Karyn joined Project Kesher as its Executive Director 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, Karyn was named one of the Jewish Chicagoans of the Year by The Chicago Jewish News.
Karen is Project Kesher’s Chief Advancement Officer, having joined the PK staff in 2003. She has worked in the area of non-profit management, international philanthropy and fund development for close to three decades. She is a passionate advocate for gender equality, Jewish continuity and citizen diplomacy. Karen was the Founder and Co-President of an international wholesale travel company for groups visiting the United States and was an adventure travel director planning domestic and international bicycling and backpacking trips for teens and adults. Karen served on the Board of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, New York and is very active in her community. She is an avid hiker and environmentalist.
Prior to joining Project Kesher in 2012 as Director of Development, Rachel Lobovsky worked at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) located at the Center for Jewish History in New York City and ORT America. Rachel holds a 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.
Kimmie graduated from Connecticut College in December 2012 with a BA in Theater. She has since served as an intern in Communications and Development with The Public Theater, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Algonquin Theater Productions, Femfessionals, and Killington Shakespeare Retreat. Kimmie is proud to be a part of the growing Project Kesher network as the Associate Director of Development and Marketing, having joined the team in February 2014.
Dr. Beth Caunitz practices general and cosmetic dentistry in New York City. She received her DDS from New York University College of Dentistry and completed her residency at St. Barnabus Hospital in the Bronx, New York, where she also served as Chief Resident. Prior to becoming a dentist, Beth earned a BSN from New York University School of Nursing and was a pediatric nurse at New York University Hospital. Beth has served as President and active member of the Parents Association of the Heschel School in New York City. Beth has participated in several Project Kesher delegations to Ukraine and was elected to the Board in 2014. She and her husband Daniel Budofsky have three children and currently reside in Manhattan and Connecticut.
Trained as an educator, Michele Cohen spent much of her career working in finance at Cohen & Steers, a company co-founded by her husband Marty. Michele currently serves on the Boards of the University of Vermont Foundation, the Museum of Art and Design, and Alfred University. She previously served on the COJIR (Task Force on Russian Speaking Jewry) at UJA Federation of New York. Michele traveled with her daughter to Russia with Project Kesher for the first time in 2004 as part of the Voyage on the Volga delegation. She joined the Board in 2005, and co-chaired Project Kesher’s 2007 Summit on the Black Sea. She was honored by the organization in 2012. Michele is a resident of New York City and East Hampton, New York.
Jen 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 traveled with Project Kesher to Russia and Ukraine multiple times and is co-chairing PK’s 2015 Annual Benefit. She joined the Board of Project Kesher in 2012. Jen lives in New York City with her husband and three children.
Barbara Glickstein is a public health nurse, health reporter and media strategist. She is co-director of the Center for Health Media & Policy at Hunter College, City University of New York. She produces and hosts Healthstyles, an award-winning, weekly program on public radio in New York City. Glickstein is the Outreach Strategist, Campaign Builder and Researcher for Carolyn Jones Productions and working on her newest project, Dying in America. Barbara has traveled frequently to Russia, Ukraine and Israel with Project Kesher. She joined the Board of Project Kesher in 2007 and is its current chair.
Rabbi Leora Kaye
Rabbi Leora Kaye was the Director of Community Engagement at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan from 2004 to 2015, where she created inventive programs, including film programs, study sessions and seminars with dynamic speakers and coordinated the conversion program. She is the former Youth Director of Temple Israel in Boston and also worked as the Associate Director of Programming for Synagogue 2000. While in rabbinical school, she was a production associate on the Sundance award-winning documentary, Blue Vinyl. Since then, she has produced videos for NFTY, Matan, and other Jewish organizations and was rabbinic consultant for the Shalom Sesame project. She wrote the companion Study Guides for Jewish Food For Thought – a series of thought provoking and entertaining animated shorts focused on Jewish ideas. Leora is a Board member of Mamash, and a rabbinic consultant for Avoda Arts and The Six Points Fellowship. She joined the Board of Project Kesher in 2011. Leora is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2002. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, Doug Gordon, a writer and television producer, and her children, Galit and Zeb.
An advocate for women’s rights and an international consultant in Russia, the NIS, the European Union and Southeast Asia, Joan served as Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) between 2001 and 2011. WOW emphasizes non-traditional job training, education, access to public benefits and economic literacy. Between 1987 and 1994, she was Executive Director of the Older Women’s League (OWL), a national advocacy and membership organization that addresses economic and social issues facing women as they age. She was the Co-Founder and Chair of the Campaign for Women’s Health between 1991 and 1994, the first President of My Sister’s Place in Washington DC, and Executive Director of Women Against Abuse (WAA) in Philadelphia between 1981 and 1987. In 1995, she directed the first technical assistance office established by the US Justice Department to implement the landmark federal Violence Against Women Act. From 1995 through 2001, Joan served on President Clinton’s Advisory Council on Violence against Women. She received the Gloria Steinem “Women of Vision” Award from Ms. Magazine. Today, Ms. Kuriansky serves on the Boards of Alliance for Girls, the Center on Women’s Policy Studies, the Caring Economy, Circles, USA, the International Council of the New Israel Fund, the Center for National Securities Studies and the Income Security Committee of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) where she serves as a Fellow. Joan was elected to the Project Kesher Board in 2014.
Sheila enjoyed a twenty year career at The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation with progressively responsible positions including Vice President of Human Resources and Senior Vice President & Publisher of Moody's Investors Service. Her extensive philanthropic experience focuses on Jewish continuity and helping underserved and disadvantaged populations, particularly women and children. Sheila is the Founder and Board President of Bottomless Closet and President of the Manhattan Jewish Community Center. She was a Founder and former Board Chair of Summerbridge, a Director of the Jewish Children's Learning Laboratory, a Vice President of the Board of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, in Manhattan, and a member of the Advocacy Council for the Citizen's Committee for Children. She was elected to the Board of Project Kesher in 2003, and is a former Board Chair. Sheila and her husband Bill live in New York City and have residences in Fire Island, and Aspen.
Kate Epstein is an award-winning TV reporter/anchor turned producer, who lives to tell a good story. After working for several affiliates across the country, she traded in her anchor hairspray and "TV red blazers" for the chance to work in corporate production in New York City. Here, Kate has interviewed everyone from Beyoncé to Barbara Walters, field-produced for the Discovery Channel and Fine Living Network and even worked various gigs with the Department of Homeland Security. These days Kate serves as Executive Producer for a full-service field and post production design studio in Soho. She has also produced the videos for Project Kesher's Benefits in 2014 and 2015, and is thrilled to join the Board this year. Her favorite role, though, is being mom to her fabulous and fairly comical twin boys, Avi and Ethan. Kate and her husband, Steve, live with their guys on Manhattan's Upper West Side; when not chasing them, they both enjoy a good read and, on a really great day, a good nap.
A daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Rita has been active in The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and The American Friends of Yad laYeled in Israel. She is involved in various Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropic organizations as well as the local Jewish community. She has participated in several Project Kesher trips to the former Soviet Union with Project Kesher, and was elected to the Board in 2012. Rita and her husband Nathan reside in New York City and have four children, Rachel, Allison, Michelle and Steven.
Arleen is office manager and bookkeeper for the Aaron Priest Literary Agency. She was on the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York for 20 years where she was honored for 20 years of service as co-chair of the Hungry and Homeless Committee and food coordinator for volunteers providing food for a local homeless shelter. Arleen and her husband have been honored by Israel Bonds and Jewish Theological Seminary. They lived in Scarsdale, New York for 30 years where Arleen was a ceramicist, and recently moved to Manhattan. She also resides part time in Westerly, Rhode Island. She has two sons and two grandsons. Arleen was elected to the Project Kesher Board in 2007 and has enjoyed traveling to the former Soviet Union.
Deborah is involved with various charitable organizations but her favorite remains Project Kesher. Deborah traveled with Project Kesher on its Voyage on the Volga trip in 2004 with her daughter. She returned in 2007 with her mom for the Summit on the Black Sea. A Board member since 2007, Deb co-chaired Project Kesher's Annual Benefit in 2011. She is married to her best friend, David Roberts, and the mother of three children, Lauren, Andrew and Michael.
Deborah Shapiro is a certified Special Education Mediator with the New York Peace Institute helping students and their families navigate the complicated New York City school system. She received her BA from Tufts University and her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Deborah practiced corporate law at Schulte Roth and Zabel for seven years and was in-house council for Caribiner Communications, an NYSE publicly traded company. Deborah has served as Chair of the School Auction and the Chair of the Benefit Dinner at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. She also is a member of the Department of Medicine’s Chairman’s Circle at NYU, a member of the Board of myFace and a Trustee of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. Deborah traveled with Project Kesher on the 2008 Torah Return trip to Ukraine and is thrilled to be on the Board with good friend Jen Daniels starting in 2015. She and her husband Steven Shapiro have three children, Allie, Sophie and Talia and currently reside in Manhattan.
Debbie Wasserman is the President of Steel Wheels Consulting, LLC which consults in all aspects of non-profit management and provides executive coaching. With 18 years of senior experience, Debbie is a recognized expert in strategic planning, organizational and human resource development, and program implementation. She previously served as the Executive Director of the Israel Policy Forum, an independent and non-partisan organization that supports U.S. efforts to advance peace diplomacy in Israel, the Northeast Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and Special Projects Director and Executive Committee Liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). She is on the Board of the JCC of Manhattan and served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the White House Project. Debbie joined the Board of Project Kesher in 2002.
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. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Baruch College, Hillel Baruch, Gurwin Geriatric Foundation and Suffolk Jewish Community Center, and is a member of UJA's Lion of Judah in New York and Florida. Sandra joined the Project Kesher Board in July 2008 and, with her daughter Debra, is the organization's first mother-daughter Board pair.
Diane Wohl, a past president of her Conservative synagogue, is a past chair of the Long Island Women's Campaign of UJA, an endowed member of Lion of Judah, and a member of the Giving Circle of the Jewish Women's Federation. Diane has sat on both the International Board of Governors and National Board of Directors of Hillel and is currently active with Hillel at Hofstra University. She is a member of the Gurwin Jewish Foundation Board which oversees a nursing facility and assisted living complex. She is also a past President of her Conservative Synagogue and active with the Jewish Theological Seminary. Diane first traveled with Project Kesher to Russia on its Voyage on the Volga in 2004. She joined the Board in 2005, and is its immediate past Board Chair. She was honored by Project Kesher in 2013. Diane is focused on building a strong Jewish connection in the Former Soviet Union through her work with Project Kesher, Hillel and Limmud. Diane and Howard, her husband of over 40 years, have three children and five grandchildren.
Past Board Chairs
Named one of “Chicago's Thirty Tough Lawyers” by Chicago Magazine in 2002, Eunice Ward is an experienced divorce litigator who has practiced family law for her entire legal career and has hands on experience with the divorce courts, judges, and mediators. She is known for positive, straight-forward attention to her cases and has sound, successful trial experience. Eunice has been influential in the custody area of the divorce bar; she assisted in writing the law on joint custody and worked for its incorporation into the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Eunice received her J.D. from IIT – Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1979 and is a member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. Eunice Ward joined the Project Kesher Board in 1998 and served as Board chair from July 1998 through June 2001.
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 the former Executive Director of the Westchester Jewish Council and was a staff member of the Jewish Museum of New York. Sheila has also served on the Board of trustees of Temple Israel Center. Sheila became active with Project Kesher after a trip to Chernigov, Ukraine, in 1997, where she received leadership training. She has been involved in the organization ever since and joined the Board in 1998 and served as Board chair from July 2001 through June 2004.
Dr. Sharon Ufberg is the co-founder of Elevate Gen Y, a company she created with her daughter, Alexis Sclamberg in 2013 to create live events and online programming to empower women in their 20s and 30s to inspire and empower them to live meaningful lives and give back to their communities and the world. She is the health and wellness editor for Napa Valley Life Magazine and contributes to publications including The Huffington Post, Women eNews, Womens Media Center, Gender Across Borders, and IntegrativePractitioner.com. Dr. Ufberg has been featured across the media, including Fox TV News, Martha Stewart and WBAI radio, and We Heal New York magazine. Dr. Ufberg has served as a delegate to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. Dr. Ufberg serves on the Council on Chiropractic Education, is an Adjunct Professor at Beth Israel Medical Center’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City, and lead consultant for Good Advice Works, the company she created in 2011. Sharon joined the PK Board in 2001 and served as Board chair from July 2004 through June 2007.
Rita Kashner is an activist, philanthropist, 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 three novels, Bed Rest, To the Tenth Generation, and The Graceful Exit, numerous stories and articles in magazines and journals, and book reviews for The Washington Post and Newsday. Rita joined the Board in 2000 and served as its chair from July 2010 through June 2013. Rita has also served on the Project Kesher-Israel Board.
Nancy Solomon is a past President of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a reform synagogue in New York City. Prior to that she served as Chairman of a multi-issue children's advocacy organization, Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, where she is still active. Honored by Project Kesher in 2011, Nancy has traveled to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus numerous times with Project Kesher, joined the Board in 2005, and is a past Board Chair. She introduced Project Kesher to Temple Beth El in Helena, Arkansas, the spiritual home of the Solomon Family that donated two Torah Scrolls when it closed its doors after 150 years. Nancy resides in New York City and Fire Island.
Sallie E. Gratch
In 1986, Sallie Gratch closed her private practice in family therapy and took a giant step forward into the peace movement, participating in peace walks in the (then) Soviet Union and becoming a passionate advocate in America to support the emerging interest in Jewish renewal. In 1989, Sallie founded Project Kesher to provide a solid organization through which to formalize her activities around Jewish renewal. She chose the word “kesher” meaning “connection” internationally 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 historic International Conference of Jewish Women held in Kiev, Ukraine. In 2006, she founded the Women’s Founders’ Collective to provide a global support network for women founders of non-profits. Sallie has received leadership awards from the Simmons School of Social Work, Women’s eNews, and the National Association of Social Workers. Sallie and her husband Alan live in Evanston, Illinois and spend summers at their log cabin in Montana. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.