Friends of the Arava Institute Staff
Miriam May, Executive Director
Miriam S. May most recently served as the Director of Institutional Advancement at Harvard Hillel. Previously she served as the founding Managing Director of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and as Executive Director of the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Massachusetts.
Miriam founded SMART Consulting in 1994 and for ten years provided marketing and outreach consulting to a wide range of non-profits and financial institutions including Fleet Bank, Deutsche Bank, Hadassah, United Way of America, Oxfam America, and others.
In Rhode Island, she was Senior Vice President of United Way of Southeastern New England. Previously, she lived in New York City and was a Vice President at Citibank. Miriam was also a Principal Consultant with Charter Associates, a World Bank consultant to the Ministry of Labor of Brazil and Area Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean for the US Department of Labor.
Miriam has an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BS in Labor Relations/Organizational Behavior from Cornell University. She is married to Shaye Cohen and they have four children.
RABBI MICHAEL COHEN, Director of Community Relations
Rabbi Michael is a long time environmental activist who, while in high school, co-founded the first recycling center in Ewing, New Jersey in 1976. He graduated, with a B.A. in History, from the University of Vermont, where he also received the Paul Evans History Award for his honors paper on “Lenin’s Theory of Self-Determination and the Muslims of the Soviet Union.” In 1990 he graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and become the first full-time rabbi of the Israel Congregation in Manchester Center, Vermont. Since 2000, he has divided his time between Vermont and Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. He has written extensively about the environment and the Middle East peace process in North American and Middle Eastern publications and is the author of Einstein’s Rabbi: A Tale of Science and the Soul. Rabbi Michael has been a visiting faculty member at Bennington’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action since spring 2012 teaching classes on conflict resolution, as well as different aspects of Biblical studies. He also served as director of community standards in the office of student life from fall 2013-fall 2015.
RACHEL COMSTOCK, DEVELOPMENT Officer
Rachel Comstock joins the Friends of the Arava Institute with a long background of Jewish educational programming and development. Previously, Rachel worked in the Year Round Programing and Development Departments at Young Judaea where she implemented and strengthened their fundraising management systems and alumni relationships. Rachel graduated with high honors from Brandeis University with a BA in Anthropology. As part of her degree, she wrote a thesis analyzing the modern phenomenon of Jews with Jewish tattoos. She has also studied in both Israel and the Netherlands.
RACHEL DURNING, COMMUNICATIONS & DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE
Rachel comes to the Friends of the Arava Institute with a background in international nonprofit work and study abroad in the Middle East. She most recently worked at AMIDEAST, where she sent American students to study abroad programs in the Arabic-speaking world, and she has also interned with the Director of Development at Refugees International. Rachel has worked in China and the Netherlands and has studied in Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan. She has a BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
SHAINA KAPLAN, MARKETING AND MEDIA RELATIONS FELLOW
Shaina is currently a student at Brandeis University studying Anthropology, Psychology and Religious Studies. Shaina has previously worked at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago in their Young Adult Engagement Department. She also works at the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public life where she assists in publicity and outreach initiatives. Last year Shaina studied abroad in Denmark where she focused her studies on cross-cultural psychology.
Amy Letteney, Executive Administrator
Amy has been involved in many aspects of the not-for-profit world and brings this diverse experience to her role as Executive Administrator. Most recently she focused on building a set of community centers in Bamyan, Afghanistan, and helped to develop programs that offer education, employment, fresh produce, sanitary facilities, and a sense of community to the women in the area. Amy’s desire to foster positive connections and derail negative cycles is a common theme in much of her work. She welcomes the opportunity to utilize her experience in administration, marketing, organizational branding, event planning, and project management on behalf of the Arava Institute.
Ari Massefski, University Relations Manager
Ari has coordinated university outreach and served as the North American institutional representative for the Friends of the Arava Institute since early 2016. He is a 2015 graduate of the George Washington University, where he served as president of the Residence Hall Association and was a member of the GW Alumni Association Board of Directors. Ari previously worked at CLS Strategies, a strategic and crisis communications firm in Washington, D.C. where he advised clients on public affairs initiatives and helped to manage the firm’s undergraduate internship program, and has also worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and for the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Ari studied on a University of Oxford program based in Jerusalem, which he attended for a year to further his understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the issues facing the Middle East region.