Museum at Eldridge Street Staff
Bonnie Dimun, Executive Director
Bonnie brings a wealth of experience in the non-profit, corporate and university arenas. She founded and was president of Dynamics for Change, a management consulting firm focusing on client relations, business development, and alliance partnerships. Bonnie also served as National Director of Education and Public Policy at Hadassah, the world’s largest women’s non-profit organization. There she created and managed the Leadership, Education and Training Center. Prior to that, she was Executive Director of Organization Advancement for Middlesex County College. Bonnie holds an Ed.D from Columbia University as well as two degrees from Rider University, where she serves on the Board of Directors.
My favorite place: Next to new visitors as they walk into the synagogue for the first time and truly gasp with the magnificence of the place. My other favorite is when the sun shines through the stained-glass windows and the magnificent reflection is on the walls, floors and halls. It takes my
Amy Stein Milford, Deputy Director
Amy has more than 20 years of experience working at non-profit cultural institutions in New York City. She has worked at The Jewish Museum, the Writers Room, where she served as Acting Director, and the Museum at Eldridge Street, where she oversees the Museum’s interpretation, media and communications. Amy oversaw the creation of a new visitor center and permanent exhibition for the Museum and the commission of a new stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. In 2007 she managed the Museum’s 2007 re-opening, including media, communications strategy, interpretive exhibitions, and government outreach. Amy has been a speaker on museum practices and Jewish culture at special events and conferences, including for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) and Museums Association of New York (MANY).
My favorite place: I have two, one looking to the future, the other to the past. The first is the panel of exposed lath and plaster in the women’s gallery. This is what much of the sanctuary looked like before the restoration. Now it’s a powerful reminder of a time of decline in the building’s history and just how easily this magnificent structure could have been lost. I also love the new stained glass window designed by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans which was added in 2010. It marks a new chapter in the building’s history and yet over time it, too, will become a historic piece of the building’s fabric.
Eva Bruné, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Eva has more than 35 years experience in non-profit management and fundraising. As sole development staff person at the Museum at Eldridge Street, Eva was responsible for planning and implementing the organization’s successful $20 million capital campaign. On an annual basis, Eva manages all fundraising activities. Prior to joining the Museum at Eldridge Street, Eva served as Executive Director for The CityKids Foundation, Managing Director for INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center, and Director for Institutional Advancement for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Young Audiences, Inc., and the Big Apple Circus. She has served as a grant evaluator and/or panelist for numerous institutions and agencies including the Arts and Business Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the State Arts Councils of Alaska, Florida and New Jersey. She serves on the Advisory Board of CareerVillage.org. Eva is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts awards, a Visual Arts grant for her sculpture and a Fellowship for her arts management work. Eva received her BFA and California teaching credential from the California College of Arts, and completed a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University’s Continuing Education Program.
My favorite place: The historic tzedakah box is my favorite artifact, as it represents the
original congregants’ deep commitment to the community in which they lived and worshipped. I believe that the Museum at Eldridge Street’s donors share the same commitment to the Jewish community by contributing to maintain the Eldridge Street Synagogue and support the Museum’s cultural and educational programs.
Roberta Berken, Master Docent
Roberta is the Master docent of the Museum.In addition to giving tours and greeting visitors she supervises new docents and gives off-site presentations about Eldridge Street. She was also a docent for the Central Park Conservancy for many years. Roberta has a Bachelors degree in Political Science from Queens College and a Masters degree from Adelphi. She was the Social Work Coordinator at Huntington Hospital for 25 years where she also supervised graduate students and ran support groups for dialysis and cancer patients and their families. Additionally she had a private practice in psychotherapy.
My favorite place: The view from the side of the Women’s Gallery about half way toward the eastern wall looking through the Moorish revival arches at the new and old stained glass windows. On a sunny day, spectacular! .
Courtney Byrne-Mitchell, Visitor Services Director
Courtney Byrne-Mitchell coordinates the volunteer docent team and oversees the daily workings of the Eldridge Street Synagogue. She earned her degree in Judaic Studies at Brown University and continues to pursue her interest in studying Jewish history and culture. Courtney has worked with non-profit organizations promoting personal growth, education and cultural understanding in both the United States and abroad. In Guatemala City, Courtney was the English Language Program Coordinator for Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, a women’s artisan cooperative, where she was doing direct classroom instruction and assisting in the coordination of the international volunteer team.
My favorite place: The vestibule is, hands down, my favorite stop on the synagogue tour.
Measuring roughly the size of a tenement apartment, the vestibule is the transition space between the crowded, chaotic street life of the Lower East Side and the breath-taking feeling of tranquility and awe one experiences upon entering the sanctuary. The vestibule prepares the visitor for the history and beauty awaiting inside.
Judith Greenspan, Education Director
Judith Greenspan came to the Museum at Eldridge Street after a 16-year career as a television producer at CBS News in New York and at WHDH Television in Boston. She enjoyed traveling around the country writing and producing stories of all kinds, but historical pieces were always her favorites — from an Emmy award-winning segment on Ellis Island to a documentary on the history of country music. As Education Director at the Museum at Eldridge Street, Judy is thrilled to work with rich, historical materials every day and to share the many stories of the Eldridge Street Synagogue and its immigrant community with students of all ages. Judy holds a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan, a certificate from Hebrew College for the Me’ah program on Judaism and Jewish History, and is a member of the National Council for History Education.
My favorite place: I love watching the students’ faces when they see the sanctuary for the first time. And I love the ark. The red velvet interior designed to hold so many Torah scrolls says so much about the immigrants who worshipped here, and it is very moving to me every time the doors are opened.
Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Family History Center & Cultural Programs
Hanna conceives and administers all public programs and has implemented promotional and audience outreach initiatives resulting in a dramatic increase in program attendance. She developed several new programs, including the Triangle Fire 100th Year Tribute, Lost & Found Music Series, the Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Block Party (now in its 15th year) and A Great Day on Eldridge Street. Hanna received her Ph.D. in Folklore and American Studies from Indiana University. While studying there, she was the Director of the Folklore Archives as well as an adjunct professor at Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis. She served as a lecturer in the American Studies Department at Grinnell College, and was the Director of the oral history project, “Toldot Iowa” (the oral history of the Jews of Iowa). After working as an Assistant Professor in the Inter Cultural Program at Sanyo Gakuen University in Okayama, Japan for several years, she worked as an oral history consultant at the Museum of Southern Jewish Experience. Prior to working at Eldridge Street, Hanna was a Program Officer in the Folk Arts Program at the New York State Council on the Arts. Dr. Griff-Sleven is an Adjunct Professor at the Eugene Lang College of The New School for Social Research, and is an adjunct Associate Professor at The City College of New York and New York University School of Continuing Education. She was invited to speak at the International Folk Narrative Conference in Vilnius Lithuania (2013), The American Folklore Society Annual Meeting (2014) and to co-Chair the American Oral History Society Annual Meeting (2015).
My favorite place: Upstairs in the women’s balcony below the rose window: standing below it when the light shines through is a transcendent moment. The window is huge, I am so small and I feel strength and beauty of the place both as it once was and is again.
Nancy Johnson, Archivist
As the Museum’s archivist, Nancy looks after its historic documents, objects and art. Favorite projects since coming to Eldridge Street in 2009 include a virtual exhibit on the Museum’s website; editing Beyond the Facade, a lavishly illustrated book about the Eldridge Street Synagogue and its restoration; and working with a stellar team to develop the Museum’s new permanent exhibition, which opened in 2014. Nancy has worked as an archivist, editor and writer for longer than she cares to admit. She has been a consultant on major projects at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Montclair Art Museum, Alan Lomax Archives, Lotos Club and many other arts-related organizations. She holds an MA in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and BA degrees in history and art history from Stony Brook University.
My favorite place: The Tribute Wall is about my two favorite things: history and art. It preserves an important piece of the history of the synagogue and its congregation, while making room for a spectacular new piece of contemporary art. What a brilliant act of recycling!
Rachel Serkin, Senior Educator
Rachel Serkin develops new programs and content for the Education Department and serves as a point of contact for school and group programs. Born and raised in Brooklyn Rachel grew up surrounded by New York City history. After receiving her Master’s in Secondary Education from Hunter College Rachel has used her degree to teach in what she likes to call the most “nontraditional of classrooms.” Over the past eight years Rachel has developed and taught educational programs at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Brooklyn Historical Society, The Brooklyn Navy Yard, The New York Transit Museum and the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum.
My favorite place: Eldridge Street Synagogue is a grand and majestic building, but the space that I connect to the most is perhaps the simplest of its parts—the floor. I am very drawn to idea of exploring people’s lives in relation to a space. When I step into the grooves of the pinewood floor, I know I am standing in the footprints where the first congregants stood and swayed over 127 years ago. As I stand in these grooves I start to wonder about what these men and women were thinking about including all the things they were praying to find in a new land.
Sharon Stein, Visitor Services Associate
Sharon is a Chicago native with a love of the wonders of New York, including our pocket of the Lower East Side. She was educated at the University of Illinois and has lived in New York since the early 1960’s, raising two children on the Upper West Side and spending her full time career in advertising as a Broadcast Traffic Manager and Vice-President at two agencies. Sharon was a volunteer docent at Eldridge Street since the 1980s. In 2008, after the Museum re-opened, she was lured out of her retirement to serve as our first face to the public – orienting visitors, helping manage the gift shop, and otherwise creating a warm, welcoming experience. Come on a visit to Eldridge Street and you will likely meet Sharon.
My favorite place: The thing in the”gogue” that I find touching cannot be physically touched…unless you call our warm and heartfelt greetings and farewells physical. It is the friendship, camaraderie, interests and intellectual information that I share with our docents and our visitors. Every day is
different. Every day I learn more and grow