Sara Sharnoff Chesley selected for prestigious Leadership Training Inst

Sara Sharnoff Chesley, Director of Charleston Jewish Family Services, has been chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute – Southeast (JELI) sponsored by The Leadership Commons of The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS).

The cohort includes 20 fellows and 5 mentors who live and work in over 12 different communities across 7 states in the southeast region. They represent 11 different types of Jewish organizations, including Jewish Federation, JCC, Hillel, Jewish family services, BBYO, JNF, day schools, synagogues, Moishe House, and more. JELI-Southeast trains Jewish professionals for leadership by focusing on four key pillars: leadership principles, Jewish learning, community building, and personal growth.

JELI-Southeast is an outgrowth of the initial JELI program which was conducted in partnership with JCC Association to train middle and senior managers in JCCs throughout North America to lead through an educational and Jewish lens. The success of the first two JELI cohorts led the Leadership Commons to explore ways to reach even more Jewish professionals and communal leaders. As a result of this exploration, JELI-Southeast was launched to reach communities which have opportunities and challenges in common. This initiative is designed to strengthen  Sara's leadership skills, Charleston Jewish Family Services's role within the community, Charleston's Jewish life, and the Jewish community throughout the entire Southeast.

The Leadership Commons was able to launch JELI-Southeast with generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, The Leon Levine Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation, the Amy Mandel / Katina Rodis Fund, and Birmingham Jewish Foundation.

The inaugural cohort will convene for its first intensive four-day retreat in Charlotte, NC in November 2018. Under the program direction of Debbie Joseph, from Gainesville, Florida, the cohort will continue learning through monthly online sessions, two additional four-day retreats, one-on-one mentoring, and project work over the next 18 months.

In addition to building on the original JELI curriculum, this cohort will study and experience the history and culture of the southeast in order to more effectively lead their communities and collaborate to strengthen Jewish life in this region as a whole.

Click here to learn more about the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute. 


Abbey Cowens, Database and Fundraising Analyst, Memphis Jewish FederationMemphis, TN

Amber Lansdell, First Grade General Studies Teacher, N.E. Miles Jewish Day School, Birmingham, AL

Casey Topol, Senior Director of Programming and Volunteer Engagement, Temple Israel of Charlotte,Charlotte, NC

Corie Hampton, Executive DirectorBeth David SynagogueGreensboro, NC

Gabrielle Adler, Southern Regional ManagerMoishe HouseAtlanta, GA

Ginny Vellani, Director of Statewide InitiativesNorth Carolina Hillel, Chapel Hill, NC

Jacqui Drazen, Community Program CoordinatorSavannah Jewish Federation &

Jewish Educational Alliance, Savannah, GA

Jamie Krusch, Assistant DirectorNorth Carolina Hillel FoundationChapel Hill, NC

Jesse Feld, Director of EngagementJewish Community Federation of RichmondRichmond, VA

Kara Culp, Engagement Coordinator, Jewish Federation of Greater CharlotteCharlotte, NC

Kate Smith, Director of the SoutheastJewish National FundAtlanta, GA

Kirby Southerland, Aquatics and Youth Recreation DirectorJewish Educational AllianceSavannah, GA

Kirsten Robinson, Athletic DirectorLevite Jewish Community CenterBirmingham, AL

Madeline Seltman, Director of EngagementJewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill/Levin Jewish Community Center, Durham, NC

Megan Harkavy, DirectorConsolidated High School of Jewish Studies of CharlotteCharlotte, NC

Nathan Somers, Director of Jewish Life/Judaic Studies TeacherThe Lerner Jewish Community Day SchoolDurham, NC

Priscilla Denard, Director of Programs and EventsLevite Jewish Community CenterBirmingham, AL

Ryan Woloshin, Regional Director, Eastern Region, BBYO Eastern RegionRichmond, VA

Sara Chesley, DirectorCharleston Jewish Family ServicesCharleston, SC

Virginia Brissette Hirshik, Executive DirectorJewish Council of North Central FloridaGainesville, FL



Rabbi Adam Grossman, University of Florida HillelGainesville, FL

Alina Spaulding, The Spaulding GroupGreensboro, NC

Gary Weinstein, Spertus Institute, Chicago, IL and Charleston, SC

Jane Slotin, Moise Y. Safra FoundationNew York, NY and Savannah, GA

Rebecca Simons, Hillel InternationalDurham, NC



Debbie Joseph, Program Director, JELI-Southeast

Mark S. Young, Managing Director, Leadership Commons, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of JTS

Sara HassinProgram Assistant, JELI-Southeast