Continuing the "Wow" factor at Central Florida Hillel this fall


Danielle McKinstry

Approximately five years ago, Danielle McKinstry graduated The University of Connecticut and landed her first job at Central Florida Hillel as engagement associate. During the ensuing five years, McKinstry received nearly annual promotions until her most recent one last year when she became Hillel's assistant director. As AD, McKinstry led an unprecedented period of growth in the numbers of Jewish students being active in Jewish life on our campuses here in Orlando. 

Moreover, her work as a highly effective manager of the entire Jewish student life team eventually became the focus of a national news story on her excellent management acumen. McKinstry is also the creator of the now nationally known, "Jewber" program at UCF, which really changed the whole conversation about Jewish student engagement on campus.

Under McKinstry 's leadership, UCF Birthright and Israel trip number exploded. This past summer over 150 UCF students were signed up for Israel experiences including many non-Jewish students who as leaders on campus were able to join our UCF Perspectives trip that McKinstry led in its inaugural year in 2019.

Whether late night calls with students, long days in the office and on weekends to help students create a new initiative, McKinstry was ever ready to help students find their best selves while forming a dynamic and sustainable Jewish community for college students in Central Florida. With over 6,000 Jewish undergrad students alone at UCF, we are home to the third largest Jewish student population in the world outside of Israel and we all owe a huge debt to McKinstry for her enviable organization skills, her passion for creating Jewish life for the next generation and her seemingly endless reservoir of good humor and optimism!

McKinstry will be leaving Orlando this summer to travel to Boston where she will be starting her master's degree in hospital administration. "I am so lucky to have been a part of the Orlando community for the past five years. Working at Central Florida Hillel has shaped me into the leader, person, and confident Jewish woman I am today." said McKinstry. "I graduated from the University of Connecticut with not only a degree in Allied Health Sciences, but an ambition to learn more about being a leader in a community I had so much love for. I am incredibly grateful for the people I have worked with over the years for teaching me about the Jewish world and helping to create an impact on the future generations of the Jewish people."

"Following up on Danielle's long record of success is no small fete and to achieve that, we turned to a seasoned pro that not only understands Hillel from her own involvement on the Executive board of Hillel when she was a student at The Ohio State University, she is also the proud mother of a UCF student." said Aaron Weil, executive director and CEO of Central Florida Hillel.

Liz Kalef, comes from Columbus, Ohio, where she has spent the past 23 years as the executive director of two of Columbus's most esteemed synagogues. Kalef is Central Florida Hillel's new associate director and Kalef and McKinstry have been using the valuable summer months to ensure a smooth transition in a planned manner.

Kalef and her husband, Jeremy, chose to make the life changing move to Orlando after their youngest, Neil, graduated high school and settled on UCF for college. "We have always loved Orlando and all of our best family memories took place here," Kalef said. "We knew we would move here eventually, but when Neil chose UCF we decided it was time for the rest of our life to start right now. We couldn't be happier with our decision."

For Kalef, coming to Central Florida Hillel is like coming home. Her first job after college was running Kenyon College Hillel, Denison University Hillel and Ohio Wesleyan University Hillel, as well as staffing Shabbat at Ohio State Hillel. Kenyon University named her adviser of the year during her tenure.

As Central Florida Hillel's associate director, Kalef will be managing both the Development and Student Life departments and has big plans for her upcoming inaugural year.

Liz Kalef

Kalef's vision for Central Florida Hillel is one of inclusion, inspiration, and increased opportunity. "Hillel is unique among Jewish community institutions in that it is the last place to interact with young Jews in a formal way and connect them to Judaism", Kalef commented. "We have to reach them while they are in college and show them what it means to be part of a Jewish community that works toward common goals, that worships together, and that deeply cares about each other and our heritage. That's ultimately what Jewish community is, and if we can teach our young people how to function in warm, caring Jewish communities now, they will then go out in the world and lead their own communities in that same fashion as they travel through life."

While all organizations experience transitions, for the students at UCF, this transition, rather than a harbinger of change, just means more of the same inspired, passionate and dedicated leadership of Hillel staff for the students of UCF and Central Florida for the coming year.


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