meet the staff

Our Team Members

Meet the staff who keep Illini Hillel running smoothly. 


Erez Cohen

Executive Director

Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Erez (he/his/him) has a BA in Political Science and an MA in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University. His professional experience includes working in a community center in Tel Aviv, volunteering as a Project Manager in East Africa, serving as the Israel Fellow at UIUC Hillel and fundraising for the Jaffa Institute. Erez is happily married and enjoys traveling (with around 20 countries and 20 US states under his wing), reading and writing Wikipedia articles in Hebrew. 


Abby Faibishenko

Program Director

Born and raised in the freezing cold tundra people like to call Minne-SNOW-ta, Abby  (she/her/hers) is a proud Minnesotan. She received her degree in Strategic Communications with a minor in Jewish Studies from the University of Kansas.. Throughout her sophomore year of college, she studied abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, where she began to develop her true passion for Judaism, Jewish learning, and her love of Torah. In her free time, you can find Abby going on walks, cooking up new dishes, and taking Zumba classes!

Katherine Podolak.jpeg

Katherine Podolak

Springboard Fellow

Katherine was born and raised in Cherry Hills Village, CO where she lived until she moved to Ann Arbor to attend college at the University of Michigan. At Michigan, she received her BA in Judaic Studies and in Sociology and was involved with Michigan’s Hillel. Katherine also spent a semester studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel as a member of the 5th Cohort of The Nachshon Project. Other than talking about Judaism, Katherine loves to spend time with friends, go on new adventures, and meet new people. She is so excited to be part of another Big 10 school!

Soll Family.jpg

Chana Fish Soll

OU-JLIC Jewish Educator

Chana grew up an Army brat, moving around the world. She received a BA in Middle Eastern and Religious Studies from the College of William and Mary and an MA in Global Communication from George Washington University. As a graduate student, she spent a year doing research in Rabat, Morocco with the Boren Fellowship. Chana has a unique professional background – she previously worked as an Intelligence Analyst for a government contractor and a Social Media Analyst for the US Navy. In her spare time, Chana loves learning Torah, reading a good book, running the occasional half marathon, and trying out new recipes.

Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 7.30.31 PM.png

Carly Froomkin Burak

Assistant Director

Carly (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio.  She has a BA in Judaic Studies from the University of Cincinnati and an MA in Comparative Religion from Western Michigan University.  While studying for her degrees, Carly studied abroad in Israel (at Tel Aviv University), Japan and Egypt. She enjoys traveling, meeting new people, hanging out with friends, reading and music - especially classic rock. Carly is excited to continue meeting Jewish students and working with them throughout their own Jewish experience.


Heather Paul

Senior Jewish Educator

Heather (she/her/hers) lived on the West Coast her entire life until now (LA → Bay Area → Seattle) and she is open to recommendations about how to survive the snow. In addition to a new winter wardrobe, Heather brings over a decade of Jewish communal and educational experience to this role; previously, she served as the Springboard Fellowship assistant director at Hillel International, and she worked at both Santa Cruz Hillel and Hillel at Stanford. Heather holds a graduate degree in Jewish education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and she is currently in rabbinical school at ALEPH Renewal Seminary. She is passionate about coffee, ritual design, deep conversations, and empowering creative Judaism. When she’s not engaged in any of the former, you can find Heather reading, knitting, volunteering as a camp counselor and grief counselor, and going on walks with her husband, Joseph, and labradoodle, Gulliver.

illini photo.jpg

Eric Blatt

Springboard Engagement Coordinator

Eric (he/his/him) was born and raised in Owings Mills, Maryland, and is a first-generation American with family originally from Ukraine (the former Soviet Union). He attended Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania where he received a BA in Labor and Employment Relations, as well as a minor in Jewish studies. During his time at Penn State, he became very involved with the Jewish community as well as Israel advocacy and traveled to Israel 5 times. After leaving Penn

State, he moved to Jerusalem for 9 months to study at Aish HaTorah where he spent his time learning and helping new students find their own personal connection to Judaism. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, cooking, and the occasional game of Settlers of Catan.

Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 7.30.40 PM.png

Virni Bryson

Office Manager

Virni was born in St. Louis, Mo. and raised in Southeast Mo. for 10 years and has been a resident of Champaign-Urbana for over 30 years. She studied at Parkland College and started her career in office management. Virni worked as an Administrative Professional for Presence Health. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening with her husband and raising her two daughters. Virni also enjoys cooking for a small group of seniors who are no longer able to cook for themselves.


Adi Mechany

Israel Fellow

Born and raised in Petach Tikva, Adi (she/her/hers) has a BA in Speech Therapy and Audiology from Haifa University. She served her military service in the Intelligence Corps, where she created an educational curriculum for other soldiers and high school students. 

Adi has been involved in the Jewish peoplehood and Israel representation fields in the last few years, including working as a summer camp counselor, volunteering as an active member of Haifa Hillel, Young Ambassadors school graduate, and a MUN representative in international delegations. 

During her free time, she likes to travel around the world, learn new languages, dance, and read books. She would really love to hear your story – feel free to stop by!

Soll Family.jpg

Rabbi Nimrod Soll

Nimrod was born in Jerusalem and raised in New Jersey. He studied at Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Maale Adumim, and then at Yeshiva University where he received a BA in Political Science and an MA in Modern Jewish History. Nimrod received semikha from RIETS in 2019 and studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He previously interned at the Beth Din of America, volunteered as a legal aid in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, and worked at the Rabbinical Courts of the Rabbinate of the State of Israel. Nimrod loves sharing words of Torah and learning new things. He is passionate about Jewish History and Israel.

Interested in full-time employment opportunities?