The Leadership Cohort
Meet the Cohort!
The IOWA Leadership Cohort is a retreat-based learning and practice spiritual community for experienced Jewish social justice leaders. The purpose of the cohort is to make social change a sustainable and nourishing practice by grounding it in Jewish spiritual wisdom that integrates cultivation of the inner-life with action in the world.
The Leadership Cohort also makes Jewish spiritual wisdom and practice an accessible resource for people addressing the most pressing social issues of our time including racism, climate change and political polarization.
Meet several of the stellar leaders who are learning and practicing together!
Joseph Gindi is the Program Officer for International Education and Jewish Engagement at AJWS, where he is responsible for the creation of Judaic content, including the monthly Just Thought series, and engaging rabbis and North American Jewish communities. Joseph, who hails from the Syrian Jewish community of Deal, New Jersey, is a Jewish educator with over 10 years of experience across the Jewish organizational and denominational landscape. He has master’s degrees in Near Eastern and Judaic studies from Brandeis University and in religious studies from the University of North Carolina, where he wrote his master’s thesis on the use of classical texts in the Jewish environmental movement. Joseph has studied in batei midrash at the Pardes Institute, Mechon Hadar, and The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Ora Grodsky has consulted to organizations that work for social change for nearly two decades. She’s a skillful facilitator, trainer and guide with a creative, empathetic approach, engaging groups to increase their alignment, optimism, and sense of direction.
Ora brings to each project her extensive experience in organizational development, social change, leadership, education, and conflict transformation. She grounds her work in her deep commitment to integrity and social justice.
In her earlier career as an acupuncturist and academic dean of the New England School of Acupuncture, Ora noted parallels between the human body and the workings of organizations. She saw that organizations—like the body—are more than the sum of their parts. They are systems that are most effective when people, plans, structures and resources are aligned and working as part of a greater whole. Ora uses her holistic perspective to identify sticking points in organizations and create processes that restore balance and health.
Ora’s commitment to creating organizational health as an essential part of social justice work crystalized when she cofounded the AIDS Care Project during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, prompting her to return to graduate school. After receiving a Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she began consulting for the Massachusetts Prevention Center System, helping schools and community-based organizations build the capacity of youth to create healthier communities.
Ora draws on a wide variety of tools and approaches in her work. She has trained extensively in small and large group facilitation, leadership development, planning, conflict resolution, mediation, anti-racism and liberation, and nonprofit governance. She utilizes many innovative and proven approaches in her work with her clients, including Nonviolent Communication, Power and Systems (the work of Barry Oshry), Graphic Facilitation, Immunity to Change, DISC, and Appreciative Inquiry.
Ora is married to Jonathan Rosenthal. They live near Boston, Massachusetts (USA) with their dog, their cat and, when they are truly lucky, their two amazing young adult daughters.
Dove Kent, Senior Strategy Officer at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, has two decades of experience in grassroots organizing, political education, and movement building. As the executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice from 2011 through 2016, Dove supported the organization to triple in size and win game-changing legislative victories for police accountability and worker’s rights through powerful local coalitions. Under Dove’s tenure, JFREJ grew into one of the strongest and most effective progressive Jewish organizations in the country, creating significant culture shifts within the Jewish community, New York and nationally. She has been published in What We Do Now: Standing Up for Your Values in Trump’s America (2017), Towards the “Other America”: Anti-racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter (2015), Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering To Our Movement (2017), and in the Guardian, Ha'aretz, Tikkun, and other media outlets. Dove teaches nationally, and is the co-founder of Tzedek Lab, a national network of Jewish political education trainers, organizers, and spiritual leaders established to build collective competency to politicize, transform, and inspire the Jewish community into collective action against racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Idit is a national leader for social justice with more than 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Since 2001, she has served as the leader of Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. Idit built Keshet from a local organization with an annual budget of $42,000 to a national organization with an annual budget of over $3 million. Under her leadership, Keshet has supported tens of thousands of rabbis, educators, and other Jewish leaders to make LGBTQ equality a communal value and institutional imperative. Idit also spearheaded the creation of leadership development programs for queer Jewish teens and mobilized Jewish communities to help defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and pass two transgender rights bills in Massachusetts. In addition, she served as the Executive Producer of Keshet’s documentary film, “Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School.”
Prior to leading Keshet, Idit was a leader in the LGBTQ community in Israel and helped envision the Jerusalem Open House. A magna cum laude graduate of Yale University, Idit earned her Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a focus on social justice and anti-oppression education. She serves on the board of JOIN for Justice and the Leadership Team of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable to strengthen the Jewish social justice movement. Idit was honored by the Jewish Women’s Archive with a “Women Who Dared” award and selected for the Forward 50, a list of American Jews who have made enduring contributions to public life.
Abby is the first director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, a network of 55 Jewish organizations pursuing social justice from a Jewish perspective. Under her leadership, the Roundtable has doubled in size, supported sector-wide efforts on civic engagement, immigration and racial equity, inclusion and diversity, and organized two conferences of 150 people across the network. Previously, Abby led a coalition of 30 local progressive organizations in Columbus, Ohio with America Votes, served as the founding San Francisco staff member for Progressive Jewish Alliance, now Bend the Arc, and worked in development for DC Vote, which works for DC voting rights and statehood.
Abby received an Abraham Joshua Heschel award from Jews United for Justice in 2013, and is a Senior Schusterman Fellow, a Jewish leadership program. She has a BA in political science from Yale University and lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two kids, Zachary and Lilah.
Rachie Lewis is the Director of Synagogue Organizing at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, where she has worked for the past seven years. Recently, her focus has been on multi-faith immigrant solidarity and accompaniment efforts in MA, most notably, the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN - pronounced 'beyond'). Rachie is heartened by the growth, creativity and dedication that so many in our Jewish community have demonstrated as this work has evolved. She is excited to be a member of this cohort and develop more spiritual tools in service of enduring these dark times. She finds light and joy playing trombone in School of Honk, a local community brass band (that anyone can join!), and writing a mystery novel about a queer rabbi confronting the boogeymen of the contemporary, American Jewish community.
Megan Pamela Ruth Madison is a facilitator, scholar, and organizer who grew up in northern Michigan, and now calls New York City home. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in studies in religion, Megan went on to become a preschool teacher in Chicago. Now, as a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, she works part-time facilitating workshops for grown-ups (teachers, families, organizers) on racism, sexism, antisemitism and other fun stuff. Megan serves on the governing boards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (or JFREJ).
Megan approaches her work as an early childhood educator and a student of radical Black feminism. She strives to catalyze transformative change by using her power to create playful spaces that center the needs and experiences of Black womxn in our wholeness (our minds, our bodies, our emotions, and our spiritual selves). She does this work because she is in love and she yearns for opportunities to deepen that love for herself, for her communities, and for the world we are building together.
David Schwartz is a long-time organizer and social movement trainer, focused on racial and economic justice. He serves at the Director of Programs at JOIN for Justice and a racial equity and diversity trainer with VISIONS Inc. Prior to this, co-founded and led Real Food Challenge (RFC), where he mobilized tens of thousands of young people around the country to push back against the corporate power of Big Food, and get anchor institutions to invest in just and sustainable food systems. Through RFC he led national corporate campaigns and built farmer-worker-youth coalitions, while developing and supporting new organizers. He's a respected strategy consultant for a number of heart-centered social justice start-ups, and has worked extensively with IfNotNow as a trainer, strategist and campaign designer. David holds a B.A. in History from Brown University and is Schusterman Foundation ROI member and Echoing Green Fellow. When he's not leading or attending trainings, David is an avid gardener, fermenter, singer and uncle.
Community organizer and political educator Yehudah Webster works to ensure the Jewish community remains committed to the fight for racial justice and collective liberation. With an analysis of unconditional/revolutionary care, Yehudah facilitates anti-oppression trainings and offers organizational consulting, developing unique programs to bring pitted against communities together. As a board member for Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, he supports the police reform campaign and the Jews of Color Caucus, organizing and leading meaningful political actions infused with Jewish ritual and moral grounding.
Michelle Weiser is the Deputy Director at Boston Workmen's Circle Center for Jewish Culture & Social Justice, where she weaves together her passion for strategic visioning, fundraising, network building, and a commitment to collective liberation to support and lead the intergenerational radical Jewish community of her dreams. Michelle is a queer white Sephardic Jewish woman originally from Los Angeles and currently lives in Jamaica Plain, MA. Michelle is an alum of the JOIN for Justice Community Organizing Fellowship and spends a lot of time thinking about and organizing around antisemitism, white supremacy, and Israel/Palestine. She loves swimming in the ocean, experimenting with watercolor, drinking coffee, traveling, being a gemini, and recently participated in a local mussar class and can't wait to be in continued learning and relationship with this cohort.
Dani Levine was born and raised in Washington, DC and fell in love with the Jewish Social Justice community through involvement with Habonim Dror. She studied Environmental Studies and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College and received her Masters of Public Health from Tulane University in Environmental Health and Policy. In 2011, Dani left the environmental policy world and joined the staff of Avodah. Dani lives in New Orleans (the best city in the world) with her wife and three kids.
Sarah Langer is a Middle School Math teacher and the Social Justice Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, MA. She is also one of the Co-Chairs of Kavod, a community led by young Jews in Greater Boston, committed to each other and to building a liberated world for all people. While she is involved in projects for immigrant and economic justice in Boston, much of Sarah's work is in engaging teams, colleagues, and communities in the daily work of better naming and fighting oppression and white supremacy. She is deeply grateful for all she is learning from the Kavod and JCDS communities and for the opportunity to be part of this cohort.