Meet the 2013 Class of PresenTenseLA!
Originally from Cleveland Ohio, Gabriel has been in Los Angeles for nearly a decade and is currently in his fourth year at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. Now a certified shochet and mohel as well as a lifelong social and environmental activist, Gabriel is dedicated to making Jewish learning and holy trades accessible to all Jews, regardless of gender or movement affiliation.
Tekumah aims to bridge the gap between the Orthodox community that is fluent in Jewish text and the Liberal community that is fluent in social and environmental action. Tekumah would be a space for the teaching of traditional holy trades (kosher slaughter, scribal arts, making ritual objects) that would be open to anyone regardless of one’s gender, sexual orientation or Jewish affiliation. In addition, Gabriel hopes to create an experiential education center with an agriculture school based on Jewish values and artist studios for making Judaica as well as a part-time and full-time egalitarian Beit Midrash where people can come and learn Jewish texts.
Rabbi Sara Brandes
Neshama Center for Spirituality and Wellness
Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Sara Brandes is a spiritual leader and social entrepreneur. Co-founder of Minyan Kol Chai, Sara currently serves as West Coast Regional Director for Moving Traditions, and is partner to Hyim and mother to Michal and Gavi.
The Neshama Center and Mikvah is a spiritual spa, offering the body as a point of entry into Jewish life.
Offering mikveh immersion, yoga, classes and support groups, visitors to the Neshama Center step away from the pressures of life for an hour or an evening, leaving inspired and transformed. The Neshama Center “lights a Jewish spark” for users, inspiring them to engage more deeply with Judaism.
Michal Brous, is a native of Jerusalem, Israel and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband Michael and their children, Tamar, Yair & Hadas. Previously, Michal was a spokeswoman for a Member of Knesset, and has a wide range of PR and strategic marketing experience. She recently completed coursework towards a Public Relations certificate at UCLA. Michal has a BA from the Hebrew University, where she majored in Political Science and Sociology. She also served in the IDF as a Masha'kit
Tash (social worker), where she assisted soldiers in need. Michal is the founder of Sweets 2 Share, an innovative way to synthesize her passion for baking and her desire to make an impact on our society to try and solve hunger.
Sweets 2 Share" brings Jewish values of charity to the streets: a new innovative bakery line to help nourish our homes with delicious dessert treats, while at the same time, helping to feed the hungry in our neighborhood. For every purchase of a scrumptious chocolate cake or other treats, a similar product will be delivered to feed the needy. Sweets 2 Share plans to partner with local food banks to help prepare and
distribute food to the needy. "1 for 1" - feed your family, entertain your guests, and help solve one of the serious challenges of our day: hunger in our streets and nation.
Asher Gellis’s involvement in Jewish communal work has taken him around the world in many capacities working for the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, the Bureau of Jewish Education and Hadassah. He is currently the Executive Director of JQ International and was previously the Regional Director of Hadassah Zionist Youth Commission’s Young Judaea programs for California, Nevada and Hawaii. Asher earned his BA in Political Science from UCLA and his Masters in Business Administration with an emphasis in leadership from Pepperdine University.
JQ International is a non profit organization that provides programs and services to the LGBT and Jewish communities and advances the efforts of the Jewish community to increase its inclusion of the under-served LGBT community. JQ is seen as the expert on LGBT Jewish programming in Los Angeles and it represents the only trans-denominational LGBT Jewish organization in the Greater LA area.
Om Shalom Yoga
Zack Lodmer is a lawyer, yoga instructor, and musician from Los Angeles. As the founder and leader of Om Shalom Yoga, Zack weaves Jewish melodies and teachings into an all-levels, uplifting yoga class. When Zack is not in the courtroom or the yoga studio, he enjoys going to farmers markets, the beach, and dining with his wife, Irene, and their children, Benji and Sasha.
Om Shalom Yoga is an experience which celebrates Jewish prayer through the moving meditation of a Vinyasa flow yoga class. This type of moving meditation, linking movement and breath, gives participants an exalting religious, physical, mental, and spiritual way to deepen their prayer. Working traditional versions of Jewish prayers into modern, electronica arrangements created and recorded for this flow, Om Shalom Yoga creates the moving, rhythmic space and a unique spiritual opportunity to share life as G-d intended....in the present moment.
Tzedek America Program
Avram Mandell has been the Director of Education at Leo Baeck Temple since 2004. He holds a Masters degree in Jewish Education from HUC-JIR Rhea Hirsch School of Education. Avram he was the
first recipient of the URJ "Technology Award" for creating a radio station at his synagogue, and has a chapter entitled "Funny Man,” in the book Still Small Voice: Reflections On Being A Jewish Man, Michael Holzman, ed. URJ Press, 2007.
Tzedek America Program is a U.S.-based Jewish Gap Year program which will allow Jewish American teenagers to explore the uniqueness of their Jewish identity as it meshes with their role as citizens of the United States. Through the exploration of Jewish values, culture and celebration, participating in promoting social justice and individual mentorship, participants will be spiritually, intellectually and emotionally ready to fully participate as Jewish American adults in society. The program offers teenagers, who are between high school and college, a community of peers and mentors in which to further their self-growth and chart their personal path as Jews in the great American experience.
Jewish Recovery Services
Rachelle Minteer’s Jewish background and education has impacted every aspect of her life -- personal, professional and as a volunteer. Her commitment and desire to give back to her community led her to work in the Volunteer Engagement Department of Jewish Family Service of San Diego for three years.
Rachelle received her Bachelors degree in Communication Studies from the University of San Diego
Jewish Recovery Services provides resources for people in the Jewish community suffering from alcoholism, addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses to seek help in Israel, giving them a profound experience in the Holy Land that energizes and propels them to delve deeper into their spiritual, religious and community ties during the recovery process. JRS will be partnering with Or Aviva, a therapeutic community in Israel, to create a program where American Jews can travel to Israel for the unique experience of getting sober.
Sharona Motkin just returned to Los Angeles from New York where she worked for Goldman Sachs as a Senior Financial Analyst for the last four years. Deciding that she wanted to pursue other passions she left Wall Street and started Generous Spoonfuls, a non-profit organization in May of 2012, where she is the acting Executive Director. In her free time Sharona is a culinary student at the Academy of Culinary Education and a volunteer at the Los Angeles Animal Shelters.
Generous Spoonfuls is dedicated to providing innovative and therapeutic educational programming and activities to the elderly, ill, individuals with special needs and those who are otherwise disadvantaged. Our
mission is to contribute to the health and vitality of our participants through the use of the culinary arts as a means to engage, communicate and create. We encourage community participation, partnership and volunteering.
Johannah Sohn is the Director of the Jewish Learning Community of Adat Ari El, as well as a wife and mother to two girls. A life-long Jewish educator, Johannah has spent the past several years thinking critically about Hebrew schools and the need to update a generally antiquated system. She received a B.A in Religious Studies from Arizona State University, a B.A in Hebrew letters and Masters in Education
from AJU and is currently a Doctor of Education candidate at Hebrew College and Northeastern University.
Virtual Israel is a multi user, virtual environment (MUVE) similar to that of Second Life where students can connect to their peers, the “environment” and Judaic content. This virtual environment is a 3-dimensional immersive environment that the student explores using a personal avatar to learn about the history of the State of Israel by going on scavenger hunts with classmates, engaging simulations and role playing activities, clicking on objects in the environment and, essentially, being immersed in a game-like setting that connects them to Israel. Virtual Israel strengthens the connection our students make to Judaism, Israel and each other. Given the ability to create space, and experience and visit anywhere in the “world,“ this technology can change the face of Jewish education.
Tell & Retell
Ashley Waterman grew up in Los Angeles, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education& Spanish Literature from Emory University and a Masters Degree in Education from Columbia University. Ashley
currently works at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, and her previous professional experience includes working at a non-profit for patients with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, leading HIV prevention programs in Togo, West Africa and Harlem, participating in a Fulbright teaching Fellowship in Spain, and creating a documentary on grassroots media during Apartheid in South Africa. As a third generation Holocaust survivor, the constant backdrop of her grandparents' experiences has deepened her sensitivity to the plight of others and strengthened her commitment to living a life in accordance with Jewish values.
A project of Remember Us, Tell and Retell will train a cohort of third generation Holocaust survivors to relate their grandparents' stories to children and teenagers in the Los Angeles area. Through gatherings, professional development, and mentorship from writers, artists, and those experienced in transmitting life stories, a network of grandchildren of survivors will be given the opportunity to share their grandparents' experiences and help sustain the legacy of Holocaust memory. As the survivor population diminishes, Tell and Retell shifts the responsibility of Holocaust remembrance to the descendants of survivors who will carry the torch and ensure that such an important chapter in human history is never forgotten.
30 Years After Fellowship
Jason Youdeem is the Orange County Assistant Area Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In his current role Jason organizes the political and grassroots efforts of the local pro-Israel community. Prior to his career at AIPAC, Jason worked for Relief International, a humanitarian NGO based out of Los Angeles. Jason is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he studied Globalization and Political Science. During his time at UCLA Jason managed several successful political campaigns. Jason’s undergraduate thesis took an in-depth look at the use of Social Media in the Arab Spring and its effect on the globalization of conflicts in the area.
The mission of 30 Years After is to promote the participation of Jewish Iranian-Americans in American political, civic and Jewish life. Our program will train the next generation of Iranian Jewish leaders. Participants will progress through a comprehensive and intensive program that will introduce them to the needs of not only their own community, but the greater community they live in, and equip them with the tools they need to make a difference. It is our hope that graduates of our program will go on to not only be informed and effective leaders but also role models for their peers.