ACT: Agents of Change TrainingJewish Women's Fund of Atlanta's Agents of Change Training (ACT) program brings together a cohesive cohort of women to explore ways to catalyze deep, meaningful social change within their community and uncover how their own life experiences have shaped and defined their evolving core values.
Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta’s Agents of Change Training (ACT) program brings together a cohesive cohort of women to explore ways to catalyze deep, meaningful social change within their community and uncover how their own life experiences have shaped and defined their evolving core values. Throughout this year-long journey of personal development and empowerment, participants will gain further insight into their existing skills and passions and learn how they can harness their energy to make a lasting difference, challenge themselves to be vulnerable and thoughtful, and grow and stretch toward their full potential. Building on the themes uncovered in JWFA’s Community Study, the program’s unique curriculum is designed to help Jewish women seeking to live their lives on a more authentic and meaningful level, personally, professionally and communally.
Meet the Fifth Cohort of ACTivists (2023-2024):
Amy Albertson is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of West Georgia with a degree in marketing. After years working in corporate positions, she made the shift to the non-profit world in 2020 and is currently the Career Services Manager at Jewish Family & Career Services. Amy has a passion for helping others and volunteers for One Good Deed. She lives in East Cobb with her husband and her one-year-old son, Benjamin.
Aviva Berman is an Atlanta native but has lived most recently in Brooklyn, NY. She received her BA from George Washington University and her master’s in public health from Columbia. Aviva is currently a Senior Innovation Manager for the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI). She is active with both Congregation Shearith Israel and Ma’alot and loves to run and travel. Aviva lives in Lake Claire with her husband and two children.
Sarah Bernstein was raised in Detroit and attended Eastern Michigan University, earning a degree in social work. She began her career in Atlanta’s Jewish community working at The Weinstein School and later moving on to work with PJ Library at The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Sarah moved to Jewish Family and Career Services in 2020, where she oversees young professional development and the PAL Program, Atlanta’s only Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. She lives in Virginia Highland with her daughter, Harper.
Stacy Blaiss is a native of Atlanta and received an undergraduate degree at Indiana University and an MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. She has 20+ years of experience in B2B marketing and currently works at BeyondTrust as VP of Corporate Marketing. She is a member of B’nai Torah and enjoys spending time with friends and her big extended family, listening to podcasts, cooking, reading, and traveling. Stacy lives in Johns Creek with her husband, two boys, and cat.
Elana Daniel was raised in Albany, NY, and went on to graduate from Syracuse University. After college, she lived in NYC for 11 years, with a two-year interval in Tel Aviv. Throughout her career, Elana has focused on Enterprise SaaS Sales working for prominent companies including Yahoo, Adobe, and Salesforce. In 2022, she joined Databricks and is currently supporting Retail and CPG customers on their Data and AI journeys. Elana and her husband, along with their two young daughters and their dog, live in Sandy Springs.
Debbie Derby was raised in the Philadelphia suburbs and has degrees from Rutgers University and Parsons School of Design in Psychology, Art and Architectural Interior Design. Having relocated to Atlanta in the 1980s, she has served in leadership positions at Congregation Beth Tefillah and Jewish Fertility Foundation. Debbie is a Commercial Interior Designer and has applied her skills to many projects in the Jewish community. She resides in Sandy Springs with her husband, two canine children; their human son is currently living in Israel and daughter is away at college.
Shelley Gordon is originally from Virginia Beach and attended UGA with hopes of making Atlanta her future home. After graduation, she began a lifelong career in real-estate and now lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, Marcus, their teenaged children, Levi and Zoe, as well as her furry, walking companion, Daisy. When not selling real estate, she can be found volunteering at the Weber School, traveling and learning with JWC, or spending time with family and friends.
Lee Graiser was born in Jerusalem and moved to the U.S. at age four. She attended the University of Georgia has worked in Human Resources for more than 25 years. Lee was selected and participated in the MJCCA Erwin Zaban Leadership Development Program and the JWC trip to Israel. She loves to travel, volunteer, and spend her time with her husband, Ira, and their two sons.
Miriam Haviv was born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended Old Dominion University. She and her husband, Haim, married in 1999 and own H&A International Jewelry in Dunwoody. Together they have five children ranging in age from 16 to 40. Miriam is currently the Campaign Chair for Jewish National Fund’s Women for Israel and is working toward a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Mercer University.
Lindsay Levin grew up and still lives in Sandy Springs, with her high school sweetheart, son and daughter. She is a Jew by Choice who is inspired by her desire to create connections and things and to grow and be challenged while doing so. Prior to her career as a residential realtor, Lindsay worked as a commercial real estate attorney after graduating from University of Georgia Terry College and Georgia State University MBA/Law. She loves entertaining in her home, traveling, watching her kids play sports and is always happiest while moving her body on a run or hike.
Allison Holmes is a Dunwoody native who attended The Epstein School, Woodward Academy and Appalachian State. She started her career with The Jewish Home and The Epstein School and later moved to Los Angeles where her work took her to India for several months. Allison is currently the Events & Special Projects Manager and Jewish Family and Career Services. Her latest event, The Tasting, won “Best Giving Back Event” by Best Self Atlanta Magazine. Allison lives in Virginia-Highlands with husband, Darrell, and 18-month-old son, Shai.
Simonie Levy Is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa where she obtained her degree in Theater from the Trinity College of London. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and spent 20 years as Performing Arts Director at the Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA) until recently retiring. Simonie was widowed in 2008 and navigated life with four young children. Having now launched all her children, Simonie is looking forward to finding her next ‘chapter.’
Keira Miller attended the University of Georgia and has since worked in the non-profit, event management, and marketing sectors. After enduring infertility and IVF, Keira feels very strongly about utilizing her own personal experiences for the greater good and putting a purpose to her journey through her work with Jewish Fertility Foundation. She resides in Brookhaven with her husband and three miracle children, along with three fur babies.
Nancy Miller is a Connecticut native who has lived in Johns Creek since 2000. Prior to raising her children, she worked professionally as a Human Resources Manager. She currently serves as a co-director of the Sandwich Project, a non-profit organization that collects and distributes homemade sandwiches every week for individuals experiencing food insecurity in the metro-Atlanta area. Nancy loves spending time with her husband Jeff, their two adult children, Simon and Zack, and their dog, Lily. In her free time, she enjoys playing pickleball and canasta.
Rebecca Portman is originally from Savannah and has spent most of the last 25 years in Atlanta. After obtaining her master’s degree in experimental psychology from University of Colorado, Rebecca served a second year for AmeriCorps before returning to Atlanta to help run the Emory Center for Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Following a move to Baltimore where she worked with Court Appointed Special Advocates, she returned to Atlanta and began working for The Humane Society. Rebecca lives in Decatur, GA with her husband, daughter, Israeli Shinshin and pets.
Miriam Shapiro moved to Atlanta from New York City eight years ago and lives in Toco Hills with her husband and three children. After graduating from Barnard College, she completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson. She currently works as a psychologist in private practice in the Atlanta area. Miriam is an active member of Ohr HaTorah synagogue, where she served on the board and as chair of the welcoming committee. A lifelong feminist, Miriam remembers questioning women’s role in Orthodox Judaism from a very early age and is excited to be part of ACT.
Randy Hyman Shapiro recently retired from a 25+ year law career with Federal Aviation Administration and is now a fulltime caregiver. She is passionate about the arts and is past board chair of the Rialto Center for the Arts and current board chair of CORE Dance. Randy serves as a docent for the High Museum of Art, a film evaluator for the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and a performer with Dancing Flowers for Peace. She is also engaged in social justice work through The Temple’s Rothschild Social Justice Initiative.
Lauri Strauss grew up in Tucson, AZ, but has lived in the Atlanta area for most of her adult life. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and her master’s from American University in Public Administration and Policy. She provides operational support to journalism organizations and is passionate about supporting local journalism. She enjoys reading, going to concerts, and having meaningful conversations with friends over good food and wine. She’s also a proponent of rescuing senior cats who need a home to live out their final years.
Marjorie Vaughn was raised in Augusta, GA and received her BA from Bard College in New York and her master’s in education from the University of Colorado. She has lived in the Atlanta area for the last 20 years where she has worked as an educator for most of her career. Marjorie is a trainer and registrar in the training department at CHRIS 180. She and her husband parent two children and two dogs in Avondale Estates.
Hannah Zale is originally from Warner Robins, GA and is a Jewish communal professional by day; rockstar by night. She has a passion for empowering others to become leaders in their community (and beyond) and believes in joyful Judaism. Hannah is known around the Southeast for her modern and accessible curriculum focused on kesher (connection). She is an expert in creating music culture in Jewish spaces and earned a 40 Under 40 Award in 2023 for her outstanding contributions to the Atlanta Jewish Community. Hannah is currently in a band called The Pussywillows and plays locally with multiple projects.
We look forward to another year of growth and connection together. Stay tuned for 2024-2025 applications, and read on to learn more about ACT and our phenomenal alumnae.
ACT engages participants collectively and individually. Topics explored throughout the course include:
- Leading a value-driven life
- Navigating difficult conversations
- The power of working as a collective
- Impact philanthropy
and much, much more.
Learning is conducted as a group through monthly seminars and intimate conversations led by leaders in their fields. In addition to the sessions, get-togethers are scheduled regularly to allow the group to have time to socialize and get to know one another. ACT Participants will also be invited to various JWFA programs, meetings, and social gatherings throughout the year and will be invited to join an ongoing alumni association following completion of the program. Participation in the ACT program is limited in order to provide the best chance for meaningful engagement and interaction with fellow participants.
The women who invest their time and energy in ACT are poised to make a positive and lasting impact in their own lives and the lives of others.
ACT is open to all self-identifying women in the Atlanta Jewish community, ages 25+ who support JWFA’s mission to empower women and girls through social change and wish to develop skills to impact their community, share expertise and inspiration, and be part of a network of like-minded women.
For more information on the ACT program, please contact Dina Fuchs-Beresin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are what a few ACT alumnae had to say about the program…
“There’s just something about ACT that reoriented me and helped reset my values. The program helped me remember who I was and helped me to reinvent myself. The concept of the program helped me put myself out there in ways I would not have had confidence to do before.”
“The ACT program was such a special moment in time and space. It gave me the opportunity to reflect honestly and carve out time to show up, just for myself, which is so incredibly valuable.”
“Not only did ACT enable me to connect with people in a really deep and meaningful way, it enabled me to make new friendships and deepen the relationships I already had and make them even stronger.”
“ACT gave me a group of women that are so incredibly supportive of each other and truly care about one another. To be able to express our own vulnerabilities is a gift, especially among women. I’ve found that in my life through this experience.”
“The robust and happy interactions created through ACT gave me a whole new group of women I’m now completely connected to. I’ve been able to delve into their worlds and invite them into mine. I didn’t even know I how much I needed that but now I know I really did.”
“ACT gave me a moment to recenter and reflect and look inward, which was so meaningful to me. I feel so connected to the women I’ve met through the program and so hopeful and energized.”
“I’d like to thank this group and this program for giving me the space to really think about what’s important to me, how I want to spend my time, things I want to get involved with and the connections you introduced us to, from Ruth Messinger to Billy Planer to Nadia Bilchik. It was just a space that I would not have carved out for myself to be able to do this type of introspection and I just really appreciate the gift that it has given me of what I’ve been able to learn over the last year as well as tools to help guide decisions moving forward.”
Meet the Fourth Cohort of ACTivists (2022-2023):
Jackie Berger: Jackie was born in Brooklyn, NY, received her Bachelors’ degree from the SUNY at Stony Brook and then attended Nova College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in both Florida and Georgia. She currently maintains an Estate Planning and Administration practice in Cumming. Jackie is a member of Congregation Dor Tamid in Johns Creek, where she has served as Social Action Chairperson and on the Board of Directors. She resides in Cumming with her husband, Larry, and micro-bernedoodle, Auggie Doggie.
Lisi Berger: Lisi is a St. Louis native who has lived in the Atlanta area for 15 years. After college at Indiana University and graduate school at Lindenwood University, she has spent the last 22 years as a middle school educator and Pilates instructor. She is an enthusiastic foodie, reader, speaker, and dancer, and a huge fan of well written movies and TV shows. Lisi is passionate about connecting to other people and she loves to spend time with her family and friends. She currently lives in Duluth with her husband and two dogs.
Cobi Cohen: Cobi Cohen was inspired by impactful experiences like attending Jewish summer camp, participating in BBYO and Hillel, and going on Birthright. After graduating from the UNC-Chapel Hill, she moved to Atlanta and became involved in numerous organizations – serving as a board member and in leadership roles at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Jewish National Fund and working at JF&CS. She currently serves on the board for NC Hillel. Cobi is the Assistant Director of Marketing at the Marcus JCC of Atlanta and lives in Dunwoody with her husband and two children.
Edye Cohen: Edye grew up in Atlanta and graduated from the University of Florida with an undergraduate and Master of Education in Special Education. She worked for the Dekalb County School System as a special education teacher and administrator before joining the M’silot faculty at Atlanta Jewish Academy. After many years in the classroom, Edye became part of AJA’s Educational Leadership Team as Director of Differentiated Learning. She recently retired from AJA and is excited to explore her interests and hobbies, give back to the community, travel, and spend time with her husband Lee and their two adult children, Megan and Linsey.
Sheila Cranman: For more than 16 years, Sheila has served as an attorney in the Office of General Counsel Ethics & Compliance at Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to moving to Atlanta, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law (UALR). At UALR, she taught mediation, developed a law school mediation clinic to handle cases from the local juvenile court and worked with the U.S. Department of State’s Community Relations Service to teach mediation skills to local police officers. Sheila lives in Dunwoody, GA with her husband, daughters and two dogs.
Jennifer Feld: Jennifer is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and moved to Georgia to attend Emory University. She received her JD/MBA from Georgia State University and is currently a corporate attorney specializing in mergers and acquisitions and assisting emerging technology companies with capital raises. Jennifer lives in Dunwoody with her husband, Kevin, daughter Eliza, son Aiden, and dog Arya. In her spare time, she enjoys going on outdoor adventures with her family, baking, and serving on the board of Jewish Family & Career Services.
Elissa Fladell: Elissa grew up in Dunwoody and now resides in Sandy Springs. She has been an active volunteer in the Jewish community and beyond since her childhood. Currently she is Board Chair of Friends of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, sits on the executive committee of the American Jewish Committee (Atlanta Chapter), and volunteers weekly at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic. Elissa is also active with the Eric R. Beverly Family Foundation. She and her husband, Jordan, are parents to two daughters, both in college. Elissa is also a passionate cook and baker.
Jaime Glazerman: Jaime is a counselor who is passionate about mental health education and helping people understand their own internal “workings.” She is currently working for the Blue Dove Foundation as an Educational Consultant and is the Program Coordinator for the Peaceful Family Fund. Jaime spent this past summer providing mental health support to Camp Ramah Darom. She has a Masters Degree in Community Counseling from Towson University and more than 10 years of experience counseling children, adults, families, couples and groups. She is loves working with pre-teens, teens, young adults and their families and specializes in families affected by eating disorders.
Jessica Katz: Jessica grew up in Atlanta where she attended Jewish day schools. She completed her undergraduate degree at University of Georgia and went on to get her Master of Social Work and Certificate in Jewish Communal Service at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She began her nonprofit career at the Jewish Federations in Sarasota and Atlanta before moving to Israel for a few years. Upon her return, Jessica worked for Birthright Israel Foundation in Atlanta. She now serves as the Director of Development at JF&CS. Jessica lives in East Cobb and has a four-year-old daughter, Miriam.
Mara Lapp: Mara was raised in Charleston and moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University. Other than two years spent in Nashville earning her MBA from Vanderbilt University, Mara has lived in Atlanta ever since. She spent her career in consumer products marketing before making a shift during the pandemic and currently leads Sales, Customer Service, and Marketing for Envision Plastics, which is a recycling company. Mara enjoys reading, cooking and binge-watching TV in her spare time. She lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, two kids, and two dogs.
Ellen Lapuck: Ellen grew up in a suburb of Boston. After receiving her bachelor’s degrees from Wellesley College and the University of Massachusetts, she moved to Philadelphia for Veterinary School at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation she worked as a small animal veterinarian then transitioned into the animal health industry and now focuses on poultry health and medicine. She is passionate about supporting village farmers and has been leading a project to increase the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Homa Bay, Kenya for the past three years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, 5-month-old son, two dogs and cat.
Greer Mendel: Greer is a native Atlantan and a University of Georgia graduate with a B.A. in Communications. She spent nine years at Jewish Family & Career Services in various marketing roles and is now the Director of Marketing Operations for Reliance Worldwide Corporation. Growing up with a sibling with a developmental disability inspired her personal mission of using her voice to help others. In 2021, Greer suddenly lost her husband, Jarrod. Having faced adversity, she feels it’s her duty to help support others, as so many have done for her. Greer lives in Dunwoody with her two greatest gifts, her son and daughter.
Mechal Perl: Mechal Perl was raised in Israel and lived in U.S. most her adult life. She was trained as an attorney in the United Kingdom but lived and practiced in California and New York before moving to Atlanta 13 years ago. She is a strong advocate for Israel and Jewish causes serving in local chapters of pro-Israel groups. She currently assists her husband, Isaac, with their real estate firm as well as pursuing other hobbies like interior design and various other projects. Together they are raising three very loud kids – Albert, Mia and Liam – in Chastain Park.
Lee Pratt: Lee is a “people pollinator,” and she thrives on connecting the right people to each other. Born and raised in Israel, she has traveled and lived in five continents, working in the fields of education, sustainability, and senior care all over the world. Her passion is to build community and she is currently an Executive Director at Jewish HomeLife.
Kim Rich: Kim is an Atlanta native who graduated from Georgia State University with a Business Degree in Accounting and earned her CPA license in the State of Georgia. Her 25-year career started in Public Accounting and moved to the Advertising/ Consulting industry where Kim held various positions in Accounting and Human Resources. For the past two years she’s been the CFO/COO with The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy. Kim and her husband, Howie Rosenberg, live in Johns Creek. Her stepson Aaron is a recent graduate of UGA, and her son Jonah is currently a student at The University of Chicago.
Chantal Spector: Chantal is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. She spent six years in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she was active in the local Jewish community, before moving back to the Atlanta area in 2013. Her career in marketing has focused on technology and nonprofit, and she is currently the Senior Communications Manager at Jewish Family & Career Services. She lives in Dunwoody with her husband, Mike, and two kids, Charlotte and Jonathan.
Andrea Ivy Waterstone: Andrea is a Georgia native and mother to one amazing Spider-Man son who is being raised in a multicultural, interfaith home, interwoven with Puerto Rican and Jewish traditions and rituals. Andrea has a B.A. in Studio Art and an M.Ed in Deaf Education. She is founder of The Mothers Creative and thrives on elevating underrepresented communities through art, creative play and community connection. She is also a passionate advocate for Maternal Mental Health and legislation impacting Georgia birth givers. Andrea enjoys art-making, messy gardening, Ma’alot Rosh Chodesh, dancing to Paul Simon, journaling, and creative community building.
Jaime White: Jaime is an Atlanta native and lives in Roswell Georgia with her husband, three daughters, and chocolate lab. She is a graduate of The University of Alabama and has spent the past 12 years she as a cardio-metabolic specialty rep for Novo Nordisk. Previously, she worked for MTV and Comedy Central. She is the membership chairperson for Temple Beth Tikvah. She also coaches K/1 girls Lacrosse for Pope Jr High School. Jaime loves trying new food, the beach, traveling, belly laughs, occasional yoga, dates with her husband, making charcuterie boards, and crafting with her girls.
Meet the Third Cohort of ACTivists (2021-2022):
Viktoria Abelson: Vicki is passionate about the idea that rising tides raise all ships. As she grows and learns, it is her responsibility to pass that growth along. As a Leadership and Life Coach, Vicki believes that empowering women, at any age or stage, is for the betterment of the entire community. Vicki was born in Moscow in the former Soviet Union, grew up in Texas, and lives in Dunwoody with her husband and two small children. She hopes to pass the tradition of learning and community involvement down to them.
Tanya Alexander: Tanya grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Atlanta shortly after graduating from Ohio University. She holds a M.B.A. from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and has worked in healthcare industry for over 25 years. Currently, Tanya is a practice administrator for busy pediatric practice in Sandy Springs. She lives near Chastain Park with her husband Marc and is raising two teenagers and a 95 pound German Shepard.
Rebecca Aqua: Rebecca has lived in Atlanta since 2002 after growing up in four cities. She graduated from Emory University and Brooklyn Law School. She worked in the medical-legal field for 22 years and is now spending her time writing and with her family. She lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, Seth Rosen, and their two sons.
Kareen Bronstein: Kareen is a native of Israel and has lived in Atlanta most of her life. She is a certified PMP and has worked at Alston & Bird LLP (A&B) as an IT Project Manager for the past 11 years. Before A&B, Kareen worked as a fundraiser at the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) headquarters in New York and then moved back to Atlanta to run the FIDF Atlanta office. Kareen lives in Chamblee with her husband, Neil, and their children, Nadav and Goldie.
Karen Callen: A native of Damascus, Maryland, Karen Callen graduated from UGA where she was a springboard diver on the women’s swimming and diving team. After earning a Master’s degree in Kinesiology from UT-Austin, she moved to Atlanta and started the gymnastics program at the MJCCA. Karen has been involved with many Atlanta non-profit organizations bringing fitness and wellness programming to underserved populations. Karen lives in Decatur with her husband and two daughters.
Sophie Goldsmith: Sophie grew up in Boston but has called Atlanta home for almost 10 years. She graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and is a Marketing Cloud Sales Programs Manager at Salesforce. She lives in Reynoldtowns with her fiancé and dog, Gertie Mae. In her spare time, Sophie loves to watch The Great British Bake Off, practice yoga, and travel.
Nancy Green: Nancy was born and raised in New York and has degrees in biology and nursing. She started her career in healthcare in 1988 and founded CSI Research, Inc. in 1997 upon moving to Atlanta. Nancy is a research clinician specializing in clinical trials for patients with autoimmune disorders. Nancy lost her fiancé to suicide in 1991 and remained silent on her journey for 30 years. In 2018 she founded Speaking of Grief to support those dealing with the pain of grief. She holds a Professional Coaching Certification from Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), an Ordained Minister credential from Universe Life Church, and Pet Chaplaincy credential from Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education. She lives in the North GA mountains with her son and two Dobermans.
Kayla Heering: Kayla was born and raised in Atlanta, and after spending her college, graduate school, and early career in the Washington, DC area, moved back to Atlanta with her husband and twins. She previously worked as a physical therapist, but felt she wanted to contribute to the community in a more meaningful way. Now as Atlanta manager for the Jewish Fertility Foundation, Kayla finds working with families experiencing infertility rewarding and impactful. She wants to continue growing in the Jewish non-profit community and make a greater impact around Atlanta.
Jenny Hoffner: Jenny grew up in Miami, FL , enjoyed many years in NYC, and has lived most of her adult life in Atlanta. She holds a B.A. from Emory University and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia. Jenny serves as Vice President for Conservation Strategies leading American Rivers’ national practice work to address climate change and ensure all communities have healthy rivers and clean water. She currently serves on the Board of East Lake Commons Co-housing community where she lives with her family. Prior to joining American Rivers, Jenny organized an award-winning, multi-stakeholder effort to transform the Bronx River.
Danna Lipton: Danna is a native of Philadelphia, PA but has lived in Decatur for the past 13 years. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a BA in Psychology and received her Master’s of Social Work from Smith College. She works in Clinical Strategy at Optum Behavioral Health and maintains a small private psychotherapy practice with a focus on supporting those dealing with grief and loss. Currently, she serves as the Treasurer of the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work. She lives in Decatur with her husband, daughter and son.
Leslie Mendel: Leslie lives in Roswell with her husband of 35 years and is the mother of two grown sons. She grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Atlanta after graduating from the University of Virginia. By training she’s a Certified Public Accountant who discovered her superpower is project and cross-team management where she connects people and information, professionally in the financial technology industry and voluntarily in a rare disease community. Through the ACT program, Leslie hopes to pursue a more focused purposeful life path in response to the last 18 months of world pandemic, ferocious political and social climate, and major life milestone changes leading to crucial new awareness and prioritization.
Mindy Ronick: Mindy is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism. She has spent the last 20 years in the Recruitment Marketing industry and has worked as a Senior Marketing Specialist for Employment Brand at Cox Enterprises since 2015. Mindy has been a volunteer with the Book Festival of the MJCCA for the last several years and participated in the Big Pal program at JF&CS. She lives in Brookhaven.
Rachelle Schaffer: Rachelle is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and moved to Georgia to attend The University of Georgia. Her job experience ranges from media and advertisement sales, contract to hire recruitment and project coordination in the hospitality industry. Currently, Rachelle works as the Client Relationship Manager for CoZzzy Comfy, a fundraising linen company. She just became an “Empty Nester” with her son attending the University of South Carolina as a junior & daughter at the University of Georgia as a freshman. She lives in Johns Creek, GA with her husband and 6-year-old dog.
Maya Steckel: Maya lives in Brookhaven with her husband Scott and two children, Jamie and Ben. She is a Florida native and moved to Atlanta after graduating from the University of Florida. Maya is a tax director at PwC and has been with the firm for over 10 years. During Maya’s spare time she loves playing with her family outside, doing art projects with them, and cooking in the kitchen as a family. Maya and her family are members of The Temple and her oldest child Jamie is a proud Weinberg Early Learning Center student.
Chelsea Swirsky: Chelsea works professionally as a strategic advisor in the areas of financing and risk management of defined benefit pension plans. Originally from North Carolina, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Mathematical Decisions Sciences. Chelsea lives in Dunwoody with her husband (Dave), energetic dog (Mac), and even more energetic sons, ages 2 (Liam) and 4 (Eli). In her spare time Chelsea enjoys running, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her family.
Jennifer Tourial: An Atlanta native, Jennifer Tourial is a wife and a mom of three. Jennifer is an attorney and judge, though in recent years she has spent a great deal of her time volunteering. She is currently a board member of the Law School Association at UGA, as well as a board member of Ian’s Friends Foundation. Jennifer is also a Lion Worker captain for Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation of Atlanta and has volunteered at both of her synagogues, Or VeShalom and Or Hadash. Additionally, she was team mom and room mom every season and every grade for her kids from preschool to high school. Jennifer blends her passion for philanthropy with her passion for fitness, teaching kickboxing and strength classes at the YMCA.
Elizabeth Webster: Dr. Webster has worked in global public health as subject matter expert in capacity building, system strengthening, monitoring and evaluation and knowledge transfer. Additionally, she provided technical assistance, instructional design, and training to build public health leadership and management laboratory capacity to respond to especially dangerous pathogens in Georgia, Armenia, Uganda and Kazakhstan. Prior to her work in global health, she directed vaccination outreach efforts for a major Georgia health system and served as Executive Director for a public health non-profit. Dr. Webster is originally from Queens, New York City, but calls Georgia her adopted home.
Meet the Second Cohort of ACTivists (2020-2021):
Kimberly Berry: Kimberly has lived in the Atlanta metro area for most of her life and is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University School of Law. She practices criminal defense law throughout the state of Georgia and is a partner in Lawson & Berry. Kimberly resides in Sandy Springs with her husband, Brett, and three young children and is a member of Congregation Beth Shalom.
Diana Cohen: Diana grew up in the New York and D.C. areas, but has called Atlanta home for over 15 years. She graduated from Duke University, received her J.D. from Yale Law School, and is the Director of Brand and Content for Applerouth Tutoring. She lives in Toco Hills with her husband and three sons and is active in the community, serving on the Boards of Congregation Ohr HaTorah and Temima: The Richard and Jean Katz High School for Girls.
Justine Cohen: Justine was born in South Africa and moved to the US when she was three. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and earned her CPA. Justine currently serves on the Epstein School Board of Trustees, the steering committee of JNF-Women for Israel and the Board of Am Yisrael Chai. She is co-chairing O/Art in the City for ORT and JF&CS’s The Tasting event. She also recently served as the volunteer committee co-chair for the 2019 Atlanta JCC Maccabi Games and is a Frank Mission graduate. Justine lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, Andre, and their three children.
Jill Silberstein Cohen: Jill is a graduate of the University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism and has spent over 20 years in the hospitality industry, most recently as a senior meeting & event manager for Cox Enterprises. She is a Broadway and musical theater superfan as well as an avid Atlanta Braves supporter. Jill is an Atlanta native and lives with her husband, two teenage sons, and two dogs in Johns Creek.
Elana Frank: Elana has 20 years of experience working with non-profits (Jewish Community Relations Council of NY, Kfar Hassidim Youth Villiage in Israel, and most notably the Jewish Fertility Foundation). After experiencing the pain and loneliness of infertility and realizing how lucky she was to have had her experience in Israel, where it’s free, she had a desire to help others. With the realization that cost, education, and access were tremendous stumbling blocks for this “unspoken” issue in the Jewish community, she rallied people behind her and created the Jewish Fertility Foundation. Elana lives in Toco Hills with her husband and three boys.
Shannen Levin: Shannen is a Georgia transplant, born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona. She attended college at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, later moving to Boston for law school. She is an attorney with Fidelity National Law Group in Atlanta and resides in Sandy Springs with her husband Zach and their two children.
Shari Magnus: Shari is the Co-Executive Director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Before CUFI, Shari worked at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC and AIPAC. Shari lives in Dunwoody with her husband Eric, tweens Aidan and Layla and 3 pups. Shari’s side passion project is her jewelry company Layla Designs and she loves practicing yoga and riding her Peloton.
Erin Pirkle: Erin is an Atlanta native and serves as the Young Adults Director at the MJCCA. She has years of experience working in Jewish camping, museums, nonprofits, and youth programming and development. Erin holds a master’s degree in experiential education and Jewish cultural arts from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in history and English-creative writing from Agnes Scott College. In her spare time, Erin loves to bake, explore local restaurants, go hiking with her labrador retriever Zelda, and cheer for her favorite Atlanta sports teams.
Carrie Poline: Dr. Carrie Poline is a double-board certified practitioner in child & adolescent and adult psychiatry specializing in eating, anxiety, mood and child behavioral disorders. She is currently spending most of her professional time in private practice in Sandy Springs as well as serving as the supervising psychiatrist at The Renfrew Center for Atlanta. Dr. Poline is an adjunct faculty member of Emory University’s Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and is on the advisory boards of EDIN and Skyland Trail. She is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, after which, she worked as a research assistant at Harvard Medical School before attending Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine in Florida and completing her post-graduate training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Dr. Poline was presented with the inaugural award of “Exceptional Women in Medicine” in 2017 and recognized as a “Top Docs of Atlanta” in 2017-2020. She lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, two daughters and her labradoodle.
Libby Pollock: Libby is passionate about empowering women and currently leads global transformational change initiatives for Habitat for Humanity International. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to low income women over the age of 35. Libby is an active member at Temple Emanu-El and has been an active member of their Caring Committee for over a decade. She also serves as a mentor for the Mary Hall Freedom House. Libby graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in Economics, and is a dedicated wife and mother to two children.
Victoria Raggs: Victoria Raggs grew up in Denver, Colorado. She is a DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice) Consultant, and Disability Rights advocate. Currently she’s working on a project with Be’Chol Lashon. Victoria sits on the American Jewish Committee’s Board of Counselors, and is a Co-chair of the Black and Jewish Coalition of Atlanta. She also participates as a Core Leader with Bend the Arc, Atlanta. For 18 years, the mother of four, has been on numerous committees and associations at Jewish Day Schools such as The Atlanta Jewish Academy, The Epstein School, and The Weber Jewish High School. She holds a BA from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and studied for a Masters in Education Administration at Virginia Tech University.
Gily Raz: Dr. Gily Raz is a young Israeli physician with a passion for child and adolescent medicine. During the Pandemic, she has worked with the CDC as a frontline worker in Covid clinics for the homeless, battered women’s shelters and the uninsured. She integrates her knowledge of medicine with Jewish values to help bring up the next generation of Jewish youth. Dr. Raz also enjoys working as a volunteer in Atlanta’s Jewish community, serving as a mentor for the Israeli American Council Eitanim program, and as a special education specialist for Congregation B’nai Torah.
Brooke Rosenthal: A native of Los Angeles, Brooke has lived in Atlanta for the past 12 years, raising her four children with her husband, Laurence Rosenthal, a rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue. In addition to her extensive work at Ahavath Achim, she has volunteered with a myriad of organizations including The Breman Museum, Trees Atlanta, National Council of Jewish Women, Second Helpings, Atlanta Jewish Academy and Camp Ramah Darom. Brooke has a Masters in non-profit management and recently became certified as a Grounded Kids Yoga instructor.
Cyndi Sterne: Cyndi grew up in Cincinnati and moved to Atlanta after graduating from Indiana University. After the birth of her sons, she worked at the Marcus Jewish Community Center as the director of Youth and Family programs, curating exhibits at the Sophie Hirsch Srochi Jewish Discovery Museum and creating the template for what is now The Henry and Etta Raye Hirsch Culinary Arts Studio. In 2010, she left the MJCCA to create Yes, Chef! Culinary Events, a cooking school specializing in hands- on corporate team building and private events. Her business quickly became a favorite of local companies like Spanx, Randstad, The Home Depot, and guest chefs from across the U.S., Israel and Italy. Cyndi is also an active member of the Steering Committee for Jewish National Fund’s Women for Israel. The majority of her spare time is spent sewing, cycling, and making sure her sons and husband are well fed and her dogs get belly rubs.
Carrie Turner: A Miami native, Carrie is a graduate of Cornell University and founder of her own recruiting/executive search business, Socium Group. She has been in Atlanta for 13 years after relocating to the area from Chicago. Carrie is actively engaged with Congregation Dor Tamid where she just completed their leadership training program and serves on the ritual committee. She lives in Alpharetta with her husband, three children and two big goldendoodles.
Meet the First Cohort of ACTivists (2019-2020):
Amy Fox lives in Sandy Springs with her husband, Chuck, and their 17-year-old twins, Ben and Sydney. She recently served as Administration Co-Chair for the 2019 Atlanta JCC Maccabi Games, overseeing volunteer efforts. Amy is Co-Chair of Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Lion’s Division and is a Wexner Heritage Fellow. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Tulane Fund Advisory Board. Formerly, she was Advancement Committee Chair, Executive Committee member, and Trustee at The Epstein School. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Amy worked in major gift fundraising for educational organizations. In her free time, she enjoys tennis, family vacations, and watching her son play baseball. She feels ACT has the potential to create and strengthen bonds amongst members of the Atlanta Jewish community.
Andi Neiman has worked in public health, with a focus on global chronic disease prevention, for over 17 years. As a wife, a mother, and compassion crusader she is passionate about empowering all bodies to feel centered and strong. Andi is most excited to be a part of the ACT pilot cohort for the opportunity to learn with and from talented and diverse women across Atlanta while collectively working to harness and leverage the group’s unique skills to positively and meaningfully impact our community.
Beth Sherman is passionate about promoting literacy, both in her own communities and in low-income communities. Beth teaches second grade at The Galloway School and organizes free book fairs in low-income communities, in partnership with Creating Connected Communities. Prior to teaching, she enjoyed a 12-year sales career with NCR Corporation, then stayed home for 12 years to raise two children. She re-entered the workforce by joining Teach For America and served in high-needs classrooms for two years. She is thrilled to work alongside other women so that they can advise, encourage, and inspire one another along our journeys toward meaningful change.
Caren Cohen is a mother, wife, yoga teacher and friend. She is always encouraging her students, children and friends to push themselves outside their comfort zones. With ACT, Caren is hoping to push herself out of her comfort zone. She is most excited to learn more about the community she lives in and then create positive change within that community.
Eve Wexler grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, before attending college at Brandeis University and medical school at Tulane School of Medicine. She met her husband while in residency at Mt. Sinai in NYC and relocated to the Atlanta area six years ago, where she is the owner of Briarvista Pediatrics and lives in Toco Hills with her family. She is very excited about the chance to meet other rising leaders in the ACT program and cannot wait to see how each participant chooses to become more involved in our community.
Felicia Marable has lived in Atlanta most of her life, attended elementary school at the Hebrew Academy, participated in BBG throughout high school and was an active member of Congregation Or VeShalom. After college, she worked in PR and Marketing for the Atlanta Braves, and later, for Lockheed Martin Corp. She is the mother of two sons and has recently received her Certificate in Gerontology from Kennesaw State University. She now works with Jewish Home Life Communities, helping older adults find affordable housing. Through ACT, she hopes to set an example and encourage more women to get involved and take responsibility in the community.
Gabrielle (Gabby) Leon Spatt is the Executive Director of The Blue Dove Foundation and holds several volunteer roles, including the American Jewish Committee Atlanta Region board member, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival board member and a Phi Mu Fraternity volunteer. Gabby is an Atlanta Jewish Times 40 under 40 honoree. She believes ACT is creating a unique spot for women in the Atlanta Jewish Community. Gabby looks forward to seeing the intergenerational group of women from the first ACT class come together to learn from one-another and challenge the Atlanta Jewish community to think differently.
Hannah Spinrad is the Atlanta Director of Community Engagement for Honeymoon Israel. Before joining the HMI team, Hannah worked for the Jewish Federations of Boston, Miami, and Atlanta. Hannah graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in International Studies and earned her MBA and MA in Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University. She lives with her husband (Kyle), daughter (Miri) and dog (Gus) on the Westside. Hannah is so excited to expand her network and learn with with the women of ACT and is passionate about building inclusive Jewish communities in the South.
Jan Jay was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and has lived in Atlanta for 32 years, since graduating from Indiana University. She married her husband Gregory in 2001 and has three wonderful children, Jared, 16, Rachel, 14 and golden retriever, Emma, 8. In her free time, she enjoys crafting, hiking, photography and volunteering with the Jewish Abilities Alliance, Second Helpings Atlanta and other local and national charities. She is looking forward to learning from other women and forging new relationships with those participating in the first ACT cohort.
Jennifer Mosbacher is a small business owner who is on a mission to discover her passion project. When she was 19, she met her husband on a trip to Israel. The couple has been married for 21 years and are the parents of a 12-year-old daughter. Jennifer hopes that through the ACT program, she will make connections and find inspiration that puts her on a path to increased activism in the Atlanta community and her ultimate goal of starting a foundation.
Joanna Israel lives in Dunwoody and is the mom of two tweens – Josh and Maya. Joanna has volunteered for several organizations in the Jewish community including Davis Academy Congregation B’nai Torah. She is also a marketing professional and a certified yoga teacher. One of the things that excites Joanna the most about the ACT program is the ability to help mold the program and shape what it will be about for future classes.
Julie Mokotoff is a former Communications Consultant and graduate of Emory University. Julie lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children, ages 18, 15 and 11. She currently serves as co-chair of Temple Emanu-El’s Social Justice Committee and co-chair for the American Jewish Committee’s Leaders for Tomorrow Program. An aspiring novelist, she completed her first manuscript and is seeking literary representation. With regard to the ACT Program, Julie is most excited about developing and mentoring the next generation of female leaders.
Lauren Derman Sturisky was born in South Africa, and has lived in Atlanta for the better part of fifteen years. She is an attorney specializing in Alternative Dispute Resolution, with an emphasis on child-related matters. Lauren is a mother of three boys, a wife, and an evolving activist. The issues closest to her heart involve anti-semitism, anti-zionism, and racism. She is thrilled to be participating in the ACT pilot program, and her hope is that the program provides a communal set of tools that grows each participant’s ability to create change.
Leslie Reitman is originally from Boston, MA and has lived in the Atlanta area for 17 years. Prior to raising three children and participating in a variety of pro bono projects, she worked full time as a financial professional and continues to consult with companies and individuals on a part time basis regarding financial and marketing matters. She also enjoys photography and painting. With respect to ACT, she is most excited to help make a difference in the lives of women and girls in the surrounding area and believes that incremental differences can eventually create a large, positive impact on those directly effected as well as the community at large.
Dr. Lynn Bahr is a graduate of the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine and is the CEO of Dezi & Roo, a company that designs, manufactures and sells solution-based pet products that enhance the lives of cats their owners. Dr. Bahr was the recipient of the 2018 Pet Age Woman of Influence Award and serves on the Board of Directors of Pandemonium Aviaries, Fear Free Advisory Board, Parliamentarian of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, and is on the Cat Committee of the Pet Professional Guild. Having the opportunity to participate in ACT’s pilot program is an exciting new venture that she feels will have a positive impact on our community at large. She hopes to gain insight on ways to improve the world while collaborating with other like-minded women and become a real force of change.
Melissa Kaplan currently serves as the Development Officer at Jewish Home Life Communities (JHLC). She lives in Buckhead with her husband, Jake, and her two young sons, Sam (4) and Eli (1). Melissa is very excited to be selected for ACT and is looking forward to getting to know and learning from the other women involved.
Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez combines her personal, professional, and educational experiences to establish meaningful Jewish experiences wherever she goes. Melissa currently manages the Jewish Camp Initiative for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and serves on the Clergy Advisory Group for MACoM (Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah) and the Leadership Team for Limmud Southeast. She received semikha (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Maharat and is a member of the Atlanta Rabbinic Association (ARA), Torat Chayim, and the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF). Melissa is excited to learn with and from fellow Atlanta Jewish activists while finding opportunities to enact change for women locally.
Sheryl Lyss is a physician who has been working in public heath for 20 years. She has recently returned to Atlanta after being overseas for four years, and welcomes the opportunity to become more engaged in the Atlanta community through ACT. As a member of the inaugural ACT class, she is excited to share a journey with a group of committed women who will challenge and inspire one another to each make a mark, collectively and individually, on the community around us.
Susie Greenberg has resided in Atlanta since 1994. Prior to leaving the workforce to raise her children, she worked professionally as a commercial litigator. She and her husband Marc are the parents of four children (Ben, Jake, Sarah and Rebecca), ages 21- 26. As a community volunteer she has focused on issues involving children, education and human rights. Through ACT, Susie hopes to meet like-minded women, elevate the quality of her volunteerism and learn from other community leaders.
Tracy Rosenbluth Howard has spent her entire professional career in finance, starting with Corporate Banking and including Venture Capital and Investment Banking services for both public and private companies. Tracy holds a M.B.A from The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania and a B.B.A. from Emory University. She enjoys being active and spending time with her husband and their two teenage children. Tracy is extremely excited to be a part of the inaugural ACT program and hopes to form meaningful and lasting relationships with other members while using the group’s collective strengths to effect change.
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