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Jewish Life at Duke Professional Staff

Jewish Life at Duke Professional Staff

Meet the professionals that are here to help our students find meaning, connection, and joy!

Joyce Gordon



Phone: 919-681-2911

Joyce Gordon (she/her/hers) joined us as Director for Jewish Life in July of 2018.  Joyce Gordon

As director, Joyce oversees all aspects of the Freeman Center and JLD’s work across campus. She sets the strategy for Jewish Life at Duke, cultivates alumni and parent partnerships through the advisory board, and manages our organizational operations. Joyce also serves on university searches and committees, among them the Campus Climate Committee (co-chair), the Racial Equity Advisory Council, and the Hate and Bias Working Group.

In every aspect of her role, Joyce’s primary focus is advocating for Jewish students at Duke. She loves connecting with students at this formative time in their lives and serving a resource for them on their personal Jewish journeys.  

Previously, Joyce served for eight years as the Executive Director of Judea Reform Congregation, a 600+ family Reform synagogue in Durham, and also held roles at Meals on Wheels Durham, Spoonflower, and Duke University Medical Center and Alumni Affairs. Joyce has a breadth of experience in everything from Jewish program development, fundraising, and financial management to mishloach manot stuffing, envelope stuffing, and matzoh and mushroom stuffing.  

Joyce received her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rice University. She lives in Durham with her husband and her two children, and enjoys reading, quilting, and board games with family and friends. 

Students can schedule to meet with Joyce. 

Rabbi Elana Friedman

Campus Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain


Phone: 919-684-3138 

Elana Friedman

Rabbi Elana Friedman (she/her/hers) is the Campus Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain for Jewish Life at Duke. Since she came to Duke in 2015, Rabbi Elana has found deep meaning in working with Duke’s Jewish students: “I love being part of Jewish students' journeys, and walking that walk with them; both asking and contemplating the big questions in life.”   

At Duke University, Rabbi Elana, as she's known on campus, serves as chief Jewish educator and spiritual leader of the campus Jewish community. In her role as Campus Rabbi, she provides counseling for students, offers opportunities for Jewish learning, and serves as liaison for Religious Life, which includes convening the Interfaith Round Table of fellow Duke chaplains. She facilitates the observance of Jewish holidays, supervises the kashrut of the Freeman Center Cafe's kosher kitchen, and holds duties related to educating the greater campus community about Judaism, Jewish observances, and challenges facing the Jewish community, including antisemitism. Rabbi Elana was recognized as the staff recipient of the 2023 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, awarded by the Duke University Provost. This annual award of Duke University recognizes members of the Duke community who have demonstrated generosity of character, placing service to others before self-interest.

Fun Fact: Rabbi Elana also hosts a weekly Duke Radio Show, Music & Spirituality, that airs during the school year on alternating Mondays from 4-5pm EST on WXDU 88.7FM, sharing her love of music with the Duke community. 

Rabbi Elana was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where she earned a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters, receiving the Rabbi Kenneth and Aviva Berger Memorial Prize in Practical Rabbinics. She brings rich rabbinical experience to her role here at Duke. Her previous roles included serving as a Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, interning at Hillel at Temple University, mentoring at a teen interfaith program in Philadelphia, serving as a Text Fellow for the Transformative Text Project, working as a Rabbinical Student Fellow for T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights during her year of study in Israel, interning at the Abramson Senior Center, serving at The Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore on Long Island, working at Rosh Eidah, and serving as Education Director at Camp Havayah. 

A Long Island native, Rabbi Elana attended Solomon Schechter Day School and Camp Ramah. She earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to pursuing the rabbinate, she worked on election and environmental campaigns in Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. 

Rabbi Elana lives in Durham with her wife, Jamie, and their son, Shai. She hopes you will stop by the Freeman Center or schedule a coffee chat so she can get to know you better!  

Students can schedule time to meet with Rabbi Elana. 

Aviv Sheetrit

Associate Director, External Relations 

Phone: 919-684-1949


Staff smiles for photo

Aviv Sheetrit (she/her/hers) serves as Associate Director for External Relations, working behind the scenes to engage donors, alumni, and friends of Jewish Life at Duke. Aviv oversees JLD’s fundraising efforts, communications strategy, and alumni engagement programs, partnering with alumni and parents who are passionate about supporting and advocating for Duke’s Jewish community. She loves seeing the impact made possible by supporters when students reflect about finding their community at JLD, the transformative experiences they had, or the lifelong friends and mentors they made. She also loves taste-testing the rotating Weekly Special at the Freeman Center Café 

Aviv was born in Jerusalem, Israel but has spent most of her life in North Carolina. She earned her degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, Aviv served as the Development Manager for Judea Reform Congregation, a Reform synagogue in Durham. She has also held roles at Marbles Kids Museum and the Office of New Student & Family Programs at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

In her free time, Aviv enjoys making pottery, watching a Broadway show at the Durham Performing Arts Center, hiking, and reading. She is always looking for new book recommendations!

Rebecca Ezersky

Assistant Director, Student Engagement


Phone: 919-681-0409

Rebecca Ezersky

Rebecca Ezersky (she/her/hers) joined Jewish Life at Duke in July 2021 as the Springboard Innovation Fellow and transitioned to the role of Assistant Director for Student Engagement in July 2023. 

As Assistant Director, Rebecca works directly with undergraduate and graduate/professional students to enhance their engagement with Jewish Life at Duke and strengthen the Jewish community. She serves as an advisor the Jewish Student Union student group, manages student-facing communication efforts, coordinates signature programs of Jewish Life at Duke, and oversees engagement for graduate and professional school students.

Originally from the San Francisco area, Rebecca graduated from the University of Southern California, where she received a Master of Public Administration and B.S. in Public Policy. Rebecca was heavily involved in USC’s Hillel as a Campus Engagement Intern, First-Year Engagement Fellow, and Tzedek Chair, where she was inspired to pursue a career in the Jewish community. She also worked with international teaching assistants to support their English language skills, as well as tutored middle and high school students in the surrounding USC area. Off campus, Rebecca interned with Jewish Community Relations Council and the County of Los Angeles. 

In her free time, you can find Rebecca baking with friends, watching movies, or listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. Rebecca loves connecting with students on an individual basis and learning about their passions, interests, and Jewish journeys!  

Students can schedule time to meet with Rebecca.

Seth Wittenberg

Springboard Social Justice Fellow



headshotSeth Wittenberg (he/him/his) joined Jewish Life at Duke in July 2023 as the Springboard Social Justice Fellow. The Springboard Fellow program of Hillel International is a two-year fellowship that brings talented new graduates to campus Hillels throughout the country to build thriving Jewish student communities on campus. Social Justice Fellows are trained in engagement, social action, and community organizing in order to empower Jewish students to work together to make change on a local and domestic level guided by Jewish values, texts, and history.

As a Springboard Social Justice Fellow, Seth works directly with undergraduate and graduate/professional students to enhance their social justice engagement with Jewish Life at Duke and strengthen the Jewish community. He serves as an advisor to student groups including Challah for Hunger and the Coalition for Preserving Memory, oversees our Service Engagement Fellows, and co-facilitates the Jewish Learning Fellowship. Additionally, Seth coordinates signature programs of Jewish Life at Duke, develops new programs and initiatives alongside our engagement team and student leadership, meets one-on-one with students, and collaborates with colleagues across Student Affairs and other areas.

Originally from Cary, NC, Seth graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he received a B.S. in Business Administration with concentration in Human Resources. Seth was heavily involved in UNCG Hillel and served as their President for two years, and as the North Carolina Hillel Link Student Representative and UNCG Engagement Chair. In his free time, you can find Seth watching or playing sports, watching movies, and trying new foods.

Orel Peretz

Heyman Winter Israel Fellow


Phone: 919-684-6609

Photo of Orel PeretzOrel Peretz (she/her/hers) is the Heyman Winter Israel Fellow at Duke University. As Israel Fellow, Orel hosts Israel-themed events, advises our Israel-focused student groups, travels with students to Israel on our annual Birthright Israel trip, and provides educational and social opportunities to engage with Israel.

At the Freeman Center and across campus, Orel helps students explore their connection to and relationship with Israel's people, places, and culture. She hosts Café Ivrit, a space for students to learn about Israeli culture and practice Hebrew together. She oversees the Israel Gap Year program and the Jewish Learning Fellowship: Kol Yisrael educational cohort seminar, and hosts wide-ranging events exploring Israeli people, culture, and politics.

Orel is from Herzliya, Israel and studied Public Policy, Government and Law at The Academic Center for Law and Science in Israel. After serving in the Magal unit and the Intelligence Corps in the Israeli Defense Forces, she served as an assistant producer in the Eurovision headquarters in 2019. She comes to Duke from The Center of Innovation in Education at Beit Berl College. In her free time, she loves extreme sports, traveling, reading, live music, and watching soccer games.

Nancy Cripps

Staff Assistant


Phone: 919-684-6422

Nancy Cripps

Nancy Cripps (she/her/hers) joined Jewish Life at Duke as Staff Assistant in August 2021. Nancy coordinates much of the behind-the-scenes administration to keep the JLD office running smoothly. Previously, Nancy worked at the University of North Carolina as Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Institute for Public Health. As program coordinator, she was responsible for all aspects of event planning.  This includes obtaining hotel contracts, transportation, registration, training documents, and IT support at the conference centers.    

Nancy earned her Associate Degree in Business from Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. She enjoys fundraising and spends many hours volunteering for the Animal Protection Society of Durham. She also enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. Nancy’s favorite part of JLD is working alongside the student interns!