Elana Rivel is an experienced leader of nonprofit Jewish educational organizations. Rivel previously worked at JLV for over 12 years, last serving as its Associate Director.
Rivel has served as a leader in Jewish nonprofit organizations ranging from Camp Ramah in the Poconos, Penn State Hillel, Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, TX, and most recently as Director of Ramah Day Camp, Philadelphia. In her tenure at JLV, Rivel helped to develop and manage numerous innovative initiatives that became national models, such as One Book, One Jewish Community, jkidphilly and LeV: Getting to the Heart of Jewish Education.
Chief Program Officer
Gabby and her husband Fred live in Elkins Park and have two children, George and Jeremy, and a black rescue Saluki, Odin. She loves to cook, take nature walks and play on Pinterest! She and her family are part of the Mishkan Shalom community. Gabby is an experienced Jewish educator, having worked as an education director, curriculum writer, teacher, author, and youth director/advisor in various capacities for over 20 years. At Jewish Learning Venture, she works as the Chief Program Officer and directs Whole Community Inclusion. Gabby is a proud recipient of the 2022 Covenant Award. Her most recent book, The Little Gate Crasher, is a memoir of her great-uncle, who overcame society’s prejudices about dwarfism to lead a remarkable life. She has also written The Kitchen Classroom, a children’s cookbook designed for children of all abilities. Gabby holds a B.F.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Chief Development Officer
Rhona Gerber brings more than two decades of nonprofit and political fundraising expertise to her role as Chief Development Officer, recently spending six years as Development Director of CeaseFirePA, a statewide gun-violence prevention organization. Long committed to the Philadelphia Jewish community and particularly to Jewish education, Rhona was the founding chair of the BZBI preschool and was active on many committees at Kohelet Yeshiva, PJDS, JBHA, and Mekor Habracha. She is Chair of the Center City Kehillah.
Lisa has worked with Jewish educators across North America to bring Jewish values alive through reading and play. Over the past 8 years as Director of PJ Goes to School, an initiative of PJ Library, she worked with over 500 schools and 1500 classrooms to develop materials and workshops to help educators reflect and focus on creating environments that inspire the entire family’s interest in living Jewishly.
Lisa previously worked with JCC Association as co-creator of An Ethical Start, a program to excite children, family, and staff about learning Jewish values via classical Jewish text.
Lisa is also a composer and director of musical theatre. She has a BA/BS from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Ed. from Gratz College.
Director, PJ Library in Philadelphia
Dr. Robyn Cohen is the Director of PJ Library Philadelphia and jteenphilly. She and her husband are the proud parents of four wonderful jkids!
Director, jkidpride, PJ Our Way Engagement, and Graphic Design
After spending over 15 years as an English Professor, Robin joined Jewish Learning Venture so that she could contribute to enriching the lives of families in the Philadelphia Jewish community. Originally from Boston and having earned a B.A. from Wheelock College and an M.F.A. from Emerson College, Robin is a jkidphilly parent who also teaches the K-1 Bonim class at Temple Sholom in Broomall. She lives in Media with her wife and their son.
Director jkidphilly, POC Engagement
Julia Weekes is an educational management leader, educator, and artist. Julia has over thirty years of experience in leadership and management, professional development, arts education, integrated curriculum development, early childhood education, project-based learning, cooperative learning, and progressive education practices. She also has decades of experience in family engagement through her various roles in school, institutional, and community-based education.
Julia is a Philadelphia-area native and resides in the Mt. Airy section. She is the mother of two Black biracial teenage sons, Judah and Isaiah. Julia has been a congregational school teacher at Mishkan Shalom for over ten years. She has integrated her secular education knowledge and training into her congregational education role, creating classroom communities that focus on kindness, creativity, and collaboration.
char brings more than 6 years of experience working within informal Jewish education, with a focus on connecting with Jewish history and engaging in cross-cultural learning. Previously, they were a museum educator at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. They hold an M.A. in Public History and a B.A. in Religion from Temple University.
Alanna Raffel, OTD, OTR/L
Whole Community Inclusion Specialist
Alanna Raffel, OTD, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and accessibility consultant. She graduated from the University of Maryland with dual degrees in Psychology and Dance and from Thomas Jefferson University with a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. Alanna has worked as an occupational therapist in acute rehab, early intervention ages 3 to 5, outpatient, and school-based settings. Alanna has facilitated accessibility in a variety of ways including autism-friendly Broadway performances in New York City, open captioning at People’s Light in Malvern, and organizing mapping events to collect data on physical accessibility. Her company, Access Point, strives to increase inclusion in Philadelphia and beyond by advocating for access, creating solutions, and promoting awareness of accessible opportunities for people with disabilities and their friends and family.
Parent Ambassador, Chester County
Ashley Wick lives in Malvern with her husband and three children. She has a background in Fine Art, works as a doula and community health worker, and is continuing her education to become a nurse. Ashley has lived in the Philadelphia area for over 10 years and loves exploring all that this wonderful region has to offer. In her free time she loves to spend time with her family and friends, cook, paint, and explore Chester County’s hidden gems. She is thrilled to be Chester County’s Parent Ambassador and meet other Jewish families in the area!
Parent Ambassador, Lower Bucks County Area; Coordinator, Get Together Grants; Social Media Manager
Bari is the Parent Ambassador for the Lower Bucks County area, Coordinator, Get Together Grant and Social Media Manager. Bari enjoys planning events, creating Jewish community, teaching, and sharing all of the wonderful opportunities Jewish Learning Venture has to offer! She and her husband have two wonderful children. Bari has a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor’s degree in Sports and Recreation Management.
Parent Ambassador, Doylestown
Dawn Haaz is excited to serve as a Parent Ambassador for the Doylestown area. She and her husband are natives to Doylestown and have a toddler, Noah. Dawn is also a licensed psychologist and Founder and CEO of Girls Empowered.
Parent Ambassador, Plymouth Meeting Area
Donna received her undergraduate degree from Penn State University and is a project manager. During her free time, she loves enjoying the outdoors with her family, traveling, yoga, and biking. She has 2 young boys and they are excited to become more involved in the Jewish community and to meet other Jewish families in the area.
Parent Ambassador, Center City
Jessica Tropea is excited to join as the new parent ambassador for Center City, Philadelphia. As a mom of two young kids who has moved around often, she knows what it’s like to look for commonality and inclusion. About 6 years ago, she settled in Philadelphia and is thrilled to welcome other parents to the area and bring families together.
Parent Ambassador, jkid4all
Sarah Kolker is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Moore College of Art where she got her Master’s in Art Education. She grew up making art in after school and summer programs. Teaching art since 2004, she has continued making and teaching art to youth of all ages. Her personal passions have brought her to study health and wellness practices in Jamaica, the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Kolker currently teaches with Mural Arts in Philadelphia, also her hometown, which is the nation’s largest public art program that engages the community to ignite change through mural-making.
Parent Ambassador, Delaware County
Stephanie is excited to be a parent ambassador in Delaware County! She and her husband have a toddler son and baby daughter and she works as a pediatric physical therapist. Stephanie is looking forward to meeting and connecting young families in the area.