Josh is the Director of the Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST) and has been since since 2013. He started his Israel journey going on IST himself in 1990 when they had just 34 students on the bus! This will be the 8th straight year that Josh has staffed IST and his 15th time to Israel (which includes staffing 4 Birthright trips to Israel). He is a Denver native who grew up going to Temple Sinai, spent 9 summers at Shwayder Camp, very involved in local youth groups, went through Hebrew High and attended Cherry Creek High School. Josh continued his education at the University of Arizona (BEAR DOWN!) where he majored in Judaic Studies, was involved in Hillel and spent a semester abroad studying at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Josh has been married to his wife, Paula, for 3 1/2 years and they have a very friendly & energetic puppy named Ollie. He is an avid sports fan: he’s always supporting his Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and his beloved University of Arizona Wildcats! In his spare time he loves to golf and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends and new puppy.
Prior to becoming the IST Director, Josh was the Hillel Campus Director at the University of Denver for 3 years as well as the same position at Colorado State University for 3 years prior to that. Josh has always been involved in the Jewish Community wherever he has been and takes great pride in being Jewish. He has gained a strong passion for Israel over the years and loves doing what he does. Each year is a different experience with different dynamics and he loves getting to know all of the participants on a deeper level. He loves witnessing the growth of each individual and helping them connect with Israel, Judaism, their peers, staff and themselves. He is thrilled to be staffing another trip and cannot wait to see what this trip entails and the life-changing experiences for our entire IST 2018 Community.
Jillian is originally from the Chicago area and moved to Denver in 2010 to attend the University of Denver. At DU she had various leadership roles in many organizations, including being the president of Hillel. Jillian loves to travel and explore new cultures and places. Jillian participated on a teen trip to Israel at the age of 12, which set off her love for the country and Jewish culture. She studied Hebrew throughout high school and college and speaks it every opportunity she has. In 2017, Jillian took time off to explore the world, traveling to 6 continents and 15 countries. Jillian is now back finishing her third year teaching in a Southwest Denver middle school. This summer will be Jillian’s 8th time to Israel, and 4th summer staffing IST. Spending four weeks in Israel, and one week in Poland is one of the most memorable experiences she has, and every summer gets better and better. Jillian is beyond excited to be staffing IST again in the summer of 2018!
Shayna is excited to bring her passion for learning, traveling, and meeting new people to IST 2018! Shayna is the Program Director for the Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative (BJTI) and creates meaningful connections and dynamic activities for Jewish teenagers in the Greater Boulder Area . She graduated from the University of Colorado – Boulder with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Education. Although born and raised in Kansas City, she started building her connection to the Jewish community in Colorado from a young age when she attended Temple Emanuel’s Shwayder Camp as a camper for 7 years. She continued her journey there as a staff member for 4 years, serving once as the Staff in Training (SIT) Coordinator where she oversaw the on-boarding of 32 new counselors. Shayna stayed involved during college as a Sunday School teacher at Congregation Har HaShem and through Jewish programming on campus. After graduating, she spent 10 months living in Lima, Peru learning Spanish and working on public health projects in various locations throughout South America. Outside of work, you will find her spending time with family and friends or exploring the great outdoors.
Jeremy grew up in Lafayette, graduated from Centaurus High School and spent an unseemly amount of time with youth group at Congregation Har HaShem and other locations around the world, including his own experience on IST. Youth group instilled a strong sense of community in Jeremy. He earned a Bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona where he spent his free time exploring the mountain deserts with friends, founding a fraternity, or in a group study session. After graduating, Jeremy moved back to Colorado and for two years was the youth advisor for Har HaShem before traveling in Israel and Southeast Asia. Currently Jeremy has been appreciating the Rocky Mountains more than ever and is preparing for a Masters degree. Jeremy started staffing IST when he moved back to Colorado and is excited for his fourth year of the incredible nature, delicious food (and coffee), complex lifestyles, and beautiful community that comprises a summer in Israel.
Hello again IST Community! This is my 4th summer staffing this trip, and I cannot wait. I have a lot of experience leading Jewish immersive experiences with teenagers – I was a 3x staff member for Teen Village at JCC Ranch Camp, and I was the Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Emanuel for 3 years, planning social and leadership events with and for a lot of the teenagers going with me this summer. In addition to having led IST for multiple summers, I lived in Israel for my Junior year of college where I learned Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies. After college I traveled through Indonesia and Malaysia for 6 months, volunteering, hiking and scuba-diving. I love to travel, and I love to provide enriching travel experiences for teenagers. I can’t wait to see everyone in June!
My name is Charley and I originally hail from Buffalo, NY. I attended college in Maine and after graduating in 2015, I moved out west to Denver where I worked with several education non-profits before teaching computer science at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School. This past year, however, I lived and worked in Argentina after receiving a grant to teach English to aspiring English teachers. I loved working abroad and I am excited for the opportunity to help staff what is sure to be the best IST trip yet! I have only been to Israel once, a Taglit birthright trip with my sister, and I am excited for the opportunity to learn more in-depth about Israeli history and culture alongside the students and staff of IST. My hobbies mainly include reading (everything from sci-fi/fantasy to historical works), watching soccer, playing frisbee, and hiking. I look forward to meeting all of you and to the adventure that awaits!
Hey everyone, my name is Leah Weiss and I couldn’t be more excited to be leading this trip for my second time! I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, and I was a student on IST back in 2010. I am overjoyed at the opportunity to once again be a part of an organization that is so impactful and meaningful in my life. I graduated from CU-Boulder in 2015 with a degree in psychology and linguistics. During those years I worked with Jewish youth as a counselor at Shwayder camp and as a teacher at Har Hashem Synagogue. Currently, I work at JEWISHcolorado in the Young Adult Department. As of now, I have traveled to Israel six times and each trip has brought a wildly different experience. I am looking forward to not only sharing my passion for Israel this summer, but also for the opportunity to help facilitate personal growth, meaningful relationships, and an unforgettable trip! Can’t wait for our adventure to begin!
Hi! My name is Ilana Freeman, I am 22 years old and live in Netanya, Israel. I was born in London, England and made Aliya with my family when I was a young baby. I was raised in a national religious community and had a religious education until high school when I moved to a pluralistic school in Ra’anana (where I studied with Michael). After graduating I went to a pre-army mixed Midrasha in the Golan Heights where I lived, studied and volunteered until I enlisted into the Air Force in 2014 where I served for 2 years. When I was released from the army I went back to my Midrasha and worked as a social counselor and oversaw the Midrasha’s alumni. Last summer I worked in one the NJY camps in Pennsylvania as a counselor for the 13-14-year-old girls. Since then, I have been working in a nursery back in Netanya and will be a counselor on the Young Judea year course before going to Hebrew University to study International Relations. I am so excited to be part of the IST 2018 staff this summer and hope to give the students the best taste and experience of Israel!
My name is Michael, I am 23 years old. I was born in Jerusalem and live in Ra’anana. After graduating Meitarim Pluralistic high school (where I studied with Ilana) , I went to a pre-army mechina in Emek Beit Shean where we volunteered ,studied Zionism and Israeli culture and traveled all over Israel. In 2013 I joined the army as a combat Soldier in the “Kfir” Brigade and then moved to be the head “Krav Maga” (Israeli martial art) instructor of the unit as I train and instruct Krav Maga for 10 years now. When I was released from the army I worked in Africa as a Krav Maga instructor, traveled around south America for 5 months and worked as a “gadna” and “paintball” instructor for teenagers from all over the world. In the coming October I am going to study Geography and Sociology at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. I can’t wait to meet you all and to give you the best time in Israel!
My name is Shabi Spero, age 29. I live with my wife and three kids near Jerusalem in Nokdim, a small oasis in the Judea Dessert. I am a licensed tour guide having graduated from the Yad Yitzckak Ben-Zvi Institute, where I completed a combined program of the Ministry of Tourism Tour Guide Course and the Taglit-Birthright Tour Educator Course. For the last seven years I have been working in the field of Educational Tourism. I have recently been focused on guiding groups of Anglo-Saxon young adults from abroad. The educational groups I am proud to guide are of a wide spectrum of all Jewish movements, identities and affiliations. With all groups I work together with the staff to present a full and fair perspective of all the many issues we encounter in Israel. If it’s politics, religion, social justice or even history- the goal is to provide the tools to create an open, engaging and educated conversation. I am currently in the last stages of my BA degree in Land of Israel Studies at Haifa University and a graduate of the Identity and Public Policy program for Outstanding Students in the Jewish Statesmanship Center.
Hello, my name is Liran, and I will be one of the tour guides for IST 2018. I live in Kibbutz Sa’ad in the northern Negev area, married to a beautiful wife named Shikma, and father to a very smiley girl named Sheyzaf. I have been a tour guide in Israel for the past four years. This will be my 4th year staffing IST. I began my way in IST as one of the Israeli counselors, and returned every year after that as a tour guide. I have been in the education field for the past eight years, starting as a social counselor in various educational programs coming to Israel from the US until I became a tour guide. When I’m not staffing educational programs, I work in local professional schools (the equivalent of last chance public schools) leading empowerment workshops for the students, mainly using ODT methods. It is my honor working with IST for the 4th time, as I believe it is one of the best programs bringing American youths to Israel.