Board of Directors

 

Amanda Berman

Founder and Executive Director

Amanda Berman is the Founder and Executive Director of the Zioness Movement, a new initiative empowering and activating Zionists on the progressive left to stand proudly in social justice spaces as Jews and Zionists. Until she recently made the transition to focusing exclusively on building the much-needed Zioness community, Amanda was also a civil rights attorney fighting anti-Semitism legally, spearheading such groundbreaking initiatives as the international action against Kuwait Airways for its discrimination against Israeli nationals, and the dual cases against San Francisco State University for its constitutional and civil rights violations against Jewish and Israeli students and community members. 

Amanda writes on Jewish and civil rights issues and is a media contributor across various mediums and outlets. She has spoken and presented before diverse audiences including Hadassah, JNF, B'nei Brith, Jewish Federation, AIPAC, JCRC, Hillel, and many others. She is a graduate of the Anti-Defamation League's Glass Leadership Institute, the recipient of Hadassah's prestigious Myrtle Wreath Award, and was listed by the Algemeiner as one of the top "100 people positively contributing to Jewish life" in 2018. She previously served for 5 years as an Executive Board Member at Friends of the IDF, Young Leadership NY.

 

Amanda graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Diplomatic History and a Master of Governmental Administration and received her Juris Doctor from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she was a Public Service Scholar; served in the Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic, providing legal services to the underrepresented; served in the Advanced Human Rights Clinic, providing legal services to immigrants and refugees; sat on the Executive Board of the Cardozo Advocates for Battered Women; and was a Fellow in the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Clinic. She practiced securities litigation at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP before dedicating her career to the advancement and protection of the Jewish people and the Zionist community.

President

Erin Schrode is an activist and social entrepreneur. This leading voice on sustainability, social impact and millennials and vocal advocate for environmental action, public health and equal justice recently ran an unprecedented campaign for US Congress in California – to redefine civic engagement and reinvigorate a culture of public service. Since co-founding Turning Green in 2005, she has developed eco education and action platforms to inspire, educate and mobilize millions of students and global masses with this non-profit and beyond.

 

Erin was on air with ABC for the election season, speaks internationally, consults with corporations, organizations and governments, and writes for Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Refinery29, among others. She is frequently tapped as an expert for and featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, CNN, NBC, FOX, Seventeen, Forbes and other media. As The White House said, Erin “is a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes.”

 

This community organizer champions civic leadership, conscious living and environmental stewardship worldwide, launching a youth education project in Haiti, writing curriculum for an eco center for Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian students, developing recycling infrastructure in Ghana, and telling the stories of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees in the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as Native Americans at Standing Rock in solidarity on the ground. For the past year, Erin has led #ChefsForPuertoRico, bringing to life the vision of Chef José Andrés’ as COO of the largest feeding program in Puerto Rico, serving over 3.7 million meals to those in need since Hurricane Maria, and now investing in local, sustainable agriculture and food systems islandwide.

 

From her hometown in Marin County, California to New York University to eighty nations, this bold innovator is on a lifelong journey to inspire and mobilize people to discover and activate passion for social impact and policy change — that ensures a just, safe, thriving world for future generations.

Archie Gottesman

Vice President

Archie knows in her kishkes that warm, meaningful Jewish rituals are the key to keeping Jewish people connected to their roots. This includes people who have a regular Jewish practice as well as those who are new to Judaism through marriage or haven’t thought about their Jewish practice in a while. This is what led her to founding JewBelong.com, a groundbreaking website focused on rebranding Judaism to younger generations with ads like, “Even if his mother still calls you her,” and “Even if the closest you get to a synagogue is walking by one on the way to SoulCycle.”

 

Archie knows about connecting with people through compelling branding. For 20 years, she was the voice behind Manhattan Mini Storage’s iconic billboard and subway ads. Archie has sat on various boards including: Animal Haven Shelter in  NYC, Foundation for Jewish Camp, ReBoot, Kent Place School in Summit, NJ and the Women’s Board of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). She is also a guest lecturer about family business at Columbia University.

 

Archie is a graduate of Northwestern University and a Wexner Heritage Program alum. She lives in Summit with her husband, Gary DeBode. They have three daughters and an ever-changing number of shelter dogs

Chloé Valdary

Secretary

Chloé is a proud Zionist, inspirational speaker, content creator, activist and thought leader working with communities of all ages, religions and ethnicities to build bonds and inspire human connection. 

 

After spending a year as a Bartley fellow at the Wall Street Journal under Pulitzer prize winning journalist Bret Stephens, Chloé Valdary developed a theory of change called The Theory of Enchantment, a framework of conflict resolution and interpersonal growth rooted in themes found in pop culture. Since then, Chloé has lectured on this theory in communities around the world, teaching how to bring about conflict transformation and reconciliation in previously polarized spaces.Now, Chloé is taking ‘The Theory of Enchantment’ from the non-profit sector to the corporate world. Combining the psychology of persuasion with profound insights from household names in pop culture, the ‘Theory of Enchantment’ is a philosophy that can help communities navigate an increasingly polarized world and help tap human potential along the way.

Sara Liss

Treasurer

Sara is a Legislative Attorney for New York City Council, where she serves as Counsel to the Committee on Health, and the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction. In this capacity, Sara drafts and negotiates laws, guides the hearing process, and briefs the committees on a wide range of issues. 

 

Prior to working for the City Council, Sara worked as a Staff Attorney in the Patent Litigation Group of Paul Weiss LLP, where her work focused on medical and pharmaceutical intellectual property.  Sara has also served in a wide range of political offices, working as a Legal Policy Fellow on the gubernatorial campaign of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, as a White House Intern under President Barack Obama in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and as a Legal Fellow in Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office on Capitol Hill. She has also volunteered on the campaigns of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, President Barack Obama, and District Attorney Bob Morgenthau.

 

Sara is a proud Jew, a proud Zionist, and a proud progressive.  Sara has been active in progressive politics and in the Jewish Community nearly her entire life. She currently serves on the board of directors for COJECO, the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.

 

Sara is a devoted public servant, a 4th-generation Bronx resident, and a proud graduate of NYU and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. In her free time, Sara is attempting to visit all 50 U.S. states, and enjoys hiking, cooking, and anything music-related.

Ann Lewis

Ann Lewis is a leading American Democratic Party strategist and communicator. From 1994 to 1995, Lewis was the Vice President for Public Policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where she was responsible for policy, legal and communications initiatives. She has served as the National Director of Americans for Democratic Action, as the Political Director for the Democratic National Committee, and as Chief of Staff to then Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski. She served as Political Director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 1981 to 1985.

Lewis was Director of Communications and Deputy Campaign Manager for the Clinton-Gore Reelection Campaign in 1995 to 1996. From 1997 to 2000, Lewis served as Director of Communications and Counselor to President Bill Clinton in the White House. She then served as senior advisor to Hillary Clinton's 2000 campaign for U.S. Senate. She served as Director of Communications for HillPAC and Friends of Hillary 2005 to 2007. She also served as National Chair of the DNC Women's Vote Center, where she led the Democratic Party’s major initiative to reach, engage, and mobilize women voters from 2003 to 2004.

Lewis was Senior Advisor for Hillary Clinton's 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns, as well as co-chair of Jewish Women for Hillary 2016.

Following the conclusion of Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, Lewis founded NoLimits.org, an issue-based educational organization enabling individuals to stay engaged and active on issues such as health care reform, economic and work-family policies, international and national women's rights, security matters, and other issues and policies championed by Hillary Clinton. She is currently serving as president of the JAC Education Foundation

In 2001, Lewis was the Richman Visiting Professor at Brandeis University, teaching a course on the Presidency entitled "The West Wing and The Real World" and a Public Policy Fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lewis was appointed by President Clinton as Co-Chair of the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History and she was appointed by the President and Senator Daschle to the Women's Progress Commission, established by Congress to report on women's historical sites. She chaired the U.S. Government Working Group for the Women 2000: Beijing Plus Five Special Session of the General Assembly.

Saba Soomekh

Saba is an Iranian-born American professor and author whose family moved to Los Angeles in 1978 to escape the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Saba attended Beverly Hills High School, received her bachelor's degree from Berkeley, her Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Saba is the Associate Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC-Los Angeles and a lecturer at UCLA, where she teaches courses on World Religions, Women and Religion, and the geo-politics of the Middle East. She was the Associate Director of Research at UCLA's Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. She also taught in the Religious Studies Department at California State University, Northridge and at Loyola Marymount University, where she also served as Interim Director of the Jewish Studies program. She previously taught at California State University, Fullerton, American Jewish University and Santa Monica College.

Soomekh is the editor of the book Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in America (Purdue University Press, 2016) and the author of the book From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture (SUNY Press, 2012). Her book was awarded the Gold Medal in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award in the Religion category. ​

Rabbi Denise Eger

Denise L. Eger was raised in Memphis, TN.  She graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor's Degree in Religion in 1982.  She received her Master's Degree from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in 1985 and was ordained as Rabbi in 1988 at the New York campus of HUC.

Rabbi Eger has served pulpits in Canada, New York and Los Angeles.  Following ordination, she served Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim for four years as its first full-time rabbi. She is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood's Reform Synagogue.

Rabbi Eger believes that activism is an important part of her rabbinate.  She has worked extensively with people with AIDS. She served as co-chair of the Community Advisory Board of the Shanti Foundation and is a past Chair of the Spiritual Advisory Committee of AIDS Project Los Angeles.  She is past Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board for Search Alliance, an AIDS drug research organization. 

 In 2013 Rabbi Eger became President Elect of the Central Conference of American Rabbis which is the largest organization of Rabbis; More than 2000 Reform rabbis world-wide. In March of 2015 she became the 60th President of the CCAR becoming the first openly gay or lesbian rabbi to that position. Read her Presidential Installation speech. Rabbi Eger is a past President of the Southern California Board of Rabbis (the first woman and openly gay person to do so) and a past President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis.   

She co-chaired the Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network for two years. She is a past Treasurer of the Women's Rabbinic Network.  She was the founding President of the Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Interfaith Clergy Association.  She served on the Board of the No On Knight Campaign/No on Proposition 22. and sat on the Board of the Equality for All/No on Prop 8. She is active on the steering committee of the California Faith for Equality and helped to organize Jews for Marriage Equality. She is a member of the Religion and Faith Council of the Human Rights Campaign.  

Rabbi Eger helped to organize the Southern California Gay and Lesbian Jewish Professionals Group, which brings together gay and lesbian Rabbis, Cantor, Jewish communal workers and educators in the L.A. area.  She is a board member of the Institute for Sexual Orientation and Judaism of Hebrew Union College and an Overseer of the Los Angeles Campus of Hebrew Union College.

Rabbi Eger is the past chair of the Task Force on Gays and Lesbians in the Rabbinate of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and also serves on Human Sexuality Committee of the CCAR and represents the CCAR on the Joint Commission on Synagogue Management with the URJ.

Rabbi Eger was instrumental in helping pass the March 2000 CCAR resolution in support of officiation and gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies. She is co-author of the official Reform movement gay and lesbian wedding liturgy.

Rabbi Eger has written many articles that have appeared in magazines and newspapers such as Compass, Reform Judaism, The Advocate, The Jewish Journal, the Huffington Post, The Jewish Forward, KCET Blog and the Los Angeles Times including contributions to the books, Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian, Gay and Jewish (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988) and an article on Judaism and Homosexuality in the new edition of Positively Gay, edited by Betty Berzon (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2001).  Rabbi Eger's work is also featured in a collection published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregation, Jewish Question Our Children Ask, edited by Olitzky, Roseman, and Kasakove.  Rabbi Eger was featured in a book by Suzanne Sherman, (Temple University Press) Gay and Lesbian Marriages.  She has been featured in the book UNCOMMON HEROES, as one of 150 prominent gay and lesbian role models in the United States.  She also authored a chapter in the book entitled Conflicting Vision – Contemporary Debates in Reform Judaism by Routledge Press. Rabbi Eger has contributions to Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding (Weiner, CCAR PRESS, 2001). Rabbi Eger wrote a chapter in the book, Lesbian Rabbis: THE FIRST GENERATION by Elwell, Alpert, and Idelson (published by Routledge Press, August 2001). And she was featured in the photographic collection, Rabbis: The Many Faces of Judaism by George Kalinsky. (Rizolli Press, 2002).  Rabbi Eger has contributed articles to the Women’s Haftarah Commentary and new Women’s Torah Commentary published by the Women of Reform Judaism. Her work in her congregation on issues of Judaism and addiction recovery was recently highlighted in an article in the Jerusalem Post (December, 05). Rabbi Eger was recently featured in articles by the Jewish Forward and the Los Angeles Times on her leadership roles. Rabbi Eger’s latest work, a commentary on Parshat Vayigash, appears in Torah Queeries: Reading the Bible through a Bent Lens published by New York University Press.   Rabbi Eger has a Torah commentary fin the book Text Messages published by Jewish Lights Press. Most recently Rabbi Eger has two articles in the anthology entitled, The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality,(CCAR PRESS, 2014)

Rabbi Eger has won numerous awards for her dedication and activism.  She was recognized for her Social Justice work in 1992 by Metropolitan Community Church with the Pat Underwood Community Service Award.  In 1996 she was given then Rainbow Key by the City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Council. In 1998 she was awarded the LACE Spirituality award by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.  In 1999, Rabbi Eger was named Business Woman of the Year by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the City of West Hollywood’s Women’s Advisory Council. Rabbi Eger was honored in 1999 by the Freedom to Marry Coalition for her work to support Gay and Lesbian Marriage Rights and Rites. In February 2000 Rabbi Eger was named as an Angel Amidst by the City of West Hollywood for improving the quality of life in the city. In October 2000 was awarded the Partnerin Faith award by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches for her outstanding work on the Reform Movement’s position on officiation at Gay and Lesbian Ceremonies. She was given the Shomer Tzedek award by Kol Ami on the occasion of the congregation’s tenth anniversary. Rabbi Eger received Spirit of Hope Award for her AIDS activism from Being Alive in 2004. She was featured in Los Angeles Weekly as one of the Persons of 2006.  Rabbi Eger received the Morris Kight Lifetime Achievement Award from Christopher Street West/Los Angeles Gay Pride in June 2008. In October of 2009 Rabbi Eger was named by National Women’s Political Caucus’ 12 Remarkable Women for 2010. In 2011 Rabbi Eger received the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award at its Los Angeles Gala.   

In October 2011 Rabbi Eger was named a GLBT Icon for her long history of activism and service for Gay and Lesbian History Month by the Equality Forum.

In June 2008 Eger had the honor of officiating at the first legal wedding for a lesbian couple in California.

In November 2008 Rabbi Eger was named one of the FORWARD FIFTY by the national Jewish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders of the year along with Rahm Emmanuel, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sarah Silverman. And in 2010 Rabbi Eger was named to the Sisterhood Fifty, one of the  50 most important women Rabbis.      

She is a noted speaker on the topics of human sexuality, GLBT issues and Judaism, AIDS, the changing Jewish Family, Spirituality and Health issues in Judaism and Politics, Progressive Judaism and the Radical Right.  Rabbi Eger has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. Rabbi Eger blogs at the Huffington Post and daily at Walking Humbly Seeking Justice Living with Hope.

Rabbi Eger is married to Rabbi Eleanor Steinman and has a son in college.

Rabbi Noah Farkas

Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas  is a clergy member at Valley Beth Shalom, the largest Jewish congregation in the San Fernando Valley. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2008, where he won numerous academic prizes in the areas of Jewish Philosophy and Talmud. He is a faculty member of the Florence Melton Graduate Studies Program and is a guest lecturer at the American Jewish University. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl appointed Noah to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority as a  which oversees the regional strategy between public and private partnerships to end homelessness.  He has been featured on NPR as a change maker and a rising voice of Jewish leadership.

Before coming to VBS, Noah served as the Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he helped rebuild the Gulf Coast Jewish community after Hurricane Katrina. Under his leadership the congregation reformed its board structure, built a new building, and worked with civic officials to ensure the Jewish community’s future in Southern Mississippi. 

While in Rabbinical School, Rabbi Farkas served as a Chaplain for the United States Navy Reserve during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rabbi Farkas worked with military families of all faiths to prep them for deployment and to help them spiritually and emotionally when they returned home.

Noah is a social entrepreneur, launching Seminary Leadership Project, which has trained hundreds of Jewish clergy nationwide to create social change through JOIN for Justice, where he also serves as a board member. Rabbi Farkas is also the founder of Netiya, an interfaith organization that works on food issues in Los Angeles, and boasts a membership of over forty congregations. He is also the founder of VBSNextGen, which creates a home Jews in their 20s and 30s at Valley Beth Shalom through innovative learning and social programs.

Rabbi Farkas publishes widely on topics of spirituality, social justice, millennial engagement. For two years he had syndicated column in The Forward that focused on food and Jewish spirituality called “Turning the Tables.”  He is a regular contributor to the Jewish Journal and speaks nationally at conferences. He is the author of The Social Action Manual: Six Step to Repairing the World. He is currently writing a book about the Binding of Isaac.

Most recently, Rabbi Farkas lead a two-year campaign to address homelessness in Los Angeles county.  He galvanized a coalition of churches and synagogues along with many other organizations to work with Los Angeles County to pass historic legislation that will move hundreds of millions of dollars to build affordable homes.  He lives in Encino with his wife Sarah and four children.

Alisa Swidler

Alisa Swidler has spent the past 20 years creating strategic philanthropic partnerships via her role as a Trustee on numerous Boards of Directors. As a Board Member she has led organizations through change and challenge - managing governance, leadership selection, thought leadership, capital campaigns, major gifts, corporate sponsorship and new business development.

Alisa has recently returned to New York City after 16 years in London. Whilst living abroad she focused her efforts on public health initiatives across the developing world serving on the Boards of Millennium Promise UK, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Last Mile Health and One Water amongst others. Alisa was also named an Academy Ambassador for the UK Minister of Education, Chaired the UK Conservative Party's 2016 Summer Party and was an active member of The Conservative Party's Leaders Group under both David Cameron and Theresa May.


In addition, Alisa was a Trustee of the Mayors Fund for London and served on the Capital Campaign Board of the English National Ballet and on the Development Boards of both Royal Albert Hall and The Old Vic Theatre.


Alisa’s most recent endeavor addressed food poverty in London through the launch of a centralized kitchen which provided thousands of school meals. 


Currently, Alisa campaigns for access to HIV treatment for adolescents and mothers in South Africa via her work as a Trustee of Charlize Theron’s Africa Outreach Project. 

She is on the Advisory Board of Richard Branson’s Foundation, Virgin Unite, and serves as a Senior Advisor to Atalanta, a global business focused on electing women to higher political office.

Following her work campaigning for Secretary Clinton in both 2008 and 2016, Alisa continues to be an active Ambassador for The Clinton Foundation supporting their rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.
Alisa is a Contributing Editor for Town & Country Magazine where she penned a weekly column for the past two years. She was recently profiled in the Telegraph Magazine as "The Most Connected Woman in London", is on the Membership Committee of the new Annabel's and curated the philanthropy segment of Harper's Bazaar's 100 Most Powerful British Women 2017.


Born and raised in New York City, Alisa graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English and Religious Studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and received a Masters Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Finance from New York University. She worked in legislative affairs for Mayor Giuliani and real estate acquisitions for Vornado Realty Trust before moving abroad. A dual citizen of England and America, Alisa is married with 5 teenage children.

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