Staff & Board

Project Kesher Israel Staff


Olya currently serves as Project Kesher Israel’s Executive Director. She has a B.A. in English linguistics from Bar Ilan University and just completed an M.A. in Talmud, Halacha and The History of the Jewish People from the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College in Israel in November of 2019. She has worked as the Student Department Director and Congregational Coordinator for the Masorti movement, as Deputy Director of the Yuri Shtern Foundation, as head of the Russian-speaking department at ITIM-Navigating Religious Bureaucracy in Israel and as associate director of Kashouvot. She created the first Russian language brochure on Marriage Freedom. Olya was born in Ivanovo, Russia. She is fluent in Russian, Hebrew, and English. Olya has been working with PKI since 2011. She began as a facilitator and lecturer on State and Religion in Israel as well as Jewish sources learning on the status of women in halacha and female images in the sources.

Project Kesher Israel Board


Board Chair, is a descendent of 10 generations of rabbis, becoming the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1992, where she is currently the Dean. Born and raised in New York, she has lived in Israel since 1976; where she has worked in community organizing, Jewish education, and the promotion and establishment of Progressive and Pluralistic  Judaism for Israelis . Naamah Kelman has been intensely involved in the emerging education system of the Israeli Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism. Among the founders of the first Progressive Day school, she has overseen the development of curricular materials, teacher training programs, and family education. She has been involved in teacher training and enrichment, the professional development of the Israeli Rabbinic students, and the establishment of “Mazorim” Spiritual Care/Israeli Chaplaincy. She was the Director of the Year in Israel Program for HUC’s North American students. She is a board member of Rabbis for Human Rights, MELITZ, and the Tali Education Fund. Naamah Kelman is deeply engaged in inter-faith dialogue and feminist causes. She is married to Dr. Elan Ezrachi and they have three children.

<strong><strong><strong><strong><strong>SHEILA FRIEDLAND</strong></strong></strong></strong></strong>

Sheila Friedland is a philanthropist dedicated to helping families, with particular focus on emotionally disturbed youth and Jewish women and girls in the United States, Israel and the former Soviet Union. She is the former Executive Director of the Westchester Jewish Council and was a staff member of the Jewish Museum of New York.  Sheila has also served on the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel Center.  Sheila became active with Project Kesher after a trip to Chernigov, Ukraine, in 1997, where she received leadership training. She has been involved in the organization ever since and joined the Board in 1998 and served as Board chair from July 2001 through June 2004.

<strong><strong><strong><strong><strong>KARYN GROSSMAN GERSHON</strong></strong></strong></strong></strong>

Project Kesher USA Executive Director, joined Project Kesher  in 1994 and has overseen its dramatic growth. Trained as a lawyer, Karyn was a litigator with Katten Muchin & Zavis from 1986–1994. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University School of Law. She was a fellow at the Wexner Heritage Foundation. In 2004, Karyn was named one of the Jewish Chicagoans of the Year by The Chicago Jewish News. After living in the Chicago area for more than 20 years, Karyn now lives in New York City.

<strong><strong><strong><strong><strong><strong>BARBARA GLICKSTEIN</strong></strong></strong></strong></strong></strong>

Barbara Glickstein is a public health nurse, health reporter and media strategist. In 2019 she founded Barbara Glickstein Strategies, a training and development company that provides innovative approaches to training in media, leadership  and advocacy skills. Glickstein produces & hosts HealthCetera, a podcast that provides evidence-based health news, analysis and commentary. She is the Nursing Consultant and Advisor for Carolyn Jones Productions. She worked on the documentaries The American NurseDefining Hope and the multimedia project Dying in America
Glickstein is one of 50 women selected for Take The Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism. 

<strong><strong><strong><strong><strong>TAMARA EDELL GOTTSTEIN</strong></strong></strong></strong></strong>

Tamara is a mother, Doula (childbirth assistant) and Artist/Craftswoman. She has a M.A. in Community Leadership and Philanthropy Studies from Hebrew University and works for the Rochlin Foundation in grants allocations along with micromanagement of evidence-based nursing grants and the Regenerative Community project (transforming old age nursing homes from medical institutional settings into caring communities). In addition to serving on the board of  Project Kesher, Tamara serves on the board of Tevel b’Tzedek.

<strong><strong>SHEILA LAMBERT</strong></strong>

PK USA Board Chair, enjoyed a twenty year career at The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation with progressively responsible positions including Vice President of Human Resources and Senior Vice President & Publisher of Moody’s Investors Service. Her extensive philanthropic experience focuses on Jewish continuity and helping underserved and disadvantaged populations, particularly women and children. Sheila is the Founder and a Former Board Chair of Bottomless Closet and Chair of the Manhattan Jewish Community Center. She was a Founder and former Board Chair of Summerbridge, a Director of the Jewish Children’s Learning Laboratory, a Vice President of the Board of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, in Manhattan, and a member of the Advocacy Council for the Citizen’s Committee for Children. Sheila and her husband Bill live in New York City and have residences in Fire Island, and Aspen. She was elected to the Board of Project Kesher in 2003, and is currently serving as Project Kesher’s Board Chair.    

<strong>RABBI ALONA LISITSA (PHD)</strong>

Rabbi Alona Lisitsa (PhD) – Alona was the first female rabbi to join religious council in Israel. Rabbi Lisitsa has her Bachelor and Master’s degrees in English Linguistics and Spanish and Latin American Literature, Masters degree in Talmud and the Jewish Law from the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies (JTS) and her Ph.D in Talmud and ancient texts from Tel Aviv University. She was ordained as a Rabbi 16 years ago by HUC. Rabbi Lisitsa teaches rabbinic texts and liturgy at Hebrew Union College, she is in charge of Rabbinic internship and mentoring.

<strong><strong><strong><strong><strong>LENA SHTERN</strong></strong></strong></strong></strong>

Lena Shtern is the Founder of the Yuri Shtern Holistic Center at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Israel. Formal Bio will follow.

<strong><strong><strong><strong>MARGARITA (RITA) SLAVKIN</strong></strong></strong></strong>

Margarita made aliyah from Ukraine in 1995 and has been living in Petach Tikva for 15 years. She has a Masters in Mechanical engineering and is the head of the engineering department at Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel’s prime aerospace and aviation manufacturer. Wanting to see more women represented in her industry in positions of power, in 2016, she developed a program to support the advancement of women engineers. Rita is appreciative to PKI for developing her leadership skills and knowledge on such issues as religion and state. Since graduating from PKI’s program, she has volunteered for various civic causes important to the Russian speaking community including, the need for better pensions and the lack of legal rights on religion and state issues. She founded a number of Facebook pages to promote improvements in Petach Tikvah, including, “Petach Tikva Is Our Home” and thousands of Russian speakers` groups now participate in this platform for discussions and promote social activism among Russian speakers. Rita has been instrumental in building a network for members of the Russian speaking community and is a leader in advocacy for her community at both the local and Knesset level. About a year ago, Rita became a deputy of the Municipality of Petach Tikva where she is in charge of Aliya and Integration committee. Margarita (Rita) Slavkin is a graduate of the first leadership training program underwritten by the Mazer Family Fund. She initially became very active in her local women’s group, learned more about Israel’s political system and then, began to visit the Knesset with PKI delegations on key issues important to the Russian speaking women’s community. Rita is 46, married and has three children.

<strong><strong><strong><strong>KSENIA SVETLOVA</strong></strong></strong></strong>

Ksenia Svetlova is an expert on Middle East and a passionate fighter for religious freedoms. Born in Moscow, she previously served as a Parliament member and sat at  Foreign affairs & defense committee and Aliya & Absorption committee. While in Knesset she had authored many bills in sphere of religious freedoms. Today she serves as senior research analyst at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center (Herzliya) and senior policy researcher at Mitvim institute for regional foreign policy. Ms. Svetlova has published numerous scholarly journal articles, international and national newspaper editorials, and magazine features, and reported exclusively from Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories for the Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Report, BBC Russian, Channel 9 and other international media. A specialist in Middle East affairs and Arab politics, as well as Russia’s influence in the Middle East, she graduated with magna cum laude honors with an MA and BA degrees in Middle Eastern studies from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is fluent in English, Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic. In 2019 Ksenia Svetlova authored her first book – “Through Middle East on heels” with Pardes Publishing House.