Danielle Baron, 25, just completed her second week as the Israel engagement associate at the Hillel at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Baron is from Wayne, N.J. She attended the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where she studied elementary and special education. After college, she worked for Hillels in Ontario, Canada, and Champaign, Ill., before moving to Baltimore a few weeks ago for her new position at UMBC Hillel. She has also staffed three Birthright trips over the past few years.
Baron lives in Upper Fells Point and looks forward to exploring more of Baltimore.
What was your relationship with Israel growing up?
I have some cousins and family that live out in Israel, so they would visit regularly. For a couple of months every year, they would come every summer, and I’d spend time with them. I also have a neighbor who lives down the street, and their granddaughter, who’s about my age, would also visit every summer, so I’d spend summers with her.
When I was in high school, I got to go on an Israel trip called Israel Sports Exchange. It was really fun. It was a month of exploring Israel, staying with different host families. That summer, the program was tennis, so I happened to play tennis, and me and a few other tennis players, both Israeli and American, traveled around Israel, played tennis with Israel Sports Exchange. I also got to visit some of my friends and family that live around Israel.
Were you involved in Hillel when you were in college?
Yes. My first year of college, I did more multicultural things. I got a little taste of everything. Sophomore year, I studied abroad [in London] for a semester, and I came back and decided I was really passionate about Jewish life and that it’s a piece of a bigger puzzle. It’s not just something that my parents do and that my friends do. It’s something that happens all over the world, people celebrate these holidays. That was really eye-opening for me. When I came back from studying abroad, I got really involved in Hillel, started working at a Hebrew school, was a Hebrew school teacher. Both of those were really fun experiences, and I learned a lot from the students and peers.
What motivated you to staff three Birthright trips?
[My own Birthright trip] was a really cool experience, and I learned a lot. There was one staff person that I really loved, … and I was like, “Wow, I want to be just like Noa.” She was really awesome. She had all this information. I got to learn from her, and I [wanted] to be that for other college students too.
Then I was like, “All right, I’ll sign up for a Birthright trip.” It was really fun, got really close with the tour guide, learned a lot of logistics of how to staff a trip, how to manage a large group of students and all of the young craziness that happens, how to think on your feet and plan activities, keep students engaged. I studied education so I’m all about working with students.
What made you interested in pursuing this role at UMBC Hillel?
I’ve always been really passionate about the Hillel movement, so I wanted to continue in the Hillel world. But I wanted to move a little closer to the East Coast because that’s where a lot of my friends and family are. I had a really fun blast working for Hillel in Illinois, but I wanted to move closer to home and to a more Israel-focused position. I’ve done a lot of Israel work in my role in Illinois, but now I get a position that’s specifically focused on Birthright and Israel and Israel-learning experiences.