The Braid, formerly Jewish Women’s Theatre, is the go-to Jewish story company and leading non-profit organization creating, curating, producing and preserving stories grounded in Jewish culture and experience. Through its performances and programming, The Braid empowers artists and audiences to feel pride in Jewish culture while building community and connection between people of all backgrounds. Founded in Santa Monica, California, in 2007, The Braid has affiliates in three cities and counting, holds tours across the country, and is now accessible globally via Zoom performances, our podcast, and streaming on ChaiFlicks and other online platforms.
Though it has grown into a national organization, The Braid remains true to its founding commitment of giving voice to Jewish stories that haven’t been heard, whether those are stories by women, Jews of color, or Jews from other diverse backgrounds. We are an organization started by a group of women who know what it means to be outsiders, to exist in the margins of culture, and to be stereotyped.
Even as we have grown and continue to expand the scope and reach of our performances and programming, our goal continues to be to move previously unheard Jewish stories out of the margins and into the mainstream. We are thus expanding the notion of what it means to be Jewish and how being Jewish fits into the larger American cultural landscape.
Leadership and Staff
The Braid is led by Ronda Spinak, Founding Artistic Director along with a team of extraordinary individuals committed to working passionately and tirelessly to advance the ideal that the lives and experiences of Jews in America, in all their diversity, must be represented on stage and in programming, and must be documented for posterity.
We are blessed to continuously inspire and draw in talented community members to do their best work and apply their skills, passions, connections and expertise to help The Braid thrive.
RONDA SPINAK created and produces The Braid’s Salon Theatre Series, curating more than 60 original Jewish-themed salons and adapting many of the pieces performed. She graduated from Stanford University, and holds degrees from UCLA (MBA) and USC (masters in professional writing). Ronda’s plays include Stories from the Fringe and festival-winner Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival and Dayton’s FutureFest. She has written for the Emmy Award-winning children’s show Rugrats and authored the critically acclaimed nonfiction book, ProBodX: Proper Body Exercise (Harper Collins). Ronda is on the board of the Association for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
David Chiu is a West LA-based screenwriter and two-time NEXT at the Braid Emerging Artists Fellow. Television: LORE (Amazon Prime). The Braid: True Colors, Inside Our Time, For Goodness Sake (also Director), I Am a Jew, Who’s Hiding Now? and The Rest is History (also Director & Literary). Represented by The Gersh Agency and Authentic Talent & Literary. Member of the Board of Trustees at Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles; recipient of its 2019 Emerging Leader Award. Environmental activist and volunteer on various electoral campaigns. Jew of Color, of Litvak and Cantonese heritage.
ANDREW FROMER first joined The Braid as a fellow in the NEXT Emerging Artists Council in 2016. He continued on to do a second year of the fellowship while also serving as a digital media consultant for the organization launching and managing its podcast initiative and social media platforms. In 2019 he joined The Braid staff as the organization’s first Assistant Artistic Director and coordinator of the NEXT program. He holds a BFA in theater from UC Santa Barbara, and has experience as a filmmaker, actor, editor and director.
SHARON LANDAU oversees The Braid’s strategic planning, grants and operations, bringing the organization 20 years of non-profit leadership experience helping programs and organizations scale and thrive. As a former non-profit director and consultant, she engaged multidisciplinary stakeholders to design, pilot, scale and evaluate innovative public health access programs at local, state and national levels that became replicable models, including CA’s EC Pharmacy Access Program. She is a published researcher and program evaluator. She previously worked in management consulting for Kaiser Permanente. She holds a masters in public health from UCLA and is an alumnae of CA Women’s Policy Institute and Center for Collaborative Planning’s Leadership Institute. Currently she also serves as a mentor for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders.
Jodi Marcus first came to The Braid as a patron, and now helps to bring people together to laugh, cry, and share in the human experience by booking Braid shows across the country. Prior to joining The Braid team, Jodi worked for 18 years in the nonprofit sector as a fundraiser for Jewish National Fund in the Greater L.A. office, and as a fundraising/program evaluation consultant. Jodi saw half of the world as a dancer, and is now a writer of short stories and working on a novel for middle grade readers (10-12 year olds). Jodi holds a BA in communications, public relations from Cal State Fullerton and a MPA from Cal State Northridge.
SUSAN MORGENSTERN, an actress since age five, crossed into directing while co-teaching American Musical Comedy with Tom Lehrer at UC Santa Cruz. She taught and directed at Stage Door Manor, a renowned performing-arts camp in upstate New York. In Los Angeles, for Theatre West, Susan directed All in the Timing, Just Too Cool, Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, and The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro. At Falcon Theatre she directed Leap, Surviving Sex, and The Psychic; for Cabrillo Music Theatre Happy Days, a New Musical, by Garry Marshall; and for Skylight Theatre, an INKubator series and an extended-run production of Meryl Cohn’s comedy Reasons to Live. Susan consultants as show director for Disneyland, directs The Braid’s salon shows and mentors NEXT fellows.
DAPHNA SHULL is is a four-time NEXT Fellow, literary manager, and writer. She received her bachelor’s degree in media production from Florida State University. After graduating in 2014, she headed West to pursue a career in screenwriting and the arts. Daphna now works as The Braid’s Creative Associate and produces Sundays with The Braid events. She previously served as a museum educator for the Cayton’s Children’s Museum.
SUSIE YURÉ manages The Braid’s box office and community relations. She has produced musical theatre productions, classical concerts and cabaret performances and has been intensely involved in the world of theatre for over 20 years. She brings over 30 years of volunteer experience in non-profit organizations in which she has held leadership roles in fundraising, event planning, facilities coordinating, programming, membership, marketing and administration. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. She is a mom to two grown children both professional musicians.
ROSE ZIFF came out of retirement to work for The Braid after working at UCLA Medical Center for 33 years, where she functioned as “den mother” to more than 1000 interns, residents, and clinical fellows at UCLA, the VA, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Centers, providing resources and support. Rose is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Lev Eisha, a Jewish women’s non-profit religious organization and spiritual community. Her hobbies include gardening, visiting Providence St. John’s Hospital with her therapy dog, and hosting a monthly book club.
LIZ ALTMAN is a native Southern Californian. She received a BA in economics from the University of Michigan and a JD from SMU. She has volunteered for various organizations and currently is a captain of a tennis team. Liz produces the popular South Bay Salon for The Braid and lends the organization her expertise in real estate. When she is not devoting her time to The Braid or playing tennis, she works for a real estate management and development company, where she has been a vice president for the past 20 years. Prior to that, she worked as an in-house real estate attorney for two major retailers. She is licensed to practice law in Texas. She is married and has two adult children.
SUSAN BASKIN has written extensively for film and television. Violet, a film she wrote, won an Academy Award. Susan has published essays in various magazines, among them The Los Angeles Times Magazine and Los Angeles Magazine. “I, Citizen,” a piece she wrote for Jewish Women’s Theatre, was commissioned for the Fall 2018 Fundraiser. “The Perfect Dive” was performed in the March 2019 JWT production, It’s A Life. Susan is currently at work on a novel.
JULIE BRAM is a full-time community volunteer and activist. As a founding partner of the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund, she has been blessed to work with many remarkable nonprofit organizations. Her passion lies in using education and communication to effect positive change in the world. Julie currently serves on several advisory committees for a wide variety of charitable causes, including the Hand In Hand schools in Israel that educate Israeli Arab and Jewish children together; the American Jewish Committee board of Governors; and The Zelikow School of Jewish Non Profit Management at Hebrew Union College.
ROBBIE DIAMOND was born and raised in Los Angeles, attending Dorsey High School and Cal State Northridge. She has worked in many fields including founding the Kindergarten Extended Day Program at Warner Avenue School, which was the predecessor to the STAR Education program. Robbie was a personal assistant to real estate developer and art collector Arthur Gilbert for twelve years, and then, upon his death, she became the administrator of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. She has volunteered with many groups over the years, including The Beauty Bus, P.S. Arts and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Robbie loves to bake, read, travel and spend time with her family, including her two grandchildren, Oliver and Quinn.
GAIL ISRAEL has a MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University and is currently working on her second novel for young adults, “Hannah Lost.” Her poems have been recognized for distinction by Writer’s Digest. Gail has volunteered extensively in academic institutions. Among her many accomplishments, she established and chaired the Community Service Committee at Windward School, where she served as VP of Community Service for four years. Through the Israel Family Foundation, Gail has supported the work of numerous Jewish and local non-profits including The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and Camp United in Harmony and Reprise Theater Company. Gail grew up on Long Island and currently lives in Los Angeles where she and her husband, Bob, have raised their two wonderful children, Jesse and Rachel.
SUZANNA KAPLAN was born in Mexico City, to an American mother and Mexican father, and grew up speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. As an actress and dancer, she performed in some of Mexico’s famous Vaudeville stages, as well as acted in commercials, films and on the stage. Suzanna moved to the US where she partnered with her best friend in a translation service and language school. Being young, they sold it as soon as it was making money and took off for Europe, eventually landing in Israel, which stretched out to 6 years, a husband, and a baby. Back in the US, Kaplan has been working in Hispanic advertising.
CAROL KIRSH has worked, volunteered and served on boards for a range of social services agencies since receiving her BA and MSW from the University of Michigan. Her focus has been on adolescents, older adults and homeless families. She also spent 8 years in Hong Kong working as an executive search consultant for Russell Reynolds and Norman Broadbent, two leading international search firms. Carol produces The Braid salon shows in the Bay Area, where she hosted its first “at home” salon in San Francisco in 2012. A native Floridian with family roots in Alabama, Carol has continued the diaspora, living much of her adult life outside of the continental United States, including Bali, Guam and Hawaii. She and her husband, Tom Gottlieb, have two grown sons.