Mission & Leadership 2017

Our Mission

The Back from Birthright Israel network connects Birthright Israel trip alumni living in the Chicagoland area to each other socially, professionally, through Jewish life and culture, volunteerism, and philanthropy to create a transition into greater JUF involvement.  

This is a program sponsored and run solely by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.


2016-2017 Committee

Mitchell Cohen

Mitchell grew up in Indianapolis, IN and graduated from Indiana University with a Finance degree from the Kelley School of Business. He currently works for FactSet Research Systems as a Sales & Trading Specialist. He went on Birthright with Shorashim the summer of 2015. Mitchell has volunteered with Uptown Café as well as Feed My Starving Children. He is eager to join the Back from Birthright Israel Committee and is looking forward to building strong connections with the local community. Mitchell is a passionate fan of the Colts, Pacers & Indiana University basketball and also enjoys fitness, blogging & traveling.

Mallory Cybulski

Mallory grew up in Oak Park, IL, a suburb located just west of the city. She attended and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in English & Creative Writing, as well as the University of Illinois-Chicago with a M.Ed in Elementary Education Curriculum & Instruction. She is currently working as a Kindergarten and First Grade Literacy Teacher at the University of Chicago Charter School Donoghue Campus. Mallory has been active in the Chicago Jewish community since returning from her Shorashim birthright trip in July 2015. Since that wonderful experience, she has participated and led two sessions of Leads, as well as attended many events hosted by YLD. Mallory also had the opportunity to teach English in Israel for four weeks this summer through the TALMA program. Through these events and opportunities, she has been fortunate enough to meet so many new people and further develop her Jewish identity within Chicago and beyond. She hopes to help others have the same experience through her participation in the Back from Birthright committee. In her free time, Mallory likes to teach and practice yoga, attend concerts and festivals, and find new brunch places to try in the city. She is very much looking forward to being a part of Back from Birthright Israel Committee this year!

Jennifer Ellenby

Jennifer grew up in Deerfield, IL and graduated from University of Illinois in 2012 where she majored in Marketing. She just finished her second year at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Jennifer went on Birthright in 2012 with Mayanot. She participates in many Jewish events across the Chicagoland area as well as serving as an executive board member in her law school’s chapter of Decalouge. She is excited to be on the Back from Birthright Israel Committee because she believes it is important for Birthright participants to advocate for Israel. She hopes to further support the State of Israel and continue to share what she learned on her Birthright trip. You can find her around bakeries in Chicago on the hunt for the best red velvet cupcake.

Carla Friedman

Carla grew up in Glencoe, IL and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Economics and Sociology. She is currently a Marketing Analytics Analyst at Nielsen. Upon graduating college and moving to Chicago, Carla has been very involved in the Jewish community starting with participating and leading LEADS groups, participating in Gesher as well as many other JUF networking and social events. In addition, Carla is involved with AIPAC and the Young Professionals Division of Anshe Sholom. Carla can't wait to help Birthright alumni connect with other alumni and build strong connections with the Chicago Jewish community upon returning from their trip. In her free time, Carla enjoys spending time by the lake, exercising, cooking and checking out new neighborhoods in Chicago.

Carly Gerber

Carly grew up in Highland Park, IL. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in Fashion Studies and Journalism, she’s now working as a Sales Associate for Bela Bridal and freelance journalist. In May of 2015, Carly travelled through Israel for a third time with Mayanot Israel. Carly’s excited to be on the Back from Birthright Israel Committee because she’ll be able to advocate for an experience that’s shaped her life and meet other young adults with shared experiences. She is also a member of the Next Generation Associate Board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as well as the Young Professional Committee of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Throughout the year, she loves attending Friends of the IDF events and the many YLD events like Big Event, Blue and White Bar Night, and LGBT Happy Hour. Growing up with three older brothers who play hockey, Carly inherited a love for the Chicago Blackhawks. In her free time, she loves trying new restaurants, reading, and blogging about ECOfashion.

Gideon Horberg

Gideon grew up in Skokie, Illinois and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and works as an engineer at NTN Bearing Corporation in Mt. Prospect. Gideon was involved at Hillel at the University of Illinois and planned two alternative break trips during which he developed his passion for volunteering and helping others. Gideon went on Shorashim in January 2016 and loved every minute of it. When he came back, he wanted to talk about his experiences with people who could relate and that is how he found Back from Birthright. Gideon is passionate about enabling participants to be able to do the same and to be able to explore future ways in which they can remain close with their buses and make connections with past participants. In his free time, Gideon watches the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and White Sox, works on his golf game, attends events around the Jewish community, and spends time with his family and friends.

Daniel Kanter

Daniel Kanter attended Solomon Schechter Day School, Chicagoland Jewish High School, and Camp Ramah, which have provided him with foundation, skills, and love for Judaism and Israel. His first trip to Israel was Federation sponsored where he had his bar mitzvah. He spent two extended Israel trips with high school and camp, and returned from a spectacular Birthright trip in June 2015. Daniel graduated from Indiana University where he was involved at Hillel and majored in Criminal Justice. He is a teacher for Jewish 6th graders and is a USY youth advisor. For many summers he was on staff at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. He loves music and playing sports, and is passionate about the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions. Daniel Kanter is excited about becoming a member of the Back from Israel Birthright Committee. He looks forward to meeting the other members and contributing to the committee.

Katie Keidan

Katie Keidan grew up in Deerfield, IL and graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Strategic Communications and Spanish. Currently, Katie works in the Public Relations field at Edelman in the Corporate Communications Division. Katie became active in the Jewish community when she began her college career. Working with the campus Hillel and Chabad organizations, she continued her involvement throughout college and beyond. As a Lewis Summer Intern through Chicago's JUF, Katie began her connection to the city's Jewish community. Participating in JUF LEADS, then going on to serve as a LEADS leader helped to extend her network, bringing her to Israel in Spring 2015 through Birthright. Immediately upon return from Israel, Katie was eager to get involved in the Back from Birthright Committee and looks forward to giving back to the organization that provided so much for her. In her spare time, Katie enjoys being active outdoors (when Chicago weather permits), cooking, playing board games and spending time with her family and friends.

Jennifer Kove

Jennifer was born in Michigan and raised in Buffalo Grove, IL. Jennifer went on Birthright with Mayanot in August 2011 and loved her trip. She graduated with a BSW from Indiana University and went on to get her MSW from The University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in Development at North Side Housing and Supportive Services, where she plans all special events, write grants and work closely with donors. She served on the Bar Mitzvah Bash recruitment committee and really enjoyed it. She wanted to join this committee in order to become more involved with the Jewish Community in Chicago. She loves hanging out with friends and traveling!

Megan Marks

Megan grew up in Atlanta, GA and graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Strategic Communications. She currently works in Paid Media, specializing in Social Media, at Resolution Media. Megan has been an active member of the Jewish community since her childhood, attending Greenfield Hebrew Academy and The Weber School in Atlanta. After college, in 2015, she renewed her connection to Israel through Shorashim's Birthright program. Since returning from Birthright, she has continued to be an active member of JUF, serving on the TIP Dinner Committee. Megan is extremely extremely excited to be serving on the Back From Birthright committee and looks forward to helping other young adults continue to grow their connection to the Jewish community and Israel. Megan is a long time Triathlete, and currently focusing on training for the 2016 Triathlon Age Group National Championships in August.

Joel Pachefsky

Joel grew in Shorewood, Wisconsin -- a suburb of Milwaukee -- and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2013 with a BA in art history. After a two-and-a-half year 'experiment' in advertising, he is currently working for his family's real estate development firm. Joel has been active in Jewish communal life since a young age when he attended Jewish day and high school. At the University of Wisconsin, Joel was a member of the Board of Directors of Hillel and a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. After college, his community work shifted more towards Israel education and advocacy. For the past year, he has been a mentor for Write On for Israel -- a two-year, high school Israel education program helping students understand how to effectively advocate for Israel when they attend college. Joel recently returned from a Birthright Shorashim trip in June 2016 and is excited to meet other past participants that are passionate about Israel. During his free time, Joel enjoys hanging out with friends and family, discovering the rooftops of Chicago, rooting for the Wisconsin Badgers (basketball and football), and biking around the city.

Ari Perlin

Ari was born in Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2013 with a B.S. in Mathematics. Currently a senior analyst in the logistics department at Kraft Heinz (go mac n cheese!). Ari went on a Shorashim birthright trip at the end of 2015 during which he devoured an entire cumquat tree. He has been both a leader and participant in the JUFs LEADS program and has been to multiple JUF events since moving to Chicago a little less than a year and a half ago. He's very excited to be joining the Back from Birthright committee and helping others to maintain the great friendships that develop during birthright just like he has done with his birthright friends. In his spare time, Ari writes songs, runs along the Lakeshore and plays with his cat.

Byron Regester

Byron grew up in Columbus, OH and graduated from the Providence College with a B.A. degree in finance and accounting and went on to get his CPA and MBA. He is currently an M&A and business valuation consultant at Plante Moran PLLC. Byron has been active in the Chicago Jewish community since returning from his Birthright trip with Israel Free Spirit in the summer of 2015. Specifically, Byron continues to be active in the JUF Financial Services division, Leads, JUF sports leagues, and other various JUF initiatives. He is excited to be a member of the Back from Birthright Israel committee and is looking forward building lasting relationships with fellow participants and facilitating continued involvement in the Jewish community. Byron is relatively new to the city and enjoys exploring Chicago and trying new things in his spare time.

Robert Schnitzer

Robert Schnitzer is a native of Highland Park, IL and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. degree in elementary education with concentrations in math and social sciences. He is currently a middle school math teacher in the Chicago suburbs. Robert has been to Israel twice; one of such being a Shorashim Birthright trip during the summer of 2014. He has been an active member of the Jewish communities in Urbana-Champaign and Chicago. This includes being the president of Illini Hillel during his time in Urbana-Champaign and on host committees for Illini Hillel alumni events. Additionally, he was a JUF Lewis Summer Intern as well as a member of host committees for multiple JUF Class of 2014 events in the Chicago area. He is very excited to serve on the Back from Birthright Israel Committee, and is looking forward to meeting others who have a passion for Israel based on their fantastic Birthright Israel experience. Robert is a huge Chicago sports fan and coaches a youth basketball team. He also enjoys cooking and spending time with his family.

Abby Shure

Abby is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in history. She currently works on the client services team at Kepler Group, an NYC-based digital marketing company. She participated in a Shorashim Birthright trip in January of 2016 and has been a part of the Jewish community in Chicago through the JUF, Windy City Minyan, and LEADs. She can't wait to get involved with the Back from Birthright Israel committee in her first year and is eager to meet other recent Birthright participants. Abby has played Ultimate Frisbee for six years and spent the past two years helping coach the Northwestern Women's team. She loves watching NBA games, trying to find the best burger/pizza/donut/mac 'n cheese in Chicago, and getting sucked into a good book.

Esther Sussman

Esther grew up in Glenview, Illinois and went to Universtiy of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied Food Science. She currently works as a research scientist in the research and development group at The Ferrara Candy Company. She basically makes candy for a living. Esther has previously participated in LEADS and attended multiple YLD events. She also has helped to deliver Maot Chitim. Esther went on Birthrught with Shorashim in 2015. She is also on the board for the Product Development Division for the Institute of Food Technologists and is a mentor for the National Confectioners Association. Esther wants to be involved with this committee so she can help keep those who came back from Birthright excited about their experiences and so that she can meet and interact with other individuals who have enjoyed Birthright. Esther also loves trying new recipes and traveling as much as possible, especially internationally.

Brent Wagner

Brent is from Leawood, KS and graduated from Blue Valley North HS. In 2015, he graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S.B. degree in Marketing. During college, he was an active member and leader of the Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter. Brent recently moved from Austin, TX where he spent one year working in the Alcohol Beverage Industry with E&J Gallo Winery. He just took part in the LGBTQ Birthright experience with Israel Outdoors in May 2016. Wagner just started a new sales career with Glassdoor in Chicago. Brent looks forward to connecting with other Birthright participants and help plan some exciting events for the growing Birthright community in the Chicago area.


Samantha Cutler

Sammi is the Young Adult Engagement Associate of the Jewish United Fund, where she plays a key role in engaging Birthright alumni and other 20-30 something's to strengthen the young adult Jewish community of Chicago. Sammi graduated from the University of Michigan with her Masters of Social Work and certificate in Jewish Communal Leadership, where she learned about Jewish communities across the country, the problems they encounter, and creative emerging solutions. Sammi traveled on Birthright with Israel experts in December of 2010 and studied abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the Spring of 2011. Outside of JUF, Sammi enjoys spending time with her friends, going on long walks, and checking out new restaurants.