Meet Our Staff
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Executive Director
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
CHAIM SEIDLER-FELLER has been working with students and faculty as the Executive Director of the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA for thirty-eight years. He is also the director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. He was ordained in 1971 at Yeshiva University where he completed a Masters in Rabbinic Literature. Chaim is a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation. He was a founding member of Americans for Peace Now.The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.” Chaim was a rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. He is married to Dr. Doreen Seidler-Feller, a clinical psychologist, and is the father of Shulie, a photo-journalist and Shaul, a rabbinic student at Yeshiva University, who is pursuing an advanced degree in Jewish history.
STUDENT LIFE TEAM
Rabbi Aaron Lerner, Simha & Sara Lainer Senior Jewish Educator
Rabbi Aaron believes that our Jewish tradition can enrich and inform any aspect of life, and that vibrant Jewish community has the power to transform individuals and the world. On campus, he focuses on creating informed, pluralistic conversations that address the fundamental questions we all have about relationships and sexuality, purpose, justice, ethics, theodicy, and more. Rabbi Aaron is eager to hear your stories, and to connect you with the vibrant, supportive, and diverse Jewish community at UCLA.
Rabbi Aaron received smicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and graduated from USC (yeah, yeah) where he studied at the Marshall School of Business and minored in Spanish. He is a Wexner Graduate Fellow and currently a member of Hillel's Executive Director training program, Accelerate. He has also closed more than $2 billion of commercial real estate debt and equity transactions and run his own entrepreneurial enterprises. He loves to laugh with his wife, Rachel, and daughters, Lily and Gavriella and can often be found on the racquetball court, in the ocean, or traveling the world.
Naomi Karp, Director of Student Life
Naomi is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is thrilled to be here as the Director of Student Life at Hillel at UCLA! After spending a gap year in Israel on the Nativ Program, Naomi studied at the University of Michigan, where she formally majored in Sociology and Hebrew & Jewish Cultural Studies, but spent most of her time involved with Michigan Hillel's student Governing Board, the American Movement for Israel, and a variety of service learning and leadership activities on campus. After college, Naomi worked as a Fellow for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and then at Active Minds, a non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health awareness on college campuses. She then transitioned to New York University, where she received her Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs. At NYU, Naomi worked in offices focusing on student life, new student programs, and academic advising. Before graduating, she received the Division of Student Affairs Hallmark Award for her commitment to the student experience. Naomi spent many summers staffing USY Pilgrimage, is an alumnus of the Kivun Intensive Professional Development program, and has participated and facilitated trainings on leadership, multicultural competency, LGBTQ allyship, and social media. When she's not at Hillel or on campus, Naomi loves cooking, reading, traveling, college football and spending time outdoors.
Rabbi Aryeh & Sharona Kaplan, JLIC-Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and Sharona Kaplan, MSW are serving in their eighth year as the JLIC couple at UCLA. Originally from Teaneck, NJ, the Kaplans – who met in High School - lead a vibrant student community at Hillel, offering an exciting diversity of individual study sessions, interactive learning experiences and formal classes. Aryeh and Sharona live in Westwood and, along with their four young children, spend every Shabbat on campus and spearhead Hillel’s holiday services and celebrations. Bringing with them expansive experience in Jewish education, programming, community building and engagement, the Kaplans’ warmth, sincerity and passion attracts and inspires students and community members alike. The Kaplans are sought after mentors, teaching brides and grooms before their weddings, escorting students through an array of defining life cycle events and offering advice and personal counsel to students. JLIC, the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, is a national partnership between Hillel and the Orthodox Union that places an Orthodox, Rabbinic couple on select campuses to serve as Torah Educators and mentors for Jewish students. For more information about JLIC, go to www.jliconline.org.
Danielle Natelson, Engagement Associate
Danielle hails from Orange County, CA, spending her entire K-12 career at her Jewish Day School in Irvine. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied Psychology while "majoring" in all things Hillel as a student. Danielle lives and breathes Jewish communal work, spending every summer since 4th grade at Camp Ramah in California as a camper and staff member, teaching Israeli Dance, and spending half a year studying abroad in Jerusalem. She has an insane love of sports and a passion for singing, and looks forward to Shabbat every week. Danielle is excited to embark on her first year as a part of the Jewish Bruin Family here at Hillel at UCLA!
Yair Vardi, Israel Fellow
Yair is originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, and moved to LA to be the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at Hillel at UCLA. Yair studied Economics and Political Science at Tel Aviv University, where he was part of the student council team and led political initiatives on campus. Yair served for five years as a Commanding Officer of Intelligence teams in the IDF Intelligence Corps (Unit 8200). While a soldier, he was a member of the Jewish Agency delegation to summer camps, worked as a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom near Atlanta, and attended Taglit-Birthright Israel "The LA way." Yair was the young coordinator of his local youth movement branch of the Israeli Scouts "Tzofim" in Ramat Gan, and later became a senior counselor for high school students. Yair loves camping and has hiked Israel from north to south, and has backpacked through South and Central America. Yair loves a good Matkot game on the beach, soccer and basketball games (Maccabi Tel-Aviv Fun), and seeks to experience all kinds of extreme sportssuch as snowboarding and kite-surfing. Yair can't wait to meet you to talk aboutall things Israel and Jewish student life at UCLA!
Kerry Chaplin, Rabbinic Intern
Studying to be a rabbi at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and recently returned from studying at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Kerry Chaplin has worked and volunteered as a community organizer for over 15 years. Kerry's journey with Judaism and Jewishness is, um, complicated - also meaningful and fulfilling. She's working now on integrating traditional prayer with an anusara-based yoga practice and on learning to play the djembe. These interests help her to meet her personal goals: to pursue peace and justice, to learn with a diversity of people, and to help others to become more of who they are are.
Kerry holds both a B.A. in Religious Studies and an M.A. in NonProfit Management from Washington University in St. Louis, and she lives in the Pico/Roberston area with her wife Julia.
DORTORT CENTER FOR CREATIVITY IN THE ARTS
Perla Karney, Artistic Director
Perla is in her 11th year as the artistic director of the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel where she has transformed the center into a vibrant, popular destination for students and the Jewish community seeking art and culture. Perla presents nine art exhibits every year in over two thousand square feet of gallery space at Hillel. In addition, she mentors student artists, showcases emerging artists, introduces documentaries, book authors and coordinates the Hillel lecture series. Perla was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany. She left her home town of Munich as a teenager and was educated in the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Paris. She returned permanently to the United States for her college education (BA from UCLA, graduate work in English Lit. at Loyola Marymount University). Before taking the position as artistic director at Hillel at UCLA Perla was a successful theater producer in Los Angeles bringing such plays as "Woman in Mind" with Helen Mirren to the stage as well as many other West Coast premieres. In addition to being the Vice-President of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Perla sits on the board of the UCLA Fowler Museum Arts Council and is a founding member of the Temple of the Arts.
Rachael Petru, Director of Development
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Hailing from the Midwest, Rachael came to Los Angeles after receiving a BA in General Studies, Certificate in Jewish Studies and a Minor in Hebrew from Indiana University. While participating in the first Birthright Israel trip, Rachael became hooked on working to support the state of Israel and the Jewish community. As West Coast Field Organizer of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC), Rachael worked intensively with Hillels throughout the western states teaching pro-Israel advocacy skills during the second Intifada. Rachael went on to spend eight years as a major gifts fundraiser for Hadassah during which time she also earned a Certificate in Public Relations for Non Profits from UCLA Extension. Rachael is an alumna of the Bend the Arc Jeremiah Fellowship as well as a member of the “talent” pool of the Professional Leaders Project. To keep herself grounded, Rachael turns to yoga and meditation and attempts to enjoy as much California sunshine and outdoor activity as possible.
DeAnne Millais, Development & Marketing Manager
A proud Bruin, DeAnne has extensive experience in event production, project management and administration. After graduating from UCLA in 1997, she spent six years as an event producer, planning sales meetings, incentive trips, galas and other programs for a variety of corporate clients. In 2003, DeAnne stepped away from the event industry for four years during which time she was the PR and Administration Manager for Appleton & Associates, Inc.-Architects where she worked closely with Principal Marc Appleton, handled all public relations and marketing efforts, and coordinated two books projects: California Mediterranean by Marc Appleton & Melba Levick (Rizzoli, 2007) and New Classicists: Appleton & Associates by Marc Appleton (Images Publishing Group, 2008). Additionally, she worked alongside Mr. Appleton to develop the Southern California Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art - a non-profit dedicated to the appreciation and advancement of classicism in architecture and the allied arts. In 2007, DeAnne returned to event production, working this time for non-profit and entertainment clients producing a variety of golf tournaments, auctions and galas – and even worked on a Rose Parade float! At the same time, she found her way to Hillel, where she managed a variety of projects leading to a full-time position in 2009. When she’s not at Hillel, DeAnne enjoys designing sets for theater, film, events and live experiences.
Hilari Egar, Facilities Manager
Hilari Egar (known as Hil) is a native of Southern California and currently lives in Santa Monica with her family. After years in customer service at Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Hilari came to Hillel as the Assistant Manager for our own in-house Coffee Bean. She soon made herself indispensable in so many ways that she was quickly given a position on our facilities staff. Currently, Hil handles Hillel's daily operations and is responsible for the scheduling of all events in the building - working with students, staff and the community at large.
Yael Cohen, Manager, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Yael Cohen is the Manager of our very own in-house Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
, where students meet and study while enjoying a handcrafted drink and friendly service! Yael was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a BFA in Jewelry Design, but found her love of customer service working in the restaurant industry. She eventually followed her future husband, Craig, to Los Angeles in 2000 when he moved here for his career in the film and television industry. After a few years as Assistant Manager at various restaurants and for a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf corporate store, Yael came to Hillel in 2005 for an opportunity to run her own Coffee Bean and to interact with young Jewish students who share her interest in Jewish life. Yael is an avid Jayhawks fan, and she and Craig have two beautiful daughters: Greta, who was born on August 25, 2008, and Irie, who was born on April 28, 2010.
Adrian Villegas, Facilities Assistant
Adrian was born and raised in Inglewood. Following his work at the City of Inglewood in the Department of Public Works, he came to Hillel last year as our resident handyman and day porter in charge of keeping the building well maintained, comfortable and safe for all who visit. Away from work, he spends time with his wife of five years, Tami, and their children - son Christian (7) and daughter Adrian (5) - enjoying the park, beaches, the movies and other family fun.