The Jewish Center for Justice is a distinguished social justice, education, and leadership development platform that empowers current and future leaders to build a more compassionate and just society.
A diverse movement and community spanning generations and denominations, JCJ connects Jewish justice activists with unique opportunities to formulate their voices and make a real impact on issues such as immigration, gun violence prevention, economic justice, climate change, and more.
Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds
Founding Executive 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 the wider Jewish community. Previously, 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, and for the past ten years has been the Associate Rabbi at University Synagogue in Los Angeles.
Julie Bank is the Founding Board Chair of the Jewish Center for Justice. She has a Master’s of Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Julie 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 Reform Judaism and is a trustee-at-large on the Union for Reform Judaism North American Board.
Max Rosenblum is a communications and marketing professional skilled in crafting, targeting and pitching compelling stories for social causes, events and consumer products. He is an expert in utilizing social media platforms to build communities, drive business development and boost brand awareness. Max is also an experienced writer and editor across many industries including e-commerce, technology, political advocacy, real estate, retail, music and entertainment.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Joel Thal Simonds
Jennifer Haarmann is a Founding Board Member of the Jewish Center for Justice, where she shares the vision of community and faith-based advocacy that speaks to the needs of all people, in the Jewish spirit of tikkun olam. Jennifer serves as a Board Member of University Synagogue in Los Angeles, as well as a volunteer 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.
Abbi Hertz is a co-founder of the Jewish Center for Justice and previously directed its communications and outreach programs. Prior to that, Abbi consulted with Jewish organizations including Sharsheret and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she developed long-term strategies on social justice issues. For more than a decade, she directed the Los Angeles office for the 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 more.
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 currently the general counsel of Regent Properties 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.
Teddy Levitt is a Vice President and Financial Advisor in the Los Angeles office of Bernstein Private Wealth Management. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Teddy was a relationship manager at Causeway Capital Management for five years. Before that, he was a financial communications analyst for The Walt Disney Company. Teddy earned a B.A. in international relations from Stanford University and an MBA in finance from the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a former president of the Anderson Student Asset Management Fund, a quantitative investment group managing approximately $1 million of the university’s endowment assets. Teddy is also a four-time national fencing champion.
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 was an active board member for a number of community and Jewish organizations. Nick has also worked in the Obama White House and the U.S. 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.
Michelle Sampson is a Founding Board Member of the 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.
Rabbi Leah Sternberg is the Assistant Rabbi at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ. Rabbi Leah received her Rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles where she also earned a Master’s Degree as well as a certificate in Jewish Nonprofit Management from the Zelikow School at HUC. Prior to joining the Board, Rabbi Leah served as the Manager for Jewish Engagement and Advocacy for JCJ where she oversaw our cohort programs as well as our legislative agenda. She holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan.