Jewish Community Leaders Program
The Jewish Community Leaders Program is a unique opportunity for experienced leaders in Greater Washington to focus on their personal leadership journeys while building the future of our Jewish community.
The Greater Washington Jewish community is blessed with strong organizational leaders. We aim to develop a cohort who are inspired and motivated to elevate their leadership to the community level. We are cultivating a group of leaders who understand the big challenges facing our community and have the skillset and connections to lead the Greater Washington community into the future.
The program has been developed by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to build a strong communal culture of collective vision, action, and responsibility for the ecosystem of Jewish life in Greater Washington. The curriculum provides exposure to a wide range of ideas that will push new and creative thinking about what it means to be a vibrant and interconnected Jewish community, and features learning, discussion, and consideration of how to translate ideas into action to strengthen our community, now and in the future.
The inaugural cohort completed the Jewish Community Leaders Program in June 2022. Read more about Cohort One.
COMING SOON: Program Participants
President, The Ringel Group
Rae Ringel is a certified executive coach and founding President of The Ringel Group. She is a faculty member at the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership and founding director of their certificate program in the Art of Facilitation and Design. She is also adjunct faculty at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. Rae is in high demand as an innovator in the areas of coaching, facilitation, and training across sectors. She enables a growing list of executives in some of the most successful Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and government agencies to become more effective managers and stronger communicators with a formidable leadership presence. Rae offers deep experience in the areas of fundraising and board development. Prior to starting The Ringel Group, Rae was the Director of Professional and Volunteer Development at United Jewish Communities, a two-billion-dollar annual enterprise that provides global humanitarian and development assistance. In this capacity, Rae devised an award-winning interactive web-based training program and myriad conferences in service of over 20,000 professionals and volunteers. Rae is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Rochester. She received her Masters degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, and earned her Leadership Coaching certification from Georgetown University. She was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and now holds a faculty position with the Wexner Foundation. Rae lives in Washington DC with her husband and four children.
Rabbi Avi Strausberg
Rabbi Avi Strausberg is the Senior Director of National Learning Initiatives at Hadar, and is based in Washington, DC. Previously, she served as the Director of Congregational Learning of Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, Minnesota. Avi received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Boston and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She also holds a Master’s degree in Jewish Education. Energized by engaging creatively with Jewish text, she has written several theatre pieces inspired by the Torah and maintains a Daf Yomi haiku blog in which she writes daily Talmudic haikus. Avi is most grateful for her wife, Chana, and three children, Ori, Niv, and Amit.
Educational Design Consultant
Beth Cousens is known nationally for her vision for a more engaged and authentic Jewish experience. She helps organizations create and adapt projects that meet the opportunities and challenges of 21st century Judaism, specifically programs that are accessible and rich with Jewish tradition. She has been a member of the senior professional teams at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund (San Francisco Bay Area), the Jewish Federations of North America, and Hillel International. As a consultant, she has worked with dozens of community-based and national organizations on research and initiative design, program evaluation, strategic planning and organizational assessment, professional and leadership development, and more. She teaches clients to launch and evaluate experiences that not only gather participants together, but also advance students’ own capacities and skills. A master collaborator, she excels at leading teams of philanthropists, lay leaders, professionals, and other diverse stakeholders.
Beth Cousens holds a PhD in the Sociology of Jewish Education from Brandeis University, an MA with honors in Jewish Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University, an MSW from the University of Maryland, and a Certificate in Jewish Communal Service from the Baltimore Institute in Jewish Communal Service. She received a BA from the University of Michigan in English and Creative Writing. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and children.
Mark Levitt grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1981, and moved to the Washington area in 1982. Mark and his brother, Randy, started Nellis Corporation, a private investment company primarily focused on commercial real estate, named after their paternal grandparents, Nelle and Ellis. Mark and his wife, Kay, are longtime members of Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County. Mark’s involvement in The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington spans 40 years. Mark previously served as Federation’s President, Annual Campaign Chair, President of the United Jewish Endowment Fund, a member of the Federation Board, President of Young Leadership, and a member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet. Mark is a past recipient of the Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award. He co-founded both the Heritage program and the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund. Additionally, Mark is a past chairman of Panim and is active in Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County, where he is a past board member and a past co-chair of their Create a Jewish Legacy campaign. Mark is married to Kay Klass and is the proud father of Elliot, Max, and Joel, father-in-law of Andrea, Samantha, and Jillian, and the ecstatic grandfather of Clark and Chase.
Shelly Kupfer has served in leadership for National Women’s Philanthropy and National Young Leadership Cabinet for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). She is a long-time JFNA board member, has served on the executive committee for several terms, was co-chair of the 2016 Lion of Judah Conference, and is the upcoming Chair for the JFNA Mission to the UAE in January 2024. Shelly has held leadership roles at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, including Vice President of Women’s Philanthropy and member of the Executive Committee. Her volunteerism goes beyond the Federation world, as she is on the JCCA Board (Jewish Community Center Association) as well as the Northwestern University Hillel Board and has been a board member of the Jewish Primary Day School (now Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School), Capital Camps and Retreat Center, Sunflower Bakery, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Shelly is the owner of The Paper Chase, a stationery and gifts business. Shelly and her husband Jeff, also an active volunteer in the Jewish community, live in Chevy Chase, Maryland and have 3 children – Dani, Adam, and Andrew.
Federation Professional Staff
Gil Preuss, PhD
Chief Executive Officer,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Gil Preuss is the Chief Executive Officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Prior to joining Federation in August 2017, Gil spent 13 years at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in Boston, most recently as Executive Vice President. As the Executive Vice President, Gil oversaw strategic planning, financial resource development and community allocations. During his tenure, Gil led CJP’s two recent strategic plans. These plans helped reimagine the role of a Jewish Federation in the Boston area. Over his years at CJP, Gil helped lead and launch several new initiatives including a comprehensive day school initiative, community-based Israel Advocacy, and an integrated strategy to address poverty within the Jewish community. He partnered closely with donors to help develop and fund these initiatives that have led to community wide change. Prior to CJP, Gil worked at the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland where he supervised agency allocations. Before moving to work at the Cleveland Federation, Gil was an Assistant Professor at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University where he taught courses on Organizational Behavior, Competitiveness and Human Resource Practices in Non-Profits. Gil received a BS from the University of Michigan, his MS from Cornell University, and his PhD from the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gil and his wife, Terri, live in DC and have four children.
Chief of Staff,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Elisa Deener-Agus is the Chief of Staff at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where she oversees governance, strategic implementation, and leadership development programs. Prior to starting at The Jewish Federation in March 2019, Elisa spent 11 years at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in Boston, most recently as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. In that role, she helped lead the most recent strategic planning process at CJP, supervising components of the initial implementation, as well as led the Department of Jewish Learning and Engagement. In previous roles at CJP, Elisa oversaw the Boston Jewish community demographic study, a day school affordability program, a merger between CJP and another Federation, as well as many other key initiatives. Elisa came to CJP following a career as an immigration attorney. She received her JD from NYU Law School and her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Elisa lives in Newton, Massachusetts with her husband, Michael, and their three boys.
Director, Leadership & Learning,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Dana Bornstein is the Director of Leadership and Learning at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Her work focuses on lay leadership development, governance, board engagement, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. Dana believes the key to communal growth is empowered leadership centered around a common goal and purpose. To achieve this vision at The Jewish Federation, she leads a leadership development strategy to build a robust pipeline of volunteer leadership to support Federation’s organizational effectiveness and strength. Prior to this role, Dana was a Senior Development Officer at Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston, connecting next-gen philanthropists with immersive philanthropic leadership experiences. Dana is actively engaged with JDC Entwine, dedicated to nurturing the next generation of global-minded Jewish leaders. She holds a BS in Public Health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a certified 21/64 Philanthropy Advisor. Dana enjoys watching Boston sports, experiencing Jewish culture wherever she travels, and dancing to Whitney Houston.