Meet the Staff

Executive Staff

Joanna Staff

Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Officer
Rabbi Joanna Samuels is thrilled to be leading the JCC. Prior to joining the MMJCCM, she was the founding executive director of Educational Alliance's Manny Cantor Center, where she redefined the Jewish Community Center and the Settlement House for a new era. Her work at the Manny Cantor Center was written about in The New York Times, The Daily News, and The Jewish Daily Forward.

Following rabbinic ordination in 2002, Joanna served as the Rabbi of Congregation Habonim in New York City, where her leadership helped to revitalize the synagogue’s community. She also worked as an advocate, strategist, and mentor for women’s advancement and gender equity in the Jewish community at Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community.

Joanna has written for local and national publications and taught at many institutions throughout New York City. Rabbi Samuels graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College and received Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She serves on the advisory board of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and Plaza Jewish Community Chapel and lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and two children, alumni of the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School.

Melissa Donovan

Melissa Donovan, Chief Operating Officer, The Center for Health and Wellness
Melissa is in her 19th year at the JCC where her role converges her passions for community-building, leading teams, and organizational alignment. She oversees the staff, strategy, and operations of the Center for Health & Wellness, Membership, Fitness, Sports, Aquatics and Afterschool areas of the JCC. Melissa loves working broadly across the organization to translate vision into reality, develop capacity, support key partnerships, ensure the member experience, and create high-performing, values-driven teams. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and also the Muehlstein Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership. She was the recipient of the 2017 JCC Award for Staff Excellence. She is a PennPAC probono coach, passionate about social justice advocacy through sports, and an avid Sixers fan. She lives on the UWS with her husband (whom she met at the JCC) and three children.

Todd Elkins

Todd Elkins, Chief Health and Wellness Officer
Todd is responsible for the vision and fulfillment of all of the health, wellness, aquatic, and athletic programs offered each season at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. He enjoys collaborating with members of the community, the JCC's Board of Directors, and leaders in the field of health and wellness. Some of his major accomplishments in his career at the JCC include facilitating the Saturday Morning Partners program, creating the ACES program, and welcoming to the JCC the veteran anglers group Project Healing Waters and Achilles Tri-Athletes team. Todd has also written two children's books, Hopefully You'll Get to See and The Traveling Teepee for Peace. Todd truly believes that JCC is a place of absolute inclusivity and welcomes all that want to make health and wellness a lifelong journey. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and 3 children.


Shaida Etheart, Director of Human Resources 
Shaida worked with HelpMeSee, a global non-profit organization that trains ophthalmologists, from 2013 to 2021. She has worked and volunteered at New York Methodist and Bellevue Hospitals, and been vice-chair of the non-profit group Urban Neighborhood Services in Brooklyn. A "historical nerd," Shaida graduated from New York University, St. Joseph College, and Pace University, and enjoys traveling, live concerts, dance, and theater in her free time. At the JCC, Shaida is part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team, working closely with center directors and the leadership team to provide clear pathways for respecting and building on the JCC culture through staff training and development. One of her favorite quotes from her favorite book, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, is, "'Why do we have to listen to our hearts?' the boy asked. 'Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you will find your treasure.'"

Hillel Hyman

Hillel Hyman, Chief Financial Officer
Hillel serves as the chief financial officer of the JCC. Upon his arrival, he spearheaded the successful effort of securing the financing necessary to construct the JCC's current home. In addition to his role as CFO, Hillel currently oversees technology and building operations and has served in the past as Interim associate executive director of development, where he headed up fundraising activities and forged extensive relationships with both the community and the JCC Board of Directors. According to Hillel, it is the special relationship and strategic cooperation that exists between the JCC staff and the board that makes the JCC such a special place to work. Prior to his coming to the JCC, Hillel worked for the firm of Deloitte and Touche, and during that time received his licensing as a certified public accountant. In addition to his work at the JCC, he has served in multiple executive board member capacities in his local synagogue and has coached high school varsity basketball for his daughter's team. He graduated with a bachelor of science in accounting from Yeshiva University, and currently resides in Teaneck, New Jersey. He is married and has four daughters.

Mindy Schachtman

Mindy Schachtman, Chief Development Officer
Mindy has dedicated her career to raising critical funds for a wide scope of programs in the higher education and Jewish communal worlds. Originally from Minneapolis, Mindy began her career as a consultant for Community Counselling Service LLC, where her clients included the United States Holocaust Museum and City University of New York, among others. She has served as a major gift officer for The Brooklyn College Foundation and director of institutional advancement for both Yeshiva University's High Schools and Mechon Hadar. In her role as chief development officer, Mindy is responsible for setting the vision and direction of the JCC's fundraising efforts—including the annual campaign, special events, grants, program funding, legacy gifts, and donor development. She brings years of strong organizational, development, and fundraising skills to her role. Mindy has served as a mentor in Yeshiva University's Certificate in Jewish Philanthropy program and as a coach for Amplifier’s Giving Circle Incubator. She holds a BA from Columbia University and a BA and MA from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Mindy enjoys living on the Upper West Side and is a regular volunteer at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital.

Elyssa Tannenbaum, Executive Assistant
Elyssa has been the Executive Assistant at the JCC since 2014, first to Rabbi Joy Levitt, and now to Rabbi Joanna Samuels. She is proud to work at such an incredible organization that serves the entire community in so many diverse ways. Prior to coming to the JCC, Elyssa was the Executive Assistant at the National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene. She holds a BA in Clarinet Performance from Dickinson College and an MA in Performing Arts Administration from NYU. She lives on the UWS with her husband and two young children. She can be found dropping her son off at the JCC Nursery School and popping in on her daughter in Crawler's Club and Little Maestros.


Megan Whitman, Chief Program Officer
Megan served as the inaugural Director of the Lambert Center for Arts + Ideas at the JCC. Under her leadership, the Center developed the marquee Conversations program welcoming guests like Chelsea Clinton, Roxane Gay, and Malcolm Gladwell. She oversaw the monumental installation of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing in the building’s entrance and has curated high-level exhibitions in our Laurie M. Tisch Gallery. Megan managed a productive realignment of our studio arts program making the area more efficient and a better home for the community. Megan has developed close relationships with lay leadership and had the pleasure to plan four trips to Israel for donors. Prior to joining the JCC in 2008, Megan worked for the Louise Blouin Foundation in New York and Urban Gateways/The Chicago Community Trust in Chicago. She graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and holds a Masters Degree from Columbia University’s School of Arts and Science. A native of Los Angeles, she now calls Brooklyn home with her husband, Tony and son, Ry.

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Adult Programs

Jen Cinclair, Program Manager, Wechsler Center for Modern Aging
Jen was the director of culinary and studio arts at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan from 2016 to 2020 and rejoined the JCC staff as the program manager for the Wechsler Center for Modern Aging in 2022. As a collector of hobbies, Jen enjoys planning recreational programs that inspire conversation and spark artistic expression. Jen holds a degree in sociology from Hood College and a diploma in pastry arts from the International Culinary Center. She believes that sociology and food both help us learn more about an individual’s ideals and that taste buds are the same as people—fickle, influenced by others, and diverse.

Rabbi Brian Fink

Rabbi Brian Fink, Director of the UJA-Federation of New York's Engage Jewish Service Corps
After growing up in Cleveland, Brian attended college at Tulane University in New Orleans, then lived in New York as a participant in the Avodah: Jewish Service Corps, working at the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan. While attending the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, Brian had many internships in congregational, campus, chaplaincy, and social justice settings. After graduating from RRC in 2011, he served as the Rabbinic Fellow at Cornell University Hillel. Brian and his wife, Aileen, live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Judy Gross

Judy Gross, Director of Literacy + Math Programs
Judy is a New York State–certified reading specialist and a graduate of Teachers College Columbia University. While working as a real estate attorney in the ‘90s, Judy’s penchant for helping children led her to volunteer at the JCC’s Gift of Literacy Program. Judy was so impressed with the effects of one-on-one support for struggling readers that she chose to pursue a second career and enroll in the reading certification program at Teachers College. She has served as the reading specialist for second graders at PS 6, as coordinator of Academic Intervention Services for PS 75, and as a private tutor for elementary school students struggling with literacy skills. Since 2000, Judy has overseen the JCC’s literacy and math programs, creating numerous opportunities for volunteers to work one-on-one with students performing below grade level in our public schools.

Michael Kalmin, Program Coordinator, The Selma and Lawrence Ruben Center for 20s + 30s
Prior to joining the JCC, Michael worked in film production, assisting directors of various critically acclaimed TV shows, feature films, commercials, and music videos. Michael went on to work as a brand ambassador for the Jewish dating app, JSwipe, and for Birthright Israel as a Community Manager. He has enjoyed volunteering at Bellevue Hospital and the NYU Langone Hospital, and more recently for Net Impact NYC Service Corps as a content strategist and management consultant. Michael grew up in Riverdale and now lives in Kips Bay. He relishes opportunities to display his creativity to solve problems and help people.

Susie Kessler

Susie Kessler, Site Manager: What Matters
Former coordinator of the National Center for Jewish Healing, Susie brings knowledge of spiritual support and Jewish wisdom to all of her program areas. Her passion is helping people grow and heal from the inside out by uncovering and exploring their spiritual journey as well as by teaching techniques and practices that can help them find their deepest connection to themselves, to each other, and to the Divine. It is her belief that this kind of growth is the fertile ground that allows for true social change. Susie has been a member of the Upper West Side Jewish community for over 40 years and a member of the JCC staff since the building opened.

Sarah-Kay Lacks

Sarah-Kay Lacks, Senior Director, Shabbat and Holidays
Sarah-Kay is a raised (though not born) New Yorker who has lived in three out of five boroughs and worked in all five of them. After graduating from Vassar College with a degree in Urban Studies and Religion, she went on to work for city government and received an MPA from the Wagner School at NYU in nonprofit management. Sarah-Kay's favorite kind of Jewish programs are surprising, magical, and free. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, their three kids, and their dog and cat.

Susan Lechter

Susan Lechter, Director, The Wechsler Center for Modern Aging
Susan has been at the JCC since 2005 and has overseen the older adult department ever since. She has focused on the development and creation of programming, community building and volunteer engagement with a rapidly growing older adult population. Susan grew up in Montreal, Canada and received her B.A., M.A. and EdM degrees at Harvard and Columbia. Before moving to New York, she spent several years in Paris where she worked as a consultant at UNESCO; as education director for Kehillat Gesher, the French Anglophone Jewish Community, and then as Director for the OSE Center for Holocaust Survivors. Susan lives in Brooklyn Heights with her husband, daughter and 2 adorable cats.

Sherri Lerner, Projects and Initiatives Coordinator, The Wechsler Center for Modern Aging
Sherri joined the staff of the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in April 2015, and now serves as the Projects and Initiatives Coordinator for The Wechsler Center for Modern Aging, a position she has held since July 2021. She is responsible for managing several volunteer initiatives, including Caring Calls and the pairing of volunteers with older adults seeking regular phone contact. Sherri also works on intergenerational and other programs. In her previous role as the JCC's editorial director, she was responsible for editing all marketing materials, including the seasonal program guides, and for sharing the stories of the JCC via the website, program guide, and social media.

Ruth Messinger

Ruth W. Messinger, Social Justice Activist in Residence
Having served as president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) from 1998 to July 2016, Ruth Messinger is currently the organization’s inaugural Global Ambassador. In this role, she is continuing her crucial work of engaging rabbis and interfaith leaders to speak out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide.

Ruth’s remarkable 18-year presidency at AJWS began after a 20-year career in public service in New York City as a City Council member and Manhattan Borough President. Under Ruth’s leadership, AJWS grew exponentially—granting more than $270 million to promote human rights in the developing world and launching campaigns to end the Darfur genocide, reform international food aid, stop violence against women and LGBT people, end land grabs, and respond to natural disasters around the globe.

A tireless advocate and social change visionary, Ruth mobilizes rabbis and faith-based communities throughout the U.S. to promote human rights. She previously sat on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group and is currently a member of the World Bank’s Moral Imperative Working Group on Extreme Poverty.

Currently Ruth also is doing international human rights work for AIDS Free World and serving as the inaugural Social Justice Fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Ruth has been honored for her leadership with awards from many national Jewish organizations and honorary degrees from five major American rabbinical seminaries. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award. Ruth was named one of the 10 most inspiring women religious leaders of 2012 by The Huffington Post; the sixth most influential Jew in the world by The Jerusalem Post; and was listed annually on The Forward’s “Forward 50” for nearly a decade.

Ruth is an active member of her congregation, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, and serves on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Hazon, Aegis Trust, and Surprise Lake Camp. She holds a B.A. from Radcliffe College and an M.S.W. from the University of Oklahoma. She is married to Andrew Lachman and has three children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Sheryl Parker, Director, The Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility
Sheryl has dedicated her career to helping New Yorkers give back to their communities. After receiving a BA in Biology from Middlebury College and a MPH in Epidemiology from UNC-Chapel Hill, Sheryl relocated to New York City where she found a professional home at New York Cares. Over the next 7 years, she worked her way up from a temporary position on their events team to serve as the organization’s Senior Director of Programs – leading a multiyear program expansion plan and overseeing the organization’s response to 9/11 which mobilized 10,000 volunteers. More recently, Sheryl served as the Director of Strategic Volunteer Engagement at UJA Federation of New York where she launched two volunteer initiatives including the Engage Jewish Service Corps. Sheryl is an enthusiastic traveler and hiker who aspires to visit all 7 continents (to date she has visited 5). She lives in South Orange, NJ with her two children and Italian Water Dog.


Arienne Pelletier, Department Administrator, The Wechsler Center for Modern Aging
Since joining the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2012, Arienne has worn many hats, but recently transitioned into her current position as 60+ Department Manager. She is passionate about giving back to the community and is excited to enroll and educate volunteers about our opportunities. Prior to working at the JCC, she worked in theater management in New York City and South Florida. Outside of the JCC, she has been involved with a nonprofit arts organization that provided arts education to in-need children throughout New York City. Arienne received a bachelor of arts in theatre management from Barry University in Miami.

Austin Rieders, Program Manager, The Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility; Director, Out at the J
Austin grew up in Cold Spring Harbor, NY, and joined the JCC in 2021 after primarily working in the entertainment industry. He received a BA from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a self-designed concentration focusing on Entertainment Business and Psychology with a minor in Producing. In his non-work life, he loves to see theatre, watch too much television, and hike all over the world. He currently lives on the Upper West Side with his partner and their dying plants.

Sheira Schiff, Program Department Administrator
Sheira has worn several hats at the MMJCCM including a party hat as the school age birthday party & program coordinator. She previously worked at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and DR Theatrical Management, and has a background in technical theater and stage management. Born and raised on Long Island, Sheira graduated from Smith College and now lives in Riverdale where she is thrilled to have curbside compost collection.

Taisha Tirado

Tiaisha Tirado, Coordinator of Literacy + Math Programs
Prior to joining our staff, Tiaisha received a master of fine arts degree in graphic design from New York Institute of Technology, and worked as an art teacher for preschool-aged children. Tiaisha has over 19 years of experience working with children ranging from infants to 15 years old and believes that exposure to art is a vital component of a student's educational experience. Her long and affectionate connection to working with children, young adults, and parents make Tiaisha a natural fit for her current position with the Literacy + Math program. In her spare time, Tiaisha enjoys the outdoors, spending lots of time with friends and family, traveling, and, of course, creating her own artwork whenever she can!

Udi Urman, Director of the Lambert Center for Arts and Ideas and The Sonabend Center for Israel 
Prior to joining the JCC, Udi served as the Executive Director of Friends of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Prior to his work with Bezalel, Udi was the Director of Cultural Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New England and in New York. Udi has extensive experience in the arts and cultural sphere, has taught at Brandeis University and is the founder of NY Public Art, a platform for tours and public art projects in New York.

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Arts + Film Programs

Jason Blitman, Program Director
Jason joined the Arts + Ideas team at the JCC in the spring of 2019. With a background in theater, Jason spent nearly eight years combined working in the artistic departments of both The Public Theater and TheaterWorksUSA. During his tenure, he created initiatives championing emerging artists across multiple disciplines, worked with the New York Philharmonic, New York Fringe Festival, and The Old Globe in San Diego. He has produced and directed readings, concerts, and productions in and around New York City, Southern California, and in Chicago, where he’s a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.


Yaara Kedem, Associate Director/ReelAbilities International Coordinator
Yaara graduated with a B.A. in Film & Television and Special Education Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel. She spent several years in post-production, program localization, and film brand development for film festivals, interactive gaming, live events, TV networks and children’s programs. Alongside, she was working as the Travel Director and Tour Leader at a summer camp and travel program for children and teens with special needs based in Pennsylvania.

Udi Urman, Director of the Lambert Center for Arts and Ideas and The Sonabend Center for Israel 
Prior to the JCC, Udi served as the Executive Director of Friends of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Prior to his work with Bezalel, Udi was the Director of Cultural Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New England and in New York. Udi has extensive experience in the arts and cultural sphere, has taught at Brandeis University and is the founder of NY Public Art, a platform for tours and public art projects in New York.


Isaac Zablocki, Senior Director, Film Programs and Israel Film Center
Born in New York, Isaac grew up in Israel and served in the IDF's leading film unit as an educational film producer. He attended film school at Columbia University and went on to work at Miramax Films. At the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, he runs weekly screenings, and programs multiple film festivals annually, including the acclaimed Other Israel Film Festival and ReelAbilites Film Festival: New York. Isaac has developed the largest online database of Israeli films as well as Israel Film Center Stream, the leading site for streaming Israeli films. Isaac lectures around the world at major institutions and writes for a variety of publications. 

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Children + Families

Yael 2

Yael Kahn Pinto, M.S.Ed. Director, The Bert and Sandra Wasserman Center for Family Life and Director of Programs for Infants and Young Children
Yael earned her M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College of Education. She began her teaching career at the JCC where she became passionate about and developed expertise in the Reggio Emilia approach and constructivist education. During her time teaching, she also served on the school's leadership team and as the Director of the Day Camp @ the JCC. She then spent several years working as an educational consultant at The Jewish Education Project, focusing on leadership development and teacher training. She is thrilled to be back at the JCC and is passionate about working with children and families and cultivating positive experiences from early childhood through the teenage years.


Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, Director, Jewish Journeys
Rabbi Lori has worked in Jewish education for over 25 years, heading both a community congregational school and two Hebrew high schools. She is the co-editor of Sacred Intentions: Morning Inspiration to Strengthen the Spirit, Based on Jewish Wisdom. Lori has rabbinic ordination from JTS and is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley. She lives in Teaneck with her husband, Simcha, and daughter, Maya.

Emmy Goodman, Regional Director, BBYO Manhattan
Through Emmy's positive experiences as a teen, her passion for working professionally for BBYO has grown. In 2018, Emmy began working for BBYO Manhattan Region as Associate Regional Director. In 2020, Emmy became the Regional Director of Liberty Region in Philadelphia with a community of over 800+ engaged teens. In the summer of 2021, Emmy rejoined BBYO Manhattan Region as Regional Director and lead staff member. Emmy works to establish a culture where Manhattan’s 370+ teens are motivated to increase membership, grow programmatically, and instill best leadership development practices. Emmy earned her Bachelor's degree in Organizational & Community Leadership and a Master's in Entrepreneurship & Design from the University of Delaware. While receiving her Masters, she served as Hillel’s Leadership Development Intern at UD and established a ten-week leadership workshop series called impACT which provided innovative programming to inspire a stronger sense of the Jewish community.

Nick Goutman, Clubhouse Coordinator and Administrator
Nick has been a part of the JCC community from a young age. He participated in many after school activities during elementary school and he has been a counselor at the JCC’s Camp Settoga since 2014. Nick attended Ithaca College, where he studied sociology and psychology, and organized many philanthropic events in the community. Most recently, Nick received his master's degree in social work from New York University. In his free time, he enjoys martial arts, independent filmmaking, and spending time with his family. Nick hopes to facilitate the same community atmosphere he received as a child at the JCC with all current and future families.

Amy Grassel, Associate Regional Director, BBYO Manhattan
Amy joined the BBYO team in October 2020, eager to work directly with teens, helping them grow and fulfill their greatest potential. Prior to her role with BBYO, Amy was the Program Coordinator for Camp Engagement at JCC Association, working with non-profit Jewish camp professionals around the continent. As an alumna of both a JCC Jewish camp and BBYO, Amy is excited to give back and remain involved in these communities. Originally from Queens, NY, Amy graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Psychology, and a minor in communications and Spanish. She spent a year in Spain teaching English to middle school students, and was previously in the editorial department at an international publishing house. Amy volunteers as a counselor at Circle Camps, a free camp for children who have experienced the death of a parent, and is involved with her local north Brooklyn mutual aid group.


Adam Metzger, Director, Camp Settoga
Adam began working at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan over a decade ago as a floating teacher and a coach for afterschool sports. He was also a coach at the Day Camp @ Pearl River for two summers (2010 and 2011). He has spent most summers as a camper, counselor, or specialist at various camps around the country and feels very much at home in the camp environment. He is currently a head teacher in the nursery school and on the Leadership Team. He received his M.S.T. in early childhood general and special education from The Graduate School of Education at Fordham University. Adam believes that children are capable and creators of their own knowledge, and that community is at the heart of what we do both as early childhood educators and members of a Day Camp Staff.


Kerin Robins, Program Manager, The Bert and Sandra Wasserman Center for Family Life + Director of Camper and Staff Care, Camp Settoga
Kerin has been part of the JCC community for over 10 years. From teaching in our pre-nursery 2s Together program to spending her summers at Camp Settoga, Kerin has spent the past decade watching JCC children and families grow from year to year. Before coming to the JCC, Kerin spent five summers as a lead counselor at NYU’s Child Study Center Summer Program for Kids, a therapeutic program for children with behavioral and learning challenges. With a background in psychology and special education, Kerin believes strongly in meeting every child at their level and encouraging growth through a positive lens. She has always been her best self at camp and works everyday to create that same caring, supportive, encouraging environment for campers, staff members, and camp families. At camp, you can often find Kerin joking and laughing with campers, checking out the frog pond, or singing any and all types of songs.


Genna Singer, Director, JCC Camps
Genna Singer joined the staff at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in June 2002, assisting the day camp director during the first summer of camp. Genna grew up attending day camp and overnight camp, and worked as a staff member at an overnight camp for five years. In September 2002, Genna became the director of After School Programs at the JCC, while still maintaining an active role in the summer camps. In September 2006, Genna became the director of camps. She developed our first outdoor camp, the Day Camp @ Pearl River while also maintaining our programs at the JCC: the Day Camp @ the JCC and Summer Stock Theater Camp. In 2016, Genna worked with the JCC leadership and board of directors to purchase and open our newest camp, Camp Settoga. Genna combines a love of children, a passion for camp, and a desire to help families find their place at the JCC as she plans for the summer. Whether outside at Camp Settoga, visiting the pool deck on the 6th floor, or wandering in and out of classrooms on the 2nd floor, Genna marvels as each child finds a new bit of his/herself at the JCC Summer Camps.

Julie Singer

Julie Singer, M.Ed., Tween Coordinator
Julie was raised in Bergen County, New Jersey and “grew up” at the Tenafly JCC, attending pre-school, day camp, and more at the facility, which is where she learned that incredible organizations such as the JCC exist that support people of all ages and abilities. She earned her bachelor's and master’s degree in special education from West Chester University, and is a New York State certified middle school and special education teacher. Prior to coming to the JCC, Julie worked primarily with adolescents with autism, teaching imperative community and life skills as well as social and self-care awareness. She also has experience working with children, teens, and adults of all abilities in recreational and educational settings, including time as a camp counselor and academics tutor. Julie's personal family experience with disability drives her philosophy of supporting everyone in achieving confident, independent, and meaningful lives in their communities.

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Andrea Bernardo

Andrea Bernardo (aka Coach Andrea), Gymnastics Coordinator
Andrea joined the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2007 as a part-time gymnastics coach and became our head gymnastics coach in 2013. Over the years, she has expanded her knowledge and interest of various sports and now also assists in sports classes throughout the week, including classes for children with special needs. She has always loved fitness and gymnastics and has been involved in the sport for many years. She was a competitive gymnast during high school, a college cheerleader at The College of Staten Island, and a circus acrobat after she graduated. To this day, she is still actively involved in various aerial arts. Outside of sports and aerial work, she acts in her local community theater in Brooklyn, where she is currently a director for the Theater for Children department. Some of her favorite roles include Peter (Peter Pan), Alice (Alice in Wonderland), and Rapunzel (Into the Woods).

Michelle Jimenez, Coach
A native of the Upper West Side, Michelle has always had an interest in learning and playing any sport she came across. As a child, she played for an UWS basketball league and by high school had become the MVP of her soccer team. As an adult, she continued to expand her athletic foundation and began playing professional women's football for the New York Sharks. In addition to land-based sports, Michelle is also quite the swimmer. She began her JCC tenure in 2007 in the Aquatics department, first as a lifeguard and then as one of our instructors, which is where she discovered her passion for working with children. In 2018, after 11 years on the sixth floor, she went down a few flights to join the third-floor athletics team as a full-time coach, where she finds joy every day inspiring and coaching young athletes as they master new skills and gain confidence—all while having fun!

Mary Beth

Mary Beth Greiss, Health Club + Athletics Operations Manager
Mary Beth, who initially joined the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2008 teaching summer tumbling classes,has been a gymnast and cheerleader throughout her life. She began as a tumbling toddler and ended as a Syracuse University cheerleader, where she cheered on the Orange basketball and football teams and competed in the UCA National Championships. After graduating in 2011 and working in a financial institution for one year, she decided to go back to gymnastics and working with children. She returned to the JCC in the fall of 2012 and became director in early 2013.


Carolina Stapleton, Senior Director, Aquatics
Carolina was born and raised in Brazil. She came to New York as an international correspondent and end up staying for good. Looking to add an extra job and some fun into her reporting career, Carolina became a lifeguard and certified swim instructor in 2009. She joined the JCC in 2012 as a swimming instructor and shortly after became part of the Aquatics department. Carolina worked as an Aquatic Director for the JCC Day Camp in 2014 and Day Camp in Pearl River in 2015 (now Camp Settoga).  Today, Carolina is still teaching kids to swim, to be safe and love the water. She has two young kids and lives in Pearl River, NY.

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Cynthia Ceilán, Director of Institutional Giving
A lifelong advocate for social justice, Cynthia Ceilán brings to the JCC more than 20 years of marketing, development, and fundraising experience in the nonprofit sector. She has worked with a variety of organizations that serve special-needs, underserved, and other vulnerable populations in the areas of health care, homeless services, supportive housing, food and nutrition, addiction treatment, education, community building, and policy advocacy. Prior to finding her true calling in the nonprofit sector, Cynthia accumulated a wealth of business and management experience in the corporate world, having worked primarily for Fortune 500 companies in the tech industry. She is the author of three internationally published books of non-fiction humor, a novel, and numerous short stories, essays, and articles.

Shelby Ebert, Director, Leadership Giving
Shelby works with our young families; strengthening their connection to the JCC and raising critical funds for the organization. She also manages Team JCC, our TCS NYC Marathon team, our Atid giving circle, as well as several other initiatives. Before coming to the JCC, Shelby was a Senior Development Officer at the National Institute for Reproductive Health, and had also worked for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Weil, Gotshal, and Manges. A graduate of Boston University, she resides in Montclair, New Jersey with her husband and son.   

Adena Kerstein

Adena Kerstein, Director of Special Events
Adena oversees all of the JCC's major fundraising events, including White Hot Saturday Night, Annual Benefit, Casino Night and everything in between. Collaborating with other members of the Development department, Adena assists in creating strategy to maximize each event’s impact. Before coming to the JCC Adena was the Associate Director, Special Events at the Jewish Museum. She also worked in the Advocacy department at Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. A graduate of George Washington University and resident of the Upper West Side, Adena is an avid Yankee fan and enjoys training for the occasional marathon and hanging out with her shih-tzu Bernie.

Bari Lovi

Bari Lovi, Major Gifts Officer 
Bari’s passion for helping those in need and advocating for a better world served as the inspiration to dedicate her career to raising critical funds for organizations in the Jewish communal world and healthcare space. These organizations served to shape our Jewish future, provided services to vulnerable populations by fighting poverty, caring for the elderly, responding to global crises, created programs for the well-being needs of the IDF soldiers, and advanced innovative research as well as improved the quality of life for individuals and their families impacted by cancer and paralysis. Prior to joining the JCC team, Bari worked with organizations including UJA-Federation of New York, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Bari earned a BS from Penn State University and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a resident of the Upper West Side where you will often find her exploring Central Park, enjoying a book in Sheep’s Meadow, cheering on the Knicks, and singing along at a Billy Joel show.

Nikki Ncole Minkoff

Nicole Minkoff Nachimow, Director of Operations
Nikki oversees operations for the Development department working closely with the Chief Financial Officer and the Finance team. A long term veteran of the JCC, Nikki previously worked in several departments including Membership and Registration, Family Life, and Finance. Originally from North Woodmere, New York, Nikki spent several summers working at the early childhood center at the Marion and Aaron Gural JCC. A graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park, Nikki resides in Hoboken with her husband, sons, and her miniature schnauzer Pliny.

Melissa Regan

Melissa Regan, Senior Director of Institutional Giving
Melissa has spent her career helping social and human service agencies achieve their fundraising goals, build organizational capacity, and provide critical services to their communities through effective grant writing, prospect research, program development and strategic planning.  Prior to the JCC, Melissa worked for the Jewish Board of Children and Family Services, the NY Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Seattle Children's Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She holds a B.A. in English from Syracuse University and an M.A. in Adolescent Education from Hunter College.

Jennifer Rubenstein, Major Gifts Officer
Jennifer's interest in a career in fundraising germinated in the Trusts and Estates department of a national law firm's New York City office, for which she traveled the world to help grow the firm's international private wealth practice. Born in Washington, D.C., Jennifer was a serious music student who studied viola performance before shifting to the natural sciences preparatory to a career in environmental law. Following the birth of her son, Jennifer devoted her efforts to volunteer work in the animal welfare, education, and criminal justice reform areas, serving as ambassador, grant writer, and mentor (to formerly incarcerated women). As a longtime peer fundraiser for her son's private Quaker school, Jennifer has co-chaired the annual fund committee, raised significant capital and endowment funds, and served as auction co-chair. Jennifer for three years managed all development activities at B'nai Jeshurun, where her portfolio included the synagogue's annual appeal, planned giving program, major gifts, and events. Jennifer holds a BA, summa cum laude, from Hofstra University, and a J.D. from the Fordham School of Law, where she was a Stein Scholar in Ethics and Public Interest Law. She also earned a certificate in fundraising from NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Jennifer loves living in Peter Cooper Village with her fiancee and pet rabbits.

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Fitness + Wellness


Joelle Evans, Assistant Program Director, Health + Wellness
Joelle has worked with the JCC for the past seven years, first on the fitness floor at the front desk and now as the Health and Wellness program manager. She is an avid fan of health and wellness and loves to work out, swim, run, ride her bike, and play with her niece and nephews. She is so happy to be a part of the JCC family.



Caroline Kohles, Senior Director, The Center for Health and Wellness
A health and wellness professional for over 25 years, Caroline is co-founder of Nia New York™. Nia is a holistic lifestyle and fitness practice. As a somatic educator and Nia Trainer, she co-facilitates intensive trainings at the white, green, blue, brown and black belt level. She holds certifications in yoga, indoor cycling, personal training, life coaching, and 5 Rhythms—a dynamic movement meditation practice. A former professional dancer with a passion for anatomy and the brain, Caroline is drawn to using movement to help special populations. In her years working at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Caroline has been instrumental in leading a progressive slate of fitness programming. She created and designed our 100+ group fitness class schedule and health and wellness programs for every population, from tweens/teens to prenatal/postnatal moms and seniors. Her signature work includes developing a range of cancer care programs in partnership first with Mount Sinai Hospital and now Breastlink NYC. She also designed the nationally and internationally recognized Edmond J. Safra Parkinson's program, now in its twelfth year, in partnership first with The Fresco Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center and now with Northwell Health. In addition, Caroline developed the JCC's popular "Doctor Is In" program, in conjunction with NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, as well as many other nutrition and brain health programs. Caroline has been recognized as a teacher, programmer, a wellness mentor for staff, and a constant advocate for JCC members and the Upper West Side community. She was honored with the Award for Staff Excellence for her leadership, dedication, passion, and contribution to the JCC's Center for Health and Wellness.

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Jewish Life

Sarah-Kay Lacks

Sarah-Kay Lacks, Senior Director, Shabbat and Holidays
Sarah-Kay is a raised (though not born) New Yorker who has lived in three out of five boroughs and worked in all five of them. After graduating from Vassar College with a degree in Urban Studies and Religion, she went on to work for city government and received an MPA from the Wagner School at NYU in nonprofit management. Sarah-Kay's favorite kind of Jewish programs are surprising, magical, and free. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, their three kids, and their dog and cat.


Susie Kessler, Site Manager: What Matters
Former coordinator of the National Center for Jewish Healing, Susie brings knowledge of spiritual support and Jewish wisdom to all of her program areas. Her passion is helping people grow and heal from the inside out by uncovering and exploring their spiritual journey as well as teaching techniques and practices that can help them find their deepest connection to themselves, to each other, and to the Divine. It is her belief that this kind of growth is the fertile ground that allows for true social change. Susie has been a member of the Upper West Side Jewish Community for over 40 years and a member of the JCC staff since the building opened.


Rachel Kunstadt, Director of Adult Jewish Learning
Rachel came to the JCC in 2016 from the theatre world. She holds an MFA in musical theatre writing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a BA from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, with the self-designed concentration Musical Theatre and the American Dream. She was actively involved in The Bronfman Center/NYU Hillel as an undergraduate student, which provided a natural transition to her work at the JCC as a Jewish educator and programmer. Rachel loves intersectional Judaism and reimagining Jewish rituals. In her non-JCC life, she continues to write musicals and produce theatre. She lives on the Upper West Side with her shih tzu, Bernie.

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Lauren Alexander

Lauren Alexander, Director of Public Relations + Community Engagement
Lauren grew up in central New Jersey, and joined the JCC in 2021. She has worked on the communications and marketing teams of non-profit theater companies in both Washington, DC and New York City including Imagination Stage, Theater J, Arena Stage, and most recently, The Public Theater. Lauren graduated from American University, and currently lives on the Upper West Side with her fiance and their dog Jelly.

Natalie Batshaw

Natalie Batshaw Batalion, Senior Director of Program Marketing
Natalie grew up in Montreal and has a Bachelors degree in business from McGill University. She also has an MBA from Fordham graduate school of business where she focused on Marketing and finance. Natalie has worked at the JCC since 2011 and has always focused on the Family Life area. She has loved serving as the marketer for Infants + Young Children and has found it even more rewarding since the birth of her three kids. Natalie lives on the UWS with her husband and two daughters and son. You can often find Natalie and her children running the halls of the JCC and enjoying all the wonderful kids' programs the JCC has to offer.

Jessica Epstein

Jessica Epstein, Senior Director of Marketing Operations
Jessica coordinates the pipeline and process from start to finish of all designed materials created by the JCC marketing department, along with marketing the JCC’s film programs and festivals. She was born in France and lived, studied, and worked in 12 countries across Europe, Latin America, and Asia before moving to New York, her dad’s hometown. She has previously worked as an executive assistant, copy writer/editor/proofreader, and project manager at small nonprofits and publishing houses overseas. She speaks fluent Spanish, passable Portuguese, and bits and pieces of five other languages. Jessica came to New York in 2012, primarily out of a desire to reconnect with her roots—including her extended family, as well as the American Jewish community—and she found a big part of that connection when she began working at the JCC in 2013. Now she calls New York home, and in her spare time, she loves attending the theater, visiting museums, and walking around the city. 

Peter Hines

Peter Hines, Senior Director of Creative Services
Peter has helmed the design department at the JCC since 2004. Born in Baltimore, he grew up in Briarcliff Manor, NY. He has lived in Baltimore, Washington, DC and London. Peter has attended (and occasionally collected degrees from) The George Washington University, MICA, and SVA, among others. He is married, has two boys (and two cats) and lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Josh K

Joshua Klafter, Manager of Program Marketing
Born in Randolph, NJ, Josh spent most of his life in Boynton Beach, FL. Having graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Journalism and a concentration in Political Science, he has worked in marketing and communications for six years. He formerly served as Assistant Manager of Communications & Marketing at B’nai Jeshurun and Lead Copywriter at Direction, Inc. When not bolstering their robust efforts, he spends his time as a novelist. He currently resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Jordana Roat

Jordana Roat, Director of Program Marketing
Jordana is the marketer for The Center for Social Responsibility, JCC Harlem, The Center for 20s + 30s, and The Center for Arts + Ideas, and is one of the prime movers behind the JCC's social media. Before coming to the JCC, she worked in magazine publishing and creative production. She graduated from Barnard College with a double major in English and Jewish Studies and a minor in Psychology. Jordana is a proud Philadelphia native and currently lives on the Upper West Side.

Amanda Schechter

Amanda Schechter, Director of Program Marketing
Amanda graduated from Rutgers University in 2016 with a Bachelors in Psychology. She began her career at the JCC fresh out of college as a marketing assistant, and has since been promoted. Amanda currently oversees the marketing for the Center for Special Needs, the Center for Jewish Living, and Makom, as well as assists with membership marketing and the Davidson Fishberg Center for Health + Wellness. Amanda is a die-hard Yankee fan who currently lives in Hoboken.

Shira Kaiserman

Shira Kaiserman Verteramo, Managing Director of Program Marketing
Prior to the JCC, Shira worked at Grey Advertising in account management for Procter & Gamble brands. After an inspiring Birthright Israel trip in 2010, she left the corporate world to pursue a career in the Jewish nonprofit world. Shira is in charge of marketing membership for the JCC and The Center for Health + Wellness, as well as social media. Shira is a graduate of Brandeis University and was a World Confederation of Jewish Community Centers’ Global Fellow. During her fellowship, she developed the first-ever international Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for young professionals from New York, Argentina, and Israel, to bring together Jews from different backgrounds. She was also a recipient of a Birthright Israel NEXT/Natan Grant for Social Entrepreneurs, which allowed her to create a Jewish sports league for young professionals that has run at the JCC since 2011.

Debra Weinstein, Program Marketing Consultant 
A marketing and communications professional with a longtime dedication to community, education, and Jewish culture, Debra is originally from Seattle, WA. She came to New York City to attend Barnard College, Columbia University, where she received her B.A. with a dual degree in astronomy and dance. After earning an MA in Dance with a focus on audience development from American University, Debra began working at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. After 13 years, Debra left her position as Senior Director of Program Marketing at the JCC to embark on a “family gap year,” traveling around the world for a year with her husband and two children. Now back in New York, Debra is excited to once again be helping to spread the word about the JCC's wonderful programming.

Rebecca Winzenried

Rebecca Winzenried, Editorial Director
As editorial director, Rebecca works with JCC staff across the board to produce program guides, stories, and marketing materials that keep members and the public informed about all of the centers’ activities. She has worked for a number of publications as a feature writer and editor, with a focus on classical music and the intersection of arts and technology. Prior to joining the JCC, she served as program editor for the New York Philharmonic. Rebecca is a longtime Brooklyn resident who grew up in Kansas City, weaned on jazz, barbecue, and baseball.

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Special Needs

Caitlin McInerney

Caitlin McInerney, Director of The Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs
Caitlin is a native New Yorker who joined the Center for Special Needs in 2014. Her focus has primarily been supporting the Adaptations and 40+ communities, but she has also had the pleasure of working with individuals of all ages, and their families, during her time at the JCC. In addition to overseeing and designing program models reflective of our community's current needs, she has been dedicated to finding ways in which the JCC can assist families plan for the future. Caitlin is an advocate for person-centered approaches, universal design and providing individuals with the supports they need to make informed decisions about their lives. Her goal is to guide the Center to be a place where individuals can successfully achieve their personal goals as they move through the different phases of their life, build lasting relationships with peers, and are valued members of a broader community. Prior to the JCC, Caitlin worked with children with a variety of abilities in inclusive school settings and helped launch a nonprofit organization that supports access to arts education for New York City youth. She earned her master's degree at New York University's Silver School of Social Work.


Hannah Badain, Director of Connections
Hannah has worked with the Connections program since its inception in 2011. In her role, she has developed a flourishing young adult social community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Hannah has increased the programming to include a variety of trips, overnight retreats, art groups, and cooking classes. Prior to joining the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Hannah worked with individuals at residential treatment facilities, camps, and afterschool programs. She graduated from Scripps College with a BA in psychology in 2011 and is trained in traumatic crisis intervention.


Hannah Cohen, Director of Special Needs Parenting + Support Programs + The Shabbat Shop
Hannah first came to the JCC as a teacher for toddler classes. In this position, she was able to see the need for support for parents whose children were being diagnosed with developmental delays, leading to the start of support programs at the JCC. Hannah has developed and now facilitates the support groups within the Center for Special Needs for parents of children, teens, and adults, as well as a unique group tailored specifically for fathers. She established the volunteer-run Parent2Parent Resource Center, which gives parents an opportunity to speak with other parents of children with special needs for guidance and support. Hannah has brought experts from every field and modality within the special needs community to present to both our staff and and the community of families with whom we work. The Shabbat Shop, a pop-up shop in the JCC lobby which sells products for Shabbat and holidays and is a training ground for learning job skills for our Adaptations participants, is her most recent project.

Julie Singer

Julie Singer, M.Ed., Teen Coordinator
Julie was raised in Bergen County, New Jersey and “grew up” at the Tenafly JCC, attending pre-school, day camp, and more at the facility, which is where she learned that incredible organizations such as the JCC exist that support people of all ages and abilities. She earned her bachelor's and master’s degree in special education from West Chester University, and is a New York State certified middle school and special education teacher. Prior to coming to the JCC, Julie worked primarily with adolescents with autism, teaching imperative community and life skills as well as social and self-care awareness. She also has experience working with children, teens, and adults of all abilities in recreational and educational settings, including time as a camp counselor and academics tutor. Julie's personal family experience with disability drives her philosophy of supporting everyone in achieving confident, independent, and meaningful lives in their communities.

Nicole (Nikki) Stein, MSW, Director of Employment and External Relations
Nikki originally joined the Center for Special Needs in 2017 as a Connections intern during the first year of her master's program. She received her master's degree in social work from Columbia University with a focus on social enterprise administration. After graduation, she joined Columbia University full time as a leave management representative, administering and coordinating all aspects of employees' disability leave and their return to work with the appropriate workplace accommodations. At the JCC, Nikki is responsible for developing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Her goal is to help individuals maximize their highest level of independence, to connect individuals with opportunities for meaningful employment and employers with dedicated talent. Her passion and dedication is to improve disability inclusion in the workplace; she believes hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is a win-win-win for employers, people with disabilities, and customers/clients alike!

Verunka Vlkova-Fierro, Center for Special Needs Administrator
Verunka joined the Center for Special Needs team in September 2021. Prior to that, she was involved in The Shoebox Project, collecting and delivering gifts to women living in shelters throughout NYC. During her time there, she reached over 7,000 women and developed an outreach program that brought in a variety of exciting and supportive workshops such as meditation, cooking and skincare. She understands the importance of community centers such as the JCC and The Center for Special Needs as she is a strong advocate for her sister with disabilities and knows the difference a quality program can make in a person's life. Verunka lives in Queens with her husband and two cats.

Michelle Wexler

Michelle Wexler, LMSW, Director of Adaptations
Michelle Wexler joined the Center for Special Needs in 2017 after a year-long social work internship with Adaptations. Michelle graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in American studies and in Social Justice, Social Change. She graduated with her MSW from Columbia School of Social Work with a focus on advanced general practice and programming in 2017. Prior to coming to the JCC, Michelle worked with children, teens, and adults of all abilities in recreational and educational settings. Michelle has previously served as the Teen Director in the Center for Special Needs, Tween Director in the Center for Family Life, and CIT Director at Camp Settoga.

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Lawrence Quigley, Web Manager  
Originally from Haworth, NJ by way of Dallas, Lawrence previously managed Memberlink® the website for the Institute for Private Investors. An organization that educates Ultra High Net Worth investors. Before joining IPI, he worked at Cyverasia, a company that does in-language versions of preexisting websites. He was responsible for the language layout and user interface of E*TRADE for the domestic Chinese market. He holds a Bachelors degree in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and is a practicing artist.

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