About : Meet Our Staff
Our staff is made up of dynamic individuals who consider themselves part of one big Bronfman Center family. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
Rabbi Gideon Black
Gideon was born in Glasgow, Scotland and grew up in London, England. In 2007 Gideon moved across the pond to pursue his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University. Gideon received his law degree from University College London, after starting his undergraduate studies at the London School of Economics. Gideon also has an MA in Jewish Philosophy from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School. Before college, Gideon spent two years studying at Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush). At NYU, Gideon serves as a campus rabbi, representing the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) – a program of the Orthodox Union. Aside from being a huge soccer and golf fan, one thing Gideon is more passionate about than anything is people. He is here for you anytime, so if you would like to chat over a cup of coffee (chances are he’ll order tea), or you’re looking for someone to learn with or you want to join him and his wife Aliza for a Shabbat meal please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Nikki DeBlosi is a fifth-year candidate for rabbinical ordination and Tisch Fellow at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Manhattan. She holds a BA in Women's Studies from Harvard University and both an MA and PhD in Performance Studies from NYU, where she tried to bring compassion and humor to the dreaded "Writing the Essay" required first-year course. In addition to serving the religious and spiritual needs of NYU's progressive Jewish students, staff, and faculty, Nikki is excited to put her academic background in queer studies and her three years' experience in feminist organizing to work in the Jewish community with a focus this year on LGBTQ issues. A convert to Judaism, Nikki is particularly happy to discuss spiritual change, doubts, and questions--but she's also happy to talk pop culture, science fiction, and Game of Thrones. Nikki and her wife Rachel, a litigator, live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their son Ilan and two cats. Want to grab coffee some time and chat? Email Nikki!
Tracy joined The Bronfman Center family in December of 2007. She is from Charleston, SC and received her BA from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Tracy began her career in the non-profit world as an educator at The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and from there went on to work as an administrator at Park Avenue Synagogue's Congregational School. Tracy's responsibilities at The Bronfman Center include budgets, development, administration, alternative breaks team, working with NYU to maintain our beautiful brownstone and the list goes on and on. Tracy is a proud Brooklyn resident, and it is only because of our students that she travels daily to the "outer borough" of Manhattan. She loves working at NYU with such a dynamic, diverse and exciting student body.
Senior Associate, Manager of Student Life
Erica Frankel first started as a lifer at the Bronfman Center in 2008 after graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Dance. She participated in the first-ever cohort of LAPID, the Leadership and Professional International Development Initiative for Early Career Hillel Professionals, and was a 2012 recipient of the Gallatin Jewish Studies Grant, which she used to study contemporary dance in Tel Aviv. In addition to her role at NYU, Erica also moonlights as a performer with several modern dance companies in the city. She’s currently a grad student in Gallatin, so you should ask her what her Concentration is…just drop her a line.
Jay Herman is the coordinator of CLIP, a competitive undergraduate internship program with sites in New York and Israel that cultivates emerging professional and lay leaders in the Jewish community. Originally from the beautiful state of Colorado, Jay is a master’s student in Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, pursuing a degree in music education which will include certification to teach K-12 music in New York public schools. At his alma mater, University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, Jay revitalized the Jewish community as president of Hillel and as Interfaith Coordinator for Jewish Life. At NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, Jay also works with Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and non-denominational progressive students on campus to create opportunities for liberal Jewish engagement. Outside of work and school, Jay enjoys practicing marimba, vibraphone, and piano, listening to National Public Radio, and skiing the Rocky Mountains.
Noah Leavitt was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Columbia University with a BA in history and recently completed an MA in Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University. He has also studied in Israel at Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell's and Yeshivat Torat Yosef Hamivtar. Noah is currently a fourth year student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School.
Sasha Levyn is so excited to join the Bronfman Center team! Sasha is a rising junior studying media, culture, and communications in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. This past summer she participated in the Collegiate Leadership Internship Program (CLIP) and was placed to intern at the Bronfman Center. After ten weeks of hard work, she just couldn't get enough of the BC, and decided to stay onboard for the school year! She has her hands in many projects, such as freshfest, welcome week, JLF, and alternative breaks. Sasha enjoys long walks on the beach, yoga, reading, and excessive amounts of frozen yogurt.
Melanie is excited to be a part of the Bronfman Center team! Originally from Southern California, Melanie graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a BA in English and Dance and worked briefly as Assistant to the Director of Student Life at UCR. She moved to New York in 2003 and continues to have a hand in the arts community through volunteer work and occasional performances. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
My name is Jeremy Pappas and I am rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. I am originally from West Bloomfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit – yet invest all my rooting interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers! I've spent the past eighteen summers at Camp Ramah in Canada, as a camper and staff member, where I developed my real love for Judaism (in addition to my mom's delicious Shabbat dinners!). I am extremely excited to get to know as many students as possible this coming year. When not busy with school (or watching sports on TV), I can be found planning my upcoming wedding, b'h, to my lovely fiance Abbie Fagin, this coming October.
Rori Picker Neiss
Rori Picker Neiss is a student at Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. Rori previously served as Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. Rori is the North American Representative to the Religions for Peace Global Youth Network, a member of the board of the Young Leadership Council of the International Council of Christians and Jews, a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders student fellow, and co-editor of "InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook." She received her Bachelor's degree in in Religious Studies and Political Science from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and has studied at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and Seton Hall University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Russel, and daughter, Daria.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna is a visionary, inspiring and highly personable rabbi known for his passion, sensitivity, creativity, and openness. A communal leader, teacher and innovator, he serves as the Skirball Executive Director of the Bronfman Center and University Chaplain of NYU. Rabbi Sarna and his family live in Gramercy Green, where he is Chaplain-in-Residence, and maintain an "open home" to students. He is married to Dr. Michelle Waldman Sarna and father to Batya, Maayan, Moshe, David and Amital.
Dr. Michelle Sarna
JLIC Educational Fellow
Michelle has enjoyed learning and growing with students through JLIC at NYU for the past ten years. She feels grateful to be a part of such a full, promising, and dynamic period of people's lives. Michelle earned her PhD in Psychology focusing on the transition to adulthood and last year was a Tikvah Post-Doctoral Scholar at NYU School of Law. Michelle founded the Orthodox Women's Leadership Project in partnership with AWP. She recently began a new position at the Educational Alliance. She loves hiking with her children in Jerusalem;
exploring the parks and museums in NYC is a distant second. Michelle & Yehuda have embraced the joys and quirks of raising their 5 young, curious, and adorable children in a college dorm. Batya, Maayan, Moshe, Daveed & Amital are always up for playdates!
Rabbi Daniel Smokler
Senior Jewish Educator/Hillel Education Director
Rabbi Daniel Smokler is the Senior Jewish Educator at the Bronfman Center.
Rabbi Dan teaches a variety of classes, studies with students and
small groups, and directs the Freshman and Sophomore seminar. Rabbi
Dan graduated Cum Laude from Yale University in 2001 with a degree in
the History of Art. He was ordained by Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg
in 2006. Among other adventures, Rabbi Dan has worked as a labor
union organizer, lived in a tipi for a year and taught Hebrew school
in Cuba. In addition to teaching and learning, Rabbi Dan loves to go
running, to do the New York Times Crossworld puzzles, and listening to
soul music. In 2010, Rabbi Dan was awarded Hillel's Exemplar of
Excellence Award. Rabbi Dan has served been at the Bronfman Center
JLIC Educational Fellow
Rivky was born and raised in Teaneck. (You probably haven't heard of it- it's a small town in New Jersey.) After two years at Midreshet Harova and four studying Africana studies at Johns Hopkins, with a detour of a semester in Ghana, she was excited to move back to New York. Aside from her position as part of the amazing team of JLIC here at NYU, Rivky is the education manager (ask her what that means!) at a Jewish education technology nonprofit. Please call her to meet up, she'd love to take you out for a cup of coffee, or her favorite drink, chocolate milk! Outside of work, Rivky likes to read blogs, go to rap concerts, and play Mah Jongg.
Program Coordinator for Core Services
Rebekah is thrilled to be joining the Bronfman Center team! Some of her responsibilities include Shabbat and holiday planning and overseeing students in various groups here at the BC. She graduated from NYU in December 2010 where she double-majored in History and Jewish Studies and minored in Politics. While a student at NYU, Rebekah was a member of the NYU Purple and White Dance Team, studied abroad with the pioneer group to NYU Tel Aviv, was an Eryk Spektor scholar in Jewish Studies, and interned at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Originally from Austin, Texas, Rebekah is the oldest of five and adores her family, 100-degree weather, Texas Longhorn baseball, Tex-Mex, the beach, coffee and her Persian cat, Kobi. In her free time, she loves to watch football and funny movies, write in her journal, and read. If you need anything or just want to chat, please feel free to contact her or come by the 4th floor to say hi!