Community Leaders Learn to Combat Antisemitism

Spertus Institute announces the Jewish leaders selected for the second cohort of its Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism

Jewish leaders need tools and training to respond to the troubling rise in antisemitism.

To address this urgently important need, Chicago-based Spertus Institute launched the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism, an initiative that serves Jewish community executives and senior professionals from across North America. The inaugural cohort recently completed the program, and its participants, who represent communities with a combined Jewish population totaling more than two million, are now prepared to address antisemitic incidents with new expertise.

The program’s second cohort will begin in October 2023. These front-line leaders will work together with a team of experts over a period of six months. The program will equip them to respond to antisemitism with knowledge, strength, and skill.

18 headshots

Image above: Spertus Institute, Chicago.

The 17 leaders selected for the second cohort of the Spertus Institute’s Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism hail from 13 US states and the Canadian province of Alberta. They are:

Rabbi Dovid Asher of Richmond, VA
Rabbi, Keneseth Beth Israel

Adam Chaskin of Jacksonville, FL
CEO, Jewish Community Alliance

Deborah Coltin of Peabody, MA
President and Executive Director, Lappin Foundation

Niv Elis of Washington, DC
Managing Director, External Communications, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)

Jordanna Gessler of Los Angeles, CA
Vice President of Education and Exhibits, Holocaust Museum LA

Noam Gilboord of Teaneck, NJ
Interim Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York

Daniel Goldwin of Chicago, IL
Executive Director for Public Affairs, Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago

Jessica Haller of Bronx, NY
Executive Director, The New Majority NYC

Sharon Jacker of Brooklyn, NY
Director of Education and Partnerships, Jewish Community Relations Council, New York

Jenn Magalnick of Edmonton, Alberta
Associate Director, Holocaust Education and Community Engagement, Jewish Federation of Edmonton

Natanya Miller of Charleston, SC
Director of Educational Initiatives, Charleston Jewish Federation

Symi Rom-Rymer of Washington, DC
Outreach Director, Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington

Rabbi Daniel Septimus of Austin, TX
CEO, Shalom Austin

Sara Sideman of Cherry Hill, NJ
Assistant Director, Katz JCC and Director, JCC Camps at Medford,
Katz JCC/Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey

Sharon Tash of Washington, DC
Director of Education, Temple Micah

Rabbi Andrew Terkel of St. Louis, MO
CEO, Be the Narrative

Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein of Memphis, TN
Chief Impact Officer, Jewish Community Partners and Executive Vice President, Memphis Jewish Federation

Unfortunately, there is a pressing need for this program.

In its Audit of Antisemitic Incidents for 2022, the ADL tabulated 3,697 antisemitic incidents in the United States. This is a 36% increase from the 2,717 incidents tabulated in 2021 and the highest number on record since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.

This is the third time in the past five years that the year-end total has been the highest number ever recorded. The trend is similar outside of the United States. In September, a study revealed that Jews in Canada are the most targeted of religious minorities in that country for hate crimes. While Jews comprise only 1% of the population in Canada, they were the victims of 14% of reported hate crimes, reflecting a 47% increase between 2020 and 2021.

“Rising antisemitism targets the very fabric of our communities,” said Spertus Institute President & CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell. “Combating antisemitism requires both a high-level of historical and contemporary knowledge about the issue and the development of determinative real-world skills.” In addition to his role as Spertus President & CEO, Dr. Bell holds a faculty appointment as Professor of History and served as Associate Editor of the two-volume Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution.

Spertus Institute Dean & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren E. Fraiman said, “The institutional leaders accepted into this program will become part of an important network of national and international Jewish leaders. They will be able to leverage each other’s talents, resources, and relationships to combat antisemitism with coordinated efforts across communities. They will gain important knowledge about the manifestations of antisemitism, combined with critical skills in community engagement, risk assessment, crisis communications, and alliance building.” Dr. Fraiman is an expert in Israel education, conflict education, and threat assessment.

Dr. Bell and Dr. Fraiman are among the experts teaching in the program.

This model works.

Students from the inaugural cohort lauded the program’s substance, faculty, and delivery. In moving statements, they expressed the impact that their participation had for them personally and professionally, allowing them to bring critical new expertise home to their organizations and communities.

Jon Warech, Executive Director of Hillel at Florida International University, said, “I am leaving this program with knowledge that will make me a better leader — on campus and in the community—in the fight against hate.” Eileen Freed, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, said, “The program provided me with tools and language to more effectively communicate with my community about the ways in which we are addressing antisemitism.”

Tamara Donnenfeld, Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Florida, said, “As an educator and Jewish professional, my participation in this program has been a transformative experience that greatly enriched my understanding of the subject and enhanced my ability to educate and engage with others on this critical issue.” She continued, “The program’s structured approach, encompassing definitions, exploration of historical instances, and actionable strategies, equipped me with the tools I needed to effectively address antisemitism. I found myself challenged and inspired and I am confident that the program’s impact will continue to resonate in my work and interactions for years to come.”

As this cohort begins, the application period is now open for the third cohort, which will begin July 2024. Those interested should visit or contact Spertus Institute’s Assistant Director for Recruitment Amie Barrish at Application fees are waived until March 15, 2024.

Program Faculty

In addition to Drs. Bell and Fraiman, Spertus Institute has brought together an impressive team of faculty members who bring both academic and on-the-ground experience. They are:

Dr. Lila Corwin Berman is a professor of history at Temple University, where she directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Her research examines the history of Jewish citizenship in the United States.

Dr. Miriam F. Elman is Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, a DC-based organization that counters antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on college campuses. In 2018, she was named by The Algemeiner as one of “the top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.”

Dr. Rachel Fish is Co-Founder of the nonprofit Boundless, which seeks to identify and address systemic challenges impacting Israel education. She also serves as Special Advisor to the President for the Antisemitism Initiative at Brandeis University.

Naomi Greenspan is Director of the Improving the Campus Climate Initiative, where she oversees a national initiative to support Jewish inclusion and address antisemitism on college and university campuses.

Rabbi Bob Kaplan is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for a Shared Society, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC). Rabbi Kaplan is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism.

Nancy K. Kaufman served for many years as CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women and is an advisor for SRE Network, a group of 150+ Jewish organizations committed to safety, respect, and equity.

Ann Luban is the Senior Director of Community Services at JCFS Chicago where she oversees outreach, support, and education focusing on mental health in the Jewish community.

Dr. Linda Maizels is the author of What is Antisemitism? A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge 2022). Dr. Maizels was a Fellow in the Bureau of African Affairs at the US Department of State and works on issues related to cybersecurity and digital policy.

Dr. Sabine von Mering is Professor of German and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University and co-editor of Antisemitism on Social Media (Routledge 2022).

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss is Senior VP for Community Relations at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, previous Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis, Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, and Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Dr. Dov Waxman is an internationally recognized expert on contemporary antisemitism and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel. He is a political science professor at UCLA and writes for publications including the Washington Post, Guardian, and Atlantic.

Jewish community professionals and members of the public can join Spertus Institute students and alumni for a free online workshop led by faculty member Dr. Dov Waxman.

Titled Understanding Antisemitism in America Today, the program takes place on Tuesday, January 23, 2024. Reservations, which are required, can be made on the Spertus website at

Substantial funding for the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism was secured from local and national foundations who came together to support this important and much-needed initiative. Thanks to their generosity, costs are heavily subsidized for the first three cohorts, easing the path to participation for those on the front-line. 

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.

The Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism is a program of Spertus Institute’s Center for Jewish Leadership, made possible in part by a grant from the Crown Family.

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