Olami Director of Digital Marketing
What warms your heart when you think of your time at Scheck Hillel?
Mostly the sun, which I miss, being here in the northeast. The relationships are also incredibly heart-warming. At the recent 50-year celebration, it was amazing to see the warmth among former students, teachers, and parents. It shows that the bond is truly eternal.
Share a funny or unique story from your Scheck Hillel days.
There are so many to choose from. I'll focus on the caring spirit that was at the core of so many of the interactions with the upperclassmen. It was the fall of '92, and I was in my first year at Hillel as part of the 8th grade class. I was reveling in the joy of bagel breaks and going to a coed school, after being asked to leave an all-boys school on Miami Beach. This particular day was a rainy one, the type of torrential Florida rain that lasts for only a short time but can soak you all the way to the bone. As a result, the gutter system at school was on full display, with water flowing heavily out of every pipe. My friend and I happened to be waiting outside the office at the time, which unfortunately must have been a signal to the seniors nearby that we wanted to be held under the gutter while water poured down the spout. That is where an extraordinary act of kindness came to being. One of the seniors lived in NMB near my home and pointed out to his friend that I had just had an appendectomy a few weeks prior. With this utterance, I was spared. Unfortunately, it was not so for Raphy Bensimon, who needed some new clothes.
Was there a teacher who had a positive impact and made you feel like you could do it all?
There were several amazing teachers who had an incredibly positive impact on my life. They were amazing because they not only focused on us at school, but they took time from their personal schedule to develop a deeper connection. Dr. Rhea Schwartzberg and Rabbi Rodney Feinerman were those teachers for me. They saw me as a person and as a student that needed direction and motivation to reach his potential. I spent countless hours outside of school enjoying their company and taking in their wisdom...and I still do.
Do you feel your days as a Scheck Hillel student had an impact on your adult life and your choices? How so?
My time at Hillel has had a tremendous impact on my life and more specifically on my life as a Jew. Through the education and experience at Hillel, I connected with Judaism in a profound way. I was also introduced to other perspectives and backgrounds that were different than mine. It led me to go to Israel after graduation, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
What educational path did you follow?
After two years in Israel at Shaare Mevaseret, I attended Yeshiva University and eventually graduated with a degree in Marketing. That B.S. was incredibly helpful in convincing my wife to marry me.
What is your current profession, and where do you work? How did you come to work in this field?
After 18+ years of working in corporate marketing for awesome brands like Subway, BMW, Verizon, P&G, New York Life and others, I decided to try working for the Jewish people. I recently joined Olami - a non-profit that engages with Jewish students on campus and young professionals - as their Director of Digital Marketing. My role is to grow Olami's brand impact and share their incredible programs & trips with this generation of Jewish youth.
What is most rewarding about the work you do? What are you passionate about?
The mission is what got me involved and I am dedicated to helping young, secular Jews explore, network and experience their Jewishness and grow through the choices that they make. It is also incredibly rewarding to share that mission with my wife and three amazing daughters. While not as glamorous as selling more sandwiches or life insurance policies, it grounds them in the advancement and continuity of the Jewish people.
Looking back, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
First off, I'd warn him about playing basketball on a sprained knee (torn ACL) and a few other mishaps. Secondly, I'd share a few things that I share with my daughters, especially my oldest, who is currently in high school:
1. Everyone has a unique story, take the time to find out what it is.
2. Making enemies is easy, try harder and make friends.
3. Own your choices and be intentional about what you do in life. Don't let life just happen to you.
4. Outcomes, not Ownership - focus on doing good and the credit will come.