Be’chol Lashon Leadership Academy
The Be’chol Lashon Leadership Academy is a fellowship program that provides a forum for underrepresented voices and concerns to become part of the mainstream Jewish conversation. We value the story of each fellow and its value to the collective, raising awareness of their unique Jewish culture and traditions, while at the same time underscoring the shared values that connect all Jews.
Karen Gritz was born in Bogotá, Colombia. She holds a BA in Communications and Journalism from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and recently obtained a Master’s degree in Jewish Studies from Columbia University. She is the author of The Patriarch, a book that reconstructs the history of the Jewish community of Bogota through the memories of her grandfather. Currently, she works with Kulanu assisting emerging and isolated Jewish Communities around the globe, and with UJA-Federation’s New York Jews of Color Professional Network.
Haftam Yitzhak Heathwood
Haftam Yitzhak Heathwood was born in Ethiopia in 1987 during a time of civil war and famine. Her family was able to escape Ethiopia when she was four and they made it to Israel. She grew up in the town of Beit She’an before she served two years in the Israeli Defense Forces. After her time in the service, she came to the United States as an au pair. She moved to NYC in 2011 where she met her husband, Kevin, in 2013. Haftam and her husband now live in Harlem where she is a student at BMCC majoring in Childhood Education.
Research Fellow, Be'chol Lashon
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.
• From Small Town Ethiopia to Big City Law Student, Jewish&, October 23, 2018
Artist & Educator
Ceen Gabbai is a Brooklyn based artist and educator. She grew up in Iraq and moved to the United States in 2015.
Gabbai is the author of a number of children’s books and co-founder of Darceen.org, a unique Arabic website explaining Judaism.
• Growing Up Jewish in Modern Baghdad, Jewish&, March 21, 2019
Manashe Khaimov is a fourth generation community organizer, informal Jewish educator, and a lifelong learner who brings his passion working with Jewish community. Manashe was born in a city along the Silk Road, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where his ancestors lived for over 2000 years, which makes Manashe’s Jewish identity simultaneously Bukharian, Sephardic, Mizrahi, and Russian speaking.
Manashe is an Adjunct Professor of Jewish Studies, with a specialty in the History and Culture of the Bukharian Jews at CUNY Queens College. He is a Founding Director of the Bukharian Jewish Union Inc, an organization for the young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s where he serves as Vice President of Community Relations. Manashe is a Founder of www.askbobo.org the only Bukharian online dictionary online platform. Manashe is a Founder of The Jewish Silk Road Tours ™ a walking tours in New York City for people who are interested in learning about the Jewish communities (Bukharian, Persian, etc.) that had lived along the Silk Road, for over 2000 years. For the past two years, Manashe was a Chair of the Public Relations & Marketing Committee for Limmud FSU US and he served as a Chair of the Fundraising and Development Committee.
Currently, Manashe is a Director of Community Engagement and Development at Queens College Hillel where he focuses on community organizing and building meaningful relationships with students, community members, and individuals, with hopes to introduce Bukharian, Mizrahi and Sephardic communities to the work that Queens College Hillel does, as well as the work that Hillel International does around the world.
Manashe is a recipient of the New York Jewish Week “36 Under 36” Visionary Jewish Leader Award, TimesLedger Newspapers “Queens Impact Award” honoring the borough’s unsung heroes, and he is an alumnus of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship for International Jewish Leaders. Manashe received his BA from Baruch College, where he served as Hillel President and graduate from Hunter College Silverman School of Social Work, with a Master in Community Organizing Planning and Development.
Manashe believes that innovative and inclusive community organizations can change lives, and he values personal relationships above all.
Yeganyahu Avishai Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and has worked as a photographer and filmmaker on projects investigating issues of race and identity.
400 Miles to Freedom, a documentary film executive-produced by Be’chol Lashon, is about Avishai’s dangerous journey from Ethiopia to Israel to the United States. In 1984, the Beta Israel–a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains–began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co-director Avishai Mekonen, then 10 years old, was among them. In the film 400 Miles to Freedom, he breaks his 20-year silence about the kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa. This life-defining event launches an inquiry into identity, leading him to African, Asian and Latino Jews in Israel and the U.S.
Avishai’s other work includes Seven Generations, a photography and video installation that offers a view into an ancient Ethiopian Jewish tradition that is grounded in the past but keeps an eye to the future. Also in collaboration with Be’chol Lashon, a section of Avishai Mekonen and Shari Rothfarb’s documentary film project, Judaism and Race, is part of “The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography” that originated at the Jewish Museum in New York, and has traveled to the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.
Ariana Mizrahi is a teacher, blogger, Director, and doctorate candidate in education leadership and innovation at The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University in New York City. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ariana enjoys reflecting on her diverse background as a proud Hispanic Jew. Ariana is the Director of Hebrew Language Instruction at Yeshiva Har Torah in Little Neck, NY. She is also the principal of Jewish Youth Connection Hebrew School in New York, NY. Her blog is Rise Above It.
Tani Prell (she/her) has her life and career centered around Judaism, education, and the arts, with a commitment to equity and belonging as a thread throughout. She is the Chicago Director for 18Doors, formerly Interfaith Family as well as a racial diversity, equity, and inclusion educator and consultant. She has her BA in Creative Writing, focusing on Black Literature, and she is a recent graduate student at The Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning focusing on anti-racism in Jewish spaces. Tani is a former Teach for America Corps member, high school arts educator, synagogue education director, and fundraiser at the Art Institute. Tani serves on the North American Board of Trustees for the Union for Reform Judaism, aiding in their commitments to DEI.
Yanira Quinones graduated from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America with a Masters in Jewish Education with a concentration on Congregational Leadership. She completed the iFellows Master’s Concentration in Israel Education at the iCenter in Chicago. Yanira was awarded her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in Human Development. Yanira has worked in a variety of educational facilities during her career, including Jewish Camp during the summers and religious school. She also teaches Intro to Judaism at the Union for Reform Judaism. Yanira lives in White Plains, New York with her husband and three children, and their dog Gracie.