Los Angeles Fellows Bios


Global Justice Fellowship 2013/2014 Los Angeles Fellows

The AJWS Global Justice Fellowship is a selective, year-long program designed to inspire, educate and train key opinion leaders in the American Jewish community to become advocates in support of U.S. policies that will help improve the lives of people in the developing world. The Los Angeles fellowship includes a 10-day trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, during which participants learn from grassroots activists working to overcome poverty and injustice. The trip will be preceded and followed by innovative trainings in Los Angeles that will prepare participants to mobilize and organize their communities and networks to advance AJWS’s campaigns and other efforts for global justice.

AJWS is excited to be launching the Global Justice Fellowship program in the diverse and vibrant community of Los Angeles. The 17 Los Angeles Global Justice Fellows range from ages 21 to 68 and include rabbis, scholars, Jewish communal professionals, nonprofit leaders and entertainment professionals. Hailing from across greater Los Angeles, this group represents a broad array of backgrounds, communities, professional experiences and networks. The inaugural fellowship year begins in August 2013.

The Fellows

Naomi Ackerman is a social activist, mediator and conflict resolution specialist who focuses on theatre as a means to facilitate social change. Born in the US and raised in Israel, she attended Hebrew University, the David Yellin Teachers’ Seminar and Nissan Nativ Acting Studio in Israel. Naomi was a founding member of “View Points,” an Arab-Jewish theatre group sponsored by the Peres Center for peace.

Debbie Adler manages her own online marketing strategy consulting business. Previously, Debbie served as a client manager at Blue State Digital, where she worked with organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is currently on the board of Brandeis University’s Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and she holds an MBA from New York University.

Joshua Avedon is co-founder and chief operating officer of Jumpstart, a nonprofit that works across the globe to empower organizations and leaders committed to compelling and meaningful visions of Jewish life. He is a recognized leader in forward-thinking use of technology, viral communications and community-building strategies for Jewish organizations. He holds an MBA in nonprofit management from the American Jewish University.

Melissa Balaban, IKAR’s founding president and its first executive director, focuses on the strategic direction of the community. Prior to joining IKAR, Melissa served as assistant dean at the University of Southern California Law School. She also worked as the directing attorney of the Public Counsel’s Child Care Law Project, as a senior consultant for a national human resources consulting firm and as an adjunct professor in the Loyola Marymount MBA program.

Danielle Berrin writes the “Hollywood Jew” blog for the Jewish Journal. The blog, awarded “Best Blog in Los Angeles” by the L.A. Press Club for the past two years, is a cutting-edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry. She has profiled entertainment and media luminaries, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Quentin Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, British Esquire and The Times of Israel.

Leili Davari is an organizer at Parent Revolution. She recently completed a Community Organizing Residency with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. An American of both Iranian and Mexican heritage, Leili worked in Israel as a volunteer teaching English to Arab Israelis before moving to Los Angeles. She received her MA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Janelle Eagle is an entertainment professional and LGBT Jewish activist. Janelle founded the 2wice Blessed Project, which is devoted to highlighting positive stories about the queer Jewish community. She has worked at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. As founder of Off the Path Productions, Janelle has worked with clients including National Geographic and GayTravel.com. She is a member of the ROI community and an active leader with JQ International.

Asher Gellis is co-founder and executive director of JQ International, a nonprofit that creates community and advances greater inclusion of LGBT Jews and allies through identity-building programs and services that embody Jewish values. Asher is a PresenTense LA Fellow, with past professional experience in synagogues, United Synagogue Youth, and the Bureau of Jewish Education. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University.

Miriyam Glazer is a rabbi, author, scholar and the chair of the Literature, Communication & Media department at American Jewish University, where she has been a professor for the past 20 years. Miriyam participated in AJWS’s Young Rabbis Delegation to Ghana. Her most recent books are Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy: A Guide to their Beauty, Power and Meaning, a new translation & commentary and The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking.

Jonathan Klein is executive director of CLUE-LA, an interfaith organization dedicated to achieving economic justice for low-wage workers. After receiving his rabbinic degree from Hebrew Union College in 1997, he worked as director of KESHER, the Reform movement’s college outreach program. Jonathan serves as a board member for the ACLU of Southern California, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Our Faith Matters and Shamayim V’Aretz, a national Jewish animal welfare group.

Diane Levitt is director of corporate social responsibility for Belkin International, Inc. Her career in philanthropy began at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, and she has worked as a consultant for the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Stuart Foundation. She is a philanthropic advisor to the Pipkin Family Foundation and the outgoing president of Congregation Tikvat Jacob Beth Torah.

Michelle Missaghieh has served as associate rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood since 1996. She serves on the executive board of the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din, the only pluralistic Bet Din (rabbinic court) in the United States. As a daughter of a Persian man and a New York woman, Rabbi Missaghieh is possibly the first Persian female rabbi.

Margalit Rosenthal is senior director of the Birthright Israel Experience at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She has worked in social entrepreneurship, innovation and philanthropy with Joshua Venture Group and Slingshot in New York. Margalit holds an MPA and an MA in Hebrew & Judaic Studies from New York University, where she was a Jewish Foundation for Education of Women Fellow.

Robyn Samuels is an active member of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where she became an adult Bat Mitzvah. She has served on the board of the Highland Hall Waldorf School and worked for the Los Angeles Unified School district as a bilingual elementary school teacher in the inner city. She has also worked as a feminist theatre artist, writer and storyteller.

Flori Schutzer is program director of the Hunger Initiative and assistant director of resettlement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She has more than 30 years of experience with nonprofits and social activism, including leadership roles with Operation USA, Share Our Strength and the LA Regional Food Bank. Flori has a background in theatre and has served on the boards of Teatro Tatalejos, Radio Club Afterschool and Congregation Kol Ami.

Rachel Sumekh is a current member of AVODAH: the Jewish Service Corps in Chicago. This fall, she will begin a new position as executive director of Swipes for the Homeless, a national nonprofit that she founded as an undergraduate. Swipes allows college students to donate their remaining meal points to their local homeless population. Rachel was a PresenTense LA Fellow, and has worked with Repair the World and Uri L’Tzedek.

Jonathan Zasloff is professor of law at the UCLA School of Law. He is also a rabbinical student in the ALEPH ordination program. Jonathan currently serves on the boards of several Jewish community organizations, including the Breed Street Shul Project, Friends of Israel’s Environment and the Mussar Institute. He holds a PhD in American history from Harvard and a JD from Yale.