Martha Escoll Springboard Fellow
Olga Zelzburg is excited to join Hillel at FIU as the Assistant Director and to work with already impressive team of Hillel staff, students and lay leaders on creating meaningful Jewish experiences on and off campus. Recently Olga served as a Regional Fundraiser for OneTable, helping bring Shabbat magic to the homes of young Jews. Olga received her Master’s in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College, and prior to that lived, worked, and studied in New York, Jerusalem, Moscow & St. Petersburg, as well as Leitchfield, KY. Originally from Russia, Olga considers herself a true embodiment of cosmopolitan, post-modern, post-denominational Jew. She currently resides in Miami, FL with her husband Igor, their two lovely children – Alice and David, and puppy Quentin. Olga can’t wait to join the most exciting movement, and empowered students and staff to recognize the beauty and power of Jewish tradition and its relevance in today's world.
Likes: pop-culture, all things Beatles, tropical climate, long novels, and hairless cats
Dislikes: coconut flavor, laundry in the dryer, divisiveness, 1st grade math, coffee
WHY ARE YOU EXCITED TO WORK FOR HILLEL?
Hillel at FIU IS the place to be right now: the students are committed, forward-thinking, and incredibly smart, the professional team is creative, experienced, and daring, while the lay leaders are supportive, engaged, and ambitious. This Hillel is on trajectory of success, who wouldn’t be a part of it? I feel incredibly humbled to join this exciting place, and grow professionally, while helping others transform and grow themselves.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR SKILLS SET AND PERSONALITY ALLOWS YOU TO SHAPE JEWISH LIVES ON CAMPUS?
I am Hillel’s success story: I became a part of the movement in the late 90’s in Russia, was so moved by it that decided to pursue a career in Jewish non-profit work, and build my own family with another Hillel professional. While I haven’t worked at Hillel for a while it has always been a big part of my life, an integral part of my identity. I’m passionate about all things Jewish, and most passionate about the students, who without doubt will change the world for better.
WHY IS A COMMITMENT TO JEWISH LIFE AND LEARNING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Post-modern society is the society of choice. You can customize anything: from your sneakers to your job, house, partner. I believe all Jews today are Jews by choice, and can leave meaningful, fulfilled lives without being Jewish. But I think we are better off if choose to incorporate Jewish values, rituals, behaviors in our day-to-day lives. I think the world is better off if we get to exercise our values, and act with loving kindness, repairing little and big injustices. I imagine creating a learner who is comfortable enough in their Jewish skin to recognize the value in being Jewish, to deem it worthy of their time, intellect, and soul.
Emma was a Women and Gender Studies major with minors in Ethnic Studies, Spanish, and LGBT Studies at CU Boulder and is so excited to join the Hillel team at FIU. Emma is extremely passionate about intersectional social justice issues relating to race, gender, and sexuality and cannot wait to share her passion with the students at Hillel. She hopes to use her expertise to work with students to create inclusive and engaging social justice programming that benefits not only the FIU campus, but also the greater Miami area. In her free time, Emma enjoys trying new foods, going to concerts, or rewatching Harry Potter for the millionth time. Emma is thrilled to be joining the FIU Hillel team as the Martha Escoll Springboard Fellow and can't wait to be living it up in Miami!
WHY ARE YOU EXCITED TO START THIS JOB AT FIU?
I have always been so passionate about social justice work specifically around issues of race, gender and sexuality while also understanding that these issues are often intersecting and interdependent. Being part of the Jewish community was also such an important part of my college experience, and something I would love to share with others. So, naturally working both in the Jewish professional world and being able to focus on social justice issues seems like a perfect fit for me, and I cannot wait to get started at FIU!
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BRING TO CAMPUS?
With Miami being such a diverse area I hope to use my own training in intersectionality to connect with Jewish student of various backgrounds and ensure they feel represented and supported both at Hillel and on the FIU campus. I hope to work with students to organize social justice programing that is important both to them and the Miami community at large. We live in an increasing politicized world, so I cannot wait to connect with FIU students and help them tackle the issues most important to them.
HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR BACKGROUND IN SOCIAL JUSTICE TO TAKE THE PROGRAM AT FIU TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
I will use my background in social justice to support FIU students in their own social justice interests and help guide them to ensure that these projects are as inclusive and successful as possible. I hope to work with faculty on campus as well as other student organizations to form coalitions with other under represented groups so that together we can better understand how our experiences are both similar and different in order make our work as effective as possible.
Martha Escoll Springboard Fellow