Meet the 13 participants of the Just Zionism Initiative
Anjelica Ruiz

Anjelica N. Ruiz (she/her/hers) is the Director of Libraries and Archives at Temple Emanu-El. She holds a B.A in Criminology from St. Edward’s University, M.S. in Criminal Justice from Texas State University and M.S. in Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas. She loves traveling and is passionate about social justice. She completed the Anti-Defamation League’s Glass Leadership Institute in 2016 and is an alum of the Union for Reform Judaism’s JewV’Nation Fellowship in the Jews of Color cohort and Bend the Arc’s Selah Leadership Program in cohort 16. Anjelica loves reading and is a self-professed life-long learner. She also loves writing and is an alumna of the Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture’s Creative Writing seminar and the Yale Writers Workshop.

Ashira Boxman

Ashira Boxman is a third-year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College in New York. Prior to beginning her studies at HUC-JIR, Ashira attended Florida State University where she studied Family and Child Sciences and Social Work. Following graduation she spent three years working for Hillel on two different college campuses. At the Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Ashira filled the role of Engagement Associate, engaging Jewish students on campus. After her time there, Ashira filled a new role at the University of Texas Hillel as the Birthright Israel IACT Coordinator. Here she led Jewish students in immersive Israel travel experience and continued engagement with them back on campus. These experiences then led her to fulfill her ultimate dream of pursuing the Rabbinate. A JDC-Weitzman Fellow, Ashira serves as the rabbinic intern at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Westchester, NY. In her free time, Ashira enjoys spending time with family and friends, trying new restaurants, listening to Israeli music, reflecting on her days growing up at URJ Camp Harlam and petting every dog she see’s on the streets of Manhattan.

Elyse Sholk

Elyse Sholk is an independent producer. She was most recently Chief of Staff to the CEO of Group Nine Media prior to its merger with Vox Media and previously worked in investment banking covering communications and media companies at Barclays. She served as a 2011 Teach For America corps member in Philadelphia where she received TFA’s Regional Transformational Teaching Award for her impact inside and outside of the classroom. B.S. and M.B.A., The Wharton School. M.S.Ed. Urban Education, University of Pennsylvania. 

Jnana Martin

Jnana is a 27-year-old spiritual and religious woman of color with a deep passion in healing, building bridges and finding solutions to problems that challenge the collective conscious. She believes in conversations rooted in empathy and kindness that lead to a overall understanding of one another. Her intention in this life is to learn, love, and lead.

 Joe Malinger

Joe Malinger grew up up in the Reform Jewish Movement and always felt that his Jewish identity has focused on two major tenets, a desire to affect social change and a connection to the state of Israel. Joe works as a political consultant, and for the past two years he has advocated on behalf of issues like access to affordable housing, Medicaid expansion, and ensuring fair elections. When He lived in Jerusalem, in 2019, he saw these same issues that he would one day work against in the United States, doing similar damage in Israel. As a member of Just Zionism, Joe is excited for the opportunity to meet and work with Israeli activists, to collaborate on how to combat these problems, and to develop these partnerships to improve both of our communities.

 Josh Maxey

Joshua Maxey is the Executive Director of Bet Mishpachah, DC’S LGBTQ+ synagogue. Josh moved to the Washington, DC area in 2015 to join a local volunteer program where he volunteered for a year at a local organization assisting the unhoused in our community. Josh has a passion for Tikkun Olam and working to create spaces of belonging within the Jewish community. Josh currently is a member of Washington Hebrew Congregation where he sits on the SEA Change Racial Equity Committee, Co-Chair of the Internal Recommendations Committee, organizer of the Jews of affinity space as well as serves on the 2239 Young Professional Steering Committee. Josh is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington; the National Bell Festival, an organization that works to restore bells and towers throughout the Washington, DC area; and Franciscan Mission Service, an organization that sends Catholic lay volunteers to the DMV area and overseas to serve in impoverished communities. Josh is originally from Rochester, NY.

Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson was born, raised and currently lives in central New Jersey. Professionally she has worked in program management in the pharmaceutical, higher education, and non-profit fields, with a masters degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently the Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives at the American Federation for Aging Research. Kara is an active member of Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, New Jersey and serves as the co-chair of the temple’s DEI working group as part of their Tikkun Olam Coalition. Kara and her husband, Jamie, had their world turned upside down in 2019 and shared what the entire world felt through 2020, but through all of it, Judaism was the glue holding them together. Kara is committed to doing everything she can to make a welcoming space, grounded in justice, for her two beautiful JOC kids: Celia (10) and Jonah (2). 

 Lucy Brown

Lucy Brown currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and works in education at a non-profit. Lucy has been deeply involved in the Reform movement in a variety of roles over the last ten years. As a teen, they deepened their connections to Judaism and social justice through involvement in NFTY, the URJ Kutz Camp, and interning at the RAC. Since then, Lucy has worked at the RAC supporting multiple L’taken seminar seasons, joined the Commission on Social Action, and served on the 2019-2020 URJ College Leadership team. They are currently exploring the possibility of rabbinical school. In Brooklyn, Lucy is involved in building Jewish community for young adults and organizing around a more just Israel. Outside of their work and Jewish life, Lucy spends a lot of time playing ultimate frisbee, cooking, and baking.

Mallory Kahn-Johnston

Mallory currently works as the Development Manager at Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC). She grew up in Bethel, Connecticut and was a camper and counselor at URJ Eisner Camp. Mallory graduated from Washington College with a B.A. in International Studies. After college, she was a counselor for Young Judaea’s gap year program in Israel. She then made Aliyah and received her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In Israel, she worked for Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and helped found the first Reform Congregation in Be’er Sheva. After returning to the U.S. in 2018, Mallory worked as the Philanthropy Associate for Women of Reform Judaism before joining her current role at FJC in March of 2020. Mallory lives in Astoria with her husband Martin and her two Israeli rescue cats, Shai and Namair.

Molly Blumenthal

Molly Blumenthal serves as the Program Manager for ARZA. Molly grew up in Fairfield, CT. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services. After graduating, Molly served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year New York. She spent the year working at an elementary school with 5th graders in the South Bronx. Molly grew up in the Reform Movement participating in NFTY and spending 11 summers as both a camper and counselor at Crane Lake Camp. She is passionate about Israel and is grateful to work for an organization that represents her values there. In her free time, you can find Molly playing intramural sports such as dodgeball and kickball and going on ice cream tours around the city.

Shayna Han

Shayna Han (she/her) grew up in New York in the Reform Jewish Movement. The intersection of Judaism and social justice is a deep and abiding part of Shayna’s life; Urban Mitzvah CorpsHillelBirthright, Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, and the RAC’s L’Taken and Machon Kaplan programs were formative experiences for her. In Israel, Shayna interned for Project Kesher Israel, a grassroots Israeli feminist activist organization. Shayna graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Union College, earning the Minerva Prize her senior year for her honors history thesis on watershed literary heroine Nancy Drew and her work to combat sexual assault. After graduation, Shayna interned for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; from 2016-2021 she worked as an elementary school English teacher in SpainIsrael, and South Korea. Shayna now serves the RAC as a Legislative Assistant, representing the Reform Movement on gun violence preventionenvironmental justice and climate change, Israel, foreign policyantisemitism, the Holocaust, international religious freedom, Native American rights, interfaith relations, and AAPI outreach. She also works with RAC-CA. She is proud to be in the first cohort of the Jews of Color Initiative partnership with the RAC LA program and to join the Just Zionism Initiative.

Surya Chionesu

As a Jewish woman of color, this trip will help Surya Chionesu strengthen her faith in Judaism. Surya hopes to impact those around her for the greater good and for the future generation. Surya is a nursing student and has aspirations to travel as much as she can. Traveling now as a student will broaden her horizon for when she’d like to do volunteer medical work after she obtains her degree. Israel is one of the places Surya would like to see how she can contribute to her community, especially as a fellow Jewish woman of color.

Zachary Schaffer

Zachary Schaffer is a facilitator, educator, and organizer based in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. He has a deep passion for depolarization and healing the enmity that can develop from our differences. He is Co-Founder and VP of Community Engagement at Project Shema, a training and support organization helping Jews to better navigate difficult conversations around antisemitism and anti-Zionism in progressive spaces. He also works to forge inclusive multigenerational lay leadership in the Jewish non-profit sector with CYJP.  He serves as a trainer with Ta’amod where he supports organizations in creating compassionate workplace cultures and at Resetting the Table where he facilitates transformative communication across political divides. He is proud to have worked with Jewish Women International, where he helped to nurture new conversations around healthy masculinity and gender allyship in the Jewish community. He is the President of Friends of Roots, a grassroots coexistence movement of Israelis and Palestinians and on the North American Board of the URJ.