Staff

Leadership
Halie Soifer, Chief Executive Officer

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Halie Soifer is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). For nearly two decades, Halie served as a national security advisor to four members of Congress in the Senate and House, as a senior policy advisor in the Obama administration, as a campaign official, and as a foreign policy expert and civil servant. Prior to coming to JDCA in 2018, Halie served as National Security Advisor to then-Senator Kamala Harris (CA) and as foreign policy advisor for Sens. Ted Kaufman and Chris Coons (both DE), and Rep. Robert Wexler (FL). Soifer also served for more than two years in the Obama administration as Senior Policy Advisor to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Additionally, she served in the Bush Administration as a civil servant in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. During President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Halie served as the campaign’s Florida Jewish Vote Director. Halie received her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Middle East Studies and international economics, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan Honors College. She is a native of East Lansing, Michigan.
Steven R. Sheffey, Chief of Staff

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Steven R. Sheffey is JDCA's Chief of Staff and President of Steven Richard Sheffey Consulting LLC, which specializes in public policy, communications, and government relations for businesses and not-for-profits. He writes and publishes the weekly Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update, which has thousands of subscribers in the U.S., Canada, Israel, and the U.K. His writing has appeared in publications such as The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Hill, and The Daily Beast.
Steve is on the Tenth Congressional District Democrats (Illinois) leadership team, was slated as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Tom Harkin in 1992, Barack Obama in 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016, and advises and organizes events for candidates throughout the country. Steve currently serves on the Advisory Committee of Heart of a Nation, the Government Affairs Committee of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, and on the Board of Directors of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El. He has served on the boards of many Jewish community organizations, both locally and nationally. Steve graduated from Northwestern University School of Law, where was a Notes and Comments editor on the Law Review. He received his B.A. in Economics from Northwestern University. He resides in suburban Chicago with his family.
Directors & Advisers
Shir Attias, Political and Policy Director

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Shir is a graduate of the University of Southern California with degrees in International Relations and Political Economy, originally from Phoenix, Arizona. Prior to joining JDCA, Shir worked for the Kamala Harris 2020 presidential primary campaign alongside the California political and field teams and as an intern for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At USC, Shir was an active participant in campus life and politics as a researcher for the USC Security and Political Economy Lab, member of Phi Beta Kappa, Undergraduate Student Government, and teaching assistant in political communications. Shir also completed a portion of her studies at King’s College London War Studies department. Shir joined the JDCA team prior to the 2020 election cycle as a Political and Policy associate, tracking and managing JDCA’s 120+ endorsements, digital ads, and independent expenditures, and is thrilled to serve as JDCA Political and Policy Director, heading JDCA’s policy advocacy, tracking, and research.
Samuel J. Crystal, Communications Director and Spokesperson

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Samuel’s career has focused on political advocacy and communications in the global-Jewish community. He received his Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Maryland with a specialization in Leadership and Management and was named a 'High Achieving Millennial' by the SparkVision Millennial Research Project. Samuel joined the JDCA team shortly after the organization was founded in 2017 and he has served in multiple roles. As JDCA's Communications and Spokesperson, he develops, executes and oversees JDCA's external messaging across all digital platforms, and expands JDCA's public profile. From 2015-2017, Samuel was the Director of Political Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel to New England, where he helped develop and implement diplomatic strategy between Israel and local and state governments in New England.
From 2015-2016, Samuel lived in Jerusalem working as an Israel Government Fellow, where he attended over 100 seminars, lectures, and field missions studying Israeli politics, security, and paths toward peace with the Palestinians. As the Congressional Affairs Fellow at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he provided briefings for Israeli diplomats and Foreign Ministry officials. Samuel received his B.A. from the University of Mary Washington in 2014, and his Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Maryland in 2019. He previously served on the Advisory Council for Repair the World: Baltimore, and is passionate about criminal justice reform, combating climate change, and support for Israel and the two-state solution.
Get in touch with Sam and our Communications team.
Ariel Frechtman, Development Director

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Ariel is a New Jersey native, having graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in criminal justice and justice systems. She worked in management for specialty and big box companies before transitioning into Jewish communal work. As Young Leadership Director at the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville, she launched the community’s first young leadership campaign after traveling to Israel on JFNA’s Campaigners’ Mission. As Director of Community Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Ariel led a team of professionals enhancing Jewish life at all stages through community outreach and programs such as PJ Library and Birthright Israel, and worked with National Young Leadership Cabinet. She also curated the community’s inagural 40 Under 40 Mission to Israel, which took current and emerging leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish, on a week-long journey to experience the overseas work of Federation, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and The Joint Distribution Committee’s work firsthand. Ariel was selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of Jewish Federations of North America’s Next Gen Fellowship, a 20-month comprehensive professional development program led by M2: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education and the Center for Creative Leadership, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. After her work with Federation, Ariel joined Jewish National Fund-USA as a Campaign Executive, splitting her portfolio and time between DC and Atlanta. After successfully growing the young philanthropy campaigns in both regions, she was promoted to Associate Director of Atlanta where she worked with the organization’s largest affinity group, Woman for Israel, and grew Atlanta’s professional affinity divisions including lawyers, doctors, and real estate. Ariel previously served on the Young Leadership Board for Conexx, America’s Israel Business Connector, and was a mentor for Career Up Now which empowers emerging professionals to advance their careers while incorporating Jewish values into their lives through innovative networking and education opportunities with Jewish industry leaders. Ariel is a volunteer with ARC (Access Reproductive Care) Southeast and a member and former National Officer of Sigma Sigma Sigma National Sorority. Get in touch with Ariel and our Development team.
Ben Kanter, Outreach Director

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Ben is a Maryland native with a degree in Political Science from the Honors College at the College of Charleston and is also a member of the political science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha and psychology honors society Psi Chi. While in college, Ben interned at both the Charleston County Public Defender’s Office and on Joe Cunningham’s historic 2018 Congressional victory in South Carolina’s 1st district. Since graduating, Ben has focused his career on political research, activism, and advocacy. During the summer of 2019, Ben was selected to attend the Summer Institute for Political Psychology at Stanford University, a month-long interdisciplinary training and certificate program with leading political psychology professors and experts from across the country. Prior to joining JDCA, Ben worked as an organizer for Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential primary run in Iowa and Nevada.
Robert J. (Bobby) Saferstein, Director of Programming and Strategy

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Bobby is an interdisciplinary creative and entrepreneur. He harnesses media, design, and ritual, to craft experiences that impact and strengthen community, and develop multi-platform solutions that drive social good. Bobby currently serves as Director of Programming and Strategy at the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), after first joining as a member of JDCA’s Next Generation Leadership Council and Ohio Chapter Lead. Beginning with the 2020 general election to the Georgia runoffs to now, Bobby has developed and produced over 400 virtual and in-person programs to meet the strategic, political, policy, development, outreach, and volunteer engagement objectives of JDCA. Bobby previously led efforts as Market Development Director of Sh’ma Journal — a platform to engage with matters critical to contemporary Judaism — to augment its content and digital presence, reimagine its visual identity, and cultivate partnerships to deepen the journal’s impact and broaden its reach. The culmination of these efforts saw the journal’s strategic transformation into Sh’ma Now hosted by the Forward. Named to The New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36,” Bobby is a multiple Natan Grant recipient for his series of experiential Shabbat dinners for Jewish LGBTIQ+ professionals, Friday Night Lights Events. In 2015, Bobby founded Eighteen:22 — a global network of Jewish LGBTIQ+ and ally changemakers — as a Schusterman Connection Point in Salzburg, Austria, and partnered with JDC Entwine in 2017 to develop and launch their first in a series of international experiences designed for LGBTIQ+ participants. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, an ROI Community member, and an Hadar Institute Jewish Wisdom Fellow, Bobby is also an accomplished artist in the worlds of photography, film, music, and theatre. Get in touch with Bobby and our Programming team.
Sami Sinclair, Senior Adviser

Sami Sinclair is the Principal at Sinclair Strategies, a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategic and financial resource development. Prior to that role, Sami served as the Chief Advancement Officer for JCC Greater Boston for nearly a decade. In this role, she oversaw the strategic direction, growth, and execution of the Annual Campaign, including all targeted and programmatic fundraising, and Our Campaign to Re-imagine the JCC, a comprehensive capital campaign effort that raised more than $16M during her tenure. As a member of the Senior Management Team, she played a lead role in the organization’s messaging and strategic development, including how to create entry points and pathways to engage demographically and geographically diverse populations in meaningful Jewish life.

Sami joined the JCC in 2012 after six years at Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation, where she served as Director of Development, Affinities, overseeing the mid-level Annual Campaign and supervising Women's Philanthropy and the Professional Network teams. Prior to moving to Boston, she was a Campaign Associate and Manager of Women's Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas following a career working on Democratic political campaigns in Nevada, Oregon, and California.

Sami is a recent graduate of the Mandel Executive Leadership Program through the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership.  A native of New Jersey, Sami graduated from the University of Virginia and recently spent 5 months living in Barcelona with her family. She lives in Needham, MA with her husband, three daughters, two cats and a puppy.

Staff
Michael Berkowitz, Political and Policy Manager

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Michael is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in political science. At Washington University Michael was heavily involved in Jewish life and progressive politics, leading WashU's J Street U chapter, volunteering for local electoral campaigns, and running the Orthodox minyan at WashU's Chabad. The summer before his senior year, Michael interned at Bluelight Strategies, a political consulting firm specializing in Jewish and Democratic politics. In his last year at WashU he served as the Midwest Vice President on the J Street U National Board, helping to lead the pro-Israel anti-Occupation student movement. Prior to joining JDCA, Michael worked as a field organizer for the Iowa Democratic Party in the 2020 general election.
Matthew Craig, Operations Manager and Executive Assistant

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Matthew is a proud Kentucky native with a degree in Early Childhood Education from Boston University. Since graduating from college, Matthew has worked extensively across the country for Democratic Campaigns. Matthew is most proud of working on Tom Perriello's campaign for Governor, Bernie Sander's 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, and the successful 2018 ballot measure Prop 3, Promote the Vote in Michigan. His most recent work was with the Amy McGrath campaign where he managed field operations for the largest campaign in Kentucky's history. Matthew is incredibly grateful to have grown up as one of the only three Jewish people from his public high school (the other two being his siblings). He credits his parents with helping him form his strong Jewish values. Matthew loves spending his free time with his family but mainly with his Grandma Minnie and her twin sister Aunt Jackie! Get in touch with Matthew and our Operations team.
Naomi Jaffe, Political and Policy Associate

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Naomi grew up in McLean, Virginia and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Government. She has previously worked with JDCA as a Political and Policy Intern. Prior to joining JDCA, Naomi interned at Brady, a gun violence prevention nonprofit organization, and worked as a research assistant for the Cornell Legal Information Institute. At Cornell, Naomi was a 3-year captain of the Varsity Division 1 Women’s Soccer team, a member of an all-female acapella singing group named “The Callbaxx”, and involved in community service with a local elementary school as a member of the Red Key Athlete Honor Society. In the summer of 2017, Naomi captained the Junior Women’s Soccer team for Maccabi USA at the Maccabiah Games in Israel and won a gold medal. Naomi was also a long-time camper and counselor at 6 Points Sports Academy, a URJ summer camp.
Raya Kazdan, Program Associate

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Raya is a New York native and a graduate of the George Washington University where she was a University Honors student and studied international affairs, political science, and sustainability. During her undergraduate tenure, Raya worked on programming, advocacy, and engagement within a number of political and Jewish organizations, including GW Hillel, the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy, and the National Peace Corps Association. Raya completed her undergraduate studies a semester early and spent the spring of 2021 working virtually as the programming and engagement associate for Lehigh University Hillel, engaging students on a hybrid campus in the height of the pandemic.

Prior to joining JDCA, Raya was selected as one of 60 fellows nationally to complete the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs. During the fellowship, Raya was based out of St. Louis where she learned experientially about the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of policy and the public sphere in a deeply red state. Raya is thrilled to bring her experience to the growing JDCA team to help educate and mobilize our democratic Jewish base.

Get in touch with Raya and our Programming team.

Alan Shulman, Outreach Associate

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Alan Shulman is a native of both Michigan and New York. He was the first person in his family born in the United States, with his family fleeing the Soviet Union in the 1990’s. Alan graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's in International Relations in 2020. He was deeply involved with MSU Hillel, including organizing the 2018 Michigan Holocaust Commemoration event in the Capitol building in Lansing and running Spartans for Israel. He also founded and ran Spartans for Biden and was a member of the National Youth Leadership council on the Biden campaign. He played a very active role on campus, working hard to make the university more accountable to the student population in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. This included but was not limited to passing legislation through student government, authoring op-eds with other student leaders and successfully lobbying the MSU administration to make changes at the Department of Institutional Equity (OIE). Alan is passionate about building strong coalitions and bringing people together. He has done research for three different MSU professors, is a veteran of four different political campaigns and interned in both the Michigan House of Representatives and the United States Senate. 

Get in touch with Alan and our Outreach team.
Benjamin (Benny) Stanislawski, Communications and Digital Manager

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Benny grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland and is currently pursuing his Master's at George Washington University in Media and Strategic Communications. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Jewish Studies. He has previously worked with JDCA as a Communications Intern, Organizing Fellow, and Communications Associate. In addition, he has political experience interning with the Democratic Party of Virginia and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s reelection campaign. While in university, Benny studied abroad in Spain, served as the President of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and was very involved with Hillel BC and Jewish life on campus. Prior to university, he did a gap year in Israel with the Labour Zionist youth movement, Habonim Dror. Get in touch with Benny and our Communications team.
Annabel Weinbach, Project Manager

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Annabel is a Miami, Florida native and a first year law student at the American University Washington College of Law. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she majored in Political Science and minored in Law, Justice, and Social Change. On campus, she served as a Central Student Government Representative and advocated for increased access to University Health Services and combatted anti-Israel activity. She was heavily involved in Hillel, where she sat on the Governing Board and led MitzVote, the Jewish civic engagement campaign on campus. She also represented her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force for Fraternity and Sorority Life.
Prior to joining JDCA, Annabel interned on Capitol Hill in Rep. Donna Shalala’s office and worked as a field organizer for the Florida Democratic Party in 2018. She supported JDCA’s Florida and Michigan chapters as an Organizing Fellow before joining the team full-time as Executive Assistant & Development Associate. We are excited to welcome her back to the team as our new Project Manager in 2022!

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