Meet the CYJ Staff


Risa Epstein | National executive director

My history with Canadian Young Judaea starts many years ago when I was eight years old and my parents put me on the bus to Camp Shalom. It is hard to believe that was over 40 years ago. I am happy to say that I went right through the system and spent five years on staff, 3 at Camp Solelim and 2 as Program Director of Camp Biluim Canada. It was at Biluim Canada in 1986 where I met my husband Amir to whom I have been happily married for close to 30 years.  As history often repeats itself my three daughters Annie, Fay and Ellie have also enjoyed being active members of CYJ. My oldest daughter Annie is a teacher in the TDSB, Fay is studying Musical Theatre at Sheridan College, and Ellie is a Student at Ryerson University and a CYJ Staff Member. I am an honors graduate majoring in English Literature and continued my studies in Holocaust and Genocide studies. For over 20 years I have been National Executive Director of CYJ and I have recently retired as Camp Solelim Director after a wonderful 13 year.  I enjoy every moment I have the opportunity to educate young people on Judaism and Israel.

Chazak V’ematz.

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Jennifer Levy | Camps Administrator

I was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and there I spent many wonderful years involved in Habonim. After moving to Canada and settling in Thornhill I found Canadian Young Judaea and it became my second family. I have worked at CYJ as the Solelim and Biluim Canada Administrator for over 15 years and joined the Camp Solelim team as Assistant Director in 2003 from which I have recently retired. My children spent many wonderful years at Camp Kinneret-Biluim, Camp Solelim, and Biluim Israel. I have acted as the Canadian Young Judaea National Administrator for 20 years, as well as administration for camps Biluim Canada and Camp Solelim. 

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Agnes Epstein | Biluim Israel Administrator

I have been working with Canadian Young Judaea for almost 15 years as the Biluim Israel Administrator. I sent my two daughters on their way to Camp Shalom, and there began the continuation of Canadian Young Judaea in our family. My daughter Lailah worked at Camp Shalom for two years, and my youngest daughter Rachel has worked at Camp Kadimah for the past 2 summers. It is truly a pleasure to work on such an amazing trips as our trips to Poland and Israel. 

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Mark Kachuck | National Education Director, central region coordinator

 I was put on a coach bus at the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre back in 2003, when I was just shy of 8 years old, for my first summer at Camp Shalom. In all, I spent six summers at Shalom, then two at Camp Solelim. From there I graduated to Biluim Canada of 2011. I spent my final summer as a camper in the CYJ movement at Biluim Israel. Throughout the years as I grew up in the movement, I was an active member of the Toronto Youth Council, helping to plan coffee house in the city, and organizing programs. Mifgashim and Kinusim were always on my calendar in the fall and winter. I served as a staff member at Camp Solelim for 5 years finishing as the Program Director in 2017. I was a madrich on Biluim Israel in 2018 and serve as the first Program Director of Machane Lev, Canada’s first LGBTQ+ Jewish overnight camp founded by CYJ. I am excited to be joining the Camp Kinneret and Camp Biluim families as the Assistant Director, this coming summer. Empowering the youth of tomorrow is a passion of mine, and it just so happens that with CYJ, I get to connect my love for Judaism and Zionsim with this passion.

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Ellie Gamliel | Marketing & Communications, Hineni toronto coordinator

I have grown up in the CYJ family since birth, going on Mifgash as a small kid and spending my summers from the age of six at Camp Solelim has taught me to be independent and how to roll with the big kids, but it was when I was shipped off to Camp Shalom in 2006 where my independent nature helped me succeed. I was a camper at Shalom for 5 years, then off to Solelim and Biluim of 2013. My camper years were concluded in the trip of a lifetime on Biluim Israel. Biluim Israel gave me a new understanding of what it meant to be a Zionist and why it is special to belong to a Zionist Youth Movement. I spent two summers being the Head of Social Media and Photography at Camp Solelim as a Madricha, and I work throughout the year at CYJ as Social Media Manager and now run the Grade 11 teen philanthropy program Hineni. I am concluding my stuies at Ryerson’s School of Professional Communications. I believe firmly in all that CYJ has to offer and I cannot wait for many more amazing years together!

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Rebecca Starr | eastern region coordinator

Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca. I go to Concordia University and study Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I grew up in Montreal and started going to Camp Kinneret back in 2006. After coming home that summer, I didn’t speak to my mom for a few days because I was so upset that she didn’t force me to go to camp earlier. I spent the next five summers there and my sixth camp summer was at Biluim Canada in 2011. The following year, I got to experience one of the greatest trips of a lifetime as I embarked on Biluim Israel for my final summer as a camper. Through my two summers of Biluim, I really began to understand the CYJ Movement. The idea that our movement was National seemed incredible to me; that there were 7 camps filled with campers and staff singing the same songs at Shira, doing the same dances at Rikud, and chanting the same cheers during Maccabiah. During the year, as I longed for the summer, I attended Kinus and Mifgash, where I met one of my great friends, Mark Kachuck. I am so excited to be a part of JOLT in Montreal, enriching the lives of young Jewish teens and instilling a love for the community as a whole. I hope to help the members of JOLT MTL and CYJ grow into the Young Judaean leaders of the future and to share with them my passion of Judaism and Zionism in new and creative ways!

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Matthew Pollak | Alumim Toronto

This upcoming summer will be my sixth year as a staff at Camp Shalom, and my sixteenth year as part of CYJ. Nine of those sixteen years I was on Bama at some point, and for the last three years (including this one) I took on a more programatic role. This year in Toronto I will work closely with CYJ's programming staff to bring the best programs to younger part of CYJ, and I can't wait to bring the camp experience to the city for them to enjoy. I am so excited to be apart of the amazing Alumim Programs!

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