Marc Kaye, Rosh Tochnit for Selah and Campus Rabbi, has been working with Aardvark since 2011 as a teacher of afternoon academic courses as well as for the Selah program. Now in his new role as Campus Rabbi and Head of Selah he has become an even closer member of the Aardvark family.
Together with his wife Miriam and three children (Odeliya, Revaya and Be`eri) Rabbi Marc looks forward to opening up his home to the students and offering them warm opportunities to take interest and celebrate their Jewishness. Luckily they live about two minutes across the road from the Jerusalem apartments so they hope to see everyone regularly!
Rabbi Marc himself was on a year program as an 18 year old spending two years studying in Yeshivat Kibbutz HaDati on Kibutz Ein Tzurim. He then moved from Manchester, England to London and completed a Bachelors degree in Spanish and French. During his studies he got to spend two years overseas – a year in Mexico City working with drug addicts and poor communities and a year in Paris studying and working with African immigrant children.
He worked for two years as National Director of Bnei Akiva UK and then as Head of Education and Leadership for the UJIA, an important organisation in the British Jewish community that services all of the varied youth movements, day schools and youth organisations. Rabbi Marc finished a Masters in Education and Psychology before making Aliya with his wife almost eight years ago. Since then he has been working as an informal educator, teacher, counsellor, trainer and tour guide for a number of international gap year programs, schools, museums and programs as well as serving as educational consultant to the United Synagogue of Great Britain.
Five years ago Marc began studying to become a Rabbi. He was privileged to have three years learning towards Israeli Chief Rabbinate Semicha (Rabbinic ordination) in an incredible Israeli insitution called Bet Morasha that combines Torah and academic studies for both men and women. He spent an additional year at Yeshivat Torah BeTzion and four years in Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi’s night Kollel. Rabbi Marc also completed a two year course in Practical Rabbinics and Education at Ohr Torah Stone`s Amiel program under Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s supervision.
In his role as Campus Rabbi, Marc is there to help the students with any of their religious and spiritual needs. He hosts a weekly event on both the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem campuses learning about the current Torah portion. He is also there to facilitate Shabbatonim and the group’s preparation for Jewish festivals.
Nick Lees. Communications Coordinator. Nick is a veteran press officer in the IDF Spokesperson Unit and has worked for years in private sector digital marketing. During university, Nick participated in numerous volunteer and study abroad programs in Israel. These experiences had a profoundly positive impact on his life and Jewish identity.
He joined as Marketing Director of Aardvark Israel in order to help other young Jews also have enriching educational experiences and deepen their relationship with Israel and Judaism.
An alumnus of Cleveland State University’s Honors Program, Nick graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and PR. He was awarded Hillel’s Outstanding Leadership Award and studied abroad at the University of Haifa as a Presidential Merit Scholar.
Nick lives in Petach Tikva with his wife. When he’s not getting students excited about Aardvark’s Gap Year Programs, he enjoys playing blues piano, hiking and spending time with family.
Idan Levy – Internships and Logistic Coordinator. My name is Idan Levy and i was born and raised in Haifa. i like to surf, play Frisbee and extreme sport in all of it shapes. i was a fighting soldier in the Nahal infantry and still doing reserve duty till this day . I studied my BA in social science (psychology, sociology and anthropology) at Ruppin Academy Center and did my internship in business consulting. I started as a counselor on Aardvark in 2015 and happy to return to the program in my new role.
Elishe Binder is our Registrar. She grew up in a Zionist and Jewishly active family in Albany, New York. As a young adult, she was involved in NCSY, USY, Ramah Camps, an Israeli dance troop and three acapella groups. After graduating from Binghamton University with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, she moved to Israel and received her Masters’ Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew University. Outside of her job for Aardvark, you can find Elishe in Tzur Hadassah, running her afternoon program for school aged children, hanging out with her 3 kids and husband, painting, singing and dancing.
Gal Badash is an Admission Coordinator on our recruiting team. She was born in Tel- Aviv and moved with her family at the age of 11 to Dallas, TX, where she was heavily involved in BBYO and the JCC. At the end of her senior year in high school she decided to return to live in Israel and joined the Israeli Air Force as a lone soldier, serving as an air traffic controller. After finishing her service, Gal completed a B.A in communications at IDC. Outside of her job for Aardvark, you can find Gal hanging out in different restaurants, theatres and concerts all over Tel-Aviv and laying out on the beach on the weekends.
Shani Pereg is an Admissions Coordinator on our recruiting team . Shani was born in Melbourne, Australia. and made Aliya with her family when she was 6 years old. As a teenager, she participated in the first Boston -Haifa delegation from her high school to enhance the connection between both Jewish communities. Shani served in the intelligence unit in the Israeli army and during her army service was sent to work in URJ Greene Family Camp where she realized her great passion for representing Israel and getting in touch with her Jewish roots. She eventually joined the returning summer shlichim program by the Avi Chai foundation and the Jewish Agency and continued working at the summer camp for 3 years as a counselor and admin staff. Following her passion she continued participating in different Jewish oriented programs such as the Birthright Excel program and was a marketing intern in Hillel Ben Gurion Campus. Shani holds a B.A in Business management and marketing from Ben Gurion University.
She currently lives in Tel Aviv and loves nature, the beach and attempting to play her guitar.