Amanda Gelb is fascinated by the process of bringing information and ideas to life. She has an advanced degree in Interactive Telecommunications at NYU’s Tisch school for the Arts. Amanda studied Social Innovation at McGill University where she also served as Youth Program Director for Canada’s largest and oldest synagogue. She was part of the first cohort of Yeshiva University’s Experiential Jewish Education certificate and was one of four selected fellows in their Innovator’s Circle, a one year incubator for ideas in Jewish social action and education. In addition to being a proud founding faculty member of the JJP, she is a member of an interdisciplinary think tank, and is a museum consultant to Jewish History Museums that look at ways to engage audiences using technology. She currently works as a consultant to tech. companies in the design research of emerging technologies and innovation products.
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.
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.org)
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.
Jake Friedman is an animator, professor, and writer. His animation has been see on The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Saturday Night Live, and he contributed to the recent animated feature film, Epic. He has taught animation to students of all ages and backgrounds, from elementary school to college. His articles have been printed in nearly a dozen publications, and he is the New York correspondent for the leading industry mag, Animation Magazine. He is the authorized biographer of Disney legend and labor leader Art Babbitt, and his “Art Of” book on a certain animation studio will be out next year. See more at http://www.jakesfriedman.com.
Jonathan Goldstein is a licensed tour guide by the Ministry of Tourism in Israel and owner a Jewish heritage tour operator – Gingi Tours. A graduate of Columbia University, Jonathan lived in Israel earning a Masters in Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology. Jon also works as a free-lance journalist for such periodicals as the Jerusalem Post and Tel Aviv City, writing on Travel, Food, and Arts and Entertainment. He is now living in New York City, touring the sights that make up the history of the Jews in America, and spending his summers and holidays touring Israel. See more at http://gingitours.com.
Josh is the summer assistant director at Eden Village Camp, previously serving as the assistant director of the Congregational School at Park Avenue Synagogue. He has a master’s degrees in Jewish Education and Modern Jewish Studies from The Jewish Theological Seminary, and a certificate in Israel education from the Davidson School at JTS. He led experiential Jewish educational programs in Ghana, Uganda, Mexico and Nicaragua for the American Jewish World Service, and domestically for Bend The Arc. He grew up going to Habonim Dror’s Camp Galil, eventually working as the tiyul (camping trip) director.
Rabbi Kurt Stein has a summer camp personality and can do 15 one arm push-ups with either arm. He studied in Israel for six years and received rabbinic ordination in 1998. He then began a career on Wall Street, however, his passion is teaching children. Rabbi Stein is a high-energy rabbi who will inspire students and touch their hearts. Kurt lives in Northern Jersey with his wife Melissa and their six children.
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)
Megan Sass is storyteller, musician, and teacher. She is a member of Storahtelling/LabShul, and also works with Temple Emanu-El, SAJ, The New Schul, and the JCC Manhattan. She has worked as a song leader at several summer camps, including Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, IN, Passport NYC at the 92nd St. Y, and Camp Yomowha with The Washington Heights Y. See more at http://megan-sass.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.
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.
Sheila Lewis is a curriculum and children’s writer and supplemental and Hebrew school educator with a background in teaching through the arts, literacy, and contemplative practices. At the JCC Manhattan, Sheila currently teaches meditation classes at Makom and in the Shabbat R&R program, and related programs that foster wellness, creativity, and the spirit of community. She is co-author with her husband Sheldon Lewis of the book Stress-Proofing Your Child. Sheila recently co-authored a summer learning program, the pilot “Project Fast Forward,” for the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is thrilled once again to be leading the Jewish Children’s Book Club and teaching her new classes for JJP. As the mother of two grown sons, one with special needs, Sheila is especially interested in affirming the gifts children of “different abilities” have to offer.
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. See http://yonaverwer.com.
Zack Friedman is an award-winning writer, performer, and teacher whose work has appeared at the Bleecker Street Theater, 59 E 59, The Barrow Group Theater, and the New York International Fringe Festival. He has been teaching writing and Jewish studies throughout New York City since 2010. Zack holds a BA in Theater Arts & English from Brandeis University.