Rebecca Stapel-Wax, Executive Director
Rebecca Stapel-Wax has worked with non-profits throughout her career. She attended Clark University in Worcester, MA. For 15 years she ran residential, respite and communications for agencies working with adults with developmental disabilities. Rebecca has her master's degree in counseling and has had an interest in suicide prevention since she was a teen when she worked on a Samariteen Hotline. In 2004 Rebecca became the director of The Rainbow Center, now the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN).
Rebecca, along with many volunteers, has trained thousands of youth, educators, parents, clergy, and advocates to build inclusive communities. She has built curricula for rural southern communities to address the increased rates risks of suicide that gay and transgender people experience.
Rebecca has a Masters Degree in Counseling and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She specializes in working with LGBTQ people, people who have HIV, and those who have substance use/abuse issues.
Rebecca serves as an adviser to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Founder
Rabbi Joshua Lesser leads the dynamic Congregation Bet Haverim as a place dedicated to celebrating all aspects of Jewish life and creating a spiritual home that balances the needs of a diverse community. He served in the first Teach for America Corps in New Orleans and founded the Rainbow Center (SOJOURN's predecessor), a Jewish response to LGBTQ people and their families. He is the co-editor of the groundbreaking book Torah Queeries: A Weekly Commentary on the Hebrew Bible. He was named one of the 36 most influential rabbis in North America in 2013 and listed as one of the 100 most notable LGBT clergy in America by Huffington Post.
Throughout his tenure at Bet Haverim, Rabbi Lesser has worked with a wide variety of groups and coalitions to build a better community for Atlanta by focusing on building bridges between diverse communities as demonstrated through being a founder and past president of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and serving as the co-chair of Georgians Against Discrimination. Taking positions as the chair of Reconstructionist movement's Tikkun Olam Comission and the board of Georgia Equality, he is solidly dedicated to human rights for all. Recently, he has completed the Lev Shomea Spiritual Direction Program.
Rabbi Lesser can be reached at email@example.com.
SOJOURN's Board of Directors
Leanne Rubenstein is the president of SOJOURN and the Executive Director of Compassionate Atlanta, and is originally from South Africa. She grew up in Atlanta as part of a close knit immigrant family. Over the past 20 years, Leanne has dedicated her career to creating healthier, more vibrant and welcoming communities for all. Leanne served as the Associate Director of a refugee resettlement agency in Atlanta resettling over 500 refugees annually, as well as providing emergency response programming to individuals and families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the massive earthquake in Haiti. Leanne is invested in uplifting the voices and experiences of marginalized communities locally, nationally and globally. Follow her on Twitter: @collectively_LR
Michael Lappin is a mortgage broker helping clients achieve their homeownership goals in Georgia, Florida and California. Michael is excited to work with SOJOURN to create more safe spaces for people to live openly and honestly and move the conversation forward in terms of full rights for all members of the LGBTQ community. Michael is married to his Husband, John and they have two dogs. When not working Michael enjoys traveling, mixing cocktails for his friends and political discussions.
Dr. Susan Kupferberg obtained her law degree from Stanford University with plans to work in the area of human rights, but realized that working as a lawyer was not satisfying. She left the law to work for several years as an HIV educator and counselor at the Grady Infectious Disease Program, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Georgia State University. Susan has a general psychotherapy practice in Atlanta, working with older adolescents as well as adults. Her community involvement before working with SOJOURN has included Planned Parenthood, the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Congregation Bet Haverim, and Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (now New American Pathways). She is married to Richard Mitchell, an attorney, and has two lovely sons and one fabulous daughter-in-law.
Members at Large:
Yelena Abalmazova is a member at large and a business and commercial real estate attorney in the Atlanta area. She also teaches an undergraduate business law course at Georgia State University. Yelena came to the U.S. in 1992 as a religious refugee and became passionate about civil and human rights through that experience. She has volunteered for several organizations that fight for social justice and equality including the Cold Case Justice Initiative and Lambda Legal. In her free time, Yelena enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her fiancé Robert Chan and their two dogs.
Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the Rabbi of Congregation Gesher L'Torah, a dynamic community inAtlanta where each person's story is embraced and Judaism is personal. He has studied Jewish mysticism, contemporary philosophy, and the art seeing the everyday world through the lens of Jewish insight. He blogs weekly and ispublished in the Huffington Post, Times of Israel, and The Wisdom Daily. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999 and in 2015 was honored to be inducted into the Morehouse College International Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers. He is proud to be a strong advocate of SOJOURN and to have been part of the successful campaign to defeat legislation that would strip protections from members of the LGBTQ community in Georgia. He and his wife Tracie have three children: Ayelet, Yaron and Liana.
Charlie Chasen, Senior Technical Manager at NASCO (Picture forthcoming)
Abbie Fuksman is a member at large and has been a Healthcare Consultant for over 25 years. She has been an advocate for cost containment and delivery of quality healthcare for both patient and physician. As a woman married to her husband for over 23 years, and one son, she believes that in order for all people to be respected and loved, allies are vital in order to create positive change for education and equality. Abbie began working with SOJOURN during the transition from The Rainbow Center. Growing up in a politically progressive home, Abbie has always understood the importance of standing up for what is right and just in this world.
Jeri Kagel (Photo forthcoming) is a member at large and a trial consultant with her own firm, Trial Synergy, where she helps attorneys become more effective advocates, works with their clients to better navigate through the litigation process and prepares witnesses to more convincingly tell their stories to a judge or jury. A long time member of Congregation Bet Haverim, Jeri has been with her partner, Susan Levy, an attorney in Decatur, for 21 years and together raised her daughter, Kenia. In addition to spending time with her family, Jeri loves to cook, travel, sit and read or watch TV, get together with friends, go to movies, meet new people, and celebrate the times and/or achievements of those she loves.
Beverly Korfin is a member at large and the Global Digital Manager, CRM Systems for Alcon, an ophthalmic medical device company. She has been involved with SOJOURN and its predecessor the Rainbow Center for over 10 years, and has long been passionate about securing equality and affirming the lives of the LGBTQ community. She has been married to Andrea Finn since 1993, and they enjoy theatre, movies and good food.
Sheri Krell (bio and picture forthcoming)
Amy Sue Mann is a seasoned Construction Professional with almost 20 years of experience in the Commercial Construction Industry and is currently employed as a Senior Estimator for Hogan Construction Group. She has been brought up from a young age believing in and fighting for social justice. As a member of The Temple, she and her family have been participating in the Pride Parade and Purim Off Ponce for the past several years. As a former Theatre Professional, Amy Sue has always been active with the LGBTQ community. She and her husband Noah have passed their passion for Social Justice and the Arts Community on to their two young children.
Tamara Schwartz is a member at large and is enjoying a successful a career in international media. She became involved with SOJOURN'S work when she helped lead the Rainbow Center's Welcoming Synagogues project at Temple Sinai, growing that effort into an ongoing community of active supporters. She is committed to the active role allies can take in welcoming, celebrating and affirming the lives of people across the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity. She and her husband of over two decades stay busy raising two teenage daughters, and in her free time, she enjoys tennis and travel.
Mark Spieler is a member at large and had a successful career in the financial area of senior health care before retiring. He began volunteering with SOJOURN during its transition from The Rainbow Center. Growing up in a loving, accepting Jewish home, he feels passionate about equality and human rights. He is also very lucky to have grown up in a small South Georgia town and not be bullied or have my sexual orientation questioned . Mark wants to advocate and educate for these issues among young people. Mark is is married to his partner of almost 33 years and enjoys baking, cooking, and vegetable gardening.
Birmingham Welcoming Communities Project Committee
Dr. Beth Jacobs
Being Jewish and involved with Temple was a constant in Beth's family's life. Growing up, she wrongly assumed that being gay and childless meant she no longer fit in with organized religion. After Beth and her partner had two children they reconnected with what brought them such comfort as a child: Jewish rituals, holidays and religious services, including SOJOURN's work in Birmingham.
Beth holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alabama, and a BA in both Psychology and Women’s Studies from the University of South Florida. She is a member of Birmingham's Temple Beth-El, Temple Emanu-El, and the Levite JCC of Birmingham.
Learn more about our Birmingham Welcoming Communities Program here.
Queer Women's Group
Originally from NY, Blair received her BS & MS in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worked as an engineer for Otis Elevator near Hartford, CT for about 8 years. And then she moved down to Atlanta about 15 years ago. She switched to education and has been at Georgia Perimeter College for the past 10 years. She is currently the Associate Department Chair for Online Mathematics & Computer Science. She recently became Ritual Vice President of Gesher L'Torah in Alpharetta. In her spare time, she enjoys all types of dancing (i.e. Israeli and Ballroom), theater, and the beach.
Learn more about our Queer Women's Group at Meetup.com.