Meet the Trip Staff

Meet Your Staff


Amy Saltzman

Amy Saltzman (Bus 104)

Where are you from? I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio (Go Cavs, Indians and Buckeyes!).

Where do you currently live? I have been living in Lakeview for the past four years. If summer never ended and my family were here- I don’t think I would ever leave.

What is your favorite place in Israel? The Old City in Jerusalem on a Friday. I love feeling the anticipation for Shabbat; it's just palpable.

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? My favorite Israeli food is hummus. This last trip I was introduced to the most amazing places to get an Israeli-style hummus bowl—it is simply the best. As far as Jewish food, nothing beats a bagel from your favorite Jewish deli.

What is a fun fact about yourself? In my free time, I spend as much time as I can volunteering at PAWS Chicago and believe the best pets are adopted! I am running the Chicago marathon this fall in support of this wonderful organization and am hoping one day there will be no more homeless animals in Chicago. I also hope to someday run the marathon in Jerusalem!

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? The best part about my recent Birthright trip is without a doubt seeing Bus 104 become a family in just 10 days. I am absolutely kvelling seeing them all continue to stay connected to each other and to Israel. I am so proud to see that (and I know Joel and Naama –the rest of the Bus 104 staff, are too).

Anything else? It has been less than three months since I touched down at O’hare from Israel and I am already counting down the days until I am back!

Joel Pachefsky

Joel Pachefsky (Bus 104)

Where are you from? Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Where do you currently live? East Lakeview in Chicago

What is your favorite place in Israel? Tel Aviv

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? For sure hummus. But malabi comes in a close second :)

What is a fun fact about yourself? In college I went skydiving in Israel just south of Haifa and I would do it again in a heartbeat (even though I really dislike rollercoasters)!

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? All the little side conversations and moments that we had with the participants -- hearing their different stories, backgrounds, and perspectives all made the experience an amazing one.

Anything else? Can't wait to staff my next trip! Either ask the Israeli participants or stick with me if you want the best food.

Alexander Kowalsky

Alexander Kowalsky (Bus 471)

Where are you from? Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Where do you currently live? Chicago, Illinois

What is your favorite place in Israel? Hula Valley Nature Reserve. Notable as Israel’s first nature reserve to thousands and thousands of birds through the migration seasons.

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? Shawarma on laffa bread with all of the fixings!

What is a fun fact about yourself? I own more than 90 pairs of sneakers and my dream is to work for an Israeli start up.

What was your favorite part of your recent Birthright trip? It was my first summer trip to Israel! While I prefer the mild winter, (especially compared to Chicago) Israeli summer meant new adventures like enjoying the beaches, different hikes and water rafting.

Anything else? Each day is a gift so make the most of it. Meeting Israelis and learning about their lives is the most invaluable part of a Birthright Israel Experience. I still talk regularly with and have visited my Israeli friends that I met almost two years ago!

Natalie Crone

Natalie Crone (Bus 471)

Where are you from? I was born in Michigan, raised in Kentucky, and just moved back to the US after living in Israel for 2 years.

Where do you currently live? Chicago, Illinois

What is your favorite place in Israel? Palmachim Beach

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? Sabich!

What is a fun fact about yourself? I can whistle, at length, any song.

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? I loved seeing the American and Israeli participants making strong bonds of friendship and peoplehood.

Anything else? I work at AJC to help foster the next generation of young Jewish leadership.

Ella Fayer

Ella Fayer (Bus 103)

Where are you from? This always tends to be a loaded question for me---born in Netanya, moved to the suburbs of Chicago when I was 7, and have since lived in LA, Bangkok, and the city of Chicago.

Where do you currently live? Chicago, Illinois

What is your favorite place in Israel? My favorite place in Israel is Masada. The powerful story coupled with the beautiful views makes it a fulfilling and enjoyable climb every time.

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? I love good hummus, usually only in Israel or authentic Mediterranean places. I'm a bit of a snob about it. Won't touch Sabra.

What is a fun fact about yourself? Fun fact is tough...I can do the splits?

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? My favorite part of the most recent trip was Independence Hall. Our guide was hilarious and informative, making it enjoyable and meaningful even at an exhausting part of the trip.

Lindsay Gordon

Lindsay Gordon (Bus 99)

Where are you from? West Bloomfield, MI- which is a suburb of Detroit

Where do you currently live? Chicago, Illinois

What is your favorite place in Israel? Tel Aviv

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? Marzipan Rugelach

What is a fun fact about yourself?  I’ve never had a brain freeze!

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? The group! There was a really fun, cohesive dynamic.

Ellie Spitz

Ellie Spitz (Bus 99)

Where are you from? Buffalo Grove, IL

Where do you currently live? Chicago, IL (the best city)

What is your favorite place in Israel? Offfffff… tough question... I'd say it flips between the Negev (where else can you watch the MOON RISE and see such epic stars) and the Western Wall.

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? I had the BEST pasta of my life in Jerusalem off of Ben Yehuda at a place called Piccolino. GO THERE and get the Sweet potato racula ravioli and then try to tell me it's not life changing.

What is a fun fact about yourself? I rode a bicycle from New York to San Francisco in the summer of 2011.

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? (Besides Piccolino?) Praying at the gender inclusive area of the Western Wall.

Leah Steinberg

Leah Steinberg (Bus 101)

Where are you from? Boston, MA (go Red Sox!)

Where do you currently live? Chicago - more specifically, in the Old Town neighborhood!

What is your favorite place in Israel? Tzfat - it is so magical and beautiful there!

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? Falafel in laffa or really good pita, with hummus of course! I am also a huge fan of noodle kugel, latkes, and traditional Jewish deli food.

What is a fun fact about yourself? I am a barre instructor.

What is your best advice for your future participants? My best advice for my future participants is to always bring snacks with you! All that hiking really works up an appetite. :)

Anything else? This trip with Bus 101 will be my third time staffing a Birthright Israel adventure with Shorashim! I went on Birthright with Shorashim 2.5 years ago and loved it! They haven't been able to get rid of me since! :)

Jordyn Harris

Jordyn Harris (Bus 553)

Where are you from? I grew up in Vernon Hills

Where do you currently live? I currently live in Lincoln Park

What is your favorite place in Israel? The Tel Aviv art shuk

What is your favorite Israeli (Mediterranean) or Jewish food? Jachnun, a Yemenite Jewish dish

What is a fun fact about yourself? If I could have dinner with anybody dead or alive it would be Theresa Caputo, The Long Island Medium.

What was your favorite part of your recent birthright trip? Experiencing the participants experience Israel either for the first time or in a new light if they have already been.