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Our Staff

Susan Kurtz
Executive Director
      skurtz@hillelvt.org 
       (540) 951-2060
Grant Bigman
Associate Director
bigman@hillelvt.org
(860)869-6379

Sue Kurtz graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York City with a BFA in Illustration, Drawing, and Design. She went on for a Master’s in Education at Adelphi University. She traveled throughout Europe, then lived and studied in Israel.

 

Sue worked many creative jobs while living in New York. She worked as a Staff Development Trainer and began a program to train new employees at Selby Fifth Avenue. She developed programs, started customer mailing lists, and provided a service oriented workforce to build record sales for the company.

 

She also worked doing artwork for the New York Times, Readers Digest, and Sport Magazine. During this time, Sue developed an interest in drawing figures in action and became a sports illustrator and artist, showing in galleries throughout the world.

 

After having her first child, Sue turned her creative energy toward the organization and development of programs at the JCC that her son attended.

 

Sue initiated and developed many new creative programs at the preschool and took the students from a small group of 18 to 100+ in a few short years. She created after-school programs for kindergartners and continued to help grow the Jewish community. The JCC now resides in a multi-million dollar facility whose first concept and initial fundraising was started with the creative vision of Sue and the board 20 years ago.

 

After moving to Blacksburg, she used many of these skills to develop programs for the town. As Director of the New River United Soccer Association, Sue worked with parents, board members, and players to build the infrastructure of the organization.

 

Sue has worked full-time as the Executive Director of Hillel at Virginia Tech since December 2003. Her goal is to build a sustaining, vibrant, and meaningful Jewish community on campus through strategic vision and leadership.

Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are intellection, connectedness, achiever, arranger, restorative.

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Jacob Krzysiak
Community Engager 
jacob@hillelvt.org

Claiming Buffalo, New York as his hometown, Jacob received both his Bachelor of Arts in English and his Master of Arts in Philanthropy and Development from LaGrange College alongside a minor in Servant Leadership. 

Jacob is excited to start his professional journey in the nonprofit sector with Hillel at Virginia Tech after organizing several college programs and trips connecting students with Jewish culture and history through guest speakers, impactful trips, and performing research with locations such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

When Jacob isn't in the office, he can most likely be found on the hiking trails in the DMV area, cooking up a new dish in his kitchen, or reading and discussing the philosophy of Franz Kafka's writings at the local coffee shop.

 

His top strengths from StrengthsQuest are input, maximizer, ideation, deliberative, intellection.

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Dana Kraskin
Jewish Agency Israel Fellow to Hillel at VTdana@hillelvt.org

Born and raised in Haifa, a mountainous city on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Dana served in the army in the Education Corps, instructed on history, and traveled in Israel with soldiers. Dana is a tour guide in Israel, guiding mainly birthright groups on a 10-day journey in Israel, Trying to connect students to Israeli culture, Israelis, and modern Judaism as she sees it. Dana completed a bachelor's degree in Israeli history studies at Kinneret College in 2017. Married to Stas and together they are enjoying hiking and camping in nature, both in Israel and around the world. her biggest potion is for backpacking and traveling the world, has been to about 30 countries. She will always be happy to eat Indian food as well as vegan food, and she is a big fan of Pilates and yoga.

Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are context, learner, input, empathy, WOO.

Originally from Connecticut, Grant Bigman is excited to spend more time in the great state of Virginia. He received his Bachelors of Science degree from James Madison University in Communications and then worked for the international Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. It was during this time Grant discovered his passion for Judaism and connecting with Jewish students. Grant engaged with over 140 campuses in seven countries. After working for the fraternity, Grant pursued a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University and now works with us! 

 

His passions include sports (Jets, Yankees, UCONN), hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and reading Mitch Albom books. He knows all the in and outs of traveling and has seen 43 out of our 50 states. Grant enjoys engaging students in casual conversations as they try to navigate their Jewish identity on college campuses. He can be found either in the office or in Squires helping serve up food for our Monday Munches. He is known to be joyful, positive, and outrageously extroverted. 

 

His top strengths from StrengthsQuest are strategic, individualization, achiever, includer, and WOO.

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Hannah Garcia
IACT/Birthright Coordinator
hannahg@hillelvt.org

Originally from Olympia, Washington, Hannah received a Masters in Education with a focus on Jewish Education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a degree she started as a MASA Israel Teaching Fellows participant and completed as an independent Israeli school teacher. Hannah fell in love with Israel on Birthright in the Summer of 2018 after graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where she studied Environmental Science and Biology. She is known to love jumping into adventures, whether traveling, hiking, observing wildlife, or trying new foods! Before joining the team in Hillel at Virginia Tech, Hannah recruited undergraduate researchers for the Marine Biological Laboratory in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and then taught English around Israel for almost 2 years. As the IACT Coordinator for Hillel at Virginia Tech, Hannah is excited to learn alongside students as they develop their Jewish identities and continue to build upon her own! Hannah can’t wait to get back to Israel with participants on Birthright Israel! When she is not on campus connecting with students, you can find Hannah walking her dog Eden around Blacksburg, showing off her artistic swimming skills in the Christiansburg pool, or trying out the restaurants and bars on Main Street!

Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are positivity, arranger, empathy, relator, and individualization.

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Wendy Starr
Springboard Fellow - Innovation
      wendy@hillelvt.org

Wendy is originally from North Jersey. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, she graduated from Michigan State University majoring in Special Education and Elementary Education focusing on Mathematics and minored in Leadership of Organizations. After graduation, she student taught in Grand Rapids, Michigan to receive her teaching certification. Wendy is an alum of URJ Crane Lake, URJ Kutz, NFTY EIE, and NFTY.

 

At Michigan State, she was very involved with Michigan State Hillel, the Student Council of Exceptional Children (SCEC), and the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and Council of Progressive Students. Through the Student Council, she was able to attend and support a monthly playgroup for children with special needs. She hopes to find similar organizations in the Blacksburg community to continue supporting others in need. 

 

She enjoys cooking and baking and has recently come to the realization that even if something doesn’t look “perfect” it can still be delicious. Wendy is excited to meet and learn with students as she has just recently moved to Christiansburg. When not at Hilel you can find her trying new restaurants or driving around town!

 

Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are Restorative, Achiever, Includer, Responsibility, and Discipline.

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Hannah Feldman
Springboard Fellow - Ezra
      hannah@hillelvt.org
Buddy Kurtz
Director of Animals/
Hillel Mascot/ Hillel Dog
     
reach him via Jeff

ruff ruff ruffffff ruff ruufffff rruuufff ruf. ruf. ruuffff. ruff. RUFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Translation= Hello, my name is Buddy. Jeff and Sue adopted me in August 2017 and I have been living the life with them and the Hillel staff ever since. I get the best petting and belly rub sessions from all the students and staff, and I love saying hello to everyone who comes through the door. If you want to take me for a walk, come on by! (but I do have to say, I have the most fun just ripping up a paper brown bag.)

Rabbi Bruce Aft
Rabbinical Advisor
       rabbibruce@gmail.com

Rabbi Bruce D. Aft of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield, Virginia serves as Hillel at Virginia Tech’s Rabbinical Advisor.

 

Rabbi Aft is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in June of 2006. He has been the Rabbi at Congregation Adat Reyim since 1991. 

Hannah just graduated from the University of Kansas, where she majored in English and Jewish Studies and English and minored in English. She “is from” Atlanta, but has also lived in Buffalo, New York, Toronto, Ontario, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Overland Park, Kansas. She is an alumna of URJ Camp George, Goldman Union Camp Institute, and NFTY. At KU, Hannah was involved in the Beta Chi Chapter of Sigma Delta Tau, KU Model United Nations, the Student Alumni Leadership Board, and KU Hillel. 

 

She is a big fan of KU basketball (Rock Chalk!) and attended almost every home game during her 4 years of college. In addition to watching sports, Hannah is a self-proclaimed movie buff. She is also an avid reader and is always willing to give book recommendations! As she is new to Blacksburg, feel free to give her your favorite coffee shop and bookstore recommendations. Hannah is excited to meet students on campus and continue to develop her passion for building meaningful relationships, Jewish learning, and event coordinating.

Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are strategic, woo, input, activator, ideation.

Jeff Kurtz
Director of Operations
    reach him via Buddy

Jeff Kurtz is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology. He spent over twenty years working in a garment center in NYC as a greige goods broker. 

 

Jeff is a sculptor and an extreme green builder. He has been married to Sue for over 36 years. Together, they have traveled throughout Europe, South America, the Middle East, and most of the Caribbean. They even lived on a kibbutz for one year! Jeff and Sue have two children: Zakari, a lawyer in NOVA and Samantha, an engineer and development/real estate consultant in DC.

 

Jeff and Sue build and live in a straw bale house made of over 700 bales of straw. The home has R55 insulation and is an incredible example of engineering green technology into a mainstream format. Jeff is a foodie and loves to grow, pick, and cook his own food. The property which houses the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center boasts 10 apple trees, 10 pear trees, 10 blueberry bushes, a fig tree, and a peach tree that he and the other students planted for future Hokies to enjoy! 

 

Jeff has been with Hillel at Virginia Tech for over ten years and his diverse expertise in green building, cooking, and Jewish history has influenced the growing organization in creative, positive ways.