Joshua Avedon is a social entrepreneur, educator, and nonprofit executive. He is Co-founder and CEO of Jumpstart (jewishjumpstart.org), a research and design lab for Jewish and inter-religious innovation. Joshua has spent the past decade writing, teaching, and advocating around the globe for innovation in the Jewish community, and has served as training faculty at organizational development institutes in the United States, Sweden, and Israel. He advises, mentors, and coaches both emerging leaders and changemakers within established organizations, helping them developing the knowledge and connections necessary to achieving their visions. Certified as a facilitator and family philanthropy trainer by the Center for Leadership Initiatives and 21/64, he is a recognized expert in navigating innovators and institutional leaders alike in strategic thinking and tactical implementation. Joshua was an inaugural American Jewish World Service (AJWS) Global Justice Fellow and is a member of the Selah Leadership Network. He holds a BA from UC Berkeley in Mass Communications as well as an MBA in nonprofit management from the American Jewish University. A lifelong Venetian, Joshua, his wife Stephanie, and their three children Elias, Navi, and Sarit live in the house where he grew up on Oakwood Avenue.
Denise Berger focuses on the development of leaders in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. She works on leadership skills, team optimization, and strategic planning to increase meaningful involvement, collaboration, innovative thinking, and social responsibility initiatives that have meaningful impact in society. She is a SVP partner and coached SVP’s Fast Pitch participants for four years. Most recently, Denise was a TedX coach and an Annenberg/CNN Hero Fast Pitch coach. Additionally, she taught Leadership & Service in the Masters of Social Entrepreneurship & Change program at Pepperdine University.
Denise holds a Doctor of Education from Pepperdine University in Organizational Leadership, and completed her dissertation on Corporate Social Responsibility. In her dissertation, Doing it the Right Way, she identified the leading American Fortune 500 global corporations and analyzed why and how they do “itCSR” – a sophisticated level of CSR that represents a more ideal contribution of a corporation in society and produces meaningful triple bottom line impact. Prior to emerging as a consultant she was a Managing Director at Aon Risk Services, a global insurance broker and consultant. In this role, she ran the East Coast operations of the Global Business Unit, which handled the multinational risk management needs of Fortune 500 companies. Denise received her MBA from Fordham University with Beta Gamma Sigma high honors, and a BA from Colgate University.
Hillel Cohn is a partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP where he practices corporate law. He provides legal counsel to a variety of public, private and non-profit corporations. Hillel was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut where he attended Beth El Temple, a conservative synagogue where his father served as Cantor. His wife, Jenny, grew up in China where she was exposed to Buddhist traditions. Jenny and Hillel are thrilled to have found the Open Temple as a spiritual home for themselves and their sons, Joseph and Jonathan. Hillel is a graduate of Tufts College and Harvard Law School.
Rabbi Laura Geller
Rabbi Laura Geller is the Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, California. Prior to being chosen for this position in 1994, she served as the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress, Pacific Southwest Region. Among her accomplishments at AJCongress was the creation of the AJCongress Feminist Center, which became a model for other Jewish feminist projects around the county. She came to AJCongress in 1990 after fourteen years as the Director of Hillel at the University of Southern California.
Rabbi Geller has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including being named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America for two years in a row and receiving the California State Legislature’s Woman of the Year Award. She was featured in the PBS Documentary called “Jewish Americans.” Author of many articles in journals and books, she is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and served on the Editorial Board of “The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary,” in which she has two essays. Rabbi Geller is a Fellow of the Corporation of Brown University from where she graduated in 1971. She was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in 1976, the third woman in the Reform Movement to become a rabbi. She is married to Richard A. Siegel, and she is the mother of Joshua and Elana Goldstein and the step-mother of Andy and Ruth Siegel.
James D. Halper, also known as Jamie, is a Partner at Leonard Green & Partners, L.P. He joined the firm in 2003. Prior to this, Mr. Halper was the President at TDA Capital Partners Inc. Before this, he was the Principal at Odyssey Partners. Mr. Halper currently serves as a Member of the Board of Directors of Lucky Brand, Topshop/Topman Holdings, Ltd., Carvel Corporation; Tourneau, Inc.; and Focus Brands, Inc. In addition to this, he also serves on the National Advisory Board of Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service and is a Member of the Board of Visitors of Stanford University’s Institute of International Studies. Mr. Halper is also a Member of The Council on Foreign Relations. He has served on the Board of Directors of David’s Bridal, Inc. He earned an M.B.A. degree from the Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.
An internationally sought–after speaker, Rabbi Irwin Kula has inspired people worldwide by using Jewish wisdom to speak to all aspects of modern life and relationships. An engaged and thoughtful trader in the global marketplace of ideas, he led a Passover Seder in Bhutan; consulted with government officials in Rwanda; helped build cultural and interfaith bridges in Qatar; and met with leaders as diverse as the Dalai Lama and Queen Noor to discuss compassionate leadership in the 21st century. Across the U.S., he works constantly with religious, business and community leaders, corporate and family foundations, and religious and philanthropic institutions to promote leadership development and institutional change.
For all this and more, Rabbi Kula received the 2008 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award for his work “toward equality, liberty and a truly inter–religious community.” Fast Company magazine and Religion and Ethics Newsweekly(PBS) both named him one of the leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, and he has been listed in Newsweek for many years as one of America’s “Most Influential Rabbis.”
Rabbi Kula is in constant demand for his distinctive perspective on both spiritual and secular matters by the media. A regular on FoxNews.com’s God Talk,he’s appeared frequently on NBC’s Today Show, was a repeat guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and has appeared onThe O’Reilly Factor (Fox), Frontline (PBS), and PoliticsDaily.com, among others. A blogger for The Huffington Post and the Washington Post’s ’s “On Faith,” he co-hosted the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula. He is also the Co-founder and Executive Editor of The Wisdom Daily, which can be found at www.thewisdomdaily.com.
Rabbi Kula has written several influential texts on religion and spirituality. His most recent book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (2006), won a “Books for a Better Life” award and was named one of the “Best Spiritual Books of 2006” by Spirituality & Health. He also wrote and was featured in Time for a New God (2004), an acclaimed documentary in which he muses on religion as a “giant tool box” for personal and social transformation.
Rabbi Michael Resnick
Rabbi Michael Resnick arrives to Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach as the spiritual leader following ten successful years as Rabbi in various communities. Beginning in New York City, Rabbi Resnick worked with the elderly population as the Rabbi/Director of Jewish Life at the Jewish Home & Hospital for Aged in NY, offering spirited services to over 500 residents and their families.
A Los Angeles native, Rabbi Resnick spent eight years as the rabbi at Adat Shalom, where he helped breathe new life into a small congregation in transition on LA’s West Side. His work at Adat Shalom has left a lasting impression in the Los Angeles Jewish community, having helped revitalize a 50 year old institution and help turn it into a thriving center serving all populations and interests. Rabbi Resnick started his professional life not in rabbinics, but in advertising, working as Creative Director in an advertising agency in California.
Wishing to engage people in more meaningful moments in their lives, and rediscovering a love of Judaism, he studied at the University of Judaism in LA, Pardes Institute, and then Machon Schechter in Jerusalem for two years; Rabbi Resnick completed his rabbinical training at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he received rabbinical ordination in 1996.
He holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from California State University, Northridge, a Masters degree in Rabbinic Literature, and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
In his spare time, Rabbi Resnick enjoys reading, running, biking, swimming and raising orchids
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven Carr Reuben has been involved in the field of moral development and spiritual education for nearly forty years.
He holds Bachelors degrees in Philosophy and Political Science from the University of California, Davis, two Master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and the Hebrew Union College, Certification in Aging and Human Development from the University of Georgia, a Ph.D. in Religion from Sierra University and two honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1976.
Dr. Reuben was a founding editor of Compass Magazine for teachers, a recognized expert on moral education who has appeared on countless television and radio talk shows and travels the country lecturing on character education and how to successfully meet the challenges of interfaith relation.
Rabbi Reuben has served on numerous non-profit boards, including Chrysalis, I Have a Dream Foundation, Global Children’s Foundation, People Assisting the Homeless, was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown of California to The Governor’s Task Force on Youth and served on the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
He is the recipient of numerous community awards, including the Micah Award for founding the largest full-service homeless shelter in Los Angeles, and the Unsung Heroes Award from the Youth Law Center. He has contributed to a wide variety of publications as an author and composer, has written parenting education columns for L.A.Family Magazine, and has written for, been written about and quoted in periodicals throughout the country including USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, New York Newsday, The Chicago Sun Times, McCalls, Philadelphia Daily News, Bride’s Magazine, and People Magazine.
Rabbi Reuben was featured regularly on Michael Josephson’s nationally syndicated “Character Counts” radio commentaries and is featured in both The Power of Character, edited by Michael Josephson & Wes Hanson and In Search of Ethics – Conversations with Men and Women of Character, by Len Marella.
Rabbi Reuben is the author of numerous books, including But How Will You Raise the Children?” – a Guide to Interfaith Marriage (1987), published by Pocket Books, Raising Jewish Children in a Contemporary World (1992), Making Interfaith Marriage Work (1994), and Raising Ethical Children (1994), published by Prima Publishing, Children of Character – Leading Your Children to Ethical Choices in Everyday Life (1997) published by Canter & Associates, A Nonjudgmental Guide to Interfaith Marriage (2002), and A Parent’s Guild-Free Guide to Raising Jewish Kids (2002) by Xlibris Corporation, There’s an Easter Egg on Your Seder Plate – Surviving Your Child’s Interfaith Marriage (2008) by Praeger Publishing, and Becoming Jewish – The Challenges, Rewards, and Paths to Conversion, (2011) with Jennifer S. Hanin, published by Rowman & Littlefield.
He currently serves as Rabbi Emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, California and is past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. He is married to Didi Carr Reuben and is stepfather to Gable.
Rabbi Sid Schwarz
Rabbi Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership where he directs the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI), a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders. He is also the director of the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program, a year long fellowship on Judaism and human rights for young professionals with hubs in New York, London and Jerusalem.
Sid founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values for 21 years. He is also the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD where he continues to teach and lead services. Dr. Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is the author of two groundbreaking books–Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue (Jewish Lights, 2000) and Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World (Jewish Lights, 2006).
Sid was awarded the prestigious Covenant Award for his pioneering work in the field of Jewish education and was named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in North America. Sid’s newest book is Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future (Jewish Lights, 2013).
Annette has been a volunteer for more than 60 years. She was the first woman and the first non-attorney to become chair of The LA Jewish Community Foundation and served in that role from 1997 through 2000. Since 1991, Mrs. Shapiro has been a Foundation trustee and vice president, and has served as a member of The Foundation’s Development and Comprehensive Development Grant Committees. She has previously served as a vice president of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation and was presented the Golda Meir Award in 1988 by the Jewish Federation Women’s Conference. With her guidance as co- creator and co-chair, in partnership with the Jewish Federation, the American Jewish University completed an Executive Volunteer Leadership Institute. Mrs. Shapiro is a member of the National Women’s Contingency Board of the Jewish Federations of North America and is past chair of the UJF Women’s Campaign of Los Angeles. She is currently on the Advisory Board of National Women’s Philanthropy. Mrs. Shapiro is the president of the Beit T’Shuvah Board of Directors and she co-chaired “From Myth to Reality: Opening the Window on Addiction and Recovery,” for laypeople and professionals addressing addiction in the Jewish community. Mrs. Shapiro is also on the Advisory Board of the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research and serves on the Cedars Sinai
Board of Governors. Over 25 years ago, Annette helped to establish the Premiere Committee for the American Diabetes Association, raising more than $5 million for diabetes research. She served on the National Diabetes Advisory Board for the National Institute of Health. In 1986, Annette was presented with the Addison B. Scoville Award for the Most Outstanding Volunteer of the Year in the United States by the National American Diabetes Association. She and her husband, Leonard, are involved in diabetes research to support encapsulated Islet Cell transplants that may ultimately provide a cure for diabetes. Annette currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and has three children (one, David, of blessed memory), eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. In memory of their son, David, the Shapiros established The David Alan Shapiro Memorial Synagogue Center, a new chapel at the American Jewish University.
Passionate, provocative, inspirational leader, motivational speaker, energized facilitator, writer, professor, consultant, marketer, big idea-maker, original thinker, committed dreamer and co-founder of Seize the Conversation.
Gary Wexler began his career as a copywriter and Creative Director for major advertising agencies ranging from Chiat/Day and DDB Needham to McCann-Erickson and Ogilvy and Mather, creating award winning work for clients such as Apple Computer and Coca Cola.
After years in the ad biz, he made a deep soul-driven switch to working exclusively in the nonprofit sector. During this period, he has branded, marketed, facilitated and motivated over 1000 nonprofit organizations, in the US, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle-East. His work has helped to raise millions of dollars, inspire great creative programs and services, and help to change the lives of thousands of people.
Today, Gary is also the Adjunct Professor of both Nonprofit Marketing and Advertising in the Masters in Communications Management Program at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. Additionally, he teaches in the International Training Center at Long Beach State University for visiting Chinese business, entertainment and nonprofit delegations.
Jessica Youseffi is a Masters student in Holistic Counseling Psychology at John F Kennedy University, San Jose. Jessica recently completed a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education residency where she worked as a hospital chaplain at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Raised in London, Jessica moved to Los Angeles to study at the University of Southern California where she received a BA in Journalism and Communication Design. Jessica has also worked as an interfaith social justice organizer, and Jewish community builder for young adults, and was a fellow at Join for Justice and Mechon Hadar.
One who occupies oneself with the needs of the community is as though one has occupied oneself with Torah.
Talmud Yerushalmi, Berakhot