2016 Cohort

2016 Seminary Leadership Project Cohort

Yonatan Arnon headshotYonatan Arnon

Yonatan Arnon, originally from Jerusalem, Israel is a Jewish & Israeli educator and serves as the Jewish Agency Israel fellow at Columbia/ Barnard Hillel. Yonatan holds a B.A in Jewish philosophy and theater studies and a group facilitation certificate. Yonatan has a wide range of experience in the informal experiential education field.

Benjamin Chaidell headshotBenjamin Chaidell
Jewish Theological Seminary

Benjamin Chaidell is a third year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, having just returned from a year of study in Israel. In addition to his studies, Ben is passionate about Jewish education, Israel, and his local community. He currently leads children’s services at the Fort Tryon Jewish Center and volunteers visiting a senior citizen in the community. Before JTS he served as an Education Fellow at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). In this position he traveled the South empowering congregations to teach the ISJL’s innovative religious school curriculum. Benjamin graduated from Yale College in May 2011, where he majored in religious studies and co-ran the student Conservative Minyan on campus. Ben enjoys music, air hockey, Shabbat meals, and exploring the city in which he lives.

Samantha Frank headshotSamantha Frank
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Samantha Frank is a second year Rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She was born and raised in Silver Spring, MD where her Jewish community nurtured her value of working to achieve social justice and correcting social injustice. She attended Tufts University, where she studied community health and French. Samantha interned at IMPACT Silver Spring, bringing neighbors together to support one another through difficult economic times, and worked on campus to create spaces for students to talk about racial issues on campus. Samantha initially pursued a career in public health policy, focused on adolescent mental health, before turning to the Rabbinate. She is committed to dialogue as a force for healing and community growth.

Matt Green hedashotMatt Green
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Matt is a third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he is a Tisch Fellow. He is the Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, in which role he is also the director of the Brooklyn Jews community. Matt received his BA in History from the University of Michigan, and continued on as a Berman Fellow at Michigan Hillel after graduation. In 2015, Matt won the Be Wise entrepreneurship competition at HUC-JIR for his project, the Grindr Shabbat Initiative, wherein he applied geolocation technology towards creating a unique LGBTQ Shabbat community in Brooklyn.

Katie Greenberg headshotKatie Greenberg
Jewish Theological Seminary

Katie Greenberg is a fourth year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary where she is pursuing her masters in education and a certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education. A native New Yorker, she graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Jewish History and Environmental studies. She recently returned from three years living in Israel where she studied at Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies and worked at the Israel Religious Action on issues of pluralism and anti-discrimination in Israeli society. In rabbinical school Katie has worked as the program coordinator for the Milstein Center for interreligious dialogue, the Gabbi of the Women’s League Seminary synagogue at JTS, the rabbinic intern at Rutgers Hillel, a student chaplain for two summers at Self Help visiting holocaust survivors and this summer at the Allen Pavilion Hospital in Manhattan. This year Katie is the rabbinic intern working with the Director of congregational learning  at Temple Israel Center where she is teaching a social justice class to teenagers and teaching adult education classes to the staff and the congregation. Katie was the rabbinic intern at Beit Rayim in Toronto for the High Holidays where she led innovative family services for 200 people. She is currently serving as the president of the Rabbinical student organization working with the administration to build community and help students with issues such as better access to health care and a process for taking family leave.

Andy Kahn headshotAndy Kahn
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Andy Kahn, a second-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR, was born in Birmingham, AL, but grew up in Tacoma, WA. During his senior year of high school, he attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel, and then went on to major in Religious Studies focused on the Tanach at Kenyon College in Ohio. He attended both Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His interest in the academic study of religion led him to earn an M.A. in Religion in Modernity at at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in 2007, and an M.A. in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Languages at The Jewish Theological Seminary in 2011. Upon graduation from The Jewish Theological Seminary, Andy began working at Central Synagogue in Manhattan as a Religious School Educator, creating new and innovative curricula in Jewish Studies and Hebrew for grades 3-9. He also led adult education classes at Central Synagogue in Manhattan on Tanach and various other Jewish subjects. In 2011, Andy began volunteering to teach classes at Footsteps, an organization in New York City devoted to helping those seeking to enter or explore the world beyond the insular ultra-religious communities in which they were raised. Andy currently works at the Central Conference of American Rabbis Press while also serving as student rabbi at Temple Beth Ha-Sholom in Williamsport, PA.

Hillel Konigsburg headshotHillel Konigsburg
Jewish Theological Seminary

Hillel Konigsburg is a senior rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a graduating MA student in Jewish Education from the William Davidson Graduate School at JTS. Hillel received a BA in Sociology from Columbia University and a BA in Jewish History from Albert A. List College in New York. This year, Hillel works as a Educational Leadership Intern at the Solomon Schechter school of Manhattan. Hillel has also worked as the Rabbinic Intern at the Orangetown Jewish Center, as well as the Pastoral Care Intern at DOROT. When not learning or teaching, Hillel enjoys exploring NYC with his wife, and playing board games with friends.

Daniel Novick headshotDaniel Novick
Jewish Theological Seminary

Daniel Novick is in his fourth year studying at the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. After attending the University of Virginia where he received a degree in Commerce with concentrations in marketing and management, Daniel enrolled in rabbinical school with the desire to integrate his passions for Judaism, marketing, and music to inspire Jewish communities. Born and raised in Herndon, Virginia at Congregation Beth Emeth, Daniel was (and still is!) quite active in United Synagogue Youth (USY). A past international and regional officer of USY, Daniel spent 6 wonderful summers with USY as a participant on USY on Wheels and USY Israel Pilgrimage; a staff member on USY on Wheels; and a Group Leader for USY on Wheels. Daniel continues to serve as an educator and musical specialist for USY. Daniel has worked for the past six years as a musician-in-residence at USY’s International Convention, leading ruach, song sessions, and musical tefillot. In addition to his work with USY, Daniel has served as the Youth Director at Sutton Place Synagogue, the Student Rabbi at the University of Hartford Hillel and the Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford, CT and is currently a rabbinical intern at Temple Sholom in Greenwich, CT.

Louis Polisson headshot

Louis Polisson
Jewish Theological Seminary

Louis is a third-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Louis grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated from Brandeis University in 2012 where he studied Classical Languages, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and Music. Louis is a proud alumnus of the Conservative Yeshiva, Yeshivat Hadar, and Brandeis’ co-ed Jewish a cappella Group, Manginah. Louis has worked as a songleader, Jewish educator, and music teacher in a wide variety of synagogues, educational programs, and camps from Boston to NYC. Louis enjoys live music (especially klezmer, jazz, and punk rock), jamming in Freygish mode, and exploring New York City. As he once told participants at BIMA (the Brandeis Institute for Music and Art), he hopes to be a punk rock star, archaeologist, and/or rabbi when he grows up.

Jenn Queen headshotJenn Queen
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Jenn is a second year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). She is a graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington (2009) where she earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in modern Jewish philosophy and thought, and “The Applied Health and Social Science of Sexuality” through the College of Arts and Sciences Individualized Major Program, and an alumna of the George Washington University where she earned a Master of Public Health degree (2012). Before beginning on her rabbinical path, Jenn served as the Field Organizing Manager for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) in Washington, DC, and was a member of the 2013-2014 cohort of the Jews United for Justice Jeremiah Fellowship. When she is not in school, Jenn teaches 3rd and 6th grade religious school at Temple Shaaray Tefilah, and enjoys spending time with her pitbull mix, Bruin.

Jade Sank headshotJade Sank
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Jade Sank is a third year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR. Jade grew up in Kinnelon, New Jersey and at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She graduated in 2012 from Brandeis University with her BA in Anthropology and International and Global Studies. Jade is currently living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, serving as the student rabbi at the North Fork Reform Synagogue on Long Island, coordinating seventh grade at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, and teaching an online fifth grade religious school class through Shalom Learning.

Amanda Schwartz headshotAmanda Schwartz
Jewish Theological Seminary

Amanda Schwartz is a rabbinical student (soon to be rabbi) at JTS.  She completed her masters in educational leadership through the Davidson school and is deeply passionate about fostering a passionate, empowered, inclusive and Jewishly literate Liberal Jewish community.  She has learned a great deal from working in a variety of Jewish organizations across the denominational spectrum including Jewish Mosaic, B’nai Jeshurun, and the JCC in Manhattan.  She currently lives in Harlem with her family but looks forward to moving this summer to Denver, her hometown.

Sara Shapiro-Plevan headshotSara Shapiro-Plevan
Jewish Theological Seminary

Sara Shapiro-Plevan, a doctoral candidate in the Davidson School at JTS and the founder of Rimonim Consulting, is all about relationships. Her essential focus: understanding the way relationships influence the ability to improve our practice, shape our work, and engage effectively with others. Sara has served as a faculty member in the Davidson School, where she prepared graduate students to take leadership roles in the field as a part of the redesigned Educational Leadership in Congregational and Communal Settings practicum, and taught the core course in basic pedagogy to students in the Davidson, Cantorial and Rabbinical Schools.  As a part of her work at JTS, she  worked closely with mentors who are veteran congregational and communal educators, and supported their ongoing learning through their service and continued professional learning. Previously, Sara served as a consultant for the Board of Jewish Education NY-SAJES, (now The Jewish Education Project) working directly with congregational educators in the greater New York area to build strong collegial networks, improve practice and cultivate leadership. She has served as director of education and as assistant director of education in three Manhattan congregations, and has served as the director of professional development for the  METNY region of USCJ, where she developed professional learning programs for teachers in congregational schools. In addition to her consultations for congregations in the New York area, Sara has partnered with congregations across the country to reimagine their model, build new governance structures and align curriculum with vision. Sara holds a BA in  Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis  University, an MA in Jewish Education from JTS, and was a fellow in the Senior Educators’ Program at the  Melton Centre at Hebrew University.  She currently serves on the board of the Jewish Educators’ Assembly and the board of the Network for Research in Jewish Education.  

Rabbi Zach Sitkin headshotRabbi Zach Sitkin
Jewish Theological Seminary

Rabbi Zach Sitkin is currently serving as Rabbi at Congregation Eitz Chaim in Monroe, NY.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, he received dual Bachelors degrees in both Psychology and Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  Rabbi Sitkin is currently in his final year at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and will earn his Rabbinic Ordination along with a Master’s degree in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature this upcoming spring.  Rabbi Sitkin previously served as the Rabbinic Intern at the Pelham Jewish Center in Pelham Manor, NY and as the Robert Kraft Rabbinic Fellow at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel in Manhattan.  When not learning Torah (yes, he really does that for fun!), you can find Rabbi Sitkin shooting hoops on the basketball court, watching movies, singing, or taking advantage of the sights and attractions of New York City.  Rabbi Sitkin and his wife, Lisa, live in Manhattan.

Jordan Soffer headshot

Jordan Soffer
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Originally from New City, NY, Jordan Soffer graduated from Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School, and Solomon Schechter School of Westchester. A proud Badger, Jordan attended college at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, where he studied Religion and Jewish Studies. Upon graduation, Jordan studied at Yeshivat Maaleh Gilboa, Mechon Pardes, and Yeshivat Hadar. Jordan has worked and interned at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, Kinneret Day School, Heschel Middle School, Congregation Orach Chaim and the Hebrew Institute in White Plains. Jordan is currently completing a masters in education at Yeshiva University. Next year, Jordan is extremely excited to join the staff at Carmel Academy, where he will serve as rabbi in residence. Jordan is a big sports fan, loves cooking (he is a talmid of the Joy of Kosher), and loves traveling (he has visited approximately 20 different countries).

Laynie Soloman headshotLaynie Soloman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Laynie is the Youth & Family Community Organizer at the Fort Tryon Jewish Center, an independent traditional egalitarian community in Washington Heights-Inwood, NYC and is pursuing an M.A. in Talmud and Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Laynie has spent several years learning Torah at various programs including The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and Yeshivat Hadar, where they served as an Education Fellow. Laynie has enjoyed being an educator in a wide array of Jewish settings including day school, synagogues, and camp, and loves bringing dynamic experiences of Jewish life and learning to students of all ages. When not in shul or learning Talmud, you can find Laynie reading about Liberation Theology and trying to use every vegetable in their CSA.

Rachel Waldman headshotRachel Waldman

Rachel currently resides in Washington Heights, and serves as Vice President of Mount Sinai Jewish Center, where she creates, organizes, and runs programs. She is passionate about fostering a warm, welcoming community that is inviting and meaningful, and has spent much time focused on filling the gaps and creating space for dialogue. Prior to becoming VP, she served as chair of community Outreach, where she organized community service programs, including many programs for seniors.  From a young age, she was passionate about communal work, and volunteered in many capacities.  After spending a year and a half studying in Israel, Rachel studied at Stern College and then completed her Master’s in Speech and Language Pathology. During that time, she started learning programs, taught in various communities, and volunteered throughout NYC. For the past 3 years, she served as a JLIC educator at the NYU Hillel, where she connected with students, ran meaningful programs, and learned and taught Torah and related topics. When she is not involved in Jewish communal work, she works as a Language Specialist in a school.

Raysh Weiss headshotRaysh Weiss
Jewish Theological Seminary

Raysh Weiss holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Minnesota and is currently in her final year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the founder and director of YentaNet, a pluralistic matchmaking organization, currently serves on the Board of Directors of T’ruah, and is a co-editor of the progressive Jewish blog www.jewschool.com.

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Miami & St Louis Cohort

Miami Fellows

headshot of Rabbi Jonathon Fisch

Rabbi Jonathan Fisch joined Temple Judea in 2014. Rabbi Fisch has helped create new programs within and outside the synagogue walls,

ranging from helping brainstorm and develop programing for JPLEX (Sunday School) leading creative worship ideas for the Magaux Early Childhood School, helping plan young adult programs and plan opportunities for young families to celebrate Shabbat through the Family Friendly Friday and Making Shabbat MAGICAL services

Chaplaincy work has become an integral part of Rabbi Fisch’s community outreach. In 2016 Rabbi Fisch was sworn in as the second Chaplain for the Coral Gables Police Department (CGPD) and the force’s first rabbi.
Outside of his work as rabbi and chaplain, Rabbi Fisch enjoys biking, watching movies, eating cookies, and especially his time with his wife, Abby and their two vivacious daughters, Ayla and Yael.

headshot of Rabbi Robyn FischerRabbi Robyn Fisher is the spiritual leader of Beth Or in Miami, Florida, dedicated to breathing new life into our ancient traditions and inspiring her congregants to translate sacred gatherings into healing the world through the pursuit of social justice. She is committed to multifaith relationship building through her involvement with PACT (People Acting in Community Together), MCCJ (formerly Miami Coalition of Christians & Jews), and the Religious Leadership & Civic Engagement (RLCE) project of NYU. In her desire to create a more welcoming and inclusive Jewish community, Rabbi Robyn launched her newest initiative, BeJewQ, to celebrate the intersection of both Jewish and Queer identities. In collaboration with Miami’s artistic community, she launched the Gallery of Light project which illuminates Jewish wisdom through artistic expression.

Rabbi Robyn received her BSBA from American University and her JD from the University of Miami School of Law. Prior to joining Beth Or, she served for 10 years as the Director of Student Engagement and as the Jewish Chaplain on campus at the University of Miami. While at UM, she was a Campus Fellow with the Sholom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. In 2017, she received ordination from Mesifta Adas Wolkowisk Rabbinical Academy and is a member of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

She is married to Randy Fisher and is the proud mother of Evan, Ally and Kara who bring joy and love and their own sense of Judaism to the world.


headshot of Rabbi Ben Herman

Rabbi Ben Herman is Rabbi at Bet Shira Congregation in Miami. A community builder, he loves making connections one person at a time. He has taught classes at the Rabbinical Assembly Convention as well as for the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE).

Rabbi Herman loves spending time outdoors, whether running, biking or hiking. He has done innovative programming such as Hiking and Halacha, Drive In Shabbat with big screen LED TVs, Disney Shabbat as well as beginning a Jewish Muslim Dialogue. Rabbi Herman is married to Karina and they have two daughters: Ariel’s and Leora. He is excited to be a JOIN for Justice Fellow and make a difference at Bet Shira and in the greater Miami Jewish community.

headshot of Rabbi Julie JacobsRabbi Julie Jacobs has served as clergy for Beth David Congregation for 16 years. She maintains a dual role as both Rabbi and Cantor bringing together her strengths in Jewish leadership and musicianship.

After receiving a Bachelor Degree in Music in Vocal Performance from the prestigious Indiana University School of Music in 1996, Jacobs received her Diploma of Hazzan and Master of Sacred Music from the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 2003, Jacobs received her certificate of Hazzan-Minister from the Cantors Assembly. Her Rabbinic ordination came as a result of Beth David leadership’s request for her to serve as Rabbi.

Rabbi Jacobs was recently appointed to serve on the Executive Board of the Cantors Assembly. She has also served on the Miami Board of Autism Speaks, and has raised over $100,000 for the non-profit over the past 10 years. Her desire to help others inspired her to create the Tikvah Center at Beth David Gordon School – Miami’s first Jewish Day School program for children on the Autism Spectrum.

Rabbi Jacobs is dedicated to community visioning. Her attention to the needs of the Jewish community at large and her deep love and understanding of peoplehood sparked the concept of the Center for Jewish Life Miami – a new 501c3 dedicated to serving the Central Miami Jewish Community. She is currently spearheading this crucial capital campaign.

In her spare time, Jacobs enjoys spending time with her family. Her husband, Orin and their 4 children, Zev, Reya, Eitan and Caleb are all very involved with Beth David and the Jewish Community.

headshot of Rabbi Fred KleinRabbi Frederick ‘Fred’ Klein is Director of Mishkan Miami: The Jewish Connection for Spiritual Support, and serves as Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami. He is a Miami native and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University, where he also earned a master’s degree in Bible, and has an MPhil in Jewish history from Columbia University. He received Board Certification from the National Association of Jewish Chaplains, and has done clinical rotations at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, NY, Jackson Memorial Hospital and VITAS hospice. Rabbi Klein has taught at and been involved with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, Hebrew College of Boston, the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, CLAL– The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is Vice President for the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America, former Chair of the Interfaith Clergy Dialogue of the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews, and serves on the Board of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.

headshot of Rabbi Judy KemplerRabbi Judy Kempler is a rabbi in Miami FL. She spent 10 years as one of the rabbi at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, FL before redeploying as a “freelance” rabbi and mother of 3! Rabbi Kempler was deeply involved while at Temple Beth Am, in co-leading its engagement of lay leaders in helping to pass Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to returning citizens in Florida, and also in the RAC’s efforts to close down Homestead.


headshot of Rabbi Joanne LoibenRabbi Joanne Loiben is the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom. She grew up in Chicago and attended St. Louis University, where she founded “SLU Jews.” After graduation she attended Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, where she received a Masters in Jewish Education and a Certificate in Advanced Jewish Studies. Following this, she taught 6th grade for three years at the the Davis Academy, a Reform Jewish Day School in Atlanta. When she was ready to deepen her spiritual studies, Joanne began rabbinical school at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. While there, she served at the University Synagogue, where she has organized youth activities, mentored teens in a leadership program and served as the Interim Education Director, along with other rabbinic duties. She was also Assistant Director of Jewish Education at the URJ Camp George in Canada, led a NFTY Tour in Israel and a Birthright Tour, participated in an AIPAC Leffell Fellowship program and received a Masters Concentration in Israel Education from the iCenter.

She loves being outside and enjoys outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, running, stand-up paddle boarding and going to the beach, as well as listening to live music.

St. Louis Fellows

headshot of Rabbi Jeffrey AbrahamRabbi Jeffrey Abraham began as Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Amoona in June of 2020 after six years as Senior Rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in San Antonio, Texas. Rabbi Abraham is the first member of the clergy to be awarded San Antonio Business Journal’s prestigious recognition “40 Under 40.” He previously served as senior rabbi at Congregation Sons of Israel in Nyack, New York, right outside of Manhattan for three years where he received dozens of awards for his work in revitalizing and growing his synagogue. Rabbi Abraham was also a contestant on The American Bible Challenge game show with Jeff Foxworthy.

Rabbi Abraham earned his rabbinic ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Previous to this, he received a Masters in Jewish Education as well as a double bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Letters with a minor in Political Science at the University of Judaism (now known as American Jewish University). He is trained as a community organizer through JOIN for Justice, is a Professional Affiliate with Big Tent Judaism and has worked on a number of Keruv initiatives to reach out to interfaith families.

Rabbi Abraham and his wife, Lauren (also a Master Jewish Educator), are committed to life-long Jewish learning and together with their three young sons (Benny, Henry, and Joey) bring a fresh energy and vibrancy to the Jewish community.

headshot of Rabbi Michael AlperRabbi Michael Alper has served Congregation Temple Israel in St.Louis, Missouri since 2008. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from Boston University, and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York City where he earned his Rabbinic smicha as well as a Master’s Degree in Jewish Literature. Prior to entering the rabbinate, Rabbi Alper taught public school in the South Bronx. His lifelong passion for social justice and interfaith work began there. Rabbi Alper uses texts, encounters and excursions with other faith groups, and opportunities to stand in solidarity with diverse communities to model work he has learned with his involvement with the Jewish Community Relations Council, Interfaith Partners for Peace, and the Hartman Institute.

headshot of Maharat Rori Picker NeissMaharat Rori Picker Neiss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. Previously, Rori worked as clergy at Bais Abraham Congregation, a modern Orthodox congregation in University City, MO, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue, as well as Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA. Rori’s work lies at the intersection of her passion for Judaism, feminism, interfaith dialogue, and social justice. Rori is the vice chair of the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis Clergy Cabinet, a David Hartman Center Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and co-editor of InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook. She is the former co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace and a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow. Rori is married to Russel Neiss, a Software Engineer for Sefaria and social activist. They live in St Louis with their three children.

headshot of Rabbi Garth SilbersteinRabbi Garth Silberstein serves as the rabbi of Bais Abraham Congregation, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in St. Louis, MO. Previously, he had served as the rabbi of Kenesset Israel Torah Center in Sacramento, CA. Prior to receiving his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, Rabbi Silberstein earned his BA in acting and biology from Bennington College, worked as an actor, tutor, waiter and non-profit administrator, and studied at the Pardes Institute for Jewish studies. An out-door enthusiast with an interest in food and agriculture, Rabbi Silberstein helped lead the Hazon Cross-USA Jewish environmental bike ride in 2012 and 2013, and founded Organic Yeshiva, which focused on integrating Torah learning with experiential environmental and farm education. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Aviva, and in his free time enjoys reading, hiking, gardening, cooking and playing board games.

headshot of Rabbi Sharfin

Rabbi Shafrin joined the Kol Rinah community in 2016 and has previously served as Rabbi-in-Residence at The Epstein School, a Solomon Schechter Day School in the Atlanta metro area and simultaneously worked as a rabbinic partner at Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta, GA. He is an avid musician and singer. A Milwaukee, WI native and graduate of Brandeis University, Rabbi Shafrin has deep experience in community organizing, and is an alumni of JOIN’s Jewish Organizing Fellowship, and JOIN training at the Ziegler Seminary in Los Angeles. He received a M.A. Ed. from the Fingerhut School of Education and rabbinic ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, both housed within the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Shafrin and his wife, Rabbi Jessica Shafrin have two sons, Amitai and Nadav.

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2021 Access to Power Fellows

A yellow to red striped background with white text that reads: "Introducing the . . . Access to Power Fellows"

headshot of Abby Bresler with foliage in the backgroundAbby Bresler is an organizer from Lexington, MA. Currently taking a year off from Dartmouth College, Abby is the coordinator of Hazon’s Jewish Youth Climate Movement and a member of Sunrise Movement’s National Disability and Accessibility Team, which she co-founded in 2019. At college, Abby co-founded and co-coordinated Sunrise Dartmouth as well as Access Dartmouth, a club to foster disability community and create accessible change on campus. Next year, Abby will be a senior at Dartmouth, where she is pursuing a major in environmental studies and a minor in creative writing. In her free time, Abby enjoys cooking, writing poetry, singing, and spending time outdoors. 

selfie of Avi Simcha standing outside and green grass, blue, sky and a distance house can be seen.

Avi Simcha is organizing with the Boston Center for Independent Living. He is building power with current and former nursing home residents to take collective action towards expanding affordable and accessible housing alternatives, as COVID-19 has spread rapidly through nursing homes. Avi Simcha attended Mount Holyoke College, where he earned his BA in Neuroscience and minored in Movement & Healing Studies. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Tufts University. Avi Simcha is passionate about empowering autistic young adults and normalizing autistic ways of being. He enjoys engaging in Jewish ritual and community, learning about disability justice, and noticing hidden treasures while walking around his neighborhood. Avi Simcha lives on Massachusett land in the Boston area with his cat, Nova.

headshot of Danielle Silk taken from above Danielle is looking to off camera to the rightDanielle Silk is a white DeafDisabled queer Ashkenazi Jewish femme who grew up on unceded Southern Pomo and Graton Rancheria land in Sonoma County, California. She cares deeply about Disability Justice, language justice, and access within and to the arts. Danielle coordinates the Youth Services Program at Deaf Counseling, Advocacy, and Referral Agency (DCARA) where she serves Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened young people in Northern California. A dancer with Urban Jazz Dance Company, a Deaf-led dance company employing professional Deaf and hearing dancers, she has toured nationally and internationally highlighting diverse Deaf experiences through dance. She received a B.A. in English Creative Writing from Mills College and an M.A. in Deaf Education from Gallaudet University. Danielle currently lives on unceded Ohlone land in Oakland, CA, with her two Boston Terriers, Raya and Tavi. 

Emma Gelbard is an artist living in Boston. She graduated from Cornell University in 2015 with a degree in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, as well as concentrations in Art History, Creative Writing, and Fine Arts. Emma’s art ranges from banners and installations for protests to paintings in galleries. It focuses on how strange it is to have a body, and how wonderful it is to share stories with it. Powerful stories are what brought her to the fight for immigrants’ rights in the US. She organizes primarily with Never Again Action and its partner groups. She looks forward to a liberated world without borders..

headshot of Emunah Woolf standing in front of tall grassesEmunah Woolf grew up in Toronto, Ontario, in a very Jewishly involved Sephardic household. Emunah is a queer and disabled social work student and disability researcher, focused on disabled post-secondary students and their experiences with self-advocacy. Chronic Pain Youth is an organizing project started by Emunah to create space for youth with chronic pain and chronic illness to share their stories, build community with one another, and engage in collective advocacy. This initiative aims to focus particularly on experiences of multiple marginalization and medical neglect. Emunah has also worked to create space for 2SLGBTQ+ Jewish McMaster students to be able to meet one another as well as have discussions and events. Some activities Emunah enjoys outside of building space for and spending time with community include cooking, crafting, and theatre.

headshot of Enzi Tanner standing in front a building where siding and a window with blinds can be seenEnzi Tanner is a licensed social worker and over the last twelve years has worked for various social service agencies across the Twin Cities. Enzi currently works at Jewish Community Action in Minnesota as the Community Safety Organizer. Enzi has a passion for topics related to intersectionality, particularly in areas where race, class, gender, sexuality, and faith collide. Enzi is new to disability justice and excited to continue to grow and learn from this community. Enzi uses he/him pronouns.

photo of Eviva Kahne standing outside where snow, trees, and a distant mountain can be seenEviva Kahne (she/her) organizes communities for access to health care. Right now she works on access to wheelchairs and absorbent products through Medicaid. Eviva is disabled, and cares deeply about all people choosing and receiving health care services in a timely and streamlined way. Eviva organizes to make sure everyone’s health needs are a top priority–not just rich people. Eviva studied history and incarceration in college. In college, she also co-founded an anti-racist group that brings white people to organize authentically and sustainably for racial justice. Eviva grew up in Houston, lived in Colorado Springs, and is now in Cambridge. She enjoys hiking, playing with dogs, Broadway musicals, and cooking

photo of Ivy Hest standing outside where snow can be seen in the backgroundIvy Hest has been a community organizer for 15 years, and is excited to be learning from JOIN for Justice for a second time in her organizing career. She lives in Troy, NY, and is the Director of Communications and Administration with Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, working with immigrants in Upstate NY. Prior to this role, she was the Lead Organizer for a PICO federation in San Jose, CA, training organizers and supporting campaigns around mass incarceration, immigration, and education, and helped co-found Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in Oakland, CA. In Boston, she organized with low-income seniors at Massachusetts Senior Action Council and with poor and homeless women at Rosie’s Place. She participated in JOIN’s Jewish Organizing Fellowship in 2007 and Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Program. When she’s not organizing, she’s probably singing, knitting, or snuggling with her dog Ruggles and her spouse, another JOIN alum!

photo of Jennifer Kemp in front of a window, curtains and a lamp can bee seen on the rightJennifer Kemp is in training to become a Child Life Specialist. They are a Black, Jewish, disabled, queer person from Portland, Oregon. Jennifer went to school in Olympia, Washington and New York City studying sociology, political economy, mindfulness, and art. They volunteered at their local radio station covering social justice news and current affairs for many years, and have also worked with kids in a number of different capacities including as a teachers’ aide, after school instructor, and tutor. Most recently they worked for several years as a social justice puppeteer, writing plays about friendship, kindness, activism, race, gender, bullying, and abuse and performing them for elementary school aged students. Jennifer has been active with Black Lives Matter, Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Books to Prisoners, Jewish Voice for Peace and Democratic Socialists of America. She enjoys reading, listening to records, writing comics and zines, cats, basketball, making art and doing yoga.

selfie of Jessie Lowell standing outside where houses and cars on a street can be seen behindJessie Lowell (they/she) grew up in the Southeast and moved to the Boston area to attend MIT, and has remained in the area ever since. They have a PhD in computer science from Brandeis University. Jessie is an active organizer and current member of elected leadership in the Boston chapter of Democratic Socialists for America (DSA), who is excited to build socialism in ways ranging from community safety organizing, to tenant organizing, to strike support, to immigrant solidarity, and more. They have particularly appreciated the opportunity to contribute to left Jewish community in Boston through DSA, by running the security team for the first post-Tree-of-Life-massacre vigil in Boston and by training a network of progressive Jews and Christians to create tailored community safety plans for events. They have been a street medic since 2011, and have also been active in sexual and intimate partner violence crisis support.

photo of Kayla Neumeyer with her dog Miles a golden retrieverKayla Neumeyer is a queer, disabled, and Jewish community organizer, religious educator, and speech-language pathologist based in Boston. She is the first child of Argentine immigrants and was raised in California before moving to the East Coast for college and graduate school. In her private practice, Kayla works with students with multiple disabilities and complex health needs, and provides therapy focused on augmentative and alternative forms of communication. Kayla organizes around immigrant justice with Never Again Action, and draws from her experiences in political education and nonviolent direct action training with IfNotNow, a movement to end US support for the military occupation of Israel/Palestine. When she’s not training or teaching humans, you can usually find her hanging out with her service dog Miles, gardening, painting, or crafting.

photo of Kyle Rocco East with houseplants behindKyle Rocco East is a mixed-race white Ashkenazi, Black, disabled, queer, non-binary, healer, performer and organizer passionate about holding space for the integration of those identities and communities. Recent projects at those intersections include co-founding the Wellness Action Project, a healer’s collective formed to support movement work and each other; and organizing fellow queer, trans and/or people of color with narcolepsy to challenge white supremacy and transphobia in their online support group. They currently organize with the Black Jewish Liberation Collective, where they engage in their passion for co-creating ritual and cultural events that create space for Black Jews to connect and feel seen in their whole selves. They also organize with Kol Tzedek for Black Lives, working to engage their congregation in the local abolitionist movement. They are a Reiki practitioner and are completing their second year of the Somatic Experiencing trauma healing training. They are also a singer and drag performer, recently nominated for Best Live Vocalist in the Philadelphia Nightlife Awards as their persona Kate Winslutt. They are originally from Brooklyn, NY, and are now rooted in Philadelphia, PA, on unceded Lenni Lenape land.

photo of Mateo Rojas on a wooden dock with water and greenery behindMateo Rojas is a Jewish Indigenous immigrant from Paraguay now living in Boston, MA. His focus is in multiple areas including immigration justice with Cosecha Massachusetts and Never Again Action. He fights for racial justice with Freedom Fighters Coalition and Solidarity Against Hate groups. He has advocated for transgender/LGBTQ+ rights both in higher education and federal settings and organizes for Disability justice and mental health advocacy in policy change. He has worked with “The NAN Project” since 2016, educating and discussing suicide prevention using alternatives to calling 911 and destigmatizing mental health in educational and human services settings. He has been a speaker at various justice settings including Qwear’s Virtual 2020 pride event, the Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA’s “Latinx and Jewish: Immigrant Narratives and Activism” event, Cosecha and NAA’s direct actions, PFLAG conferences for parents/guardians regarding the intersectionality of being transgender and disabled and how to support their children who are both, and the Young Democrats of Massachusetts Disability Caucus discussion of intersectionality in justice. He is a member of ACCESS South Shore, where they discuss disability justice and push for change in legislation and accessibility in MA. Mateo has participated in phone banking for Transgender rights and creating educational events such as ally training. In addition to fulfilling multiple leadership roles on campus as President of two disability clubs and Vice President of the GSA and various other campus organizations; Mateo graduated in 2017 Magna Cum Laude from Quincy College with dual degrees in Human Services and Behavioral Science. He is currently a concierge at an Assisted Senior Living Community in MA, and has stayed committed to keeping residents and staff safe and uplifted during the COVID-19 crisis. Mateo is passionate about being active in his synagogue and in his free time plays with his beloved service dog, Tilly!

photo of Sahar L. Jones in front of a tree with the hand reaching for a branch with red berriesSahar L. Jones grew up in New York City as a member of the extended Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn. A graduate of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling in Portland, Oregon, they have been practicing as an individual and family therapist for the past 5 years. They are passionate about decolonization & anti-racism, earth-based Reconstructionist Judaism, Mizrahi reconnection, and community-building through food, ritual, and song. They are thrilled to be working towards a goal of creating formal relationships of intercultural education and material support between Portland’s East-side Jewish community and Black and Indigenous community organizations in Oregon. They look to the California Bay Area organization Jews on Ohlone Land as their inspiration for this project.

photo of Samantha Fein in front of a colorful painting with art supplies, a table and a smaller painting also in viewSamantha Fein was born and raised in Tucson, AZ. She currently lives in the Boston area, where she works as an artist and educator. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Prior to graduate school she spent a year in the Philippines as a Fulbright Scholar and worked with out-of-school youth on the streets of Manila. As a Spanish speaker, she has organized with the labor group Obreos Unidos and mentored immigrant high school students through Enroot. She also taught a creative writing course for incarcerated young men through the Right to Write program. Sam is a passionate advocate for young people in high-risk environments and is presently organizing to end institutionalized child abuse through the grassroots movement #breakingcodesilence and New England partners.

headshot of Shay McIntosh in front of a white wallShay McIntosh (she/her) is a Chicago native currently living in Boston. Driven by her women’s college education, she is excited to organize with women and trans people to combat gendered oppression. She is on the planning team of the Greater Boston Childcare Collective, which provides childcare so activism is accessible to parents, and credits many of her organizing skills to volunteering on the Markey campaign in 2020. She spends her days working in the nonprofit education sphere and her evenings making music, connecting with Jewish community, and zooming into lesbian book club.

headshot of Shayna Shawn Adelman outside with a blurred image of a tree and houses in the distanceShayna Shawn Adelman is a 30-something activist from Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Georgia State University both full and part time while working several jobs and graduated in December 2020 with a degree in political science. Shayna always had an interest in social justice and wanting to help people, but her first hands on experience was with Occupy Atlanta starting in 2011. She learned a lot and is still close friends with many people she met there. In 2014, Shayna participated in Moral Monday Georgia, advocating for issues like repealing the state’s racist Stand Your Ground Law and fighting for Medicaid expansion. She was arrested at the Georgia State Capitol campaigning for both of these issues. She feels se was in good company; one of her fellow arrestees was (now) Senator Rapheal Warnock.  Shayna was involved with NOW Georgia and has always been a strong advocate for reproductive justice and considers herself a loud, intersectional feminist. Attending Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of Michael Brown in 2014, she saw up close just how differently the police responded to protests when the crowd was mostly white versus when most protesters were people of color. Shayna believes in a multifaceted approach to social justice, with a combination of pushing for political reform and supporting progressive candidates while defending voting rights on the national, state, and local levels, but also direct action protests in many forms. She plans to spend the Fellowship organizing with her local Democratic Socialists of America chapter as well as other local organizations, primarily on disability justice, particularly among the most marginalized.

selfie of Silas Calame turned around from a desk hutch where a laptop and a glass cabinet full of booksSilas Calame is a current undergraduate student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. with dreams of teaching and empowering deaf students and their hearing peers and families to coexist in bilingual, bimodal spaces. Since 2017, he has served as the communications and public relations intern for Hillel at Gallaudet, which has instilled in him a passion for improving accessibility in Jewish culture and celebrating the traditions that have developed in Deaf Jewish communities. Born in Alabama, Silas currently lives in Illinois with his husband. He enjoys hiking, antiquing, and art journaling. 

Shoshana Farias – bio and photo are forthcoming.

headshot of Stephanie Gray sitting on a green couch with a pink wall behindStephanie Gray (they/them) is a disabled, non-binary queer femme Jew. They are an organizer, educator, and wellness consultant. They co-founded the Faulkner County Coalition for Social Justice in 2016 and currently serve as Board President. Since May, they are the Lead Organizer with a police divestment campaign, Reinvest in Conway. They are also a Research Fellow with the Global Center for Advanced Studies exploring queer, disabled, and Jewish temporalities and critical theory. They currently live in Arkansas with their four cats: Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, and Bettie Page.

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The Access to Power Fellowship application is now closed. 

The Access to Power Fellowship application consists of a form with questions about who you are and why you want to be part of the Fellowship, a resume, and a reference. To be considered for the Access to Power Fellowship (starting in January), all parts of your application must be submitted by November 6, 2020.

Before starting your application, we suggest reading the Access to Power Fellowship homepage and more details page.

To apply:

  1. Using this link, fill out the application form. You’ll be asked to upload your resume as part of the form. For the longer questions, you are welcome to answer in text or with a video or audio file.
  2. Ask someone who knows you well to fill out this reference form. We prefer references from someone who has mentored or supervised you in an organizing or leadership context. Supervisors from other work or volunteer experiences, professors, and other people who can speak about your organizing or leadership abilities can also be great fits.

After you apply:

After you submit your application, you may be invited for an interview. We will tell you by early December if you have been selected to be in the Fellowship, and you will have 2-3 days to confirm that you want to participate.

We are committed to making the application process and Fellowship as accessible as possible. If you need any accommodations to complete the application, or if you have any other questions or concerns about access, please contact Allegra Heath-Stout at aheathstout@joinforjustice.org or 857-869-2057.


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Access to Power Partners

The Access to Power Fellowship is offered by JOIN for Justice in partnership with Sins Invalid, National Council on Independent Living, and Detroit Disability Power. These three leading disability organizations bring deep expertise in disability justice, disability organizing, intersections of ableism and racism, and more. They are partners in planning the curriculum, and will lead many of the Fellowship trainings. Keep reading to learn more about each organization and the team members who will be leading their work on the Access to Power Fellowship. In addition, Leili Davari is contributing to the program design, bringing experience and wisdom in leadership development programs and centering Jews of color. 

Sins Invalid

Image Description: Black background with white text that reads Sins Invalid.

Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and LGBTQ / gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized. Led by disabled people of color, Sins Invalid’s performance work explores the themes of sexuality, embodiment and the disabled body, developing provocative work where paradigms of “normal” and “sexy” are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all bodies and communities. Sins Invalid is committed to social and economic justice for all people with disabilities – in lockdowns, in shelters, on the streets, visibly disabled, invisibly disabled, sensory minority, environmentally injured, psychiatric survivors – moving beyond individual legal rights to collective human rights. 

Image Description: A close-up of a brown-skinned woman with red lipstick and perfectly arched eyebrows, looking into the camera with a playful gaze. They are wearing a grey sweater with stripes of blue and purple, black-rimmed glasses, and their dark hair pulled back from their face.

Patty Berne, Executive Director/Artistic Director: Patty co-founded Sins Invalid with Leroy Moore in 2006, and has been the driving force and creative vision behind our project for the past 12 years. The caliber of Sins Invalid’s work is largely attributable to Patty’s artistry and analysis. Her professional background includes offering mental health support to survivors of violence and advocating for LGBTQI and disability perspectives within the field of reproductive genetic technologies. Her training in clinical psychology focused on trauma and healing for survivors of interpersonal and state violence. Patty’s experiences as a Japanese-Haitian queer disabled woman provides grounding for her work creating “liberated zones” for marginalized voices. She is widely recognized for her work to establish the framework and practice of disability justice.



Image Description: A close-up of a fat white Jewish femme wearing light-colored glasses, blue eyeshadow, and burgundy lipstick, with a silver lip ring, and blonde mustache hairs. Their hair is dark and curly, their dress multi-colored, with a tattoo peeking out on their chest. They wear a piece of abalone around their neck.

Nomy Lamm, Creative Director: Nomy began performing with Sins Invalid in 2008, and since then has been on the Artistic Core (2008-2010), directed the Artists in Residence Program (2010), and has worked as staff since 2013. Nomy is a multi-media artist, musician, writer and performer who teaches voice lessons and offers creative coaching focused on helping students move through fear and self-judgement to take up space and find equilibrium in radical authenticity (nomyteaches.com). She is an ordained Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess), holds a BA in Multimedia Art and Political Economy from The Evergreen State College, and has an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University. She lives on occupied Squaxin/Nisqually/Chehalis land in Olympia, WA with her partner Lisa, their dogs Dandelion and Momma, and their cat Calendula.




Image description: Mordecai looking and smiling at the camera, wearing blue wire-framed glasses and a white button-up shirt with a blue grid pattern under a blue blazer.

Mordecai Cohen Ettinger, Director of Development: Mordecai has over 20 years experience as a multi-sector social justice activist and organizer, holistic healer, radical scholar, and educator. In addition to his work at Sins Invalid, Mordecai is Founding Director of Health Justice Commons. Mordecai co-founded the TGI Justice Project, served as an Interim Co-Director at Justice Now, and as Interim Executive Director at Caduceus Outreach Services, a radical mental health organization. He is adjunct faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His field is critical science, technology, and medicine studies. Mordecai’s research spans environmental health and toxicology, to the workings of the Medical Industrial Complex, to the neurobiology of the social nervous system, and its implications with regard to collective and historical trauma, healing, resilience and social change. Schooled by years of movement work, and trained in Somatic Experiencing, Reiki, and Cranial Sacral therapy, he has studied with Dr. Peter Levine, biophysicist and founder of Somatic Experiencing and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He is the author of the forthcoming book, We All Hold Up the Sky: Lessons in Health Justice for the 21st Century. Finally, Mordecai is queer/ gender non-binary. He is a survivor of radiation poisoning and what is designated by the UN to be medical torture. He’s here for transforming the Medical Industrial Complex for our futures to be possible.

Detroit Disability Power

Image description: A white “D” with rainbow colors swirling around it on the left and then on the right in black and blue caps it says Detroit Disability Power.

Detroit Disability Power’s mission is to leverage and build the organizing power of the disability community to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Metro Detroit. We are a diverse community coming together across visible and hidden disabilities, race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship and economic status to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Metro Detroit.

Image Description: Dessa is a white, blonde woman, seen here sitting in her wheelchair wearing a black t-shirt and in front of a brightly colored mutual.

Dessa Cosma, Founding Director: Dessa is a long-time social justice organizer, fortunate to spend her career working for reproductive, racial, LGBTQ, economic and disability justice. In 2014, Dessa graduated with a Master of Social Justice Degree from Marygrove College. At that time, she was the Michigan Program Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership, training hundreds of activists, candidates, and campaign managers across the state. She then became the Executive Director of the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan, which she helped to start in collaboration with some of Detroit’s most dedicated economic and racial justice champions. In many ways, but particularly as part of Allies for Change and the Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL), Dessa has been fortunate to learn from and be mentored by trainers, authors, professors, activists, artists, and thought leaders committed to racial justice, dismantling white supremacy, and creating equity. In 2018, Dessa started Detroit Disability Power to grow the organizing power of the disability community and to continue bridging the gap between the disability community and larger social justice movements. She has a particular interest in disability focused political work that is grounded in anti-racism and economic justice. In addition to organizing, Dessa also enjoys facilitating trainings, gardening, cooking and reading. She lives in Detroit with her partner and their amazing cat.

National Council on Independent Living

Image Description: In black font it says: NCIL National Council on Independent Living, with a light blue circle partially surrounding those words.

The National Council on Independent Living is the longest-running national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. Founded in 1982, NCIL represents thousands of organizations and individuals including: individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs), and other organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.

Image Description: A smiling white woman with blue glasses sits outside in her power wheelchair in front of a hedge.  She’s wearing a black blazer over a red shirt.

Cara Liebowitz, Development Coordinator: Cara handles the National Council on Independent Living’s grant writing, fundraising, and organizational partnerships, including sponsorships, exhibiting, and advertising for NCIL’s Annual Conference.  Cara has nearly a decade of experience in the disability rights movement, with a particular focus on issues of education and media representation. Her work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, including the Washington Post, Uncanny Magazine, and Everyday Feminism.  She has spoken at over 30 conferences and events on a wide variety of disability rights topics. 



Image Description: Long, dark wavy haired woman wearing a floral blouse on a black background, smiles into the camera.

Sheryl Grossman, Community Living Advocate:  Sheryl has spent the last 24 years working to improve the quality of life of disabled people with a focus over the last decade on multiple minority group issues and the unique needs of those with rare and pre-existing conditions.  In addition to her paid work, Sheryl also founded an international support group for people with Bloom Syndrome, Bloom’s Connect, in 1996 and continues to facilitate the group today.  In all of her spare time, Sheryl has served as the Board Chair for Yad HaChazakah, the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, for the last 2 years. 

Leili Herlinda Davari

Image description: A close up of Leili smiling and looking directly into the camera. She has shoulder length, dark brown hair and wears it straight. She is wearing large hoop earrings, a necklace with her name in Hebrew letters, bright red lipstick and a flower print blouse.

Leili Herlinda Davari, a Mexican and Iranian heritage Jewish woman of color, joined Bend the Arc as the Bay Area Regional Organizer in March 2016. During that time, she supported leaders to organize on issues including CA Statewide immigration protections, the DREAM Act, Money Bail Reform, congressional electoral campaigning, and co-organized monthly Shabbats with and for Jewish People of Color. As of July 2019, Leili is the Selah leadership Program Manager aimed at developing Jewish Leaders of Color. Through Selah, Leili utilizes her passion and experience to help strengthen, support, and sustain the leadership of Jewish People of Color.

We also want to thank our funders for supporting this Fellowship! 

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