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  • Hillels of Georgia

Hillel Heros

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

The Healer

Dr. Jordan Marks

“Since early March, the COVID pandemic has torn through my community in New York City. Over 25% of my residents, myself included, have contracted COVID.

I am better equipped to handle the daily challenges in the ER because of Hillel. As a junior at Emory University, I was part of JHealth, a professional development fellowship through Hillel for pre-med students. We formulated community service projects, met with Jewish leaders in the healthcare field and learned how Jewish ethics relate to public health.

Now, I’m using what I learned in Hillel as a chief resident of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Morningside. Healing the body (refuat haguf) and the soul within the body (refuat hanefesh) are essential to delivering true, compassionate care as a physician. Those are some of the Jewish values I bring to work with me every day. In the ER, saving life and saying goodbye to life are daily occurrences.

While there is inherent happiness in preserving and prolonging life, there is also beauty in peacefully navigating a patient’s final moments on this earth. Some of my most meaningful moments of residency were bringing peace to families as their loved ones passed from this reality to another.”

Dr. Jordan Marks is chief resident of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City and graduated from Emory in 2012. 



Ana Sazonov

Delivering Judaism to Your Front Door!

“A few days before Passover this month, a friend mentioned that with this pandemic, many Boston area Jewish medical professionals do not have access or time to purchase and prepare kosher meals or ingredients to enjoy the holiday. With this in mind, I reached out to my network for support and launched JewBer, a meal delivery service for Jewish healthcare workers.

By the end of Passover, we successfully delivered over 150 meals while engaging a group of about 20 volunteers to make drop-offs all over the Bo

ston area. 

And even with Passover behind us, we continue our mission by delivering “Shabbat Kits” once a week to medial professions that include a meal, candles, wine, and a prayer sheet. 

My goal with JewBer is to offer a way for those in the medical field to stay connected to the Jewish community while they are physically isolated during the COVID-19 crisis.

When I started my nonprofit career with Hillels of Georgia as Israel Fellow to Emory Hillel, I found my “why” in life. My work with Hillel helped shape my Jewish identity, and I hope that JewBer can help others stay connected to the Jewish world. 

I hope we are all taking this moment in history to explore peoplehood and seek opportunities to help one another. In times like these, we are presenting our strength as a community and encouraging others to do so as well.”

Ana Sazonov is a graduate student at Brandeis University studying Jewish Professional Leadership and Non-profit Management. From 2017-2019, Ana worked with Hillels of Georgia as an Israel Fellow for Emory Hillel. 



Adam Braun

“All at once, the quarantine began. People stopped coming to clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals in our LA community. As a resident, we continued to do our job as primary doctors taking care of our patients, both in clinics and the hospital. 

Soon, the whole experience became defined by what we aren’t seeing, the normal flow of patients into and out of hospitals. For weeks, we braced for a rise in ICU admissions, but the curve has been flat in LA. 

Accordingly, I strive to take care of and protect my non-infected patients from the high-risk exposures every day I face in our emergency rooms. Every week, things change (and, initially, every day or multiple times a day) from the protocols in our clinical sites to the actual patient care we provide, testing our ability to be nimble. 

My experiences with Hillel and Emory taught me to be resilient to sudden changes and challenged me to evaluate a situation to make it better. Not to say this is similar to the impromptu leading of Kabbalat Shabbat services, interfaith mingles, or sushi in the sukkah, but those experiences created a space to be strong. 

Thinking of my community, and patients currently living in fear or comfort, health or illness, the emphasis on oneness made at Emory Hillel guides me. My life as a member of countless Jewish groups has always been bookmarked by a focus on this idea. As a young doctor, I’m trying to carry these valuable lessons to the “front lines” where I can channel that warm community spirit to these extreme times.”

Adam Braun is a Resident Physician at the Department of Internal Medicine, UCLA Health. Adam was a member of Emory Hillel before graduating in 2014. 


Food For Thought

Jodi Hirschfield

“When the pandemic started, and I learned that the CAC Food Pantry needed volunteers, I knew it was something I needed to do.

The CAC has regular volunteers during the year, but the majority are over 60 yrs. old, so there was a need for new volunteers to fill the void. I have always known about the CAC through various projects and its connection to Temple Emanu El, but I have never rolled up my sleeves and volunteered until now. I work to process and hand out food that goes directly into the hands of those who need it.

The other amazing project it the Solidarity Sandy Springs Pop Up Pantries are brand new as a reaction to the current COVID-19 situation. They were started by amazing parents from the Riverwood and North Springs school clusters within Sandy Springs. There are 2 locations in Sandy Springs to ensure the entire community has access.

It broke my heart when I heard that 40% of students in Sandy Springs public schools were on free or reduced lunch and although Fulton County was feeding them 3 times per week, food would not be provided during spring break. This all at a time that so many families who were frequenting the pantry were losing jobs. I knew that was unacceptable, so I started a plan. In the end, we raised $5,000 and were able to provide lunch to these students during the break. It was an amazing show of support. 

Both of these opportunities gave me a new perspective on the pandemic and its effect on our small area in Sandy Springs. Although I am inconvenienced, my family and I are so lucky and we live in the best community!"

Jodi Hirschfield volunteers with food pantries Community Assistance Center (CAC) and Solidarity Sandy Springs. Jodi was a member of Hillel at UGA before graduating in 1997.


Tikun Olam

Renee Harris

“I have always had a calling to Tikun Olam, doing my part to perform mitzvot focused on healing the world and helping others. Through high school, my focus was on engaging the love of Israel with other students and even then, my volunteerism was in helping feed the homeless.

When I went to college, I was lost as to how to make a difference outside of a youth movement. How do I make a difference in a wider world. When I found Hillel, I learned how to scale projects, how to use community resources and networks, how to speak to donors and how to communicate a cause to all types of people. I learned that I was my best self when working with the Jewish community to help the wider world. Hillel took my love for people and molded it into a love of community service, community engagement and long-term development and donor relationships.

For many years now I have acted as an emergency responder for Giving Grace helping to provide support for individuals and families in our communities with acute needs. I often get pulled in to work on fundraising when we have an immediate need to help a family.

When the pandemic hit and the shelters in Atlanta closed, I jumped into action to help raise funds for Giving Grace through the Front Porch Project — porch photoshoot packages that donate 20% of funds directly to Giving Grace’s efforts to support families in need. This project is continuing to grow across Atlanta and we now have over 120 families taking part.”

Renee Harris is Director of Development & Marketing at Hillels of Georgia. Renee was an active member of UGA Hillel before graduating in 2003. 

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