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Alumni

Distinguished Alumni

2020 Distinguished Alumni

Jessica Alter (Class of 1993)

As a sixth grader, Jessica Alter (class of 1993), has a clear memory of selling bedikat chametz kits to Hillel families, and she remembers brisk sales. “Maybe that was my first taste of entrepreneurialism,” she laughs.

While that early exposure may not have directly led her to Silicon Valley, a hunch that she wanted to be involved in start-up company culture did lead her to San Francisco, where she has helmed business development for several companies, including her own, and where she has earned the moniker of one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company.

As cofounder and chairman of Tech for Campaigns, the digital arm of Democratic electoral campaigns, Jessica ensures that lesser-known candidates have a voice, and that the playing field is “level,” she says. “People tend to focus on the 2020 presidential election, but there are 6,000 campaigns this year, and the real power of technology is in democratizing access to it.”

Previously, Jessica was Entrepreneur in Residence at Social Capital, and was also CEO of FounderDating, a platform that connects entrepreneurs with advisors to help grow their careers and businesses, which she sold in 2016. She also led business development at social networking site Bebo, which was acquired by AOL.

She headed West after graduating from Andover High School, and the University of Michigan, and receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jessica Alter is Vice President of Business Development for Figma, a leader in collaborative design software. She previously cofounded and is still Chairman of Tech for Campaigns, the tech and digital arm for Democratic campaigns. Previously she was an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Social Capital, Cofounder & CEO of FounderDating (acquired by OneVest), the Linkedin for entrepreneurs and led Business Development and was GM of Platforms at Bebo (acquired by AOL).  

She is an advisor to and angel investor in several companies and was recently named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company.  She holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from University of Michigan and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jessica credits Hillel with instilling in her the importance of community. “Everything I’ve done involves building a community, and Hillel was my first one,” she said. The choices and friendships she made at Hillel continue to inform and shape her life, she said. “I’m close with classmates and teachers to this day, especially Adina Levin and Cindy Leff,” she recalls.

“And to think, it may have all started with selling chametz!"
State Senator Jeremy Moss (Class of 2000)

Michigan State Senator Jeremy Moss (class of 2000) is serving his first term representing the 11th district in southern Oakland County. His political career started in 2011 as a Southfield City Council member, when, at age 25, he became the youngest-ever elected official in the city’s history.

He was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2014 and began his work across the aisle to make the inner dealings of government transparent, “so our constituents know what we’re doing with their time and their dollars,” he said. He also introduced legislation to end the practice of gerrymandering, which became a ballot proposal that passed in 2018.

Elected to the Senate in 2018, several of Jeremy’s bills have become law, including legislation to give tax relief to Michigan homeowners, and to help high school dropouts find a path toward returning to school to earn their diploma. He is working on proposals to expand employment opportunities for citizens with past criminal convictions, and to make auto insurance affordable. He is also the sponsor of a bill that protects LGBTQ individuals from housing and employment discrimination.

After graduation from Hillel, Jeremy attended Groves High School, and Michigan State University, where he studied journalism and political science, and participated in humanitarian missions around the globe.

A member of Congregation Beth Ahm, and an advisory board member of the Martin Luther King Task Force in Southfield, Jeremy’s commitment to social justice and kindness, cultivated at Hillel, is ever-lasting.

He remains close with many Hillel classmates, and visits the school each year to mentor eighth grade students during their “Campaign for A Cause” project, wherein they campaign on behalf of local non-profit organizations, and to speak with fifth graders during their learning about the three branches of government. He also personally tours our fourth graders during their visit to the Michigan State Capitol each year, a highlight of their trip to see government in action in Lansing!

Mazal Tov all our Distinguished Alumni Honorees

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  • 2018-2019 Steve Freedman (Honorary Distinguished Alumni)

    Steve Freedman was happily ensconced in suburban Philadelphia, working as the educational director at Beth Sholom Congregation, and raising four children with his wife, Joan, when Hillel Day School invited him to apply for the Head of School position that was open in 2003.

    “At first I said no,” he recalled. “My oldest son, Eytan, was about to start high school. And then Joan reminded me, ‘Eytan is about to start high school. It’s the perfect time to make a switch.’”
    Within months, the family moved to Detroit. And for the next 16 years, Steve Freedman decisively led Hillel Day School into the 21st century, planning and creating an environment that is warm and conducive to learning, and which meets the needs of today’s students and families.

    With the support of the Board of Trustees, his numerous accomplishments include eliminating the teachers’ union in 2005, and recalibrating the relationship between school leadership and teachers, unencumbered by politics. “In an independent school, the onus is on the leadership team to have a direct relationship with teachers,” he said.

    In 2006, Steve instituted the eighth grade Israel trip, and accompanied students to Israel for several years. “Experiencing Israel through their eyes was magical,” he recalled.

    In 2008, he led the move to become a community day school in response to demographic shifts and the broader mission of delivering an outstanding Jewish and general education to all Jewish children in metropolitan Detroit.

    In 2010, he was integral to the decision to open an Early Childhood Center to grow enrollment, gaining the support of congregations and the community.

    And in 2014, he led a $13 million renovation that aligns with a curriculum that has shifted from one that is content-driven to one that fosters active learning and skill acquisition, to prepare students to navigate an ever-changing global economy with tools in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking that withstand the winds of change.

    As Steve and his wife Joan, Director of Curriculum, move to New Jersey at the end of the school year to be closer to family, we are thrilled to name him among our graduates, as an honorary alumnus. His unique ability to turn vision into reality, to move forward an educational institution that now serves as a model to educators worldwide, while preserving our Jewish tradition and peoplehood, has strengthened Hillel for years to come.
  • 2017-2018 Rachel Lutz (class of 1994)

    Rachel Lutz (class of 1994) is a fourth-generation Detroit business owner who now owns and operates four women’s clothing stores in downtown Detroit. A savvy marketer with more than 15,000 social media followers who makes frequent appearances on local television, she has also planned motorcades for the White House, trained fundraisers for urban nonprofits, and encouraged young people to become more active in politics, public service, law and government. Retail jobs helped her pay for her education at Wayne State University, and she also had stints in marketing and selling luxury goods, and working as a personal shopper.
     
    When asked about her time at Hillel, Rachel reflected:  “Hillel gave me a solid foundation for every challenge ahead. Leading minyan gave me confidence, Hebrew and Torah studies gave me connection, math and science gave me curiosity, music and art gave me an appreciation of beauty, and social studies gave me my context in the world.”
     
    The Peacock Room, which opened in 2011 in the Park Shelton across from the Detroit Institute of Arts, has been named best women’s retail in Detroit for the past five years by the readers of Hour Detroit and Metro Times magazines.  The second flagship location opened in the Fisher Building in November 2017.  It was recently featured on the cover of Hour Detroit. YAMA, located in the Fisher Building, opened in November 2017. Frida opened in 2014 in the Park Shelton, and expanded in Summer 2017.
     
    An avid preservationist and city booster, Lutz serves on the board of Pewabic Pottery and is a former board member of Preservation Wayne.  She frequently shares her retail wisdom with other startup businesses.  She was recognized in 2017 as one of Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” winners.
  • 2017-2018 Mark Schostak (class of 1977)

    Mark Schostak (class of 1977) is the third generation along with his brothers to be involved in Schostak Family Enterprises (SFE), a fourth generation, family-run business with almost 100 years of real estate and banking expertise and over 35 years of restaurant operations expertise.

    As a partner in Schostak Family Enterprises, Mark is involved in multiple entities including TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants (TSFR), Schostak Family Investments Co., Schostak Brothers & Co., Inc. (SBCI), and Schostak-Fisher Group. As the real estate division of the company, SBCI owns and operates 97 commercial properties in 24 states including a portfolio of shopping centers, office and industrial buildings and land development throughout Michigan and the greater mid-west.

    In the 1980’s, Mark, along with HDS alumnus and family friend Elliot Baum (class of 1971), diversified the family investments by entering the franchise food business. Starting with opening Burger King restaurants in small towns in northern Michigan, TSFR had many years of success as a Burger King franchisee throughout Michigan.

    Today, Mark is Executive Chairman of TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants. TSFR has an expansive portfolio of casual, fast casual, quick service and family dining restaurants including 67 Applebee’s, 27 Olga’s Kitchen, 10 MOD Pizza and 5 Del Taco restaurants with plans for growth for each of its brands.

    Mark and his wife, Lillian, are parents to four Hillel graduates, Joshua (class of 2006), Danielle (class of 2009), Seth (class of 2011), and Lauren (class of 2016).

    “It was always exciting and emotional walking each one of our four children to kindergarten at Hillel – the same halls I walked down as a student after the school moved from Oak Park to Farmington Hills in 1970.  One of my favorite memories from Hillel is my ninth grade year when my class held a basketball marathon fundraiser.  On a serious note, I vividly remember, during Menachem Glazer’s Torah class, Rabbi Abramson’s announcement over the school’s PA system about the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was a very somber day as early reports out of Israel were not good,” Mark recalls.

    In addition to his proud years at Hillel, Mark is a 1980 graduate of Southfield High School, a 1984 graduate of the University of Michigan and an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
     
  • 2016-2017 Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny (class of 1991)

    Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny (class of 1991) has served Temple Israel since her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2004. She is a proud Wolverine, having earned a degree in Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan in 1999. She and husband Ryan Kaluzny are proud parents of daughter Bayla Shy, and twins Sage Ray z’l, and Asher Wolf. Bayla is a first grader at Hillel, and Asher will soon follow here there.

    Rabbi Kaluzny shares her time at Temple Israel with the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. She has been a rabbi in the network since 2001. Rabbi Kaluzny was deeply affected by the death of her beloved Aunt in a hospice in Chicago when she was 19, and promised then that her work as a rabbi would include working with hospice patients and their families. Rabbi E.B. ‘Bunny’ Freedman became a mentor for Rabbi Kaluzny when she was still in rabbinical school. Today, Rabbi Kaluzny helps guide Temple Israel families through the questions, decisions, and Jewish issues that might arise at the end of life. Through her work at JHCN and Temple Israel, Rabbi Kaluzny spends a great deal of time in nursing homes and assisted living facilities visiting older adults, and helping keep them connected to Temple Israel and the Jewish community, as well as connecting them to services in the community. She was honored last year at the 7th Annual Esteemed Women in Michigan event.

    Rabbi Kaluzny also plans events for the IMAGINE young adult congregation of Temple Israel, runs the 8th grade program on Monday nights, works on interfaith initiatives, works with the shivah minyan core, and whatever else comes her way!
  • 2016-2017 Jonathan Ozeran (class of 1997)

    Jonathan Ozeran (class of 1997) currently serves as Director of Product at Tempus, a technology company that has built an operating system to battle cancer. Tempus enables physicians to deliver personalized cancer care through its interactive analytical and machine learning platform. The company provides genomic sequencing services and analyzes molecular and therapeutic data to empower physicians to make real-time, data-driven decisions.

    Jonathan is also a Co-Founder of WÜF, a company developing the World's Smartest Dog Collar. Through a combination of custom hardware and software, WÜF is focused on drastically improving the average dog owner's ability to communicate with, care for and cultivate an amazing relationship with their four-legged best friend.

    Additionally, Jonathan holds an Adjunct Lecturer role at Northwestern University where he has taught mobile application design and prototyping to both undergraduate and graduate students based on his experiences developing several dozen mobile applications.

    Jonathan received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in computing & information systems from Northwestern University. He enjoys attending Chicago synagogues with his wife, Abby. Jonathan was named one of 36 under 36 to watch by Chicago’s Jewish Federation, in 2015, and is a key influencer in connecting Israeli start-ups to Chicago entrepreneurs.
  • 2015-2016 Edward Alterman (class of 1986)

    Eddie Alterman (class of 1986) has been editor-in-chief of Car and Driver since 2009. His passion for cars was sparked by his car-enthusiast father, who taught him to drive when he was 10.

    While at the University of Michigan, Eddie began writing for Automobile Magazine, and stayed there for 13 years, rising to senior editor. He later founded MPH magazine, contributed to Men’s Journal, GQ, the New York Times, and New York Magazine, and launched motivemag.com, an automotive-lifestyle website. At Car and Driver, Eddie oversees all editorial aspects of the brand, and he is widely regarded as the nation’s top automotive journalist. In 2005, he was named one of Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40.”

    A member of the American Society of Magazine Editors, and a past juror of the North American Car of the Year awards, Eddie lives in Franklin with his wife Kari, and daughter Noa (class of 2016) and Adina (seventh grade). A longtime member of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, Eddie, along with Kari, has been involved in many Jewish institutions around Detroit, including JARC, Yad Ezra and the Holocaust Memorial Center.
  • 2015-2016 Dr. Ron Gaba (class of 1990)

    Dr. Ron Gaba graduated from Hillel Day School in 1990. He received his medical degree from the  University of Michigan School of Medicine in 2002, and is currently an associate professor and director of clinical and translational research in radiology at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health System. Ron has affected the lives of many patients afflicted with liver cancer, and has shared his knowledge and expertise in the more than 100 papers he has published, and the more than 75 fellows he has trained in clinical service and patient care. The awards Ron has received acknowledging  his impact are too numerous to mention.

    Ron currently lives in Chicago with wife Madhu Gundavaram, a pulmonologist, and children Mor, and Rahm.  The family attends  Anshe Emet Synagogue, and Mor attends a Jewish preschool. Ron maintains close ties to Detroit and celebrates the holidays here with his family,  including mother Clara Gaba, a beloved member of Hillel’s Judaic Studies faculty, father, Arthur, and his two sisters, Amira Soleimani, who also teaches at Hillel, and Ilana Gaba-Maine, a current Hillel parent.

    Of course, the close friendships Ron made at Hillel continue to sustain him in his adult life, he noted. “We were a small, tight-knit class of overachievers, and we’re all successful and have done good things in general. I also only have fond memories of the teachers, the staff, and continue to stay in touch with former headmaster Mark Smiley.

    “The influence the school has from generation to generation is nice to see,” he continued. “It speaks volumes about Hillel that alumni continue to send their children to the school. If I lived in Detroit today, I certainly would!”
  • 2015-2016 Elanah Hunger (class of 1988)

    Since graduating Hillel Day School in 1988, Elanah Nachman Hunger has hardly sat down. After spending time studying sculpture at Lorenzo di Medici in Florence, Italy, she returned to the U.S .for the remainder of her college career where she majored in philosophy, and spent two years as the editor of the college newspaper at St. Mary’s College.   Having been regularly exposed to the arts growing up, the artistic path was a natural one to follow.  Elanah has become deeply involved in several of Detroit’s finest cultural institutions, and supports emerging local artists, and she has become a rising star among Detroit’s patrons of the arts. She has also advanced in the family business to become the Chief Operating Officer at Willowgreen Building Group.

    In the fine arts world, Elanah has co-chaired fundraisers for the Detroit Institute of Arts, where she serves on the Board of the Founders Junior Council, and the Michigan Opera Theatre, generating substantial new funds, as well as a new generation of supporters, for these venerable institutions.  She also created an Evening of Art and Science for the Taubman Medical Research Institute, which has become an annual event, and she is a staunch supporter of its stem cell research program. She is a 2014 recipient of the Rare Everyday Heroes award from Winning Futures, a mentoring program that teaches life skills and career preparedness to young people. 

    Elanah’s involvement in Jewish Detroit is as admirable as her patronage of the arts. She created the JOY Project, an annual Mother’s Day fundraiser for Jewish Family Service, which raised $46,000 last year for women’s and children programs. She has also served on the Women’s Philanthropy Board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, on the Federation allocation committee for Jewish Identity Building, on the Federation Real Estate Committee, and has chaired Federation’s  It’s a Mitzvah Campaign. She also generated a Dor L’Dor  fundraising event for the University of Michigan Hillel, which reaches out to the community to welcome alumni and their progeny to spend part of a Shabbat evening together. 

    Hillel Day School remains central to Elanah’s life. She and husband Rick are the proud parents of current Hillel students Harrison and Dorian, who bring home their blossoming love of Jewish culture and Tikkun Olam in new ways each day.  Their home is frequently filled with sweet little voices singing prayers and songs they have learned at school, and sometimes, Elanah is pleasantly surprised to realize that she can still sing along!   
  • 2014-2015 Lisa Lis (class of 1974)

    Lisa Mark Lis was born in Detroit and graduated from Hillel Day School in 1974.  Lisa graduated from Michigan State University in 1982.  Lisa worked as a nursery school teacher and as marketing director for Weight Watchers.  Lisa’s true passion is community – both local and abroad.  Lisa has devoted her time and remarkable outreach skills to various organizations to instill her vision of family and community.  
     
    As the immediate past President of Federation’s Women’s PhilanthropyLisa connected her vision and passion for Jewish Detroit, together with her networking and organizational skills.  She is passionately involved in numerous organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit as an executive board member, the Jewish Women’s Foundation as a Past Chair and current Trustee, a current board member of Henry Ford Health Systems, Forgotten Harvest, the Detroit Zoological Society, National Women’s Philanthropy, and the Jewish Fund, and has led countless missions to Israel.
     
    Many know Lisa from her weekly e-mail newsletter where she not only wishes her readers a “Shabbat Shalom,” but she often shares political views, updates on local, national and global concerns as well as local fundraising events.
     
    Lisa is no stranger to being recognized and honored.  Lisa has received the Sylvia Simon Greenberg Leadership Award from the Jewish Federation, the American Jewish Committee’s Young Leadership Award, and the American Technion Society Etkin Young Leadership Award. 
     
    Lisa has been married to Hannan for over 30 years.  Together they have raised four children, Ariella Lis (Tzvi) Raviv, Liat, Mataan, and Aviv, each of whom graduated from Hillel.  Lisa is the proud grandmother of Hadassa Raviv.   
     
    For Lisa’s untiring dedication to philanthropy, and Jewish causes both locally and abroad, we are honored to bestow Lisa with Hillel’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
  • 2014-2015 Hy Safran (class of 1998)

    Hy Safran (HDS '98) presently serves as Director of Strategic Affairs for U.S. Senator Gary Peters and has worked in the political and government sectors for nearly eight years.  
     
    Hy graduated from Birmingham Groves High School as class President both Junior and Senior year and then went on to New York City where he earned a BA from Columbia University (Magna Cum Laude) in Public Policy and American Government and a second BA from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Magna Cum Laude) in Bible and Ancient Semitic Studies.  He also studied in Israel and received Biblical Archaeology certification from Bar Ilan University.  While in New York, Hy served as JTS Class President and Columbia University Vice President, earning several academic and leadership awards.  After serving as commencement speaker and completing both degrees, Hy traveled extensively for a year living in Israel and visiting countries throughout the Middle East and Europe, gaining a global perspective.
     
    Hy returned to the United States in the summer of 2007 and served as National Constituency Director for Obama for America, the presidential campaign of now-President Barack Obama.  Hy represented then-Senator Obama in states across the country, most notably in the Iowa Caucuses.  In the fall of 2008, Hy accepted a position with Gary Peters and has served Peters in a senior capacity during his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and now in his first term as U.S. Senator.
     
    Aside from his professional duties, Hy serves on various community boards including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Theological Seminary's Detroit Cabinet and others.
     
    In addition to being committed to the Jewish community and active in the political scene, Hy is an avid supporter of the Detroit Tigers.  
     
    Hy is humbled to be recognized by Hillel Day School and is excited to reconnect to the school that continues to impact his daily life, both professionally and personally.
  • 2014-2015 Dr. Charles Schwartz (class of 1983)

    Charles Schwartz, M.D., is the Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. He previously served as Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at New York University Langone Medical Center.  He specializes in minimally invasive valve repair and replacement, coronary artery bypass surgery, and the surgical correction of thoracic aneurysms.

    Dr. Schwartz grew up in Bloomfield Hills and attended Hillel Day School from kindergarten through ninth grade.  He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and his medical degree from the Wayne State University School of Medicine, with honors in Surgery. He served as a research fellow in the thoracic surgery myocellular biology research laboratory at the University of Michigan Medical Center and completed his General Surgery residency at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.  He also completed a fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery at the NYU Medical Center and was on Faculty at NYU for 10 years.  He is Board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.  Dr. Schwartz has published multiple papers and book chapters in prestigious peer-reviewed publications and has presented his research before major medical conferences and associations.

    Dr. Schwartz is a Board Member of Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit and a member of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.  He serves on the Dean's Advisory Council for the University of Michigan School of Literature, Science and the Arts.  He lives in Birmingham with his wife, Cathy, and two children, Claire and Joey.
  • 2013-2014 Joseph Green

  • 2013-2014 Oren Goldenberg (class of 1997)

  • 2013-2014 Steven Winkelman (class of 1982)

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Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit
32200 Middlebelt Road | Farmington Hills, MI 48334

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