Meet the Next Generation of Israel's Leaders

These changemakers chosen for the Federation’s prestigious Gvanim fellowship are working to redefine “shared society” for modern Israel

In 2000, the Federation launched the Gvanim program in response to the deep sectarian, social, and political divisions in Israel symbolized by the assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin by a Jewish religious extremist.

The groundbreaking program works to strengthen Israel’s democracy by creating a cadre of leaders to spread the message of Jewish pluralism to ever-widening circles of Israelis. Of the hundreds who apply each year, 16 professionals, representing every religious and economic sector of Israeli society, are selected to participate. The program culminates with a visit to San Francisco – next in May, 2018 – where participants are introduced to the Bay Area’s diverse expressions of Jewish religion and culture.

Meet this year's Gvanim cohort:

Avital Beer has a PhD in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute and an MBA from Bar Ilan University, and currently works at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikvah as a project manager, coordinator, and member of the Helsinki Ethics Committee (Institutional Review Board). In her role on the Helsinki Committee, she advances the improvement and efficiency of the quality of medical research in Israel while still protecting the autonomy of patients.

In her free time, Avital is active in Psefas, a mixed community of religious and secular residents of Rehovot who work together with the Ethiopian community. She is also a representative of Mirkam (a network of mixed communities in Israel), studies at Kolot Beit Midrash, is part of a minyan meshalev, a member of the PTA at her children's school, and a member of the Rehovot-Minneapolis P2G steering committee. Avital believes that we have the knowledge and ability to improve our society and tries to advance these values in everything she does.

Aharon (Ari) Eitan was born in Jerusalem as the eldest son of eight siblings, to a father who is a rabbi and a judge (dayan) in a Haredi community. Before joining the IDF as a combat soldier, Ari studied in several leading Haredi yeshivot. After his military service, Ari turned to general studies, joined the Israel Bar Association, and later completed his doctorate in law at Tel Aviv University.

Ari is the author of two books (published by Yediot Books and Babel), a lecturer for professional delegations to Israel, a cantor both in Israel and abroad, and the founder of The Ilan Institute, an NGO that aims to advance employment and education among the Haredi sector.

Meron Hacohen heads a division in Israel's Ministry of Economy which regulates Israel's cooperatives. These include some of Israel's largest business corporations as well as rural communities, including all the Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and communal villages all over the country.

Previously he worked as a consultant Israeli lawyer at Asserson Law Offices, a UK law firm which operates from Israel, as Israel's trade representative in the UK, and as the legal counsel of Israel's Ministry of Industry & Trade.

Meron grew up in a Modern Orthodox family, and currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 4 children. He is a graduate of Yesivat Har Etzion (Gush); the Hebrew University Law School (LL.B. 1987); and Harvard University (MPA 1999), where he was also a Wexner fellow.

Shalhevet Hasdiel is a proud Ultra-Orthodox woman and a mother of 3 wonderful children. She was born and raised in Bnei Brak, Israel, and studied at Biet Yaakov Institute, an Ultra-Orthodox elementary and high school.

Later in life, Shalhevet attended Bar Ilan University, where she majored in political science and journalism. Upon graduating, she became the first female political journalist in the Haredi community and worked at Kol Chai, an Ultra-Orthodox radio station, for fifteen years.

As the years passed, Shalhevet decided to make a revolutionary change in the field of Ultra-Orthodox journalism and opened the first Haredi lifestyle magazine. She was the publisher, editor, and owner of the magazine.

Today, in addition to consulting organizations, corporations, and parties about the best ways to market their products to and with the Ultra-Orthodox community, Shalhevet is an advisor to both the UN and the Mayor of Jerusalem for Ultra-Orthodox cultural affairs, director of Willi-Food Investments Ltd., and a member of the Council for Culture and Art at the Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Yinon Kadary grew up in Beit El in a mixed Mizrahi and Ashkenazi family, and was educated on the values of Zionism and state religion.

He served as a career officer in the General staff, and served as a parliamentary assistant in the Knesset. He was also a journalist for Ma’ariv and Major Rishon. Today, he is an active reserve officer, advisor to the Ministry of Defense, heads a strategic marketing consulting firm, and is the founder and director of a national association to increase social cohesion and volunteering in times of emergency.

Yinon lives in Beit Horon between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with his wife and son, and holds a bachelor's degree in law and mediation, and conducts negotiations.

Avigayil Karlinsky, once a hi-tech employee, is now a social activist in the Haredi community. She is the founder of Lo Tishtok, an organization that helps victims of sexual abuse in the Haredi community. In addition to this, she manages the virtual community The Torah Hub, and is involved in many projects of the new Haredi community.

Avigayil studied sociology and anthropology, and currently works as a PR consultant. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and their two children.

Nerya Refael Knafo, born in Ashdod and currently living in Merkaz Shapira, is a member of the Knafo, Abuhatzeira, and Bardugo families of the Jewish leadership in Morocco. He was educated in religious-Zionism institutions, and graduated from a yeshiva of Bnei-Akiva.

Nerya is an informal educator and trainer, a content developer, group facilitator and lecturer on social and controversial Jewish issues. He was one of the founders of a young political party known as The Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi). With all the party members ages 20-35, they led the beginning of the party during primaries.

Nerya is a political and social activist for peace, solidarity, and democracy, prioritizing values of tradition and multiculturalism, and the assimilation of the values of Sephardic Judaism in Israel.

Yana Nacht is a graduate of Tel Aviv University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master's degree in Educational Leadership and Management. She has over 8 years of experience leading educational programs with various stakeholders (students, teachers, entrepreneurs and government) within the public sector in Israel. Currently, she works for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles as the manager of the Global Teen Twinning Program in Israel.

In her last role as Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in Education in the Bat-Yam Municipality, she headed the strategic endeavors, development and implementation of innovative unconventional teaching practices, which today are implemented in over 100 classrooms in Bat-Yam.

Driven and passionate about impacting the next generation of young Israeli leaders, Yana volunteers as the Chair of the education committee of her moshav (cooperative Israeli settlement) and acted as counselor and Israeli Shlicha in a Jewish youth camp. She is the proud mother of three and enthusiastic about social activity.

Tanya Regev grew up in Jerusalem and studied in religious Zionist schools. She was a group leader in the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, and later, upon receiving her degree from Bar Ilan University, worked as an educator in Pelech High School in Jerusalem and the Ein Hanativ Midrasha.

Tanya was a member of the research and development staff at the Branco Weiss Institute, and today she serves as the Training Coordinator and Content Developer at Yesodot, a center for cultivating state and religious awareness.

Tanya holds two masters degrees and is presently writing her doctoral dissertation in Bar Ilan’s Gender Studies Program. In addition, she is a certified rabbinical court advocate. Tanya resides in Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion with her husband and five children.

Dr. Saul Reichman was born in New York, and relocated with his family to Seoul (South Korea) during his adolescent years. He returned to Israel with his family to complete his high school studies at Haifa’s Hebrew Reali School, and later served as a lieutenant in the Engineering Corps.

Today, he is an active figure in Israel’s promising automotive industry. He established Renault’s Open Innovation Lab in Israel in partnership with Renault’s local importer (Carasso Motors), including the recent submission for an Innovation Lab by the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA). Saul is also an investor, investing in start-ups and related funds, and is the founder of the Israel Multinational Automotive Forum (IMAF).

Until the termination of Challenge Fund – Etgar II L.P. in 2014, Saul served as an Executive Vice President and a member of the fund's investment committee. In addition, he successfully licensed technologies from the Israeli academia: A.I.T. a small wind turbine start-up (CEO & Founder, Technion); Lunaros an online liquid monitoring start-up (Co-founder, Weizmann Institute of Science).

He was appointed as the Chairman of the Israel-Korea Desk in June 2015 and has served since then as a Board Member in the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Board Member of “OutBox” (NGO) – a platform for young Israeli designers to create and share learning experiences.

Saul holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry with emphasis in Applied Electrochemistry and an MBA specializing in strategy and entrepreneurship – both from Tel Aviv University. He currently resides in Tel Aviv.

Rotem Shahbar is the CEO of the nonprofit Snir, an organization that creates programs in schools in the projects to reduce the gaps within the Israeli education system. To increase her impact on Israeli society, during her spare time she founded a social platform that facilitates assistance to families in need. This platform provides influential people in Israel a simple way to provide direct financial assistance to these families.

She grew up in southern Tel Aviv and acted as the representative of her school at the municipal student counsel. She later graduated from the Israeli Midreshet for Social Leadership, and served as an officer in the Education core in the IDF. During her service, she was part of the team that developed the NATIV program, for Jewish and Zionist identity.

Rotem has a BA in Economics, Philosophy, and Government. During her studies she was selected to be a researcher in the Milken Institute where she tackled issues of affordable housing. Afterwards, Rotem decided to change course and became a math teacher in one of the most challenging high schools in Tel Aviv. There she discovered, firsthand, the depth of inequality in the education system in Israel.

Irit Rosh-Shitrit was born and raised in Nazareth Illit. She is a graduate of Tel Aviv University where she earned a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, and an M.A. in Sociology. After graduating, Irit served in the army for five years as a captain in the Air Force Education Unit at the Ramat David Base.

Irit has spent the past eight years as a professional working toward Jewish Renewal. She was the director of Beit Hillel at the Emek Yezreel College for four years. In this role, she initiated programs to deepen Jewish identity at the college. Some of these programs were recognized as points toward her first degree, including Midrasha V’Titradshi – a learning and experiential program on campus, as well as many other Beit Hillel programs.

Today, Irit is the director of Memizrach Shemesh of Alliance-Kol Israel Haverim, and lives with her husband and three children in Gan Ner in the Gilboa region of Israel.

Zehorit Sorek (Schumert) was a 19th Knesset candidate of Yesh Atid party by Yair Lapid. During the last 3 years, she has worked as the chairperson of the LGBT cell of the party.

On Yom Kippur in 2009, Sorek established the Pride Minyan in Tel Aviv after she felt like she had no place in her native Orthodox synagogue. As a born-and-raised Orthodox Jew, Zehorit dedicated her volunteer work to the creation of a proud LGBT religious community. She is also an active member of Bat Kol, a religious lesbian organization, and was a former director at Hoshen, an educational program for LGBT acceptance. She is very active in SHOVAL, an organization that promotes tolerance and understanding of LGBT people within the religious communities of Israel, and previously was a member of the advisory committee of the LGBT community center in Tel Aviv.

In 2012, Zehorit was honored as a Distinguished Member of the LGBT Community. She holds an M.A in History and Archeology of Israel from Bar Ilan university, and currently works as a teacher's trainer. Zehorit lives in Tel Aviv with her wife and their two children.

Daniel (Dani) Velal was born and raised in Moshav Alma, located in northern Israel. He received an Orthodox education during elementary school, and graduated from B’nei Akiva Yeshiva.

Daniel served in the IDF for 10 years, ranked Lieutenant Colonel, and has been working in the informal education field ever since, first as a youth unit manager, and then a community center manager. For the last 7 years, Daniel has held several roles in the Merkaz Ma'ase organization, including program manager for Shnat Sherut (a gap year program), head of Gal College for Leadership, and he currently serves as the head of all organization activities.

Daniel has a Bachelor degree in human resources, and a Masters in education. He lives in Kibutz Saar with his wife and son.

Dana Yaffe is a lawyer living in Tel Aviv, working in the legislation and consulting department of the Ministry of Justice, and specializing in constitutional law. She grew up in Kiryat Ono and Ramat Gan, and after graduating from high school, she participated in Shnat Sherut (a gap year) with the Dor Shalem Doresh Shalom movement and Leo-Baeck Institute in Haifa. During her military service, she served in the intelligence force at a base in the south of Israel.

Dana attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem and completed her Bs.C in physics, cognitive sciences, and LLB. She has also been a part of a young adult community named Halom. As a community, they shape a common Israeli-Jewish lifestyle, and have established several social projects in the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood in Jerusalem, including a study center and a one-year pre-army leadership program called Hayerushalmit.

Itai Zilber is a city councilman in his native city of Holon. He was elected in the 2013 local elections with the Tzeirim Holon party. After three years of military service at Galei Tzahal as a producer, editor, and host, Itai worked in Israel’s television industry at Channel 10 News, and also Channel 2, the leading channel in Israel.

Itai graduated from Tel Aviv University in 2013 with a B.A in Political Science, and will graduate from Bar-Ilan University in 2017 with an MBA from Bar-Ilan University. Today, he works for Galei Zahal, the IDF radio station in Israel, as program manager, head of training, and hosting a weekly interview show.

Learn more about the Gvanim program or the Federation’s other work in Israel.

Tags: gvanim, Israel
Categories: Israel, Overseas, Grantees


April 25, 2018


Nora Smith