Meet Federation’s Capital Chai Honorees
Federation’s inaugural Capital Chai Awards recognize 18 of Greater Washington’s Jewish leaders under 40 who are committed to making the world a better place. These remarkable individuals were nominated by their friends and colleagues and selected by their peers from a field of more than 100 nominations.
Get to know our community’s honorees and learn how they are making a unique impact on the world and living their Jewish values.
Positively impacting community from the exam room to the boardroom to the playroom.
Emily is the Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer for MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In this role, she has executive oversight of all operations in the hospital. Prior to her current role, she held the position of Vice President of Professional Services beginning in 2018. Briton joined MedStar Health in 2011 as the corporate administrative resident. In this role, she was involved in a number of strategic systemwide projects for the corporate executive team and system leadership team. After completing her administrative residency, she joined the operations team in the Washington region of MedStar Health where she focused on supporting and enhancing service line integration. She continued building significant experience across MedStar Health as Director of Operational Support for the Washington region integrated service lines, and as Assistant Vice President and Vice President of Service Line Operations. Most recently, Emily was responsible for systemwide operations for multiple service lines. She supported and facilitated operational collaboration between service line leadership and various MedStar entities, initiating several processes to assure an integrated strategy for growth and recruitment. She holds an MA in health administration from The George Washington University and a BS in kinesiology from The University of Texas. She and her husband, Zach, live in Olney, Maryland with their daughters Maya (8) and Noa (5).
Changing the world through acts of goodness and kindness.
Arie was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and serves as Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Michelle Steel (CA-48), the first Korean-American immigrant elected to The U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to Rep. Steel’s election to the House in 2020, Arie worked with Rep. Steel for more than a decade at the state and local level, serving as her Director of Communications at the California State Board of Equalization, and later as her Senior Policy Advisor and then Chief of Staff at the Orange County Board of Supervisors. A first generation Mexican American, Arie’s first language is Spanish. His Jewish-Mexican heritage is a source of both great pride and great food. Arie serves as the first Chasidic Chief of Staff to a Member of Congress and is privileged every day to work in the Capital of this great country, which the Lubavitcher Rebbe called a “Medina Shel Chesed” or “Nation of Kindness.” He lives in Capitol Hill with his wife Chana, and son Yehuda Leib, and his growing Jewish library.
Pursuing disability justice, access, and inclusion to expand equity.
Marissa (she/her/hers) is a disabled attorney and self-advocate and leads Tzedek DC’s Disabilities Community Project. As a Tzedek DC staff attorney, she serves and empowers disabled DC residents with low incomes who are facing debt and consumer problems. Marissa graduated magna cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law in 2019. Prior to joining Tzedek DC, Marissa served as a litigation fellow at the AARP Foundation, where she assisted with legal research on cases involving age discrimination, reverse mortgages, nursing facilities, elder abuse, and other issues facing Americans aged fifty and older. Marissa’s legal research on issues including disability rights, reproductive justice, and workers’ rights has been published in the National Lawyers Guild Review; the Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and the Law; and the UCLA Women’s Law Journal. Marissa is the outgoing executive director of the National Disabled Law Students Association. She is currently on the board of the American Constitution Society DC Lawyer Chapter and is the outgoing chair of the Disability Rights Committee of the National Lawyers Guild. She is also a member of the Disability Rights Bar Association and a commissioner on the Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities.
Supporting wellness to strengthen our chain.
Drew is the Director of the BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness. In this role, Drew helps ensure that BBYO and other Youth Serving Organizations are places where adolescents can thrive through institutional best practices in mental, emotional, and social health. Prior to joining BBYO, Drew worked for Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) as a Forensic Interviewer, Policy and Program Development Manager, and the Director of Prevention and Education. There, she interviewed child victims of crime and worked with youth serving organizations to analyze their systems relating to protecting youth and creating safe environments, conducted trainings, and created programs for organizations. Drew has trained over 1,000 professionals on how to protect children and their own organization from incidents. She has also worked with at-risk youth both in the US and abroad. Drew was a cabin counselor, Unit Head, and camp social worker at Capital Camps, and continues to serve as a Capital Camps Board Member. Drew also spent time in Israel, working with at-risk youth, activity planning and programming, and working on issues of social justice, community empowerment, and family reunification. Drew’s career has focused on aiding youth serving organizations and their staff in understanding children’s mental health issues, and best supporting and advocating for their needs. Drew has an MSW from New York University and a BA in Psychology from Skidmore College.
Passionate about helping people grow, often using technology as an accelerator.
Steven has always been driven by a passion to help people and businesses grow. With more than 25 years’ experience in the field of IT, Steven is CEO and founder of Ntiva, Inc., a full-service technology firm offering managed IT services and support including cybersecurity services, cloud services, and advanced IT consulting. Founded in 2004, Ntiva now has over 400 employees who serve over 1,400 clients. Steven, an alumnus of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, has led the company through two successful partnership transactions as well as more than a dozen acquisitions. When he’s not working with Ntiva clients to align their growth efforts with efficient, secure technology or creating an environment for top technical talent to thrive, he is committed to lifelong learning, self-reflection, and growth. Steven’s philanthropic work and charitable giving have all focused on helping people and their businesses. He is an active member on a multitude of boards and organizations including Young Presidents Organization (YPO), EagleBank, Capital Camps & Retreat Center, and American Friends of the Hebrew University. Steven is optimistic about the future of business based on ever-changing technical innovation, and remains driven to help businesses succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Judaism is also critical to Steven, with a lifelong goal of doing whatever is needed to help ensure we have a future generation of Jews who proudly identify as Jewish.
Making a difference and delivering results for our community.
Andrew was elected in 2018 as the youngest Councilmember in Montgomery County history. Serving on the Planning, Housing, & Economic Development and Government Operations & Fiscal Policy Committees, he has become known as “the economic and fiscal center of the Montgomery County Council.” As the Council’s Lead for Parks, he promotes open space and has become a widely respected advocate for walkable communities. His commitment to enhancing quality of life and growing our economy, and his data-driven approach have delivered results during one of the most challenging periods in County history. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Andrew was the driving force behind the Public Health Emergency Grant program to support hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits, the Telework Assistance Program to help businesses transition to telework, and the Reopen Montgomery program to aid businesses in safely resuming operations. He worked with his Council colleagues and the County Executive to create, fund, and implement relief programs for childcare providers, renters who lost income during the pandemic, and arts and cultural institutions. The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce named Andrew Legislator of the Year for his leadership in helping local employers weather the worst period of COVID-19. He is now helping to lead the County’s economic recovery, by establishing a new Montgomery County Strategic Economic Development Plan and boosting the County’s global leadership in biohealth innovation. Andrew has also been tackling affordable housing and climate crises. He established a $100 million Housing Opportunity Fund to increase the affordable housing supply, co-authored legislation to bring more transit-oriented housing to Metro stations and has led efforts to increase options to provide affordable housing for seniors. He co-authored the largest climate investment in Montgomery County history, the Green Buildings Now Act, and a first-of-its-kind Green Building Tax Credit program that incentivizes reductions in carbon emissions.
Connecting more people to meaningful community through the power of relationships.
Rachel (she/her) is a leading expert in the field of relational engagement and CEO of Gather, Inc. As the former Executive Director of GatherDC, she shaped the organization into the premier relational platform for Jewish 20s and 30s in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and led its recent national expansion into Gather, Inc. Through the power of personal connection, Gather connects people more deeply to one another and to adult Jewish identities. Rachel has also used her relational approach to advance women’s equity in the Jewish workplace and beyond. In 2019, she launched Year of the Jewish Woman, a vibrant Facebook community where female Jewish professionals and allies can connect and discuss key issues and challenges. Rachel is a vocal advocate and published thought leader in this area. Rachel has a BA in Sociology from Columbia University, a BA from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Modern Jewish Studies, an MA in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University, and a Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education from Yeshiva University. She is also a certified Ayeka Soulful Jewish Educator. Rachel lives in Washington, DC with her husband and three children.
Turning a love of social media into a thriving digital marketing agency supporting nonprofits.
Emily, a native Washingtonian, is the founder and CEO of Greater Good Strategy. She combines her love of digital media with her extensive grassroots organizing background to help clients thrive online. Emily’s work supports organizations as they fulfill their missions, leveraging a multichannel approach to meld offline and online tools, including social media strategy, web, and email outreach, fundraising, user experience consulting, and content marketing. Before launching Greater Good Strategy, she served as a Client Success Manager for Blackbaud (previously Convio), Director of Student Outreach for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), and the Tzedek Fellow at Hillel International. Emily has been featured on NPR and WTOP, and in the Washington Post, the Washington Jewish Week, Washingtonian, DCist, Apartment Therapy, and the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of Selah, the Rockwood Leadership Training Program’s collaboration with Bend the Arc, an active member of the Women’s Information Network, Sixth & I Synagogue, and the Jewish Democratic Council’s New Leadership Council. She proudly serves as Fat Torah’s first ever board chair, too! Emily lives in Van Ness with her husband, Ron, and their daughter, Edie. Their books are arranged in rainbow order.
To create a better society, get off the sidelines and take action.
Aaron joined The Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington office in January 2016 as a Senior Legislative Associate and is now Senior Manager of Legislative Affairs, focusing on disability issues. Aaron came from the Arc Maryland, where he lobbied members of the Maryland General Assembly and the Maryland Congressional delegation on issues affecting Marylanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Having Cerebral Palsy, Aaron feels he brings a unique perspective to JFNA’s efforts on behalf of people with disabilities. Outside of advocacy, he was the instructor in Project SEARCH Montgomery, a job-training program for young adults with significant disabilities. Aaron graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BA in American Studies and with several honors. He is on the Executive Committee of Makom, formerly the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, and is the former Vice Chair of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council. He also served on the Board of the National Association of Developmental Disabilities Councils, as well as the Board of Disability Rights Maryland. Aaron is a member of the North American Board of the Union for Reform Judaism and of the Montgomery County and Maryland State Democratic Central Committees, the governing bodies of the County and State Democratic Party. He is a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 18.
Combating antisemitism and promoting dialogue.
Aaron serves as the Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the US Department of State. In helping lead this office, he works to advance US foreign policy, especially in the fight against antisemitism. As Deputy Special Envoy, Aaron is an experienced leader and interfaith coalition builder who has previously held senior roles advising members of Congress, the Obama Administration, and the Biden-Harris Administration transition team.
Queer advocate for change and building diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities.
Joe (he/him) has a background in leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and human resources. He has worked at CareFirst for three years, transitioning through multiple roles, and is now the Program Manager on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. In the US and abroad, Joe has presented to a variety of forums on topics such as intersectionality, inclusion best practices, and community engagement. He also consults with organizations to help them build and implement strategies around international expansion, DEI engagement, and other nonprofit management practices. Joe has a strong passion for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, striving to bring together communities, and inspiring others to live their most authentic lives. He has an MA in Human Resource Management from Georgetown University, an MA in Business Administration with a focus in Organization Leadership and Development from the University of Maryland, and a BA in Political Science with a minor in Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An active participant in the DC community, Joseph founded Capital Qvellers, a gender inclusive group that organizes programs, events, and leadership retreats for LGBTQ Jewish young professionals in the DMV. He volunteers with Write Away, a nonprofit focused on increasing digital literacy among grade 6-12 students, and volunteers with several other organizations that promote equity and inclusion for others. When he isn’t working or volunteering, Joe also performs with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC and their small ensemble, Seasons of Love (last year making their NFL debut). Look for him in the kitchen baking or jet-setting somewhere around the world!
Creating an uplifting environment for Jews of Color and LGBTQ Jews is my mission.
Josh is the Executive Director of Bet Mishpachah, the only LGBTQ+ egalitarian synagogue in Washington, DC. Josh moved to the DC area in 2015 to serve as a full-time volunteer for Franciscan Mission Service where he was part of the inaugural class of DC Service Corps. During his year of service, Josh served as the Vendor Manager for Street Sense Media, Inc. – an organization whose mission is to eradicate homelessness by giving a voice and sharing the stories of the unhoused. Josh is a member of Washington Hebrew Congregation, where he sits on the SEA Change Racial Equity Committee, Co-Chair of the Internal Recommendations Committee, Chairperson of the Jews of Color Cohort, and serves on the 2239 Young Professional Steering Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the National Bell Festival, an organization that works to restore bells and towers throughout the United States. Josh grew up in Rochester, NY and attended Saint Bonaventure University. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and exploring the DMV area.
Creating Memorable Theater in Washington DC.
Alan is the Associate Artistic Director of the Tony Award winning Shakespeare Theatre Company, where he has worked since 2007. He also serves as a theater director, and he is equally passionate about directing new plays and musicals as he is about re-discovering classics. Alan’s productions at Shakespeare Theatre Company have bridged the gap between classical and popular culture. His re-imaginings of musicals are the theater’s #2, #3, and #4 highest grossing productions. STC credits include Our Town, the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s Peter Pan and Wendy, Romeo and Juliet, Kiss Me Kate, Man of La Mancha, The Boys from Syracuse, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Camelot which won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical. Alan recently directed the film of Patrick Page’s All The Devils Are Here, which was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. At STC, Alan has been a leading producer on over 100 productions spanning all eras and styles. He is a major part of season planning, scouting future productions, and creating co-productions with other leading theaters. Locally, Alan has directed productions at Arena Stage, Studio Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, and Signature Theatre. Alan has directed operas at the Washington National Opera, Urban Arias, Portland Opera, Palm Beach Opera, and Strathmore, and is a frequent guest with the National Symphony Orchestra. In 2013, he was the only American finalist for the European Opera Directing Prize in Vienna, Austria. Alan has been nominated for five Helen Hayes Awards and was awarded Best Director.
The good thing about building community is that it doesn’t require exact measurements.
Benjamin (he/him) was born and raised in Pensacola, FL. A third-generation Floridian, Ben graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a BA in Political Science. His degree led him to upstate NY, where he joined the successful political campaign of Kirsten E. Gillibrand in 2006. He moved to Washington, DC in 2007 as a member of Congresswoman Gillibrand’s legislative staff, specializing in transportation, infrastructure, environment, and energy issues. Ben was selected as a participant in Federation’s Alumni Leadership Mission in 2012. Upon his return, he served as Federation’s Young Leadership Campaign Co-Chair for three years. In 2014, Ben became president of Nice Jewish Boys DC, a social group for gay, bi, and trans Jews in their 20’s and 30’s. Under his leadership, the group has expanded its programming to include an annual Shabbaton retreat weekend, a cook-off competition series, and the Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant. In December of 2021, Ben retired from Capitol Hill after 15 years, serving for nine years as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada. Ben is now Vice President at Porter Government and Business Solutions, a Washington, DC bipartisan lobbying firm.
Fighting on behalf of working people.
Desmond Serrette is the Strategic Campaigns Director at SEIU. He has worked in the labor movement fighting on behalf of working people for almost his entire career, except for two years as a Community Outreach Representative for Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (MD-04). Prior to working at SEIU, Desmond was the Deputy Political Director at Unite Here Local 25. He was the Campaign Director for the Statehood ballot initiative campaign, which successfully passed the Statehood referendum with 86% of the vote in 2016. Desmond grew up in Prince George’s County and holds a BA in African American Studies from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Columbia Heights, Washington, DC.
Passionate about combining human rights and technology innovation to create lasting, sustainable, social change.
Danya is an entrepreneur who is passionate about combining human rights and technology innovation to create lasting, sustainable social change. She is the founder, CEO, and inventor of KnoNap, a company that works to empower, educate, and advocate against drug-facilitated sexual assault and crime through empowerment tools and education. KnoNap created Knope, a discreet, gender-inclusive detection device for rape drug presence disguised in the aesthetic of a stick of gum. Danya received a BA in International Affairs and Security Policy from The George Washington University, and an MBA in Business Administration from Georgetown University with a focus on Stem Designated Management Sciences. Danya has participated in distinguished entrepreneurial fellowship programs with Halcyon House, The Global Good Fund, Georgetown University, Future Founders, Kairos, CVS, and Target. She has been featured in Washington Life’s Technology Hall of Fame, DC Inno’s 25 Under 25 Brightest Young Innovators, Toyota’s Mother of Invention, and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.
Creating plant-based foods that are good for you and good for the planet.
Nick is the Co-Founder and CEO of Little Sesame, a fast-growing consumer packaged goods brand that makes hummus that’s good for you and good for the planet. Nick is a third-generation Washingtonian and began cooking at Equinox Restaurant under chef Todd Gray when he was just 16 years old. After graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 2004, Nick relocated to New York City where he cooked in the city’s top kitchens and met future Little Sesame chef and collaborator, Ronen Tenne. Upon returning to Washington, DC in 2012, Nick partnered with his cousin David Wiseman to launch Roadside FoodProjects, a restaurant group and hospitality consulting company with the mission to build a more dynamic food scene in his hometown. Nick opened Little Sesame as pop-up in a 500 sq. ft. basement in 2016. In 2018, he opened the flagship shop in downtown DC to critical acclaim. In June of 2021, Wiseman and the Little Sesame team launched their grocery-ready hummus at Whole Foods Market. They now sell in more than 125 stores across the Mid Atlantic. For his work, Nick was named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 and an Eater Young Gun. Nick continues to invest in his expanding team and looks forward to growing Little Sesame into a national food brand.
Seeking to inspire others to do good by bringing transformative ideas to life.
Andrea is the Founder and CEO of Uppermost Strategies where she works with startups to bring emerging technologies to market, primarily through strategy and public policy. Much of her work focuses on how to make it profitable for these companies to reach underserved communities. Prior to Uppermost, Andrea was CEO of the Brem Foundation to Defeat Breast Cancer. In this role, she maximized every woman’s chances of catching early, curable breast cancer. She initiated the country’s first cost-free ridesharing program for breast screening, drafted DC’s first density-inform bill, and created award-winning educational videos. Prior to Brem, Andrea served as Director of Public Policy for Girls Inc., a national education nonprofit for low-income girls. There, Andrea lobbied Congress and the Obama Administration to pass key domestic violence legislation, focusing on violence against younger girls and teens. She also lobbied to improve access to STEM and financial literacy education for girls, to provide accurate sexual health education for girls, and to curtail substance abuse among teens. Andrea started her career as an attorney at Patton Boggs, LLP, where she practiced in the litigation and public policy groups. Andrea was named a Woman to Watch by Jewish Women International and ranked as a 40 under 40 from the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy. Andrea graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and received her JD from The George Washington University Law School. Andrea is driven by her Jewish values and her love for family. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and four amazing daughters.