ABOUT US

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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.

STAFF

Ronda@the-braid.org

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@the-braid.org

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.

Susan@the-braid.org

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.

Andrew@the-braid.org

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.

Susie@the-braid.org

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.

Daphna@the-braid.org

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.

Rose@the-braid.org

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.

Barbara@the-braid.org

BARBARA KOLETSKY was associate producer and production manager for Miss America’s Ugly Daughter, at The Broad Theatre. She spent the previous six months as a production associate and costumer on the off-Broadway production of Not That Jewish at New World Stages, prior to which she was assistant producer and stage manager for that show’s Los Angeles debut, in association with The Braid/Jewish Women’s Theatre. In the past twelve years she has worked with The Braid in various capacities—assistant producer, lighting designer, stage manager—in a number of productions. In her earlier career she served as the president for the special-event company R.S.V.P., which entailed everything from budgeting to leading a team to achieve flawless events. Barbara began her career in marketing and promotions at Polygram Records.

ADVISORY COUNCIL

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.

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 Braid writer and dramaturg and, with a small but mighty team, produces and co-hosts The Braid’s podcasts and the unique Sunday with 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 is an Emeritus Professor of Journalism at California State University, Northridge. In her 30 years on campus, she served in a variety of administrative positions, published widely and received numerous teaching and public service awards. Prior to joining the CSUN faculty, she worked as a speechwriter in the Carter White House, U.S Congress and several non-profit organizations. She is a board member of The Braid, is partly responsible for their media outreach and often moderates Sunday Morning with The Braid events.

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 for-profit Boards of Directors and non-profit Boards of Directors and  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 The Braid’s Chutzpah and Salsa salon 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 The Braid’s leadership follows on the heels of her son, Chandler’s, involvement as an Emerging Artists literary fellow with The Braid.  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 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.

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 Board of The Braid and 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 WEINTRAUB’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 The Braid, 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 The Board of Directors of The Braid 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 The Braid and spending time with her family and friends.