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.
This year our Israel fellow is Dor Kwiatek. Although Dor was born in Israel he grew up in Antwerp, Belgium. At age15, he moved back to Israel where he served for six years as a combat officer and then another seven in reserves as a tank company commander. Dor is a licensed tour guide in Israel and graduated with a B.A.in Israel studies. This semester Dor has put together a class about Israel for our students where, in10 sessions, they will learn about Israel in depth from the geology of the land and history to modern geopolitics.
His passions are the outdoors and you can find him hiking and camping with our students around the Blue Ridge mountains.
Leading our students on the VT Birthright Israel trip this winter was one of his favorite activities as he got to show (for some of the students, their first time) our Jewish Homeland and all his childhood sceneries. From Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead sea to the Jordan valley and Golan Heights.
We are so happy to have him here across the Atlantic as he just signed up for another year as our Israel fellow.
His top strengths from StrengthsQuest are responsibility, arranger, context, learner, communication.
Director of Operations
reach him via Buddy
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.
Casey is thrilled to be joining Hillel at Virginia Tech as the organization's Development Officer. In this capacity, she partners with Hillel's professional staff and dedicated volunteer leadership to secure the funds needed to ensure that Jewish life at Virginia Tech continues to grow and thrive.
A native New Yorker, Casey received her BFA in Art & Art History from the University of Kansas while participating on the Diving Team, earning four varsity letters. Casey is a career Jewish non-profit professional leader. Her past professional organizations include the University of Florida Hillel and BBYO, where she worked for 6 years serving as both the Associate Director and Director for New England Region in Boston, MA. Following BBYO, Casey took a break from the nonprofit sector to work for a television production company in New York City, working on archival research and social media.
Most recently, Casey served as the Senior Director of Programming and Volunteer Engagement at Temple Israel in Charlotte, NC. In this role, she provided both strategic and tactical oversight for all synagogue programs and related marketing efforts. In addition, she served as the primary contact for the temple’s auxiliary groups, committees, and other volunteers.
She proudly participates in the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute fellowship. Casey lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and two children.
Her top strengths from StrengthsQuests are positivity, empathy, connectedness, strategic, and relator.
Doni grew up in Denver, Colorado. He attended Jewish day school K-12, and studied Psychology and American Studies at Stanford University. He is passionate about Jewish peoplehood, place, culture, and tradition, and enjoys fostering an appreciation for connecting Jewishly. You can find Doni supporting student leaders, hiking the Appalachian Trail, on morning runs through campus, cheering on the Hokies, hearing student stories over bagels and coffee, and enjoying Taco Tuesday at Cabo Fish Taco. Doni is always excited to empower students and take special interest in their journeys.
His top StrengthsQuest are intellection, responsibility, input, relators, belief.
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.
Engagement Associate / Development Associate
We are proud to announce our new Hillel Engagement Associate, Sadye Soffin. Sadye is originally from Richmond, Virginia and received her Bachelor of Science at Virginia Tech in 2019. As a student, Sadye was heavily involved in Hillel. She served two years as the student board president, completed various internships, and even worked part-time as a Community Engagement Coordinator. She has always had a passion for working within the Jewish community and supporting her peers on their own Jewish journey.
Sadye loves going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings, hanging out with her sister (a VT sophomore), and dog-sitting Buddy. When she isn’t working at Hillel, she can be found at the barn spending time with horses.
Her top strengths from StrengthQuest are harmony, consistency, individualization, developer, and futuristic.
A native of Blacksburg, Caleb is thrilled to be back in the New River Valley to support Hillel at Virginia Tech’s mission to inspire students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and French from Radford University. While at Radford University, Caleb studied abroad in both France and Norway. After graduation, he went to work for a nonprofit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and has been working for nonprofits in a communications/development role ever since.
Caleb loves traveling, hiking, reading and drinking coffee. When he isn’t working at Hillel, you can find him taking a yoga class at InBalance Yoga or reading a good book at Mill Mountain coffee.
His top strengths from StrengthsQuest are strategic, communication, achiever, woo, and positivity.
Tarryn is originally from Atlanta Georgia, she is excited to explore Virginia. She received her Bachelors of Science degree from Georgia College and State University in Community Health and then moved across the world to Israel to teach English in Petach Tikvah. While in Israel Tarryn discovered her passion for Judaism and working with Jewish students of all ages. She is now bringing everything she learned abroad to our staff here at VT.
Her passions include reading all types of books especially Yuval Harari, cheering on the Atlanta Braves and ATL United, and bowling. She has travelled all over the world and been to 6 continents and hopes to check off Antartica soon. Tarryn is known as the Birthright girl on campus and loves meeting up with students in Turner for a smoothie and tabling on the Drillfield before our Birthright Israel trip.
Her top strengths from StrengthsQuest are responsibility, developer, relator, deliberative, arranger.
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 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.