JOIN Staff

Karla Van Praag ata podium with a mic. Karla Van Praag, Co-Executive Director
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Karla Van Praag is the founding Executive Director of JOIN for Justice: the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, a national institution dedicated to training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers and their communities. Before launching JOIN in 2012, Karla directed its predecessor organization, the Jewish Organizing Initiative, a community organizing apprenticeship program for young Jewish adults based in Boston. She led its transformation from a local grassroots organization to a successful national nonprofit that trains thousands of leaders across the country, more than tripling its budget and helping it become the go-to organization for Jewish organizations to receive mentoring and training on what it takes to build powerful and effective communities and social justice efforts. Karla has a rich background in leadership development, youth programs, nonprofit management, service learning, and organizing, including serving as the Director of Planning and Leadership Development at Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council and as Deputy Director of the Somerville Community Corporation. Karla holds a graduate degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was a Public Service Fellow, and is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member at Real Food Challenge, and is on the leadership team of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a network of 57 American Jewish social justice organizations that organize collective action in the Jewish social justice field. She lives in Revere, MA with her husband Rafael and their three children.

Meir Lakein side profile presumably watching a speaker, with hand thoughtfully at his chin. Meir Lakein, Co-Executive Director
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Meir has worked as a professional community organizer for over 25 years, helping develop the model for engaging Jewish communities in broad based organizing, and serving as the mentor of a generation of young organizers and rabbis. Among Meir’s work at JOIN, he has consulted to dozens of synagogues and Jewish organizations, designed JOIN’s clergy fellowship, and served as a lead trainer for JOIN’s highly acclaimed online course.  Prior to coming to JOIN, Meir served as the Lead Organizer of the Greater Boston Synagogue Organizing Project of the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council. Through GBSOP, 14 synagogues, hundreds of leaders, both adults and teens, and thousands of Jewish community members organized to identify their common values and interests, develop a common story and mission, and take action to live their values and defend their interests, both in the community around public issues and within their own institutions.  Meir has also taught community organizing to hundreds of rabbinical students through classes and workshops with various seminaries.  Previously, Meir built powerful organizations of homeless people in Connecticut and of Sepharadi, Russian, and Arab public housing tenants in Israel, and worked as the lead organizer of the Brockton Interfaith Community, a coalition of 25 churches and synagogues.

Jeannie Appleman at a podium with a mic. Jeannie Appleman, Senior Organizer and Trainer
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Jeannie Appleman co-founded the Seminary Leadership Project in 2005 with Meir Lakein and Rabbis Stephanie Kolin and Noah Farkas and has trained more than 750 seminary students in organizing, congregational development, and leadership. In addition to the Seminary Leadership Project, she also runs JOIN’s Clergy Fellowship and has trained and coached hundreds of Rabbis and Cantors, lay leaders, and staff from the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements, Federations, and other communal organizations. Jeanine is currently working to create new ways to integrate traditional organizing with anti-oppression and anti-racist frameworks alongside JOIN staff and organizational partners & trainers of color, Megan Madison and Megan Black.

Before coming to JOIN to teach organizing to others, Jeannie, herself, was an organizer for 25 years. Through the Industrial Areas Foundation, she served as the lead organizer for a primarily African- and Caribbean-American-led affiliate in Queens, New York, as well as their Long Island affiliates. Jeanie led electoral campaigns in Chicago and Baton Rouge, and directed a successful statewide campaign in Illinois to stop contra aid in congress. Additionally, Jeanie has written several articles, created and directed a national foundation to faith-based organizing, and conducted two research studies on faith-based organizing.

Rachel Brown headshotRB Brown, Director of Online Learning
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As the Director of Online Learning, RB is charting the future of JOIN’s online programing as well as managing JOIN’s current online course Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, which teaches key skills and frameworks to help people become effective leaders in community organizing and justice work. Prior to arriving at JOIN, RB trained nonprofits arts administrators in the fundamentals of data use as an Education Associate at DataArts. They are delighted to now directly support movement-building work.

RB studied sacred chant with Rabbi Shefa Gold and has offered independent workshops for activists grappling with the role of spiritual practice and self-care. RB founded the Philadelphia chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in 2011 and continues to perform in cultural events with JVP. They have served on the board of Philadelphia synagogue Kol Tzedek, as well as the service organization Bike and Build. They trained as a clown at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance and graduated magna cum laude with a BA in mathematics from Smith College.

photo of Allegra Heath-StoutAllegra Heath-Stout, Director of Young Adult Fellowships and Disability Initiatives
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As JOIN’s Fellowship Director and Trainer, Allegra is responsible for guiding the development of young Jewish organizers through the Jewish Organizing Fellowship and providing organizing training to other Jewish institutions. She started in this role in June 2016, but she has been part of the JOIN community since she was a fellow in 2012-2013. Allegra worked at her JOIN fellowship placement, the Boston Center for Independent Living, for four years, organizing people with disabilities to fight for access and civil rights. Through this work, Allegra discovered her love of leadership development, training, and social justice education. She is thrilled to apply these skills to directing the Fellowship at JOIN. Originally from New Jersey, Allegra has a B.A. in Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Wesleyan University.

Elana headshotElana Kogan, Director of Development
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Elana Kogan is the Director of Development at JOIN. Previously, she served as the Senior Director of Organizing and then National Field Director of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, where she led the organization’s base-building efforts including the creation of a new chapter-building model.  Elana has also worked at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston as Director of Planning and Leadership Development and Director of Synagogue Organizing, where she organized synagogues, developed leaders, and ran campaigns in partnership with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and other coalitions.  During that time, she also served as the loaned executive to the Jewish Organizing Initiative for several months. Elana has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master of Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Elana is also a Certified Consulting Hypnotist and founder of Wellness Through Hypnosis.

Kat Macías, Communications and Outreach Officer
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Kat Macías is a fat queer and genderqueer Puerto Rican and Cuban Jew-by-Choice who has been involved in movements for liberation since 2011. Kat began organizing in college fighting for the safety of trans students and ultimately winning the addition of “gender identity” to the Non-Discrimination Anti-Harassment policy at the University of Georgia. They are an alumn of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship and have worked in the Jewish social justice field for the past 6 years at organizations like Keshet, Avodah, and Jewish Youth for Community Action. Kat believes that the core of liberation work is vulnerability, trust, radical hope, and ultimately spiritual transformation. They come from a long lineage of spiritual seekers and leaders who have moved through Taino, Afro-Caribbean, Catholic, Pentecoastal, and Mormon religion, practice, and traditions. Following in this legacy, Kat converted to Judaism and has played an important part in shaping Jewish communities. They currently run Ashrei Prayer Circles and a BIJOC Discernment Group co-facilitated by Kendra Watkins. Kat holds a M.Ed. in Social Justice Education and is trained as a Movement Chaplain and Spiritual Director. Kat’s heart sings when they dance while cooking in kitchens, have long porch talks with queer Southern Jews and when they are swept away in songs share through Let My People Sing

JOIN logo elementCole Papadopoulos, Administrative and Finance Officer
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Cole Papadopoulos is JOIN’s Administrative and Finance Officer. In addition to three years in medical administration and patient services, he has worked at clinic front desks, restaurants, retail, staffing hotlines, and more.

photo of Daniella ParadiseDaniella Paradise, Program Assistant
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Daniella Paradise is JOIN’s Program Assistant. She has previously worked as an organizer with U.S. PIRG to pass anti-tobacco legislation in Maryland and delve into the special, complicated, wonderful world that is political change-making. She also has three years of experience providing administrative support in the legal, academic, research, and non-profit spheres. She is delighted to be part of JOIN’s uniquely intentional community, and to reunite with her Jewish organizing roots. Daniella has a BA in History and American Studies from Smith College. In her spare time she reads, sings, plays games of all kinds, and watches too much TV from the early 2000s.

Ali Rice, Development & Grants Officer
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Ali Rice is JOIN’s Development Officer and a volunteer community organizer working to build interdependent and just community spaces. She has worked at Rian Immigrant Center and RefugePoint, both immigration and refugee-focused nonprofits, over the past five years in major gifts, grant-writing, communications, and event planning. Ali received her BA in International Relations with a concentration in Human Rights from Connecticut College. She currently volunteers her time as a member of the Greater Boston Childcare Collective’s planning team and as a Mutual Aid Medford And Somerville financial team leader. She loves knitting, group singing, hiking slowly, and spending time with friends and family.

David Schwartz headshotDavid Schwartz, Director of Programs
dschwartz (at)
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David is a long-time organizer and social movement trainer, focused on racial and economic justice. He helped found and lead Real Food Challenge (RFC), where he mobilized tens of thousands of young people around the country to push back against the corporate power of Big Food, and get anchor institutions to invest in just and sustainable food systems instead. Through RFC he led national corporate campaigns and built farmer-worker-youth coalitions, while developing and supporting new organizers. David also brings more than a decade of experience training on issues of race, oppression and multiculturalism, most recently as a consultant with VISIONS Inc. He’s a respected strategy consultant for a number of heart-centered social justice start-ups. David is a JOIN alumnus, and formerly served on its Board of Directors. Fun fact: one of his first organizing mentors, at age 16–through a Jewish social action youth group–was a JOIN Fellow! When he’s not leading or attending trainings, David is an avid gardener, fermenter, singer and uncle.