Board of Directors
Barbra Streisand is a film director, producer, writer, actress, singer and composer, as well as a leading spokesperson and fundraiser for social and political causes. Her production company, Barwood Films, has focused on creating television movies and documentaries that explore pressing social, historical and political issues. She established the Streisand Foundation in 1986, which since its inception has made grants totaling more than 11 million dollars to organizations that promote and support women’s rights, civil rights and race relations, environmental causes, youth-related issues focusing on the economically disadvantaged, and AIDS research. Brandeis University awarded Barbra Streisand an honorary doctorate in arts and humanities in 1995. She is a recipient of the National Medal for the Arts.
Chair since 2008
Laura Strumingher Schor, Professor of History at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, is a student of Modern Europe who focused on women workers, the history of girls’ education, women’s biography, and the struggle for women’s rights. Her early work was devoted to the silk workers of Lyon, followed by a study of primary schooling for girls and boys in France, a biography of socialist-feminist Flora Tristan, followed by study of women’s struggle for political rights in 1848 and the political satire depicting that struggle. In recent years, Dr. Schor has turned her attention to Jewish women’s history, writing a biography of Betty Rothschild, followed by a study of the Evelina de Rothschild School in Jerusalem in the twentieth century. This last work opened new areas of inquiry including colonialism and the struggle for national identity.
In addition to research and teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Dr. Schor has had a substantial career in academic administration. She was an early Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Cincinnati, where she initiated a Friends of Women’s Studies group, created a Scholar in Residence Program, and pioneered the Women in Science series. She later was appointed Vice Provost for Academic Planning and supervised the distribution of significant investment in academic excellence funds. Dr. Schor served Hunter College as Provost for nine years, initiating the Freshman Year program and hiring 100 new faculty members. Following a brief hiatus in which Dr. Schor was the Executive Director of a large NGO, she was appointed the Founding Dean of the Macaulay (then CUNY) Honors College and served from its inception until the graduation of the first class in 2005.
Dr. Schor serves on two boards in addition to the HBI: the Macaulay Honors College Foundation Board and the Slim Peace Board.
Painter/sculptor Rita Blitt has exhibited and permanently installed works in the United States, Israel, Japan, Germany, Italy, Taiwan and Singapore. She has been invited to represent America in Italy's Florence Biennale this year. In 2000, Brandeis University and Ram Publications co-published "Rita Blitt: The Passionate Gesture." "Caught in Paint," a six-minute collaboration with the Parsons Dance Company and photographer Lois Greenfield has been a featured selection at 21 film festivals. Blitt’s artwork, book and films, including the 1984 film "dancing hands: Visual Arts of Rita Blitt" are all award-winning. Her words, "Kindness is contagious. Catch it!" planted the seed for a kindness program, which is in schools all over the world. Blitt serves on the board of the Trio Foundation for Children with her husband Irwin and daughter Chela.
Talia Carner worked for Redbook magazine and was the publisher of Savvy Woman magazine. The founder of a prestigious marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies, she taught marketing at Long Island University and was a volunteer counselor and lecturer for the Small Business Administration. In 1993 she was sent twice by the United States Information Agency to Russia, and in 1995 participated in the NGO women's conference in Beijing. Carner's first novel, "Puppet Child," was listed in "The Top 10 Favorite First Novels 2002" by BookBrowse and launched a nationwide legislation that became the platform for two Senatorial candidates. China Doll was the platform for Carner's presentation at the U.N. in 2007 about infanticide in China the first ever in U.N. history. Her award-winning essays and stories were published in The New York Times, in prestigious anthologies by Simon & Schuster and Adams Media, and in literary reviews such as Rosebud, Midstream, Confrontation, Lilith, The North Atlantic Review and The Best Jewish Writing 2003 (John Wiley & Son).
Leslie B. Gaffin of Boston, Massachusetts, is a member of the National Board of Hadassah and Liaison to the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute where she also holds a Board position. She is the past Chair of the Hadassah Northeast Area Development Center and served as the first Northeast Liaison for Keepers of the Gate from 2000-2002. In Boston, Leslie is a member of the Board of the New Center for Arts and Culture and also serves on the executive committee of the Boston Jewish Community Women's Fund as incoming chair. Born and educated in Worcester, Massachusetts, Leslie received her B.A. from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Management from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Leslie and her husband, Michael, were founding members of Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland where Leslie served on the Board of Directors from 1978-88. Leslie and Michael have three married children and five grandchildren.
Jessica Grosman is a young woman who simultaneously wears many different hats. She is a dietitian and often speaks with kids & teens about nutrition, health, andwellness. Her love of food has made her a natural cooking & baking instructor, and she recently launched her own baking company. Jessica serves as the Pomegranate Campaign co-chair for The Associated’s Annual Campaign (Baltimore Jewish Federation). She has also been the chairwoman of a women’s mission to Israel and is a member of the Jewish Federation of North America’s (JFNA) National Young Leadership Cabinet. Jessica is the Coordinator/Co-Chair of the Baltimore HBI Conversations program, a role that she cherishes immensely due to her love of reading and learning. She actively volunteers at her daughter’s school and enjoys spending time baking with the children. Jessica, her husband Albert, and daughter Linley are avid travelers and often golf together, too. Former Bostonians, the Grosman family currently lives in Pikesville, MD with their adorable kittens, Biscotti & Nutella.
Phyllis Hammer has been active in the Boston Jewish community for close to 20 years. She served as president of Ma’ayan, Boston’s Torah Studies Initiative for Women, which she helped found. Hammer was a founder of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton and served as its vice president. She also has served on the boards of Maimonides School, Boston’s Bureau of Jewish Education and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Hammer is also a founder and member of the board of directors of Edah, a national organization dedicated to strengthening Modern Orthodoxy. She earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and was a National Science Foundation Fellow at MIT, conducting research in immunochemistry. Until 1983, she was a member of the research staff of MIT, working in biochemistry and biophysics.
Sylvia Neil is the founder and chair of HBI's Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and co-editor of its book series. She is lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School where she previously served as associate dean. She began her career as a poverty law litigator, served as Midwest regional executive director and legal counsel of the American Jewish Congress and consulted with government and not for profits, establishing the Jewish Women’s Foundation for the Chicago Jewish Federation. She was appointed to both the Illinois and Cook County Commissions for Human Rights. She currently serves on several boards of trustees including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, vice chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art, vice chair of Columbia College Chicago and the visiting committee for the humanities at the University of Chicago. She also serves on the national board of NARAL and advisory committees of Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Division and Womenoncall. She received her AB with high distinction from the University of Michigan, A.M. in Jewish studies from the University of Chicago and J.D. cum laud from Northwestern University School of Law. Sylvia is married to Dan Fischel with a wonderful growing family of children and grandchildren.
Suzanne Priebatsch is a senior vice president of investments at Smith Barney, where she specializes in developing investment strategies for individual and institutional clients. She is a frequent speaker and has given seminars on the subject of "Wealth Management: Transferring Assets and Aspirations from Generation to Generation." She was a panelist at a national conference on the subject of "Girls, Women and Money: Financial Empowerment for the 21st Century" and has spoken on social investment issues for the Investment Management Institute in New York. Priebatsch is active in the Jewish community though Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Hebrew College and Hadassah. In May 2005, she was honored at the Hadassah "Women of Distinction" event in Boston and was profiled in a recent issue of "Transformations," produced by Combined Jewish Philanthropies. She is a trustee of the Boston Children's Museum and is on the board of the American Repertory Theater.
Elaine Reuben received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in English, American and Dramatic Literature, areas in which she taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus. Furthering her academic and professional work in Women’s Studies, Elaine was a visiting associate professor and the first full-time faculty director of women’s studies at The George Washington University Graduate School. When she became national coordinator of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), she also taught in the American studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park, where NWSA was based, and directed the NWSA/FIPSE Project to Improve Service Learning in Women’s Studies. She has served as a special assistant to the deputy undersecretary for management at the U.S. Department of Education and on a host of academic, governmental and service boards. Additionally, she is a member of the board of The Feminist Press, and one of the founding trustees of the Tikkun Olam Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington.
Annie Sandler is president of Annie Sandler Ltd., a company that breeds and shows Arabian horses. She is a leader in a variety of volunteer organizations, including the executive committee and board of directors of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. She has served on board of Women’s National Philanthropy for the past 12 years. Sandler co-chaired the International Lion of Judah Conference and was awarded the Kipnis-Friedlander Award for Leadership. She serves on the Brookdale Institute board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), as an observer to the JDC Board, and on the advisory board of the New York City Choreographic Institute (of the New York City Ballet). Sandler also has served on the boards of National BBYO, Panim and the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. She continues to devote her time to Jewish education and helping the development of the Jewish community locally and internationally.
Diane has held numerous leadership roles in the Jewish community, nationally and in Western Massachusetts, and has worked actively on women’s issues. She was the first chair of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Troderman is involved in the renaissance and renewal of Jewish life throughout the world, especially in the Former Soviet Union. She currently serves as chair of JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America) and on the boards of the American Jewish World Service, the Jewish Funder’s Network, BBYO and Hebrew College. She and her husband Harold Grinspoon are partners in the PEJE collaborative (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education). From 1993-1998, Diane Troderman directed the Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and from 1989-1996 oversaw the six-year “I Have A Dream” project co-sponsored by the Grinspoon Foundation and Mass Mutual, enhancing the lives of disadvantaged children and providing them with an opportunity to graduate from high school and further their education. She and her husband travel extensively around the world as hikers. Between the two of them, they have six children and nine grandchildren. Ever a student, she is learning Hebrew and jazz piano.
Yael Swerdlow is a strategic communication consultant specializing in public diplomacy. She is co-founder of the Women's Empowerment Foundation, based in southern California. She is co-chair of the National Leadership Council of Games For Change, and on the board of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, and is the USC's Center on Public Diplomacy's official liaison to the Consular Corps in Southern California. She serves as a media literacy and advocacy educator for both the Museum of Tolerance's Multicultural Leadership Project and the San Diego Anti-Defamation League's Manhigim Institute. Formerly, Yael was the director of media relations for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. As a freelance photojournalist, Swerdlow was a part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for the Los Angeles Riots in 1992 and the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. In summer of 1994, she went to Somalia, Southern Sudan and Rwanda for International Medical Corps, to document the reestablishing of the medical infrastructure in those war-torn countries. Swerdlow also writes fiction, including the cinematic script for Activision's best selling video game, "True Crime: Streets of LA."
Jane Zolot is a member of the national board of Hadassah and formerly a national vice president. She has chaired Hadassah committees for marketing/communication, strategic planning and children at risk. She is a member of the board of One Voice: Jewish Women for Israel. Zolot serves on the boards of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Har Zion Temple and Women's Division State of Israel Bonds. She served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women, a cooperative study between Hadassah and the Cohen Center at Brandeis University that provided the impetus for the creation of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Zolot has served on the HBI Board since its founding. She and her husband Stanley have three children and five grandchildren.