Meet our team
Dear Prospective Participants and Parents,
If you had an entire year to do anything you wanted, what would you do?
Perhaps you’d travel. Maybe you’d learn a new skill. You’d probably welcome the chance to meet interesting people, to experience things you’ve never tried before, to reduce the stress and pressures of today’s world.
This is exactly what awaits you on Aardvark Israel.
No one ever regrets having taken a gap year, but plenty of people regret not having taken one. The world is your classroom and spending a year abroad opens the door to personal growth, developing independence, defining your values, and figuring out who you are as an adult. With Israel as the unique landscape for this adventure, you will explore how you fit into the larger Jewish Community and connect with Israeli society as well.
Within Aardvark Israel, we pride ourselves on providing students with individualized attention, opportunities, and guidance. Each student will discover a year filled with challenges, fun, fascination, learning, volunteering, self-discovery, maturity, and joy. Parents will find a partner in their child’s development and our staff will take care of your children as if they were our own. At the end of the program, students will return home more mature, better prepared to cope with the challenges of university life, and more dedicated to the future of the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
We look forward to working together with each of you on this incredible journey.
Debbie has worked in the field of Jewish and Zionist education for almost 30 years. In honor of International Women’s Day 2021, she was recognized as one of Masa’s Inspiring 12 Jewish Women Working to Make a Difference. Debbie grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and after spending her gap year in Israel on USY’s Nativ program, she completed her BA at Columbia University in Religion and at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Talmud. She also earned an MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to co-founding Aardvark Israel, she was the Assistant Director of Young Judaea/FZY Year Course in Israel. Debbie lives in Yishuv Alon with her three children. Her oldest is currently serving in the Israeli army after having taken a gap year and her middle child is exploring gap year programs for next year.
Simon 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. Simon is also an experienced guide for Jewish educational tours to Poland. He holds a BA in Economics and Economic History from Manchester University and an MA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University. Simon lives in Tzur Hadassah with his wife and their three children.
Moshe, born and raised in Jerusalem, began his career in Jewish education straight after completing his military service in the IDF, where he served for three years as an infantry medic. He holds an MA in Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has extensive experience in Jewish and Israel education. Moshe has worked with different Jewish Summer Camps and as a community Shaliach across North America and served as The Jewish Agency’s coordinator of Youth Movement Fellows. He looks forward to bringing his passion and knowledge of Israel and Jewish education to the Aardvark Israel participants.
Yifat was born in Canada, made Aliyah when she was 15 years old and currently resides in Tel Aviv. Yifat earned a BA in Political Science and Anthropology from Tel Aviv University and an MA in Nonprofit Management from Hebrew University. She has been passionate about education ever since her army service in the Educational Corps and has worked for various Jewish organizations including The Jewish Agency, Masa, JDC Lauder Camp Szarvas in Hungry, and Diller Teen Fellows. Prior to becoming Program Director, she was a Tel Aviv Community Manager with Aardvark Israel. In her free time, Yifat loves to read books and enjoy nature.
Ra’anan was born and raised in Rehovot, Israel. He served in the Israeli Navy as an officer and has a background in technological education through an organization called FIRST. He also was a part of NOAM, a ‘Masorti’ youth movement, both as a camper and a counselor. He spent two years as an Israeli Emissary for the Jewish Agency in New Hampshire where he found his passion for Jewish/Israel education. Ra’anan is an avid soccer fan and loves music, traveling, and movies.
Roni was born and raised in Ra’anana and now lives in Herzliya. She was a counselor at Hamachanot Ha’Olim youth movement.
In her military service, she served as a Military Social Worker in Judea and Samaria and was in charge of the welfare of soldiers. She studied radio and ran a small business selling handmade jewelry. She has a great passion for music, arts, food, and traveling.
Carolyn grew up in Kansas City and made Aliyah to Ma’ale Adumim in 2018, following a 13-year teaching career in a Jewish day school in Denver, Colorado. With a BA in Communications and an M.Ed in secondary education, her career path has included sports writing, dance instruction, cake decorating, social studies, English classes and more. When she isn’t busy supporting Aardvark students and staff, Carolyn enjoys spending time with her family, scuba diving, geocaching, and working on jigsaw puzzles.
Hadar was born and raised in Ra’anana, and now lives in Tel Aviv. She has taken part in Youth Movements as a counselor and coordinator and was always passionate about Zionist education, taking part in Birthright, Birthright Excel, the Jewish Agency Summer Camps, and Masa. She has a BA in Communications and Public Diplomacy, and previously worked for an advertising firm in Israel. She is an avid Yogi and a foodie, who loves traveling and going to festivals.
Etai was born in Ramot Naftali, in the Upper Galilee region. Later on, he moved with his family to Nairobi, Kenya. He returned to Israel as a Lone Soldier as a Combat Engineer. Up until he joined Aardvark Israel, he was a hotelier and has an extensive experience with hotel management. He is passionate about fixing, repairing, and providing top service.
Allison Hartman was born and raised in New Jersey, recently made Aliyah, and currently lives in Jerusalem. In 2008, Allison received her Master’s in Social Work from Hunter College and has been working as a Clinical Social Worker in various settings, including both private practice and school-based services. Working with school-age youth, provided Allison the opportunity to work with families at large. Allison is passionate about supporting young people by helping them find & develop their voices, and in turn, empowering them to communicate their wants and needs. In addition to working with high-achieving teens across the Greater New York region, Allison has worked with survivors of domestic violence and those afflicted with addiction.
Adena is a Creative Arts Educator for over 7 years and is beyond excited to be teaching in Jerusalem as an Olah Chadasha. She
graduated with a degree in Art & Design with a focus in Education and also in Deaf Studies. Her teaching philosophy is called Choice-Based Art Education which focuses on enabling her students to take the lead in their artistic creation through mediums and themes. Through individualized mentorship, she exposes students to an array of artistic techniques and highlights the power of
using art as a springboard for self-expression.
Emma is a born and raised New Yorker and an Admissions Coordinator at Aardvark Israel. Emma studied Theatre at Northwestern University, where she produced the largest student-produced musical in the United States. Emma moved to Israel in 2021 with the Masa Teaching Fellows, teaching English in the Bedouin city of Rahat and in South Tel Aviv. She made Aliyah in 2023. Outside of Aardvark, Emma is a self-proclaimed “funny girl,” performing
standup comedy in Tel Aviv and around Israel.
Misha is a Political Science Master’s student at the Hebrew University, a Digital Marketing Expert, a husband, and a father of two amazing boys. He is in love with asking big questions about G-d and the world, and with understanding fake news and how people determine what is right and what is wrong. Misha made Aliyah 9
years ago after studying at the University of Maryland due to his appreciation of Zionism and his love of Israel. He also is a basketball maestro, so don’t bother challenging him (unless you don’t mind a bruised ego!)
Avi Grew up and currently lives with his family in Ginot Shomron. He studied at several yeshiva programs, served in the IDF, and earned a Master of Jewish Education (MJEd) degree in Jewish Day School Education from Hebrew College, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Jewish Studies at the Day School Educators Program of Pardes Institute of Jewish
Studies. He has taught in different educational settings, including camps, high school, and post-high school programs. His hobbies are hiking with his wife and 2 kids, playing music, and coming up with 3 examples.
Ben grew up in West Orange, NJ. After making Aliyah, he served in the IDF and has degrees from the Lev Academic Institute and Yeshiva University. He has served as staff for gap-year and college programs,
including Eretz Hatzvi, MASA, Yavneh Olami, Birthright, and The RRG Bet Midrash at Hebrew University. A Jerusalem resident, he has a private clinical therapy practice specializing in helping teens and young
Vilena was born in Belarus and made Aliyah at a tender age with her family, embracing new opportunities in Israel. Fueling her passion for communication and marketing, Vilena recently earned her B.A. from The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College.
Beyond her academic pursuits, Vilena is working at a dynamic Marketing start-up in Tel Aviv, where she thrives on exploring the ever-changing landscape of social media and video editing. She recognizes that staying attuned to trends and crafting compelling content is the key to success in this fast-paced world.
Miriam is originally from Madras, Oregon, USA, but has made Israel her home for the past 9 years. During that time she has worked as an informal educator, translator,
and public transportation planner. Like most
immigrants, she’s also done many other odd jobs including calf carer, baby whisperer, Moroccan waitress, and TV extra. Unlike most immigrants, she’s played Israeli professional women’s soccer and still occasionally moonlights as an art model. This penchant for weird jobs has given her a broad understanding of Israeli culture, and anecdotes you’ll hear nowhere else.
Omri is an Israeli director and screenwriter, raised in Kfar- Saba and currently based in Tel Aviv. He holds a BFA and MFA in film studies from the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, both graduating with honors. Omri is an experienced teacher, specializing in history, screenwriting, and story telling.
Tohar was born and raised in northern Israel, in Katzrin, a small town in Ramat HaGolan. As a teenager, she volunteered with kids and youth on the autistic spectrum and attended an international boarding school, where she found her passion for learning about different cultures and stories. After high school, she spent a year of Jewish studies in Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem and was drafted into the IDF. Tohar loves music and theater, traveling, cooking, and playing board games.