Staff & Leadership

Staff

Staff, Abby Gilbert, Director, Institutional Advancement

Abby Gilbert is a 35 year veteran in the field of Jewish Communal Service. An expert in community organizing and planning, experiential education and lay/professional relations, Abby has been a frequent guest presenter at Gratz college and Jewish Learning Venure (previously ACAJE) in Elkins Park, also the Agency for Jewish Learning in Pittsburgh, PA. She served for five years as part of the URJ North American Youth Initiative Team training Jewish youth workers across North America and developing resource materials for use in Reform Jewish Youth Work settings. Previously she served for thirteen years as the youth director and program coordinator at Congregation Beth Or in Spring House, PA coordinating the religious school mitzvah council and the congregation’s 1st Mitzvah Day. Abby continues to be an active member of Congregation Beth Or, serving on the board of Trustees. Abby’s other roles in the community have included management of the Jewish Federation’s Northeast NORC, Site Director of the Klein Branch JCC (now known as KleinLife), past President of the TriState Jewish Communal Professionals Association and past President of Northeast Philadelphia Sunrisers Rotary Club. Abby resides in Jenkintown, PA with her husband, Gary Freedman.

Staff, Geoffrey Quinn, Education Director

Geoffrey joined the staff  of HAMEC in 2015. Geoffrey graduated with a BA in History, focused on American Jewish Diaspora, and minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from West Chester University in 2013.   Geoffrey has spent most of his academic and professional career studying United States Immigration policies from 1933-1955. Geoffrey is passionate about Holocaust education, and is responsible for organizing and overseeing all of HAMEC’s educational programs.  In his free time, Geoffrey is passionate about how history is depicted in cinema.

Staff, Dr. Ruth Almy, Program Director

Ruth Almy holds a PhD in History from Indiana University, Bloomington. She specializes in the history of migration and immigration law, as well as British imperialism and settler colonialism. She has extensive experience teaching 20th century European history, as well as the history of the Holocaust. Ruth currently teaches part-time as adjunct assistant professor at Temple University.
Originally from Lancaster, PA, Ruth earned her B.A. in History from West Chester University in 2012. She has published her work on racial and national bias in Canadian immigration law in the early 20th century in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. She plans to continue her research by examining the case of the MS St. Louis in the wider context of the history of Canadian immigration law.

Staff, Joe Chudzinski, Donor/Member Services CoordinatorJoe Chudzinski has been involved in the Holocaust Awareness Museum both as a volunteer and as a Staff member since 2006. Since 2012, Joe has been Coordinator of Member & Donor Services. His duties include recording donations, phonebanking members regarding upcoming events, printing & mailing of Simcha & Memory cards, and, most importantly, soliciting businesses and organizations for Gift Card/Certificate Donations to be utilized in the Museum’s Annual Silent Auction. Joe comes to us with over 30 years of Inside Sales experience in Medical Educational, Legal, and Business Publishing. He has a B.A. in English from La Salle College and an M.B.A. in Marketing from La Salle University.


Sharon Geller is a comedic actress who has appeared on Saturday Night Live 4 Staff, Sharon Geller, Anne Frank Theater Project Producertimes. In addition to performing in the national touring company of “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” Sharon does radio and TV commercials and industrials and is a spokeswoman on QVC. When not teaching comedy improv at the Walnut Street Theatre, Sharon teaches a course she created, “IMPROV FOR LAWYERS” at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University. Combining her talents as a facilitator, actor and improv expert, Sharon leads team-building workshops in the corporate world on communication where she teaches people to think more quickly on their feet and think outside of the box. Her clients include the American Bar Association, Johnson & Johnson and Berkshire Hathaway Realtors.

Staff, Rycki Joy Freedman, Program Assistant

Rycki Joy is currently working on her BA in Creative Writing and English at Southern New Hampshire University. She has a certification in Jewish Education from Gratz College (2012) and worked as a Hebrew Teacher for 2 years at Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, PA. She worked as an aide for autistic children at the Klein JCC Summer Camp. Rycki has been on board for both her youth group and sisterhood. She hopes to do her part of tikkun olam through writing and education.

Please check back soon for Hal’s biography.

Jacqueline Cherepinsky
Deanne Comer
Phil Holtje
Dr. Polly Zavidker

Staff, Donalnd WittenbergDonald Wittenberg earned his BA in Sociology and Masters in Education from Temple University and has more than 41 years of education experience as a classroom teacher, elementary principal and central office administrator with the School District of Philadelphia. He has been the Curator and Vice-President of HAMEC since 2001. He is an avid genealogist having traced two branches of his family back to the late 1700s. He is married to Bonnie (nee Steele) Wittenberg. His two sons, Steven and Jan, are married and each have a child, Leo and Lilly respectively. dwittenberg@comcast.net

Staff, Cheryl Harper, Curatorial ConsultantCheryl Harper is an artist and independent curator in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. She holds a BFA and an MFA in printmaking (Tyler School of Art and The University of Delaware) and an MA in art history (Temple University). Harper has received numerous awards and honors including a residency in 2018 at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Fleisher Challenge (2008) and first prize in sculpture in Pennsylvania Art of the State (2008). She has had two solo shows at the James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia, was a juried artist in ArtShip Olympia (2016) and many other exhibitions. Her curatorial projects include the upcoming Seamless: Craft media and Performance (spring 2020) at Rutgers-Camden. Visit Cheryl’s website at www.cherylharper.com

Executive Board Directors

Yaakov Riz, Founder
Yaakov Riz, Photo Credit: Len Friedman

Yaakov Riz was born in Lutzk, Poland, on July 22, 1922. When the Nazis invaded his town, his entire family was sent to Auschwitz, where all, except his brother, perished. Yaakov escaped to Russia. He spent six years (1940-1947) in a Russian concentration camp in Siberia. When the war ended, he was repatriated as a Polish citizen and then went to Israel, where he fought in the War of Independence in 1948. He came to the United States in 1952. From 1956 to 1984, he was principal and teacher for the Workman’s Circle School. In 1961 Yaakov created a Holocaust exhibit in his basement. For a number of years, many people followed Yaakov’s belief that children must be taught the horrors of the Holocaust and people must never forget. Thus, in 1975 the Jewish Identity Center was formed and incorporated.

 

Sheila Riz and Iona Riz
Sheila Riz and Iona Riz

Sheila (nee Hoffer) Riz was born in Bensonhurst, NY, on April 18 ,1932. Nearly her entire family would gather for Shabbat at her Bubbie’s house, eating and laughing, surrounded by the smells of baked challahs and strudels. In 1951, she flew to Israel on an adventure and met Yaakov Riz. He was to be the love of her life. She described him as a handsome and gallant gentleman with quaint European manners. Even though they did not speak a common language – Yaakov spoke Yiddish and Hebrew and Sheila spoke English – they recognized in each other a soulmate and life partner. Together they had three children and three grandchildren. In 1975 she supported the move of our Holocaust museum to her home’s basement. Yaakov always said that, were it not for Sheila taking care of all the worrisome details of life that he did not have the patience to deal with, he would not have been free to pursue his dream of educating children about the Holocaust. Sheila was a hard worker who never complained, and faced life with integrity and honesty, and never flinched in the face of adversity. She had a strong sense of who she was, and held commonsense values and principles that guided her through her life.

Chuck Feldman, PresidentChuck Feldman has a BA and MA from the University of Pennsylvania in American Government. He has taught Political Science at Temple University and the Philadelphia Community College. In addition, he has taught the Current Events class at KleinLife for 30 years.

Chuck met Yaakov because his ice cream parlor was around the corner and Yaakov was a frequent customer. In 1980 Chuck, enamored with the museum volunteered and two years later, he became President. Chuck is married to Paula Weiss, Esq and has three children.

Donald Wittenberg, Vice President, EducationDonald Wittenberg earned his BA in Sociology and Masters in Education from Temple University and has more than 41 years of education experience as a classroom teacher, elementary principal and central office administrator with the School District of Philadelphia. He has been the Curator and Vice-President of HAMEC since 2001. He is an avid genealogist having traced two branches of his family back to the late 1700s. He is married to Bonnie (nee Steele) Wittenberg. His two sons, Steven and Jan, are married and each have a child, Leo and Lilly respectively.


Please check back soon for more information about Carol.

Please check back soon for more information about Hal and Sue.

Please check back soon for more information about Iona.

Please check back soon for more information about Paula.

Board Members

  • Connie Berman
  • Ronnie Breslow
  • Adam Denish
  • Gary Erlbaum
  • Robin Falkow
  • Chuck Feldman
  • Ira Feldman
  • Paul Feldman
  • Aaron Finestone, Esq.
  • Rhonda Fink-Whitman
  • Shari Glauser
  • Robert Greenberg
  • David Hardy
  • Kurt Herman*
  • Ruth Hartz
  • Linda Hershman
  • Michael Herskovitz
  • Tonya Herskovitz, Esq.
  • Phil Holtje
  • Carol B. Irvine
  • Jonathan Kornblau
  • Dan Lodise
  • Lise Marlowe
  • Alberta O’Brien
  • Iona Riz, Esq.
  • Yaakov Riz*
  • Sheila Riz*
  • Michael Rosen
  • Debbie Rosenberg
  • Hal Rosenthal
  • Sue Rosenthal
  • Steven Shotz
  • David Tuck
  • Klara Vinokur*
  • Martin Weinberg
  • Jack Weiss
  • Paula Weiss, Esq.
  • Donald Wittenberg

*of blessed memory