“Now more than ever, there is a need for a moral voice in the public sphere. We must take the leap from acknowledging issues of injustice to the concrete steps of implementing policies and programs for social change.”

Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds


Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds

Founding Exec Director

Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds is the founding executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice, where he envisioned the need for a Jewish justice organization to reach the unaffiliated and expand the breadth and scope of wider Jewish community. Before this position, he was the West Coast Legislative Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Simonds also serves as Rabbi of the Synagogue for the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, CA. For the past eight years, he has served as the Associate Rabbi at University Synagogue in Los Angeles.


Abbi Hertz

Communications & Outreach Director

Communication and outreach director Abbi Hertz directs the communications and outreach programs for JCJ. Before co-founding JCJ, Abbi consulted with some Jewish organizations including Sharsheret and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism where she developed long-term strategies on social justice issues and met with public and elected officials. For more than a decade, Ms. Hertz directed the Los Angeles office for social marketing agency O’Rorke Inc. and was accountable for developing environmental outreach campaigns to educate and drive behavior change for clients including Los Angeles County, the City and County of San Francisco, and much more.



Julie Bank

Board Chair

Julie Bank is the Founding Board Chair of Jewish Center for Justice. She has a Master’s of Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Ms. Bank has worked both professionally and as a volunteer in the Public Policy and Social Service areas for organizations such as the Chicago Urban League, Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Children’s Home and Aid Society and the Jewish Federation. She is currently serving as the Chair of the Economic Justice Task Force of the Commission on Social Action for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and is a trustee-at-large on the Union for Reform Judaism North American Board.


Julie Bank

Lisa Laffer

Michelle Sampson

Jeremy Cronig

Nick Melvoin

Jen Haarmann

Michelle Sampson is a Founding Board Member of Jewish Center for Justice. Michelle has a background in strategic marketing, branding and communications. She has worked with numerous Fortune 500 brands in addition to consulting with charities such as the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Birthright Israel, NATAN and Princess Grace Foundation. Michelle is known for taking consumer marketing approaches and applying them to philanthropic endeavors to create innovation and effect change. In addition to her work with JCJ, Michelle is very active with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.

Jennifer Haarmann is a Founding Board Member of the Jewish Center for Justice, where she shares the vision of community and faith based advocacy to speak to the needs of all people, in the Jewish spirit of "tikkun olam." In addition to this position, Jennifer serves as a Board Member of University Synagogue in Los Angeles, as well as volunteering with the Shalom Institute in Malibu. She also continues her work in accounting and client development in private practice, with a firm in Marina Del Rey, California.

Nick Melvoin serves as Vice President of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Prior to his election, Nick worked as a teacher, public interest attorney, nonprofit director, and an active board member of a number of community and Jewish organizations. Nick has also worked in the Obama White House and the US Attorney’s office. Nick’s work is focused on increasing parent and community engagement, transparency and accountability; directing more resources to schools; protecting our most vulnerable students; and bringing a new spirit of partnership and collaboration to LA’s public schools. Nick is a graduate of Harvard College, NYU School of Law (Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar), and Loyola Marymount University's School of Education.

Lisa Laffer is a board member of the Jewish Center for Justice and a founding member of the JCJ-Legal Action Network.  She has a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from UCLA School of Law.  Lisa is a real estate attorney and has practiced law in both law firms and in house.  She is currently the general counsel of Regent Properties located in Brentwood. She has worked in a pro bono capacity for various organizations throughout Los Angeles including the Los Angeles Conservation Corps as their outside general counsel, the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles and various charter schools throughout the region.

Jeremy Cronig wears two JCJ hats, both as a College Cohort member and as JCJ's Board Chair of Campus Activism. Jeremy is from Shaker Heights, Ohio and is currently studying Policy Analysis and Economics at The Ohio State University. He previously served as the North American President of NFTY and now serves on the Goldman Union Camp Advisory Board. Jeremy works to involve youth in change making opportunities in many capacities. As a summer intern in 2017, Jeremy helped establish our teen and college programs as well as recruit college students for campus fellowship.