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.

Co-Chairs

Levitt

+ Mark Levitt, Co-Chair

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

+ Shelly Kupfer, Co-Chair

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.

Program Participants

Alison Baraf

+ Alison Baraf

ALISON BARAF, a Washingtonian since childhood, is actively involved in local Jewish life. She has served for several years on the Board of Governors of the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, beginning in 2015 as a member of the Housing Boards, and now serves as the Vice Chair of the Resource Development Committee, Co-Chair of the Community Engagement Committee, and is a member of the Advisory Board of Elder Safe. Alison also serves on the Edlavitch DCJCC’s JxJ Council which encompasses the Washington Jewish Film and Music Festival and year-round programming. A member of Congregation Beth El since 1999, Alison is currently Co-Chair of Women of Beth El and also serves on the synagogue Board and Development Committee. She previously served on the preschool board, Family Education Committee, and Community Engagement Committee, and has planned and chaired multiple Beth El programs and galas, including Rabbi Greg Harris’s 20th anniversary celebration. A graduate of the University of Michigan and NYU Law School, Alison is a former Assistant State’s Attorney for Montgomery County and is the owner of Facets, her own jewelry design business. Alison lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband Aryeh Portnoy and her three sons, Max, Brandon, and Tyler.

Stacy Bell

+ Stacy Bell

STACY BELL is the Assistant Vice President for Business Development and Real Estate at Inova Health System, a $4.5 billion dollar five-hospital system in Northern Virginia. In that capacity, she develops and implements ambulatory market strategy throughout the region as Inova increases the breadth of its offerings closer to the patients it serves. Stacy also leads the construction and maintenance for these locations, encompassing over three million square feet of owned and leased space across more than 150 locations. After graduating with a degree in commerce from the University of Virginia, Stacy began her career as a CPA at Price Waterhouse. She supported audit clients in both DC and Philadelphia before leaving public accounting for finance opportunities spanning a variety of industries including telecommunications, financial services, and data analytics. After an exciting project in software development for a satellite industry, Stacy found a home in healthcare in 2016. Stacy holds an MBA in Healthcare Management and is an adjunct faculty for the George Mason University College of Public Health. With the kids gone, Stacy enjoys learning new languages and musical instruments. She’s adding German in 2023 and bass guitar in 2024. Stacy lives in Arlington with her husband and labradoodle, Frank.

Philip Blumenthal

+ Philip Blumenthal

PHILIP BLUMENTHAL grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and studied classics and religion at Boston University before relocating to Northern Virginia in 2004. A self-described data geek, he has held a number of marketing and strategy roles throughout his career and currently serves as Senior Director of Corporate Strategy for a leading SaaS technology company. Philip is the immediate past President of Gesher Jewish Day School and is involved in lay leadership at Congregation Olam Tikvah. Philip resides in Fairfax with his wife, Rachel, and children, Seth and Maya.

Andy Chod

+ Andy Chod

ANDY CHOD serves as Co-President of Minkoff Development Corporation, a family-owned real estate firm based in Germantown, Maryland, that provides development, construction, management, and brokerage services. He is a 2011 Graduate of Leadership Montgomery, as well as having served on the boards in various capacities of the Bender JCC and C&O Canal Trust. Mostly recently he is serving on the rabbi search committee for Congregation B’nai Tzedek and as a volunteer advisor for the Jewish Fertility Foundation. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, playing the drums, skiing, playing pinball, and cheering on the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues.

Ellie Kagan

+ Ellie Kagan

ELLIE KAGAN is a proud Maryland native and grew up in Baltimore. Ellie now lives in Silver Spring with her husband and has three beautiful daughters (ages 20, 18 and 15). She is the proud mom of a lone soldier serving in the IDF. Ellie currently serves on the board of Berman Hebrew Academy, where she is both an alumna and parent. Professionally, Ellie works as a Nurse Practitioner and Diabetes Educator. Ellie runs a private diabetes consulting company, Diabetes Education Solutions. Ellie is an active member of Chabad of Silver Spring and Kemp Mill Synagogue. In her spare time, Ellie enjoys riding her bike both inside and outdoors.

JEREMY LEVINE

+ Jeremy Levine

JEREMY LEVINE has 20 years of experience in international project finance, first at investment banks Goldman Sachs and Investec and, for the last 13 years at Greengate LLC, a project finance advisory firm in Washington DC. Born in South Africa and raised in the UK, Jeremy now lives in Chevy Chase with his wife Jessica Dodson and two sons, Jonah and Theo, who attend the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School. Jessica and Jeremy are active in the Milton community, where Jeremy has served as board member, Treasurer, and President of the board. Jeremy received a BA in History from Cambridge University and an MA in Economics and International Relations from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University.

Kavitha Kasargod-Staub

+ Kavitha Kasargod-Staub

KAVITHA KASARGOD-STAUB is a social justice educator and a Jewish woman of color. She has served as a social studies classroom teacher and an instructional leader for over 12 years in both public and charter schools in Washington DC and Oakland, CA. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Policy at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on the ways in which left-wing social movements envision schools as sites of contestation in their broader political efforts to foster a democratic and egalitarian society. Kavitha believes strongly that her students have been her greatest teachers and their voices call her to the power and potential of education as a force for liberation. Kavitha serves on the Board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and her family are members at Adas Israel Congregation. She lives in Washington DC with her husband Eli, her kids Priya and Ezra, and dogs Mazal and Frankie.

Maia Magder

+ Maia Magder

MAIA MAGDER is a speech-language pathologist, clinician-leader, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) practitioner with a 25-year history of leading cognitive rehabilitation teams and delivering care in the neuro-rehabilitative space. At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), she is a senior clinician who provides cognitive linguistic therapy to active duty service members with Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. She creates and delivers DEIA initiatives for health care organizations across policy, education, programming, and education. She served as WRNMMC’s first DEIA officer, launching all strategic initiatives and programs. Maia has provided on-the-ground, frontline healthcare provider work in shock-trauma and ICU, acute care, acute rehabilitation, and outpatient and community health settings. She holds faculty and student supervisory positions in neuropsychology and speech-language pathology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Gallaudet University, and George Washington University. She served on Milton’s Board for eight years, four as Trustee Committee Chair. She earned her MS CCC-SLP in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Emerson College and her BA in English language and literature and anthropology from The University of Miami. Maia continues to find points of connection across and between communities when the goal is maximizing communication. She lives in Washington DC with her husband, Dan, and two teens.

Glenn Merberg

+ Glenn Merberg

GLENN MERBERG is Managing Principal at Quadrint, a software development and systems integration company he co-founded more than 20 years ago to serve the National Security Community. In a previous life, Glenn conducted research in fiber optics and materials science, including as a post-doctoral associate with the National Science Foundation, where he received several patents for his inventions related to photo-chemotherapy. He received his BS, MS, and PhD from Rutgers College of Engineering and his MBA from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Glenn serves as an executive on the Board of Directors at Capital Camps & Retreat Center and as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). He is an avid, if not fickle, hobbyist, and is proud to have achieved mediocrity in a wide range of pursuits, including sailing, cycling, hiking, birding, and several musical instruments. Glenn is best known as the terrified parent of three teenagers, who he has supported as coach, official, volunteer, and spectator for their various pursuits.

Ahuva Orlofsky

+ Ahuva Orlofsky

AHUVA ORLOFSKY is a dedicated leader and advocate for families facing the challenges of chronic illness and medical conditions. Currently serving as the Chair of the Board of imadi, she has played a pivotal role in the organization’s growth and impact since its founding in November 2021. Under Ahuva’s leadership, imadi has successfully extended its support to over 120 families residing in Maryland and Washington DC, offering assistance to those navigating the complexities of raising a child with a chronic health condition. With a background in both education and marketing, Ahuva has previously contributed her expertise as the Director of Marketing at Sulam, an organization committed to providing Jewish education to students with diverse learning needs, leaving an indelible mark on the organization’s brand and outreach. Ahuva resides in Silver Spring with her husband, Aaron, and their three children. Beyond her professional and volunteer pursuits, Ahuva is deeply rooted in her community, embodying the values of compassion, resilience, and a commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Mike Plostock

+ Mike Plostock

MIKE PLOSTOCK is the Senior Advisor for Response and Recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where he serves as the lead strategist on program, policy, initiatives, and priorities. He provides strategic advice and counsel during disaster response and recovery operations, including during FEMA’s leading role in the COVID-19 response, the historic 2020 Atlantic hurricane and West Coast wildfire seasons, the 2023 Guam typhoon and Maui wildfire, and the ongoing recovery operations in Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Fiona. Notably, Mike deployed to serve as FEMA’s liaison to the Jewish community during the tragic building collapse of the Surfside Condominium in 2021 where 98 people lost their lives. Mike has been active in the Jewish community throughout his life, growing up in Young Judaea and recently completing his seventh year on the National Young Leadership Cabinet. Mike received his BA in Business and MS in Information Systems Technology from the George Washington University; and he resides in Washington DC.

Jeff Rum

+ Jeff Rum

JEFF RUM is an award-winning creative director, author, and public speaker with more than 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and communications, digital marketing, brand strategy, and entrepreneurship. Jeff has led campaigns for major brands such as AAA, Bose, Fossil, and PepsiCo. In addition, he has consulted on projects with nonprofits including Human Rights Campaign, UN Foundation, and Hillel International. Jeff is co-founder of Storyraise Technology Inc., which provides purpose-driven organizations with digital products and creative solutions to drive engagement, interweaving storytelling and fundraising. Prior to this role, Jeff founded and served as CEO of Ignite Digital Strategy Group (ignite), a full-service marketing firm which was acquired by Creative Marketing Resources (CMR) in December 2021, forming CMRignite. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Jeff served as co-chair of National Young Leadership Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America in 2017-18. Jeff received a BA from American University in Communication: Visual Media and Jewish Studies. Jeff received an MA in International Affairs from Georgetown University. He resides in Bethesda, Maryland with his three children, Eva, Max, and Ori.

Scott Reiter

+ Scott Reiter

SCOTT REITER is originally from Seattle and lives in Washington DC with his wife Rachel Weintraub. They have three incredible children, two in high school and one at Ithaca College. He has spent his entire legal career focused on regulatory antitrust issues and currently works in the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. Scott’s passion is volunteering in his community. He helped to revitalize a dying synagogue in the mid-2000s, Ohev Sholom, and served on its board for 15 years including five years as its president. Scott expanded his involvement to the community’s modern Orthodox day school (Berman Hebrew Academy) and to Sunflower Bakery, a bakery focused on providing training and career skills to individuals with developmental differences. Scott also participated in the Wexner Heritage Program and in several Jewish Federation of Greater Washington-Hartman leadership and learning sessions.

Stephanie Schwartz

+ Stephanie Schwartz

STEPHANIE SCHWARTZ is the Founder and CEO of Little Bean Group, a bespoke nonprofit fundraising and philanthropy consulting firm. Stephanie is a nationally recognized thought leader who speaks and writes about nonprofit fundraising and philanthropy. She has been featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Washington Business Journal, and Advancing Philanthropy. She is a regular contributor to the Forbes Business Council. In addition to her work to support nonprofit organizations on comprehensive fundraising strategies, she regularly trains and coaches organizational leaders and nonprofit board members on how to enhance their knowledge of and comfort with fundraising. Stephanie serves on several nonprofit boards and fundraising committees and leverages her board service to enhance her work. Stephanie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Douglass College, the women’s college at Rutgers University. She received her MBA from the George Washington University. Stephanie resides in Washington DC with her husband and son.

David Wellisch

+ David Wellisch

DAVID WELLISCH is co-founder and CEO of Collage Group, an insights and technology company whose mission is to support leading consumer organizations in their efforts to unleash the power of culture to drive brand growth. Founded in 2009, Collage Group works with over 300 + brands, in more than 16 industries. Proprietary solutions include Multicultural and generational Intelligence Platform that includes proprietary syndicated research, and actionable insights. Prior to founding The Collage Group, David was the founder, vice president, and general manager of AOL Latino, AOL’s Hispanic service, where he was responsible for the entire operation including overseeing programming, product development, customer service, brand and acquisition marketing, strategy, and business development. At its peak, AOL Latino produced $130MM in revenue from subscriptions and advertising. Before joining AOL, David worked in private equity at Allied Capital and strategic consulting at Gemini Consulting. Originally from Ecuador, David has been a US resident for the past 31 years. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics and political science from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. David is also a member of the Young President’s Organization, Washington DC Chapter.

Brad Wine

+ Brad Wine

BRAD WINE is a litigation partner with the law firm of Morrison & Foerster where he chairs the firm’s government strategies and Israel practice groups and serves on the firm’s executive committee. He is a trusted advisor to leading global business in numerous industries, including aerospace and defense, homeland security and intelligence, professional services, information technology, software development, specialty chemicals, coatings and manufacturing, and financial services. Brad has been appointed by two US Presidents to the US Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing body of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He currently serves as the vice chair of the Council’s committee on state sponsored antisemitism and Holocaust denial, a committee which he previously chaired. He previously served on the Boards of the Jewish Community Relations Council, United to End Genocide, the Save Darfur Coalition, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County. Brad resides in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife Melanie and their two children, Rachel (25) and Carson (22).

Faculty

rae-ringel-headshot

Rae Ringel
President, The Ringel Group

+ Bio

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.

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Rabbi Avi Strausberg
Educator

+ Bio

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.

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Beth Cousens
Educational Design Consultant

+ Bio

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.

Federation Professional Staff

Gil Preuss

Gil Preuss, PhD
Chief Executive Officer,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

+ Bio

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.

Elisa Deener-Agus

Elisa Deener-Agus
Chief of Staff,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

+ Bio

Elisa Deener-Agus is the Chief of Staff at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, where she oversees Federation’s governance and board development, strategic implementation, and leadership programs, including Federation’s six-year partnership with the Hartman Institute. 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 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 pioneering middle-tier income 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 is the proud mother of their three sons, Eytan, Noah, and Kobe.

Dana Bornstein

Dana Bornstein
Director, Leadership & Learning,
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

+ Bio

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.

For questions about the Jewish Community Leadership Program, contact [email protected].