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.
Contact Risa: RiSa@youngjudaea.ca
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.
Contact Jen: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Contact Agnes: Agnes@Youngjudaea.ca
Mark Kachuck | National Education Director
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.
Contact Mark: email@example.com
Ellie Gamliel | Marketing & Communications Director
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. Since then I have concluded my studies at Ryerson’s School of Professional Communications and I have taken on the role of CYJ National Marketing and Communications Director, ensuring that everything we do gets seen and heard about, because it is so special. believe firmly in all that CYJ has to offer and I cannot wait for many more amazing years together!
Contact Ellie: Ellie@youngjudaea.ca
JACKI STEIN | CENTRAL REGION PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Hi everyone, my name is Jacki and I am this year’s Central Region Program Coordinator! I am currently pursuing my Masters in Developmental Disabilities and Child Life. I was put on the bus kicking and screaming in 2006 for my first year at Camp Shalom and since then I have never looked back. I have spent the past 14 years as a camper and staff completely in love with everything CYJ has to offer. I spent 3 summers at Camp Shalom, then moved on to Camp Solelim, Biluim Canada, Biluim Israel, finally becoming a staff at Camp Solelim and finishing off my years at camp as Solelim’s head counsellor in 2018. Whenever I was not at camp I was finding ways to stay involved in the city through JOLT, Mifgash, Kinus (Machane Choref), Alternative Winter Break, as well as a couple of American Young Judaea conventions that I was invited to. My years as a camper growing up in this movement taught me valuable life lessons and skills that have helped me grow into the person I am today. It didn’t end there - my years as staff fostered my love of programming and working with kids which has shaped my future and the person I am becoming. I am so excited to have the opportunity to pass on all of the amazing experiences I had with CYJ and develop the next generation of Jewish leaders!
CONTACT JACKI: JACKI@YOUNGJUDAEA.CA
EMMA KRUGER | EASTERN REGION PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Hi everyone, my name is Emma! I am currently a student at McGill University in my second year of study in Social Work. I started going to Camp Kinneret in 2007 when I was 8 years old, and continued having the best summers of my life for 8 years. I continued on to Biluim in 2015 where I met so many amazing people, who also explained a bit about the CYJ movement. They showed me that although our respective camps were different in their own ways, we all share the same values, appreciation, and love for camp. When I became a staff at Camp Kinneret in 2017, my main goal was to pass on these values, appreciation, and especially love for camp to every single camper I could possibly reach. As I continue to do this during the summer, I am so excited to be able to work closely with campers during the year to express these same values in the city. I am so excited to oversee CYJ programs in Montreal throughout the year to watch the members reach out into our community and work together as a Chevra!
CONTACT EMMA: EMMA@YOUNGJUDAEA.CA
NIKKI KITNER | WESTERN REGION PROGRAM COORDINATOR
My first summer at camp in 2004, as a 7 year old, was only supposed to last two weeks, but as those two weeks came to an end, I called my parents and begged them to let me stay for the full session… and the rest is history. In 2010, I started at Camp Kinneret, and was the Biluim year of 2013. I went on Biluim Israel the following year, and it was definitely up there with one of my favourite summers as a camper ever, as it solidified what Judaism and my connection to Israel meant to me. I was a staff member at Kinneret for 5 years, with many different positions ranging from a waterfront staff to cabin staff, to Unit head, and last year I took on the role of Program Director. During my school years, although originally from Montreal, I live in Vancouver, and attend the University of British Columbia studying Computer Science. Moving across the country was not a piece of cake, but knowing a few people from Vancouver already, solely from my experiences at Biluim Canada and Biluim Israel, was comforting and I definitely have Canadian Young Judaea to thank for that. I am so excited to take on the role of Western Region Program Coordinator, and get to help teens in the CYJ system help others and grow as leaders in their community and beyond!
CONTACT NIKKI: NIKKI@YOUNGJUDAEA.CA
LOLA LEVING | ATLANTIC REGION PROGRAM CO-COORDINATOR
I moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2006 and the first thing that the Jewish community members told my parents was that I had to go to Camp Kadimah. So, I did. Just a few months after we settled, I was on the bus heading to the hidden oasis of Barss Corner. That summer I only stayed for three weeks, and when my parents came to pick me up, my first words were that they had to promise to send mefor the full six weeks next summer. I spent a total of 10 years at Camp Kadimah including an unforgettable summer at Biluim Israel. Like a third parent, camp gave me the space to explore my culture and beliefs, implanting a seed of love and interest towards my community. When I returned home from camp after my last summer, I saw a significant gap in my community; there were no programs or events connecting the populace of Jewish youth. Since then I have worked closely with CYJ after launching JOLT Halifax in 2016. I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue refining my connection with Judaism and Zionism by participating in events like Mifgash, the Cornerstone Seminar Fellowship, and the SBM Vieda Leadership Development Seminar. I love being part of the CYJ family and I am excited to continue to pass down the values of charity and community to the youth of the Maritimes.
CONTACT LOLA: LOLA@YOUNGJUDAEA.CA
HIYAM GEDALIA | ATLANTIC REGION PROGRAM CO-COORDINATOR
Hi everyone! My name is Hiyam Gedalia and I am so excited to be coordinating JOLT Halifax for the third year in a row! I am from Halifax and am completing my fourth year at Dalhousie with an Honours in Neuroscience. I began my CYJ journey in 2009 when I was 11 years old at Camp Kadimah. I was a camper for 6 summers and a staff for 2. I miss being a part of camp so much, which is why JOLT has been a great way to connect and see many of my former campers and staff. Even though Halifax has a small Jewish community, the teens here have done an amazing job in giving back to the community and being leaders. I am so proud of have seen them grow up as my campers to influential young adults and I can’t wait to see what this year has to bring!