Our Team

Our Staff

Yona Shem-Tov

Executive Director, New York

Yona Shem-Tov

Executive Director, New York

Yona has worked as a Jewish educator for over 20 years. Prior to joining Encounter in 2011, Yona pursued grad­uate studies at The Hebrew University and doctoral research in Education and Jewish Studies at New York University as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. While at NYU, she co-founded a national program linking scholars and prac­titioners of Jewish History Education, and helped launch the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship — an initia­tive of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation linking Muslim and Jewish social entre­pre­neurs from France, the U.K. and the U.S.

Heidi Rosbe

Deputy Director, New York

Heidi Rosbe

Deputy Director, New York

Heidi has spent over a decade designing and implementing conflict resolution and cultural dialogue programs in the U.S., Canada, Cyprus, Syria, and the West Bank for various orga­ni­za­tions including the United Nations Development Programme. Prior to Encounter, she served as the Associate Director of the Arab American Association of New York, a nonprofit family services and cultural center for Arab immi­grants. Heidi has also worked inter­na­tion­ally on research projects including conflict assess­ments of Jordan and Sri Lanka, and for the Women’s Refugee Commission, for whom she developed voca­tional training mate­rials for programs in Liberia. She is a trained medi­ator and speaks some Arabic, French, and Spanish. In addition to her work with Encounter, Heidi is an Adjunct Instructor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, teaching their “Peacemaking and Peacebuilding” graduate course.

Heidi holds a Master of International Affairs degree (2010), focused on Human Rights, Conflict, and Gender Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Leah Solomon

Regional Director, Jerusalem

Leah Solomon

Regional Director, Jerusalem

Leah has worked since 1997 in the field of expe­ri­en­tial plural­istic Jewish educa­tion. Prior to Encounter, she served for a decade as Associate Director of the Nesiya Institute. At Nesiya, she helped culti­vate mean­ingful rela­tion­ships among diverse Jewish partic­i­pants, and devel­oped and facil­i­tated programs which explored the complexity of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier in her career, Leah worked at Genesis at Brandeis University and Gann Academy in Boston.

Leah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, and completed advanced studies at both Pardes and the Hartman Institute. She is editor and publisher of the Anim Zemirot bencher and a contributing writer at Jewschool on topics relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rabba Melanie Landau

Director of Facilitation, Jerusalem

Rabba Melanie Landau

Director of Facilitation, Jerusalem

From Melbourne, Australia, Melanie served for eight years as Lecturer and Community Educator at the Australian Center for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University, and has taught Jewish texts in Israel, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. In addi­tion, Melanie is prac­ticed at facil­i­tating Jewish rituals and serving as a mentor and consul­tant to a wide range of communal orga­ni­za­tions. A past Mandel Jerusalem Fellow, she is trained and expe­ri­enced in lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, facil­i­ta­tion, and spir­i­tual guid­ance.

Melanie grad­u­ated from Yeshivat Maharat in June 2015 and estab­lished Yeshivat Kol Isha, a femi­nist, post-denominational yeshiva based in Jerusalem. She also holds a law degree, an MA in Psychoanalytic Studies, and, most recently, a PhD. Her dissertation, which presented a femi­nist critique of tradi­tional Jewish Marriage, is forth­coming by Continuum Books.

Sarah Pollack

Senior Program and Operations Manager, Jerusalem

Sarah Pollack

Senior Program and Operations Manager, Jerusalem

Sarah is committed to better preparing America’s Jewish leaders for more produc­tive paths to peace. Her passion for social justice led her to work with The American Jewish World Service and Tivnu, and she spent two years of inten­sive study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies. While at Pardes, Sarah focused much of her studies on the inter­sec­tion of Jewish Identity, Jewish conflict trans­for­ma­tion tech­niques, and Jewish tradi­tion.

Sarah grad­u­ated in 2012 from The University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology.

Rebecca Lederkramer

Program Coordinator, Jerusalem

Rebecca Lederkramer

Program Coordinator, Jerusalem

Recently accepted to HUC-JIR’s rabbinic program, Rebecca deferred her entry to work for Encounter. During her undergraduate studies at Tulane University, Rebecca taught Hebrew and Religious School at Temple Sinai, a reform syna­gogue in New Orleans, and interned for the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center — helping to compile research on the harmful effects of incar­cer­a­tion and deten­tion of juve­nile status offenders, and researching more benev­o­lent, effec­tive, and cost-efficient alter­na­tives to deten­tion. Throughout her time at Tulane, Rebecca held posi­tions on the Undergraduate Student Government, including Vice President of Student Life and Freshman Leadership Program Coordinator. She grad­u­ated from Tulane in 2017 with a BS in psychology and linguis­tics.

Sally Carroll

Office Manager/ Controller, New York

Sally Carroll

Office Manager/ Controller, New York

A native New Yorker, Sally had her first expe­ri­ence with inter­na­tional rela­tions as an exchange student in a small Hungarian town where she lived for a year through the American Field Service program. Inspired by travel, culture, and commu­nity, she has continued working with the orga­ni­za­tion as a cultural refer­ence and local coor­di­nator. Prior to Encounter, Sally worked as a produc­tion assis­tant for a small theatrical scenery company, creating their human resources depart­ment and helping them to develop effi­cient finan­cial and admin­is­tra­tive systems.

As an under­grad­uate, Sally completed a thesis on religion and conflict in the Middle East, earning a Master of Arts with honors in Philosophy and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen, where she went on to receive an MBA with honors in Human Resource Management.

Orren Arad-Neeman

Recruitment & Engagement Associate, New York

Orren Arad-Neeman

Recruitment & Engagement Associate, New York

Orren joins Encounter after working as a regional campus organizer for J Street U. She graduated from Pomona College in 2016 with a BA in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. During college, she spent time advocating for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Title IX reform to combat campus sexual assault. In her junior year, she spent a semester studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where she helped lead tours in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and volunteered for the Zionist Union’s pre-election outreach efforts. Orren grew up in an Israeli-American family in Seattle, Washington and now lives in Brooklyn.

Our Board

Sally Gottesman

Chair
I am passionate about Judaism and the Jewish people and I am an ambassador for Encounter's methodology because I have witnessed again and again the value of experiential education.

Sally Gottesman

Chair

In 2014, after a seven month sabbat­ical in Israel during which she partic­i­pated in several Encounter programs, Sally decided to join the Board of Encounter. She is an active lay-leader, writer, and consul­tant in the Jewish commu­nity. Sally is the Co-Founder and Past-Chair of Moving Traditions, and has previ­ously been on the Boards of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City, the Jewish Funders Network, the American Jewish World Service, and the Jewish Women’s Archive. Sally’s arti­cles on phil­an­thropy, Judaism, femi­nism, and class have been published in a variety of books and news­pa­pers. For nearly two decades, she consulted to not-for-profit orga­ni­za­tions — working first with KPMG Peat Marwick and then with her own firm. Sally served as the first NY/Tri-State Regional Director of the New Israel Fund, and was the first employee of the Israel Women’s Network in Jerusalem. She is also committed to research in Neurofibromatosis (NF-1) and is involved with N-TAP (the Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program at Johns Hopkins) as well as the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Sally lives on the Upper West Side with her three young children. She is a grad­uate of Wellesley College and the Yale School of Management.

Martin I. Bresler

If ever there is going to be peace between Israelis and Palestinians there needs to be a greater understanding between the two peoples and Encounter has won my heart and devotion because it works to foster that understanding.

Martin I. Bresler

Martin is the imme­diate past Chair of Americans for Peace Now, and currently a member of the Boards of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center. For many years he was actively involved with The American Jewish Committee, serving as President of the New York Chapter, as a member of the National Board of Governors, as a National Vice President, and on many commit­tees and boards. He also served for many years on the Board of the Park East Day School in New York City.

Martin earned a busi­ness degree from City College of New York (Baruch School) and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He was a corpo­rate lawyer for almost 40 years, the last 16  as a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. He and his wife of 54 years have two daugh­ters, five grand­chil­dren, and two grand-dogs. He has trav­eled to Israel perhaps twenty times since his first visit there in 1957 — both on orga­ni­za­tional busi­ness and to visit with his many family members living there.

Phyllis Teicher Goldman

Secretary
I am passionate about Encounter's work because the path to sustainable peace depends on listening to and hearing the narrative of the other; that is the simple but brilliant premise of Encounter.

Phyllis Teicher Goldman

Secretary

Phyllis partic­i­pated in her first Encounter Program in June 2014. She has dedi­cated both her profes­sional career and volun­teer work to helping nonprofit orga­ni­za­tions thrive. In her current role as a prin­cipal of G&S Consulting, Phyllis helps orga­ni­za­tions achieve sustain­able growth through the imple­men­ta­tion of best prac­tices in devel­op­ment, commu­ni­ca­tions, and gover­nance. Previously, Phyllis was the vice pres­i­dent for external affairs at the American Jewish World Service, and prior to that was the senior devel­op­ment exec­u­tive at the New Israel Fund. She is a former director of the Westchester Holocaust Commission and has also worked in polit­ical fundraising. Phyllis served on the board of direc­tors of the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, the Jewish Community Center of Mid–Westchester, and many other national and commu­nity-based orga­ni­za­tions. In addi­tion, she was the President of the American Jewish Committee’s Westchester Chapter and has chaired a number of capital campaigns — both at her syna­gogue, Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, and at the Solomon Schechter School. She holds an MA from the Columbia University School of Social Work and a B.A. from New York University.

Steven M. Jacobson

I am committed to the work of Encounter because I believe that the history of nations is dependent upon bridge-builders and boundary-crossers.

Steven M. Jacobson

Steven and was a Fellow of the Melton Center for  Jewish Education at Hebrew University, where he had the priv­i­lege of being in the last class of renowned Torah educator Nechama Leibowitz, just prior to her death. He has been Director of the University of Kansas Hillel Foundation, Project Director for a curric­ular initia­tive of the Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service at Brandeis University, and has been at the Dorot Foundation since 1999, where he is Vice President for Strategy and Director of the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. Additionally, Steve has been a consul­tant to a variety of Jewish orga­ni­za­tions and nascent-stage Jewish initia­tives, and he frequently teaches about the American Jewish insti­tu­tional infrastructure.

Raised in a Chicago suburb, Steven holds degrees from the University of Kansas and Brandeis University. He now lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and two daughters.

David Karnovsky

Treasurer
I serve on the Board in order to help expand opportunities for others to have the unique experience I was privileged to have of having a direct ‘Encounter’ with Palestinians and learning first-hand about the conflict.

David Karnovsky

Treasurer

In the fall of 2011, while a fellow of the American Academy in Jerusalem, David partic­i­pated in an Encounter trip to Bethlehem, which he considers a forma­tive expe­ri­ence in his under­standing of the conflict. David is a member of the Real Estate Department of Fried Frank Harris Jacobson & Shriver in New York, with a prac­tice that focuses on land use, zoning, and real estate devel­op­ment. Prior to joining Fried Frank, David served in several capac­i­ties in New York City govern­ment, including as general counsel to the New York City Department of City Planning from 1999 to 2014. At City Planning, he was closely involved in many of the major land use and devel­op­ment initia­tives of the Bloomberg Administration, including the Hudson Yards rede­vel­op­ment plan and the High Line.

David is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Free Loan Society and served as its President from 2011–2014. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan.

Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen

I’m passionate about Encounter’s unique mission of educating American Jews to hear multiple Palestinian voices, thereby enhancing the appreciation of the complex and human issues in the region.

Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen

As Rabbi for Communal Engagement at Central Synagogue, Rabbi Lev-Cohen teaches classes in Jewish learning for adults and leads pastoral groups and affinity groups. Her work aims at building and deep­ening networks of friend­ships and commu­nity within the congre­ga­tion. This past year, together with Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Rabbi Lev-Cohen started a pilot group at Central Synagogue called “Wise Aging.” Over the past decade, Rabbi Lev-Cohen served on numerous boards and chaired commit­tees, including the UJA/Federation, the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and the American Jewish World Service. She currently serves on the boards of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality, and the Israel Policy Forum.

A psychother­a­pist by profes­sion, Rabbi Lev-Cohen ran the grad­uate training program for social work students at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and was an instructor at the B.U. School of Social Work. She is a grad­uate of the Wexner Heritage Foundation program. A mother of two, she resides with her husband Steven in New York and Jerusalem.

Jon A. Levisohn

I believe in Encounter’s model of bringing people who are passionately committed to Israel’s wellbeing into a deeper understanding of Palestinian experiences.

Jon A. Levisohn

Jon holds the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis University, where he directs the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. A philoso­pher of educa­tion, he is the editor or author of the books Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Classical Jewish Texts, The Interpretive Virtues: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Teaching and Learning of Historical Narratives, Advancing the Learning Agenda in Jewish Education, and Beyond Jewish Identity.

Jon holds degrees from Harvard College and Stanford University, and has also studied at Yeshivat Sha’alvim, the Hebrew University, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and is currently co-chair of the Wexner Fellowship Community Coordinating Committee. Jon also served for several years as a trustee of JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School. He lives with his wife and three teenage chil­dren in Newton, Massachusetts, where they are members of Congregation Shaarei Tefilah and Minyan Yedid Nefesh.

Jonathan Lopatin

I am actively engaged in Encounter's work because I believe that American Jews can help Israel by better understanding Palestinian life and society.

Jonathan Lopatin

Jonathan is a former Partner at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and is the founder of not-so-simple productions. He is the producer of Eyes Wide Open (2008), a docu­men­tary about the expe­ri­ences of American Jewish visi­tors to Israel, as well as of Fringes: New Adventures in Jewish Living, which premiered at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival in 2012. Jonathan is imme­diate past-president of the Board of Directors of Mechon Hadar, and former President of the Nesiya Institute. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and was formerly Secretary of the Board of Directors of the New Israel Fund — where he continues to be active with the Fund’s work promoting Jewish pluralism in Israel.

Jonathan holds a Masters Degree in International Economics from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, as well as an M.A. in Talmud, which he earned from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2009. He is married and is the father of two.

Daniel Septimus

I care about Encounter because of its commitment to learning through listening and the crucial role it plays in educating the Jewish community, giving countless people (myself included) a deeper and richer understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Daniel Septimus

Daniel is Executive Director of Sefaria, an orga­ni­za­tion launched in 2013 to create digital infra­struc­ture for the future of Jewish study, commen­tary, and conver­sa­tion. Previously, he served as CEO of MyJewishLearning, Inc., where he was a founding editor of MyJewishLearning.com and founder of Kveller​.com. Daniel is on the Board of Directors of 70 Faces Media and The Luria Academy of Brooklyn. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Manchester, and Yeshivat Har Etzion. Daniel lives in Brooklyn with his wife and four young children.

Julie Shaffer

My desire for a secure and peaceful Israel motivates me to serve Encounter.

Julie Shaffer

Julie is the Executive Director of the Oreg Foundation in Boulder, Colorado, and has been involved in Colorado’s nonprofit world as a profes­sional and lay leader for 20 years. She is the Chair of the Board of Joshua Venture Group and a member of the Board of Directors at Judaism Your Way. She also serves on the Building and Capital Campaign Committees of the Boulder JCC and the Advisory Committee of Post Holocaust American Judaism at the University of Colorado, and is active as a partner in Social Venture Partners of Boulder County. Julie was a founding board member of the Boulder Jewish Community Foundation and was honored by them for her dedi­ca­tion and extra­or­di­nary work in the Boulder Jewish Community. She and her husband, Bruce, raised their three kids in Boulder and now spend time in both their Boulder and Jerusalem homes.

Our Founders

Encounter's value is being one of a kind in creating a thoughtful, safe space [and a] responsible and diverse cohort of inspiring colleagues who can support each other in engaging the conflict in our communities. It offers Jewish leaders access to the voices we want to be talking to and with and about from the other side of the messiest, most personal global conflict we are in some way all a part of. It softens our ears and hearts even while dogmatically resisting specific political solutions or pat answers. Rabbi Steven Exler Senior Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
Being in some of the actual places most impacted by the conflict with one's actual body, feelings and self along with a cohort of incredibly thoughtful, passionate Jews who know a lot about the conflict and care deeply about Jews, Israel and the conflict itself, allows for an encounter with living history deeper than any panel, essay, sermon, or organizing session ever could. David S. Koffman Assistant Professor of History, Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, York University
I feel much more informed, have (some) first hand understanding and a better grasp on where to go to learn more. This is now an open and discussable topic. Rabbi Tully Harcsztark Head of School, SAR High School
Encounter reinforced that certainty is not our friend if we are going to be drivers of peace. We need more questions than answers, more curiosity than certainty. Elana Kahn Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation
I have an additional narrative in my head which I didn't have prior--that is why I knew it was necessary for me as a communal leader. Debbie Cosgrove Chair, Jewish Women’s Foundation NY