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

UnderAcaciaRabbi 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. He is the author of Einstein’s Rabbi: A Tale of Science and the Soul and teaches courses on conflict resolution at Bennington College.


Diana Webster, Business Manager

diana headshotDiana Webster brings a great breadth of experiences to Friends of Arava Institute and her position as Business Manager. After completing her BA in Philosophy and Peace Studies from Bucknell University, she traveled to Northern Ireland to study Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Ulster – Magee College. While living overseas she interned at INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute) in their Public Policy Unit assisting with research projects and administrative tasks. In 2009, Diana lived in and worked for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom, an intentional community of Palestinian and Jewish citizens in Israel where she supported communications and fundraising efforts. Before becoming part of the Friends of the Arava Institute’s staff, Diana worked for various organizations focusing on international development and the building of sustainable societies throughout the Middle East.


Rachel Comstock, Development Manager

IMG_1848Rachel Comstock joins the Friends of the Arava Institute with a long background of Jewish educational programming and development.  Most recently, Rachel worked in the development department at Young Judaea where she implemented and strengthened their fundraising management systems and alumni relationships.  Rachel has studied in both Israel and the Netherlands and holds a BA in Anthropology from Brandeis University.


Amy Letteney
, Executive Administrator

Amy Letteney

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

As a young professional passionate about student empowerment through advocacy and experiential education, Ari brings a background in the Middle East and in student mentorship to the Friends of the Arava Institute. Most recently, Ari 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 student internship program. He is a 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. He is also an alumnus of Kivunim: New Directions 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. A firm believer in experiential learning and a member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Ari completed several full-time internships in Washington, D.C., including at the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Senate, and hopes to bring the opportunity to learn through experience and perspective to other young people in his work at the Friends of the Arava Institute.