(Jewish News) Fourteen years after Valley Beit Midrash began in Phoenix, it is making its first out-of-state expansion to Denver, Colorado.
“We researched 10 other major cities, narrowed it down to three and then found there to be the most enormous demand for what VBM has to offer in the Denver Jewish community,” said Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, VBM’s executive director. “We also found amazing similarities between the two communities that could lead to very generative synergies.”
Becca Habalow joined VBM as an engagement director in October to build its Jewish learning and action center in Denver. She is engaging young Jews through new fellowships and building education partnerships, Yanklowitz said.
VBM was established in Phoenix in 2007 in collaboration with Temple Chai with the goal of bringing together a diverse cross-section of the Greater Phoenix Jewish community around Jewish learning. Since then it has also launched a social justice arm.
In Phoenix, the local office is also growing its staff with the addition of Julia Sirota, who joined as a program officer. She is strengthening Jewish young adult engagement through VBM’s learning and social action programs, Yanklowitz said.
Other Jewish organizations in the Phoenix-area, including the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix and Jewish Free Loan, are also welcoming new staffers.
Mara Pernick is the new CEO of the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing and supporting bilateral trade and investment between Arizona and Israel.
Founder and former CEO Leib Bolel will continue to serve as the alliance’s president and board member in addition to his role as a partner of Grayhawk Capital.
“We are delighted to have Mara lead this organization,” Bolel said. “Her passion for both Arizona and Israel combined with her vast experience in working with international companies out of Israel and beyond makes her the perfect fit.”
Pernick has more than a decade of senior management experience, including strategic development and plan execution for Arizona and nationally-based organizations, most recently as executive director of invisionAZ.
To date, the alliance has supported more than 100 Israeli companies seeking to increase ties with Arizona.
“I have witnessed what AITA has accomplished to date as they worked tirelessly to strengthen the connection between Israel and Arizona,” said Pernick. “I look forward to working with its team and board members to continue these outcomes and take the organization forward.”
Mettannah Jacobson joined the JCRC as a communications and public diplomacy fellow. Mettannah is a recent graduate from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she double-majored in sociology and Jewish studies, and minored in history.
“We were looking for people who have been involved on campus and who know what it means to fight for the Jewish community,” said Paul Rockower, JCRC’s executive director. “She really stood out.”
Through Jacobson’s leadership roles within McGill’s Jewish Studies Students’ Association and Jewish Experience Downtown, she has fought for Jewish students on campus in a variety of ways. She helped to strike motions in student government related to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel movement and other initiatives she and her peers felt were antisemitic or discriminatory against Jewish students.
Jacobson said she learned to be judicious about which battles to pick and how to form alliances to make sure “that we are servicing our community and potential community in a very positive and smart way.”
During her fellowship with JCRC, she hopes to continue building her skills in public diplomacy and forming alliances.
“Looking at so much stuff that the JCRC has done, is doing and would like to do, is definitely a very good lesson in how to advocate and interact with different groups in a way that is positive.”
Jacobson is working remotely from Montreal.
Caroline Carriere joined the Phoenix Jewish Free Loan office as its administrative assistant and office manager. She is assisting with day-to-day operations, database management, development and outreach activities.
Carriere is a recent graduate of Arizona State University and a long-standing member of the Jewish community of Greater Phoenix. She has over 10 years of experience volunteering and working in Jewish nonprofit organizations, including with the Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University, the Martin Pear Jewish Community Center Early Childhood Center, Camp Daisy and Harry Stein and the Mark L. Haberkorn Religious School at Congregation Beth Israel. JN
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