Professional Staff

  • Executive Director, Ari Gauss

    Ari Gauss

    Executive Director

    Ari is entering his ninth year as NC Hillel's Executive Director, and loves life in The Southern Side of Heaven after twelve years in the northeast. He lived for nine years in New York City, where he served as a Director of Development for the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, and also received masters degrees in non-profit management from New York University and Judaic studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He previously earned a BA in Philosophy from Pomona College.

    Ari has also worked for Hillel at Tufts University and Yale University. In fact, he and his wife, Hollis, met when they were both Hillel Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellows. Hollis and Ari are the proud parents of Aaron, who is a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred.

    A native San Franciscan, Ari also lived in Jerusalem for two years, where he was the Jerusalem Little League Baseball Commissioner and coached the Israeli national baseball team for three summers.

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    Michelle Brownstein Horowitz

    Associate Director, UNC Chapel Hill

    Currently in her seventh year as NC Hillel's Associate Director, Chapel Hill, Michelle oversees NC Hillel’s staff, programs and relationship development at UNC Chapel Hill.

    Michelle grew up in Western New York (NOT upstate) and went to American University in Washington, DC, earning her B.A. in Communications, Law, Economics and Government. After graduating she worked in  political communications and ran a dropout prevention program in the DC public schools. She then moved to Madison, WI where she earned her M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Multicultural Education at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

    While in her Master’s program, Michelle particularly enjoyed teaching an Introduction to Communications class for first-year students, inspiring her to pursue a career in Higher Education, and leading her to the opportunity to work at Hillel and combine her enthusiasm for supporting college students with her passion for Jewish education.

    In her free time Michelle likes to spend time with her husband and twin 2-year old sons as well as her husband, run and make jewelry.


  • Ginny Vellani

    Ginny Vellani

    Director of Statewide Initiatives

    Ginny Vellani is excited to start her second year as the Director of Statewide Initiatives, overseeing student engagement, programs and leadership development across the state, outside of Chapel Hill.

    Ginny has been with Hillel for five years, most recently serving as Acting Director at Elon Hillel. At Elon, she helped to lead the community’s growth as it doubled in size, opened a permanent building on campus, and expanded to include a historically Jewish fraternity, an Israel advocacy and dialogue club, and a chapter of Challah for Hunger. Her work has emphasized immersive experiences and off-campus opportunities, including Birthright Israel, teaching a month-long Holocaust Studies course in Europe, and traveling with students to interfaith leadership conferences across the country. 

    Ginny is a member of the Weinberg Accelerate Executive Training Program’s fourth cohort. She has a B.A. in Religious Studies from Agnes Scott College, a M.A. in Jewish-Christian Studies from Seton Hall University, and also studied at the University of Haifa’s International School. A proud native North Carolinian, she currently lives in Winston-Salem with her husband.

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    Ran Laviv

    Israel Fellow

    Ran was born and raised in Kibbutz Mashabei Sade, located in southern Israel in the vast Negev desert area (fun fact: “Mashabei Sade” means “field resources” in Hebrew). He completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology and anthropology at Ben Gurion University. In his free time, Ran enjoys sports, hiking and meeting new people.

  • Lauren Fine

    Lauren Fine

    Director of Student Leadership

    Lauren Fine is thrilled to start her third year as NC Hillel's Director of Student Leadership. Before joining the NC Hillel team, she completed a year of service as a Repair the World fellow in Baltimore, doing direct service at an after school program and with a fruit tree organization, promoting urban orcharding in Baltimore.

    Lauren graduated from Appalachian State University in 2014 with a BS in communication studies and leadership studies. During her time at App, she was involved in many university clubs and organizations including Student Government Association, the LGBT Center, Multicultural Student Development, the Women's Center, AppolCorps welcome week leaders, and more. She was honored to serve as president of Hillel at App for two years, where her passion for Jewish life on campus began. Lauren loves baking, fruit trees, and social justice.

  • Corie Hampton

    Corie Hampton

    Director of Student Life, Greensboro
    (336) 355-1173

    Corie Hampton is in her third year as NC Hillel's first Director of Student Life, Greensboro, serving Jewish students and helping to build Jewish community at UNC-Greensboro and Guilford. She will always be ready for a cup of coffee or to help cheer on the UNCG Spartans and Guilford Quakers!  

    Corie grew up in New Jersey, attended Elon University for her undergraduate studies and received her MS in Athletic Training from East Carolina University. Since then, she has done extensive work within the Greensboro Jewish community, serving as co-chair of J Triad, the young adult Jewish group in the Triad area. For the last three years, Corie has been an athletic trainer for UNCG’s athletic department. She is currently working towards her MBA at Elon University. In her free time, Corie likes to hang out with her dog, play kickball and watch sports.

  • Julie Harris

    Julie Harris

    Assistant Director, NC State
    (919) 923-9283

    Julie Harris, in her third year as Assistant Director, NC State, lives in Carrboro, NC with her husband, Etan, and two boys, Noam and Jayden. She has over twenty years of experience in the field of Jewish education.

    Julie received her joint masters degrees in Jewish Education and Non-Profit Management from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles). She received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University in 1991, and her multiple subject teaching credential in 1992. In 2015, Julie completed a two-week residency in painting and drawing at the Penland School of Crafts. 

    From 2010 thru 2015, Julie served as the art teacher for The Lerner Jewish Day School in Durham. One highlight was the creation of a program that focused on cultivating compassion within the larger school community, culminating with an exhibition of artwork based on the school community’s interpretation of compassion. 

    Prior to working at The Lerner School, Julie sat on the school’s board of directors in 2006, becoming president of the board in 2008. During her tenure, the school partnered with the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill to raise money and build a preschool wing for the school and the Levin Jewish Community Center.

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    Rabbi Melissa B. Simon

    Rabbi/Senior Jewish Educator

    Rabbi Melissa B. Simon is the Senior Jewish Educator and Rabbi at UNC-Chapel Hill, providing students with rabbinic support, facilitating students’ meaningful Jewish experiences and playing a central role in crafting the Jewish educational vision for UNC Hillel. Under Rabbi Melissa's leadership, UNC Hillel began participating in the Jewish Learning Fellowship and Workshop Shabbat.

    Prior to joining the North Carolina Hillel team, Rabbi Simon was the Jewish Chaplain and Hillel Director at Muhlenberg College and the Director of Lifelong Learning at Shir Tikvah, a Reform synagogue in Minneapolis, MN. Rabbi Simon received Master's Degrees in Jewish Education and Hebrew Letters and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. While a student at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Simon was named a Mandel Fellow, studying visionary leadership and Jewish education. Rabbi Simon received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College. Rabbi Simon served as the Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinic Intern and Director of Children's Education at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York and the Rabbinic Intern at Denison University in Ohio. Rabbi Simon has been named a Selah Fellow with Bend the Arc and a Rabbis without Borders Fellow with CLAL and is currently a rabbinic fellow with JOIN for Justice's Clergy Leadership and Organizing Program. 

    She is passionate about Jewish education, social justice, inclusive Jewish communities and empowering young people.


  • Jamie Schecter

    Jamie Schecter Krusch

    Assistant Director, Charlotte

    Jamie is the beginning her second year as Assistant Director, Charlotte. Jamie grew up in Dallas, Texas before attending Indiana University, where she completed a B.A. in political science and criminal justice. As a student at Indiana, Jamie was very active with Hillel, participated on a Birthright Israel trip, and was a member of a Jewish sorority. After graduating, Jamie relocated to her new adopted hometown of Charlotte, NC, where she obtained her J.D. at the Charlotte School of Law. While in law school, Jamie restarted and revitalized the Jewish Student Law Association. After law school, she worked for a corporation and remained involved with both the Charlotte and international Jewish communities. Jamie has been active in the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, and was selected as a participant of Class 10 the Bernstein Jewish Leadership Group. She is also active with other Jewish organizations including Hadassah, AIPAC, and Save A Child’s Heart. Jamie happily resides in Charlotte with her husband, David, a Charlotte native, and their two lovable but mischievous dogs. In her free time, Jamie enjoys reading, kayaking, and making custom jewelry.

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    Tova Boehm

    Cook and Kitchen Manager

    Tova joined UNC Hillel in 2014, and enjoys working with students in all parts of preparing weekly Shabbat dinners in the kosher kitchen on campus. Tova was part of the first graduating class of the American Hebrew Academy, and went on to study weaving at Earlham College (IN), where she graduated in 2008 with a BA in Art with minors in Jewish Studies and Art History. During college, she took a semester off to be an Adamah Fellow at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center (CT).  During that fellowship, she developed expertise in community and collaborative leadership, and sustainable agriculture.  Following the fellowship, she developed and taught a 2-credit course at Earlham College, entitled “Spirituality, the Land, & Food” and started a small bread bakery at the college food co-op.  In 2010, after several years working on sustainable farms in NC and MD, including Pearlstone Conference Center, she launched Short Winter Soups, an innovative business providing area share-holders with high-integrity soups and artisan bread on a weekly basis year round.  Tova lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, and loves contra dancing and hot chocolate.
  • Diana Fenves headshot

    Diana Fenves

    Development and Communications Associate

    Diana Fenves is beginning her first year as the Development & Communications Associate at North Carolina Hillel. Before joining the North Carolina Hillel team, she taught English as a Second Language at Durham Tech and Academic Writing & Research at NC State. She loves working with students and creating inspiring learning environments.

    A native Texan, she relocated to North Carolina to earn her masters in Creative Writing at NC State. Prior to living in North Carolina, she was the Marketing & Events Coordinator at Family Gateway, a homeless family services organization dedicated to ending child homelessness in Dallas.

    She began her nonprofit career with an interest in the arts and interned at theatres in Seattle and New York City. She received her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College. She is passionate about education, social justice and creative expression. In her free time, Diana enjoys writing science fiction, reading epic series and traveling.

North Carolina Hillel Foundation
210 West Cameron Avenue
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
(919) 942-4057

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