2010 Fellow Bios


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A brief biography of the 2010 PresenTense Summer Institute Fellows and a description of their ventures

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2010 Fellow Bios

  1. 1. DAVID KRAMER D avid has Israel in his heart. A self- declared Israel activist, this passion has dictated most of his major life decisions and the biggest organizations in Israel on board, NU is becoming a relevant platform to con- nect this generation behind Israel’s story. has turned him into a true “Yerushalmi” hav- ing made Israel’s capitol city his home-town David is married to Tova and the proud fa- for the past ten years. ther of Matan-Ohr and Gilad-Tzvi. Before making Aliya and serving in the IDF, David was the head adviser for the Depart- ment of Informal Jewish Education for the South African Jewish Board of Education as well as the founder of the Israel Information PROJECT: Department for the South African Zionist Federation. In Israel, David has worked for “The NU Campaign” is an Is- the Jewish Agency and the World Union raeli social-awareness clothing of Jewish Students until he decided to es- brand and non-profit organiza- tablish the NU Campaign – an Israeli social tion dedicated to raising aware- awareness clothing brand and non-profit ness and funding for important organization, dedicated to raising knowl- edge of and funding for important Israeli Israeli causes and charitable causes and charitable organizations. organizations. Its mission is to serve as inspiration for others Taken from the Israeli slang word “Nu” which to get involved and make a dif- means “So” or “C’mon” and almost begs a ference! response, The NU Campaign aims to achieve exactly that: engage and empower people worldwide to get active for Israel! With some of
  2. 2. DAVID LASDAY D avid is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the former Program Director for PeacePlayers International – he had been working as a sports educator. “Through my work I have witnessed sport’s Middle East, an organization that uses the true power to unite, educate, and inspire, game of basketball as a vehicle to educate something I hope to promote and develop and unite Arab and Jewish children in Isra- through the creation of a socially conscious el and the West Bank. During his time with Israel coaches training program for young PeacePlayers International, David matched Jewish leaders from around the world.” volunteers with assistant coaching opportu- nities throughout the region, triggering his desire to create a more formal mechanism to inspire and train coaches to be agents of change in their communities. PROJECT: Prior to working with PeacePlayers Inter- “Bring It In – Israel” is an Israel based national, David served as Assistant General program that trains and certifies Manager for the minor league basketball young Jewish leaders from around team, the Maryland Nighthawks. During his the world to use sports to teach life time with the team, David initiated commu- skills, Jewish values, and about Isra- nity outreach programs which attracted over el. During their time in Israel partici- 10,000 fans. pants will hone their coaching skills and deepen their understanding of Most recently, David organized and co-host- Jewish values and Israel in classroom ed a fundraising event at Columbia Universi- settings, while gaining hands on ex- ty, generating funds and building awareness perience through volunteering with for both PeacePlayers International and Safe local disadvantaged youth. Haven West Side Basketball League, where
  3. 3. MADELINE BLEIWEISS M adeline was born and raised in Cleve- land, Ohio. After graduating from Indiana University in 2009, she did some soul searching in Washington, DC, attempt- PROJECT: ing to understand why her degree in Public Affairs didn’t quite match up to her true in- Madeline’s venture will inspire, terests. Upon returning home to Cleveland engage, and motivate Cleve- and witnessing the current “brain drain” land’s Jewish community to cre- taking place there, Madeline realized that ate and promote Cleveland in a she wanted to instill the pride and passion youthful, trendy and desirable she felt for Cleveland in other young adults. light for singles and young cou- Madeline subsequently began work at ples. Cleveland Hillel as the Coordinator of Grad- uate Student programs, planning social events and building networks for students. As the year progressed and with each more and more successful event, she saw a spark in Cleveland that needed a serious flame – the young Jewish community. Currently, Madeline volunteers frequently on various committees for Temple Tifereth Israel. With her ongoing passion for Cleveland and Judaism, Madeline hopes to combine and channel that energy into a big change for the Cleveland community.
  4. 4. MANNY WAKS M anny was born in Israel, but grew up mostly in Melbourne, Australia in an ul- tra-Orthodox environment. He is the second Manny recently presented at the 2009 Parlia- ment of the World’s Religions, and is the con- venor of the Australian Association of Jewish oldest of 17 children. After returning to Israel Studies 2011 Conference. to serve in the Israel Defence Forces, Manny returned to Australia where he completed a Manny is an avid sports fan. He is married degree in International Relations. During this and has three children. time he also undertook work and an intern- ship with a federal parliamentarian, as well as an internship with the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. PROJECT: In 2006 Manny was appointed Executive Officer of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation “The Capital Jewish Forum” is Commission and in 2009 he commenced his a non-partisan Australia-based current position as Assistant Director – Avia- group inspired by the desire to tion Security, at the Australian Government’s promote and strengthen Jewish Office of Transport Security. continuity and identity through Manny is the Vice President of the Canberra the facilitation of meetings and Jewish Community. He is also the Founder discussions among Jewish pro- and Director of the Capital Jewish Forum, fessionals nationally, particular- a non-partisan Australia-based group that ly interaction with distinguished facilitates meetings and discussions among speakers. Jewish professionals nationally, particularly interaction with distinguished speakers.
  5. 5. MARLA GAMORAN M arla is now ready to launch her encore career through the new venture, “Skilled Volunteers for Israel.” to leave a social legacy.” Marla can’t wait to connect this rich resource of Jewish talent with the Israeli non-profit sector. She has spent most of her professional life in non-profit and higher education management. She managed a customized training department at Madison Area Tech- nical College for 15 years and has spent the PROJECT: last 12 months staffing a federal workforce development project that trained over “Skilled Volunteers for Israel” 1,500 people in south central Wisconsin. will design and coordinate A Chicago native, for the past 25 years customized volunteer opportu- Marla has lived in Madison, Wisconsin nities that link skilled volunteer where she and her husband raised their resources with the Israeli non- three children. Her passion for Israel led her profit sector to expand capac- to discover the need to build the frame- ity, meet specialized needs and work for baby boomers like herself to transform volunteer engagement. volunteer their skills and expertise in Israel. As Marla explains, “Baby Boomers are the most educated and financially secure generation in history, and we long
  6. 6. NIC ABERY N ic is the creative director of “Look- tolearn.” She creates unique multi- dimensional educational programs for schools and families. She has previously PROJECT: worked in schools and museums in both London and Seattle and is now develop- “LooktoLearn” is a cross cur- ing an innovative museum/gallery edu- ricula learning experience that cation technique to enhance the study combines the study of Tanach of Jewish texts and museum objects text and Museum art and arti- and art. Nic believes that her cross facts for schools and families. curricula learning experience can inspire a life-long interest in the arts and in Torah. She lives and works in London with her husband Simon, sons Jonah and Rafi and their dog, Emily.
  7. 7. MICAH KURZ M icah was active in Israel’s National Youth Movement for over ten years, where he trained teenagers to work as leaders Jerusalem “mapping” social justice and environmental sustainability (the two are ultimately linked, he believes) as well as the in their local communities. Before, during grassroots efforts taking place across the and after his army service, he worked region. He is currently engaged in creating extensively on leadership programs with a network for Palestinian and Israeli grass- new immigrant communities in Israel, roots organizations. His mission is to link mainly with youth from Ethiopia and the the leadership of these organizations with Caucasus. He was one of the first people to supporting communities in the Diaspora implement a leadership training curriculum geared towards weaving a common strategy among Bedouin youth. for realistic lasting peace in Jerusalem. After an honorable discharge from the army he co-founded “Breaking the Silence”, an organization of former Israeli soldiers PROJECT: speaking out about their army service in the Occupied Territories and the moral price, “Grassroots Jerusalem” is a and the degradation of spirit paid on both “bottom-up” mapping project societal and personal levels while serving of communities and grassroots the nation. efforts in Palestinian and Israeli Since then, Micha has met with grassroots neighborhoods of the greater activists around the world and has gained Jerusalem area. perspective on the importance of effective local community organizing. He has trav- eled back and forth through East and West
  8. 8. MOLLIE GERVER M ollie is a campaigner for a more just policy towards asylum seekers, mostly from Africa, entering Israel. She has assisted were not truly threatened. “Unfortunately,” she says, “there are similar arguments being used today. It is not enough to refute these in lobbying in the Knesset for the past four claims with clever debating skills — direct years, helping persuade current Prime Min- testimonials are the most powerful tool.” ister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a peti- tion against the deportation of refugees in 2007, and she regularly organizes meetings between Knesset Members and asylum seekers. In addition to working extensively with news PROJECT: agencies, she has debated on the BBC and Israel’s Kol Yisrael. She is an active member “Refugee Testimonials” is a of Israel’s university debating league where project where volunteer citizens she won first place in the country’s 2010 interview asylum seekers. Testi- English Debating Championships and has monials are sent to policymakers, worked as a high school debating coach for the past eight years. the media, and collected in a central database to encourage a While living in the United States as a child, more just Refugee Status Deter- she remembers visiting Washington DC’s mination process. Holocaust Museum and wondering how countries could reject Jews fleeing Nazi Europe out of fear that they may be spies, or thinking that their lives, in the mid-1930s,
  9. 9. NAOMI GRUMET N aomi earned a PhD in sociol- ogy from Bar Ilan University. Her doctoral research focused on the contemporary observance of the mik- PROJECT: vah rituals, evidencing a wide range of social needs, and ways that this ritual “The Eden Center” aims to connects to Jewish and personal identity. revitalize the mikvah in order to meet the needs of Jewish Naomi is spearheading the initiative to women today, making it an in- found the “Eden Center,” creating a new tegrated and holistic center that paradigm that will combine state-of- addresses the needs of body, the-art mikvah and spa facilities with educational workshops and health and mind and soul in ways that are halakhic resources. In addition, Naomi empowering, enriching, and works as a dental hygienist. She lives personally meaningful. in Jerusalem and is the mother of three beautiful children.
  10. 10. NOAH SUDOW N oah currently serves as the Associate Director of Economic Advancement for Chancellor Eric Fingerhut. In this capac- ity Noah helps coordinate the public insti- PROJECT: tutions in Ohio (13 universities, 24 branch campuses, 23 community colleges, and over Noah’s project will create a tool 200 adult workforce sites) in five focus areas: to foster and nurture research technology transfer and commercialization, collaborations between North- academic entrepreneurship, developing communities around campuses, workforce east Ohio and Israeli universi- development, and global relations. ties resulting in research and product commercialization that Noah also serves as the Chancellor’s liaison will bring new industries and to the Ohio Department of Development jobs to the region and to Israel. and as a Policy Assistant for Governor Ted Strickland on issues related to Higher Education and Economic Development. Prior to his current role, Noah was a Research Associate for the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, where he worked on the development of Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Higher Education. Noah recently graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Economics.
  11. 11. JACK REICHERT J ack has been interested in the en- vironment from as far back as he can remember. In the second grade, he hits monthly and a readership of over 80,000 unique visitors a month, includ- ing the Prince of Jordan and the Director rallied all of his classmates to donate one of UNEP. recess a week to cleaning up litter from the schoolyard. That was the same year that a city councilman asked Jack to help with his campaign because of the letter Jack had written asking him to clean up Boston Harbor. PROJECT: Jack worked his way through a degree “Middle East Cleantech,” as a at Hebrew University in Philosophy as a branch of GreenProphet.com, business consultant with Dale Carnegie will provide an online hub for Training, then as a web development Middle East Cleantech compa- director for Jerusalem.com. Upon finish- ing his degree, Jack jumped into a field nies that any self-respecting philosopher would – web development. But Jack’s passion has always been the environment. At the end of 2007 Jack helped launch GreenProphet.com. Today Green Prophet boasts over 5.5 million
  12. 12. YISHAI MIZRAHI VARON Y ishai was born in Jerusalem and raised in Seattle. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where PROJECT: he leveraged a chance meeting with Shemspeed Founder and Director The Keffiyeh is an iconic fashion Erez Safar at Jewzapalooza — a Jew- accessory, especially on college ish-themed summer festival — into a college internship and a position as campuses. “The Shemspeed Is- Associate Director of Marketing. With raeli Keffiyeh Project” utilizes a degree in Marketing Management popular trends such as music from Baruch College, Yishai has a solid and fashion to engage Jewish background in marketing, publicity, students; to leverage their pas- and promotions. However his strongest sion for what’s hip and hot into assets are more intangible. Known for an interactive dialogue about his passion and his drive, Yishai has his Jewish identity, community, and finger on the pulse of what is hip, fresh, fashion forward, and on trend. He has Israel; and to inspire them with a definitive point of view, a strong edi- relatable role models that exem- torial eye, and — because he is in the plify Jewish commitment and music business — an established ear for Israel activism. talent.,
  13. 13. YONATAN NERIL Y onatan grew up in northern California on land with a garden and orchard that he tended with his mother. PROJECT: Yonatan also grew up going to Camp Tawonga — a Jewish camp near Yosem- “Jewish Environmental Teach- ite — where his body and soul thrived ing Seminars” will train rabbis, on being outdoors with other Jews. Yonatan moved to Israel seven years rabbinical students, and Jewish ago and married Shana, who recently educators to teach Jews our tra- gave birth to their son Shacharya Ohr. dition’s environmental and spiri- Shacharya Ohr is a big light in his par- tual wisdom ents’ lives and is also one of Yonatan’s primary spiritual teachers. Yonatan is involved in Jewish environmental work and hopes to spend more time in nature this coming year.
  14. 14. YONI SARASON Y oni was born and bred in Cincinnati. He found his way to St. Louis by way of Washington Univer- PROJECT: sity, where he earned a B.A. in Psychol- ogy. Currently the Program Director The mission of “Next Dor” for “Next Dor,” an organization based is to strengthen the Jewish around building a young adult Jewish community, Yoni previously started the community by creating a post- Moishe House in St. Louis, founded the denominational, non-institutional, blog, The St. Lou Jew, the site HipHopIn- urban Jewish community space spires.us, and two chapters of the Hip for young adults in St. Louis. Hop Congress.
  15. 15. ZACH WEINER Z ach is a student, pianist, hacker, and entrepreneur passionate about using design thinking and technology PROJECT: to change the world. He’s currently enrolled in the Symbolic Systems “GivingTurtle” aims to make program at Stanford University and studying human-centered design at the improving the world for the Stanford d.school. His micro-philanthro- average user easy, routine, and py startup, “GivingTurtle.org,” was a web fun through an innovative and award finalist at South by Southwest In- simple game-based micro- teractive in 2010 and was featured at donations platform. the Future of the Internet conference at Stanford. When not designing or cod- ing, he could be found playing frisbee and tennis with friends, or playing the piano at Carnegie Hall. He’s a big fan of the New York Yankees and Stanford football.
  16. 16. JENNY KAUFMAN J enny is a 2004 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. After spending some time in Los Angeles for grad school the dynamics of the Jewish community at large. She is hoping to create not just a minyan but a strong, empowered com- studying Assyriology, she returned to munity that will enrich the Cleveland her hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Jewish community as a whole with so- Unable to find a religious community that cial justice initiatives, a new social scene, really spoke to her and her passions, she learning opportunities, and a meaningful decided to start her own independent connection to Judaism. minyan targeting young professionals in the Cleveland area. Through networking on Facebook, the minyan has had four successful Kabbalat Shabbat services so PROJECT: far and plans to expand. With JCF and Presentense, Jenny hopes to really get Jenny is building a foundation the minyan off the ground and drum up for Jewish engagement through publicity in Cleveland to help attract un- affiliated young Jews back to a Jewish a local independent minyan in religious community. Her vision is Cleveland, which can serve as a one of a grassroots, community led model for other communities. service (no official rabbi) with tradi- tional davening, but egalitarian values. She beleives that being unaffiliated with a movement helps create a com- munity where everyone is welcome and allows the minyan a unique place within