Our Philanthropy Fellows will work closely with the JoCI Grants team over the course of twelve months to learn how to leverage grantmaking, fieldbuilding strategies, and other philanthropic tools to advance a racial-equity framework. They will support the JoCI Grants Team in managing our grants portfolio, while also creating and managing their own JoC-focused grant cycle.
Ilana (she/her) is the Chief Executive Officer of the Jews of Color Initiative. Her work sits at the center of Jewish community, racial equity, and justice, is anchored by the voices and experience of Jews of Color, and is focused on grantmaking, research and field building, and community education.
As a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered and Code Switch, with pieces featured in eJewish Philanthropy and The Foundation Review, and an Eli Talk titled Who Counts, Race and the Jewish Future with over 45,000 views, Ilana is passionate about all things at the intersection of Jewish community, racial justice, Jews of Color, education, and philanthropy.
Ilana was previously the Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Director, East Bay for the San Francisco, Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council.
A Senior Schusterman Fellow who is always searching Jewish text for discussion of equity and justice, Ilana received her B.A. in Sociology from California State University-Humboldt and her M.A. in Educational Pedagogy from Mills College.
Tonda (she/her) is the Senior Director of Finance and Operations at the Jews of Color Initiative. She is a leadership development professional, consultant, activist, and educator. The principal and founder of T. Case Consulting, she has provided embodied coaching, guidance on culture change, and strategic program management. Tonda is the former Project Director of the JWOC Resilience Circle at DIMENSIONS Inc., and previously worked as Senior Advisor on Amazon’s groundbreaking Amazon Connections team. A former board member of Bend the Arc, she is also an alumna of the Selah Leadership Program.
With over 25 years in movement building, her activism currently focuses on partnership creation, advocacy, and strategic planning in communities of color and in the Jews of Color community. Tonda is a founding member of #JWOCmarching, a Jewish Women of Color racial justice advocacy group that led the 2019 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA in Ethnic Studies and an MBA, both from Mills College.
Arya (he/him) is the Senior Director of Programs at the Jews of Color Initiative. He is a first-generation American born to Iranian-Jewish immigrants from Tehran. For nearly 15 years, Arya has cultivated his leadership in Jewish communal service at Hillel on campus, Hillel International, and JQ International. A proud queer Jew who is passionate about empowering diverse Jewish identity, enriching equitable Jewish community, and ensuring inclusive pathways toward Jewish continuity, Arya has also served as a lay leader with other Jewish orgs including JDC Entwine, JPro, AJC, Schusterman’s ROI community, and others.
Arya earned his B.A. in psychology at the University of California San Diego, and an M.A. in organizational behavior at New York University.
Gabi (she/her) is the Senior Program Officer at the Jews of Color Initiative. She has extensive experience working in the Jewish community, with a focus on advocacy, philanthropy, and multicultural community building. Gabi’s work is grounded in her intersectional identity, which inspires her commitment to social and racial justice issues around the world.
Gabi received her B.A. in Global Studies from The New School in NYC, and received her M.A. in Human Rights and Transitional Justice from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2020, she was a Jeremiah Fellow with Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, focusing on immigrant justice and voting rights.
Gabi was recently selected for class 7 of the prestigious Wexner Field Fellowship.
Emma (she/they) is the Communications Manager at the Jews of Color Initiative. Emma is dedicated to work that centers racial justice, Jewish peoplehood, and identity. She is a scholar-activist whose research examines the identities and experiences of Jews of Color, Jews by Choice, Jewish women, LGBTQ+ Jews—and all their intersections. Before joining the Initiative, Emma spent several years as an instructor in undergraduate classrooms teaching on justice and inequality, and serving as the Managing Editor of an academic journal.
Emma received her Ph.D. in Sociology and her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Connecticut, and her B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Simmons University.
Rishona (she/her) is the Operations Manager at the Jews of Color Initiative. Her passion to help others has taken her from real estate to the nonprofit sector. With over twenty years of experience, Rishona previously worked in operations, client services, and technical implementation roles. Her writing from the perspective of a Jewish woman of color has been published in the Forward, and she has been a featured guest on the Black NewsBeat talk show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania discussing antisemitism in the Black community.
Rishona received her M.B.A. in 2012 from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Lutgert College of Business, and her B.A. in Liberal Arts from West Virginia University in 2009.
Jade (she/her) is a Program Associate at the Jews of Color Initiative. She was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado before heading to the University of Kansas where she received her B.A. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies with a triple minor in American studies, Political Science, and Jewish studies. There, she wrote her senior thesis, “Jews of Color: Experiences of Inclusion and Exclusion,” an examination into the experiences of Jews of Color, racism in Jewish spaces, and how to best create actively anti-racist Jewish spaces. After graduating in May of 2021, she moved to New York City to begin her career in the Jewish professional world. Jade’s personal passions include transformative justice, intersectional anti-racist work, her house plant collection, and creating hand-thrown pottery.
Sarah Starks (she/her) is a Junior Program Officer at the Jews of Color Initiative. She has experience as a Jewish educator, focusing on diversity, community building and environmentalism. Sarah has a background working in Black organizations as a student and is eager to support communities of color on a larger scale. Empowerment, liberation, community and cultivating meaningful relationships with the environment lie at the epicenter of Sarah’s approach to justice. Sarah’s work is grounded by her multicultural identity, which fuels her passion and commitment to social justice movements globally.
Sarah holds a B.A. from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Political Science and Africana Studies as well as a minor in history.
Jordan (he/him) is a Junior Program Officer of the Jews of Color Initiative. He is equipped with a decade of storytelling experience through an intersectional lens, and four years as a Jewish communal professional. His lived experience as a fat, queer, Afro-Jew deepens his commitment to cultivating diverse and inclusive leadership in the Jewish community and inspires his work centering on justice and liberation. He previously served as the Communications and Creative Specialist at the Leichtag Foundation. He is a writer, photographer, speaker, and podcaster, focusing on LGBTQ+ experiences, anti-racism, belonging, and fat liberation. Jordan particularly strives to create a pathway to collective liberation through joy. Jordan has expanded his leadership in the Jewish community by participating in programs such as Bend the Arc’s Selah, Upstart’s Change Accelerator, Uri L’Tzedek’s Torah and Social Justice, and Schusterman’s ROI. He holds a BA in Journalism from CSU Long Beach.
Grace Osborne (she/her) is the Los Angeles Program Coordinator at the Jews of Color Initiative. She is a proud Blewish (Black & Jewish) Caribbean from Pasadena, California. Her passion for building meaningful, inclusive, and equitable learning communities has taken her from higher education to the nonprofit sector. Her diverse resume includes 10 years of experience in the fields of arts production and interdisciplinary humanities research.
Santy Barrera (he/him) is a seasoned educator with over 10 years of youth development, community building, and academic work experience. He is the son of Ecuadorian immigrants and is first born in the United States on both sides of his family. As a first-generation student, Santy is passionate about empowering the youth with the resources and information they need as they explore their passion, skills, and ideas in the education system. He also combines his passion for creative writing and social justice to bring visibility to his Indigenous identity and people from Ecuador, and create spaces to represent, express, and celebrate their identities in cultural and educational spaces.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English & American Literature from Middlebury College where he also focused in Creative Writing and studied Italian. He just completed a fellowship with Jewtina y Co., and is part of a beautiful Jewish community with JCC Harlem. He currently resides in New York City.
Ilana Ybgi (she/her) is a wife, a mother and a bonus mother. She sits on the UJA Brooklyn Advisory Council and is a member of the Crown Heights Women’s Circle. She is a graduate of Repair the World’s Crown Heights Leadership cohort and strives to be a better neighbor everyday.
Ilana is a life coach and a doula, and is very passionate about birth justice and improving birthing conditions for all. These instincts toward community service also shaped her pursuit of philanthropy work, which has the radical capacity to provide material support for those most in need.
Ybgi is a former member of Co-op Theatre East’s ensemble. The deconstruction of social constructs is a common theme explored in her devised theater work and she is forever curious about the use of her art as a cathartic mode of healing. She holds an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School.
Maya Katz-Ali (she/her) was born and raised in a multicultural home in Oakland, California where she learned about building community across global contexts and bringing people together from a young age. She previously was the Bay Area field manager at OneTable, an organization that inspires people in their 20s and 30s to create and explore their own Shabbat practice. She participates in LUNAR: the Asian Jewish film project as a speaker and community ambassador. At the core of Maya’s work she sees sharing stories, traditions, and values as central to our growth as a global community. In that light, she is so excited to pour into the community through the JoCI Philanthropy Fellowship.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors supports the mission and work of the Jews of Color Initiative with their strategic thinking, professional networks, and ingenuity. Working alongside staff, the Board of Directors is responsible for upholding our mission and providing invaluable project oversight.
Janu Mendel, Chair
Janu (he/him) was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. He completed his B.Sc. in Political Science in 2005 at the University of the West Indies. He immigrated to the United States in 2006 and worked in corporate business, later finding his personal and professional home in Miami’s Jewish community. He was recruited as an Outreach Fellow for Temple Beth Am in 2013, while also serving as the Director of Engagement at the University of Miami Hillel. He is currently the founding Executive Director of Repair the World Miami. Janu is an alumnus of the Pardes Summer Program and Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program for Jews of Color, and a current Wexner Field Fellow.
Christina Jefferson, Vice Chair
Christina (she/her) is the first ever Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at the San Francisco Forty Niners, where she leads inclusion and diversity efforts across the organization and the teams internships, fellowships and holistic training strategy. Prior to joining the 49ers, Jefferson spent six years with Sephora leading their diversity and inclusion efforts company-wide, including facilitation, the creation of diversity trainings, and providing oversight to all cultural programming.
Jefferson earned her B.S. from the University of Southern Indiana and her Masters in Human Resource Management from Golden Gate University. She is a member of several boards, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Congregation Sherith Israel, and Better For You Wellness.
Thor (he/him) has been a key player in the urban development world for over 20 years, specializing in social impact and catalytic real estate development and community revitalization. He previously worked on the development of the Parkmerced project and the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, where he served as a liaison between the community, the Mayor’s office, the Navy, and the developer. He also helped lead the workforce development of public housing revitalization known as HOPE SF.
Outside of work, Thor contributes to his community by serving as a board member of the historic Bayview Opera House, the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Potrero Yard Modernization Project Working Group, and the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society.
Dena (she/her) is a first-generation Black, Jewish, and queer woman who is passionate about collective and individual liberation and healing. Dena is a civil rights attorney and runs a DEI facilitation and consulting practice, Radical Roots, alongside her co-founder, a fellow Jewish woman of color. Leading from her values and lived experience, Dena has worked as an organizer in the areas of race equity, education, and campus sexual assault, taught English to immigrant and refugee students, designed social justice and race-equity-focused curricula, and facilitated workshops around race, white supremacy, and identity.
Dena graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law with a healthcare law certificate. Dena also holds an M.S.Ed. from The Johns Hopkins University. Currently, Dena works as a Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in the Employment Litigation Section, where she enforces Title VII against state and local governments. Previously, she served as the Board President for If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.
Deitra Reiser, PhD (she/her) is the founder of Transform for Equity, an antiracist repair group that supports organizations and leaders in building the capacity for diversity, racial equity, belonging and justice within the organization. Dr. Reiser fosters greater antiracist understanding among individuals and within institutions, and supports their continued growth through thoughts and actions.
Dr. Reiser holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from The University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her free time, you can find her laughing and chatting with the people she loves, hiking, being active, binging shows, or reading a book with coffee in hand.
Menachem Mendel Davis is a Co-Founder of Nova Risk Transfer and a former Financial Planner who resides in Baltimore, Maryland. Menachem was born to an African American father who embraced Orthodox Judaism and was raised by his Egyptian-born mother while attending the Talmudical Academy. Menachem’s achievements include serving as a counselor at the Hebrew Academy of Special Children, authoring a Passover Haggadah, and helping others overcome addiction to become the best version of themselves. His professional journey has been marked by versatility within the financial industry. After studying abroad in Israel post high school, he commenced his career in banking, but his path soon led him into the realm of private wealth management. Later on, he ventured into the public side of financial services, gaining invaluable insights into the intricacies of financial planning, particularly for those in greatest need. With a background as a former financial planner, Mendel remains dedicated to aiding individuals in adeptly navigating financial risks. His prior positions encompass roles such as Vice President of The Einstein Group, Assistant Vice President at JPMorgan Chase, and Wealth Advisor at Raymond James. Mendel holds a Master of Business Administration from The University of Maryland Global Campus and is actively engaged as a board member in several organizations. In his free time, he enjoys motorcycle rides, playing the saxophone, watching YouTube while also being a dedicated family man to his two daughters and wife.
Valerie (she/her) is a second-generation Chinese Jewish immigrant who is deeply committed to the values of equity, justice, and Tikkun Olam. Originally trained as a mixed-methods sociologist, she has served as a consultant and in-house evaluator and strategist for mission driven organizations in and outside the Jewish community. She is currently the Senior Director of Strategic Learning & Impact at GLIDE, a multi-service, advocacy, and spiritual center that is dedicated to fighting systemic injustice and disrupting cycles of poverty among historically oppressed communities in San Francisco. Here, she drives strategic planning and implementation and leads the Center for Applied Learning and Impact to facilitate evidence-based decision-making and programmatic improvement.
Valerie earned her PhD and MA in Sociology with a designated emphasis in Feminist Theory & Research from the University of California, Davis. Beyond her current role, she has served as a research advisor and consultant for several racial justice and equity initiatives. Currently, she is a Community Consulting Group Advisor on harm reduction-related community studies for the Center on Substance Use and Health, a division of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Grant Advisory Committee
The Grant Advisory Committee helps ensure a fair and thoughtful decision-making process for grant awards. Together with the Jews of Color Initiative leadership staff, the group reviews grant applications and makes informed recommendations based on their own experience and expertise in the field.
Heather (she/her) is a career educator, school leader, and rabbi who is passionate about creating embracing spaces in both the religious and secular parts of her life. As the President of her synagogue, she strives to build a community that is safe for all of the intersecting identities in its membership. Heather merges her skill sets to work on committees and projects with various organizations to help move DEI work forward in Jewish spaces. Heather is the founder of The Multitudes, where she designs and facilitates workshops for synagogues and school communities that help cultivate a more racially inclusive lens. She was awarded METNY’s 2020 Ernest L. Rothschild Leadership Award and is honored to be in the 4th JOC only cohort of Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program. Her favorite role of all, however, is as the mother of three amazing boys who are proudly descended from both freed slaves and Holocaust survivors.
Matthew (he/him) is a community organizer and Jewish educator based in Southern California (Tongva land). After studying ancient Jewish history and literature in graduate school in New York City, he returned to California in 2016 and has since pursued a career in political and social justice organizing, working not only for electoral campaigns but also with Jewish progressive nonprofits like Bend the Arc and Never Again Action on issues like immigration, housing, and racial justice. He also has years of experience in Jewish education, and is passionate about engaging with Jewish youth to build inclusive, affirming and Tikkun Olam-centered Jewish identities. Matthew is a proud Chinese American and Ashkenazi Jew, and he is committed to helping foster representation, visibility, creative expression and community for Jews of Color.
Anjelica N. Ruiz
Anjelica (she/her) is the Director of Libraries and Archives at Temple Emanu-El, where she also teaches Judaica to fourth graders. She previously worked at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas in the Center for Jewish Education and the donor services department. She holds an M.S. in library science from the University of North Texas; an M.S. in criminal justice from Texas State University; and a B.A. in criminology from St. Edward’s University. Anjelica is an alum of the Union for Reform Judaism’s JewV’Nation Fellowship in the 2018 Jews of Color cohort and Bend The Arc’s Selah Fellowship as part of Cohort 16. She also completed the Anti-Defamation League’s Glass Leadership Institute in 2016 and currently sits on the ADL’s Texoma Regional Board.
Rebecca Leung is an educator and farmer at Abundance Farm, working with classes for preschool, elementary, and teenage aged students. Before coming to Abundance Farm, Rebecca worked on a variety of small to large scale sustainable production farms. Rebecca is a queer Chinese mixed race Jew interested in liberatory Jewish practices grounded in land and growing practices.
Jon (he/him) is a Gay, Jewish, Mexican organizing Jewish communities for LGBTQ+ rights. As Keshet’s Director of Community Mobilization, he has catalyzed Jews for political action in all 50 states. A Florida native, Jon graduated from Florida State University and survived one cold winter in New York as a Repair the World Fellow in Brooklyn before returning to Miami as Repair’s Program Manager, launching the Miami Repair community and fellowship. He has participated in Uri L’Tzedek Torah In Action, Bend The Arc Selah Leadership Program, Joyous Justice Ko’ach Fellowship, and Jewtina y Co. PUENTES Leadership and Resiliency. Jon serves on the board of Repair the World and is the chair of YLD Pride at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. A South Florida native, Jon currently lives in Miami with his fiance Kevin. Outside of work, Jon can be found on his Peloton, at the beach, reading queer fiction novels, and using online menus to plan the meal before getting to the restaurant.