Board & Staff

Museum at Eldridge Street Staff

Museum at Eldridge Street staff. Photo: Leo Sorel
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.

Eva Bruné, Vice President for Institutional Advancement

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.

Chelsea J. Dowell, Director of Marketing and Audience Outreach

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.

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.

Nancy Beiles, Family Programs Coordinator

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.

Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Family History Center & Cultural Programs

Hanna conceives and administers all public programs. She developed several new programs, including the Triangle Fire 100th Year Tribute, Lost & Found Music Series, the Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Block Party 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 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.

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 Main Sanctuary before we open in the morning. The peace and beauty of the space. The silence and majesty is an experience that makes myspirit soar. I leave with a heart full of love… Refreshed and happy.

Board of Directors

Michael Weinstein
Chairman

Kenneth L. Stein
President

Steven Walsey
Vice President

Paul Rich
Treasurer

Mark Mirsky
Secretary

Roberta Brandes Gratz
Founder and President Emeritus

William Josephson
Founder and Treasurer Emeritus

Lisa M. Africk
Suzy Boshwit
Eric Cohler
Ester R. Fuchs
Arlene Goldfarb
Jeffrey R. Gural
Lauri Halderman
Arthur Korant
Jonathan L. Mechanic
David L. Moore
Richard Rabinowitz
David Sitzer
Michele Cohn Tocci
Tai-Chin Tung
Jeffrey S. Wilks
Howard Zar