HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management Alumni Newsletter
May 2013
Sivan 5773
In This Issue
Message from the Chairs
Alumni Spotlight: Joy Sisisky, MAJCS/MPA '00
Upcoming SJNM Events
Milestones and Mazel Tovs
Campaign Update 


As of May 1, the 2012-2013 Annual Alumni Campaign has raised over $23,000 for student scholarships, and we are now two thirds of the way to our goal! Please help us bring the best and the brightest to the School of Jewish Nonprofit Management by making your gift today!


Stay Connected on Social Media


Facebook and Twitter 

Are you on Facebook? Like our page to get updates on what's happening on campus, be linked to interesting articles about our field, learn about job opportunities and stay in touch with other alumni.  


You can also follow SJNM on Twitter at @sjnm_la... to experience Lunch and Learns and other events in real time.


Alumni Directory   

Looking for an old friend or classmate? Just go to The directory is password-protected, but contact for access.  And don't forget to let us know if your own information needs to be updated!


Alumni E-Learning 

You can explore online alumni resources and learning opportunities at the HUC-JIR 

E-Learning site:  




SJNM Alumni Association Executive Committee 



Andi Milens 



Vice Chair
Stephanie Bressler
Past Chair
Esther Cohen 


Alumni Council Representatives 

Alan Ronkin 

(MAJCS/MPA '91) 

Shaina Wasserman (MAJCS/MAJE '06) 

Recruitment Chair 

Bailey London 


Rachel Slaton



Alumni Advisor Program

Alan Ronkin 

(MAJCS/MPA '91) 


Campaign Co-Chairs
Naomi Abelson
Anna Schwarz Shabtay (MAJCS/MPA '09)


Communications Chair

Missy Bell



Professional Development


Paula Simon


 Marsha Rothpan (MAJCS/MSW '94)


Joy Wasserman

National Director of Alumni Engagement
Richard Siegel

SJNM Director
Mandi Richardson

SJNM Associate Director 

Jessica Ingram

Coordinator, Alumni Association

We're excited to share with you what we've been working on over the past few months! Stay tuned for our June edition, which will include information about graduation and our upcoming Summer Session! 
Message from the Chairs

Andi Milens, (MAJCS/MPA '94), Chair, and Stephanie Bressler (MAJCS/MPA '09), Vice Chair 


Dear Alumni,


Earlier this year, the Leadership Team of the HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management Alumni Association gathered in New York for the second annual Leadership Retreat. Last year, as Chair Andi Milens began her term, the retreat focused on identifying the mission of the Alumni Association. This year, with a highly successful year under our belts, the retreat focused on strategic visioning and beginning to take concrete steps to further our reach over the next five years.


The retreat began with an informal gathering allowing team members from across the country and a wide range of graduating classes to meet one another in person. What a rare treat it was to meet those who came before you and those who succeeded you; who together comprise the soul of that brick building on University Avenue that we all know so well! I think it can be unanimously agreed upon that for the relatively small group of alumni that are lucky enough to be a part of the SJNM/School of Jewish Communal Service, the dedication to the field and to our collective mission is staggering.


We spent two days together, brainstorming ways to harness this passion and ensure that our School thrives for generations to come. With incredible guests such as Rabbi David Ellenson and distinguished alum Howard Charish, the group buzzed with excitement about the coming year, and is looking forward to implementing our ideas.    


We spoke throughout the retreat of the leadership metaphor of the "balcony and they dance floor," and how to maximize the amount of alumni on OUR dance floor- those who are engaged in SOME way with our community. In order to do this, we hope to employ some of the following strategies:
  • We have a great fundraising leadership team in place, and we hope to expand our leadership and work towards touching each alumnus. Our goals is to build both the amount our campaign will raise for student scholarships, as well as the number of people who participate. To donate now, click here! 
  • In addition, we are asking alumni in major cities to serve as "Regional Representatives." Our hope is that they will be best positioned to connect with new alumni who move to their city and engage alumni already living there by coordinating social and professional gatherings.
  • We plan to improve communication with alumni with brief monthly email updates focusing on things that are most timely with alumni, the School, and the College-Institute.

We want to thank our Leadership Team and all of our active alumni for "dancing" with us. If you have any questions, or would like to get more involved, please contact Jessica Ingram, Coordinator of our Alumni Association, at


Andi and Stephanie



Alumni Spotlight

Joy Sisisky, MAJCS/MPA '00

Executive Director

Jewish Women's Foundation of New York


Recently, I travelled with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee/JDC to Latvia for a look at contemporary European Jewish life. Even before Thanksgiving, the temperature in Riga hovers at 40-degrees, giving you a sense of the arctic chill that will blow through the Baltics this very winter.


I mention the weather because it highlights a hardship that many of the 14,000 Latvian Jews face on a daily basis. JDC, the largest Jewish humanitarian organization in the world, works in 70 countries, specializing in humanitarian aid, Jewish community renewal and disaster relief. In Latvia, the focus is on meeting the pressing needs (including winter relief) of the elderly, impoverished and children at risk and supporting a renaissance of Jewish life.


I have lived and travelled around the world with JDC from Ukraine to Ethiopia to Haiti. You might be able to imagine the type of poverty I saw in the developing world, but it came as a shock to me in Latvia, part of the European Union, and slowly recovering from 2008's economic collapse. One morning, I visited a Jewish family in the worst living conditions I have ever seen. A mother, father, and four children lived together in a cramped 200 square-foot room with just two beds and chairs, a table and an empty refrigerator. They shared a single communal shower, toilet, and kitchen with 75 neighbors.


Afterwards, I spent the afternoon visiting Holocaust survivors, bringing them care packages, and listening to their stories. They couldn't have been happier to have guests and welcomed us, a small group of young American Jews, in their homes.  Everyone wanted the same thing from us - to be heard and not forgotten. Not that long ago, Latvian Jews were killed because of their faith; today, they are being saved because of it.


With all the demands of a family and hectic days at work, I can't think of a better place than Riga to have spent my vacation. Having worked as a Jewish communal professional for more than a decade now, opportunities like this one are still the most powerful and meaningful for me. They have changed my life.


Joy Sisisky, MAJCS/MPA '00 is the Executive Director of the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York. Joy is also the National (lay) Co-Chair of JDC Entwine Steering Committee, which offers service experiences in Jewish communities around the world, and a former JDC Ralph I. Goldman Fellow in International Jewish Service. To learn more, go to

Upcoming SJNM Events
May 19th: 1st Annual Reception honoring SJNM/SJCS Alumni and Honorary Degree Recipient Deborah Burg-Schnirman
  • We are thrilled to be honoring Deborah as she is awarded this special honor. Currently the Early Childhood Education Director at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, CA, Deborah has served the Jewish community with distinction for the past 25 years. Her career has been spent within the JCC system, working to foster a life-long love of learning for children, parents and educators. She is  dedicated to helping families connect and find their place in the Jewish community by bringing together diverse constituencies and Jewish communal organizations.  
May 20: HUC-JIR Los Angeles Graduation
June 14-15: Orientation and Retreat


June 17: Summer Classes begin


August 5-6: Scholar-in-Residence: Rabbi Joy Levitt, Executive Director, The JCC in Manhattan
August 6: Culmination

Milestones and Mazel Tovs    

Have you moved, changed jobs, been honored, gotten engaged or married, or had children? Please share your personal and professional milestones as they happen so that our SJNM community can celebrate with you! Send your milestones to


Alicia Cohen (MAJCS/MPA '08) became engaged to American Jewish University Ziegler Rabbinical Student Marc Kraus.


Melissa Cowen (MAJCS/MPA '10) got engaged on October 21, 2012 to Ellis Garai. She also started a new job as the Development Officer at Upstart in July 2012.


Suzanne Korkin Afergan (MAJCS/MSW '02) and her husband Mike welcomed their second child last summer. Benjamin was born on 8/31/12 and big sister Maya (who is almost 3� ) is especially proud.


Deborah Berkowits Litwak (MAJCS/MAJE '94) and Rabbi Alan Litwak (NY1996) joyfully celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of their middle daughter Naomi Gabrielle on December 22, 2012, parshat Vayigash.


Lois Weinsaft (Lois Nagy Tadin, MAJCS & MSW '79) became the interim Executive Director at Jewish World Watch in September 2012.  That same month, the adoption of her grandson, Aydin Wayne, was finalized, and Lois is a very happy Savta!


Gosia Szymanska Weiss (MAJCS/MPA '06) received a special award from the President of Poland recently at the AJC Los Angeles Annual Meeting and Reception.


Rabbi Laurie Coskey (SJCS Certificate '83/CN '85) and daughter of our Los Angeles Overseer Rhea Coskey, was recently recognized as one of the "13 Progressive Faith Leaders to Watch in 2013," according to the Center for American Progress.


Jeff Bernhardt (MAJCS/MSW '94) published his first book with Blackbird Books. On Sacred Ground: Jewish and Christian Clergy Reflect on Transformative Passages of the Five Books of Moses includes brief essays by a number of HUC-JIR/URJ affiliated rabbis including Eric Yoffie, David Ellenson, Bill Cutter, Sally Priesand, and Anne Brener. In addition, his new play "Therapy" had its world premiere in North Hollywood, California last year. More information can be found through Jeff at


Eddie Bruckner (MAJCS/MPA '98) recently became Vice President of Financial Resource Development at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.  The Jewish Alliance formed out of a merger between the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Center, and the Bureau of Jewish Education.


Randy Nathan, (MAJCS/MSW '94) was recently selected by Sprigeo (an online bully app) as one of their Project Heroes on his bullying work as founder and president of Project NextGen. In addition, his first book, "Bullying in Sports: The Injuries We Don't See" is being released this spring.


Rachel Sisk (MAJCS/MSW '93) was appointed adjunct faculty at SHEVET: The Jewish Family Education Exchange.


Michelle Landau Brooks (MSW/MAJCS '95) recently joined the St. Louis chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association as Program Coordinator/Fundraising Associate.  She can be reached at


Julia Malkin (MAJCS/MPA '11) recently moved to New York to join the staff of Jewish Federations of North America as the Associate Director of National Young Leadership.


Lisa Cohen (MAJCS/MSW '97) now teaches art to Headstart and Special Ed students at the Helene Grant School in New Haven, Connecticut.