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Meet the Yahel Team

Dana Talmi
Executive Director

Born in England and raised in the Netherlands and Israel, Dana has over 15 years of experience working in the fields of experiential education and service learning. She started her career as a tour-guide in Israel in Hebrew, English and Dutch. After working for several years as a tour guide throughout Israel, Dana moved to the United States and continued her involvement in Jewish education. She was an educator at the Teva Learning Alliance and a teacher at the Florence Melton School. In 2002, Dana led her first service learning trip to Honduras and the Ukraine with American Jewish World Service (AJWS). For the next few years, she continued leading service learning programs for Jewish college students. In 2005, she joined the AJWS staff and was responsible for hiring, training and managing group leaders for service-learning trips to Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2007 Dana returned to Israel with her family and soon after, founded Yahel – Israel Service Learning. Dana holds a B.A. in Israel studies from Bar-Ilan University and an M.S.W. with a focus on community organizing and group work from the University of North Carolina. Dana loves living in Zichron Ya’akov with her husband and three children. She currently serves on the board of Atzum – Justice Works as well as the Keshet Pluralistic and Democratic School in Zichron Yaakov.

Dana Talmi
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Rebecca Avera
Director of Operations and Projects

Rebecca Avera is a former Jewish Agency Israel Fellow at Las Vegas Hillel and Hillel at Stanford. Rebecca was born in 1986 and is a native of Haifa in Northern Israel. Rebecca's parents moved to Israel from Ethiopia during "Operation Moses" in 1984.


During her Army service, she was stationed at several checkpoints throughout the West Bank, working to prevent terror attacks in Israel. After the army, Rebecca decided to follow her dream by enrolling in the IDC Herzliya as a Government Diplomacy and Strategy student.  During her time at IDC, Rebecca had the privilege to take part in a delegation of seven students to be in South Africa during "Israel Apartheid Week."  Rebecca and her cohort worked on campuses throughout South Africa to make the case for Israel.


Rebecca spent two months volunteering at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and has traveled to England to speak with communities, students, and individuals about her Jewish identity as an Ethiopian-Israeli student.

Rebecca Avera
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Tomer Elyasyan 
Director of the Yahel Social Change Fellowship

Tomer was born and raised in Jerusalem in an orthodox Jewish family. At the age of 18, he decided to set out on a different path and now identifies as a formerly orthodox individual. His passion for groups and their potential to influence and positively impact lives was sparked during his participation in an academy for leadership, where he initially took part as a participant and later became a group coordinator.

He holds a Bachelor's Degree in informal education and a teaching certificate from Oranim College. Tomer has extensive experience as a group facilitator, working with both youth and adults. For the past few years, he has been dedicated to serving in a non-profit organization that assists individuals coping with social anxiety disorders and social difficulties.

In recent years, Tomer has dedicated himself to guiding individuals who have left the orthodox and ultra-orthodox lifestyles, providing support and education in areas related to intimacy, relationships, and sexual health.

Maya Opedisno
Maya Opedisno
Director of Finance

Maya graduated from the Faculty of Economics academic track and Accounting (B.A) at Ruppin College, with honors. Maya provides several Economics and Accounting services to governmental bodies and business companies in Israel. Maya lives in Karkur, is married with four children and loves to dance.

Bridget Gottdank
Marketing and Recruitment Manager

Bridget grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She’s always had a passion for service and advocacy work, volunteering in local non-profit events and campaigns throughout high school & college. Raised in an interfaith household, Bridget connected to her Jewish background on her own, specifically through the lens of Tikkun Olam. She joined Yahel’s Onward Israel Social Justice and Community Service's summer internship in 2019 in Haifa. Bridget’s summer with Yahel gave her the space to explore the difficult topics concerning Israel, international relations, conflict, and society. When she returned home, she finished her bachelor's degree in political science focused on public policy from the West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Inspired by her experience with Yahel, Bridget wrote her senior thesis on Religious Nationalism versus Democracy, examining the blurred lines of the declaration and laws of the State of Israel.

Bridget is delighted to continue her work with Yahel by forming personal connections with potential fellows as they enter into the world of sustainable social change in Israel. She currently lives in Tel Aviv and enjoys photography, yoga, and spending time outside.

Bridget Gottdak
Rachel Pomeranz
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Lod
Racheli Pomeranz

Racheli was born and raised in Petah Tikva, but has been living in Lod for the past 7 years. Racheli first came to Lod as an instructor for a children’s club during her national year of service and stayed in Lod ever since. Since then, Racheli has been living and working in Lod with diverse populations and communities including children, teens, and the elderly. Racheli is passionate about real and honest collaboration between different communities and perspectives. As a resident of Lod, Racheli admires the Yahel fellows who take a year away from their everyday lives to volunteer and learn about Israel. Racheli is looking forward to watching the growth of our fellows and the improvements in the city through volunteer placements and connections during the fellowship.

Shoshana Wassy

Shoshana was born in Nahariya, a city on the northern coastline of Israel, to Ethiopian parents who emigrated to Israel 30 years ago. Shortly after she was born, her parents moved to Rishon LeZion where she has lived ever since. Shoshana has been actively involved in the Youth for Change movement in Rishon LeZion which is a nationwide group for youth that focuses on personal development and community growth through local volunteering, activities, and community engagement. Shoshana has been looking for a job with more meaning and is happy to have found just that with Yahel.

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Shoshana Wassy
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Rishon LeZion
Alona Pomanski
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Haifa

Alona Pomanski grew up in Ma'alot, a small city in the north of Israel surrounded by beautiful nature. During her time in high school, she joined an after-school program at The Center for Humanistic Education, a center that educates and promotes the understanding of humanistic and democratic values.  The Center for Humanistic Education left a lasting mark, teaching Alona about kindness, tolerance, empathy, patience, and being open to understanding different cultures and people. Alona obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Communications at Max Stern Jezreel Valley College. She later took independent courses in Graphic Design and went on to spend several years working in sales and Facebook marketing for advertising companies. When Alona found Yahel, she was looking for a new direction and was delighted about the opportunity to support social change initiatives in Israel. Alona currently lives with her partner in Kiryat-Motzkin, a city in the district of Haifa. Her hobbies include drawing, traveling, graphic design, and film and video editing. Alona is a curious person and loves to constantly learn new things. 

Gabrielle Richards
Alumni Coordinator

Gabrielle Richards grew up in the hills of Vermont and moved to Ottawa, Canada on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe peoples to study Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Ottawa. While in Ottawa, Gabrielle had the privilege of working with First Nations communities in climate change and health to support Indigenous stewardship of their lands.


In an effort to work more closely with her own community, she moved to Jerusalem for the summer of 2019 to work with Kids4Peace, an interfaith youth dialogue movement that she has been involved with since childhood. Upon her return to Ottawa, Gabrielle helped start a JTeen program for Jewish teens to support their learning about, and taking action, on social justice issues. She is also a passionate yogi and certified 200hr Yoga Teacher. Gabrielle is a recent alum of the Yahel Social Change Fellowship where she taught English, worked with The Abraham Initiatives, volunteered at a garden and ran community programming.  

Daniel Cohen
Coordinator of Short Service Experiences

Daniel was born and raised in the United States and moved to Israel after graduating from Rice University with a degree in Linguistics and Cognitive Sciences, and a minor in Jewish Studies. Raised in a mixed American-Israeli family, Daniel took an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian context and wider Middle East while at university, where he studied Hebrew and Arabic and researched Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with former peace negotiator, Gilead Sher. 

After finishing his studies, Daniel came to Lod on the Yahel Social Change Fellowship to better understand the Israeli reality on the ground and to learn firsthand about work addressing the country’s challenging socio-cultural divides. He also spent time in Amman, Jordan at EcoPeace Middle East, a trilateral Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian NGO promoting environmental peacebuilding in the region, and he has continued to work with EcoPeace since returning to Tel Aviv. Daniel is grateful to reconnect with Yahel’s community-based service as a staff member, continuing to grow cross-cultural connections through joint action.

Alona Pomanski
Gabrelle Richards
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Rabbi Levi D. Lauer
Judaism and Social Justice

Rabbi Levi D. Lauer is the Founder and Executive Director of ATZUM (Avodot TZdaka U’Mishpat) Justice Works. His professional background includes Hillel Director at the University of Missouri; 18 years as Executive Director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies; Dean of the Brandeis-Bardin Camp Institute; and Director of Rabbinic Enrichment at the Shalom Hartman Institute.


Rabbi Lauer is a pioneer educator and social activist bringing contemporary social concerns to synthesis with traditional Jewish practice and study. His commitment to make social justice a priority of Jewish devotion led him to found ATZUM-Justice Works in 2002 to address glaring social injustice and bring assistance to Israelis disadvantaged by inadequate access to public and private protection. 


Under his leadership, ATZUM developed and implemented the following projects: the Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror to provide educational and other practical assistance to terror survivors/victims and their families; the Righteous among the Nations Project to assist the rescuers of Jewish lives during the Shoah who made their home in Israel; Project Abrah, an innovative oral history film project documenting testimonies of Ethiopian “Prisoners of Zion” as recorded by Israeli high schoolers; Beit Midrash TAKUM marrying Jewish learning with activist engagement; the Project for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (ATZRAS) which supports single mother asylum seeker families in Israel; and The Task Force on Human Trafficking and Prostitution (TFHT) which recently made substantial progress combating sex slavery in Israel by securing Knesset passage of Nordic Law legislation criminalizing the purchase of sexual services and rehabilitating the prostituted person. 


Rabbi Lauer is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and has lived in Israel since 1976 with his wife, Chaya (Z"L); two daughters, Amira and Anya; and two grandchildren. He served 11 years in a reserve, combat, artillery unit of the IDF.

Levi Lauer
Daniel Cohen
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Maayan Sharet
Hebrew Teacher

Maayan Sharet was born and raised in the city of Jaffa and currently resides there. Her Hebrew journey started during her military service, where she served as a teacher for Brazilian immigrants. She later worked at a private ulpan in Tel-Aviv as a teacher didactic supervisor and head of the distant-learning unit. Maayan is currently developing her own Hebrew-learning books, wishing to help people connect to the beautiful Hebrew language as well as to its added spiritual and philosophical values. 

Maayan holds a BA in filmmaking and scriptwriting from Tel-Aviv University, and is a graduate student in the program of Spanish and Latin-American studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has great interest in the arts, feminism, diverse methods of education, Buddhist practices and languages, and is deeply invested in exploring innovative and diverse approaches to multidisciplinary research, as well as developing tools and systems that may broaden and deepen fields and communities of knowledge.

Maayan Sharet

Lauren is originally from the Uk. She has qualifications in Clinical Social Work, Psychology, Trauma/PTSD and Polyvagaltheory. She has worked in a variety of settings and countries around the world. For the past 7 years she has worked as a therapist in Tel Aviv, as well as offering support and training to a number of MASA/Gap Year programs.

Mental Health Consultant
Lauren Isaacs
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Lauren Isaacs
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