Beza Abebe was born in Yabello, Ethiopia, a small town close to the border of Kenya. She grew up in Hawassa and received her LLB from Hawassa University. In 2009, at the age of 23, she moved to Israel and officially made aliyah in 2014. For the last 10 years, she worked in Jewish philanthropic organizations in Israel that strive for the integration, empowerment and equality of the Ethiopian Jewish community. She worked at Tebeka, advocating for the Ethiopian community, and The David Foundation, which works on leadership and education for Ethiopian Jews.
Beza holds a masters in government and diplomacy from IDC Herzliya and a masters in law (LLM) from Tel Aviv University. Beza is currently a SJD doctoral student at Golden Gate University in San Francisco specializing on International law.
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder Ph.D., Be’chol Lashon’s Education Director and a Rabbi-in-Residence, has been involved in Jewish education and leadership for over 30 years. A graduate of Barnard College, she received her doctorate from Yale University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College. The recipient of many grants and fellowships for her work on Jewish food and women’s history, in 2006 she was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. A CLAL Rabbi Without Borders fellow, she is a frequent writer and teacher and has taught and published throughout the world. She edits Jewish&—Be’chol Lashon’s blog on MyJewishLearning.com.
Marcella White Campbell
Marcella graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in English. She holds an M.A. in Literature from San Francisco State University, with particular focus on the memoirs of early 20th-century Jewish American women writers. Prior to working with Be’chol Lashon, Marcella was an editor, copywriter, social media and content manager, and marketing consultant with Silicon Valley startups in the parenting and education spaces.
Marcella looks forward to joining Be’chol Lashon’s mission to offer global Jewish learning and resources to students around the world through the Passport to Peoplehood curriculum.
A third-generation San Franciscan, Marcella lives in the City with her husband Greg and children Maia and Noah. They are entering their 6th year as a Camp Bechol Lashon family.
• A Letter to My Black and Jewish Daughter in Light of the Election, Jewish&, November 17, 2016
Andrew Esensten is a writer and researcher from Pasadena, CA. He majored in African and African American Studies at Harvard, where he sang with the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College. As Be’chol Lashon’s program coordinator in 2009-2010, he traveled to India (see video above) and Uganda for the opening of the Tobin Health Center. He rejoined the Be’chol Lashon team in 2018 after spending four years in Israel. During that time he earned a master’s degree in Middle East and North African history and worked as a reporter at Haaretz English Edition, covering the population of native English speakers.
Andrew researches the Hebrew Israelite movement and is currently writing a book on the history of the African Hebrew Israelite community in Dimona, Israel.
• What Would Historical African American-Jewish Music Sound Like?, Jewish&, October 16, 2018
• Abayudaya Leader to Israelis: “We Are Your Brothers and Sisters”, Jewish&, February 1, 2018
• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Trip to the Holy Land, Jewish&, January 15, 2018
Naomi is a student at the University of San Francisco. She double majors in Pre-Law and International Studies and minors in African studies. Naomi has been an intern at Be’chol Lashon since February. Her interests include making music, doing hair, painting, and spending time with family.
Jada Garrett is a thought leader who is focused on building community through inclusive, engaging and meaningful conversations. She has over a decade of experience in leading large-scale transformation programs and excels in project/change management, culture building and employee experience. No matter which hat she’s wearing, her goal is simple: to empower organizations and thought leaders to build an inclusive culture where diversity of people and thought is welcomed, encouraged and embraced. Jada’s entrepreneurial spirit, alongside her natural curiosity, arms her with the ability to always improve on experiences. She is a firm believer in Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching that you should be the change that you wish to see in this world. With that teaching in mind and her personal experiences of being Black and Jewish, Jada is on a mission to create spaces where all Jews feel represented, appreciated and equal.
Jada lives in Atlanta with her daughter. You can often find her taking long strolls through her neighborhood or at local breweries, hunting for the tastiest craft beer.
Program Coordinator & Diversity Trainer
Shekhiynah Larks is the program coordinator and a diversity trainer at Be’chol Lashon. She holds a BA in politics from the University of San Francisco. She is a native of Oakland and is very involved in Jewish life in the Bay Area.
Rabbi Juan Mejía
Southwest/Latin America Director
Rabbi Juan Mejía was born in Bogotá, Colombia. Raised a Catholic, he converted to Judaism after discovering the powerful beauty and message of Judaism. He holds a degree in philosophy from Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and a Masters degree in Jewish Civilization from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Juan was ordained in 2009 by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He lives in Oklahoma City, where he serves as the Jewish Educator for Emanuel Synagogue. He also serves as Rabbi in Residence for Be’chol Lashon.
Juan is a passionate advocate for converts and making Torah available to all. He has been teaching Torah in Spanish for over a decade through his website, www.koltuvsefarad.com
Director of Community Engagement
Lindsey Newman is the Director of Community Engagement at Be’chol Lashon. Prior to joining Be’chol Lashon, she worked in the fields of women’s rights advocacy and early childhood education, and has dedicated herself to inclusion and diversity in the Jewish community for over a decade. She participated in the 2016 Selah Leadership Cohort and was a 2018 Fellow of the Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership.
Lindsey received her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. She currently splits her time between two of the best cities in the world, San Francisco and New York.
• Four Questions for Lindsey Newman, UJA Blog, November 30, 2018
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is a Be’chol Lashon Rabbinic Fellow and the spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. Gershom is the current leader of the 100-year old Abayudaya community of almost 2,000 Jews living in rural villages in Eastern Uganda. He is the grandson of community elder “Rabbi” Samson and lives near the Moses Synagogue in the village of Nabagogye, which he and others from the community’s early 1980s “Kibbutz movement” built with their own hands. Their goal has been to gather what was left of the Abayudaya community back together after the devastating reign of Idi Amin Dada ended in 1979.
As a visionary leader, Gershom’s dream was to attend a rabbinic seminary to better understand ancient and modern egalitarian Judaism and bring the Ugandan community intomainstream Jewish life. Gershom was awarded a Be’chol Lashon Fellowship in 2003 to attend the five-year Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He returned to Uganda in 2008 as the first native-born black rabbi in Sub-Saharan Africa and opened a Yeshiva to train African teachers and rabbis to serve their ancient and emerging Jewish communities. In 2016, Gershom became the first Jew ever elected to Uganda’s parliament.
As a member of the Be’chol Lashon Speakers Bureau, Gershom travels to the United States every year as an ambassador for the Abayudaya and other emerging communities in Africa.
Diane Kaufmann Tobin is the founding director of Be’chol Lashon, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the ethnic and racial cultural diversity of the Jewish people through educational resources, diversity training and media. Be’chol Lashon is an initiative of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, a non-profit think tank where she was the Associate Director (1998-2009) and President (2009-present). The founding of Be’chol Lashon was the result of research, “The Study of the Ethnic and Racial Diversity of the American Jewish Community” (1999), conducted by Diane and her late husband Dr. Gary Tobin z’l, inspired by the adoption of their African American son, Jonah, in 1997. She is the mother of six children.
Prior to joining the Institute, Diane was the director of Kaufmann Design, which specialized in publishing, corporate/non-profit identity, and marketing (1980-1998). She was a consultant for the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University and published their research from 1990-1998. She has also served as a community leader, including as a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (1980-1986) and as the President from 1986-1989.
Diane is the product of two generations of intermarriage. Her mother’s family were Baptist missionaries from England who lived in Jamaica. Her father’s family were German Jews who came to America in the mid 1800s, progressing from peddlers to building a department store. Their success was evidenced by engaging Frank Lloyd Wright to build their country home, the iconic “Fallingwater.” But what was not evident in their assimilation to America was their loss of values, motivating Diane to embark on a life-long journey to discover her Jewish identity and community. She went to the mikvah with a Conservative beit din in 1982 and identifies as a Jew-by-choice. She enjoys engaging with others on similar journeys.
Diane is an author of In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People (2005), and “Racial Diversity and the American Jewish Community,” Journal of Jewish Communal Service (2014), as well as articles published in Huffington Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Forward, J. The Jewish News of Northern California, eJewishPhilanthropy, Sh’ma, and My Jewish Learning, among others.
• Journal Article: “Racial Diversity and the American Jewish Community,” Journal of Jewish Communal Service, 2014
Director of Strategic Partnerships and Special Programs
Julian began his career as the executive director of the European Union of Jewish Students in Brussels. In New York, he worked at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Legacy Heritage Fund, Joint Distribution Committee, and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Born in Germany to Colombian parents, Julian is also an award winning writer and photographer who explores Jewish identity and diversity in his work.
Aryeh K. Weinberg is the Director of Research for Be’chol Lashon / the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. Aryeh’s core areas of research focus on Jewish identity, philanthropy, as well as anti–Semitism and anti–Israelism in American education. He is co–author of a number of publications including The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in Higher Education, An Exceptional Nation: American Philanthropy, and A Profile of American College Faculty Vols. 1 and 2.
Aryeh received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies.
Lacey Schwartz Delgado
Lacey Schwartz Delgado is an award-winning producer, writer, director and outreach strategist who draws on her interdisciplinary background to create compelling stories that span documentary and fiction and work with innovative organizations and brands. Lacey directed, produced and co-wrote the critically acclaimed documentary Little White Lie, a top-rated broadcast on PBS’s “Independent Lens.” She also executive produced the narrative film DIFRET, the first film to win audience awards at both the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. Lacey’s work stems from the belief that storytelling is the most powerful tool we can use to bridge societal divides in our world. Integral to her work is the development of public engagement campaigns that engage audiences to build on lessons learned in their films from inception to impact.
A native of Woodstock, NY and resident of Rhinebeck, NY, Lacey has a BA from Georgetown University, a JD from Harvard University, and is a member of the New York State bar. She served as Be’chol Lashon’s National Outreach Director for many years.
Dr. Gary A. Tobin z”l
Founder, Institute for Jewish & Community Research
Dr. Gary A. Tobin was the founder and president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, San Francisco. He was also a senior fellow with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He earned his Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He served as Director of the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University for 14 years, after 11 years at Washington University, St. Louis. Dr. Tobin consulted with scores of non-profits and foundations, and speaks on a range of topics, from philanthropy to religious stereotypes.
Having edited two volumes on the effects of the racial schism in America, What Happened to the Urban Crisis? and Divided Neighborhoods, Dr. Tobin targeted racial and religious prejudice in America as a key concern. He wrote books and monographs on anti-Semitism, including Jewish Perceptions of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitic Beliefs in the United States. His writings on prejudice in America’s education systems include The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education, Profiles of the American University Volume 1: Political Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty, and Profiles of the American University Volume 2: Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty. He completed a volume, published by Lexington Books, entitled The Trouble with Textbooks, an examination of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that saturate elementary and secondary school social studies materials.
Dr. Tobin’s Jewish demography and Jewish identity texts include In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People, Rabbis Talk About Intermarriage, and Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community. He also wrote about organized religion in America, having completed two works, Church and Synagogue Affiliation and The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States.
His work on philanthropy was extensive. His publications include Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, and A Study of Jewish Foundations. Among his previous publications are Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: General & Jewish Giving Patterns Between 1995-2000 and The Transition of Communal Values and Behavior in Jewish Philanthropy.
Though the Jewish community lost a great leader in July 2009, Dr. Tobin left a gift in both the work he completed and the work he initiated for others to complete. Dr. Tobin worked tirelessly to coach his team of colleagues at IJCR. He wanted his work to live beyond him, not for the sake of his own legacy, but for the sake of the greater good he always pursued. The Institute for Jewish & Community Research will continue to pursue Dr. Tobin’s vision, inspired by his passion, courage, professionalism, and optimism.