Meet our 2023 Board of Directors
Aaron Max has been actively involved in the Jewish Community of Baltimore for over 25 years. Aaron serves on the board of his synagogue, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and he previously served on the boards CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.) as well as the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council. In 2019, when Aaron became the immediate past president of the Pearlstone Board, he stepped into the role of Co-chair of Pearlstone’s newly formed Justice Committee. He is an owner of Max Realty a commercial real estate management company, and lives in Pikesville with his wife Jill. He loves spending time with his grown children Jake and Samantha, and in his free time Aaron enjoys reading, watching Orioles games and golf. He recently retired from his pick-up basketball career.
Jessica is a sustainability champion and entrepreneur. In her varied experience, Jessica has started a business with a NASA climate scientist and worked at Major League Baseball on data strategy. She has an M.P.A. in environmental science and policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the Earth Institute and a B.S. in economics and information management from the Wharton School of Business. She is a LEED Accredited Professional with the US Green Building Council, and a member of The Climate Reality Project, trained and charged by Al Gore to speak publicly on issues of climate change.
David Platt grew up as a member of the Baltimore Jewish Community, graduating from Krieger Schechter Day School and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School. David works as a finance professional for a Baltimore-Based startup Hungry Harvest and is committed to using business as a driver for change. He joined the Pearlstone Board in 2020, poised to be a part of an entrepreneurial organization that is consistently finding innovative ways to connect to the community and expand its reach to the broader world.
Brett currently resides on the Upper West Side (NYC) with his wife Heidi. He retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2021, where he spent the majority of his career as a National office partner in the Accounting Services Group. While in National, Brett led the income tax team and served as a liaison to the pharmaceutical and life sciences practice. An avid cyclist and environmentalist, Brett’s first encounter with Hazon was back in 2007 when he and his entire family (wife, children and parents) participated in their first of many Hazon NY Bike Rides. Brett currently serves on the Boards of both Adamah and the Friends of the Arava Institute. He has been a trustee and finance committee member at Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn, NJ and is also active in AIPAC, Jewish Federation of Metrowest, ADL, and JNF. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the State University of New York at Albany, Brett is a CPA in both NY and NJ.
Jakir Manela is the CEO of Adamah. Born and raised in the Washington DC metropolitan area, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2004 and went to work at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center as a Teva Jewish outdoor environmental educator. In 2006 he established Kayam Farm, North America’s first Jewish Community Farm at Pearlstone, and in 2012 Jakir was promoted to become Pearlstone’s Executive Director. For the past ten years, Jakir has helped lead Pearlstone to its perennial status in the Slingshot Guide as one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in North America. Today, Jakir works collaboratively with the wonderful staff and board members at Adamah, as well as funders and partners across the country, leading the new merged entity into a new chapter of growth and impact. Jakir lives just up the road from Pearlstone with his family. He coaches youth sports and loves building campfires and making music with friends.
Executive Committee Members
Becky Brenner is passionate about Jewish Day School education, the environment, and the Hillel movement. In addition to her work with Adamah and the Pearlstone Campus, she currently serves as President of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore and is on the board of the Associated Jewish Charities. She lives and gardens in Reisterstown, Md with her husband and two sons.
Marina is the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish Communal Fund. She served most recently as the Chief Operating Officer at the Foundation for Jewish Camps, and prior to that had a high-profile career in banking as Global Head of New Business Development for BNY Mellon, where she successfully managed large teams in complex and competitive environments. She was consistently recognized and promoted for her ability to profitably grow her businesses, develop strong client relationships, and develop, coach, and mentor talent within her organization. In addition to serving on the board of Adamah, Marina serves on the Board of the Marlene Myerson JCC Manhattan. She believes deeply in the importance of Jewish continuity and philanthropy. Marina received her BA degree from Barnard College/Columbia University and MBA from New York University. She lives in NYC with her husband, Andrew, and they have two grown sons.
Liz Minkin-Friedman is deeply committed to the Baltimore Jewish Community having served as both a Jewish Communal Professional and lay leader for over 25 years. With a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Jewish Studies, along with a Certificate in Jewish Communal Service, she has built her career doing grassroots organizing, counseling, coaching, fundraising, leading, and building community and relationships. Passions and expertise include working with and advocating for the following target populations: women and girls, LBTQA community, Israel, the environment & earth-based Judaism, leaders & professionals working in the Jewish community, and Jewish Day School education. She lives in Baltimore with her partner and three children, and in her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking, reading, running, listening to music, dancing, and traveling.
Mark has been a practicing veterinarian for over 40 years specializing in veterinary neurology and holistic medicine. He served as President of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center’s Board of Directors for 4 ½ years and formerly chaired the Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center’s Board. Mark and his wife recently created a farm-to-table restaurant and day retreat center at their small farm in Plympton Massachusetts. He also serves on the Board of Selectmen there and fervently spearheads open space preservation and park formation. Other interests include long distance walking, building forest paths, and teaching Jewish contemplative practices.
Richard retired after 20 years at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and U.S Trust, most recently as Director of Institutional Sales. Prior to his moving to the private sector, Richard was the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest, New Jersey for eight years. Previously, he served for three years as the Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City after having practiced law there for five years. Richard also serves as a member of the Board of the Jewish Community Foundation of the Berkshires, Construct, Inc. in Great Barrington, MA and the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Emory University School of Law.
Peggy K. Wolf is a native of Baltimore who now resides with her husband outside of Boston. She was previously on the Pearlstone Board until she moved north and is thrilled to be able to continue her association with Adamah serving as the chair of the Program Committee. Her volunteer commitments include chairing the Baltimore Jewish Community Center, The Baltimore Jewish Council, president of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and director of My Sister’s Circle. She believes individuals and groups can bring about change and positively impact the way we treat one another and care for our planet.
Emile Bendit is the immediate past chair of the Pearlstone board. He has been actively involved in the Baltimore Jewish community for the last 30 plus years and is a member of Beth Am Synagogue. He has previously served as chair of Hopkins Hillel, Jewish Family Services, and The Park School boards and been on the boards of WYPR and Sheppard Pratt health system. He is particularly interested in healthy organizations and is a psychiatrist by training.
Wendy Bronfein is Co-Founder, Chief Brand Officer and Director of Public Policy at Curio Wellness. As a member of the executive leadership team, Bronfein drives the company’s legislative agenda across multiple states, oversees the Curio brand, and all corporate communications. Under her leadership, Curio Wellness has become Maryland’s leading medical cannabis company, securing 90% brand awareness within the first year of operations. Prior to joining Curio Wellness in 2016, Bronfein served as Creative Director of On-Air Promotions at LIVE! With Kelly & Michael and was a Managing Producer at BBC Worldwide Americas from 2006-2010. She has also served in various freelance production roles in New York and Los Angeles working on shows such as The Andy Milonakis Show, Wanda Does it, and The Sharon Osbourne Show.
Sonia Cummings has been an activist/ philanthropist for the past 20 years, focusing on the environment, Jewish Life and the arts. She currently serves on the boards of Artis, I am Your Protector, (IAYP) and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.
Sonia is a former board member of The Jewish Funders Network, The Friends of the Arava Institute, (presently on its Advisory board), the Jewish Community Foundation of The Los Angeles Jewish Federation, (presently on its advisory board), the Medici Archives, the American Friends of the Tel Aviv Foundation, the Institute of Contemporary Midrash and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. She chaired the first giving circle for Arts in Schools! of LA’s 81 schools districts, the funding circle of the Inter-Agency Task force on Arab Israeli Issues, the Visual Arts committee of the Jewish Federation Tel Aviv /Los Angeles Partnerships and was a member of the Environment Initiative and the Steering Committee of the Jewish Federation Tel Aviv /Los Angeles Partnerships. She was an active member of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning Leadership Committee of New York’s Temple Emanu-El.
Prior to becoming a lay leader and environmental activist, Sonia worked in the design industry developing products and private labels, marketing, licensing and forecasting trends, in Asia, France and the US. Sonia is also a fine arts painter and is currently working on a video project on legacy and contributes a regular column on design and art.
She is a member of the Council of American Jewish Museum, the Environmental Grantmakers Association, JFN, Threshold and an alumna of the Wexner heritage Foundation leadership program. She and her husband James both vote in CA.
Josh Fidler is Co-Chairman of Chesapeake Realty Partners, a diversified real estate development business, and Founding Partner of Boulder Ventures, a venture capital fund active in the Mid-Atlantic and Colorado. He is responsible for project acquisition, design and development, contracting, operations, leasing, finance, legal affairs and administration. He was formerly a practicing attorney with Paul, Weiss in New York, specializing in general corporate and federal securities matters. Josh presently serves on the Boards of Private Client Resources (Chair 2012-2019), BurnAlong, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Baltimore Community Foundation and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. He has Chaired several other non-profits in the Mid-Atlantic. He received his law degree from New York University School of Law and his BA from Brown University.
Bob is currently serving on the Board of Directors with NexGen Alpha AG, an organizer of European based mutual funds for hedge funds and the NexGen Alpha UCITS, a Luxembourg registered SICAV. Previously he served as Chairman of the Luxembourg based American Express and World Express Funds. At American Express, Bob served on the Benefits and Pension Investment Committee overseeing the company’s defined benefit retirement plan and served as Chairman of the Retirement Investment Committee for the defined contribution plan. Bob was referred to Hazon by UJA/Federation based on his interest in Jewish values and sustainability and decided to join the board after participating in the Israel Food Tour with Hazon. In addition to the work Bob is now doing with Adamah he is serving on the BJF task force of COJIR at UJA.
Jonah Goldman works as the Co-Founder and Director of Marketing of PLNT Burger. He is a marketing specialist, social entrepreneur, and environmental activist with a background in the natural food industry, regenerative agriculture, compostable packaging and fighting food waste. Jonah studied political science, food policy and food security at Colorado College before working in the U.S. and Israel with politicians, farmers and a range of companies and organizations to reduce food waste and advance food security and food justice. Jonah sits on the board of Conscious Capitalism DC and is working to increase access to plant-based foods and empower more people to “Eat the change!”
Michael has translated his passion for clean energy into Samba Energy, a company dedicated to bringing cost-saving solutions to customers nationwide. Michael has more than 18 years of sales and management experience as well as a deep technical expertise on a broad range of clean energy solutions including solar, LED, EV charging, battery storage, waste to energy, building management software (BMS), smart home solutions and monitoring, demand response, building and utility bill auditing, Energy Star benchmarking, cellulose insulation, cork stucco, geothermal, wind, etc. Michael studied entrepreneurship at Babson College and studied abroad at Bar-Ilan University. Michael lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Sarah, and their children David, Aimee, Joshua and Chloe.
Daniella is an assistant professor of environmental planning at Utah State University where she teaches and conducts research on sustainable and resilient futures. Prior to working as a researcher, Daniella helped to design sustainability rating systems for cities across the country and worked as a climate adaptation planner. Daniella holds a PhD in landscape architecture and environmental planning from the University of California Berkeley, a master’s of environmental management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College.
Elissa Sachs-Kohen has served for 17 years as one of the rabbis at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. In addition to all the lifecycle, teaching and preaching responsibilities which she shares, she is the Director of BHC Cares and advises BHC Justice, concentrating in recent years on racial justice, immigration, poverty, and environmental issues. Elissa has recently completed the Clergy Leadership Program with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, an 18-month fellowship bringing together early Chasidic wisdom, mindfulness meditation, yoga, chant and prayer. The fellowship has renewed her rabbinate and her own spiritual life in remarkable ways, and she is grateful to have had the opportunity. She was ordained in 1999 from HUC-JIR Cincinnati. She earned her BA in theater and drama at the University of Michigan. Rabbi Sachs-Kohen grew up at Temple Beth El in Harrisonburg, VA. She lives in Baltimore with her son and daughter.
Dr. Harriette Wimms is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in supporting LGBTQIA+ folks across the lifespan, as well as people of color who have experienced trauma from power and privilege.
Currently, she is serving as the ritual chair of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel, as a rising Kohenet at the Hebrew Priestess Institute, and as the program development consultant for Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Harriette is championing social issues in every pocket of Jewish Baltimore. In addition to the work above, she is an assistant professor at Loyola Clinical Centers, the Clinical Director and founder of The Village Family Support Center of Baltimore where she trains and mentors doctoral students.
At the root of her volunteer leadership in our community is the calling to build mishpacha (family) for Jewish people of color and their families and allies. She brings energy and drive to carve welcoming spaces in Baltimore for those who are still searching for their place at the table. At Hinenu, she has found a home where she’s in turn supported and surrounded by the queer community and People of Color.
Jemma Wolfe is a managing director in Platform Solutions at Goldman Sachs. Previously, Jemma held several roles at the company, including leading strategy for Consumer and Wealth Management and building Launch With GS, Goldman Sachs’ $1 billion investment strategy grounded in the data-driven thesis that diverse teams drive strong returns. Through Launch With GS, Goldman Sachs aims to increase access to capital and facilitate connections for women, Black, Latinx and other diverse entrepreneurs and investors. Jemma was born in London, England, grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and earned a BA in International Relations from Stanford University. She first became involved in Hazon when she completed the New York bike ride at the age of 12 with her dad. She lives in New York with her husband and son.
Val Yasner practiced Endodontics and taught at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine for 15 years. After severe carpal tunnel, Val retired from Endodontics and rediscovered her love of food. Val’s involvement with Adamah (formerly Hazon) began when she helped bring Hazon CSA of Southern New Jersey to her Cherry Hill community. Over the years Val has participated and taken leadership positions in the full range of Hazon activities including riding and crewing the NY Labor Day Ride, cycling in the California Ride and a portion of the Israel Ride. Val brings her health care perspective to the world of food and nutrition. She has a passion for cooking, eating, and talking about food while tying all of this to our Jewish heritage and tradition.