Springboard Fellowship: Hillel International
Role: Assist Director, Springboard Fellowship
Facilitating discussion for Springboard Fellows at Hillel Global Assembly, December 2017

The Springboard Fellowship is a paid, two-year fellowship that attracts the brightest recent university graduates who possess raw talent and, through the fellowship, develop the skills to engage students, build campus Hillels’ capacities for excellence and bring the Jewish world the modern professional competencies needed to run outstanding organizations of the future. The Fellowship is designed to infuse local Hillels with new engagement skills that build on proven strategies to double or triple levels of student engagement on campus, and generate the needed talent pipeline for Hillel and the Jewish world by attracting and training candidates that otherwise would not choose Jewish professional work. When I began working on Springboard in November 2016 as the Springboard Fellowship Manager, there were 20 Fellows in its first “Aleph” cohort. Today, there are almost 90 Fellows. I was promoted to the role of Assistant Director in July 2019.

Milton Marks Neuro-Oncology Family Camp
Role: Assistant Camp Director. Volunteering September 2015-Present
Song session with a 9-year-old camper, daughter of a brain tumor patient, September 2018

Milton Marks Neuro-Oncology Family Camp represents an unprecedented effort to address the needs of brain tumor patients and their families that reach beyond medical therapy. Spanning 3 days, MMFC creates a community where these families feel supported, cared for, and understood. The burden of care and isolation that often comes with this illness is temporarily lifted so that families can deepen their connections with their spouses and children, make new friends, and come to better understand what that are facing. Read about some of my personal experience with MMFC in this article, where I explore how camp taught me to find beauty in the temporary.

Grief Group Facilitation
Role: Grief Group Facilitator, Camp Erin Counselor, Volunteering April 2015-Present
Ready to welcome teen campers at Camp Erin Snohomish – I always bring tie-dye to camp!

I have volunteered as a children’s grief group facilitator at three different organizations and for three different age groups. Currently, I’m facilitating a monthly group for 13-17 year-olds at Standing Together, a project of Providence Hospice of Snohomish County.  Previously, I led a biweekly group for 9-12 at The Healing Center in Seattle, and a biweekly group for 5-11 at Kara in Palo Alto.  I served in various roles for Camp Erin grief camp in three different chapters: Camp Erin Palo Alto, Camp Erin Seattle, and most recently, Camp Erin Snohomish, where I have been a cabin counselor for teen girls for the last two years. In November 2018, I brought my experience and skills as a grief counselor and educator to Good Mourning: An Interactive Arts Festival on Grief, a project of casework productions. Good Mourning was a month-long experience that ran from November 7 – December 2, 2018 in Seattle. It included a visual arts gallery, evening performances, informative panels, and weekend workshops. My primary role in this project was coordinating educational content. I selected the speakers and moderated a panel called “How to be a Good Grief Ally,” I designed curriculum for grief workshops for ages 6-8, 9-12, teens, and adults, and selected the group facilitators. I spoke on a panel called “Everything You Wanted to Know about Death but Haven’t Asked.” I also brought my creative writing to the stage again, storytelling in shows called Necessary Sadness and Losing It: Grief Comedy. You can view the full calendar of events here

Lifecycle Officiant
After officiating a wedding ceremony in September 2018

I am available to officiate weddings (Jewish, secular, or interfaith), baby namings, and funerals or memorial services (Jewish or secular). My unique set of skills and experiences as a writer, ritual designer, counselor, facilitator, and rabbinical student make me an ideal officiant for these powerful moments. 

Testimonial from a Memorial Service Participant

I met Heather my sophomore year at Stanford through her amazing work with Hillel and Camp Kesem, both of which quickly become sanctuaries for me as a Jewish cancer survivor struggling with a rigorous courseload of mathematics and computer science. During fall quarter of my junior year, though, that courseload proved too much for me to handle as one of my fraternity brothers was struck with encephalitis from a tick bite he received while hiking during the summer, and the tragedy of his resulting coma and eventual passing cast a dark cloud over my fraternity brothers.

Heather turned out to be much more than a shoulder to cry on during this all; she quickly became a bedrock not just for me but for the entire fraternity and even his family. See, my fraternity brother’s brain damage and resulting coma had struck me twice, first as loss, a loss all the more painful with the specter of possible recovery that never came to pass, and second as survivor’s guilt, for I had recovered swimmingly from my own brain damage in the form of brain cancer just before my freshman year. Heather counseled me through my grief every step of the way, to the point where I became comfortable enough to invite some of my fraternity brothers in for group sessions with her. Out of these sessions came the idea to fold 1000 paper cranes as a fraternity to send to him, as my high school had done for me when I was diagnosed with cancer. As I taught my brothers to fold paper cranes, the process proved quite cathartic for us, allowing us to pour our love and grief into craft. Those cranes meant the world to his parents, and none of it would have been possible without Heather.

When he eventually passed, though, the grief came roaring back, a thousand times stronger. Again, Heather helped me channel all my thoughts and feelings into something positive, this time in the form of poetry. And so it was that I wrote the eulogy that was spoken at his funeral, which Heather officiated: 4 stanzas of six lines each. I always had an affinity for math and science, but thanks to Heather, that poem, and the voice inside me they awakened, I now have a creative writing minor too. It’s staggering to imagine the far-reaching impact that one amazing individual like Heather can have on the world.

– Alex, Stanford University, Class of 2014