Bonita Nathan Sussman, President
Bonita Nathan Sussman is a volunteer with Kulanu and serves as President. She is a graduate of Yeshiva University Stern College, has a Masters degree in religion from Columbia University, and a second Masters in Jewish Education from The Jewish Theological Seminary.
For Kulanu, Bonita serves as liaison for newly emerging, returning, and isolated Jewish communities around the globe. She is on the editorial staff of the Kulanu Magazine and Kulanu Board liaison for the Kulanu Academic Cohort which supports the academic study of emerging communities. Her current mission is to help integrate emerging Jewish communities into world Jewry.
Bonita and her husband Rabbi Gerald Sussman have traveled to Nicaragua, Cameroon, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, and India addressing their Jewish development needs and encouraging their journeys to become part of the Jewish people. The photographs of her travels have been published and exhibited. Bonita’s vision for the future is that “after the Holocaust and the decimation of established Jewish communities in the Middle East, it is time for the Jewish people to rebuild itself as a people.”
Rabbi Barbara Aiello, Vice President
Rabbi Barbara Aiello is Italy’s first and only woman rabbi. Currently, she serves the “b’nei anusim” congregation Ner Tamid del Sud, The Eternal Light of the South, a recognized Reconstructionist synagogue, and the first active synagogue in Calabria in 500 years since Inquisition times. Rabbi Barbara is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and holds an MS from The George Washington University.
She was ordained at The Rabbinical Seminary International and the Rabbinical Academy in New York City. She is a founding board member of the International Federation of Rabbis, mentoring rabbi for the international Jewish Studies program, Darshan Yeshiva, and Blogger for Times of Israel.
Barbara Vinick, Secretary
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Barbara earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University and conducted post-doctoral work in human development at Harvard. She is currently a research associate at Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University, a center focused on Jews and gender worldwide. She is working on a volume of stories about Jewish brides around the world, a follow-up to her book Today I am a Woman: Stories of Bat Mitzvah Around the World published by Indiana University Press. As a long-time researcher in gerontology at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University School of Public Health, Barbara has authored articles on lifestyles, attitudes, and experiences of mature Americans.
Lili Kaufmann, Treasurer
Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba zeh – All of Israel is responsible for each other.
This mantra sums up the many years of involvement by Lili Kaufmann in her community of Tampa and overall in the world Jewish community. To achieve her goals, she was part of a small group of women across the US who asked to change the role of women in philanthropy and persuade them that they could be benefactors in their own name through an endowment. Her education and career in science and medical research gave her the focus and discipline to always stay the course; be it in business, parenting, or commitment to the Jewish people.
She and her husband are founders of the second Reform congregation in Tampa as well as serving as President of multiple organizations including President and Campaign Chair of the Tampa Jewish Federation.
She currently serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency for Israel which oversees the joint government programs of Aliyah and Social welfare. Initially involved with both the Russian and Ethiopian Aliyah 25 years ago, she became aware of the Jews of Color in the African nations. Although her linkage to the Jews of Tanzania was unexpected; it has become a most rewarding experience. The connecting of the Arusha, Tanzania Jewish community with Kulanu has become the best outcome for all. Indeed, we are a world family and caring for each other.
Dr. David Breakstone, Board Member
Dr. David Breakstone recently completed his tenure as deputy chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, culminating two decades of elected office in Israel’s National Institutions during which he also served as a member of the executives of the World Zionist Organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF), and Keren Hayesod. As such, for the past 20 years, he has been intimately involved in effecting policy on a wide array of issues on the agenda of world Jewry. A great deal of his energies have been invested in developing ties with and advancing the cause of small and emerging Jewish communities around the world.
A passionate Jewish educator with a doctorate in Contemporary Jewry and Israel education from Hebrew University, Dr. Breakstone was also the conceptual architect of the Herzl Museum and Educational Center in Jerusalem and in the past served as Director of Hebrew University’s Pedagogic Center for Jewish Education, Associate Dean of The Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, supervisor of the TALI Education Fund, and Director of Ramah Programs in Israel. He is also a member of the directorates of Yad Vashem, the Ethiopian National Project, the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, the Nativ Center for Jewish Identity and Conversion.
Dr. Breakstone has published widely on matters of Israel and contemporary Jewry and as a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and a blogger for the Times of Israel, he continues to address contemporary issues in Israeli society and Jewish life worldwide.
Capers C. Funnye, Jr., Board Member
Capers C. Funnye, Jr. is Chief Rabbi of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis. In addition, he is rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago.
Rabbi Funnye earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hebrew Literature and rabbinic ordination from the Israelite Board of Rabbis, Inc., Queens, NY. Rabbi Funnye also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and a Master of Science in Human Service Administration from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago, Illinois.
Rabbi Funnye has lectured at numerous universities, synagogues, churches, and various community organizations throughout the United States. He has appeared on several national and local television programs and spoken on numerous radio programs both national and local.
Rabbi Funnye is married and he and his wife Mary have four children and are the proud grandparents of 12 grandchildren, 3 granddaughters, and 9 grandsons.
Judi Kloper, Board Member
Judi Kloper, born and raised near Boston, graduated from Oregon State University with degrees in Child Development and Family Studies, and in Home Economics and Health Education. Judi has five children—three from India, one from China, and one birth child, as well as two beautiful grandchildren. As an international child welfare specialist, Judi worked for many years finding families for children with special needs from India. Judi has served on many boards in Oregon and in her home community of Corvallis, Oregon, including her congregation, Beit Am, and still maintains her connection though she has moved to Portland. Her volunteer work for non-profits has included editing and proofreading newsletters, websites, and blogs, assisting in immigrant programs, and traveling overseas to teach English. She has been traveling to India for 34 years — Her trip to India in 2014-2015 including living with the Bene Ephraim in Andhra Pradesh, a Kulanu community, as well as maintaining connections with other Jewish communities in India. In 2015-2016, she lived in Nicaragua immersing herself in the life of the Congregacion Israelita de Nicaragua, and in 2017, she assisted the Beit Din in Nicaragua as two new Jewish communities were born. She continues to maintain close ties to the communities in India and Nicaragua. In her free time, she rides her bicycle and searches for the best chai in Oregon. Judi is now the editor of Kulanu’s magazine.
Benjamin Lefkowitz, Board Member
Ben Lefkowitz is a product of the Modern Orthodox yeshiva day school system. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2020 with a degree in the College of Social Studies and Jewish and Israel Studies and is currently earning an MA in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He hopes to start a career in Israeli civil service or Jewish NGO’s once he’s finished his masters. In his spare time, he likes board games, dungeons and dragons, travel, and Celtic music.
Modreck Maeresera, Board Member
Modreck Maeresera, Lemba Jew, is the current president of the Harare Lemba Synagogue in Zimbabwe. The Harare Lemba Synagogue is a synagogue for Lemba Jews in Harare, founded in May 2013 with sponsorship from Kulanu.
Modreck is married to Brenda and they are proud parents to 3 children, Aviv Yehudah, Shlomo Makomborero, and Maya Miriam. Modreck holds a diploma in journalism from the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) in the UK. He works as a student recruiter for Malaysian universities.
Jack Zeller, President Emeritus
Founder and president emeritus of Kulanu, is a clinical pathologist and a Jewish activist. He is a graduate of Columbia College, New York Medical College, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, all located in New York City. Jack’s activism began when he served as a board member for American Association for Ethiopian Jews. After Operation Solomon, which airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1991, Jack and his wife Dr. Diane Zeller, a specialist in African history, decided to take on the broader issue of dispersed and isolated Jewish communities. After working with an Israel-based organization called Amishav, Jack founded Kulanu, serving as its president for 14 years.
Harriet Bograd, Former Board President, z”l
Harriet Bograd (April 6, 1943 – September 17, 2022) was a professional volunteer for Kulanu. She served as treasurer of Kulanu from 2002-2008, and president from 2008-2022. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Yale University Law School, Harriet led community programs in low-income neighborhoods and Jewish communities since the 1960s. She served as a staff leader and consultant for non-profit community organizations in areas of education, child care, health, anti-poverty, and nonprofit “cyber-accountability.” Her work involved funding, program development, finance, planning, and parent involvement in schools. Harriet was a founder of the Heschel School in New York City and a leader in her synagogue. She was married to Ken Klein, and Kulanu’s office was in their home in New York City.
Sandy Leeder, Former Board Treasurer, z”l
Sandy Leeder (Jan 24, 1943 – Feb 4, 2022) was the Kulanu coordinator for the Lemba and Kulanu’s treasurer for many years. He lived in Tzfat, Israel, and retired from 30 years in the real estate development business where he specialized in tax and partnership accounting. He had a BA in Mathematics from Harpur College, SUNY, and had an MBA in finance from Columbia University. During his US Peace Corps service from 1967 to 1969 Sandy lived with the Hausa and Fulani people in Niger, where he worked as an agricultural extension agent for a peanut cooperative. In 1983 he participated in a secret American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) operation that smuggled Ethiopian Beta Israel refugees out of Sudan to Israel. Thereafter he served on the Board of the AAEJ until it ceased in 1992 after Operation Solomon. He was a board member of the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education for 8 years. Sandy has visited various Jewish communities in Africa, including the Lemba in South Africa and Zimbabwe, Beta Israel and Beta Avraham in Ethiopia, and Ibo Jews in Nigeria.
Molly Levine, Executive Director
Molly Levine joined our staff as Kulanu’s Communications Director in 2018, became Deputy Director in 2021, and then Executive Director in 2022. She has an extensive background working in international nonprofits, having worked with StrongMinds, The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, Global Nomads Group, Peace Corps, and Seeds of Peace.
As Executive Director, Molly works with the President of the Board to direct the internal affairs and external communications of Kulanu. She supervises staff and interns, manages all our communications, takes a leading role in online programs, fundraising, press relations, and assists with budgeting and financial oversight.
Molly holds an M.A. from Emerson College in Global Marketing Communications and a B.A. in Communication Studies from Ursinus College.
Jo Ann Friedman, Director of Operations
Jo Ann Friedman is a graduate of Wellesley College and received a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University. She graduated from Northeastern University of Law after many years of graduate school but eventually found her calling in the non-profit world. Jo Ann developed the “Family to Family” program in Montreal and worked to integrate the large influx of refugees from the former Soviet Union into the Jewish community there. She became the Director of the Montreal Mizrachi Organization and worked directly with Israel to support Hesder Yeshivot.
She remains very involved with the Jewish communities of Canada, where her family has been since the 19th century. Her work at Kulanu will enable her to pursue her driving goal, which is to bring us closer to Tikkun Olam.
Oksana Rosenblum, Administrative Assistant and Database Manager
Oksana Rosenblum joined the Kulanu team as an Administrative Assistant and Database Manager in 2020. Oksana grew up in Ukraine and later moved to the US. She has been a New Yorker since 2012. Her interest in nonprofits led her to work as an administrative/operations assistant for the American Friends of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, and as a volunteer for the Ukrainian Village Voices. Oksana is also a researcher and a translator specializing in the Jewish history of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Her projects have included visual research for the museums of Jewish History in Warsaw and Moscow. Oksana holds MA in Visual Art from the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC. In her free time, she studies frame drumming, translates Ukrainian poetry, and travels the world with her husband Vick.
Keshetnitzah Taryan-Kigel, Multimedia Manager
Keshi earned her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2018. Since then, she has worked at GiGi’s Playhouse NYC, at Dixon Place, and at the Familial Dysautonomia Foundation, before finding a home at Kulanu. Keshi curates Kulanu’s photography collection and creates weekly graphics for Kulanu’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms. Keshi is also a portrait and wildlife artist. Her artwork appeared in 2018 in “This, That & the Other,” an exhibition presented by the School of Visual Arts, and in 2019 in a special exhibit entitled, ”TEARLESS: An Exhibition Featuring Artists with Familial Dysautonomia.”
Mili Leitner Cohen, Digital Strategy and Content Consultant
Mili is originally from the UK, and completed her undergraduate in violin performance before encountering Kulanu as part of her PhD studies in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.
She worked for Kulanu from 2015-2018 as Communications Director, and is delighted to return in 2022. Mili studied at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem for three years, including two in the Kollel.
She is a qualified shohetet uvodeket (Jewish ritual slaughterer). She currently also works for Musica Judaica, the Jewish music journal, as Assistant Editor, and her research on Jewish liturgy has been published in various academic journals.
Mili lives in Jerusalem with her husband, David, and two young children, Eliana and Rafael.
Genie Milgrom was born in Havana, Cuba into a Roman Catholic Family of Spanish Ancestry. In an unparalleled work of genealogy, she was able to fully document her unbroken maternal lineage 22 generations going back as far as 1405 to Pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal. She has traveled extensively into Fermoselle, the village of her ancestors in the Zamora region of Spain while doing field research on the past Jew of Fermoselle and the surrounding area. She is currently the past President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, President of Tarbut Sefarad-Fermoselle in Spain, as well as Past President of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies.
Genie is the author of the book My 15 Grandmothers as well as How I found My 15 Grandmothers, A Step by Step Guide as well as her latest book, Pyre to Fire. The Books have won the 2015 and 2018 Latino Author Book Awards. She also writes for several online sites including www.esefarad.com as well as the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jewry.
She has spoken at the Knesset in Israel and lectures around the world bringing awareness to the topic of the Jews returning from the Inquisition.
Her work has been showcased in the Jerusalem Post, The Miami Herald, and other publications around the world. She was awarded the State of Florida Genealogy award for her outstanding achievements and advances in the Pioneer work she has done in Genealogy. Genie is now Director of the Converso Genealogy Project digitizing Inquisition Files around the world. Most recently, she was awarded the coveted Medal of the Four Sephardic Synagogues from Jerusalem for her decades of work in the recuperation of Sephardic Memory. Click here to watch Genie Milgrom’s video introductions for Anousim communities.
Jacob Steinberg (Suriname Jewish Community coordinator)
Over the years, I have worked in Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. I had the opportunity to visit small and isolated Jewish communities, and to see first-hand their struggle to maintain a meaningful Jewish life. While working in Suriname, I decided to get involved in supporting the small local Jewish community, the oldest existing Jewish community in the Americas. Being part of Kulanu is an opportunity for me to help the community to meet its unique needs.
Global Teaching Fellows Coordinator
Rabbi Elie Lehmann is the Campus Rabbi at Boston University Hillel. He has rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Boston. He loves supporting young adults to find innovative and meaningful ways to feel confident in their Jewish identity, knowledge, and practice. He has worked with NGOs in several countries over the past decade. As Director of the Kulanu Global Teaching Fellowship, Elie has worked with several of our partner communities in Africa. Elie is an alumnus of Mechon Hadar, Columbia University, and The Jewish Theological Seminary. In his spare time, Elie enjoys cooking, cycling around new neighborhoods, and playing drums. He lives in Cambridge, MA, with his wife Anya Manning and their baby son.