Professional Staff

  • Executive Director, Ari Gauss

    Ari Gauss

    Executive Director

    Ari is in his eleventh year as Executive Director of NC Hillel, serving Jewish college students across the state. During that time, NC Hillel’s staff has grown from four to twelve – located on five different campuses – and the budget has tripled, significantly increasing student engagement. In a 2016 survey of 10,000 Jewish college students, NC Hillel was named the #4 most impactful Hillel in North America (and UNC Hillel, when counted separately, was #1). Ari was honored in 2016 to receive the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award, the highest honor that Hillel bestows on its professionals. 

    After twelve years in the northeast, Ari loves life in The Southern Side of Heaven. 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

    Campus Director, UNC Chapel Hill

    Michelle Brownstein Horowitz serves as Campus Director, UNC Chapel Hill. In this role, Michelle guides NC Hillel's flagship Hillel in strategy, development, and university and community relations. She has been with NC Hillel for eight years, previously serving as Associate Director, UNC Chapel Hill. In this capacity, she oversaw UNC Hillel's student engagement, programming, and student leadership development. 

    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 3-year old sons as well as run and make jewelry.


  • Ginny Vellani

    Ginny Vellani

    Director of Statewide Initiatives

    Ginny Vellani is excited to start her fourth 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 seven years, previously 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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    Tamara Zishuk

    Director of Student Engagement

    Tamara Zishuk is so excited to continue her journey as UNC Hillel’s Director of Student Engagement. Before joining the team, she worked as a Graduate Coordinator for Housing and Residence Life at the University of Central Florida, where she worked with students and resident assistants in the residence halls. 

    Tamara graduated from UCF in 2017 with a B.S. in Psychology and Minor in Leadership Studies, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. At UCF, she was involved in many student organizations, such as Honors, LEAD Scholars, Housing and Residence Life, Chabad, and Hillel, where she developed her love of working with Jewish students. Growing up in Orlando, Tamara has a deep love of all things Disney. She enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling around the world, and hummus.

  • Vicki Cathcart headshot

    Vicki Cathcart

    Director of Student Life, Greensboro
    (336) 864-1826

    Vicki Cathcart is excited to start her second year as Director of Student Life, Greensboro for North Carolina Hillel. Vicki grew up in Northbrook, IL and attended the University of Missouri-Columbia where she received a BA in English and Religious Studies.  Her career has encompassed working with all in ages in the Jewish community including with The Jewish Federations of Greater Charlotte and Chattanooga, Aleph Bet Children’s Center, and Jewish overnight camps in Wisconsin and Georgia. 

    Mostly recently she served as the Jewish Family Service Special Needs Coordinator in Dallas. Vicki recently moved to Greensboro with her husband Jason, and three children, Jordan (11), Samara (7), and Daniella (7). They have two hermit crabs, Cubbie and Climb. In her free time, Vicki likes to watch sports, play Candy Crush or board games, and hang out with friends and family. 

  • Cohn, Sarah

    Sarah Cohn

    Campus Director, NC State

    Sarah Cohn is excited to be in her second year with the Wolfpack and North Carolina Hillel as Campus Director at NC State. She has a Master's degree in Social Work from Columbia University and has spent much of her career working in the Jewish not-for-profit world. Sarah is a licensed psychotherapist and previously served as a hospice social worker and entrepreneur. She is also a host for Moishe House Without Walls, facilitates a Well Circle through At the Well, and is currently planning a retreat on spirituality and wholeness. 
    Sarah is from the Hudson Valley, attended college at The George Washington University and has previously lived in New York, Seattle, and Michigan. She is excited to relocate from Ann Arbor to Raleigh with her partner, Davin, and dog, Delilah.

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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

    Director of Student Life and Community Engagement, Charlotte

    Jamie is in her fourth year as Director of Student Life and Community Engagement, Charlotte. Under Jamie's watch as NC Hillel's first full-time professional in Charlotte, UNCC Hillel has more than doubled in size and NC Hillel's support from the Charlotte Jewish community has also grown significantly.  

    Jamie grew up in Dallas, TX 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, their sweet daughter, Zoe, 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.
  • Max Weinberg headshot

    Max Weinberg

    Operations Manager
    (919) 942-4057

    Max is excited to join NC Hillel as the Operations Manager. Most recently, he served for four years as Senior Assistant Director at URJ Camp Kalsman in Seattle, WA. He also spent seven summers at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI, including two years as Assistant Director. Max is a graduate of the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yitro Fellowship, where he worked with camp professionals from across North America. Max loved connecting with the staff at camp, and looks forward to engaging with college students year-round!
    Max grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in Elementary Education. He spent a semester teaching 6th grade and coaching softball in Chicago Public Schools while finishing his degree. In his free time, you can find him watching baseball, hiking, or cooking.
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    Alisa Koyrakh

    Development and Communications Associate

    Alisa Koyrakh is the Development and Communications Associate at North Carolina Hillel. Previously, she worked as an editor and writing teacher in New York City. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University and a BA in Russian and English Comparative Literature from Barnard College. She also spent six incredible months at Nishmat, a seminary in Jerusalem. She is excited to be living in Chapel Hill, and to be surrounded by trees and deer.
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    Dana Needham

    Springboard Fellow, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill

    Dana Needham is thrilled to join NC Hillel as the new Springboard Fellow, serving both NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. Dana grew up in Newport News, Virginia, but she has called Raleigh home since 2016. She attended the University of Virginia, where she majored in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and minored in Middle Eastern Studies. 

    All throughout high school Dana taught Hebrew School and worked at her local JCC, and she continued those passions throughout college. Dana was a member of the Jewish Education Initiative at UVA for three years, and in her senior year she became President and sat on the Jewish Leadership Council. She is so excited to continue her work at NC Hillel, including Jewish education, programming, and engagement. In her free time Dana loves to read, travel, swim, and pet as many dogs as possible!

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

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