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36 Ways Spertus Students & Alumni Are Changing the World

36 Ways Spertus Students & Alumni Are Changing the World

Dore Tarr (left) and Sarah Van Loon (right). 

Spertus Institute students and alumni  trained as forward-thinking, 21st-century leaders — are forging a vibrant Jewish future.

The 36 community-building leaders featured here (in random order) have studied in Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) program or Certificate in Jewish Leadership program, a joint venture of Spertus Institute and Northwestern University. The work they do (and the work of their fellow students and alumni) is necessary, far-reaching, and transformative.

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1. Sarah van Loon (MAJPS, 2017 36 Under 36 honoree) is Assistant Director of the Chicago office of the American Jewish Committee. She has been volunteering with HIAS to make sure that immigrants feel welcome in our city and in her local Edgewater community.

2. Dore Tarr (MAJPS, 2017 36 Under 36 honoree) has over a decade of experience in the education field, teaching all ages, from preschool to adults, in the US and Japan. She brings that broad background to her work as the Religious School Director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville, where she works with young people from pre-schoolers to teenagers.  

3. Brad Sugar (MAJPS) recently became Director for the Midwest Region of American Jewish World Service, a global humanitarian organization working to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. 

4. Anna Gorbikoff (MAJPS, 2015 36 Under 36 honoree) is an educator and organizer who can often be found working on behalf of Chicago’s Russian Jewish community.

5. Lia Lehrer Goldfarb (MAJPS and Certificate in Jewish Leadership, 2015 36 Under 36 honoree) is the former Membership and Communications Director of Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, a co-founder of Windy City Minyan, and a regular blogger for OY! Chicago. She and husband Adam are the proud new parents of baby Serena!

6 & 7. Beth Avner (MAJPS) and Sam Rodin (MAJPS) met in the very first MAJPS cohort and got married in 2012. Today Beth (now Beth Rodin) is the Managing Director for NFTY-The Reform Jewish Youth Movement and Sam is the Program Director of the Diller Teen Fellows program at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. Their son Charlie was born in 2016. 

8. Aleeza Lubin (Certificate in Jewish Leadership, 2015 36 Under 36 honoree) is Director of Jewish Enrichment at BBYO International, where she helps teens find their Jewish voice and discover what aspects of Judaism are meaningful to them.

9. Michael Waitz (Certificate in Jewish Leadership, 2015 36 Under 36 honoree) is North American Director at Shorashim, where he works to connect Jewish young adults to Israel and their Israeli peers.

10. Matt Rissien (MAJPS, 2013 36 Under 36 honoree) is busy finding new ways to engage Jewish youth as director of youth activities at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook.

11 & 12. Brad Finkel (MAJPS, 2012 36 Under 36 honoree), who started working at the JCC Chicago’s Camp Chi as a counselor and moved up the ranks, became the camp’s director in November and added JCC Regional Vice President for South Central Wisconsin to his title in July. Fellow Spertus alum Louis Stromberg (MAJPS) took up the reins as Assistant Director. 

13. Toni Davison Levenberg (MAJPS) is Director of Camp Interlaken JCC, which draws campers from across the Midwest and beyond. Ellie is proudly preparing for the camp’s 52nd season. Like Brad Finkel (above), she fell in love with summer camp when she was still a camper, deciding then that she would make camping her career. Read more about Toni’s path > 

14. Carly Greenspan (MAJPS) just accepted a new position as Director of Jewish Life at University of Miami Hillel, following her time as the Senior Jewish Life Associate at Metro Chicago Hillel. She raves that the MAJPS program opened her eyes to an understanding of the Jewish professional world, a world in which she now sees her career path. 

15 & 16. Rachel Cort (MAJPS) is the Managing Director at Mishkan Chicago. On her staff is Director of Community Engagement & Wellness Ellie Spitz (Certificate in Jewish Leadership).

17. Ellie Gettinger (MAJPS) is the Education Director of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, where she plans exhibits and connects them to curriculum for a diverse range of Milwaukee students. Right now, she’s laying the groundwork for a 2018 exhibit focusing on the Hollywood Blacklist.
Find out what Ellie learned about herself in the MAJPS program >

18. Deborah Shub (MAJPS and Certificate in Jewish Leadership) is multiplying the impact of her leadership training through her role as Assistant Director, Leadership Development, at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. She is also managing the launch of JPRO Chicago, a central resource for Chicago-area Jewish communal professionals.  

Louis Stromberg (left) and Lisette Zaid (right).

19. David Katz (MAJPS) is an example of a Spertus alum having national impact. He moved to LA to become the Executive Director of Hillel 818, which works with 8,000 Jewish students on the campuses of Pierce College, Los Angeles Valley College, and Cal State Northridge.

20. Aaron Weil (MAJPS), who studied in the same cohort as David Katz (above) and is similarly expanding the Spertus leadership reach, also moved for a new position. He is now the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Central Florida, which has the third largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel. 

21. Karen Martin (MAJPS) also traveled to a new job, as Executive Director of K.K. Bene Israel (more often referred to as Rockdale Temple), in Cincinnati, Ohio, a position she accepted after serving as Assistant Director of Metro Chicago Hillel. 

22. Miriam Brosseau (MAJPS) is back in the Chicago area after spending several years in New York. As Director of Engagement for See3 Communications, she works with clients (including ELI Talks, the Jewish take on TED Talks) to help them better tell their stories and achieve greater impact.

23. Stefanie Bregman (MAJPS) is the Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and the co-founding Editor of Oy!Chicago, which presents 36 Under 36. 

24. Lisette Zaid (MAJPS) is a Design Strategist at Upstart Lab, which provides entrepreneaurial tools to Jewish organizational innovators seeking to redesign the experience and expression of Jewish life.

25. Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen (Certificate in Jewish Leadership) was promoted to Executive Director of the University of Chicago Hillel after serving as rabbi and director of Jewish student life for six years. In a recent interview, she called UChicago Hillel a “third space” that can provide students with both a respite from the outside world and a community with which to create social change. “Our students are so driven intellectually and are also compelled to transform the world around them. With Hillel, they can find inspiration and develop a more nuanced Jewish lens through which to see the world," she said.

26. Jane Charney (Certificate in Jewish Leadership) is Director of Domestic Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. You can read a recent piece she wrote for JUF News about activists working to build a safer Chicago. Read here >

27. Elana Kahn (MAJPS) also works for the Jewish Community Relations Council, as Director of the JCRC of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, where she works to mobilize the Jewish community through education, advocacy, social justice, and support for Israel. She also serves on the executive committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and the Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart School of Theology. 

Jane Charney (left) and Rabbi Anna Levin Rosen (right).

28. Sid Singer (MAJPS and Certificate in Jewish Leadership) is now the Chief Operating Officer at the Jewish Council for Youth Services, following his time as the Interim Director of CFJE, Community Foundation for Jewish Education in Chicago.

29. Ali Drumm (MAJPS and Certificate in Jewish Leadership) is Director of Informal Education at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, where she has worked for ten years with young people and their families. We recently learned that Ali had been awarded the title of "Conservative Jewish Educator" ('CJE'), a credential which the Jewish Educators Assembly introduced to recognize select educators for attaining a standard of achievement in the field of Conservative Jewish education.

30. Rachel Kesner (MAJPS) is now Program Director at Jewish Family Services Indianapolis. 

31. Kendra Gerstein (MAJPS) is Associate Director of Religious Education at Temple Sholom, where she is responsible for the development and implementation of the religious studies and Hebrew curricula, including all aspects of the B’nai Mitzvah program. 

32. Shalom Klein (MAJPS and Certificate in Jewish Leadership, 2012 36 Under 36) has been pursuing his Doctor of Education degree at the American College of Education. Of course that hasn't slowed him down a bit. He is still making his impact felt at The Velo Group LLC, Moshe Klein & Associates, and the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park, as well as sharing networking tips with organizations across the Chicago area and beyond. 

33. Scott Frankel (MAJPS, 2015 36 Under 36 honoree) honed his communications and videography working for four years for the iCenter for Israel Education. Before that, while spending 10 months in Israel, Scott shot and directed his own documentary, From The Diaspora, about eight young Jews from six continents, telling their stories of making Aliyah. Today he's in a new position as a Senior Communications Consultant for Allstate. 

34. Yael Brunwasser (Certificate in Jewish Leadership, MS in Nonprofit Management) is JUF’s Director of Volunteer Services and a StartingBlock Innovation Fellow. She matches volunteer expertise to projects ranging from feeding the hungry (JUF’s Uptown Café) to providing professional expertise (JUF Community Legal Services, Goldman Sachs TeamWorks). 

35 & 36. See Josh Gibbs and Lynnley Rothenberg in the sidebar above.

Find out more

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Video profiles

Josh Gibbs35. Josh Gibbs (MAJPS) was an Engagement Associate at UChicago Hillel when he began the program, working with college students just as their adult relationship to Judaism and the Jewish world is taking shape. View a short video in which Josh explains how the MAJPS program provided him the expertise to take his career to the next level, something he recently accomplished with his new position as a Campaign Executive at the Jewish National Fund.

Watch here


Lynnley Rothenberg36. Lynnley Rothenberg (MAJPS) works for the iCenter for Israel Education. View a short video in which Lynnley talks about learning to take strategic risks, work with diverse constituents, and cultivate her own leadership style.

Watch here

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