Jenn Handel is originally from North Babylon, New York. While surrounded by thriving Jewish communities in the suburbs of New York City, Jenn grew up secular and incredibly disconnected from her Judaism. Upon attending college, she joined the small and mighty student-led Hillel at SUNY Cortland where she could explore Judaism on her own for the first time. After graduating with a B.A. in secondary social studies education, she attended Stony Brook University receiving a master’s in liberal arts.
The Jewish world caught Jenn by storm after participating in Birthright Israel in 2010. After those 10 days, her life was never the same! For the first time in her life, Jenn felt Jewish enough to be Jewish! That reality has impacted Jenn’s personal and professional life ever since.
After her first trip to Israel, she began staffing as a madricha (counselor) for Birthright. In 2011, Jenn moved to Rishon LeZion as a member of the first cohort of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows where she taught English to elementary students for a year. Upon returning stateside, Jenn knew that she wasn’t done with the Jewish world just yet. She decided to leave her career in education to dive into the Jewish non-profit world and has since worked at Jewish Life at Duke and Stony Brook Hillel. Hillel allowed her the opportunity to merge her love for working with students with her newly identified passion of helping others find and explore their Jewish identity.
Jenn continues to staff Birthright Israel trips while also seeking opportunities to continue her own learning. Jenn has participated in learning through Pardes, Yad Vashem, Birthright Israel, the iCenter and more. Her experience has led to opportunities to facilitate and speak in multiple settings to diverse audiences through Masa Israel Journey, the Changemakers Fellowship, Hadassah and local community organizations.
Her most recent adventure is as the Director of Israel Engagement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Since making Atlanta home, she was honored as one of Atlanta Jewish Times 40 Under 40. In this role, Jenn is able to help infuse Israel into the Atlanta Jewish community though the Shinshinim program in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel as well as support the expansion of the RootOne initiative and growing the number of Atlanta teens pursuing a gap year in Israel.
In her free time, you can find her hanging out with her baby, Bamba, the coolest mini-poodle there is, enjoying her Israeli mocha coffee, singing showtunes or 90s music, or creating some kind of craft.