Meet The Yesod 2017 Fellows

We are proud to announce the inaugural cohort of The YESOD Community Leadership Development Program: Powered by Eder Leadership Institute and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven.

Yesod Leadership Program, a visionary effort to cultivate and nurture dedicated community lay leaders committed to shaping the Jewish future and strengthening their nominating organizations. This highly selective program brings together a collaborative cohort of diverse Jewish activists, representing the broad array of organizations and affiliations within the Jewish community of Greater New Haven.


Ivan Alvarez

Ivan Alvarez is an IT professional and is a System/Network Manager at ACES Org. He received his B.S in Biology from UC Irvine. Ivan is a member of Beth El-Keser Israel Congregation.  He enjoys working with others on social actions and BEKI community activities. Ivan is passionate in maintaining and repairing the environment and helping to protect wildlife and all animals. Currently he is the co-chairman of BEKI’s membership committee, a member of the Tikun Olam committee and part of the rotation leading the children’s Havura on Shabbat. He enjoys the outdoors and especially the beach having grown up in California coastal area. Ivan currently resides in Seymour with his wife, his son, three dogs and a fish.



Joel Brooks

A Midwesterner at heart, Joel was and raised in Chicago, IL. He completed all schooling there through medical school. While in Chicago, Joel received his Rabbinical Ordination from Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik. He spent 3 years living in Lancaster, PA for his Internal Medicine residency, before moving to New Haven, CT for the Fellowship training. Joel loves to read and is interested in movies, creative construction, art, and almost any outdoor physical activity, especially if it involves water. He likes to relax by rock climbing, mountain biking, and practicing archery. When he is able to, Joel volunteers as a chaplain at nursing homes and server in soup kitchens.



Gerald Garcia

Gerald “Gerry” Garcia is White Marsh Capital Advisor’s Managing Director for Pension Fund Sales and Investor Relations, and a Partner who helped launch the firm’s first venture capital fund.  Prior to White Marsh, Mr. Garcia was Chief of Operations for the State of Connecticut Department Consumer Protection, where he was appointed by Connecticut’s governor to be part of the agency senior leadership team. Mr. Garcia worked previously at Lehman Brothers in the firm’s Private Client group and worked subsequently at two boutique firms before running in Connecticut for Secretary of the State, which led to his gubernatorial appointment.  Mr. Garcia served five years as a councilman on New Haven’s Board of Alders where he chaired its education committee and was a member of the finance and community development committees.  Mr. Garcia volunteers as a Regional Governor for AEPi and as advisor to the Chapter at Yale University, which he helped to found.  He serves on the boards of the Connecticut Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Jewish Federation for Greater New Haven.  In 2015 New Haven Mayor Toni Harp appointed Mr. Garcia to her Taskforce on Community Policing.  Mr. Garcia holds BA and MBA degrees from Yale University, and he lives in New Haven with his wife Magda and their son Daniel.



Scott D. Friedman


Scott D. Friedman has been active in Jewish community leadership since NFTY in high school, and continues volunteering his time as a member of the ritual committee at Congregation Mishkan Israel, and as the Finance and Fundraising co-chair for the Jewish Community Alliancefor Refugee Resettlement (JCARR). 


In addition to his involvement in the Jewish community, Scott is a founding member and co-leader of a number of Progressive Action Networks. These groups work at a local level to advocate for state policy and local actions on healthcare, reproductive rights, and immigration, among other issues important to local CT communities.


Scott works as an independent consultant, designing and implementing patient and healthcare provider analytics for life sciences and pharmaceutical companies. He, his wife Abby, and their dog Rashi, moved to Connecticut in 2014.



Rachel Ledewitz Gordon

Rachel Ledewitz Gordon grew up in the greater New Haven area and was an active member of the Jewish community throughout her childhood, teen years and as a young adult. She served in many capacities in the Jewish community including USY board positions, B’nai Mitzvah tutor, Hebrew School teacher, USY Regional Director, and synagogue Youth Director. During and after graduate school, Rachel spent time living in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City. After 18 years away, she moved back to the New Haven area. She is currently an active member of Temple Beth Sholom. She helped develop a post-B’nai Mitzvah program for teens and serves on the Board at TBS. Rachel lives in Woodbridge with her husband and three children.



Jessica Halprin

Jessica is a native of New Jersey and has called Woodbridge home for the past ten years. A full-time practicing attorney and mother of three girls, Jessica is secretary of the JCC Board, a founding member of the Jewish Business League and of the ADL’s Jewish-Muslim Women’s Dialogue, Jessica also serves as the Risk Management Advisor for the Yale University chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and a member of the Woodbridge Rotary Club, the Small Firm Practice Management Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, and the New Haven County Bar Association. Jessica attended Washington University in St. Louis where she chaired the Academic Integrity Committee and has since twice served as her graduating class’s reunion chair. She earned her law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law where she served as Moot Court team captain.

Oren Kanner

Oren has been involved in Jewish leadership ever since he unsuccessfully tried to start an NCSY chapter in his hometown of Paramus NJ and has been interested in engagement within diverse communities for many years. In 2014 he started a company, Hackathonukah, with his brother, in response to a complete lack of Sabbath-friendly hackathons in the tech world. Oren discovered a passion for coding and development as a student developer at Yale while working on a PhD in Robotics, and has now shifted gears - working as a software engineer managing the student developer program while finishing up his PhD. In his "free" time, Oren works with his wife Tanya on their fledgling design studio in New Haven. He's 4 years into the Daf Yomi (daily Talmud) cycle, and also enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, trying to keep up with his rescue puppy Riley, and playing board/card/any games.


Tanya Kanner

Born in London, bred in Jerusalem, and currently settled in New Haven, Tanya is an Associate Creative Director in Finance, with over 10 years of creative experience working for small and large companies all over the world. She has always worked to combine her love for her Jewish tradition and culture with her passion for making the world a more beautiful place. From establishing a strong social community for Jewish young adults in a university setting to volunteering to improve communications & marketing at her local Jewish institutions, Tanya believes that visual communication is key to successful community engagement. 


Tanya currently lives in Westville with her husband Oren and their rescue puppy Riley​.

Julie Katz

Julie Katz, a native Bostonian, moved to the Greater New Haven area 4 1/2 years ago. She currently serves as the Secretary of the Ezra Academy board of directors and is a member of BEKI. Professionally, Julie focuses on trends and syndicated research for Edgewell, the umbrella company for Schick razors, Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sun care products, and Playtex. Julie lives with her husband Sam and two children in Woodbridge, CT.

Elyse Krantz

Elyse Krantz lives in Southington, CT with her husband and two children – Sadie (3) and Elliot (6). After moving to Connecticut seven years ago, Elyse joined Temple Beth David (TBD) in Cheshire and immediately became involved in the temple’s preschool story time program. Elyse is also active in TBD’s sisterhood and occasionally sings at Shabbat services. Outside of temple, Elyse works as an educational advisor with College Coach, helping high school students and their families through the college application process.

Sami Merit

Sami Merit earned degrees at Smith College and Yale School of Nursing and cared for critically ill patients at Yale New Haven Hospital. She developed continuing education programs for critical care and neuroscience nursing organizations in addition to serving on hospital committees. Her crowning achievements are kids that she is proudly “raising Jewish.” Sami Merit is a mother of three and presently a homemaker in Bethany, Connecticut.

Jessica Savik

Jessica Savik is a marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in digital, direct, and consumer marketing strategy. In her current role at The Hartford, she leads the strategy and execution for various customer communications initiatives, working to improve customer retention, product adoption and the utilization of our digital capabilities. She also currently serves as a member of the JCC of Greater New Haven board for the second year and looks to continue her involvement in the local community. Jessica resides in Hamden with her husband and two daughters, enjoying time as a family through various activities like traveling, skiing, and having fun adventures together.

Lindsey Sussman

Lindsey Sussman lives in Woodbridge with her husband and two daughters.  Originally from New Jersey, Lindsey has been in Woodbridge for six years.  Lindsey is Vice President of Sales Management for OptumRx, a United Health Group Company, and works out of her house with frequent trips to Minnesota.  Lindsey and her family are members of Temple Emanuel in Orange.

Christopher Shafer

Chris and his wife Sarah are long-term members of Temple Beth David of Cheshire and have watched their kids grow from babies to teens as part of that community. Over the years, Chris has served a variety of roles and on several committees, most recently co-chairing TBD's successful search for a new Rabbi! Like many people in temple life, his engagement with the temple has grown over time, and he's always found it to be a consistently rewarding experience. With Yesod, Chris is looking forward to connecting with other communities and learning from them as well. 

Adam Spiewak 

Adam grew up in Orange, CT as a member of Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven, where he became bar mitzvah studying with Rabbi Gerry Brieger. He attended Makom Hebrew High School under Sydney Perry and was confirmed as part of that program.  At Columbia, Adam joined the AEPi Jewish Fraternity and also went on a Birthright Trip to Israel.  He continued onto law school and moved to Los Angeles to practice employment law. More recently, Adam returned with his two daughters to Orange and re-joined Temple Emanuel. Adam have become involved with tikkun olam, including coordinating an annual blood drive, planning to become the co-chair of that committee over the coming summer.

In addition to employment law, which Adam continues to practice from across the country, his interests and training include workplace investigations, mediation, ombuds work, and other forms of dispute resolution and problem solving. Adam have also been accredited as a facilitator for positive discipline programs, which are for parents and educators to learn a positive approach to interacting with children.

Pamela Schrier Teitelman

Pamela Schrier Teitelman Is a Human Resource Consultant and Professional Organizer. She graduated from George Washington with a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia, she began her career in Human Resources at Merrill Lynch. After Merrill Lynch she moved on to Citibank where she was a V.P. of Human Resources in their Private Banking division. She was also affiliated with Nielsen Media and Oxford Health Plans.


She is currently an Independent Human Resource Consultant and Professional Organizer working with small businesses. She volunteers as the co chair of the Household Task Force for JCARR which works on refugee resettlement. She lives in Woodbridge with her husband David and has two adult children. 

Andrew Wildstein

Andrew Wildstein was born and raised in Hamden. He received his undergraduate degree from Connecticut College where he studied government. He then received his law degree from the Hofstra University School of Law. After completing law school, he returned to Connecticut, where he practices with the law firm DanaherLagnese, PC, representing the interests of healthcare providers and healthcare institutions. He now lives in Cheshire with his wife Heidi and their sons Benjamin and Joshua. He is committed to volunteerism and serving the Jewish Community. He and his family are members of Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden.

Yonatan Zamir

Yonatan (Yoni) and his wife Claire Coleman live in Woodbridge with their two young children, they are members of Temple Emanuel. Yoni is a legal services attorney at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA), where his focus is housing. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Yoni served in the U.S. House of Representatives as counsel to a Committee and to a Member of Congress. This work, along with his past experiences as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of New York, as an advocate for consumer rights in Chicago, and as a volunteer with the AmeriCorps national service program, all shaped his view that leadership is rooted in service. Yoni is originally from Chicago, and is an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Hofstra University School of Law.