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.

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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.

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Tamara Gottlieb
Director of Development

Tamara has been involved in informal education and social-change work for the past two decades. After spending several years leading educational programs for youth, students and adults from English speaking countries in Israel, Tamara became involved in Jewish-Arab dialogue work, facilitating Israeli-Palestinian encounter groups at YMCA Jerusalem, Givat Haviva and other organizations. In 2011 Tamara started working as a project manager at Appleseeds Academy, managing technology-based educational programs in disadvantaged communities in Israel. Tamara joined the Yahel team in 2014 as the Director of The Yahel Social Change Fellowship and since 2019 is in the role of Director of Development working to develop new programming, educational content and resources to expand Yahel service-learning experiences in Israel.

Tamara holds a B.A. in Middle East Studies from Ben Gurion University in the Negev and an M.A. in Middle East Studies from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she focused her thesis on Religious Zionism. Tamara also holds a group facilitation certificate from Kollot Banegev at Sapir College. Born in New York and raised in Jerusalem, she now lives in the Western Negev with her family and loves fresh air and unusual conversations.  

 
 
 
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.

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Bridget Gottdank
Recruitment Coordinator

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.

 
 
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Yarden Talias
Director of the Yahel Social Change Fellowship

Yarden was born and raised in Shoham, a town in the Central District of Israel. Yarden's passion for social change and community started at a young age through her involvement in local community organizations and youth movements. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in non-formal education and a certificate in teaching from Beit Berel College. While in college, Yarden was involved with the student body and served as Vice President of the student body for an entire year. In the past decade as an educator, she served as a youth coordinator for the youth center in Shoham, a coordinator for the Choose Tomorrow program on behalf of the Jewish Agency, and a coordinator for new immigrants on behalf of the Ministry of Immigration & Absorption, In recent years, Yarden has been working with children with disabilities through therapeutic horseback riding.

 
 
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Racheli Pomeranz
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Lod

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.

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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.

Shoshana Wassy
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Rishon LeZion
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Mie Shamir
Yahel Social Change Fellowship City Coordinator in Haifa

Born and raised in a dual-nationality household in Denmark, Mie has always felt passionate about human interaction, conflicts - large and small scale - and the meeting of cultures. Growing up, this guided her to seek out alternative paths of education such as studying at international boarding schools in Denmark and participating in different peace education programming. After finishing high school, Mie started spending longer and longer periods of time in Israel volunteering and improving upon her Hebrew, untill she officially moved to Haifa in 2019.

Over the years, she has become increasingly passionate about creating social change in Israel and has dedicated much of her time to exploring histories, dynamics and exciting initiatives taking place all over the country.

She holds a BSc in Anthropology from the University of Copenhagen and an MA in Peace and Conflict Management from Haifa University, and is excited to bring this into play in her role with Yahel.

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Gabrielle Richards

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.  

Alumni Coordinator
 
 
 
 
 
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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.

 
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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.

 
 
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Muki Jankelowitz
Modern Israel

Muki Jankelowitz is a Jewish educator. Over the years he has taught and guided in many different contexts, including teaching and later directing the ”Machon”- Institute for Diaspora Youth Leaders, being Director of Educational Services in the Israel office of the JCC Association and Senior Educator on the JDC Buncher Jewish Community Leadership Program.

 

A licensed Tour Guide since 1993, Muki now works as a freelance guide and teacher in Israel for youth and student Programs, Birthright, Synagogues, Churches and a wide range of Jewish organizations. At the same time he has been involved in Curriculum writing and teacher training team for Nofim project Milken community High School in LA and other content writing projects.

 

Since 1995 he has also been guiding in Jewish Europe and been involved in the preparation of guides and materials.

 

Originally from South Africa, he made Aliya in 1987. He has lived on Kibbutz Tuval, served as a combat medic and today lives in Modi’in with his wife, Mandy, and sons, Shaked and Niv.

 
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Yael Brisker
Nonviolent Communication

Yael Brisker is a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) trainer and mediator, as well as a trained Body Oriented Psychotherapist. In the last eight years she has been teaching NVC skills to early childhood educators in the Israeli Education Department, Palestinian/Israeli youth and mentally and emotionally challenged individuals in “Enosh” a mental health organization. She also holds private sessions for couples and individuals and online courses. Yael had a full time studio creating Fine Metalwork for 20 years that she put on hold to pursue her passion for bringing empathy and compassion to the world. She speaks English fluently having spent most of her childhood in the US. 

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Lauren Isaacs
Mental Health Consultant

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.