Jewish Leadership Program Launches Southeast Cohort

The Leadership Commons of The William Davidson School of JTS is proud to announce the inaugural southeast cohort—19 fellows and five mentors— of its Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute (JELI). The purpose of this initiative is to train Jewish professionals and communal leaders according to the JELI model, which focuses on leadership principles, Jewish learning, building community, and personal growth.

JELI-Southeast is an outgrowth of the initial JELI program which was conducted in partnership with JCC Association to train middle and senior managers in JCCs throughout North America to lead through an educational Jewish lens. The success of the first two JELI cohorts led the Leadership Commons to explore ways to reach even more Jewish professionals and communal leaders.  As a result of this exploration, two new programs were created. The first, launched last year, is the JCC Leadership Training Institute (JCCLTI), continuing our partnership with the JCC Association, which trains middle managers to reach executive levels in JCCs in the next five years (you can learn more about JCCLTI here).

The second new program is the inaugural JELI-Southeast cohort, which expands the JELI experience beyond JCCs and helps it reach communities which have opportunities and challenges in common. Ideally this JELI cohort will strengthen Jewish life throughout an entire geographic region. 

In preparing to launch this initiative, the Leadership Commons engaged in conversation with community leaders throughout smaller Jewish communities in the southeast region, and was able to launch JELI-Southeast with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, The Leon Levine Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation, the Amy Mandel / Katina Rodis Fund, and Birmingham Jewish Foundation. The inaugural cohort will convene for its first intensive four-day retreat in Charlotte, NC this November. Under the program direction of Debbie Joseph, the cohort will continue learning through monthly online sessions, two additional four-day retreats, one-on-one mentoring, and project work over the next 18 months.

JELI-Southeast cohort fellows come from 12 different communities and seven states across the southeast region, and represent 11 different types of Jewish organizations, including Federations, JCCs, Hillels, Jewish family services, BBYO, JNF, day schools, synagogues, Moishe House, and more.  In addition to building on the original JELI curriculum, this cohort will study and experience the history and culture of the southeast in order to more effectively lead their communities and collaborate to strengthen Jewish life in this region as a whole.

Click here to learn more about the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute. 


Abbey Cowens, Database and Fundraising Analyst, Memphis Jewish Federation, Memphis, TN

Casey Topol, Senior Director of Programming and Volunteer Engagement, Temple Israel of Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Corie Hampton, Executive Director, Beth David Synagogue, Greensboro, NC

Gabrielle Adler, Southern Regional Manager, Moishe House, Atlanta, GA

Ginny Vellani, Director of Statewide InitiativesNorth Carolina Hillel, Winston Salem, NC

Jacqui Drazen, Community Program Coordinator, Savannah Jewish Federation & Jewish Educational Alliance, Savannah, GA

Jamie Krusch, Director of Student Life and Community Engagement, CharlotteNorth Carolina Hillel FoundationCharlotte, NC

Jesse Feld, Director of Engagement, Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, Richmond, VA

Kara Culp, Engagement Coordinator, Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Kate Smith, Director of the Southeast, Jewish National Fund, Atlanta, GA

Kirby Southerland, Aquatics and Youth Recreation Director, Jewish Educational Alliance, Savannah, GA

Kirsten Robinson, Athletic Director, Levite Jewish Community Center, Birmingham, AL

Madeline Seltman, Director of Engagement, Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill/Levin Jewish Community Center, Durham, NC

Megan Harkavy, Director, Consolidated High School of Jewish Studies of Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Nathan Somers, Director of Jewish Life/Judaic Studies Teacher, The Lerner Jewish Community Day School, Durham, NC

Priscilla Denard, Director of Programs and Events, Levite Jewish Community Center, Birmingham, AL

Ryan Woloshin, Regional Director, Eastern Region, BBYO Eastern Region, Richmond, VA

Sara Chesley, Director, Charleston Jewish Family Services, Charleston, SC

Virginia Brissette Hirshik, Executive Director, Jewish Council of North Central Florida, Gainesville, FL


Rabbi Adam Grossman, University of Florida Hillel, Gainesville, FL

Alina Spaulding, The Spaulding Group, Greensboro, NC

Gary Weinstein, Spertus Institute, Chicago, IL and Charleston, SC

Jane Slotin, Moise Y. Safra Foundation, New York, NY and Savannah, GA

Rebecca Simons, Hillel International, Durham, NC


Debbie Joseph, Program Director, JELI-Southeast

Mark S. Young, Managing Director, Leadership Commons, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of JTS

Sara Hassin, Program Assistant, JELI-Southeast