Marcia Avner grew up in the Squirrel Hill (Mr. Roger’s) neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where her father was the architect for Tree of Life and other synagogues, her grandfathers were the Cantor and President at Beth Shalom Congregation, her mother was a multi-lingual translator at the University of Pittsburgh, and she and her brother Ellis went to a public high school with such a large Jewish population that it closed for the High Holidays. She holds a BA in English from Carnegie Mellon and an MA from the University of Arkansas (Mascot: Razorback Hog.) She moved to MN in 1970 to work on a PhD in American Studies at the U for 2 years and never left. Since then she has served as MPIRG’s legislative director, the Executive Director of The Minnesota Project, the Assistant Commission of Energy for the State of MN, Deputy Mayor of St Paul, State Communications Director for Sen. Paul Wellstone, Public Policy Director for the MN Council of Nonprofits, and a consultant to nonprofits and philanthropy. She founded the Master’s Program in Nonprofit Management at Hamline University and created and teaches in the Nonprofit component in the Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) at Metro– a program for people who want to make a difference. She is married to Wy Spano, whom she adores. Together they host a Passover Seder for 35-50 close friends, except the year when Passover was postponed by a Plague. She is an Indie. Her blended-extended family of siblings, in-laws, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and “Lefty” the golden doodle are her first loves. She believes in Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
David Brauer was born a Jew on a very WASP part of Long Island, so his parents put up a Hanukah bush one year, and they were all embarrassed about it later. The family moved to Des Moines, Iowa where there were, unexpectedly, more Jews. Despite not being bar mitzvahed (short version: too many kids doing it for the money & he was too lazy to learn Hebrew), David became leader of his temple NFTY chapter, later becoming regional treasurer and chair. He still marvels at this. David attended the University of Rochester in New York, realized it was a mistake, transferred to the University of Minnesota, dropped out three times, and finally graduated in 2013. Maybe there's still time to get that bar mitzvah. In 2007, he went to work for MinnPost, covering the media and politics. In 2014, he retired to live off his lawyer wife under the guise of corralling their two teenagers. Along the way, David was president of the Kingfield (Mpls) Neighborhood Association in the late ‘90s and again in the mid-2000s. He become treasurer and later chair of the Kingfield Farmers Market board for several years until 2014. His big accomplishments were spinning off the market organization into its own nonprofit from the neighborhood association, and transitioning the market to a full-time executive director. He’s pretty proud of that. In his spare time, David is on Twitter (all the time), takes care of his elderly parents in Tucson, Arizona and is, jaw-droppingly, training to teach Pilates and something called GroupPower, which involves weights. No, you wouldn’t know it to look at him. David isn’t affiliated with any local Jewish congregation, but began volunteering for JCA in 2017 because there are Nazis in the White House and he couldn’t hide behind journalism any more. He graduated from Tzedek Institute (on the first try!), and worked a bit on Deep Canvassing, Action Havurot, and on the Criminal Justice Reform/Immigration team
Susan Cobin was born and grew up in Springfield, IL, which may explain or partially explain her deep interest in Lincoln. After college at Northwestern University, Susan and her husband David lived in Boston, Berkeley and Cambridge studying, working, demonstrating and having children before moving to St Paul in 1977. Here David taught at Hamline University Law School until his death in 2011 and Susan taught for a few years in the Roseville Public Schools before beginning a long career with Talmud Torah of St Paul Day School. In addition to her vocation in Jewish education, Susan has been active in peace and justice issues and in the last decade has added qvelling over grandchildren to her skills. She has enjoyed learning with and from people at JCA and looks forward to continuing the relationship.
Sara Greenhalgh is currently a social worker who works in the indigenous community. She grew up engaged in Jewish life through youth groups, NFTY, Hillel, and has remained active in social justice causes around Minneapolis. Sara is currently the Synagogue Engagement Coordinator for Edot Midwest Regional Jewish Racial Justice Collaborative. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, playing with her dogs, and cooking as much as she can.
Michelle Horovitz is a Minnesota native and is one of the co-founders and Executive Director of Appetite For Change (AFC), a nonprofit social enterprise organization dedicated to using food as a tool to build health, wealth and social change. AFC works with residents to build strong families and healthy, equitable communities around food. They also own and operate Kindred Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen incubator and Breaking Bread Café and Catering, a youth social enterprise serving NorthMinneapolis. Michelle graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Bioethics and Spanish and earned a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School. She worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Miami-Dade County before working for James Beard Award winning Chef Michelle Bernstein as a prep cook, line cook and assistant to the pastry chef. After returning to Minneapolis she co-founded Appetite For Change. She is a dedicated leader, passionate about social and racial justice, and advocates for criminal justice reform, and equity across all cultural, religious, and geographic communities. Michelle enjoys yoga, biking and spending time with her family and friends. She lives inMinneapolis with her husband, two children, two dogs and two fish.
Cindy Reich is a native of Philadelphia, Cindy Reich came to MN almost 32 years ago. She is a Jewish educator and has worked in a range of settings from congregations to day schools to national change initiatives. Her most recent work focuses on professional development for teachers and leadership development in Jewish day schools across the ideological spectrum. In 2015 Cindy completed her PhD in Evaluation Studies at the University of MN. She has conducted evaluations and done evaluation capacity building for faith-based organizations and congregations, educational institutions, and non-profits. Through JCA, Cindy has been involved in marriage equality, criminal justice reform, deep canvassing, and affordable housing. She is a member of Adath Jeshurun Congregation. In recent years she has begun to fulfill a life-long dream of learning to play the drums.
Jessica Scherer is a native Houstonian who came to the Twin Cities in 2009 by way of New York City. She focuses her professional and volunteer work on social justice, building political power in marginalized communities, and educational equity. Her most recent work focuses on strategic planning, fundraising, and executive transition management. She was recently a board chair of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice where she supported the organization through a time of great transition and monumental growth. In 2009 Jessica completed her MPA in Public Policy and Non-Profit Management from NYU’s Wagner School, and is graduate of Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She is a member of Temple Israel and serves on the board of Edina Give and Go. She is one of the Founders and was the first staffer of the Slingshot Fund and a past board chair of Challah for Hunger. She’s passionate about building community through food and loves the outdoors. She has three children and lives in Edina with her husband Matt.
Abbie Shain swore off institutional Judaism and moved to St. Paul to attend Macalester College after 5 years of teaching Hebrew School in her 80-family hometown shul in South Jersey. Nine years, a Religious Studies degree and Masters in Social Work later, Abbie is now a therapist for queer teens at RECLAIM. After years of social media admiration, Abbie participated in Tzedek Institute in January of 2018 and then helped lead the Minnesota Poor People's Campaign. Abbie served as Field Director for a political campaign about criminal justice reform and continues to bringing together issue based campaigns and electoral justice work. Abbie is a co-facilitator of JCA's Tzedek Institute and a member of Tzedek Lab (Jews across the country inspiring collective action around racism, antisemitism, and white nationalism). Much to her surprise and delight, Abbie is a member at Shir Tikvah (swearing off institutional Judaism didn't go very well) where she rejoices in a community where she usually just shows up and occasionally teaches Sex Ed to raucous 7th graders.
Noa Shavit-Lonstein is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School for Public Affairs. She has been involved as an organizer with several different campaigns, and worked as Student Outreach Coordinator for Ilhan Omar for State House. She currently works for Minnesota 350. Noah’s involvement with Jewish Community Action began in high school, as a member of a youth team working to defeat the Marriage and Voter ID amendments in 2012.
Diana Siegel-Garcia is an artist, organizer, cat mama, and aspiring gardener. Connections to Jewish life were cultivated through Habonim Dror of North America, synagogue youth groups, and Hillel. Since relocating from New Jersey in 2016, she's joined various nonprofit, arts, and organizing circles in the Twin Cities. Currently she is a full-time graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs working towards her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in housing. Diana also works in philanthropy and on the podcast money.power.land.solidarity. The in-between time is usually spent cooking, walking around Powderhorn, or trolling Facebook Marketplace.
Jacob Smith is an attorney for the Minnesota Department of Revenue in the Appeals and Legal Services division where he deals with Sales and Use tax. He has an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He is a member of Adath Jeshurun Synagogue.