Introducing our Mensch Academy facilitators!
We searched far and wide, and pulled together this unstoppable team of educational heroes.
Vision Director of The Mensch Academy
Ilana graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in both Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and English and American Literature. She was previously a Pardes Fellow at the Pardes Institute and the Melamdim Teacher Education MA Program at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Tel Aviv University. Before launching Mensch Academy, Ilana taught Talmud and Tanakh at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School and the Heschel High School in Manhattan. Read more…
Shterna Goldbloom received her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (2019). Her art has won prizes such as the Dorner Prize (RISD Museum), the Hahnemühle Award and the Hadassah Brandeis Institute Artist Program. She has an extensive exhibition record she doesn’t want to bore you with but is usually carrying a notebook of doodles she loves to share. In her spare time she takes delight in riling up her dog (Lokshen), giving punky haircuts, watering my plant babies and teaching photography.
Rachel Mylan grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and discovered her love of Judaism and education at JCC day and overnight camps. She returned home in 2017 after 10 years in California working in Jewish Early Childhood, religious schools, and URJ Camping. Rachel loves learning in community, singing with people of all ages, and finding new ways to tell our stories together. She lives in Portage Park with her husband Ari, daughter Mika, their dog Jackson, and 160 pet snails.
Sarah is an experiential educator who has worked with youth of all ages, particularly in Jewish and outdoor education contexts. She has previously worked at Camp Tawonga, the Teva Nature Program, and Beth Emet in Evanston. In her role as an educator, she aims to create experiences that invite play, curiosity, and the strengthening of our abilities to be in connection with each other and the more-than-human world. Sarah is a Kohenet ordained with the eighth cohort of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. She was raised on Ohlone and Miwok Land, otherwise known as the Bay Area in California. Sarah graduated from UC Davis in 2014 with a BA in Theatre Arts and a minor in Education. She loves plants, spending time with children, singing with friends, and storytelling.
Val is an artist and educator originally from Navajo and Hopi land in Flagstaff, Arizona. They moved to Eora (Sydney) Australia with their family as a young teen, where they lived on Gadigal land for 8 years and eventually studied at the University of New South Wales School of Art and Design. Val moved to back to the US in 2018 to continue their studies, this time at the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. They found home in Zhigaagoong (Chicago) and had the pleasure of teaching at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. Val spends their time geeking out over Jewish text, tradition, and liberation theology, swimming at the lake, playing with their friends, and working at the ceramic wheel!
Mensch Facilitator + BMitzvah Coordinator
Aviva is a naturalist and educator from Skokie. After graduating from UW Madison she moved to Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center where she worked as a Teva educator and discovered her passion at the intersection of Jewish and environmental education. After bopping around Boston and rural Alabama for a while, she settled back in Chicago and spends her time in local activism, biking, writing, and talking about her cat.