Our Staff

Michael Freund- Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel

He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language daily, and he previously served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Contact Michael Freund

Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum – Rabbi and Educational Director of Shavei Israel

Since 1998 he has served as Director of Machon Amiel (training rabbis and spiritual leaders for work in Diaspora communities) and as a judge on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Conversion Court. Rabbi Birnbaum is the author or editor of numerous books and articles on Jewish faith, practice and philosophy. Between 1985 and 1990 he worked in the World Zionist Organization in various capacities: lecturer to youth in Central America on Zionism and Judaism, Latin America Adviser and Manager of Spanish Publications in the Department of Culture and Religious Education. He was the Chief Rabbi of Uruguay between 1992-1997. He was born in Uruguay and made aliya in 1972. He studied in Har Zion Yeshiva and received his rabbinical ordination in 1982. He holds a Masters degree in Jewish Thought from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy from Bar-Ilan University.
Contact Rabbi Birnbaum

Edith Blaustein -Deputy Director – General in charge of administration

Edith Blaustein is Shavei Israel’s Deputy Director-General in charge of administration. Before making aliyah in 2008, she served as Director of the Center for Judaic Studies in Uruguay on behalf of the Jewish Agency. Previously, she was the director of the Yavne Institute of Montevideo, where she prepared educational programming on subjects such as volunteerism and bibliodrama, and authored the book, “Words From the Heart”. Edith has an MA degree in education, and worked as a teacher of history and ontological coaching in Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Israel.
Contact Edith Blaustein

Rabbanit Renana Birnbaum - Director of Machon Miriam (Shavei Israel´s Spanish-Portuguese language Ulpan for return)

She also serves as Director of the Training Program for Rabbi’s wives in the Diaspora. She continues to work together with her husband Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum in assisting the Jewish community in Uruguay. She has taught primary schools, supervised kindergartens, taught at teacher seminars and lectures to adults. Renana has a Bachelors degree in literature.

Rabbi Chanoch Avitzedek – Director of Bnei Menashe Aliya & Absorption Department

Rabbi Avizedek, who previously served as an emissary of Shavei Israel to the Bnei Menashe in northeastern India, now oversees the organization’s various projects related to the aliya and absorption of the community in Israel.  In the past, he has held a number of important positions in the fields of formal and informal education, including Commander of the Israel Defense Forces’  Religious Midrasha, and he also served as an emissary in South America of the “Hanoar veHahalutz” movement and the Jewish Agency’s Department for Torah Education in the Diaspora. In addition, Rabbi Avizedek was involved in promoting various educational and settlement projects in Israel, and he was one of the initiators and founders of the musical Yeshiva “Kinor David”. In his spare time, he dedicates himself to agriculture and psychology studies. 
Contact Rabbi Chanoch Avitzedek

Tzivia Kusminsky – Head of the  Bnei Anousim and Hidden Jews of Poland Department.

She worked with needy children as an educator in informal education in the Argentinean community. She also taught Judaism to children who did not receive a Jewish education. Born in Argentina, she made Aliya to Israel in 5762 (2002). A graduate of the Faculties for Political Science and History of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and completed a Masters degree in Public Policy at Tel Aviv University.
Contact Tzivia Kusminsky

Tzvi Khaute – Coordinator for Bnei Menashe

In addition, he is a volunteer in his community in Israel. He responds to queries and questions, accompanies new immigrants during their absorption process in Israel, and teaches at an Ulpan for converts in Kiryat Arba, as well as lecturing on various topics. He was Shavei Israel’s emissary to Manipur where he set up the organization’s local headquarters. In India, he taught economics at a high school for four years. After making Aliya, he studied at the Machon Meir Yeshiva. Born in Northeastern India, he made Aliya in 5760 (2000) with his family, along with the entire Bnei Menashe community. He holds a baccalaureate degree in economics from the University of Delhi, India and baccalaureate degree in Jewish philosophy from the Herzog Institute in Alon Shvut.
Contact Tzvi Khaute

Avi Mizrahi – Shavei Israel’s Project Director for the immigration of the Bnei Menashe and their first acclimatization in Israel.

Immigration and education emissary in Ethiopia and Turkey. He directed “Operation Moses” and “Operation Solomon” in Ethiopia. He was the Jewish Agency’s project director for the immigration and absorption of the Bnei Menashe who immigrated under the Law of Return. A social worker by profession, his main specialty is the immigration and absorption of Jews in distress such as Ethiopians, Persians, Syrians and the Bnei Menashe.

Contact Avi Mizrahi

ללא שםEsther Surikova – Head od the Russia and Eastern Europe Department

Before making aliyah in 2012, she served in the Office of Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow. She also used to work as a lawyer in a private corporation, a public relations specialist at the ORT CIS and a special project manager at Ner LeElef, Jerusalem. Esther was granted a B.A. degree in international law at Moscow State University of International Relations under Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one more B.A. in political science at Open University of Israel. She published a number of research works devoted to law, international politics, Jewish tradition, Middle-Eastern conflict and legal status of mass media in different countries.

Contact Esther Surikova

LBD picLaura Ben-David – Director of Marketing & New Media

Laura is a marketing consultant, writer and photographer.  Originally from New York, she made Aliyah from Boca Raton, Florida in 2002. Before joining Shavei Israel, Laura managed all social media at Nefesh B’Nefesh. Laura is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel, as well as numerous published articles both in print and digital media; her subjects of choice include Israel, Aliyah & social media – and sometimes all three at once.

Contact Laura Ben-David

DSC_0194Velvel Tchernin – Coordinator for the Subbotniks

Born in 1958 in Moscow, immigrated to Israel in 1990. Has a master’s degree in history from the University of Lomonosov, Moscow and a PhD in Jewish literature from the Bar-Ilan University. Learned at Hartman Beit Midrash. Author of many scientific articles in the field of ethnography and sociology of Israel. Among other things, he researches the subject of the Subbotniks Jews. He previously was an emissary of the Jewish Agency in Russia, Byelorussia and the Baltic States and vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress. Teaches at Ariel and lives in Kfar Eldad at Gush Etzion.

my photoRachel Kachlon – Office Manager

Born in Netanya, she’s studying alternative medicine at the Bina College in Jerusalem. She previously worked as director of client service centers for a prestigious company in Israel and directed an English studies project for elementary and high school students. She volunteers helping people with low vision.

Contact Rachel Kachlon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShlomo Sherwood – Director of the Conversion & Absorption Center for Bnei Menashe

Born in Israel, Shlomo has a BA in economics and business administration with specialization in systems administration. In the past, volunteered with immigrants from Ethiopia. Was formerly a manager in the hotel industry, in large catering companies, in urban infrastructure business, and worked as deputy director of one of the country’s largest supermarkets.

Contact Shlomo Sherwood