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.

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.

Rebecca Polivy

Director of Institutional Advancement, Los Angeles

Rebecca Polivy

Director of Institutional Advancement, Los Angeles

Rebecca has worked in the non-profit sector for over 15 years, dedicating her professional career to fostering relationships between people(s) to promote dignity and respect. Rebecca served as Encounter’s Middle East Director in Jerusalem and later Director of Programming in Boston until 2015 and returned to Encounter in 2018 as the Director of Institutional Advancement. Rebecca most recently served as the Executive Director of KEEN Los Angeles, a community based organization providing free fitness and wellness opportunities for youth with disabilities. While based in Jerusalem and prior to Encounter she held positions at Search for Common Ground, Breaking the Silence and Ultimate Peace. In these positions she contributed to the design and implementation of programs that emphasized sports, social entrepreneurship, print and television media, as well as face to face interactions as tools for transforming conflict. Out of a passion for the game, and recognition of its unique contribution to the field of peacebuilding, Rebecca helped establish the sport of Ultimate Frisbee in Israel and the West Bank by forming and leading a group of volunteer trainers and coaching youth teams. Rebecca has guest lectured about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at University of Southern California and designed and delivered a course titled “Restoring Dignity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” at Tufts University.

Rabba Melanie Landau

Program and Facilitation Consultant, Jerusalem

Rabba Melanie Landau

Program and Facilitation Consultant, 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.

Rachael Liss

Administrative Assistant, New York

Rachael Liss

Administrative Assistant, New York

Rachael completed her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Political Science from Amsterdam University College where she focused her studies on peacebuilding, conflict resolution and the role of children in conflict and post-conflict societies. After serving as an intern with Encounter, Rachael joined the Encounter team full time in 2018. Rachael has also interned at Outward Bound Peacebuilding, where she supported the development of a handbook on experiential peacebuilding.

Miriam Jacobs

Senior Program Manager, Jerusalem

Miriam Jacobs

Senior Program Manager, Jerusalem

Miriam has managed, monitored and been a consultant for Israeli-Palestinian civil society peacebuilding projects for over a decade under the auspices of the Peres Center for Peace, the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace and Beit Issie Shapiro. These Conflict Transformation projects, including the Twinned Peace Soccer Schools, women political activists’ training, and collaboration among disability professionals, aimed to change negative perceptions held by Palestinians and Israelis of each other. Miriam is also active in the non-partisan Women Wage Peace movement.

Miriam holds a BA in Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies from Manchester University and an MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Tel Aviv University. She is also a graduate of Givat Haviva’s intensive Arabic language course.

Alexandra Shafran

Executive Assistant, New York

Alexandra Shafran

Executive Assistant, New York

A recent graduate of Hunter College, Allie is passionate about the intersection of political science and psychology. Before joining Encounter, Allie worked at NYU’s Office of Global Spiritual Life, where she developed mindfulness and emotionality centered curricula. At Hunter, Allie was a Model United Nations teacher’s assistant, where she taught the structure and function of the UN to international students. During college Allie also worked on numerous activities related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including facilitating conversations between Jewish and Palestinian students, and she spent her summers in Israel, interning at the Jerusalem Post and Maan, a Bedouin women’s organization.

Sarah Pollack

Recruitment and Network Manager, New York

Sarah Pollack

Recruitment and Network Manager, New York

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Yoni Gordis

Yoni Gordis

As Partner at ChangeCraft Consulting, Yoni crafts customized solutions to organizations and teams as they navigate change and growth. A renowned designer and facilitator of retreats and conferences, Yoni has 25 years of experience as an organizational consultant, strategist and coach. A leading organizational consultant on five continents, Yoni has offered strategic services to dozens of organizational clients, including the Avi Schaefer Fund, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Connect US Fund, Elevate Children Funders Group, GHR Foundation, Hillel International, the Human Rights Funders Network, IKAR, the Jewish Federation of New York, the Leichtag Foundation, the New Israel Fund, the Peace and Security Funders Group, ROI Community, the Stanley Foundation, Tides Canada, the Union for Reform Judaism, and dozens of others. He is currently on the faculty of Georgetown University teaching gathering design and facilitation. Prior to the launch of the Center for Leadership Initiatives, the precursor to ChangeCraft, Yoni served as an independent consultant, first at Yesod Resource Management, Israel’s first philanthropic consultation firm, starting in 1996, and later independently where he worked with non-profit and philanthropic clients internationally. Moving to Canada in 2001, his practice expanded to include an array of local, national and international organizations, with a focus on environmental organizations in British Columbia.

Yoni was a founding member of the Elul Beit Midrash for cross cultural dialogue in Jerusalem and a teacher in numerous educational institutions throughout Israel. Born in the United States, he lived in Israel for nearly twenty years, and currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife and two daughters. A graduate of Columbia University, Yoni also received private rabbinic ordination in Israel.

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

Steve is Vice President for Strategy at the Dorot Foundation and Director of the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. He is a former 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. Steve served as 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. Additionally, he 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, Steve holds degrees from the University of Kansas and Brandeis University. He now lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and two daughters.

Meyer Koplow

Meyer Koplow

Meyer Koplow is an executive partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, one of the world’s leading business law firms. He is also the executive editor and notes and comment editor of the New York University Law Review. He is the president of the Meyer G. and Ellen Goodstein Koplow Foundation, and a member of the Board of Directors of the UJA Federation in New York. Formerly, Koplow was the president of Young Israel of New Rochelle. At Brandeis University, Koplow was co-chair of his Reunion Committee, a fellow in 2000, and receiver of the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Medal for Distinguished Legal Service in 1998. He was elected to the Brandeis Board in 2006 and Chair of the Board in September 2017. Koplow received his B.A. magna cum laude at Brandeis University and his J.D. from New York University Law School in 1976. He joined Encounter’s Board of Directors in 2018.

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

I didn't learn any substantial new facts or yet-unknown perspectives about the conflict. But I was pressed to confront the urgency of... and the untenability of my own blind spots. Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky Rabbi, Ansche Chesed
Encounter gave me access to neighborhoods and people which were otherwise off limits. I was able to see and hear things firsthand that I would not have experienced otherwise. Miriam Heller Stern Director, School of Education, Jewish Institute of Religion, Hebrew Union College
Encounter is an opportunity to engage more deeply and seriously in the most pressing issues facing the Jewish people today. You need this. Not because you will emerge with solutions or talking points, but because you will break through and dive beneath the facile talk about solutions and talking points… Jon A. Levisohn Director, Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Brandeis University
The trip forever colors your understanding of the security of Israel… It deepens your knowledge and exposure no matter how much you've read. Angie Atkins Director of Heritage Alumni, Wexner Foundation
This is an intense trip that quickly immerses you in narratives of Palestinians that are mostly hidden to Jews living in Israel. You will have access to unvarnished insights that will deepen your understanding of the Palestinian narrative and broaden your understanding of the conflict. You will have the chance to ask hard questions and to struggle deeply with colleagues about the challenges you witness. All of this in a deeply supportive environment. Rabbi Elliott Tepperman Rabbi, Bnai Keshet, New Jersey