Contact Us

Project Kesher
600 Mamaroneck Ave. Suite 400
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.301.9451
info@projectkesher.org

  • U.S. Staff
  • CIS & Israel Staff
  • U.S. Board
  • Israel Board
Karyn G. Gershon, Executive Director

Karyn joined Project Kesher in 1994 and has overseen its dramatic growth. Trained as a lawyer, Karyn was a litigator with Katten Muchin & Zavis from 1986–1994. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University School of Law. She was a fellow at the Wexner Heritage Foundation. In 2004, she was named one of the Jewish Chicagoans of the Year by The Chicago Jewish News.

Karen Bloom, Director of Organizational Development

Karen has worked in the Jewish Communal world in the area of non-profit management and fund development for the last 18 years. Prior to that, she was the founder and co-President of an international wholesale travel company for groups visiting the United States from overseas. Karen serves on the board of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, New York and is very active in her community. Karen finds the mission of Project Kesher especially compelling; her grandparents immigrated to the United States from Russia in the early 1900's to escape anti-Semitism in their hometown and to find a place to live openly as Jews.

Rachel Lobovsky - Special Projects

Rachel Lobovsky has worked in non-profit Jewish philanthropy for nearly two decades. Prior to joining Project Kesher in September 2012, Rachel worked at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) located at the Center for Jewish History in New York City and ORT America. Rachel holds an MPA (Master of Public Administration) from NYU and a BA from the University of South Florida in Tampa. She lives in Westchester with her husband and two children.

Svetlana Yakimenko, Director

Svetlana has been with Project Kesher since it was founded. An English teacher by profession, Svetlana has become one of the foremost activists for Jewish renewal and the advancement of women’s rights in the IS. Under her leadership,Project Kesher’s programs now reach over 7,000 women a year and offer training on a wide variety of topics that are identified by women in our CIS network. Svetlana’s commitment to both her Jewish heritage and her country have been driving forces in helping her work to create a society that is welcoming to her and her two daughters.
Elena Kalnitskaya
Makeevka, Ukraine

Elena joined Project Kesher in 2000. Elena is the leader of the women’s group in Makeevka, Ukraine. She is the founder of the Makeevka city coalition, which works in the fields of HIV/AIDS prevention and women’s health. Elena has been a catalyst for the ORT KesherNet Computer Center. Being a regional representative, Elena has supported activities for more than 30 women’s groups in the region. She is an alumna of the first training program and a history teacher. Elena is married and has both a son and a daughter.

Olga Krasko, Director of Leadership Training
Polotsk, Belarus

Olga Krasko is the Director of Leadership Training of Project Kesher. Olga joined Project Kesher in 2001 as participant of Beit la Midrash. Since 2002 Olga has been serving as a Regional Representative and Beit Binah Program Coordinator. Olga is an alumna of the training program. She lives in Polotsk, Belarus and is a Director of Historical Museum. Olga is married and has two sons.

Vlada Nedak, Programming Director
Ukraine

Vlada is a leader in Jewish community building and women's activism in Ukraine.  After attending a Project Kesher mother/daughter retreat as a teenager, she helped organize the Jewish community of Krivoy Rog, Ukraine.  For four years, Vlada worked as the head of Project Kesher's Next Generation program where she oversaw programming for women in their teens through 30 and helped them deepen their Jewish identity and engage in social activism. In 2010, Vlada was promoted to Director of Programming for all Project Kesher groups in the CIS.  She has been instrumental in empowering young women, particularly those on college campuses, to participate in the Jewish community and initiate activism and advocacy on women's rights and tolerance issues.

Lesley Sachs, Interim Director
Israel

Lesley Sachs grew up in Haifa and has devoted her career to social activism, "Tikun Olam", advancing women's rights and religious pluralism.

She was one of the founding members of "Isha L'isha – Haifa's Feminist Center" and worked for 10 years in the Israel Women's Network, first as Public Relations Director and Spokesperson and then as Executive Director. She  was a  board member of Woman to Woman, the Jerusalem Battered Women's Shelter, and Chair of  ICAR, the International Coalition for Aguna Rights comprising 22 organizations working to change the rabbinical system for women in the divorce process.

Lesley served as  Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and then as Vice President of the World Union For Progressive Judaism. 

She is currently working as an Interim Director of  "Project Kesher-Israel" and as a  private consultant with NGO's such as "Women of the Wall" .

Irena Lutt, National Coordinator
Israel

Irena was born in Samarra in Central Russia. She has a degree in Accounting from the Samarra  College of Economics. 

Irena made Aliya to Israel in 2003 with her Mother and one year old daughter. In Israel she studied medical administration at the Emek Israel college.  She lives in the north of Israel in Kibbutz Adamit on the border with Lebanon. 

Valentina Tumelina, Jewish Learning coordinator
Israel

Valentina first joined Project Kesher in 1998 in Chernigov, Ukraine
before making Aliyah in October, 2001.  Valentina is a graduate of the
first training program organized by Project Kesher in Israel. She is
currently the coordinator of the Alice Shalvi Jewish Education Program
and lives in Kibbutz Adamit in northern Israel

Michele Cohen

Trained as an educator Michele Cohen has spent much of her career working in finance at Steers and Cohen, a company co-founded by her husband. She recently retired when the company went public and has been involved in various philanthropic projects. Michele serves on the COJR (Committee on Jewish Renewal) task force at UJA Federation NY. She traveled to Russia with Project Kesher for the first time in June 2004 as part of the delegation on the Voyage on the Volga. Michele is a resident of New York City and East Hampton, Long Island.

Dr. Joan Kirschenbaum Cohn

Dr. Joan Kirschenbaum Cohn is a clinician, assistant professor, lecturer, author, and spokesperson in the Mental Health sector. She developed community based programs with major teaching hospitals including Harvard (Brigham and Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital), Stony Brook University and Mount Sinai Hospitals. Dr. Cohn served as a consultant to nursery schools, colleges and family businesses. She provided crisis incident debriefing concerning 9/11.

Dr. Cohn became a founding member and Associate Director of Mental Health at the Mount Sinai Women's Health Program in New York City, training physicians in women's health and participated in women's health research. Additionally, she has been an Assistant Professor in the departments of both Medicine and Community and Preventive Medicine. Dr. Cohn has co-authored two books as well as numerous scientific articles and has a private practice in NYC. Dr. Cohn has been actively involved in numerous charitable organizations and has been a long-time supporter of Project Kesher and has residences in New York City and Long Island, New York.

Jennifer Daniels

Jennifer Daniels is founder of JenW Collection, a jewelry and accessories design company. Earlier in her career, Jennifer was a Vice President in High Yield Sales with Salomon Smith Barney, and an Associate with JP Morgan. She also traveled to Korea to teach English with the Princeton in Asia program. Jennifer holds an MBA from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University. Jennifer has been an active volunteer at The Heschel School, UJA Federation of New York and Wesleyan University.  She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.

Sheila Friedland

Sheila Friedland is a Director of the Elaine Gorbach Levine Charitable Foundation, dedicated to helping families, with particular focus on emotionally disturbed youth and Jewish women and girls in the United States, Israel and the former Soviet Union. She is also the past Executive Director of the Westchester Jewish Conference. Sheila is on the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York. From 1982 - 1994, she was on staff at the Jewish Museum of New York. Sheila took part in the Project Kesher delegation to Chernigov with her husband Bob. Sheila resides in White Plains, New York and is the immediate past president of the Project Kesher board..

Barbara Glickstein

Barbara Glickstein is a public health nurse executive and broadcast journalist, fusing these professional world’s reporting on emerging health trends in policy, practice and research for over twenty years. She produces and hosts Healthstyles, an award winning, weekly program on public radio and is a health reporter for Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Satellite radio. Her husband Ethan and children Manya and Ezra are a constant source of deep love and joy.

Sallie Gratch

In 1986, Sallie Gratch closed her private practice in family therapy and took a giant step forward into the peace movement.  Sallie’s participation in peace walks in the (then) Soviet Union introduced her to an issue that soon became her passion:  becoming an advocate in America to support the emerging interest in Jewish renewal within the Soviet Union. 

Her efforts to engage the support of American Jewry were generally rejected or ignored.  Nevertheless, Sallie felt committed to advance and publicize the issue of Jewish renewal in the Soviet Union.  She felt a commitment to the friends she had made on her many trips there and during the six months she lived in Kiev with her husband in 1991.  She was determined not to turn her back on people who mattered to her and to the Jewish world.

In 1989, Sallie founded Project Kesher to provide a solid organization through which to formalize her activities around Jewish renewal.  The word “kesher” meaning “connection” was chosen intentionally, to underscore the importance of bringing people together from both sides of the world to promote learning, understanding and mutual respect. 

In 1994, Sallie, in partnership with her friend and today’s CIS Director Svetlana Yakimenko, organized Project Kesher’s International Conference of Jewish Women held in Kiev, Ukraine.  This historic conference advanced Project Kesher as a women’s organization, with social activism as its key component.

Sallie’s leadership awards include:
1996:  Anne P. Ogilby Award, Simmons School of Social Work, Boston, awarded for creative social work practice through her work in founding Project Kesher.
2005:  Honored by Women’s eNews as one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century”.
2006:  Lifetime Achievement Award, National Association of Social Workers, Northeastern District, Illinois.
2007:  Included in “Confessions to a Serial Womanizer:  Secrets of the World’s Inspirational Women”, by Zerbanoo Gifford, Blacker Ltd.

In 2006, Sallie founded Women Founders Collective (www.womenfounders.org), a nonprofit organization that provides a global support network to women founders and founders-to-be of nonprofit organizations.

Sallie and her husband, Alan, live in Evanston, Illinois and spend their summers at their homestead logcabin in NW Montana.  They have three adult married children and 10 grandchildren.

Rita Kashner

Rita Kashner is an activist, philanthropist and Project Kesher Board Chair. By profession, Rita is a novelist and short-story writer. She has a B.A. from Smith College and a Masters in English Literature from Brandeis University. She teaches contemporary Jewish literature and leads poetry-writing workshops for women in domestic violence shelters in Westchester. Her publications include the novels Bed Rest, To The Tenth Generation, and The Graceful Exit, stories and articles in magazines and journals, and numerous book reviews for The Washington Post and Newsday.

Leora Kaye

Rabbi Leora Kaye’s experience spans across the spectrum of the “Jewish World” including education, programming, and filmmaking. As a rabbi she has focused on seeking new ways to expand people’s understanding of Judaism – encouraging them to approach Judaism on their own terms, through teaching and offering opportunities in sophisticated and innovative ways, while infusing them with knowledge of Jewish tradition.

While in rabbinical school she worked as a production associate on the Sundance award-winning documentary Blue Vinyl. Since then she has combined her interest in media and religion by producing videos for NFTY, Matan, and other Jewish organizations. Leora acted as a rabbinic consultant for the new Shalom Sesame project which launched in November of 2010 and has also acted in an advisory position for various documentaries and television shows. She wrote the companion Study Guides for Jewish Food For Thought – a series of thought provoking and entertaining animated shorts focused on Jewish ideas.

As the Program Director for Congregation Rodeph Sholom since 2004, she creates and organizes inventive programs including a film festival, inviting dynamic speakers and fostering intimate discussions and study opportunities for the congregation and greater New York City community. Leora coordinates the synagogue’s conversion program, and under her stewardship the program has grown to include more students than at any time in the synagogue’s recent history.

She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received her rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2002. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her daughter Galit and husband Doug Gordon, a writer and television producer.

Sheila Lambert

Sheila Lambert is the immediate past Board Chair of Project Kesher. Her professional experience includes twenty years of progressively responsible positions in the corporate sector for The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, culminating in positions as VP - Human Resources and Senior VP & Publisher for Moody's Investors Service, a division of Dun & Bradstreet. Her extensive philanthropic experience focuses on Jewish continuity and helping underserved and disadvantaged populations, particularly women and children. A member of the board of Project Kesher, Sheila is the Founder and Board President of Bottomless Closet, and is a member of the Board of Governors and Overseers of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. She is a Founder and Board Chair of Summerbridge, is on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Children's Learning Lab which is a Jewish Children's Museum, and is the former Vice President of the Board at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a major Reform congregation in Manhattan. Sheila is also a member of the Advocacy Council for the Citizen's Committee for Children. Sheila has residences in New York City and Fire Island, New York.

Eve Landau

Eve Landau is the Executive Director of Ma'yan: The Jewish Women's Project a program of the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. She is a member of the board of Project Kesher and currently serves on the steering committee of The Task Force on the Jewish Woman of UJA-Federation of New York. She is also a member of the Gay and Lesbian Concerns Committee at Westchester Reform Temple.

Before co-founding Ma'yan in 1993 Eve was the Director of Community Relations at Westchester Jewish Community Services. An active community volunteer for many years, she served as a member of the Board of Education in Scarsdale, NY, was an officer of the Scarsdale League of Women Voters, and founded and directed The Child Care Association of Scardale, a school based before and after school child care program in her community.

Eve was honored by US/Israel Women to Women on the occasion of their Silver Anniversary in the Fall of 2004 and by the Manhattan Borough President in July 2005.

Eve is married and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

Sonia Michelson

Sonia Michelson is a social worker working with older adults and families who are dealing with the many challenges of aging. She also teaches courses in social policy at the University of Massachusettes Gerontology Center. Sonia lives in the Boston suburbs and is involved with numerous non profits and in the local Jewish community.

Rita Ungar Moser

Rita is married to Nathan and has four children, Rachel, Allison, Michelle and Steven.  A daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Rita was active in The Museum of Jewish Heritage, NY and The American Friends of Yad laYeled, Israel.  She is involved in various Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropic organizations as well as the local Jewish community.  Rita resides in New York City and is excited to join the Project Kesher Board.

Arleen Priest

Arleen is office manager and bookkeeper for the Aaron Priest Literary Agency. She has been on the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York for 18 years. She has co-chaired the Hungry and Homeless Committee at Temple Israel Center for 18 years as well as food coordinator for volunteers providing food for a White Plains homeless shelter. Arleen devotes several hours a week to Jewish studies and is a long time ceramicist in her spare time. Arleen is involved in Jewish and World philanthropy. She and her husband Aaron have been honored by Israel Bonds and Jewish Theological Seminary. Arleen lives in Scarsdale, New York and Westerly, Rhode Island with her husband. She has two sons and two grandsons. She is excited and proud to be part of the Project Kesher Board.

Deborah Roberts

Deborah is the mother of three children, Lauren, Andrew and Michael. She is married to her best friend David Roberts. She just started a new venture representing Bill Blass New York clothing. She loves meeting the women of Bill Blass and finds it so satisfying to dress someone and have them feel good about themselves. Deborah is involved with various charity organizations but her favorite is Project Kesher. She is excited to be a part of the Project Kesher community.

Nancy Solomon

Nancy Solomon resides in New York City and Fire Island New York and is currently the President of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a reform synagogue on the Upper West Side of New York. Prior to that she served as Chairman of a multi-issue children's advocacy organization, Citizens' Committee of New York, where she is still active.

Debbie Wasserman

Debbie Wasserman of New York City until recently served as the Executive Director of Israel Policy Forum, an independent and non-partisan organization that supports U.S. efforts to advance peace diplomacy in order to strengthen Israeli security and advance U.S. strategic interests in the region. She currently runs her own consulting firm working with non profit organizations in transition. She is a member of the steering committee of The Dialogue Project, an exchange between women leaders of the American Jewish and Palestinian American communities, and serves as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the White House Project. Debbie has served as the Northeast Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and as Special Projects Director and Executive Committee Liaison of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

Sandra Wasserman

Sandra is the President of Wasserman Investors and the Director of the Sandra and Bert W. Wasserman Family Foundation. She has an extensive background in financial planning and interior design. Sandra's philanthropy is wide and varied. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Baruch College, Hillel Baruch, Gurwin Geriatric Foundation and Suffolk Jewish Community Center. She is involved in numerous community service organizations in the arts and medicine and is a member of UJA's Lion of Judah in NY and Florida. Sandra joined the Project Kesher board in July of 2008 and along with her daughter Debra, is the organization's first mother-daughter board members.

Diane Wohl

Diane Wohl of Long Island, New York is a philanthropist who is active in UJA Federation of New York, Hillel International, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, JTS and List College. She has been a member of Project Kesher's board for the past year..

Gloria Bieler is the immediate past chair of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, where she currently serves on the executive board. She is a trustee of Carmel Academy, a Jewish, pluralistic day school located in Greenwich, CT and has served on the executive board of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, NY. As a psychotherapist, Gloria has a private practice and has worked in hospitals and educational institutions. As the mother of two daughters, she has been particularly attuned to the place of women in the Jewish community: to their equality and their full participation. Gloria lives in Scarsdale, NY and Jerusalem, Israel.
Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum is the Associate Dean of the Schechter Rabbinic Seminary in Jerusalem.   She is the former Rabbi of Congregation Magen Avraham Omer in the Negev, founder of the Makhillim program and former assistant -Rabbi alongside Rabbi Gordon Tucker in Temple Israel Center White Plains New York.   She also sits on the Boards of RA Israel, Masorti Movement, Menucha Nechona Jerusalem and more.  Rabbi Tamar writes and publishes contemporary Jewish Israeli thought and poetry.
Anat Hoffman, Board Chair became Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center in 2002.  Previously, Ms. Hoffman served as a Jerusalem City Council woman for 14 years, carving out a niche for herself as an untiring warrior for justice and equality.  She has dedicated her adult life to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which literally means repairing the world. It is this commitment to social action and justice that has formed her career. Anat was a founding member of Women of the Wall, and she served on the Boards of the Israel Women’s Network, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and many other Israeli organizations for social change.
Alona Levtrinsky, born in Kiev and graduated with honors from the Polytechnic University studying optical lasers and modern processing of matter.  Alona taught in the Technical University in Lucheck and ran the Hesed center there.  In 2005, Alona made aliya with her husband and  daughter.  She is a graduate of the first Project Kesher leadership seminar in Israel, lives in Haifa with her husband and two daughters  and works as an engineer in a plastic factory.
Rabbi Naama Kelman-Esrahi is a descendent of 10 generations of rabbis, becoming the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1992, where she is currently the Dean. Born and raised in New York, she has lived in Israel since 1976; where she has worked in community organizing, Jewish education, and the promotion and establishment of Progressive and Pluralistic  Judaism for Israelis . Naamah Kelman has been intensely involved in the emerging education system of the Israeli Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism. Among the founders of the first Progressive Day school, she has overseen the development of curricular materials, teacher training programs, and family education. She has been involved in teacher training and enrichment, the professional development of the Israeli Rabbinic students, and the establishment of "Mazorim" Spiritual Care/Israeli Chaplaincy. She was the Director of the Year in Israel Program for HUC's North American students. She is a board member of Rabbis for Human Rights, MELITZ, and the Tali Education Fund. Naamah Kelman is deeply engaged in inter-faith dialogue and feminist causes. She is married to Dr. Elan Ezrachi and they have three children.

Svetlana Yakimenko, Director, CIS

Svetlana has been with Project Kesher since it was founded. An English teacher by profession, Svetlana has become one of the foremost activists for Jewish renewal and the advancement of women’s rights in the IS. Under her leadership,Project Kesher’s programs now reach over 7,000 women a year and offer training on a wide variety of topics that are identified by women in our CIS network. Svetlana’s commitment to both her Jewish heritage and her country have been driving forces in helping her work to create a society that is welcoming to her and her two daughters.

Olga Krasko, Program Director
Polotsk, Belarus

Olga Krasko is a Program Director of Project Kesher. Olga joined Project Kesher in 2001 as participant of Beit la Midrash. Since 2002 Olga has been serving as a Regional Representative and Beit Binah Program Coordinator. Olga is an alumna of the training program. She lives in Polotsk, Belarus and is a Director of Historical Museum. Olga is married and has two sons.

Rita Kashner

Rita Kashner is an activist, philanthropist and Project Kesher Board Chair. By profession, Rita is a novelist and short-story writer. She has a B.A. from Smith College and a Masters in English Literature from Brandeis University. She teaches contemporary Jewish literature and leads poetry-writing workshops for women in domestic violence shelters in Westchester. Her publications include the novels Bed Rest, To The Tenth Generation, and The Graceful Exit, stories and articles in magazines and journals, and numerous book reviews for The Washington Post and Newsday.

Sheila Lambert

Sheila Lambert is the immediate past Board Chair of Project Kesher. Her professional experience includes twenty years of progressively responsible positions in the corporate sector for The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, culminating in positions as VP - Human Resources and Senior VP & Publisher for Moody's Investors Service, a division of Dun & Bradstreet. Her extensive philanthropic experience focuses on Jewish continuity and helping underserved and disadvantaged populations, particularly women and children. A member of the board of Project Kesher, Sheila is the Founder and Board President of Bottomless Closet, and is a member of the Board of Governors and Overseers of Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. She is a Founder and Board Chair of Summerbridge, is on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Children's Learning Lab which is a Jewish Children's Museum, and is the former Vice President of the Board at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a major Reform congregation in Manhattan. Sheila is also a member of the Advocacy Council for the Citizen's Committee for Children. Sheila has residences in New York City and Fire Island, New York.

Sheila Friedland

Sheila Friedland is a Director of the Elaine Gorbach Levine Charitable Foundation, dedicated to helping families, with particular focus on emotionally disturbed youth and Jewish women and girls in the United States, Israel and the former Soviet Union. She is also the past Executive Director of the Westchester Jewish Conference. Sheila is on the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York. From 1982 - 1994, she was on staff at the Jewish Museum of New York. Sheila took part in the Project Kesher delegation to Chernigov with her husband Bob. Sheila resides in White Plains, New York and is the immediate past president of the Project Kesher board..

Diane Wohl

Diane Wohl of Long Island, New York is a philanthropist who is active in UJA Federation of New York, Hillel International, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, JTS and List College. She has been a member of Project Kesher's board for the past year..

Karyn G. Gershon, Executive Director

Karyn joined Project Kesher in 1994 and has overseen its dramatic growth. Trained as a lawyer, Karyn was a litigator with Katten Muchin & Zavis from 1986–1994. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University School of Law. She was a fellow at the Wexner Heritage Foundation. In 2004, she was named one of the Jewish Chicagoans of the Year by The Chicago Jewish News.