Our Team

Here's a brief introduction to our current staff members and camp assistants!

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Joseph Simpkins
Instructor, DJ, Tech Support, Organizer

Joseph is a talented teacher, organizer, gifted DJ and technical wizard. We literally could not run camp without him! Joseph started dancing and coming to camp at the age of 17. He has attended two Karmiel Summer Courses for Foreign Teachers in Israel and has taught in the Raleigh, NC Israeli folk dance session. Joseph is a great teacher - accurate and easy to follow, energetic and patient. When he is not busy dancing, Joseph works as a computer software engineer. He lives in Cary, NC with his wife Shalisha and their four children.

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Livia Burghardt
Organizer, Teacher

Livia has been dancing for over 30 years. She moved to Toronto for the express purpose of attending the many popular Israeli Folk Dance sessions there. After taking Teme Kernerman’s Folk-Dance Instructor Training Course, she taught in multiple weekly sessions for over 15 years. She has helped out with the TorontoIsReal Dance Festival since it began nearly 20 years ago and has been with Karmiel USA from the very start. Livia is known for her creativity and tireless efforts, her smile, energy and good nature.  She is ready to help with all your needs.

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Meliss Jakubovic
Instructor, DJ, Organizer

Meliss, our amazing, home-grown dancer and leader, started coming to camp as a young teen. She has led the Atlanta Israeli Folkdance group since she was 16, and has attended many workshops in the US and Europe, as well as a few Karmiel Summer Courses in Israel. A mother of 2, yoga instructor, online marketing strategist, and professional DJ in the Atlanta area, Meliss usually teaches us a dance or two and DJs one of our night parties, which is always a special treat. She is both a superb DJ and teacher, and a dancer of incomparable elegance and grace. Meliss is sorry that she has to miss this important year, as it’s her son’s Bar Mitzvah. She will be sorely missed, but she will still have a hand in the planning and will be back in the coming years.

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Joanna Blackwelder
Instructor, Treasurer, Data Management Expert, Missed-a-Step Leader

Joanna has attended Karmiel USA for many years, has taken the Karmiel Summer Course, and rejoined the staff in 2017. She lives in Vancouver, Canada where she has been a regular teacher at Nona Malki’s Israeli Folkdance session, running the beginner class and teaching in the intermediate and advanced sessions and in workshops. She has an incredible memory and teaches with impressive accuracy, energy, and enthusiasm.

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Sarah Lamb (Anderson)
Instructor, Organizer

Sarah, a wonderful teacher and beautiful dancer with a warm and caring personality, has been on staff since 2016. Her obsession with lists and her amazing organizational skills help the staff keep up with all the details behind the scenes. We are very grateful to Sarah for her invaluable assistance in planning and making camp happen. Sarah currently resides outside of Charlotte, NC with her husband and two children.

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Rebekah Constantin
Instructor, Missed-a-Step, Merchandise Coordinator

Our lovely dancer, Rebekah, comes from Gainesville, FL where she teaches the advanced Israeli dance class at the Kol Simcha congregation.  She attended the Karmiel Summer Course back in 2007 and is an accomplished teacher.  She first came to camp in 2014 and joined the staff in 2016. Her gentle style and good nature enhance her high-quality teaching.

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Debbie Bateman
Instructor, Warm-up Leader

Debbie has been coming to camp since 2006 and began teaching for Karmiel USA in 2019, making her our newest staff member!  She lives in Charlotte, NC, where she has been the dance leader at her congregation, ‘Hope of Israel,’ since 1998, spreading the love of Israel to her many dancers, of all ages, through the love of Israeli dancing. Debbie is an exquisite dancer, and a clear and patient teacher, always encouraging, positive, smiling and passionate about dancing. We are grateful to her for taking on many additional responsibilities including providing a home for our precious camp supplies, helping with the decorating, and leading the warm-ups, which she does so well.

Our Former Camp Director & Hostess

Ruthy Slann (z''l), our beloved director, hostess, and dear friend, passed away on June 5th, 2021, surrounded by her family and loved ones, after her years long battle with cancer.  We are all deeply saddened, and she will be sorely missed.  One of her parting desires was that the camp still go on without her.  We, the 7 staff members she assembled over the last several years, are continuing camp in honor of her.  She took care of so many different aspects of camp, it is quite daunting to fill her shoes, but we will do the best we can.

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Ruthy Slann
Hostess, Director, Instructor

Our hostess from the very beginning (1996) until she passed away (2021). She was a veteran teacher, a native of Israel, and an avid dancer. She traveled in the Southeast U.S. and beyond to teach Israeli Folk Dance workshops for children and adults. She was the assistant course director for the annual Karmiel Summer Course for Foreign Teachers for 16 years, and was also on the Fred Berk-Blue Star staff from 1990-1998. She organized the Karmiel Tour of Israel 1997-2000 with Dany Benshalom, and continued to lead tours to Israel with Ronit Nachman. She was cheerful and friendly, and her enthusiasm for dancing could be dangerously contagious.