Updated: Feb 8, 2022
As we enter this week’s Shabbat and time of rest, Hillel at Virginia Tech’s staff and students would like to show our deepest appreciation to our Board of Directors.
All twenty-four of these individuals have developed deep-rooted relationships with our Hillel, it’s students, and their local Jewish communities. With their current and future support, combined with the support of those who formalized a Jewish Community at Virginia Tech in the early 1930s, Hillel at Virginia Tech has seen transformational growth and continues to be a beacon for Jewish life in Southwest Virginia.
From small Shabbat gatherings at the corner of Church Street, to organizing the very first Alternative Spring Break trip, and to the construction of the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center, our Board of Directors’ guidance and leadership continues to help carve a path of success to best support our community with impactful experiences.
As we continue to pass the torch from generation to generation, we are thankful for these individuals. Our Board of Directors’ dedication to this organization will forever be an unbreakable foundation.
Rochelle (Low) Friedman
Rochelle has been Chair of Hillel at Virginia Tech Board of Directors since 2019, focusing on leading the Board in their support of the long-term strategic Vision of a self-sustaining organization which creates a home away from home for Jewish students at Virginia Tech. Rochelle graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009 with a B.S in Accounting and received her MBA from University of Maryland in 2012. As a VT undergrad, Rochelle was two time Chair of the student board and was the founder of the Jewish Student Union. Her day job is a Senior Program Manager for The Boeing Company, but most of all, she enjoys spending as much time as she can with her two daughters and husband.
Rick is president of Beskin and Associates, Inc. Since 1974, his commitment & dedication to his profession have been demonstrated in many ways. Over the years, Rick has served on industry boards, been involved in insurance education by achieving his CPCU and his CIC designations, and was instrumental in the establishment of The Insurance Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Rick is a highly regarded practitioner among his peers. A past President of the Tidewater Chapter of the CPCU Society, he has also been Chairman of several Agent’s Advisory Councils, and past board member of
both the Professional Insurance Agents of VA-DC and the independent Insurance Agents of Virginia. Rick is a 1974 graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) with a BS in Business Administration/Marketing. He continued his postgraduate studies at Old Dominion University.
Irving is a former president of the Virginia State Bar who has been named to various boards and commissions of the Commonwealth by six different governors. He is a past president of the Virginia Law Foundation. At the Richmond Federation, he is a current board and JCRC Committee member and served as chair of its Jewish Community Relations Committee for 10 years. He received the William B. Thalhimer Sr. Young Leadership Award, and has been an active leader and volunteer with the Federation’s Annual Campaign. He also has served on the boards of many other local Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and currently serves on the board of the Virginia Holocaust Museum. In addition, he has served in leadership roles for a number of National Jewish organizations including the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council and National Council of AIPAC. He was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Virginia-Israel Commission and the Virginia-Israel Partnership among his other volunteer services. Blank is a Partner at Blank & Marcus, LLC, Richmond.
Ben Chinsky is a career Army Officer who joined the Board of Directors to expand student engagement with alumni and the Board of Directors. Ben graduated from Virginia Tech in 2008 with a degree in History and as a member of the Corp of Cadets. Ben has also completed a graduate degree in Global Security Studies at John Hopkins University. During Ben’s years at Virginia Tech, Ben served the Hillel community in a variety of leadership roles.
Sarah Dauer graduated Virginia Tech in 2010 with a degree in Accounting in Information Systems, working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in financial and operational audit/risk management roles throughout her career. Sarah resides in the area of Richmond, VA. She enjoys volunteering with local organizations and connecting with family and friends. Sarah is involved in the Richmond Pipeline initiative and looks forward to advancing the mission of Hillel at Virginia Tech.
Laura Disney is a licensed clinical social worker located in Kentucky. Laura graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a degree in Dairy Science, after which she obtained her Master’s degree in Social Work. During her time in undergrad, she held a plethora of Hillel leadership roles and helped to plan events such as FreshFest and Holocaust Remembrance Day. Laura met her husband, Jordan, at the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center groundbreaking, and they now have a very active toddler. Laura loves spending time with her family and engaging with her community.
Bryan Drowos is a Private Wealth Financial Advisor and Managing Director of Investments at Drowos Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors. He earned a dual degree in Finance and Economics from the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech and an MBA with a concentration in Financial Planning from the College of Business at FAU. Bryan maintains the Certified Financial Planner® and Certified Private Wealth Advisor® professional designations, has been a Wells Fargo Premier Advisor since 2012 and has been named to Forbes’ Best-in-State Wealth Advisor ranking in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Bryan was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware where his grandparents and parents were pillars of Congregation Beth Shalom. He has lived in South Florida since graduating from Virginia Tech, where he was Hillel President and one of the earliest participants on a Birthright Israel trip. Bryan and his wife, Joanna, live in Boca Raton with their children Lila and Jackson. They enjoy travel, theater, sports and spending time together as a family. Recently, as a response to the pandemic, the family traveled nearly 25,000 miles of the U.S. in an RV; touring dozens of National Parks, Monuments and natural wonders across 38 states and making memories to last a lifetime.
Howard Feiertag, a well-known hospitality industry veteran, has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, in the Pamplin College of Business, since 1989. In 2019, the department was named after him. Feiertag is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a Certified Hospitality Marketing Executive (CHME), and a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA). A lifetime member of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), he has also been appointed to its International’s Hall of Fame. He is the co-author (with John Hogan) of his book Lessons from the Field: A Commonsense Approach to Effective Hotel Sales. His second book, published in 2019, is Hospitality Sales and Marketing: An Evolutionary Journey with Howard Feiertag.
Robert is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Chinese Language Institute (CLI) and Solstice Education. He developed CLI’s business plan as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech and launched the company in 2009 while studying abroad in Beijing. CLI has since hosted over 3,000 students in China from more than 45 countries and 200 universities. In 2013, CLI began developing faculty-led global programs in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. This effort evolved into Solstice Education. Robert graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Tech with a BA in Political Science and Communication and holds an MBA/MA joint master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Rebekah (Becky) Fritz
Becky Fritz grew up in Lynchburg, VA and attended the University of Virginia (B.A. Women's Studies; Psychology) and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Master of Public Health). Becky is married to Rob Solomon and they have four children: Sydney, Lauren, Raechel, and Virginia Tech alumnus, Noah. Becky moved to Blacksburg in 2002, where she has since worked at the Carilion Clinic in the Department of Surgery. Becky first became involved with Hillel at Virginia Tech through attending transformative programming such as Reading of the Names, seeing Elie Wiesel on campus and attending movie screenings/concerts. Her son became active with Hillel during his time at VT and engaged the entire family in Hillel programs and events. During her spare time, Becky likes to be active outdoors, travel with her family and read. She is excited to join the Board of Directors where she can use her strengths to help Hillel at Virginia Tech reach its goals.
Ed Gralla and Randye Schwartz-Gralla moved from the mountains of NY to Floyd County Virginia in 1980. In NY, they had been living and learning on a farm in search of simple life on the land. Their odyssey led them to an old dilapidated house and homestead that, as 30 year olds, they saw as heaven on earth. They developed their skills, and rebuilt their homestead. It was on that farm that they raised two amazing sons and saw them grow from home births into well adjusted young men. Now they continue to grow all their food, milk goats, raise chickens, butcher their own meat and work hard keeping the place going. Ed and Randye's two granddaughters live next door and they see them almost every day. Ed and Randye believe that giving back is an important part of living an actualized life, and Hillel allows them to be available for Jewish youth and be a model for who may seek an alternative path of sustainable living.
Shayna Horwitz is development and communications director for the Human Trafficking Legal Center. Prior to joining the Human Trafficking Legal Center, Horwitz worked as a media relations and marketing specialist for Meridian International Center, a diplomatic and global leadership institution that strengthens U.S. engagement with the world. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Survivor Alliance and Hillel at Virginia Tech. Horwitz was previously associate director for development at Northwestern Hillel in Chicago. Prior to that role, she lived in Beijing, China, for two years working for Operation Smile and the Institute for the International Education for Students (IES Abroad). She received her bachelor’s degree in nonprofit management with a minor in international studies from Virginia Tech, and a master’s degree in global communication from Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.
Bruce grew up in the Boston area. Bruce was also a student at Virginia Tech from 1976-1982 receiving his BS in Aerospace Engineering. Bruce has been active in Hillel his entire time at Virginia Tech. Bruce met his future wife at a Hillel Sukkot bagel brunch, Phyllis Hirschman, who received her MS in Architecture. Bruce and Phyllis are proud parents of Danielle and Steven and grandparents of one (so far). Now retired from a 37 year career in Federal Service with the Navy & Federal Aviation Admin, Bruce has resided in Northern Virginia for 32 years.
Jay Lefkowitz is a graduate from VT with a BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Additionally, he holds a Master’s degree in Hospitality Administration from UNLV. Jay began his Marriott career as a student at VT, completing a summer internship in Hilton Head, SC. Upon graduation, returned to Hilton Head as part of the Marriott Management Development Program. Since that time, Jay has held leadership positions in Front Office, Housekeeping, Human Resources and served in Executive Leadership positions at the property level for several full-service hotels. Jay changed disciplines in 2015, moving to Revenue Management where he specialized in managing revenue strategy for large convention hotels. Jay has also served on the leadership of his local synagogue, planning and organizing special events for the community. Jay is a native of Virginia Beach, VA and currently resides in Potomac, MD with his wife Natalie, son Matan and daughter Rina. Jay is also the Hillel at Virginia Tech representative to the Board of Directors for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Guy (‘84) is the third in four generations of Hokies, all of whom have been active in the Jewish life/Hillel on campus. Guy Levy’s professional career has straddled the clinical practice of dentistry with the Levy Dental Group, discovery of technological innovations and business startup co-founder with SolSys Medical. Most importantly, Guy is married to Robin and they have two adult children, Claire ‘18 and Frankie. Guy and Robin have held leadership positions in a wide range of civic, religious, and charitable organizations.
Noam Neusner is an experienced communications strategist, speechwriter, journalist, and author. He is the founding principal of 30 Point Strategies, which focuses on producing powerful editorial and creative content. His clients have included leading executives from Deloitte LLP, PayPal, Goldman Sachs, Delta Airlines, Credit Suisse, Loews, Coca-Cola Co., Barbara Bush Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Enterprise Institute, Ernst & Young, the Federal Reserve Bank, The George Washington University, Texas A&M University, Merck KgA, BDO USA, LabCorp, and the Financial Services Forum. Other clients include former governors and leading regulators as well as candidates for President and Congress. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, Neusner has also co-authored four books with his father, the late Talmudic scholar Jacob Neusner. He lives in the New York City area.
Joe Nizhnikov is the Senior Vice President at Steampunk, a disruptive consulting company focused on bringing new thinking to federal government clients. Joe is a proven sales and delivery leader in the Federal technology consulting industry who has spent his entire career focused on successful outcomes for his customers. A customer first approach is the pillar which Joe operates in business with the fundamental belief that customer success is the most organizational and personal driver in this industry. He works closely with clients to breakdown their challenges, paint a perspective vision, and then walks the path together with them until success is achieved. The only thing that tops Joe’s passion for customer success are the Virginia Tech Hokies! Joe graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Business Information Technology. On any given Saturday, you can find Joe in his DC home cheering for the Hokies with his daughters Lucy, Nora, and son Harris (but probably not his Wahoo wife, Molly!). Joe and Molly love to travel, creating fun and unique memories as a family.
Rachel is a digital marketer for Altria who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2018 with a degree in Marketing and received her MBA at the University of Florida. During her undergraduate experience, Rachel held multiple positions on Hillel’s Student Board, including serving as the inaugural VP of Innovation for two consecutive terms. Rachel’s extensive involvement during her time at Virginia Tech makes it no surprise she is on of the youngest elected Board of Directors in Hillel at Virginia Tech’s history.
Ed Sarfan graduated from Virginia Tech in 1983. During his four years, Ed participated in campus life as he assumed the roles of Resident Advisor, Student Alumni Associate, and member of πka; however, he participated in absolutely no Jewish activities. In contrast, his daughter, Sydney, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 and was an active member of Virginia Tech Hillel. Ed and his wife, Jody, live in Hampton, Virginia. They are active members in their Jewish community, both serving as President of the UJC of the Virginia Peninsula. Ed serves on the UJCVP Board, the UJCVP Endowment Board, the Virginia Peninsula Jewish Cemetery Board, and the Rodef Shalom Temple Board. Ed practices law with two of his brothers in Newport News, Virginia. Ed and Jody have two grown children. Sydney is a child therapist in Charlotte, North Carolina and Matthew practices Employment Law in Richmond, Virginia. In his spare time, Ed enjoys spending time with family, traveling, fishing and photography.
Samantha Smith graduated from Virginia Tech’s Architecture School in 2011. Samantha has been working at the US Army Corp of Engineers for 10 years and currently works in the construction department as a Resident Engineer in Honolulu, Hawaii. Samantha joined the Board of Directors in 2013 and contributes to Hillel by organizing special projects such as the Firepit Brick Campaign and the Hillel at Virginia Tech Jewish Timeline.
Dr. Brian Storrie was born on the west side of Cleveland, a place with a Jewish community where one could be, if one wished to be, culturally Jewish without necessarily being religiously Jewish. One could do the same at Cornell as a place to be an undergraduate. However, as faculty at Virginia Tech, both Brain and his wife, Muriel, had the feeling that there was no way to be culturally Jewish in Blacksburg. Hence, in raising a family, they were part of the process in buying a building for the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center and took part in the bat mitzvahs for daughters, etc. Brian was the Faculty Advisor for Hillel in the last years of the last century and his hope was that he would be the last faculty advisor. He wanted Hillel at Virginia Tech to grow and be self-standing with its Director, its building and its visible, active presence. Brian has seen it happen and is glad to now serve on the Hillel at Virginia Tech’s Board of Directors.
Rodney Tanner is a Dynamic Business and Technology Executive with over 20 years of experience building teams that deliver rapid business results in challenging, complex and fast moving environments. He holds a BA in Economics and a BS in engineering from Virginia Tech. He received his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.
Marjorie Willner currently works as a data scientist at Accenture and is based in Northern Virginia. She holds a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in Environmental Engineering, a Masters from Notre Dame in Environmental Engineering and a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University. Marjorie is passionate about building community and is helping to expand the Hillel at Virginia Tech footprint in the greater Washington DC area.
Samantha graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 with a degree in Business Information Technology. Samantha lives in Arlington, VA with one of her best friends from Hillel and works as a Project Manager for a financial services firm. Samantha wanted to join the Board of Directors because during her collegiate years, Hilel at Virginia Tech taught her what it was like to be a part of a larger Jewish community and, as a result, had an enormous influence in shaping her Jewish identity. On a more practical level, Hillel was a home away from home, where she met friends that turned into family.