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Leadership Certificate

Leadership Certificate

Jewish community executives from across North America begin program to combat rising antisemitism

Spertus Institute announces the inaugural cohort of the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism

Jewish leaders need tools and training to respond to the troubling rise in antisemitism. To address this need with the expertise it demands, Chicago-based Spertus Institute launches the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism with an inaugural cohort of 17 Jewish community executives and senior professionals from across North America.

These front-line leaders will work together with a team of experts over five months. The program will equip them to respond to antisemitic incidents with knowledge, strength, and skill.

Spertus Institute Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism

Hailing from nine US states and the Canadian province of Ontario, the organizational leaders selected for the inaugural cohort are (pictured from top left): 

Scott Braswell of Irvine, CA
CEO, Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County 

Melissa Chapman of Berkeley, CA
CEO, Jewish Community Center of the East Bay 

Tamara Donnenfeld of Miami, FL
Director of Lifelong Learning, Temple Beth Am

Dr. Lisa Epstein of San Antonio, TX
Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of San Antonio

Eileen Freed of Ann Arbor, MI
Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor

Monica Gebell of Rochester, NY
Director of Community Relations, Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester

Debra Barton Grant of Carmel, IN
Associate Vice President, LiveSecure, Jewish Federations of North America

Jared Isaacson of Beachwood, OH
Executive Director, Cleveland Hillel Foundation

Rabbi Bob Kaplan of Bronx, NY
Executive Director, Center for a Shared Society, Community Relations Council, New York

Judith Levey of Evanston, IL
Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Chicago

Tina Malka of Poway, CA
Director of Antisemitism Education and Associate Director, Israel Action Program, Hillel International

Johanna Novis of Toronto, ON
Director, Community Mobilization to Combat Antisemitism, UJA Federation of Toronto

Rabbi David Oler of Deerfield, IL
Rabbi, The New Reform Congregation Kadima, Riverwoods

Gustavo Rymberg of Hamilton, ON
CEO, Hamilton Jewish Federation

Briana Schwartz of Coral Gables, FL
Executive Director, University of Miami Hillel

Joyce Tenenbaum Shevin of Birmingham, AL
Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Birmingham Jewish Federation

Jon Warech of Miami, FL
Executive Director, Hillel at Florida International University

Unfortunately, there is a pressing need for this program.

According to the Pew Research Center, six-in-ten American Jews report having had a personal experience with antisemitism in the previous year, ranging from seeing antisemitic vandalism to experiencing direct harassment. The ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the US in 2021, representing a 34% increase from 2020. This is the highest number since ADL began tracking in 1979. In September, a study revealed that Jews in Canada are the most targeted of religious minorities in that country for hate crimes. While Jews comprise only 1% of the population in Canada, they were the victims of 14% of reported hate crimes, reflecting a 47% increase between 2020 and 2021.

"Rising antisemitism targets the very fabric of our communities, as do all forms of bias and hatred," said Spertus Institute President & CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell. "Combating antisemitism requires understanding our current climate in both an historical and contemporary context, right alongside the development of determinative real-world skills." In addition to his role as Spertus President & CEO, Dr. Bell holds a faculty appointment as Professor of History and served as Associate Editor of the two-volume Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution.

Spertus Institute Dean & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren E. Fraiman said, “The executives accepted into the program will become part of a network of institutional leaders who can leverage each other’s talents, resources, and relationships to combat antisemitism with coordinated efforts across communities. They will gain important knowledge about the manifestations of antisemitism, combined with critical skills in community engagement, risk assessment, crisis communications, and alliance building.” Dr. Fraiman will be among the experts teaching in the program.

As the inaugural cohort begins, the application period is now open for the second cohort, which will begin Fall 2023. Those interested should visit or contact Spertus Institute’s Assistant Director for Recruitment Amie Barrish at Application fees are waived until June 1, 2023.

This cohort begins their work together online on January 18. In February, the cohort’s participants will come together in person at Spertus Institute’s downtown Chicago campus for a four-day seminar including presentations, coursework, and skill-building workshops.

As part of the seminar, Spertus Institute will focus its annual Critical Conversations event on the topic of combating antisemitism, with a panel drawn from the program’s faculty. Members of the public will have the opportunity to join the cohort’s students, in person or online, to gain insight on the issue of antisemitism and explore what they can do to make a difference. Critical Conversations takes place Monday, February 20 at 7 pm CT. Reservations are required. Details are available at

In addition to Drs. Bell and Fraiman, Spertus Institute has brought together a dozen faculty members with both academic and on-the-ground experience.

Program Faculty

  • Dr. Lila Corwin Berman, a professor of history at Temple University, where she directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Her research examines the history of Jewish citizenship in the United States.

  • Dr. Miriam F. Elman, Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, a DC-based organization that counters antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on college campuses. In 2018, she was named by The Algemeiner as one of “the top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.”

  • Nancy K. Kaufman, who served for many years as CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women and is an advisor for SRE Network, a group of 150+ Jewish organizations committed to safety, respect, and equity.

  • Dr. Linda Maizels, author of What is Antisemitism? A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge 2022). Dr. Maizels was a Fellow in the Bureau of African Affairs at the US Department of State and works on issues related to cybersecurity and digital policy.

  • Dr. Sabine von Mering, Professor of German and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University and co-editor of Antisemitism on Social Media (Routledge 2022).

  • Jenan Mohajir, Senior Director of Special Projects at Interfaith America. Mohajir has trained hundreds of leaders from diverse backgrounds to foster a vision and practice of civically engaged interfaith leadership.

  • Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis, previous Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, and Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

  • Dr. Jonathan Schachter, a specialist in security, strategy, and diplomacy. Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute’s Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East, served as advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on US-Israel relations, and was Chicago’s Managing Deputy Director for Emergency Management.

  • Noah J. Silverman, Senior Director of Learning, Interfaith America, a Chicago-based organization working to equip leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America’s religious diversity.

  • Kenneth S. Stern, Director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate. Served for 25 years as the American Jewish Committee's expert on antisemitism. An attorney and award-winning author, he has argued before the US Supreme Court and testified before Congress.

  • Dr. Dov Waxman, an internationally recognized expert on contemporary antisemitism and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel. He is a political science professor at UCLA and writes for publications including the Washington Post, Guardian, and Atlantic.

  • Mark Weitzman, former Director of Government Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. A member of the official US delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Authority, he chaired the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial and spearheaded adoption of the Working Definition of Antisemitism.

Substantial funding for the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism was secured from local and national foundations who came together to support this important and much-needed initiative. Thanks to their generosity, costs are heavily subsidized for the first two cohorts, easing the path to participation for those on the front-line.

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023