Alumni Advisory Council

UpStart Alumni Advisory Council

Rena Dorph, The Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley
Rena Dorph is the catalyst, co-founder, and Board President for Edah and Studio 70 in Berkeley, CA. Rena led the grassroots effort in 2010 to design a new model for complementary Jewish education committed to experiential, Hebrew-infused Jewish learning experiences that also provides full-service aftercare for families. Rena’s local efforts have galvanized communities across North America to develop their own models for afterschool Jewish learning. Rena is an alumna of the Upstart Bay Area Fellowship program and has been the Co-Project Director for several Signature Grant Awards from the Covenant Foundation. Rena is the Interim Director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. She holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley; a Master’s in the Sociology of Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College; and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of California, Davis.

Jordan Fruchtman, Moishe House
Jordan Fruchtman is the Chief Program Officer (CPO) of Moishe House, giving him the opportunity to develop it’s program team and the community builders they support. Jordan has been involved in hands on service work since high school, and in college, at UC Santa Barbara, founded BRIDGES, an organization pairing college students and homeless families in the area. As the Regional Director of the Forest Foundation Jordan oversaw a team of Program Directors and worked on over 50 unique community building and leadership programs. He is also proud to have been with the Forest Foundation during inception of Moishe House, a formative professional development experience. Jordan attended the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University, graduating with an MBA and Master’s in Jewish Professional Leadership, where he was awarded a PLP Academic Fellowship and Hebrew Senior Life Management Internship. Prior to Moishe House, Jordan served as the Executive Director of Hillel in Orange County, CA, building Jewish life at UC Irvine and Chapman University. Jordan is happily married to Rachel Fruchtman and resides in beautiful North County San Diego.

Elie Kaunfer, Mechon Hadar
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is the President and CEO of Mechon Hadar, an institute committed to Jewish learning and community building ( A Wexner Graduate Fellow and Dorot Fellow, Elie is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights). Elie holds a doctorate in liturgy from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was also ordained. He has served as faculty for Wexner Heritage, Scholar-in-Residence at the Federation’s General Assembly, and has lectured widely on prayer and building grassroots Jewish communities.

Alison Laichter, Alison Laichter Consulting
Alison Laichter is a consultant, facilitator, meditation teacher, and urban planner. She founded and directed the Jewish Meditation Center (JMC) in NYC, creating the first ever grassroots and community-led Jewish Meditation Center. She was a recipient of the Joshua Venture Group Dual Investment Program and was named one of the Jewish Week’s “Visionaries for a New Era.” She teaches meditation around the world and is based in southern California. Before founding the JMC, Alison’s urban planning career included working in economic consulting, pro-poor business development at the United Nations, and redesigning the entire east side of Manhattan for bicycle and pedestrian safety. Alison has her Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from The Cooper Union and her Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Alison creates and leads immersive gatherings, retreats and conferences, professional development trainings, and more. Her consulting clients include the Jewish Funders Network, Hillel International, Jim Joseph Foundation, Skirball Cultural Center, OneTable, Leichtag Foundation, and Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Alison loves working with communities and organizations to create inclusive, accessible, and radically amazing experiences.

Sara Luria, ImmerseNYC & Beloved
Sara’s experiences as a community organizer, birth doula, and hospital chaplain inspired her to found Beloved, a home-based experiment in Jewish life and community, and ImmerseNYC, a pluralistic, feminist, grassroots-energized community mikveh project. Sara has published poetry and essays on motherhood, innovation, and healing in various Jewish books and publications. She was ordained as a rabbi from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2013, and also serves as the program director for HUC’s Tisch/Star Leadership Fellowship. Sara currently lives back in her hometown of Brooklyn with her husband, Isaac, and their three young kids, Caleb, Eva, and Judah.

Mordechai Lightstone,
Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone is a rabbi by training, but a blogger by choice. He is passionate about using new media to further Jewish identity and community building. Mordechai currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and four sons, where he happily tweets between sips of espresso.

Lani Santo, Footsteps
Lani is the Executive Director of Footsteps, which supports and affirms individuals and families who chose to leave ultra-Orthodox communities in their quest to lead self-determined lives. The successor to Footsteps’ founder, Lani has driven the organization’s growth from a 3-person start-up with a $400,000 budget in 2010 to an established 501c3 with 15 staff, a program center in Manhattan with satellite programs in Rockland and Brooklyn, and a $2.3 million annual operating budget. Prior to Footsteps, Lani served as a Senior Program Officer at American Jewish World Service, where she focused on immersive international service-learning experiences for young adults. Lani is an alumna of Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps and served on the Avodah board from 2004-2013. She was also named to The Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” list in 2015. Lani graduated from Barnard College and holds an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management NYU’s Wagner School.

Yoshi Silverstein, Hazon
In his roles as Director of the JOFEE Fellowship at Hazon and founder of Mitsui Design, Yoshi Silverstein catalyzes the innate potential of people, communities, and landscapes through education, landscape design, consultation, coaching, and writing. He holds over fifteen years of experience in both Jewish and secular outdoor, food, farming, and environmental education with a focus on place-based learning through design and education. Yoshi is an alumnus of the Selah Leadership Program, the Dorot Fellowship, and the PresenTense NYC Accelerator for Social Entrepreneurship; and is a founding member of Repair the World NYC’s Advisory Board. He completed his masters degree in landscape architecture at the University of Maryland and BA in European Cultural Studies & Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. A Pacific Northwest native, Yoshi’s diverse experience includes inquiry-based outdoor ecology, permaculture and natural building, outdoor trip leading, team-building and ropes course training, songleading, CrossFit, and martial arts. He makes a mean Chinese Roast Duck.

Amy Tobin, JCC East Bay
Amy Tobin has served as CEO of the JCC East Bay since 2014. Prior to her current role, Amy was the founding Executive Director of the David Brower Center, a green building and home for environmental and social change. In 2012 Amy received the Gerbode Foundation fellowship, and she has served on boards and advisory boards for the Downtown Berkeley Association, Nonprofit Centers Network, Joshua Venture Group, and Be’chol Lashon. She has served as a planning, program, and development consultant to organizations such as the Cartoon Art Museum, the Asian American Orchestra, HEEB Magazine, and the San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Festival. As recipient of the Joshua Venture fellowship, Amy founded The Hub at the JCC of San Francisco in 2001. As a songwriter and performer, Amy released two albums and toured nationally with “The Esther Show,” a cabaret rock opera and modern interpretation of the biblical Book of Esther.

Ari Weiss, Cornell Hillel
Rabbi Ari Weiss is a Jewish educator and social entrepreneur. He led multiple initiatives that engage young adults to Jewish values. Currently the Executive Director of Cornell Hillel, Ari leads a team of twelve who engage the 3500 undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell. Before joining Cornell Hillel, he served as the Senior Director of Jewish Education at Birthright NEXT where his work focused on training Jewish professionals on best practices in engaging Birthright alumni. Ari also served as the Executive Director of Uri L’Tzedek from 2008-2013. During his tenure, Slingshot Guide selected Uri L’Tzedek as one of the 50 most innovative organizations in the country for five consecutive years. A Joshua Venture Group Fellow, Ari was selected by the Jewish Week in 2012 as one of “36 under 36” young Jewish visionaries who are re-imagining Jewish life. He received his B.A. from Yeshiva College and his Rabbinic Ordination from YCT Rabbinical School. Ari lives in Ithaca NY and is married to Dr. Sara Kranzler. They are the proud parents of Adir.

David Winitsky, Jewish Plays Project
David Winitsky is a Storahtelling/LabShul Maven, a 2014-17 UpStart National Fellow, a 2013 LABA Artist Fellow, and a 2011 PresenTense New York City Fellow. Previous leadership roles: Playwrights Theater (Producing Director), What Exit? Comedy Theater (Co-Artistic Director), and the Obie Award-winning HERE Arts Center (General Manager). Directing and Assisting: Broadway, off-Broadway, and regionally at Papermill Playhouse and Steppenwolf Theater. NYC: “Displaced Wedding” (New Worlds Theatre Project), “A Wonderful Flat Thing” (14th St Y), Brooke Berman’s “Until We Find Each Other” (Best of Festival, MITF). Regional: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “Our Dad is in Atlantis” and “The Fantasticks”. With the JPP, David has developed 48 plays, 26 of which have gone on to production and further development in New York, London, Tel Aviv and around the U.S. MFA in Directing (Northwestern); BA in Mathematics (Cornell). Proud husband of Elizabeth Samet, and thankful father of Ezekiel (16) and Alexander (13).

Carly Zimmerman, Challah for Hunger
Carly is the CEO of Challah for Hunger, a non-profit that builds communities inspired and equipped to fight hunger. She holds a M.A. in Jewish Professional Studies from the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership and a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. Carly is a member of the ROI community, Chair of Jewish Farm School, and a member of the Women of Vision. She is mom to Norah, wife to Michael and yes, she eats a lot of challah (and isn’t sick of it).