Diane Kaufman Tobin
Diane Kaufmann Tobin is the founder and director of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), a research and community-building initiative that represents the changing landscape of Jewish life. Many Jewish families are ethnically, racially and culturally diverse, reflecting the rich history of Judaism in the Diaspora as well as contemporary realities such as intermarriage, conversion, and adoption. Be’chol Lashon seeks to grow and strengthen the Jewish community through an inclusive global understanding of the Jewish people. Diane Tobin is the author of In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People and co-author of Jewish Family Foundations.
Ms Tobin is also the president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), an independent think tank providing original research and innovative initiatives. Founded by the late Dr. Gary A. Tobin, IJCR has strategic initiatives in three pivotal areas of Jewish life: religious prejudice, philanthropy, and demography.
Ms. Tobin attended the California Academy of the Arts, and prior to joining the Institute in 1991, was the president of a design firm for more than fifteen years, specializing in corporate and non-profit identity, marketing, conferences, and fundraising. She has served as a community leader in a number of Jewish organizations, including president of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 1986-1989. Diane Tobin has six children, Adam, 41; Amy, 37; Sarah, 35; Aryeh, 33; Mia, 30 and Jonah, 15.
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder
Rabbi-in-Residence / Director of Education
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder Ph.D., Be’chol Lashon’s Rabbi-in-Residence and Director of Education, has been involved in Jewish education and leadership for over 30 years. A graduate of Barnard College, she received her doctorate from Yale University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College. The recipient of many grants and fellowships for her work on Jewish food and women’s history, in 2006 she was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, where she developed the pilot curriculum for the JCCA’s adult learning Journeys initiative. A CLAL Rabbi Without Borders fellow, she is a frequent writer and teacher and has taught and published in Europe, Israel, North and South America. She edits Jewish&—Be’chol Lashon’s blog on MyJewishLearning.com—and loves spending time at Camp Be’chol Lashon.
Camp Be’chol Lashon Adviser
Kenny Kahn is an English teacher and football coach at El Cerrito High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in literature, creative writing and poetry and a master’s of education from UC Santa Cruz. He grew up in Richmond, the son of a Jewish mother and black father, played football at El Cerrito High, and returned to El Cerrito and in 2008 become the youngest head coach in school history. In 2012, Kahn received the third Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California’s Award for contribution to the local sports scene as well as being named Oakland Raiders Coach of the Week. Kahn was drawn to the message and mission of Be’chol Lashon, and has been involved since its founding. Kahn moves seamlessly between his black and Jewish worlds, and is exceptional in relating to young Jews navigating their multiple identities.
Rabbi Juan Mejía
Be’chol Lashon Southwest Regional Director
Rabbi Juan Mejía was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1977. When he was 15, he discovered his converso roots and began to explore the history of the secret Jews of Latin America. This process eventually led him to Jerusalem, where he rejoined his people and decided to pursue the rabbinate in order to help others to find their Jewish souls. There he met his wife, Abby Jacobson, also a rabbinical student. Rabbi Mejía holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the National University of Colombia and a master’s degree in Jewish Civilization from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rabbi Mejía dreams of establishing a Yeshiva and Return Center for Conversos in the American Southwest where he can help train the leadership of these new communities both in the U.S. and in Latin America. In the meantime, he teaches classes to conversos in seven countries through his website: www.koltuvsefarad.com.
Rabbi Mejía lives with his wife and daughter in Oklahoma City, OK.
Shahanna McKinney Baldon
Be’chol Lashon Midwest Director
Born and raised in Wisconsin, USA, Shahanna McKinney Baldon is a former classroom teacher who has served in educational leadership roles in Jewish settings including synagogue Education Director and Jewish federation high school program director; and in public school settings as Advanced Academic Programs Director, Family and Community Engagement Director, and Chief Diversity Officer for large public school districts.
Shahanna’s Jewish diversity education and advocacy work has taken many forms: she coordinated the Jewish Multiracial Network family retreat for several years, curated a 2001 museum exhibit on Black Jews, participated in the early years of the Bechol Lashon Think Tank, has taught college courses on Jewish diversity, and has worked with Jewish organizations on college campuses to build intergroup social justice coalitions. She was recently named to lead the work of establishing a future vision for the historic Alliance of Black Jews organization.
Shahanna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Hebrew and Communications Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master’s degree in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is also a proud graduate of Hillel Academy, Milwaukee Jewish Community High School, Hebrew University’s Rothberg School for Overseas Students, and the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Shahanna lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her partner and two children.
Be’chol Lashon Program Manager
Lindsey Newman is the Program Manager at Be’chol Lashon. She received her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. Previously to joining Be’chol Lashon Lindsey worked as a research assistant at a women’s rights organization and as an early childhood educator at a small day school in New York City. In 2011 she spent 6 months living in Tel Aviv and working for Itaach Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice. Lindsey is biracial and adopted and grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. While always a New Yorker at heart, Lindsey is excited to explore her new home in the Bay Area while advancing the cause for Jewish diversity at Be’chol Lashon.
Julia Hernandez Nierenberg
Be’chol Lashon Program Coordinator
Julia Nierenberg is the Program and Speaker’s Bureau Coordinator for Be’chol Lashon. She recently graduated from American University in Washington, DC with a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish Language Studies. She also received her Undergraduate Certificate in Spanish Translation while in college. Julia was born in San Francisco to a Catholic mother and Jewish father. At a young age, Julia was drawn to Judaism after attending camp and religious services and decided to have a Bat-Mitzvah in high school after an exploration of her faith.
Julia’s interests and passions stem from her intersecting identities of being a Jewish Latina. She was first drawn to Be’chol Lashon because of the organization’s emphasis on welcoming Jews of diverse background and educating Jews on our global peoplehood. Her first experience with Be’chol Lashon was the summer of 2015 as an intern where she worked on curriculum building and travel programs.
Julia is excited to be back in the Bay Area and she looks forward to working on existing Be’chol Lashon programming initiatives and contributing innovative ideas for future programming.
Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein
New York Program Coordinator
Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein received his smicha from Yeshiva University. In addition to Be’chol Lashon, works with Carmel Academy and Hazon. He is a founder of The Beis in Washington Heights, a grassroots, intentional, inclusive Jewish community in Washington Heights providing a home for millennials. Isaiah is the product of a mixed-race marriage, and a proud Jew of Color.
Toronto Program Coordinator
Tema Smith is the Manager of Community Outreach and Engagement for Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto’s only Reconstructionist Synagogue. She has formerly held the roles of Programming Co–Chair at Limmud Toronto, Programming Coordinator of Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism, and Project Coordinator of the Canadian National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Tema holds a BA (Hon) in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from Trent University, and was a Master’s student under the Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish Thought at McMaster University. She has also studied as a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The proud daughter of an Ashkenazi Torontonian and a Bahamian New Yorker, Tema is committed to making the Jewish community more accessible to everyone, especially interfaith and interracial families.
Tema became affiliated with Be’chol Lashon in 2012 and is looking forward to securing a foothold for the organization in Canada.
Be’chol Lashon National Outreach Director / New York Regional Director
Lacey A. Schwartz is a film and television director/producer, who has worked with a variety of networks and production companies, including BETJ, @radical.media, Drive Thru Pictures and The Leon Charney Report, on branded entertainment programs, scripted and reality television series, commercials, feature-length documentaries, narrative films, concert films, live performances, added value DVD content and EPKs. Currently, she is producing/directing “Outside the Box,” a documentary which traces Lacey’s upbringing in a white Jewish family, discovery at eighteen that her biological father is Black and personal exploration of her mixed-race identity; all the while exploring her connection to other Black Jews in America.
Originally from Woodstock, NY, Lacey graduated cum laude in 1998 from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Studio Arts and received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003, where she wrote, directed, edited and produced her first two films; Schvartze (2002), a short autobiographical film, and, Legally Black, Brown, Yellow and Red (2003), a feature-length documentary on minority experiences at Harvard Law School.
Previous to her career in television and film production, Lacey worked in corporate, civil rights and entertainment law at the American Civil Liberties Union, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison LLP, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and MTV Networks. She also worked as a New York City Public School teacher teaching math and theater while she DJed on the side for an arts organization, band and private parties.
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu
Be’chol Lashon Rabbinic Fellow
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is a Be’chol Lashon Rabbinic Fellow and the spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. The Abayudaya Jewish community was founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, a local leader who was to be a missionary for the British. However, Kakungulu favored the old testament and following his lead, the community began practicing Judaism and became known as the Abayudaya or “people of Judah.” Rabbi Sizomu is the current leader of the 100-year old Abayudaya community of almost 2,000 Jews living in rural villages in Eastern Uganda. He is the grandson of community elder “Rabbi” Samson and lives near the Moses Synagogue in the village of Nabagogye which he and others from the community’s early 1980s “Kibbutz movement” built with their own hands. Their goal has been to gather what was left of the Abayudaya community back together after the devastating reign of Idi Amin Dada ended in 1979.
As a visionary leader, Sizomu’s dream was to attend a rabbinic seminary to better understand ancient and modern egalitarian Judaism and bring the Ugandan community intomainstream Jewish life. Rabbi Sizomu was awarded a Be’chol Lashon Fellowship in 2003 to attend the five-year Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He returned to Uganda in 2008 as the first native-born black rabbi in Sub-Saharan Africa and opened a Yeshiva to train African teachers and rabbis to serve their ancient and emerging Jewish communities.
Rabbi Sizomu and the Abayudaya Executive Council requested Be’chol Lashon help with long-range planning and financial resource development. Feasibility research led to the design of Abayudaya Community Health & Development Plan. The research confirmed that improving healthcare is a critical need for the Abayudaya and their neighbors. Diseases such as dysentery, amoebas, infections, tuberculosis, and malaria flourish, and HIV/AIDS are prevalent. The community suffers high morbidity and mortality rates. Be’chol Lashon works with the community to improved healthcare and develop sustainable projects. This includes the drilling wells, distributing mosquito nets, and the building of a Health Center and Guest House. The Tobin Health Center, run by the Abayudaya, provides medical services to the Jewish community as well as their Christian and Muslim neighbors, fostering good will and cooperation among the communities, combating anti-Semitism and promoting peaceful co-existence.
As a member of the Be’chol Lashon Speakers Bureau, Rabbi Sizomu travels to the United States every year as an ambassador for the Abayudaya and other emerging communities in Africa. Click here for more information about bringing Rabbi Sizomu to your community.
Director of Development & Strategic Planning
Julian began his career as the executive director of the European Union of Jewish Students in Brussels. In New York, he worked at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Legacy Heritage Fund, Joint Distribution Committee, and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Born in Germany to Colombian parents, Julian is also an award winning writer and photographer who explores Jewish identity and diversity in his work.
Director of Research
Aryeh K. Weinberg is the Director of Research for Be’chol Lashon / the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.. Mr. Weinberg’s core areas of research focus on Jewish identity, philanthropy, as well as anti–Semitism and anti–Israelism in American education. He is co–author of a number of publications including The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in Higher Education, “An Exceptional Nation: American Philanthropy,” and “A Profile of American College Faculty vols. 1 and 2.”
Mr. Weinberg received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies.
Marcella White Campbell
Marcella graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in English. She holds an M.A. in Literature from San Francisco State University, with particular focus on the memoirs of early 20th-century Jewish American women writers. Prior to working with Be’chol Lashon, Marcella was an editor, copywriter, social media and content manager, and marketing consultant with Silicon Valley startups in the parenting and education spaces.
Marcella looks forward to joining Be’chol Lashon’s mission to offer global Jewish learning and resources to students around the world through the Passport to Peoplehood™ curriculum.
A third-generation San Franciscan, Marcella lives in the City with her husband Greg and children Maia and Noah. They are entering their 6th year as a Camp Bechol Lashon family.
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi
Rabbi in Residence
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is a research fellow at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical Academy in Jerusalem and New York. Rabbi Zarchi is the rabbi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco.
Rabbi Zarchi comes from a Hasidic family of rabbis that goes back six generations. Growing up in Brooklyn, he learned Hebrew and Aramaic as soon as he was able to read. He began studying Kabbalah shortly thereafter, at the age of five. He has studied under some of the great Hasidic and Kabbalistic masters. He is one of the foremost experts on the Kabbalah on the West Coast and is a frequent lecturer. Rabbi Zarchi currently teaches classes at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Rabbi Zarchi has traveled to many parts of the world through his involvement in outreach programs. He spent significant time in the Former Soviet Union participating in the synagogue recovery program in the early 1990s.
He presently serves on the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California.
Rabbi Zarchi lives in San Francisco with his wife Chani and their five children.