Anya Marfin is a local NY artist and a designer who graduated from Parsons School of Design with Bachelors in Fine Arts majoring in Product Design. She built her career designing fashion handbags for major American companies like Calvin Klein selling in Macy’s and Lord and Taylor. While she loves creating beautiful things with different materials like macrame art, ceramics is one of her passions. Anya, who grew up in Israel, deeply enjoys working with children to explore Jewish culture and continuity.
Avishai Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and has worked as a photographer and filmmaker on projects investigating issues of race and identity.
“400 Miles to Freedom,” a documentary film executive produced by Be’chol Lashon, is about Avishai’s dangerous journey from Ethiopia to Israel to the United States. In 1984, the Beta Israel–a secluded 2,500–year–old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains–began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co–director Avishai Mekonen, then 10 years old, was among them. In the film 400 Miles to Freedom, he breaks his 20–year silence about the kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa. This life–defining event launches an inquiry into identity, leading him to African, Asian and Latino Jews in Israel and the U.S. Avishai’s other work includes Seven Generations, a photography and video installation that offers a view into an ancient Ethiopian Jewish tradition that is grounded in the past but keeps an eye to the future.
Dov Smiley is an original comic book artist who creates Torah comics to address Jewish Values in a modern way. Along with his Jewish Holiday books, Dov offers a variety of art programs to help Jewish groups learn and interact with the Jewish comic book world. Dov is currently a teacher at the Kubert School in New Jersey, and works with Jewish communities in New York schools and camps to promote comic books as a way to further include others in their own Jewish education. See Dov’s work at dovsmiley.blogspot.com.
Eliana Light is an award-winning songwriter and educator who empowers people to make Judaism their own through song, experiential education, and prayer. She has released two albums of original Jewish music: A New Light and Eliana Sings (About Jewish Things!). Her songs have been featured on PJ Library compilations and are used by educators, song-leaders, and clergy all over the country. Eliana has performed and taught throughout the United States, including at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial, the NewCAJE Jewish Education Conference, Limmud New York, and the DeLeT Master’s Program. She is the author of Hebrew in Harmony, a curriculum published by Behrman House that teaches prayer and Hebrew through music and founder of the G!d Project. Eliana received her MA in Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2016.
Ellen Alt has exhibited her mixed media artwork in the US, Israel, Germany, former Soviet Union, China and England. One of her pieces was presented to Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem on the occasion of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Ellen received a BFA in art education from the Massachusetts College of Art and an MA in studio art from New York University. She is an instructor in the graduate education program at Brandeis University. In New York City, she is the artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Synagogue and teaches mixed media art courses to adults at the 92nd Street Y. In addition, Ellen organizes community sculpture and mural projects in the Middle East, India, England and throughout the United States. (ellenalt.com)
Heather G. Stoltz is a fiber artist who creates quilted wall hangings and fabric sculptures inspired by social justice issues, Jewish texts, and life experiences. Her work has been exhibited nationally and featured in Quilts and Human Rights, Jewish Threads, and several other publications. Stoltz, named as one of The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” for 2012, received a 2011 Manhattan Community Art Funds grant for Temporary Shelter, her installation piece about homeless New Yorkers. Heather teaches workshops for all ages and lives in Westchester County.(sewingstories.com)
Hillary taught in a nursery school for many years in Canada, where she also ran her own ceramics studio. Upon coming to New York became very involved in the JCC culinary arts programs. She is a cooking instructor for after school Little Chefs International, Cook Shabbat with your tots, JCC Summer Camp Cooking Instructor and Havurah Cooking Instructor all at the JCC Manhattan.
Ilan Marans is a musician, teacher, and film editor currently residing in New York City. He graduated from Columbia College in 2013 with B.A in Music. He is an accomplished performer and teacher who specializes in live improvisation. Up until September, Ilan was the Music and Video Specialist at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. In September, Ilan started his new job as the Jewish Life And Events Coordinator at the JCC of Harlem.
Matt Dorter is the executive director of “mainstages”, an educational theater company working with community centers, summer camps, and schools nationwide. Matt graduated New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City. He has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is a presenter for the American Camp Association on theatrical best practices and an entertainer at the forefront of using creativity to inspire social action and foster youth development in informal settings. (mainstages.com)
Equal parts rocker, ritual leader, trainer, experiential educator and social activist, Naomi Less’ performances and workshops captivate audiences, exploring themes of justice, empowerment and open-heartedness. Founder of Jewish Chicks Rock, a program umbrella for initiatives to invite and empower young Jewish girls to pick up instruments and express themselves through music, Naomi models the change she wants to see. She tours worldwide with her band, providing concerts, rock camps, worship services and workshops to participants of all ages. Naomi has developed and delivered myriad trainings for local and major national organizations in the Jewish community. She is a founding company member and Director of Education and Training Storahtelling and former VP of Programs at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Naomi’s music is available on cdbaby.com/naomiless2 or iTunes.
Nicole Raphael is an accomplished theater professional, storyteller and Jewish educator. Nicole is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Misaper Theater, dedicated to sharing aspects of Jewish heritage, values and texts through creative and theatrical expression in order to express the “simchas” and struggles of the Jewish experience. She has taught at Congregation Ansche Chesed, Manhattan Day School an Ramaz.
Sara Stave Beckerman is a teacher of TaNaKh and Rabbinics and the Rosh Hinukh/ Director of Education at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. A curriculum expert and consultant, Sara is also the creative force behind the interactive full-color Jewish prayer curriculum Siddur Sababa. Sara holds an MA in Jewish Studies with a concentration in informal education from the Davidson School of Jewish Education at JTS. Sara loves teaching access skills to Hebrew and Jewish cultural literacy. Sara is the coordinator of the Hebrew Home Page course for the Jewish Journey Project.
Sonia Alexander is the Program Director/Community Organizer at the Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. She helped found, design and teaches the Kids Can Change the World courses. She also designs and facilitates a teen social justice program, along with many other adult education programs. Sonia completed her Master’s in Social Work at NYU in 2015, where she focused on youth counseling, group facilitation, and organizing in the Jewish community. She’s been designing workshops, facilitating and organizing for social justice for many years, and loves pairing her experience and knowledge with the brilliance of young people’s minds and hearts.
Dutch-born Yona Verwer is an artist in New York. She creates works that explore identity, terrorism, Tikkun Olam, and Kabbalah. Yona holds a master’s degree in fine art from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and has shown and curated in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. She is the executive director & co-founder of the Jewish Art Salon in NYC, and serves on the advisory boards of Art Kibbutz: the International Jewish Artist Residency, Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, Jewish Art Now, and the Jewish Design Collective. Her art has exhibited at Yeshiva University Museum, Andy Warhol Factory, the Bronx Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Center for Jewish History, Mizel Museum, Reginald Lewis Museum of African-American Art, Stanback Museum, Canton Museum of Art, and the Holocaust Memorial Center. (yonaverwer.com)