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 now 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.
Sharon 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.
An actress since age five, Susan 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.
Andrew first joined The Braid as 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.
Susie manages The Braid’s box office and community relations. Susie 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.
Daphna is is a three-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 and previously served as a museum educator for the Cayton’s Children’s Museum.
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 JWT and lends the organization her expertise in real estate. When she is not devoting her time to JWT 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 Theater, 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.
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.
Amirose Eisenbach is a writer and producer, with fifteen years of entertainment experience. She’s previously worked at Warner Bros., FOX Interactive Media and at AMC Theatres editorial, where she ran the independent film division. In 2016, to help champion independent cinema even further, Amirose launched Radiant J. Productions. Focusing on elevating female creatives, spreading mindfulness and making positive social impact in the community, Radiant J. is determined to bring more meaningful and important content into the world.
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, 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 and 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 Jewish Women’s Theater 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.
SHERRI W. MORR has spent the majority of her career as a professional fundraiser. In addition to the Jewish community, she developed campaigns at Tufts University, the Baltimore Symphony, Oakwood School in LA, and the Park School in Baltimore. Her writing began with training scripts, memoirs, and short stories, and she has been published on EJewish Philanthropy with technical articles about fundraising, leadership relationships, and why people give. In 2016 Sherri was married after being on her own for almost 20 years! She wrote about it in her essay “Go to Shule.” Currently Sherri is still writing and still fundraising.
LISA PEARL ROSENBAUM (Writer/Dramaturg/Podcaster) is the author of the novel A Day of Small Beginnings (Little, Brown & Co. 2006) and has recently completed a new novel, Sacrificial Man. She is a JWT writer and dramaturg and, with a small but mighty team, produces and hosts JWT’s podcasts and the unique Sunday at The Braid events. This past year, Lisa wrote Stories from the Violins of Hope – a theatrical event for six actors and five musicians – about stringed instruments that miraculously survived the Holocaust, and the family of violin-makers who brought them back to life. The debut performance, with the LA Jewish Symphony Chamber players performing on original Holocaust instruments, has been postponed to January 2021.
MAUREEN SHUBOW RUBIN has been a professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge since 1984, where she specialized in teaching public relations and media law and ethics, In her 30 years on campus, she also served in a variety of administrative positions including Associate Dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communications; Director of Undergraduate Studies; Director of Public and Community Relations at the Valley Performing Arts Center and founding Director of the Center for Community-Service Learning. Prior to joining the University, Rubin was Director of Public Information for President Carter’s Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs in the White House, and held similar positions for a U.S. Congresswoman, Consumer Federation of America and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She is a graduate of the Catholic University School of Law In Washington, D.C., and she holds a Master of Arts in Public Relations from University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Boston University.
RUTH RUBINSTEIN holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor. For the past 40 years she has resided and has a private practice in the Malibu area. Dr. Rubinstein has been intensely involved in the Jewish community. She is an original founder, 31 years ago, with seven other families, of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. Over the past 40 years, Dr. Rubinstein has served in leadership positions on many non-profit Boards of Directors and for-profit Boards of Directors including the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue and the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.
ARLENE SARNER is an award-winning screenwriter/playwright/producer. She has written for every major movie studio including Universal, Fox, Columbia, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros., Tri-Star, and Orion, as well as TV networks ABC, CBS, CBC, and VHI. Her film work includes Academy Award-nominated Peggy Sue Got Married and Blue Sky, starring Jessica Lange in her Academy Award-winning role. Recently, Arlene collaborated with director Agnieszka Holland on July Walking Home. Arlene and her husband and co-writer, Jerry Leichtling, turned Peggy Sue Got Married into a stage musical and mounted a successful production in London’s West End. A US production is in the works. Currently, Arlene is working on two book projects, a stage musical based on the life of Hollywood lyricist Al Dubin, as well as a movie based on the life of famed pianist Glenn Gould.
SANDY SAVETT is a retired family and child therapist. For over 20 years she worked with at-risk families dealing with abuse, neglect and cultural difference in child rearing. She developed her love of theatre in Toronto and frequent family visits to New York.
DEBORAH SIBERSTEIN SHKUROVICH was born and raised in Mexico City, where she graduated summa cum laude from the Universidad Iberoamericana with a BA in Communications. She worked as copywriter at Foote, Cone and Belding in Mexico City, and then moved to the US to pursue a MSJ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Upon graduation, she worked as managing editor at Cahners Publishing. While raising three children, she works as a freelance translator and is a certified college counselor from UCLA. Deborah is the author of “Learning to Howl,” which was featured in JWT’s Chutzpah and Salsa show.
MARILEE TOLWIN has worked as a registered nurse in the areas of mental health and substance abuse for over 28 years. Her dedication and expertise tapped her to assume many positions of leadership, including a Directorship of a hospital. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Tolwin Psychiatric Medical Group, as well as volunteers for various Jewish organizations. She is now pursuing her life-long passion in the arts as a painter. Marilee lives in the Pacific Palisades with her husband and son, who attends LMU.
Wendy Turk is a native Angeleno. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in sociology and received her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Licensed to practice in California, she now works in property management for a family-owned business. Wendy volunteers and has served in leadership roles with various social justice and political organizations and causes. Her participation with JWT’s leadership follows on the heels of her son, Chandler’s, involvement as an Emerging Artists literary fellow with JWT. Wendy lives in Los Angeles with her husband Jeff and, in addition to having raised their grown son Chandler, they have an adorable bichon poodle, Sushi.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
RONDA SPINAK (Artistic Director) created JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series and since has curated and produced more than 45 original Jewish-themed salon shows, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. Spinak developed and produced Ovation-recommended Not That Jewish at JWT’s The Braid, which ran for 16 months, garnered an LA Drama Critics Circle nomination, and then moved to off-Broadway. She also produced Rain Pryor’s hit show Fried Chicken & Latkes and Vicki Juditz’s Ovation-recommended Sacred Resistance. Spinak co-wrote Stories from the Fringe, putting the stories of women rabbis on stage for the first time. Since then, she and her team have interviewed on videotape 180 national and international women rabbis, and in partnership with Jewish Women’s Archive have made many of the interviews available online at www.jwa.org. She has written for Rugrats, and her plays include Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival. She is on the board of the Alliance for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She feels blessed to be working with so many creative people who give their hearts and souls to JWT.
LYNNE HIMELSTEIN has dedicated herself to the Jewish community, assuming leadership positions on the board of National Women’s Philanthropy. In great demand as a speaker on Jewish philanthropy, she has traveled around both the United States and Israel, inspiring people to give to Jewish organizations. She is currently the chair of Lion of Judah Endowment for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and member of the board of Jewish Women’s Archive.
PATRICIA LINDEN is formerly the Director of Financial Management at the RAND Corporation, a non-profit policy research organization based in Santa Monica. She brings 30 years of financial management experience to her role on the JWT Board and she holds an MBA from UCLA. Prior to RAND she worked in public accounting for nine years with a specialty in entertainment and non-profits and worked in the film production and sports entertainment industry for six years prior to joining RAND in 1984.
Jackie’s career has included several professional areas including film production, nonprofit development and administration, physical fitness personal trainer and preschool teacher. She is presently Vice Chair of the Board of Jewish Women’s Theatre, and has served as a volunteer for seven years. Jackie co-founded the Los Angeles Children’s Museum, reopened today as The Discovery Cube LA. Jackie is currently developing several film projects.
Olivia Cohen-Cutler is an attorney whose nearly 40 year career includes senior executive positions in the areas of labor and employment relations, entertainment business affairs and broadcast industry content at Disney/ABC Television. Since 2000, she served as Senior Vice President, Standards and Policy, ABC, Inc where she led the Broadcast Standards and Practices Department which is responsible for the acceptability of all entertainment programming and commercial material on ABC Networks. She has served as Chair, the MorningStar Commission founded by Hadassah advocating for strong and diverse media portrayals of Jewish women, a member of the Board of Directors for the Jewish Women’s Archive, and as an advisory Board member for the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel. Olivia earned her JD cum laude from Boston College Law School, and received her BA and an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Simmons College.
Jennifer Roth Krieger has worked in local politics for nearly 30 years, beginning with NYC Mayor Ed Koch. Her professional life in Los Angeles includes working on children’s issues for County Supervisor Ed Edelman, serving as Deputy Mayor under Richard Riordan and currently working as Special Assistant to City Attorney Mike Feuer. Raised just outside of New York City, she has long embraced her Jewish identity – most recently as a Wexner Fellow, member of the Jewish Women’s Initiative and as an active member of the Nashuva community and University Synagogue. She joined the Jewish Women’s Theater Board of Directors in 2018. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband Dr. Lauren Eric Krieger, where they have raised their three children – Samantha, Noah, and Ezra.
SHARON LANDAU brings to JWT 20 years of non-profit leadership experience helping programs and organizations scale and thrive. As a non-profit Director and consultant, she engaged multidisciplinary stakeholders to design, pilot, scale and evaluate innovative programs improving contraceptive access at local, state and national levels that became replicable models. She launched Pharmacy Forward, the nation’s first leadership program for pharmacists in reproductive health. She previously worked in management consulting for Kaiser Permanente and as clinic manager for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. 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.
JODIE KAY is a licensed architect, and works in downtown Los Angeles managing construction of culture and entertainment venues for Cumming, an international project management and cost consulting company. When she’s not working at her day job, she is volunteering for Jewish Women’s Theatre, and spending time with her family and friends.
JANIS C. NELSON has worked in the entertainment industry for over 40 years. She is an entertainment attorney with the law firm of Cowan DeBaets Abrahams + Sheppard, LLP in Beverly Hills, representing production companies, financiers, producers, writers, directors and actors working in theatre, film, television, publishing and new media. She has served on the boards of several prominent arts and media organizations, including Women in Film, Los Angeles Ballet and Dance Camera West. She began her career at the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center in New York City and she is a graduate of Barnard College and the UCLA School of Law.
ELISA WAYNE served as President of the Women’s Conference, campaign chair, vice president of Organizations Assembly and board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; creator of a young leadership program and board member for the Los Angeles Jewish Home; co- chair of the School of Jewish Communal Service Advisory Board and mentor at Hebrew Union College; Lion of Judah Endowment Fund; and alumni member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet. She has received several awards and honors for her leadership in the Los Angeles Jewish community and is recognized as an effective fundraiser and creative talent. Elisa works as a Senior Attorney with the Social Security Administration, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review and is an active member of the California State Bar. She sits on the Los Angeles Jewish Home subsidiary board of the Gerontology Education and Research Organization (GERO) affiliated with the Boren School of Gerontology at UCLA. Elisa is a writer and comedienne who appears at numerous comedy venues including the Hollywood Improv, Second City, Flappers and the Comedy Union. She is an ardent supporter of theater and dance, and a long time subscriber to the Ahmanson Theater, UCLA-Reprise, the Hollywood Bowl and Disney Hall. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a BA in Psychology and a JD from Southwestern University, Elisa is a mother of two daughters. She enjoys golfing, blogging, spinning and snow skiing.