Josh was born and raised in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2001 with a degree in sociology and political science. Upon receiving his degree, he moved to Jerusalem and received Rabbinic ordination in 2006. Josh founded Meor at Northwestern University and has been at the front lines of Jewish outreach for 15 years, and is known for his intellectual classes, innovative videos, and warm sense of humor.
Tamar was born in Miami Beach and moved to Chicago to work with Josh in Jewish outreach. She co-founded Meor at Northwestern and has been mentoring young women and inspiring them to further their Jewish identities for over 15 years. Tamar has a Bachelor’s degree in Education and is currently pursing her Master's in Social Work, in addition to teaching bridal classes and hosting J-Life students for weekly shabbat meals.
Jennyand Yonason Serle
Director of Women's Programming
Hailing from the Chicago suburbs, Jenny Serle completed a year of advanced post-high school Jewish studies in Israel and returned to the US. Upon getting married, she started her career of teaching and inspiring others to connect with Judaism, serving for 7 years as the director of the Buffalo Grove division of NCSY. While continuing her work with Jewish teens and young professionals, Jenny earned her MA from Northwestern University in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Jenny has been involved in J-Life since its inception and currently serves as the Director of Women's Programming, where she teaches young women and brides-to-be about the timeless relevance of Jewish wisdom for their lives and relationships.
Yonason grew up in Milwaukee where he spent much of his time playing sports and his acoustic guitar. After getting married,Yonason started his career in software engineering that took him through startups and Fortune 500's, eventually leading to the founding of his own web and mobile development firm. As an entrepreneur with a passion for Torah study, Yonason loves connecting with J-Life students and showing them how the time-honored lessons of the Torah have so much meaning and relevance in today's world.
Max and Irina Stessel
Founding Directors of J-Life
Max was born in Kiev and moved to Chicago with his family when he was 14. He was always interested in Jewish history and active in pro-Israeli causes. Max has an MBA from the University of Chicago and is Principal of Pritok Capital, a private equity group. Since his college years, Max has been involved in various organizations and initiatives focused on developing stronger Jewish identity among Chicago's Russian Jews. Max founded J-Life in 2005.
Irina was born in Kiev and came to Chicago when she was 12. While being a Hillel President in Loyola Irina realized the importance of teaching Jewish history and traditions to Russian Jews and organized first classes by Chicago's leading outreach Rabbis at Loyola University. Irina is also an experienced matchmaker on sawyouatstsinai.com
She and her husband Max were intimately involved in the early stages of developing Heritage Synagogue for Russian Jews. In addition to hosting Jlife students for Shabbat meals, Irina coordiantes many logistical aspects of J-life’s operations.
Daniel and Anya Alkhovsky
Daniel is the Director of the DEEP (Developing Excellence in Educational Practice) High School District of the Chicago Jewish community schools. Dan holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in Secondary Education and Mathematics, and is pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership.
Anya is a Senior Web Designer for the Interactive Marketing division of NMMA (National Marine Manufacturing Association), with a BFA from UIC. Anya loves travelling with the J-life participants and has staffed six trips so far! The Alkhovskys have been dedicated J-Life volunteers from its very inception. They are always ready to assist J-life’s efforts, whether it be travelling to Israel to help lead a trip, or hosting Shabbat and holiday meals in their warm and open home.