Avram Mandell

Executive Director and Founder

avram@tzedekamerica.org

Avram Mandell is a dynamic educator and respected member of the national Jewish community.

He brings over 20 years of experience developing and leading educational programs for Jewish children and teens. Avram aspires to create high-impact immersive programs that engage young adults in Jewish learning in a fun and relevant way and inspire them to incorporate Jewish values in their everyday lives.

Past Experience

Avram served as Director of Education at two major Reform congregations, most recently Leo Baeck Temple, a 600-family congregation in Los Angeles, California from 2004-2014. At Leo Baeck, he was responsible for all congregational learning, including a supplemental religious school, adult education, early childhood education, post-B’nai Mitzvah studies, and national service opportunities. Prior to joining Leo Baeck, he spent three years as Education Director at Temple Beth El, a 1,200-family synagogue in San Antonio, Texas.

Avram also brings youth group and camp experience, and once served as Assistant Director of the Union of Reform Judaism Camp Harlam and the regional advisor to the Pennsylvania High School Youth Group, NFTY-PAR.

Education and Training

Avram holds a Master of Arts degree in Jewish Education (MAJE) from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles, CA and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Miami University.

Professional Service

Avram served as co-chair of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) and was elected to the board of the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE) from 2007-2009. He was a 2010 Pellie Technology Fellow and a 2013 PresenTenseLA Fellow. Avram is a frequent speaker on experiential education, Hebrew language acquisition, teen engagement, and technology in the classroom. He is the creator of two popular Hebrew learning apps and an award-winning Jewish radio station.

Avram authored “Carry Over the Feelings and Practices of Passover” (Reform Voices of Torah, April, 2011); “Derech HaLimud – The Way to Study” (The Hebrew Project, July, 2010); and “Funny Man”, Still Small Voice: Reflections on Being A Jewish Man (URJ Press, 2007).

Avram was named the 2016 RHSOE ALUMNI-IN-RESIDENCE Educator for the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.

Personal

Avram brings many of his passions to Jewish education, including camping, improvisational comedy, music, and service. He is married to Abby Fifer Mandell, MAEd, Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, and is the proud father of two children, Shai and Bo.

Sandy Irani

Director of Operations

sandy@tzedekamerica.org

Sandy Irani has been producing enriching events and gatherings for more than 15 years providing a meaningful platform for people to share their stories. Her background is mostly centered around community programming in the worlds of music and art. She has worked with organizations including Sofar Sounds, The Wild Honey Pie, The Resident Collective, and Acoustic Night New York. She is also an artist who has focused the last few years on travel photography and illustrating ketubbot, which you can see on her website.

Education and Training

Sandy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College. While attending Sarah Lawrence, Sandy worked as the Social Action Tikkun Olam teacher for the Temple Israel of Great Neck’s Youth House in New York, where she was an active member as a student. In her youth, Sandy found her own connection to Judaism through social action and social justice-related programs, many of which she was organizing herself as the president of several different service clubs through USY, Rotary International, and the Youth House. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2014 to be closer to her growing family, Sandy has worked as a volunteer coordinator, a retreat counselor, and a mentor hoping to educate and inspire young minds outside of the classroom.

Personal

Sandy can be seen most nights at a concert, a storytelling event, or seeking out unique experiences around Los Angeles. She loves to travel and is always down for a 90s night.

Amy Shapiro-Kessler

Mitzvah Project Central Coordinator

amy@tzedekamerica.org

Amy Shapiro-Kessler is a social worker and educator. Amy’s work combines her love for Judaism, her professional & educational background, with her deep passion for making this world a more equitable, loving, and just place.

Experience

Amy loves working with children, teens, and their families. She has served as director of a foster care program for a large non-profit organization. Amy also ran a County-wide therapeutic recreation program for children 5-18 years old, which focused on the arts and sports as ways to integrate children into their communities, build on successes, and grow each young person’s sense of confidence.

Amy has worked in religious schools for over 20 years and has taught every grade, including many B’nei Mitzvah students. She has been Director of Education at Greenburgh Hebrew Center in Dobbs Ferry, NY since July 2015. One of her favorite parts of the job has always been working with her B’nei Mitzvah students as they explore what they are passionate about, and bring a mitzvah project they are invested in, to fruition. Amy is thrilled to bring her experience and energy to Tzedek America as Mitzvah Project Central Coordinator.

Education and Training

Amy traveled after high school for a year, working her way through Eastern and Western Europe.  When she returned, she graduated summa cum laude in three years with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from  Purchase College – SUNY. Amy began working in the non-profit world and received her Masters degree in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work (Hunter College) in 2005.  It included a dual concentration in Administration and Community Organizing, with a specialization in Children and Families.  

Personal

Amy lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY with her two children, and rescue dog and bunny. In her free time, Amy enjoys relaxing on her deck with a cup of tea and a good book, creating neighborhood scavenger hunts, road trips, running, and any and all outdoor adventures.

Anne Hromodka

Los Angeles Program Educator

anne@tzedekamerica.org

Anne Hromadka Greenwald is an art consultant, curator, and educator. When she is not planning exhibitions, she has been teaching children in both formal and informal settings for over twenty years.

Experience

Anne spent a decade working at JCC Ranch Camp in Colorado, piloted an after-school arts program in Dallas, creates annual, full-day immersive holiday programming for synagogues in LA, and has taught religious school classes that incorporate creative, project-based learning for hundreds of children.

Education and Training

Anne holds a BFA in Printmaking and an MA in Nonprofit Management and Curatorial Studies.   

Personal

She is married and is a mom to a precocious, 2 year old.

Adrianne Pasternak

Civil Rights Program Educator

adrianne@tzedekamerica.org

Adrianne Pasternak is a Jewish educator, birth and postpartum doula and life cycles rabbi with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership.

Experience

Adrianne began her career in the early childhood classroom as a teacher and then assistant director before earning her Master’s degree in education. She served as an assistant Religious School director and spent 13 years as a Director of Education, directing both a supplemental religious school and early childhood center. Adrianne is widely known for her innovative and creative experiential curricula and outside-the-box programming for students ages 18 months through 12th grade and their families. Adrianne also facilitates adult education, art classes, and family retreats. She serves as an Outdoor Classroom consultant and teaches school administrators how to grow their communities, build strong long-term relationships and optimize learning potential.

In 2020 the world changed, and Adrianne welcomed this opportunity to expand her knowledge and skills by becoming a certified birth and postpartum doula. Adrianne now helps expectant parents prepare for birth and beyond, calling on her three decades of experience as an educator and caregiver to nurture new families. 

As a spiritual leader, Adrianne officiates life cycle events and creative rituals grounded in Jewish tradition, provides pastoral care, and leads health and wellness workshops. She fosters strong relationships and helps others renew and reinvigorate their connection to Judaism in personal and meaningful ways.

Education and Training

Adrianne holds Bachelor’s degrees in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Literature and a Master’s degree in Education (MaED) from  American Jewish University. She is a certified birth and postpartum doula and, in January 2022, will be ordained as a rabbi through the Aleph Ordination Program.

Professional Service

Adrianne served for two years as co-chair of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) Principal’s Council and was elected to the board of the Jewish Educators Assembly where she served as a trustee for over 5 years. She is a graduate of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI), was a 2013 PresenTenseLA Fellow, and a member of the 2019-2020 cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI). She also holds teaching certificates from Moving Traditions, Facing History and Ourselves, and Rhythm and Ruach.

Personal

Adrianne is passionate about creating loving and inclusive communities, crafting, spending time in nature and, most of all, being a loving wife and mother to her husband and four children.