Our Team

Avrum Rosensweig
President and CEO

Avrum Rosensweig, founding Director and President of Ve’ahavta, is motivated by the ethics of Judaism and the importance of hands-on volunteerism, and believes that by working with interfaith partners, both Jews and non-Jews rediscover the beauties of Judaism, its universal ethical message, and how Jewish inspired acts of charity make the world a better place.

For thirteen years, Avrum has directed Ve’ahavta, Canada’s only Jewish humanitarian and relief organization. Avrum and his team have designed and supervised projects in Israel, and have created and continue to oversee projects in Canada with Native peoples, in South America with Jewish, Amerindian, and Afro Caribbean peoples, in Asia with communities affected by the Tsunami, and with the peoples of rural Africa.

Avrum was a talk show host and performed on television for ten years as one of the Food Guys. He writes a weekly newspaper column for the Canadian Jewish News and is also Ve’ahavta’s most popular public speaker. In this capacity, he was one of the first Canadian notables to publicly cry out for the victims of the genocide in Darfur, urging the citizens and government of this fair democracy to act to solve this ongoing tragedy. Contact Avrum at avrum.rosensweig@veahavta.org.

Deborah (Debbie) Estrin
Director of Development

Debbie Estrin is a seasoned fundraising executive in the non profit sector. Previous to her current position, she worked as Director of Development at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. She held positions at the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation as Director of Donor Services and at UJA/Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto as Senior Campaign Associate. Debbie also lived in the Dallas, Texas, where she served as director of an $11 million Annual Campaign for the Jewish Federation.
Debbie lives in the Davisville area of Toronto with her husband, Steven Tissenbaum, and her daughter Serena. She is an active volunteer for a number of causes including the Engage and Change Program for the Homeless and Girl’s Night Out. In addition to being an avid reader and cultural enthusiast, she appreciates a good game of Scrabble.
Debbie approaches fundraising from a community-building perspective and welcomes your feedback and involvement.

Contact Debbie at debbie.estrin@veahavta.org.

Ilana Linden
Development Officer

Ilana was born in Israel and immigrated to Montreal at the age of 12. In 2009 she moved to Toronto and has embraced the city as her new home. Ilana was thrilled to join the Ve’ahavta fundraising team in 2012 and contribute to the organization’s efforts to make the world a better place. With more than 35 years of experience in the arts as visual artist, dancer, actor, theater director and filmmaker, she cut her fundraising “teeth” as the founding artistic director of Bulldog Productions Theatre Company, which was one of Montreal’s leading independent English theater companies.  The proud mother of two, Ilana is passionate about health and wellness and is a certified fitness consultant and personal trainer. Contact Ilana at ilana.linden@veahavta.org

Robyn Segall
Director of Communications and Operations

Robyn Segall joined the Ve’ahavta team in 2003 as a volunteer and was soon after hired to develop Ve’ahavta’s volunteer department.In 2009, she moved on to our Fundraising department as Development Officer where she managed the organizations fundraising, marketing, and events portfolios. Robyn now returns from maternity leave as our new Marketing, Communications and PR Manager.

Robyn has a BA from York University and has extensive sales and marketing experience in the private sector. Robyn is also a NIA and yoga instructor and an adoring mother of two. Contact Robyn at robyn.segall@veahavta.org.

Shawna Meshwork
Development Officer

Since 2006, Shawna has been a fundraising professional for non-for-profit organizations including Mount Sinai Hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society. Before starting a family she was a dedicated volunteer and worked as a Sales & Logistics Manager for Ceres Fruit Juices. Shawna has a passion for health and fitness as her first career was in Registered Massage Therapy. She receives great satisfaction working with the Ve’ahavta team and committed volunteers to make this world a better place one good deed at a time. Shawna is blessed and most proud of her two daughters. Contact Shawna at shawna.meshwork@veahavta.org

Sarah Zelcer
Director of National and International Programs

Sarah Zelcer has worked with Ve’ahavta since 2002. During that time, she has worked with every department at Ve’ahavta. Since 2003, Sarah has directed Ve’ahavta’s International Department, managing our projects in Guyana, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Israel, and Kenya, as well as coordinated Ve’ahavta’s overseas responses to international crises including the Tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, and the current crisis in Darfur.

As Ve’ahavta’s representative, Sarah has traveled to Guyana, Argentina, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Haiti.

Sarah is a writer, contributing to Living Legacies: A Collection of Inspirational Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women, and a visual artist, specializing in ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts). Sarah is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of Toronto. Contact Sarah at sarah.zelcer@veahavta.org.

Leah Silverman
Project Co-ordinator of National and International Programs

Contact Leah at leah.silverman@veahavta.org.

Ruth Hart
Volunteer Co-ordinator

Contact Ruth at volunteerinfo@veahavta.org.

Ellen Passmore
Director of Local Programs

Ellen Passmore, Director of Local Programs, supports and strengthens our Community Poverty Relief programs (Mobile Jewish Response for the Homeless, Ve’ahavta Street Academy, and the Creative Writing Program).

Ellen joined Ve’ahavta in Spring 2014, after many years in senior management positions with the Ontario Government. These focused on policy and programs related to: postsecondary education, human rights, disability/accessibility, women’s issues, and equity for marginalized groups. She has worked in the mental health field and in the social services sector prior to joining the Ontario government, including the Reena Foundation, a Jewish organization supporting adults with developmental disabilities, and the Canadian Mental Health Association. She has a Masters in Social Work.

Her passions include international development and Aboriginal rights, and she has worked as a volunteer in organizations serving marginalized women and youth in Latin America, Viet Nam, as well with a First Nations Cree community in N. Quebec. She frequently travels to South and Central America, where she has also led tour groups.

Contact Ellen at ellen.passmore@veahavta.org.

Dave Warwick

Contact Dave at dave.warwick@veahavta.org.

Lori Luther
Creative Writing Program Co-ordinator

Contact Lori at lori.luther@veahavta.org.

Kaelan Karjalainen
Digital Design Coordinator

Contact Kaelan at kaelan.karjalainen@veahavta.org.

Jesse Diamond
Outreach Worker Assistant

Contact Jesse at jesse.diamond@veahavta.org.

Lauren Gostick
Program Coordinator ( MJRH )

Lauren, a graduate from the Social Service Worker program at George Brown College, is Ve’ahavta’s full-time Outreach Worker on the Mobile Jewish Response to the Homeless outreach van. Five days a week Lauren escorts a group of volunteers through the downtown streets of Toronto as they provide clients with essential supplies and supportive engagement.

Lauren believes in the social responsibility to do what we can for people who need it. As an activist, she feels compelled to play her part- however big or small it may be. What keeps her going? The fact that clients have welcomed her so warmly into their daily lives. Contact Lauren at lauren.gostick@veahavta.org

Theresa Schrader
VSA Program Co-ordinator

Theresa is the Community Poverty Relief Associate at Ve’ahavta where she coordinates the Creative Writing Contest  and the Ve’ahavta Street Academy. Theresa brings with her more than a decade of life experience with homelessness, addiction, and mental illness.  She is a former winner of our Creative Writing Contest claiming the contest gave her a glimmer of hope that change was possible.

After getting clean and having a child Theresa returned to school to follow her passion of helping people like her change.  She thought if she could do it – she could assist others in completing the journey.   In between her 1st and 2nd year of college Theresa worked with Ve’ahavta on that vision and the Ve’ahavta Street Academy was born.  She became a full time staff member at Ve’ahavta 3 weeks after completing college in 2011.

We gave her the day off to attend her Convocation and receive the honour of being presented the Dean’s Medal for the Social Service Worker Program at George Brown College. Contact Theresa at theresa.schrader@veahavta.org

Carol Berns
Fundraising and Administrative Co-ordinator

Carol Berns is the Fundraising and Administrative Co-ordinator at Ve’ahavta . Most telephone calls to our office are answered with Carol’s cheery “Shalom, Ve’ahavta!”

Carol has had a long career in management, customer service and administration, in both the retail and not for profit sectors, and comes to Ve’ahavta after eleven years at the Baycrest Centre Foundation.   The common denominator, throughout her work history, has always been her excellence in customer service. Whether she’s dealing with donors, clients, staff members or suppliers, Carol’s focus is always to meet or exceed the expectations of our internal and external customers.

Carol considers herself a “people person” and has spent many years as the volunteer facilitator of peer support groups for separated and divorced women.

Carol has a daughter and 2 sons and 5 very special grandchildren.  She says being a bubba is the best job she ever had (sorry, Ve’ahavta!)  She does get great satisfaction from working, with her lovely Ve’ahavta family, to make a significant contribution to repairing the world. Contact Carol at carol.berns@veahavta.org

Danny Richmond
Director of Youth Leadership

Danny is excited to join the Ve’ahavta family as Director of Youth Leadership, responsible for catalyzing young people across the country to pursue a more just and compassionate world.

Danny brings over 10 years of background working on youth development, community mobilization and international development.  He has worked and volunteered on 5 different continents. As a public speaker, he has spoken to over 15,000 people about social activism and global citizenship. His connection to his own heritage has been a major focus of his life, he has served as National Program Director of Canadian Young Judaea (CYJ) and organized several rallies to raise action on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

In 2006, he was asked to accompany Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, as part of a 10 person Canadian delegation on her State Visits to 5 African nations. Recently, Danny served as Campaign Manager for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation mobilizing thousands of volunteers across the world to tackle malaria by building bridges across faith communities. Contact Danny at danny.richmond@veahavta.org.

Ve’ahavta’s Board Members

  • Bernie Farber, Chair
  • Anthony Alberga
  • Dr. Gordon Arbess
  • Alan Bass
  • Mark Diamond
  • Henry Greisman
  • Norman Levine
  • Paul Lindzon
  • Jordana Ross
  • Renee Roth
  • Ira Teich
  • Lawrence Zimmerman


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