Lisa Bodziner was looking for a way to foster her leadership skills and to reconnect with students. An educator by trade, she felt a special opportunity with the Towson University Hillel would provide her with that experience.
That’s why Bodziner, 35, is vacating her post as director of educational engagement at the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education to become executive director for the Towson Hillel.
She will start at Towson on Oct. 9, succeeding Noam Bentov, who took the executive director opening with the Johns Hopkins University Hillel this summer. In her new role, Bodziner said she looks forward to working with the university’s Jewish students as a teacher, mentor, faith leader, community member and manager, just to name a few.
“What’s appealing is thinking about the amazing impact we can have on the student population,” said Bodziner, who recently accepted the position after a months-long interview process. “This can be the first time many of them are exploring their own Jewishness or really asking and exploring questions in a different way as adults on a college campus.”
The decision to step down from the CJE was difficult for Bodziner, who spent almost four years with the organization. She came to Baltimore in 2011 — when she accepted the experiential educator and signature program position with the Pearlstone Retreat & Conference Center — and quickly carved out a niche for herself.
At the CJE, Bodziner helped oversee the development and implementation of the PJ Library and J Town, two of her proudest accomplishments. PJ Library gifts Jewish books to families with children from ages 6 months to 8 years, while J Town offers indoor play space to children on the first floor at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC.
She is leaving with no regrets and hopes Hillel can partner with the CJE when opportunities arise, as both organizations are agencies of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
“I have been blessed to work at the CJE,” Bodziner said. “The CJE continues to be an inspiring place for anyone who is lucky enough to be an employee here.”
Amian Kelemer, CEO of the CJE, said Bodziner will be missed but is pleased that she will remain local. The pair worked on many projects together, including the expansion of the Community Connectors program, which engages young Jewish families in their neighborhoods through Jewish- and non-Jewish-themed social programs.
“Lisa grew the idea of Community Connectors from the seed of an idea into an exceptional program that is benefiting the community in amazing ways,” Kelemer said. “When she teaches or even just chats with people, they get caught up in her enthusiasm for Jewish life. She has amazing follow-through and a deep sense of hakaras hatov [gratitude].”
Though she is fully committed to carrying out her responsibilities at the CJE until her last day, Oct. 6, Bodziner has wasted no time laying the groundwork for a smooth transition to Towson.
She is busy planning student events, consulting with the Towson Hillel board of directors and talking with other Jewish students groups, among other things.
She has already set some goals as well. For starters, she is working on fundraising initiatives to highlight the Hillel’s 20th year on campus. She is also focused on connecting students with organizations geared toward restoring tradition to the young Jewish community such as IMPACT, Charm City Tribe and Moishe House.
“Our community is so rich with Jewish opportunities,” Bodziner said. “We would love for Jewish students to continue on their journeys in this area when they leave us.”
A Baltimore transplant, Bodziner grew up in Savanah, Ga., and has lived in Israel and California. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in Jewish studies from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Israel.
But make no mistake: She is fully entrenched in Baltimore’s Jewish community and understands it well. She lives in Mount Washington with her husband, Kenny Goldberg, 39, and son, Dovid, 9 months, and attends Ner Tamid Synagogue.
Her passion and knowledge for the area is something she hopes Towson students will find in Hillel, even if they don’t actively practice Judaism.
She understands her work is cut out for her, but she also sees a chance to bring new energy and a fresh perspective to Hillel.
“It’s really important to build relationships,” Bodziner said. “Part of Hillel is to create transformative experiences and have students care deeply about Judaism on a personal level when they graduate. I hope I can help play a small part in that.”