Following graduation from the University of Arizona in 2006, Drew made Aliyah with Garin Tzabar in the middle of the Second Lebanon War. She served in the Public Relations branch of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and the Foreign Relations department of the Civil Administration. During her service, Drew was “adopted” by Congregation Bet Shalom in Minnesota, where her uncle was the Rabbi. This congregation sent care packages, friendship bracelets, and letters of encouragement put together by the young students in the religious school. These items, while modest, provided a tremendous amount of strength and support to her during her service.
Following her release, Drew obtained a MA in Public Policy from Tel Aviv University. Since then, she has worked in a variety of Israeli and American Jewish non-profits such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Jewish Community Relations Council in Dallas, Hillel at the University of California, Irvine and recently taught Hebrew to the 6-7th graders at Temple Beth El of San Pedro's Torah school. In her work, Drew recognized the need to adapt her “adoption” during her service into a program that would allow for every lone soldier to be adopted by his or her home community. She is excited to bring together her passion for Israel and experience in Jewish non-profit to lead M'ever LaYam.
Drew Alyeshmerni Leach, President & CEO
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lenny Kristal, Vice President & Chairman of the Board
Lenny grew up in South Africa and went to Israel as a volunteer during the Six-Day War in 1967. He has a B.A. in Psychology from Bar Ilan University, a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Cambridge and was a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University. Lenny lived in London for many years where he founded MultiMedia Publications a book publishing and TV production company. When he moved to the Bay Area he founded Cognisess (http://www.congisess.com) and more recently, NeuroSlam Inc (www.neuroslam.com). He is extensively involved in Jewish communal affairs and Israel advocacy. Lenny chairs the Bay Area's JCRC's Middle East Strategy Committee and Chaired the JCRC's East Bay Council for many years.
Nicole Malina, Treasurer
Nicole Malina has been working in development and fundraising for over 15 years. She began her career as a Jewish communal professional, working for organizations such as New Israel Fund, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and Bet Tzedek,a non-profit that provides free, expert legal advice and representation to low-income residents of Los Angeles.. After working in major gifts for the Aquarium of the Pacific for five years, in 2016 she joined the Alpert Jewish Community Center team as Director of Development. In the past, she has served on the Board of Directors of both Beach Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Long Beach. Originally from New York, Nicole enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering to help shelter animals, and collecting hip hop records. She lives in Long Beach with her two rescue cats, Jersey and Pepper.
Michelle Fryer, Secretary
Michelle serves the Director of the Barak Raviv Foundation and Executive Assistant to its founder. The foundation is dedicated to assisting the less privileged both locally in Los Angeles and around the world. She has worked with several Jewish organizations in providing support with events, campaigns and other large projects including an ambulance donation to Israel. In the past, she served on the Board of The Sirens Society, a unified voice of proactive women and men who positively influence our world through business and philanthropy as well as the Board of Directors of Love Cures Cancer as the Vice President of Community Relations & Digital Management, which has raised money and awareness for Children's Hospital LA.
Rabbi Chuck Briskin, Temple Beth El of San Pedro
Rabbi Charles Briskin has been the rabbi of Temple Beth El in San Pedro since 2005. He was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has served congregations in Los Altos Hills, and Long Island, NY. Rabbi Briskin has been a mentor with Aranoff Mentoring Program for 2nd and 3rd year students at HUC-JIR-Los Angeles, and he currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Rabbinic Alumni Association of HUC-JIR. Rabbi Briskin is a long time advocate for social justice and sits on the Joint Commission for Social Action through the Religious Action Center, and is actively involved with Reform CA, an advocacy project of the RAC. Rabbi Briskin is an alumnus of rabbinic leadership development programs with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and STAR-PEER. Locally, he serves on the Ethics Committee for the Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro and is past president of the San Pedro Rotary Club. Israel education is an important part of Rabbi Briskin's work in the congregation, where he regularly provides opportunities for learning and discussion with people from all political persuasions. Rabbi Briskin is proud to sit on the board of M'ever LaYam and help strengthen the relationship between North American Jews and Israelis.
Dganit serves on the AJC's Los Angeles team as a Senior Program Associate for the Asia Pacific Institute (API). She is an educator and expert in strategic outreach, with 10 years of experience in program development and event management. Most recently, Dganit served as a Jewish Agency emissary to the University of Southern California Hillel Foundation. Prior to that, Dganit spent 9 years in Israel where she served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), earned her BA and Masters in Asian Studies and Political Science, and worked for the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh. Dganit is passionate about languages and cultures and has studied the Japanese language for five years. She is also a certified tour guide for East Asian countries. Dganit's portfolio is in working to expand relationships between Israel and Asian countries as well as Jewish and Asian communities at home and abroad.
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen is the Founding Rabbi Emeritus of Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and a former rabbi of Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati. He is an annual visiting consultant to the chaplain’s office at his alma mater, Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where in 1972 he received his bachelor's degree. He has a Master’s degree, ordination, and a Doctorate of Divinity from HUC in Cincinnati, where he has taught Practical Rabbinics and Homiletics. He is the author of the book Jewish Bible Personages in the New Testament (University Press of America) as well as numerous published articles and sermons. He presently mentors Rabbinic Students at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati and studies, writes and teaches Torah in Scottsdale Arizona in the winter months. He is past president of the Midwest Association of Reform Rabbis, the Minnesota Rabbinical Association and has served, on behalf of the CCAR, as a member of the Joint Mentoring Institute, the National Commission on Rabbinic Congregational Relations, as the vice chair of the Joint Commission on Synagogue Management and a member of the Joint Placement Commission of the Reform movement. He spends part of his summer each year at OSRUI, the oldest of the Reform movement’s camps. He is married to the former Andrea Winnick, and they have a son, TJ, and a grandson, Wyatt, who live in Chicago.
In 2009 in his mothers' kitchen, Akiva Resnikoff launched his functional cookie passion project, which would later become The Cookie Department. With a certificate in pastry arts, a background in sales and promotions within the functional beverage industry, a full-time business development role at an artisanal bread company, and a vision of bringing innovation and functionality to packaged baked goods, Resnikoff became a one man cookie band. In his spare time, he formulated recipes, baked, packaged, marketed and delivered cookies to local cafes and retail stores. Today, Resnikoff is no longer in the kitchen or behind the wheel of a delivery van, but has evolved into a skilled CEO with extensive consumer goods industry knowledge. Resnikoff now spends the bulk of his time expanding sales and distribution to B to B and D to C retail and food service. Staying true to his roots, he still loves to whip up new functional cookie recipes.