Skip links

Main navigation

JCC Association Launches Second Cohort of Martin Pear Israel Fellows

January 31, 2024
Joanne Harmon, Chief Marketing Officer, JCC Association, [email protected]

JCC Association Launches Second Cohort of Martin Pear Israel Fellows
Fellowship’s impact on participants and communities will be exponential in a post-October 7 world

NEW YORK — Today, JCC Association of North America named the second cohort of The Martin Pear Israel Fellowship, designed to develop and retain JCC talent by welcoming early-tenure professionals within the movement into an 18-month program that includes 12 months of education—in-person gatherings, web-based learning, and a rigorous, immersive Israel experience—and six months of project implementation. The fellowship honors Martin Pear, z”l, longtime CEO at Valley of the Sun JCC in Scottsdale, Ariz., and one of the field’s most beloved leaders, who believed strongly that all Jewish professionals should anchor their practice in a passionate commitment to Israel.

The events of October 7 and the ensuing war have intensified the desire of North America’s Jewish communities to connect with Israel and its people. Members of last year’s inaugural cohort of Pear Fellows, whose fellowship will overlap with the new cohort for six months, are well positioned to assist in these efforts and already have stepped up to meet the challenge, making a tremendous impact in their local communities and the movement’s more than 170 JCCs.

For example, Jackie Laban, assistant children and camp director at the Jewish Educational Alliance in Savannah, Georgia, spearheaded efforts to host three survivors of the Hamas attacks at her J during Hanukkah. Approximately 250 people attended the event in Savannah and, to date, another 500 have watched the recording. “Had I not had this experience prior to October 7,” Laban says, “I would never have been able to confidently hold the conversations that I am without the education I received during my participation in the [Pear] Fellowship. Professionally, I have really made a difference in my community.”

Gustavo Scarrone, director of the Anita Hausmann Visual Arts Academy at the Michael-Ann Russell JCC in North Miami Beach, Florida, and another cohort I Pear Fellow, curated an art exhibit, “Clothing Hangers Art Project,” comprising 240 unique pieces of art created by local artists using basic materials provided by the JCC: a piece of cloth, a hanger, and a picture of a hostage. The exhibit, which ran for two weeks at the J and which other JCCs are interested in hosting, was a constant reminder of the hostages in Gaza and a tangible demonstration of support and empathy for their families. As Scarrone explains, “I feel I am part of a bigger community right now, and my experience as a Pear Fellow helped me to create a deeper consciousness of that connection.”

“Martin Pear, z”l, was a pioneer. He was steadfastly committed to the idea that building Jewish community anywhere requires connections with Jewish communities everywhere and that Israel holds a unique importance to this conception,” says Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association of North America. “We are honored to be launching the second cohort of this fellowship established in his honor amidst one of the greatest crises to face Israel and the Jewish world in our lifetimes. This remarkable group of professionals will help to markedly enhance Israel engagement in their JCCs and become powerful assets in our field’s growing commitment to being the preeminent engine for greater Jewish community on the continent.”

The fellowship, part of JCC Talent and the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education, is open to full-time employees of any faith and from any area of a JCC who are early in their tenure in the movement. Applicants must be interested in building a career in the JCC Movement and able to commit to remaining at their current JCC for at least two years. Applications are reviewed by an advisory committee, with selected candidates invited to interview. The final cohort each year comprises professionals who look to thrive, both individually and collectively, within the rigorous program. The Pear Fellowship is made possible by a generous, multi-year gift to JCC Association.

JCC Association is devoted to developing the talent of the JCC workforce and continuing to attract the best and brightest to its work. With more than 10,000 full-time professionals, over 20,000 part-time staff, and 17,000 seasonal staff, the movement is the largest employer on North America’s Jewish communal landscape. Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson JCC, says this about a staff member who was in the inaugural cohort: “The Martin Pear Fellowship has been a gift to our movement in general and specifically at our J. Having Corey as part of the fellowship has been of great benefit to him as a professional, and it has been gratifying to see his experience come to life as a part of our J-Care program[, the Tucson J’s after-school program].”

The cornerstone of the fellowship is a nine-day intensive seminar in Israel, anchored by monthly education sessions leading up to and following the Israel experience. As a final component of their participation, Pear Fellows implement a project that brings Israel to their JCC in a new and purposeful way. Their project implementation overlaps by six months with the next cohort, so they can execute and report on their projects, evaluate the entire experience, and interact with the newest cohort of Pear Fellows.

Cohort II will comprise these individuals:

Michael Blanchard is the senior director of marketing and member experience at the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Richmond, Virginia, where he leverages more than 28 years of marketing expertise. With a robust professional background, he has collaborated with esteemed brands such as Capital One, Chrysler, Con Edison Company of New York, Dodge, Girl Scouts, Jeep, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Prudential. Outside his professional realm, Blanchard, a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer, and marathon coach, embodies the ethos of hard work and its rewarding outcomes. In his role at the Weinstein JCC, he showcases unwavering strength, offering clear and comprehensive leadership to each department. Known for strategic thinking and encouragement, Blanchard brings out the best in those around him. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and is certified in direct marketing by the Interactive Marketing Institute.

Julia Breen is the youth services assistant director at the Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville, Florida. In this role, she develops engaging youth and family programs with the goal of fostering curiosity and community. During the summer season, Breen directs two award-winning camps. Her journey in the JCC Movement began as a summer camp counselor. Breen holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of North Florida and is passionate about advocating on behalf of children and their welfare. She values time with family and friends, a good book, and time spent in nature.

Ellen Daniel is the marketing director at the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio, and previously served as director of marketing and communications at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Before entering the marketing field, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, completed an international internship at SABC TV News in Johannesburg, South Africa, and served as a news producer at WLWT News 5 in Cincinnati. Daniel also has a background in the arts. After earning a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre from Ball State University, she appeared on NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs” reality singing competition with Nick Lachey; the choir won the 2007 competition, earned $250,000 for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and was named Ambassadors of the Year for the City of Cincinnati. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Bryan, and two daughters, Emerson and Eloise.

Alyse Eisenberg is the family engagement specialist and pedagogista at the Aaron Family JCC in Dallas, Texas, where she plans and facilitates family programs and supports early childhood educators on their Jewish studies journey. She previously was the early childhood specialist and PJ Library manager at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. She is a JECELI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Initiative) fellow and the Judaic specialist in residence at the B’nai Shalom Day School Early Childhood Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. Eisenberg is passionate about leveraging her national network to enrich her community and has been recognized as a Master Leader by the Exchange Leadership Initiative for her commitment to strengthening the J, building the profession, and advocating for children and their families. She lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband of more than 33 years.

Maya Harvey is the community and family engagement manager at the Boulder JCC in Colorado. In this role, she plans numerous programs centered around Jewish holidays and cultural activities, fostering a sense of community. Since joining the Boulder JCC, Harvey has introduced several new programs, including pickleball, an annual women’s seder, a men’s group, and monthly activity groups for knitting, mahjong, and canasta, among others. Previously Harvey was the adult program coordinator at the David Posnack JCC in Davie, Florida, where she also planned programs for the community, with a focus on seniors. Harvey moved to Colorado three years ago and loves exploring the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two teenage daughters. She also enjoys cooking and baking traditional Jewish foods, and she and her family often open their home to friends for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Naomi Kramer is the director of operational and program excellence at the Miles Nadal JCC (MNjcc) in Toronto, Ontario, where she focuses on team building and staff training, inclusion and accessibility, and an engineering approach to problem solving. Originally from upstate New York, Kramer has been involved in the JCC Movement since childhood, participating in summer camp, after-school programming, and swimming at the Schenectady and Albany JCCs. She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from McGill University. When not spending time with her family, Kramer volunteers at her synagogue, Beth Tzedec, where she serves on the board of directors, and at her children’s Jewish day school, Robbins Hebrew Academy.

Jill Lowitz is the marketing and communications director at the Boulder JCC in Colorado. In this role and as a member of the senior leadership team, she oversees all marketing, media relations, and community outreach. She previously was the digital marketing coordinator, expanding the JCC’s outreach using social media and email. Originally from New York, where she was involved in New York City’s fashion industry, Lowitz relocated to Boulder seven years ago, embracing a change of pace, a welcoming community and the state’s quintessential hobbies: yoga, snowboarding, and hiking! In addition, she loves cultural exploration, including museum visits and travels with her husband and twin daughters.

Fara Marcus is the chief development and marketing officer at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, where she leads strategic planning and execution of fundraising, marketing, and public relations and works with a diverse and talented team of professionals and stakeholders supporting the agency’s mission. Noted for her energy, focus, and passion for excellence and success, Marcus brings a wealth of skills and knowledge in leadership, organizational development, and change management to agency communications, development, and marketing. She believes strong Jewish communities and a deep connection with Israel are key building blocks for Jewish professionals and sees these connections as vital to Israel’s future. Marcus recently helped plan a visit to Pittsburgh by survivors of the October 7 attacks and has led several other unique and important community-building initiatives. She looks forward to sharing her fellowship experiences. A Tulane University graduate, Marcus resides in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood with her husband and two children.

Barrie Glasberg Mittica is the director of engagement at the Kaiserman JCC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she manages a portfolio that includes Jewish programming for holidays and events; teen engagement, including JCC Maccabi and Diller Teen Fellows; and J on the Way, a new initiative to bring the JCC to outlying Jewish communities. Previously, Mittica was a longtime, senior regional director for South Jersey Region BBYO. A native of greater Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology at Texas A&M University, where she was a member of the national championship Texas A&M Archers. Mittica holds two master’s degrees, one in non-profit management from Gratz College and another in immunology from Thomas Jefferson University. Before she changed her path to Jewish communal service, she researched cancer therapies in the biotech industry. Mittica lives in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two daughters and is excited to be part of the second cohort of the Martin Pear Israel Fellowship.

Jason Stowell is the senior director of business development at the JCC of Greater Buffalo in New York, strives to lead the organization’s operational excellence and strategic planning efforts. He works with other JCC leaders to develop an ever-expanding series of meaningful events and programs to serve the agency’s diverse communities. Previously Stowell chaired non-profit educational leadership events and offered expertise about fitness and membership to JCCs across North America.

Amanda Welsh is the youth and camp director at the Staenberg Omaha JCC in Nebraska, where she manages numerous youth programs, including out-of-school care, summer day camp, and enrichment classes. She has served in multiple roles in school-aged childcare throughout her career, and she is proud to oversee the only American Camping Association-accredited camp in Omaha. In all her programming endeavors, she brings her passion for summer camp to the youth in her community. Welsh earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and child, youth, and family studies from the  University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Born and raised in the Midwest, she loves spending time outside with her family, reading thrilling books, and letting her competitive side come out in board games and bowling.


About JCC Association of North America

JCC Association of North America leads the JCC Movement, the most expansive and inclusive platform for Jewish life in the U.S. and Canada, which comprises more than 170 Jewish Community Centers and Jewish Community Camps (JCCs). By virtue of its size and scope—serving more than 1.5 million people weekly, in person, and online—and with guidance and support from JCC Association, the JCC Movement dynamically influences efforts to create Jewish community, vibrant Jewish life, and intentional and measurable Jewish outcomes in local communities and across the continent. Learn more at or on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Please note that JCC Association of North America should not be referred to as JCCA or the JCC Association but initially as JCC Association of North America and as JCC Association in subsequent references.

JCC Talent elevates JCC professionals and lay leaders and the workplaces they serve by offering experiences and initiatives that enhance Jewish knowledge, foster cultures of inclusion and belonging, and strengthen the JCC Movement’s talent infrastructure. Learn more in the JCC Resource Center or email [email protected].

Subscribe to Press Releases
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reader Interactions