Board & Staff
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.
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 breath away.
Nancy Beiles, Manager of Family Programs
Nancy develops new programs for families and private groups at the museum, including the Just-for-You initiative. A longtime journalist whose writing has appeared in a wide range of publications – from newspapers like The Wall Street Journal to magazines like Teen People and This Old House – Nancy loves to think of museum programs as opportunities to tell stories, but off the page. Whether focusing on the Eastern European immigrants and the world they built on Lower East Side or the rise and fall and rise again of the building itself, she’s got volumes to share with museum visitors. A third-generation Staten Island native who now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters, Nancy is a slow jogger, a fast reader and an antique store junkie.
My favorite place: The Women’s Balcony. To me, this offers the best perspective on the grandeur of the building and an unmatched view of the Kiki Smith window. I also love to imagine the 19th and early 20th century women who would have filled the benches up there –in a traditional environment that was nonetheless impacted in dramatic ways by the political and social upheaval of the period.
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!
Scott Brevda, Senior Educator
Scott Brevda develops, leads and coordinates programs for the Education Department. As an historian, and lifelong New Yorker, Scott uses his understanding of his native city to bring its history to life. He first became involved with Eldridge as a docent; giving tours of the historic site to members of the public. Since becoming an Educator, Scott has led the Museum’s Cultural Afterschool Adventure (CASA) Program for second grade students. Scott has additionally developing new programs for all grades base on state curriculum standards.. Currently, he is also an Educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and was formerly an intern at the Queens Historical Society and the New-York Historical Society. Scott holds a B.A. and M.A. in History from Fordham University.
My favorite place: The ground floor of the Main Sanctuary. I love taking in the space and feeling the presence and history which permeates everything from the wood floors to the plaster on the domes. You can almost see the congregants there whispering, singing, and swaying in pray. On tours, one of my goals is to have my guests picture it themselves.
Eva has more than 40 years of 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 oversees fundraising, management and strategic planning. 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 and as a consultant for Mayan Families. 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. 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.
Haley Coopersmith, Manager of Public Programs
Haley Coopersmith oversees public and cultural programs at the museum. She is responsible for developing innovative programs. She is also focused on public and community engagement for the museum. Before joining the staff, Haley was the Art Director at Mosholu Montefiore Community Center. In this role, she developed arts programming for populations in the North Bronx and was an active member of a variety of committees for United Neighborhood Houses. Haley also taught fine arts classes, arranged trips to museums for seniors, and researched and wrote multiple grants. Prior to that, Haley was a curatorial and media fellow at the Museums of Bat Yam in Israel. While there, she was instrumental in the creation of a cross-continental arts program for middle school students with Mosholu Montefiore Community Center. Haley studied Art History at Brandeis University and worked as a docent and outreach assistant at the Rose Art Museum while she was a student. Haley is currently enrolled in the Leadership in Museum Education program at Bank Street College of Education where she is working towards her masters in Education.
My favorite place: The women’s balcony as early as you can get there. I love the Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans window and seeing the sanctuary flooded with early morning light coming through that window is very special. I also like the view from up there because I feel connected to the many women who sat there before me.
Chelsea J. Dowell, Director of Public Engagement
Chelsea J. Dowell is an accomplished nonprofit professional with a focus on raising public profile and visibility for a number of historic sites.
After earning a Masters degree in Historic Preservation from Pratt Institute, Chelsea spent four years at the Green-Wood Historic Fund, where she managed the 180-year-old cemetery’s development into a premiere cultural destination. Through diverse programming and an engaging public voice, she built a dedicated base of constituents whose support now positions Green-Wood firmly among New York’s significant cultural landmarks. Chelsea has also served as the Director of Communications and Programming at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, where she worked to connect diverse audiences to the irreplaceable neighborhood businesses, personalities, and folklore. Chelsea interned at the Museum at Eldridge Street during graduate school and immediately fell in love with the spirit of the building and its history. She is thrilled to be back on the team, promoting the Museum’s place as an invaluable site of immigrant, architectural, and Jewish history in New York City.
My favorite place: The stairway leading to the women’s balcony. It sounds odd to choose a simple stairway, but it provides a wonderful moment of peace as I climb the stairs. I can take a moment to admire the beautiful stenciled walls, the vibrant stained glass panel, and imagine the generations of women who have been climbing those stairs since 1887.
Nancy Johnson, Archivist and Curator
Nancy has been curating the Museum’s temporary art and history exhibition series since it began in 2016. As the Museum’s archivist, she looks after its historic documents, objects and art collection. Favorite projects since coming to Eldridge Street in 2009 include editing Beyond the Façade, an illustrated history of the Eldridge Street Synagogue and its restoration; developing the permanent exhibition in 2014, and curating exhibitions ranging from the art of Kiki Smith to Harbin, China/Past-Present, combining both history and contemporary art. Nancy has worked as an archivist, curator, 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!
Lyndon Lapera, Visitor Services Associate
Lyndon is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in History. He is originally from Pennington, New Jersey.
My favorite place: My favorite space in the Museum is the sanctuary’s ceiling. A barrel vaulted main artery flanked by mosque style dome rows, it blends a variety of styles yet maintains an aesthetic cohesion. It captures light and holds warmth in a urban environment that is generally dominated by interlaced shadow. Houses of worship have long been designed to provoke a sense of the unseen, and to stand in the sanctuary and look up is to have that feeling impressed upon you.
Rachel Serkin, Manager of School Programs
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 a century 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.
Brad Shaw, Manager of Operations and Visitor Services
Brad and his parents were born on the Lower East Side, so he has always felt a special connection to the area and the Museum. After his first visit, he was so taken with the space he volunteered as a docent and soon after joined the staff. Brad worked as a VP and software manager in a major corporation for almost 30 years, and earned BA degrees from Brooklyn College in History and Education. Away from the Museum, Brad is a baseball historian and is President and founder of a 19th-century Base Ball Club. He lives in New York City and Connecticut with his wife of 35 years, Phyllis, and has two (big) children Jillian and Danny.
My favorite place: The pine floors in the back of the main sanctuary. These floors are uneven from almost a hundred years of the male congregants standing on their feet and praying. If you look at the floor from just the right angle, you can see a row of footprints left from those who worshiped here in the 19th century.
Board of Directors
Kenneth L. Stein
Roberta Brandes Gratz
Founder and President Emeritus
Ester R. Fuchs
Jeffrey R. Gural
Jonathan L. Mechanic
David L. Moore
Michele Cohn Tocci
Jeffrey S. Wilks