Vivian Bass, of Bethesda, Md., has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life, independence, community inclusion and dignity of individuals with disabilities on a non-sectarian basis throughout the Washington, D.C. area, nationally and internationally. Until June 2016, she was the chief executive officer of The Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH). She has served as a consultant to more than 25 communities over five continents. In addition to being sought as a speaker for major national and international disabilities and/or Jewish conferences, serving on numerous boards, and playing a pivotal role in a myriad of consortiums and legislative/consumer advocacy efforts, Vivian has been the recipient of many distinctions including 'Washingtonian of the Year' by Washingtonian magazine. She is a 2007 JWI Community Leader Women to Watch Honoree, and she is also a Lion of Judah. She was elected the vice-chair of the JWI board of trustees in June 2013 and become chair in June 2016.
Ellen Stone, of New York, N.Y., executive vice president of marketing at Bravo and Oxygen Media, oversees the development of all brand strategy, consumer, ad sales, affiliate marketing, license/merchandising, and digital marketing, for Bravo, Oxygen and Universal Kids, enjoying great success, with multi-million dollar campaigns for franchises such as "The Real Housewives” and “Top Chef.” She also serves as a member of each brand’s senior management team shaping the networks’ overall strategy. She is the mastermind behind some of Bravo & Oxygen Media's most successful ventures, including the two-time New York Times best-selling Top Chef cookbook series, "Top Chef: The Tour" and Oxygen’s entry into Crime Con. Additionally, under Stone’s watch, her team earned the 2010 Digital Publishing & Advertising Award for Best Social Engagement Campaign, an IMA Outstanding Achievement Award, multiple Cablefaxies and CTAM Mark Awards. Stone holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in French from Lehigh University School of Business and is a graduate of CTAM University at Harvard School of Business. She is a member of JWI's board of trustees.
Tami Ackerman is the vice president of programming for Sigma Delta Tau Sorority. Tami works directly with the philanthropic relationship between JWI and SDT. She holds her undergraduate degree from the University of Rhode Island with a double major in human science and services and human development and family studies. She also holds a master's degree from LIU Brooklyn in school counseling. Tami worked for eight years at the King's County District Attorney's office in the Truancy and Legal Lives programs. She also interned in their Domestic Violence Bureau. She resides in Long Beach, N.Y. with her husband Matt and two daughters, Rylee and Hannah.
Robyn Altman is corporate strategy director at AARP. Previously she served as vice president of partnership development & ideation at Discovery Communications, where she led a team that designs and develops educational initiatives with Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, foundations and trade associations. Prior to joining Discovery in 2005, Robyn held communications positions at the University of California, Berkeley, the office of U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu and the Senate Democratic Technology & Communications Committee. Robyn earned an MBA from Stanford University and a BA in Political Science from Brown University. She resides in Chevy Chase, Md. with her husband and two children, ages 5 and 7.
Susan Feldman, of West Bloomfield, Mich., endowment specialist at The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, has an LLM in taxation, and spent 20 years practicing tax law. She also serves on the Board of JCADA – the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse in Detroit, Michigan. Feldman spent nine years in an abusive relationship, married to the Jewish doctor who was “every Jewish mother’s ideal dream.” She now speaks to groups far and wide, young and old, about surviving domestic violence, and was a speaker at JWI’s Second International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community and at the 2011 Women to Watch Gala. Feldman is happily remarried and has three children and two step-children, all of whom are domestic violence advocates.
Meryl Frank, of Highland Park, N.J., former U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, established a consulting firm after completing her term as Ambassador, and now works with Women’s Campaign International (WCI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and other international organizations to promote women in leadership. Ambassador Frank works with a wide range of women, from the female Members of Parliament in Afghanistan, to basket weavers in rural Kenya, to women executives at Microsoft in the U.S. She became the (first female) mayor of Highland Park, N.J. in 2000, and she was recently named one of the “50 Most Influential Jews in the World” by the Jerusalem Post. She was a recipient of JWI’s Women to Watch award in 2010.
Toby Graff, of New York, N.Y., currently a consultant, most recently served as senior vice president, corporate social responsibility, for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. In this position, she was responsible for developing and implementing all pro-social initiatives, creating cause marketing promotions; handling government relations; and managing charitable giving for USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, Esquire, Sprout and Universal Cable Productions. Previously Graff created and led USA Network’s Public Affairs division and its award-winning Characters Unite public service campaign to combat hate and discrimination. Before joining USA, Graff was senior vice president, public affairs and corporate communications, for Lifetime Networks. She has served as deputy press secretary for then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and worked on health care and welfare reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as special advisor for public affairs.
Laura Rebell Gross is the director of girls’ education for the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN), which supports five all-girls schools in New York City and 12 affiliate schools across the country – including Young Women’s College Prep (YWCP), which Laura co-founded in 2011. Laura earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, a master’s from Brown University, and has completed coursework toward an Ed.D. in curriculum and teaching at Teacher’s College, Columbia University and the Warner School, University of Rochester. Laura currently serves on the boards of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn and Young Women’s College Prep Foundation in Rochester. In 2012, she was selected by the Jewish Federation of Rochester to travel to Israel on a pioneer leadership exchange program with 20 other professionals from the Rochester community. Laura and her family relocated back to Park Slope, Brooklyn in 2014.
Erica Keswin is an expert in the business of relationships, helping top-of-the-class businesses, organizations, and individuals improve their performance by honoring relationships in every context, always with an eye toward high-tech for human touch. Her forthcoming book, Bring Your Human to Work: Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World, will be published by McGraw Hill in fall 2018. Inspired by a 2015 Cornell study showing that firemen who eat together (often spaghetti meals) are better at their jobs, she developed The Spaghetti Project - a platform devoted to sharing the science and stories of human connections with global brands, community groups, teams and individuals. Erica has worked for more than 20 years in organization and leadership development, and in the human capital space. She was a consultant at the Hay Group and Booz Allen & Hamilton and worked as an executive director at Russell Reynolds Associates. She also served as an executive coach at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Erica received her MBA from Northwestern University, and her BA from the University of Vermont. She recently finished a six-year term on the boards of the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Aspen, Colo. and the Rodeph Sholom School in New York City, where she also served as vice chair. Erica was honored as a JWI Woman to Watch in 2017. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband, Jeff, their three children, and their dog, Cruiser.
Erica Leatham, of Potomac, Md., of Cary, North Carolina, is the Director of Land Acquisition and Entitlements for Lennar Home's Raleigh Division and focuses on uncovering new places and spaces for the rapidly growing community in North Carolina's Research Triangle. Erica recently relocated from the Washington, D.C. area, where she was a partner in the Real Estate Department of Ballard Spahr LLP, specializing in local zoning and land-use matters in the D.C. metropolitan region. While there she was named among 2012’s Top 100 Women in Maryland by The Daily Record (Baltimore), in recognition of “high-achieving Maryland women who are making an impact through their leadership, community service, and mentoring." In addition, she received the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network’s “20 Under 40” award, recognizing leaders in commercial real estate, and the Washington Business Journal’s 2010 “40 Under 40” award, honoring professionals based on business success and community involvement. In 2011 she served as co-chair of JWI’s Women to Watch Gala.
Kim Oster-Holstein, of Chicago, Ill., co-founder of Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, is knee deep in salty and sweet confections as CEO and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of Kim & Scott’s Crave. Kim and Scott are taking that same dedication they’ve used for the past 17 years to launch The Crave Bar, a scrumptious pretzel ice cream bar that is available locally and soon at TheCraveBar.com. Kim is continuing her instinctive passion for making a difference through Kim & Scott’s Crave. Similar to Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, Crave’s mission is to nourish, love and feed the stomachs, spirits and souls of the world community. Kim was a JWI Woman to Watch in 2010, chair of the JWI Communications Committee, and board member for KIPP Academy Charter School in Chicago. She was chair of JWI's board of trustees from 2013 to 2016.
Amanda Paul is honored to serve as president of JWI's Young Women's Leadership Network in New York and to represent the Network on JWI's board of trustees. She is a licensed real estate salesperson at Benjamin Rose Real Estate. Amanda recently worked on a Top 5 team at Douglas Elliman as a sales and rental agent while she was the junior sales associate on DEDM's project, Madison Square Park Tower. Amanda serves on the Young Professionals Committee for the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, is a co-chair for the FIDF Young Leadership Gala, a co-founder of Open Source Shabbat, a member of AIPAC YL, and on the UJA Federation Generosity Host Committee. She previously ran events and alumni engagement for Fuel for Truth and was a co-chair for the Children's Hearing Institute Young Professionals Committee. Amanda hails from the sunshine state and is a graduate of Florida State University, with degrees in creative writing and hospitality. She founded Alpha Phi at FSU, raising over $100,000 for Women's Heart Health.
Rabbi Susan Shankman is a rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Along with officiation at services, life cycle events and pastoral care and counseling, Rabbi Shankman coordinates the confirmation program, and focuses on programming for families with young children, sisterhood and women’s issues, social action, and outreach to interfaith families. She was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001. As a rabbinical student, Rabbi Shankman served student pulpits in Valparaiso, Indiana and Columbus, Mississippi. Upon ordination, she received the Ferdinand M. Isserman Prize for her contributions to the development of community relations. Rabbi Shankman earned a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a master’s in religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is immediate past president of the Washington Board of Rabbis, and serves on the boards of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. She is also a member JWI’s National Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse, and was honored with the Women to Watch Community Leadership Award in 2006 and the Matthew H. Simon Rabbinical Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington in 2014.
Deena Silver, of Oldsmar, Fla., is a program coordinator at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services for their Yad B’ Yad Program, matching Jewish children from single-parent families with Jewish mentors. She has been an active leader of JWI beginning in Massachusetts over 35 years ago. She is a past president of the JWI Clearwater, Florida Chapter, has served on the JWI National Volunteer Board and is the chair of the JWI National Leadership Council. Deena has been instrumental in the creation of the Jewish Alliance to End Domestic Abuse [JAEDA] in Florida’s Tampa Bay area and served as the co-chair of the JWI convened Council of Jewish Domestic Abuse Coalitions. She is a member of the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force and serves on the Board of the Pinellas/Pasco Counties Jewish Federation.
An activist, fundraiser, and philanthropist, Julie Bender Silver has headed the Bender Foundation, Inc., since 1995, annually contributing to more than 70 nonprofit groups, primarily in the Washington, DC metro area. She was appointed to the University of Wisconsin School of Human Ecology's board of visitors in 2005, and has also been recognized as a 100 Women honoree. As a member of the Jewish Community Center board, Julie led the creation of the Bender-Dosik Parenting Center, where parents of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds can find support and seek advice from child development experts. She helped expand and renovate Discovery Creek children’s museum and continues to serve on its honorary board. Julie has supported many other groups – including the Women’s Auxiliary of the Hebrew Home of Washington, Second Genesis (a drug/alcohol drug rehabilitation group), and Hebrew University Vet School. Her skills as a fundraiser have benefited numerous institutions, such as Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, the Jewish Social Service Agency, National Children’s Hospital, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She was nominated for a 2005 Athena award by the Women Business Owners of Montgomery County, and was JWI's first Women to Watch Community Leadership Honoree in 2004.
Beth Sloan, of Potomac, Md., a leader and volunteer in the Jewish community and beyond, has dedicated her time to numerous organizations, including JWI and the Service Guild of Washington, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Adas Israel Congregation, Washington Hebrew Congregation, National Family Resiliency Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Montgomery County Office of Consumer Affairs, and all of the schools attended by her three children. Formerly employed as a financial analyst for the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and at eLink Communications, she also served as the former Development Director and Associate Executive Director for the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes. Sloan is a past chair of JWI’s Women to Watch.
Leslie Speisman has a master’s degree in speech/language pathology, which she has practiced in the public and private sector for over 25 years. Besides providing direct services for children and adults with communication disorders, she has served as a parent educator, a diagnostician, and a placement specialist for disabled preschool students, a supervisor of graduate students and a mentor to new speech pathologists. While on hiatus from speech pathology, she joined her husband in his business to open and manage a retail showroom specializing in window treatments and associated design. Following her passion, she returned to school to pursue an education in interior design. Subsequently she started her own interior design business, Anne Leslie Interiors, designing residential and commercial spaces. In addition to professional endeavors, Leslie has donated her expertise, time, and energy to a variety of local volunteer organizations, including her daughter’s schools, the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, and most recently, served as the co-chair of the 2016 JWI Women to Watch gala. She lives with her husband Dennis and is the proud mother of their daughter Carrie, her husband Travis, and grandmother to 3 wonderful grandchildren.
Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, of Los Angeles, Calif., executive vice-president & artistic director, OPI Products, Inc., known as “the First Lady of Nails,” creates every OPI nail lacquer shade and is the go-to color authority for beauty editors and fashion designers alike. Over the past thirty years, she has changed the nail care industry, paving the way for nail lacquer to become today’s hottest accessory. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and emigrated to the U.S. from communist Hungary via Israel. Weiss-Fischmann served on the board of directors and the executive board of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School. Her philanthropy extends to numerous organizations, in Los Angeles and around the world. A recipient of JWI’s Women to Watch award in 2008, Weiss-Fischmann has been a JWI Mother’s Day Flower Project Partner for the last three years.
National Leadership Council