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 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. 

Adi Mechany

Israel Fellow

Born and raised in Petach Tikva, Adi 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!

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!

Carly Froomkin Burak

Assistant Director

Carly 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.

Abby Chargo

Program Coordinator and Springboard Fellow

Born and raised in the freezing cold tundra people like to call Minne-SNOW-ta, Abby Chargo is a proud Minnesotan. She recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in Jewish Studies. 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 new dishes and taking Zumba classes!

Rabbi Shlomo Schachter

Rabbi Shlomo Barya Nadiv Schachter, the son of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is a musmach of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and a certified Shochet and menakker.  Rabbi Shlomo Schachter specializes in creativity within Jewish texts, balancing Halachic examination with Chassidic insights and parables.  Rabbi Schachter is also an American Football Coach in Israel; defensive coordinator of the three time IFL champion Judean Rebels as well as the defensive line coach of the Israeli National Team.  Rabbi Schachter particularly enjoys speaking on the subjects of Do It Yourself "DIY" Mitzvot, Football and the Torah, Organic Theology and the Halachic legacy of his father.  Rabbi Schachter holds a degree in Modern Religious Thought from Oberlin College where he was a three year varsity letter winner at defensive end while still keeping Shabbos.

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.

Danielle Baron

Engagement Associate

Danielle was born and raised in Wayne, New Jersey. She has a B.S. in Integrated Elementary and Special Education from the University of Hartford in Connecticut where she became a student Intern for Hillel during her senior year. While studying for her degree, Danielle had the opportunity to study abroad in England and Costa Rica. Danielle enjoys traveling to new places, learning about new topics, participating in sports, and immersing herself into new cultures. Shortly after graduating from UHart, Danielle picked up her belongings and moved to Canada to hold the position of Program and Engagement Coordinator at the University of Western Ontario Hillel. While Danielle fancied her Canadian experience, she is now excited to be part of the Illini Hillel family as the Engagement Associate. She would be delighted to meet any UIUC students and young professionals, so make sure to stop by and visit her at the Cohen Center

Rebbetzin Ahava Zarembiski-Schachter

OU-JLIC Educator

Born in Skokie, IL, Ahava received her Master's Degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. She moved to Israel in 2001, and while studying at Nishmat The Center for Advanced Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem for 7 years, she worked in Israeli policy making, giving recommendations to the Prime Minister’s Office.  Ahava's diplomatic specialty is humanitarian crisis relief missions, and she led Israeli delegations to Haiti and Serbia as well as working with the US state department's relief efforts in Gaza. Ahava loves the arts, particularly fashion, and in 2013 opened her own fashion label, AhavaZ Designs.  Ahava loves teaching Torat Eretz Yisrael as well as examining pressing women's issues within today's Jewish world.

Interested in full-time employment opportunities?

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(p) 217. 344. 1328

(a) 503 E John St., Champaign, IL  61820