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Board

Lauren Korngold Merkin

Chairperson

Served as a Trustee on the AVI CHAI Board for 27 years and as a member of the Executive Committee for 15 years.  Lauren worked closely with the TaL AM program developers after it was launched as a printed 1st Grade curriculum. TaL AM’s innovations and comprehensive approach to teaching Judaics and Hebrew proved to be an immediate success in day schools around the world, and confirmed the need for a full Grade 1-5 program.  With Lauren as the Board’s steward, AVI CHAI funded the development of TaLAM and later the iTaLAM program from 1999 until the Foundation’s close, by then the program had been reimagined as a sophisticated, technologically advanced blended-learning curriculum.  Lauren is delighted to have had the opportunity for more than two decades to have been a thought partner with iTaLAM’s inspiring, visionary leaders, and to continue to explore with them improvements and new areas of impact.

 

A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s MBA Program, Lauren worked for CBS and as Managing Editor of Elsevier Science Publishing Co. in the United States. In addition to her deep involvement with AVI CHAI, she serves on the Boards of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, and American Friends of the Israel Museum.

 

A day school graduate, she has four children and two grandchildren, and lives with her husband, Ezra, in New York City.

Ilan Goldberg

Secretary

Co-founder, member of the board and acts as the COO of Compedia, responsible for the operation and projects management in the company ensuring they meet their targets on time and on budget. Ilan is also involved in marketing and business development, and manages the relationships with strategic clients. Ilan has been managing many large-scale projects operations of Compedia’s main projects encompassing AR/VR, Learning Management Systems (LMS), Mobile Educational Apps, and Advanced Gamification Virtual Worlds for Learning, and various products based on the company systems and platforms including gaming and learning solutions for education and healthcare. He has a degree in Practical Engineering from Tel Aviv University. Ilan has managed projects for various platforms including online virtual worlds; an interactive TV channel project; projects for Nintendo platform and many others.

 

Ilan is very passionate about using digital tools for teaching and learning, especially in the Jewish world. Ilan was involved in several projects related to teaching Hebrew, the Bible and Jewish traditions before joining iTaLAM. Ilan was personally involved in all the stages conceptualizing, designing and implementing the migration of TaL AM into the digital world, and is still deeply involved in the technological side of iTaLAM.

Tova Shimon

Director

Tova Shimon is the visionary founder of the organization dedicated to the development and implementation of state-of-the-art curricula for Jewish studies in Hebrew for Jewish day schools in the Diaspora. She is the originator and main author of the TaL SeLA Hebrew Language Arts Curriculum and the TaL AM Hebrew and Jewish Studies Curriculum. She has organized and led several international think tanks for curriculum development, and numerous institutes for curriculum writers, school leaders and teachers to facilitate the development and implementation of the curricula. In collaboration with the AVI CHAI Foundation, Tova worked diligently to develop the succession of writers and leadership, funding, and design of iTaLAM, the new blended version of the curriculum. She serves on the Board of Directors of iTaLAM, continues to be involved with the iTaLAM team and consults schools in the process of localization and implementation of the programs.

 

In recognition of her leadership and exemplary work in curriculum development and implementation which has changed the standards, practice and outcomes of Hebrew Jewish education in day schools around the world, Tova received the Yaakov Zipper Award for outstanding professional contribution to Jewish education )1987(; the Safra Authors Award from the Educators’ Council of America )1989(; the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators from the Crown Foundation )1992(; the Community Service Award from Montreal’s FEDERATION CJA )2007); and the Exemplary Educator Award under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Education.

 

Following five decades of professional life dedicated to Jewish Education, Tova retired in August 2018, and is now dedicating time to her three children, their spouses and 11 grandchildren, and to pursue fields of interest that she has put on hold due to the demands of her work. Tova enjoys learning, working and traveling with Shlomo, her partner in life and at work, who has shared and proactively supported her curricular enterprises from their inception.

Joel Einleger

Vice Chairperson

Was Senior Program Officer for the AVI CHAI Foundation, where he worked for 22 years.  Joel became an enthusiastic supporter of TaL AM as soon as he arrived at the foundation, and served on the TaL AM board since 2003 and the iTaLAM Board, concurrently, while the blended learning model was developed.  His commitment to the organization and program continues today even after the close of AVI CHAI.  

 

Before joining the Foundation, Joel earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and spent 20 years in finance and marketing positions for Pan Am, the New York Times and Pioneer Electronics, and ultimately became president of a national marketing services company, which he helped take public in 1996.  He lives in NYC with his wife Miriam Westheimer, an educational consultant.  Joel’s younger child, Leora, learned Hebrew and Judaics using the TaL AM program at her day school.  As a first grader, she accompanied Joel on a trip to a TaL AM Board meeting in Montreal, sharing opinions about her favorite characters from TaL AM’s virtual classroom with the Trustees.

 

Professionally, Joel advises families on their philanthropic strategies and programs, and in addition to iTaLAM, serves as a voluntary advisor for colleagues at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the National Ramah Commission, the Institute for Experiential Jewish Education, and Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.

Ronit Holtzman

Director

Ronit Holtzman is the Senior Vice President, Philanthropy & Planned Giving and Endowments of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Ronit  oversees the fundraising, financial management and administration of the Foundation.  The Jewish Foundation plans and implements fundraising, marketing and information programs all designed to engage donors in philanthropy.  Ronit is responsible for working with the Foundation Board of Directors, Trustees and the Investment Committee and the management of more than $650 million in assets and planned gifts. Under Ronit’s guidance the Jewish Foundation has grown to more than 1500 charitable and endowment funds and an additional 700 planned givers.

 

Ronit Holtzman was raised in Montreal and is a product of the Jewish Day School system. Ronit has a Bachelor of Arts from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, an M.S.W. from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in Modern Jewish History from the Baltimore Hebrew University.   She was a FEREP Award (Federation Executive Recruitment Education Program) recipient and attended the Baltimore Institute (now the Darrel D. Friedman Institute) for Jewish Communal Service.

 

Ronit is married to Joseph and they have two children, Joshua and Talia.

Shoshi Becker

President

Shoshi is CEO of iTaLAM. She has 25 years of experience in managing Jewish educational organizations in Israel and developing innovative programs for teaching Hebrew and Jewish heritage. The programs she oversaw and managed dealt with teacher training, developing formal and informal curricula aimed at connecting young people in Israel and in the Diaspora to the Hebrew language and their Jewish identity. She is responsible for iTaLAM’s educational programming, administration and finances, outreach, and initiatives for the future development of iTaLAM. Shoshi holds a BA in Education and History of the Jewish People, MA in History from Bar-Ilan University, and a degree in Graphic Design from the Technion.

 

Shoshi has managed iTaLAM since 2014. During this period, she has led the organization in its transition from TaL AM to iTaLAM, managing a team of approximately 40 employees, working on the program’s development, design, production, and implementation over the course of five years. Thanks to the efforts of both the board members and the dedicated iTaLAM staff, iTaLAM has established itself as a leader in Jewish heritage and Hebrew education throughout the Jewish world.

Jason Cury

Director

Mr. Cury is the President and Chief Executive Officer of both the Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Life Monument Funds and the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE).   Gruss Life Monument Funds is one of the world’s foremost foundations that deals exclusively in Jewish philanthropy.  Gruss Life Monument Funds provides annual funding of $15.0 million to more than 400 hundred educational and philanthropic institutions. In addition, the Foundation has made more than 14,000 interest free mortgages to Former Soviet Olim in Israel, and over 100 interest free loans of $500,000 each to Jewish educational institutions throughout the world. The Foundation’s latest initiative is in upgrading secular studies in Yeshivot and Jewish Day Schools through CIJE.  Each day more than 40,000 students in over 200 schools in fourteen states receive the benefits of significantly enhanced curriculum from CIJE.

 

Prior to his current position, Mr. Cury was the Controller of UJA-Federation of New York. Mr. Cury is on the board of trustees of several Jewish Educational institutions.

 

Mr. Cury is a CPA who received an MBA in Finance and Accounting from Hofstra University.

Gil Ilutowich

Director

Gil Ilutowich established Compedia in 1987. Compedia is one of the leading international publishers and developers of interactive educational content for the multi-platform global market. Compedia has over 30 years of experience in developing advanced learning solutions for millions of people in 50 countries and 35 languages. Compedia offers expertise in visual computing, augmented reality, virtual reality, advanced systems, as well as instructional design, and UX.

 

Gil wrote several novels about the holocaust, which become bestsellers. With a degree from Tel Aviv University in Bible and Jewish philosophy, Gil directed Compedia into big projects in Jewish and Bible studies.

 

Gil is involved in philanthropy. He is a board member of the “Spirit of Israel”, a non-profit company that was founded by the Jewish Agency, with a mission to recruit upstanding citizens of Israel and the Israeli business sector for corporate social responsibility along with Jewish communities around the world.

 

Gil was very involved in the transition from TaL AM to iTaLAM, especially in the innovative design and conceptualization of the program. Gil has been instrumental in setting up collaborations between iTaLAM and organizations that support Jewish education in the Diaspora.

Treasurer

Steve Weinberg

Treasurer

Extensive managerial and financial experience primarily in the Entertainment/News/Communications industries.  Senior managerial/financial roles with Newsday, Cablevision/Altice, Private Satellite Networks, CBS and Pan American World Airways. 

 

Currently, as financial consultant for Newsday reporting to the Owner/President, Mr. Weinberg oversees financial and operational aspects of Newsday, Long Island’s leading news operation.  As Senior Vice President with Cablevision/Altice he managed the News 12 operation consisting of seven 24-hour regional news channels, five Traffic and Weather channels and their Interactive group, helping to make it the most watched regional news operation in the New York market.  Previous to that Mr. Weinberg held key positions at CBS, Private Satellite Network, Pan American World Airways and Doubleday Publishing.

 

Mr. Weinberg received a BS in Economics from Brooklyn College and holds a Masters of Business Administration-Finance from New York University.

Advisory Board

David Cohen

David Cohen is Director for Strategy and Research at Sesame Workshop, where he coordinates formative and summative research for domestic television series and outreach projects.  During his 25 years there, David has been involved in the research for numerous television series, including Sesame Street, as well as multiple outreach initiatives:  Talk, Listen, Connect (Sesame Workshop’s outreach initiative for military families with young children), Sesame Street: Little Children, Big Challenges (a project for preschoolers and their caregivers designed to promote resiliency), Sesame Street: Healthy Habits for Life (an initiative to promote nutrition and physical activity among preschoolers and their caregivers), Happy, Healthy, Ready for School (a project designed to promote school readiness), and others. 

 

Before coming to Sesame Workshop, David Cohen studied anthropology at the University of Chicago and continued with graduate studies in anthropology at New York University.  He also taught at the Bank Street College of Education’s Family Center, their mainstreamed day care center, and served as Assistant Producer on Classroom Prodigy, an early online service designed for classrooms.

Shlomo Shimon

After dedicating his entire professional career to Jewish education, Shlomo retired from TaL AM – iTaLAM but continues his involvement in iTaLAM as advisory member of the Board. During his 48 years of his career, he served as Jewish studies classroom teacher in Israel and Canada, director of the Montreal Jewish Education Resource Centre, Executive Director of the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre (Montreal’s central agency for Jewish education) and TaL AM‘s Director of Operations. Along with Tova Shimon, Shlomo is the conceptualizer and initiator of the TaL SeLA Hebrew language arts curriculum, the predecessor of TaL AM and iTaLAM. From the early stages of his career, Shlomo took special interest in curricular innovation and educational creativity and pursued his academic studies in the fields of educational technology and Jewish studies.

 

Shlomo is an avid hiker and gardner. He looks forward to the post COVID era to be able to resume his love of visiting countries that offer hiking and trecking opportunities. Tova and Shlomo are the proud parents Zvi, Zipi and Chavi and their eleven children, all of whom live in Israel.

Joanne Dresner

After teaching English as a Foreign Language for over 10 years and completing a Master of Arts in Education, Joanne spent her career at Pearson for 32 years. She held different editorial and managerial positions to become president of their English Language Teaching (ELT) division, leading a team of 200 people to become the global market leader.  In addition to ELT, she led Pearson’s Latin American education operations with sales of over $100 million. She ultimately became president of Pearson’s Professional Development International, a new service organization that provides research-based training, certification, curriculum development and assessment for teachers and school leaders to improve learning outcomes in countries around the world.

 

Since leaving Pearson in 2014, Joanne has volunteered her expertise in language teaching to launch an English program for the Israeli organization, Shlavim. Shlavim is a non-profit organization established to provide educational services for disadvantaged communities in Israel, offering several layers of critical educational, social and professional support to improve underfunded schools. 

 

Joanne joined the iTaLAM advisory board this year after consulting with the development and marketing teams, and observing their teacher training. She has been impressed with the extraordinarily talented staff and the exceptional program that continues to make an invaluable contribution to Jewish education around the world.

Eli Kannai

Eli Kannai holds a B.Sc. in Computer Sciences from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with emphasis on Mathematics and Jewish Philosophy. Eli has more than 20 years’ experience in educational technology, having served as Director of The Snunit Center for Web Based Learning, one of Israel’s premier e-learning and information architecture incubators. During the years 2000-2002 Eli worked with a private Israeli startup in the field of Knowledge Management.

 

Over the last 18 years till the end of 2019, Eli served as Chief Educational Technology Officer of The AVI CHAI Foundation operating in Israel, North America and the FSU, where he oversees the development of large content websites such as the Piyyut website, 929, Sefaria and Chinuch.org. He was also instrumental in leading varius online and blended learning efforts such as iTaLAM, as well as other technology related projects. Eli is now an independent consultant in the area of digital strategy and educational technology working with past and new clients such as foundations and nonprofits as well as the private sector.