Meet the Staff
Sonia Alexander, LMSW, Program Director/Community Organizer
Sonia Alexander is pleased to be a part of the founding staff of the Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility at JCC Manhattan. She served most recently as Program Director at Ma’yan, where she co-facilitated the RTI program for Jewish teen girls & trainings for alumni leaders, led social justice & privilege workshops, facilitated the Living Feminism adult education program, and managed the Social Justice Educators’ group. Previously, she worked as the Director of Teen Engagement at Mosaic of Westchester, working with teen leaders to create a more LGBTQ inclusive Jewish community in Westchester County. Sonia completed her Master’s in Social Work at NYU in 2015, where she focused on youth counseling, group facilitation, and organizing in the Jewish community. Her final graduate work was a study in Jewish Historical Trauma and she is passionate about transformative, justice oriented healing work.
Sonia has designed and facilitated workshops & conversations about power/oppression, Jewish identity, antisemitism, race and class for a variety of organizations over many years, such as: Adamah: Jewish Environmental Fellowship, Class Action Cross Class Dialogue Group, Jewish Dialogue Group, Resource Generation, Smith School for Social Work, JFREJ, Keshet, Vassar College, Eden Village Camp, Center for Jewish Non-Violence, SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice) Faith Leaders, Repair the World, & Romemu.
She is an active member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and a co-founder of #MovementMatch, movementmatch.org. Her undergraduate work was in Environmental Studies where she focused on food and environmental justice. She made a documentary film about environmental racism in agriculture, and and she worked for many years in the food justice field. She loves turning cement into gardens, going to the beach at all times of year, and reading out loud. 646.505.5724.
Beth Cooper Benjamin, Ed.D., Associate Director
Before helping to launch the Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility at JCC Manhattan, Beth Cooper Benjamin was the Associate Director of Ma’yan. In that role, she co-created and co-facilitated Ma’yan’s participatory action research with Jewish teen girls (the Research Training Intensive), managed the Ma’yan Alumnae Network for alums of the RTI and That’s Not Fair! programs, and conducted research with and about Jewish teen girls. She has spoken at or led workshops at the Jewish Funders Network, the Young Feminist Collaborative, New CAJE, and Free Minds Free People, and has contributed writing to eJewishPhilanthropy, The Forward, and the Journal of Jewish Communal Service.
Beth received her doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and has presented research at conferences including the American Educational Research Association, the Society for Research on Adolescence, the Network for Research in Jewish Education, and the Gender and Education Association (in Dublin, Ireland). Beth has worked extensively with single-sex programs for adolescent girls, both as a researcher and a practitioner. She has also consulted and conducted trainings for girl-serving organizations including the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Beth’s research is included in New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein (2008, Jewish Lights), and Educating Elites: Class Privilege and Educational Advantage in the United States, edited by Adam Howard and Ruben A. Gaztambide-Fernandez (2010, Rowman & Littlefield). 646.505.4487.
Daisy Diaz, Assistant Director of Literacy + Math Programs
Daisy Diaz began working as a JCC Day Camp CIT in 2002. After graduating from high school, she returned to the JCC for a five-year stint as a coach in the Athletics Department. Upon receiving her bachelor's degree in psychology, Daisy transitioned into an educational role; working as an assistant preschool teacher in both mainstream and special needs settings. Her long and affectionate connection to the JCC made her a natural fit for her current position. Daisy is a born and raised New Yorker who sings in her spare time.
Rabbi Brian Fink, Director of Engage
After growing up in Cleveland, Brian attended college at Tulane University in New Orleans, and previously lived in New York as a participant in the Avodah: Jewish Service Corps, working at the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan. While attending the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, Brian had many internships in congregational, campus, chaplaincy and social justice settings. After graduating from RRC in 2011, he served as the Rabbinic Fellow at Cornell University Hillel. Brian and his wife Aileen live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Judy Gross, Director of Literacy + Math Programs
Judy is a New York State certified reading specialist and a graduate of Teachers College Columbia University. While working as a real estate attorney in the 90s, Judy’s penchant for helping children led her to volunteer at the JCC’s Gift of Literacy Program. Judy was so impressed with the effects of one-on-one support for struggling readers that she chose to pursue a second career and enroll in the reading certification program at Teachers College. She has served as the reading specialist for 2nd graders at PS 6, as Coordinator of Academic Intervention Services for PS 75, and as a private tutor for elementary school students struggling with literacy skills. Since 2000, Judy has overseen the JCC’s social action programs, including special service opportunities, donor drives, educational films and speaking engagements.
Assistant Director of Engage
Susan brings over 20 years of experience in strategic planning and business development in both the for-profit and non-profit world, to the JCC. Susan has lived in Brooklyn for over 30 years. She has always been a very active member of the Jewish community, serving on the Board of Directors and as Membership Chair at two local synagogues, where she recruited and managed volunteers.
Eve Landau, Director
Prior to joining the staff of JCC Manhattan’s newly-created Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility, Eve Landau served as the Founding Executive Director of Ma’yan. In its first decade, under Eve’s guidance, Ma’yan became a nationally recognized resource in the areas of Jewish feminist ritual and women’s leadership development. In addition, Ma’yan has been at the forefront of Jewish women’s and youth philanthropy and in showcasing the work and talents of Jewish feminist artists. Eve has represented and presented the work of Ma’yan at national conferences including the General Assembly and CAJE as well as at synagogues and other local organizations.
Eve served on the board of Project Kesher. She is a member of Westchester Reform Temple where she serves on the board of Women of Reform Judaism. Before co-founding Ma’yan in 1993, Eve was Director of Community Relations at Westchester Jewish Community Services. An active community volunteer for many years, she served as a member of the Board of Education in Scarsdale, NY, and founded and directed The Child Care Association of Scarsdale, a school-based before- and after-school child care program. Eve was honored for her work with Ma’yan by US/Israel Women to Women on the occasion of their Silver Anniversary in the fall of 2004, and by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, in July 2005. 646.505.4480.
Ruth W. Messinger, Social Justice Organizer
Ms. Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) from 1998 to July of 2016, is currently the organization’s inaugural Global Ambassador. In this role, Ruth is continuing her crucial work of engaging rabbis and interfaith leaders to speak out on behalf of oppressed and persecuted communities worldwide.
Ruth’s remarkable 18-year presidency at AJWS began after a 20-year career in public service in New York City as a City Council member and Manhattan Borough President. Under Ruth’s leadership, AJWS grew exponentially—granting more than $270 million to promote human rights in the developing world and launching campaigns to end the Darfur genocide, reform international food aid, stop violence against women and LGBT people, end land grabs and respond to natural disasters around the globe.
A tireless advocate and social change visionary, Ruth mobilizes rabbis and faith-based communities throughout the U.S. to promote human rights. She previously sat on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group and is currently a member of the World Bank’s Moral Imperative Working Group on Extreme Poverty.
Ruth is also currently doing international human rights work for AIDS Free World and serving as the inaugural Social Justice Fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Ruth has been honored for her leadership with awards from many national Jewish organizations and honorary degrees from five major American rabbinical seminaries. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award. Ruth was named one of the 10 most inspiring women religious leaders of 2012 by The Huffington Post; the sixth most influential Jew in the world by The Jerusalem Post; and was listed annually on The Forward’s “Forward 50” for nearly a decade.
Ruth is an active member of her congregation, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, and serves on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Hazon, Aegis Trust and Surprise Lake Camp. She holds a B.A. from Radcliffe College and an M.S.W. from the University of Oklahoma. She is married to Andrew Lachman and has three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.