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 more than 20 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 and has three children, one of whom is taking a gap year this year before enlisting in the army.
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.
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. In her free time, Yifat loves to read books and enjoy nature.
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.
Benji grew up in Los Angeles, California and holds a BA in Middle East Studies & History from the George Washington University, an MA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University and is a PhD student at the University of Haifa in the Faculty of Education, focusing his research on Israel education of young American Jews. In addition to teaching at Aardvark Israel, he manages a team of educators that provide Israel education courses for gap year students, gives geopolitical lectures to over 60 Birthright-Israel groups a year, and leads seminars, tours and Shabbatons for many visiting groups to Israel. He also specializes in online Israel education for learners before and after their Israel experience.
Matthew has been working in Israel education for over 15 years. He has taught Judaic Studies at Jewish Day Schools in North America and led many innovative programs at those schools. He has written high-tech educational materials for U.S. public schools and the IDF and directed the multimedia development of an online Jewish day school. In addition to his teaching work at, he has trained Day School leaders in North America to create meaningful Israel education programs. Matthew has a BA in Politics and History from the University of Liverpool and holds a master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University.
Elliot was born and raised in Chicago and now lives in Jaffa. He holds a BA from McGill University, and an MA in Jewish Education and Jewish Literature. He is an American-Canadian-Israeli Queer Jewish educator-activist. He teaches and advocates on many topics relating to Jewish pluralism, human rights, LGBTQ rights and more. His educator-activist approach focuses on the application of Jewish culture for social change. He is also a senior educator at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change and a leading activist for refugee rights in Israel. Elliot is co-chair of Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel, and a blogger for the ‘Times of Israel’, The Jerusalem Post, and more.
Tal was born and raised in Misgav Regional Council and now lives in Tel Aviv. Tal has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years and has been teaching yoga for more than a decade. Tal is a direct student of the master Sri Dharma Mittra from New York City, whom she adores. She fell in love with the Dharma Mittra system and specializes in Vinyasa Yoga. In addition to the complex position she learned in New York, she also studied anatomy and rehabilitation yoga, which focuses on how to work with your body in case of injuries and pain. Through her work and personal research, she developed tools for teaching different types of yoga, such as yoga that focuses on the woman’s body. She has enriched, and keeps enriching her knowledge and just recently got her certification in Yin Yoga, which allows her to integrates them in the intensive yoga retreats and workshops she is holding all around the world.
Ofir was born and raised in Safed. In the IDF, she served as a Hebrew teacher for ‘Olim Hadashim’. She worked as a counselor for the Jewish Agency Summer Camp 92Y ILANOT in New York City, and as a Madricha in Mechinat Mahal. She loves traveling and discovering new places, meeting new people from different cultures, and spending time with her family.