Aaron Asis ; Jaqueline Cedar ; Matthew “Motl” Didner ; Rebecca Frank ; Avraham Groll ; Beth Harpaz ; Andi Rae Healy ; Karen Franklin ; Stephen Lean ; Hadassah Lipsius ; Jeff Litman ; Zalmen Mlotek ; Dr. Adina Newman ; Chana Pollack ; Steve Stein ; David Teyf ; Hallel Yadin

Aaron Asis (he/him) is an artist and filmmaker working at the intersection of public interests, community organizations, and government agencies to demonstrate the impact of creative engagement in shaping the future of our cities. His work focuses on exploring new ways to share knowledge, inspire the public, and highlight aspects of our city that most are unaware exist – through large-scale installations and documentary films – to celebrate unique urban experiences which allow us to connect with each other and our city in unique and meaningful ways. Asis is the creator of Unforgotten Films, Artist in Residence at Untapped New York, and works closely with City as Living Laboratory, People for the Pavilion, Illegal Art, as well as dozens of organizations throughout the county to promote the power of art to help increase access, awareness, and appreciation for complexities that define our built environments all around us.

artist Jaqueline Cedar in her studio surrounded by abstract paintings

Jaqueline Cedar was born in Los Angeles, CA and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She teaches at the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, and MoMA. In 2009 she received an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. Recent exhibitions include Shelter Gallery, New York (2022), Shin Haus, New York (2022), Smoke the Moon, Santa Fe (2022), Ladies’ Room, Los Angeles (2021), 11 Newel, Brooklyn (2021), Peripheral Space, Los Angeles (2021), Hesse Flatow, New York (2020), Drawer NYC (2020), Field Projects, New York (2020), Underdonk, Brooklyn (2018), and David Risley Gallery Velvet Ropes, Copenhagen (2018). Press includes Artnet, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, Two Coats of Paint, New American Paintings, Gorky’s Granddaughter, Painters’ Table, and The Boston Globe. Cedar’s paintings and drawings address uncanny scenarios where characters engage themselves and one another with sincerity and purpose. Moments of desire, self-reflection, and lack of control motivate postures filled with bravado and vulnerability. In October 2019, Cedar launched the curatorial exhibition program Good Naked Gallery. Projects hover around the intimate and awkward with a focus on work that engages tactility, humor, movement, and play.

Matthew “Motl” Didner (he/him) is the Associate Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF). He is the Associate Director of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (Winner of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Lucille Lortel Awards) and Co-director of The Golden Bride. Didner has appeared on stage in Gimpel the Fool and with The Folksbiene Troupe. He is Yiddish coach for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, An American Pickle starring Seth Rogen, The Immigrant at George Street Playhouse, and New York City Opera’s Angels in America. Didner was an inaugural Translation Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center and teaches Yiddish language classes and theater workshops at the Workers Circle.

Rebecca Frank giving a tour in The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do

Rebecca Frank (she/her) is the Curatorial Research Assistant at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York. She earned a B.A. in History and Jewish Studies from Cornell University in 2019, and an M.A. in Holocaust Studies from the University of Haifa in 2020. During her studies, Frank interned at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, the Jewish Museum, and the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum.

Avraham Groll has a passion for connecting people with their Jewish roots. As Executive Director of JewishGen, he has partnered with a dedicated team of volunteers to position JewishGen as the premier resource for Jewish genealogical research, and he continues to drive innovation and expansion to meet the evolving needs of the global Jewish genealogical community. Groll has a diverse educational background that includes an MBA from Montclair State University, an MA in Judaic Studies from Touro College, a certificate in Jewish Executive Leadership from Columbia University, and a BS in Business Administration from Ramapo College. His two years of study at Yeshiva OHRV Jerusalem in Israel has also informed his approach to leadership, community building, and dedication to preserving Jewish family history and heritage.

Beth Harpaz

Beth Harpaz (she/her) is a lifelong New Yorker and longtime journalist who worked for The Associated Press, CUNY, the Bergen Record, and the Staten Island Advance before joining the Forward. She’s also the author of three books, including The Girls in the Van, a reporter’s diary of covering Hillary ClintonShe loves reading advice columns.

Brooklyn-based Singer/Songwriter Andi Rae Healy (she/her) has been a mainstay on New York City’s music scene for over a decade, fronting her indie-country band Andi Rae & the Back River Bullies as well as backing various artists across musical genres. Her newest LP, Last Time I Checked This Was a Free World and I Wasn’t Anybody’s Girl, whose title track is an anthem to girl power, was released in 2020–coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. Healy’s debut album, I Guess I am a Sinner – featuring contributions from artists as diverse as pop princess Cyndi Lauper, and indie darling Jill Sobule – was released in 2006 and earned rave reviews for its deep melodicism, shimmering production, and its brutally honest and painfully heartfelt lyrics. 

Karen Franklin (she/her) is the Consulting Director of the Jewish Genealogy Center and has been Director of Family Research at the Leo Baeck Institute for over 20 years and a leader in the fields of genealogy and museums for many more. She received the 2019 IAJGS Lifetime Achievement award and has served as the IAJGS President, chair of the Council of American Jewish Museums, chair of the Memorial Museums Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and as co-chair of the Board of Governors of JewishGen.org. She is a founder and past jury president of the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards and has served on the board of the National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis.

Stephen Lean (he/him) is the Director, Family History Center at the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. After a career in the corporate sector, Lean embraced his passion for history and storytelling and has led the History Center’s team as an indispensable resource for visitors exploring their family heritage. Lean holds a B.A. in American History. Lean is a frequent guest speaker and interview subject for location, national, and international media, discussing his deep knowledge of Ellis Island and the Ellis Island immigrant experience.

Hadassah Lipsius (she/her) is the 2020 recipient of the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement award. She was co-chair of the 42nd and 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and the Program Chair for the 2021 and 2022 IAJGS Conferences. A longtime member of the Jewish Genealogical Society’s Executive Council, she is a board and executive committee member of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland and the Database Manager for the Warszawa Research Group.

Jeff Litman (he/him) has been working as a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and orchestrator in New York City since 2008. He has released four albums of his own music: Postscript (2009), Outside (2012), Primetime (2015), and Crowded Hour (2018). He has also performed, produced, and recorded with a wide swath of NYC-based talent, from children’s music to metal to country, rock, and pop. 

Zalmen Mlotek (he/him) is an internationally acclaimed conductor and accompanist whose musical prowess encompasses the Yiddish folk and theater worlds. As Artistic Director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF), he brought the award-winning Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof) to New York. At NYTF, the nation’s only professional Yiddish theater, he has helped to revive Yiddish classics, bring leading creative artists to the Yiddish stage, and instituted English subtitles. He has worked extensively with choruses and conductors of the Workmens Circle Chorus, The New Yiddish Chorale, and the American Symphony Chorus, where he prepared the chorus for Maestro Julius Rudel. Mlotek has given master classes and has performed around the world. He received his training as a classical pianist and conductor at the Juilliard School and the Tanglewood Music Center. Among his most notable teachers and mentors was Leonard Bernstein.

Dr. Adina Newman (she/her) is a co-founder of the DNA Reunion Project at the Center for Jewish History. She is also the creator of My Family Genie, where she assists clients with research and blogs about her genealogy musings. Her specialties are in Jewish genealogy, genetic genealogy, social media, and New England, and she presents on these topics in a variety of venues, from major genealogy conferences to local genealogy societies. She volunteers as a moderator for a Jewish genetic genealogy Facebook group and is on the program committee for her local Jewish genealogical society. 

Chana Pollack photo by Kurt Hoffman
Photo by Kurt Hoffman

Chana Pollack (she/they/them) is the Forward’s archivist providing Yiddish research, translation, and production of original Forward archival content, for the past 24 years. The Forward’s archival photos and their related stories are presented publicly in an ongoing digital mapping  app and web based project with Urban Archive. They were a regular guest on the Forward’s Bintel Brief podcast. In collaboration with the Museum at Eldridge Street’s curator Nancy Johnson, they created the exhibition of original half tone prints based on the Forward’s archival photo press plates called PRESSED: ImagesFrom the Jewish Daily Forward that is currently on exhibition at the Hillman Library in Pittsburgh. Pollack’s 2021 Forward personal essay “We’re Here We’re Queer We’re Yiddish: LGBTQ Stories and Silences in the Forward Archives” won a Rockower American Jewish Press Association award for excellence in North American Jewish History. Pollack loves to find a Yiddish needle in a haystack and has expertise in reading Yiddish curlicue handwriting. 

Steve Stein (he/him), President of the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc., is a retired software professional and manager with more than 40 years in the telecommunications industry. He has been researching his own and his wife’s genealogies for more than 45 years, whose origins include Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania. He has volunteered for H-SIG and JOWBR, is currently coordinating research projects on the KehilaLinks page related to Nyasvizh, Belarus, and hopes to start one for Kupel, Ukraine.

David Teyf (he/him) comes from a family with nearly a century of epicurean experience. His passion is deeply rooted and the foundation for his identity as a chef. Trained in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, Teyf provides elevated culinary experiences that break stereotypes of what Kosher cuisine is and can be.

Hallel Yadin (she/her) is an archivist and special projects manager at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. She holds an MLIS from the University of Missouri and a BA in history from Rutgers University.