Executive Committee

Irina Kovriga is passionate about Jewish education. She currently serves on the Executive Grant Making Committee and Teen Initiative Advisory Committee of the Jewish Community Federation. Irina also serves on the Helen Diller Education Award Committee and was its past chair. Her prior work included a term on the board of Kevah, now part of Hamaqom. She is interested in organizational sustainability and non-profit finance and is currently taking accounting and nonprofit finance related courses at the Harvard Business School.

Irina immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union at the age of sixteen. She has spent her professional career working with hearing impaired children and adults in the greater Boston area. Irina holds a BA in Biology from University of Illinois, and a Doctorate in Audiology from A.T. Still School of Health Sciences.

Irina lives in Mill Valley with her husband Sasha and their two youngest daughters, 15 and 8. Her eldest daughter is a college junior. In her free time Irina enjoys using her training as a professional chef to create elaborate dinners for family and friends.

Joel Abramovitz is the Senior Family Educator at The Kitchen in San Francisco, where he oversees three educational communities: Kitchen Playground (for families with kids 0-5), Freedom School (for families with kids 6-13) and Freedom City (for teens 13+). Joel previously served as Judaic Studies Principal and the Middle School Principal at the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, where he also taught Judaic Studies. Joel loves to teach and learn Bible, analyze Jewish comedy, and think about how his work as a Jew and Jewish educator intersects with social change. He is also deeply involved in the local organizing work of Bend the Arc, focusing on criminal justice reform. Joel is a graduate of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) Program at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, and received his Master’s degree in Jewish Education from HUC-LA. Despite receiving much of his education in Southern California, Joel is a proud third-generation Bay Area native and lives in Berkeley. When not working, Joel can be found in his kitchen, baking or studying cookbooks as if they were sacred texts.

Nicole Cruz is a Southern California native currently residing in the Bay Area. She currently works as the Salesforce Administrator/Developer at Elation Health in San Francisco. She has previously worked and volunteered with Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Peninsula Temple Beth El, and Jewish Family & Children Services. Nicole received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Italian from the University of Southern California, and her graduate degree from Vanderbilt University. She’s participated in several Jewish professional development opportunities including Hazon’s Jewish Outdoor Food Farm Environmental Education (JOFEE) Fellowship and the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s Fed Fellows program. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, outdoor activities, and participating in Jewish community events in the Bay Area.

Adam Jakubowitz is a Bay Area native currently living in San Francisco. Adam works in wealth management at JPMorgan, working with families and foundations. Growing up in the East Bay, he was an active member of Temple Isaiah in Lafayette and is excited to continue to deepen his engagement with the Bay Area Jewish community as part of the Federation Fellowship 2021 cohort. Adam went to the University of Miami and is a CFA charter holder. When he is not working, Adam enjoys hiking and playing golf.

Ron Roth has served as a board member and officer of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, Congregation Kol Emeth, Hillel at Stanford, and Jewish LearningWorks, as well as a board member of Kehillah Jewish High School. He has also been a volunteer classroom reader in a local public school for the Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Prior to his retirement, Ron was a partner with the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where was a chair of the tax department. Ron and his wife Sheree have two marvelous sons and daughters-in-law. Both their sons are alumni of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School. They also have four perfect grandchildren from whom they shep unimaginable nachas. Ron was born and raised a practicing Philadelphia Phillies fan, although he has been a devout San Francisco Giants supporter for more than forty-five years. He occasionally dabbles in stand-up comedy. Ron received his B.A. from Lehigh University, his J.D. degree from Stanford University and his L.L.M. in taxation from N.Y.U.

Cindy Schlesinger has spent the last 30+ years devoted to Jewish education. From teaching, to being an administrator, to supporting students as a learning specialist, she has seen the value of providing a Jewish education. Most recently, Cindy was the Head of School at Yavneh Day School where she helped the school navigate the many challenges of COVID. Prior to that, she spent 18 years at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School where she taught in the math and science programs, bolstered the school’s capacity to address individual needs for both gifted students and those with learning challenges, and was the Head of Middle School. Cindy is a Bay Area native and met her husband, Jon, working as a camp counselor at the Palo Alto JCC. Their son is a graduate of Hausner and Kehillah and is currently in graduate school at UCSD. Cindy served on the Board of Directors at Congregation Beth Am as well as on their senior rabbi search committee.

Members at Large

Daniella Forney is currently the Assistant Director of Education and Teen/Youth Programs at Temple Isaiah, where she helps oversee the preschool-7th grade religious school (JQuest), 8-12th grade teen programming (Noar Night), and is the coordinator of the teacher assistant program (Avodah). Daniella graduated from Clark University with a degree in Economics and Business Management. After spending time traveling abroad and teaching high school English in China, Daniella worked as a Senior Business Consultant with a specialty in organizational efficiency. Daniella has been an active volunteer in her local community, for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Berkeley Food Network, Winter Nights, and has held board positions at East Bay public and private schools. A native of Moraga, Daniella currently resides in Berkeley with her husband and 3 teens. In her free time, Daniella can likely be found painting, cake decorating, or scrapbooking.

Donald E. Heller is the retired Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco, where he was responsible for the university’s five schools, libraries, academic affairs, student life, enrollment management, online programs, branch campuses, and international relations for its 11,000 students.  Prior to USF, he served as Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University and also held faculty positions at the University of Michigan and Penn State University.  He currently is working as a consultant in the areas of higher education economics, finance, policy, and governance.  He has served as a Trustee of DePaul University, the nation’s largest Catholic university, since 2012.  Don earned an Ed.D. in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and holds an Ed.M. in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard and a B.A. in economics and political science from Tufts University.  He and his wife Anne Simon are members of The Kitchen.

Sasha Joseph is the Project Coordinator for The Jewish Women of Color Resilience Circle, at Dimensions Educational Consulting. Sasha is passionate about creating radically welcoming spaces. In her seven years as a Jewish professional, she has been dedicated to promoting the diversity of Jewish life in all the programming and experiences she creates. Living as an immigrant and a Jewish Woman of Color in Oklahoma sparked her passion for social justice, and living in the Bay Area transformed the way she approached her activism. She brings her experience as a Jewish Educator and trained facilitator to her work. As a fellow with Voices for Good, Sasha is excited to keep helping Jewish Learning Works support the broader Bay Area community. When not creating the next cool Jewish project, you can find Sasha podcasting about her favorite tv shows and on the hunt for her next travel adventure.

Steve Lipson has lived in the East Bay for the past 14 years. He has served as Treasurer and on the board of Temple Isaiah and of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay before it merged with the Jewish Community Federation. Steve graduated from UC Berkeley and earned a M.A. from the University of Chicago in political theory. Leaving academia, Steve has worked as a scrap metal trader for the past 45 years or so. Steve enjoys gardening, hiking in Tilden, and loves to cook. Steve and Judy enjoy the fine arts and are frequent attendees at the opera, symphony, recitals and theater events. Steve and Judy live in Berkeley and have three kids and five grandkids in Boston, Macau and Anchorage.

Geoff Piller is the managing partner of Beeson, Tayer & Bodine, a law firm representing unions with offices in Oakland and Sacramento. He is a longtime member of Temple Sinai in Oakland, where he has served on the Board of Trustees executive committee and many other committees. From 2009-2013 he was the Board president of Bay Area Midrasha. Geoff recently – albeit briefly – became a Jewish educator, teaching a six week course for Temple Sinai’s adult education program entitled “The Invention of Reform Judaism,” an experience that has him wondering what to teach next. He lives in Albany.

Emily Simons is a passionate Jewish leader who inspires others to engage with their Jewish values through the gift of philanthropy. Emily works for San Francisco Hillel as the Associate Director of Community Engagement and has been there since 2016. Emily holds a Master’s in Organizational Leadership & Innovation from HUC’s Zelikow School of Nonprofit Management and a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Temple University.

Emily is an active lay leader in the San Francisco Jewish community. She currently serves on the board of Jewish LearningWorks and is a member of the Bay Area JCRC’s Assembly. Additionally, she has participated in numerous fellowships, such as Federation Fellows, Jeremiah Fellows, Birthright-Israel Fellows, Brandeis Collegiate Institute, and Leadership 365. When she’s not working, she is taking her dogs, Pumpkin and Ruthie, to the local dog park or exploring the breathtaking views of the Northern California coast.

Robert Smith has been deeply involved in the educational world for over 20 years as an educator, entrepreneur, and board leader. He is currently the head of school of the East Bay School for Boys, a boys middle school in Berkeley providing an integrated program of academic, social, and emotional learning. Previously, he was the Director of Admissions at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, where he also taught courses in the Humanities and World Languages Departments. Prior to his work at Kehillah, Robert worked in the educational technology sector developing platforms to support students through the college exploration process.

Robert received his Bachelor of Science in Asian and Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and pursued doctoral studies in Modern Jewish Thought at Stanford University. He received a Fulbright Fellowship to research contemporary Jewish life and thought in Argentina, where he studied at the Marshall Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary.

In addition to the Jewish LearningWorks board, Robert serves on the boards of Teach with Africa, an organization supporting education exchange between the US and African countries, and Key School, an independent K-8 school in Palo Alto.

In his spare time, Robert enjoys hiking, practicing the guitar, and following the latest trends in architecture and urban studies.

Stephanie Snyder has a Bachelor of Science in economics/finance, holds a multiple subject K-8 teaching credential, is a graduate of Temple Isaiah’s Leading with a Jewish Heart program and is a certified holistic nutrition consultant. Stephanie works with her clients to help them achieve their health goals and teaches courses on topics ranging from; the foundations of nutrition, women’s health, senior health, and youth health. Stephanie is an educator at Contra Costa Jewish Day school and teaches middle school science. She brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience to the roles she holds through her work experience and extensive volunteer experience at her children’s schools, in Lafayette Juniors, and at Temple Isaiah where she chaired several programs and committees: Kulanu Family Programming Co-Chair, Membership Co-chair, Values in Action social action Co-chair, Sisterhood President, and a member of Temple Isaiah Board for over six years.  She currently chairs the Temple Isaiah’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee and is the philanthropy chair of the sisterhood. In her free time, Stephanie takes time to read for pleasure and enjoys hikes in the Bay Area with her dog, Murphy. Stephanie loves to harvest local produce from her backyard garden in Lafayette, California and prepare home cooked meals for her three children and husband.

Jeff Weitzman is an entrepreneur and corporate executive. He has been a leader or founder of a number of tech startups, most recently in the areas of AI, IoT, and blockchain-based identity management. Earlier he held executive positions at non-profit Common Sense Media,  Coupons.com (now Quotient Technology), and Yahoo. He currently sits on the board of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto and has been a board member at J. Weekly and the Hausner Jewish Day School, including a term as the school’s board president.

Diana Wilmot has been in the field of education for 30 years, dating back to her days as a Hebrew school and Sunday school teacher while enrolled as a college student at Northwestern University. Her passion for Jewish education has been woven throughout her educational career, most recently as the Chief Academic Officer and Principal at Yavneh Day School, where both of her children attended and graduated. She continues to be invested in education, particularly focused on evaluating programs and straddling research-based practices that demonstrate a child-centered approach and improve outcomes for students. Currently Diana serves as the Director, Program Evaluation and Research for the Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City, overseeing all of the data and programming related to students success at Carlmont High, Menlo-Atherton High, Sequoia High, Woodside High, TIDE Academy, Redwood High and East Palo Alto Academy. In this effort, she works in coordination with Stanford University and California Education Partners to collaborate with all of the K-8 districts that feed into their high schools. Diana earned a Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley in Policy, Organization, Measurement and Evaluation and her research emphasized the importance of understanding learning trajectories and designing instruments to better measure the development of students. She lives in San Jose with her husband, Dewey, an independent college-admissions counselor, her son and daughter who are both in high school and her dog, Sunny. She is excited to join the Board of Jewish Learning Works and looking forward to getting to know the rest of the board. In her spare time, she likes to hike, kayak and go on adventures. Diana is a congregant at Congregation Sinai in San Jose.

Past Presidents

Julie Bannerman
Dr. Ellyn J. Cohen
Dr. Evan S. Dobelle
Julie Dorsey
Dr. Susan Folkman
Nanette Freedland
Douglas E. Goldman, M.D.
Gary Hammer
Sandra Kurland
Robert Lauter z”l
Nadine Levin-Abrams
William J. Lowenberg z”l
Laurence E. Myers z”l
Dr. Raquel Newman z”l
Sora Lei Newman
Michael R. Perman
Janis Sherman Popp
Kathy Reback
Dr. Barbara Rosenberg z”l
James Sammet
Jane Springwater
David J. Steirman
Marlene Sturm
Sharon Weinberg
Arthur Zimmerman z”l