The members of the Gateways Board are a diverse and experienced group of community leaders, professionals, funders, and parents representing a wide range of backgrounds, religious observance and generations. Each trustee is committed to fulfilling the needs of our stakeholders through strategic, financial and governance best practices that align with Gateways’ mission and vision.
Click on a name to view each board member’s bio.
Dara Grossman, Co-President
Dara Grossman has been involved with Gateways since 2012. Prior to joining the Board, she taught at MetroWest Jewish Day School and served as the school’s social justice coordinator. This year, Dara will be participating in the CJP Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Development Series. She is also an active member of the Temple Beth Shalom community in Needham. Dara earned an M.A. in Elementary Education from NYU and a B.A. from Union College. She lives in Needham with her husband David and their three children, Ian, Jared and Alexa.
Lisa Hills, Co-President
Lisa Hills received her MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and her BA in Politics from Brandeis University. She is a management consultant who specializes in organizational strategy and talent development. Lisa has a long history of involvement in the Jewish community including as president of Temple Emanuel, chair of Camp Yavneh’s strategic planning process, chair of the Prozdor Advisory Board, and as a member of CJP’s strategic planning committee on supplemental Jewish education. She has chaired numerous searches for senior professionals and clergy as well as provided executive coaching to ensure successful on-boarding. Lisa’s passion for Gateways developed through two of her children’s (Meredith and Amanda) transformative volunteer experiences. She is the proud parent of four adult children and a son-in-law and resides in Newton with her husband, Matthew.
Ethan Freishtat, Vice President of Development
Ethan Freishtat graduated from Brandeis University with a major in political science, and currently serves as a financial planner in the Boston and MetroWest areas, as well as in Palm Beach County, Florida. He has a Chartered Special Needs Consultant title, which is a professional designation for those who help with the planning needs of families who have a child with a disability. Ethan was an active participant in the Rashi Development Committee and a board member of the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. He lives in Jupiter, Florida with his wife, Erica, and their three children, Thomas, Zoe, and Dylan.
Cindy Kaplan, Clerk
Cindy Kaplan is a Certified Parent Coach and a Master’s level Psychotherapist who has been working with couples and families over the last twenty years. She currently leads parenting workshops and presentations and has a private practice serving parents, many of whom have children with special needs. Cindy has been involved with Gateways for the last nine years as a parent of a child in the Sunday school, B’nei Mitzvah, and Mitzvah Mensches programs. She has facilitated workshops for parents in the Sunday school program and is thrilled to delve deeper into the heart of Gateways by joining the board. Cindy lives in Newton with her husband and three children.
Barbara Posnick, Vice President of Finance
Barbara Posnick lives in Wayland with her husband, Carl Mikkelsen. She currently serves on Gateways’ Finance Committee. She is now retired after a long career as a health actuary, and is an Adjunct Professor in the Actuarial Science program at Boston University. Barbara is very active with her synagogue, Temple Emunah of Lexington, where she served as President. Additionally, she has been actively involved with LimmudBoston, where she has been Program Book Editor and Co-Chair of the Program Team, and she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston.
Michelle Alkon, Treasurer
Michelle Alkon has been connected to Gateways since before it existed. She became a board member of Etgar L’Noar in 2000, when her son, Ben became a student. A member of Etgar’s executive board, she was the co-chair of the merger committee that created Gateways 11 years ago. Michelle proudly served on the Gateways executive board and board of directors and, subsequently, as part of the Gateways Growth Group (G3) committee that focuses on innovation and growth for the organization. Michelle has been an advocate, supporter and advisor for Gateways but believes fervently that Gateways has given her and her family more than she could ever begin to give back.
Barbara Schultz, Vice President of Governance
Barbara Schultz joined the Gateways Board in 2014. She is a past chair of the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, serves on Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Governance and Nominations Committee, and recently joined the board of Jewish Family Service of Metrowest. Barbara is also involved with the Cornell Alumni Ambassador Admissions Network. She lives in Sharon with her husband and two daughters.
Ellie Shrage, Vice President of Education
Ellie Shrage has an M.S.W. from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work- Yeshiva University. She is a Certified Developmental Specialist and for the past 20 years has been working at Thom Charles River Early Intervention, working with children from birth to age three with developmental delays and disabilities. Prior to that, she worked at the Kehillath Israel Nursery School and The Boston Children’s Museum. She previously served on the board of the CAC (Children’s Advocacy Center) of Suffolk County and Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of Newton Center. She was on the original board of Etgar L’Noar.
Linda Mann Simansky, Vice President of Strategic Planning
Linda Mann Simansky is a consultant specializing in work with non-profits. Linda worked for the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) from its inception in 1997 until the fall of 2011. Since 2011, Linda has worked with a number of organizations focusing on a wide range of initiatives including needs assessments, program evaluation, grant assessments and development, and stakeholder interviews. Linda served on the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston Board of Trustees from 2005 – 2013. During that time, she served as VP of Governance, Nominating Committee Chair, Co-Chair Head of School Search Process, and Acting President. Recently, she has served as the Chair of the Inclusion Committee for Kehillath Israel Synagogue, Brookline, MA. Linda is married to Harold Simansky and they have three children.
Itia Roth, Chair of Nominating Committee
Itia Roth is an employment lawyer, who has practiced in the Boston area for the past 15 years. She currently works in-house at the Waltham headquarters of Fresenius Medical Care. Itia also acts as treasurer of The Maimonides School PTA, sits on the personnel committee of a local non-profit, and is a member of Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel’s inclusion committee. Itia lives in Newton with her husband Menachem and their three children, the oldest of whom is a happy Gateways participant.
Nora Friedman, Immediate Past President
Nora Friedman is delighted to be serving on the Gateways board. A psychiatrist at the Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital, she provides clinical care for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities across the lifespan. For the past few years, Nora has served on the CJP Committee on Services for People with Disabilities. She and her husband have four children.
Jordana Bluestein received her BA from Brandeis University and her J.D. from Cardozo School of Law; she practiced law from 2004-2010 in New York City before moving to Boston. Presently, Jordana is the Social Action Chair on the PTO Board at Peirce Elementary School and is on the JF&CS: Center for Basic Needs Assistance Advisory Committee. Jordana lives in Newton with her husband, Scott, and their two boys, Aiden and Mason.
Julie Childers is a nonprofit management consultant with experience in higher education, special education, women and girls’ health, and Jewish philanthropy. She is immediate past executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves and former Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Julie is also proud of her work at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles promoting innovative organizations engaging young adults in Jewish life. With a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston College, she seeks to bridge the nonprofit and academic sectors with evidence-based practices to address real world problems. Julie is an active member of Temple Shalom of Newton, at which her wife, Rabbi Laura Abrasley, is co-senior rabbi. Their son, Noah, is an enthusiastic student at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham, where the whole family benefits from the expertise and support provided by Gateways professionals.
Jackie Finard-Hughes has her Master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Emerson College and was a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist before the birth of her daughters. Jackie is deeply committed to her kids’ school, The Rashi School. At Rashi, she is currently co-chairing the Capital Campaign and is also Vice President of Fundraising for the parent association. In addition to her work with Rashi, she has served on the executive board of CJP Women’s Philanthropy as Vice President of Engagement. Jackie is presently co-chairing the Women’s Philanthropy cookbook project, From Our Kitchens, a community published cookbook filled with both recipes and stories about Boston’s Jewish Community. She currently lives in Wellesley with her husband, Rob and two daughters, Molly and Izzie.
Mike Fishbein’s super-hero mom has been a special educator for 50 years; Mike hopes to honor her with his service to Gateways. Mike moved to Boston with his then-fiancee, Rebecca, right before the Red Sox broke the Curse. He was a high school biology teacher and then the GM of a restaurant before joining the staff of Temple Israel (TI) of Boston as coordinator of the Riverway Project, the 20s and 30s outreach community that had transformed Mike’s own Jewish life. Mike spent 10 years at TI, ultimately as Assistant Director of Education and founding director of The Tent, an innovative Jewish teen education community. Mike graduated from the Hornstein Program at Brandeis (MA/MBA) on Zoom in the spring of 2020. Since then he focused on being Quarantine Dad, served the Gateways Strategic Planning Committee (and now the Ed Committee), and is honored to currently work for the Campaign to Elect Sonia Chang-Díaz Governor of MA. Mike lives in Jamaica Plain with Rebecca and their 11-year-old twins, Benjamin and Ezra.
Judy Levin-Charns holds an MS in Speech/Language Pathology and an EdD in Reading and Language – both from Boston University. She is currently the Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Special Education Administration at Bay Path University. Previously Judy was the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services in the Newton Public Schools. Judy is a member of the Board of Trustees of Temple Shalom as well as member of Sisterhood. She is currently on the Educational Programming Committee and Social-Emotional Learning Committee at Gateways. Judy lives in Newton; she and her husband have one son.
Alexa Levitt is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she studied Human and Organizational Behavior. During her undergraduate years in Nashville, she became one of the first employees of the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. Her passion for inclusion began at a young age and was furthered during her four years as a Gateways teen volunteer. This experience inspired her to become a peer mentor to students of Vanderbilt’s unique postsecondary program, Next Steps, which teaches students of varying abilities academics, social and career development, and independent living. She currently works at Deloitte Consulting, where she enjoys meeting the needs of her clients through the application of human-centered design principles. Alexa’s hobbies include traveling, holistic health, and any outdoor activity.
Marty Oppenheimer is Associate General Counsel at Boston University, where he handles contract and transactional matters for several schools and academic centers. He has been a higher education attorney for 16 years, and was previously General Counsel at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Senior Counsel at Tufts University. Marty and his wife, Dr. Deborah Platek, are committed to supporting special needs organizations, both inside and outside the Jewish community. They have supported Camp Yavneh’s Yedidut program, which has created an inclusive environment for campers with special needs. Marty and Deb are members of the Newton Centre Minyan and Temple Emanuel in Newton, where Marty leads High Holiday services. He is a longtime member of the Zamir Chorale of Boston, and has previously served on the boards of Zamir and of DOROT in New York. Marty and Deb have three children who are currently scattered around the country.
Jennifer Slifka Vidal
Jennifer Slifka Vidal is a graduate of Tufts University, and American University’s Washington College of Law. She served as an in-house attorney for Global Companies LP for 15 years before leaving after her third child was born. Jennifer has served in leadership roles and on the boards and various committees of The Rashi School, Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Gann Academy, and the Friends of the IDF New England Region. Jennifer and her husband Luis Vidal live in Needham and are the parents of two young adults and a teenager. She is passionate about day school inclusion.
Linda Sternberg graduated from The George Washington University with dual degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education. She has worked for Newton Public Schools as a special education teacher since 1974, taking a break to stay home with her children, returning 25 years ago to her current role as the Early Childhood Consultant in the Newton Early Childhood Program. Linda serves on the Board of Overseers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, participates in various committees at Newbridge on The Charles (where her father resides) and is a team captain for the American Heart Association Heart Walk. Linda has collaborated with Gateways as a grant reader, provided consultation to Sunday Schools and has given in-service presentations about strategies to support preschoolers to teachers and parents. She is honored and thrilled to serve on the Gateways’ Board!
Michelle Zisow is deeply involved with CJP’s Women’s Philanthropy and has been on CJP’s mission to Israel several years ago. She is also active in Yachad, The Rashi School’s parent council and with JF&CS’s Center for Early Relationship Support, which focuses on new parents as they manage the challenge of caring for their baby. Michelle first became involved with Gateways through her time on the Parenting with Purpose committee, and last year year, co-chaired the committee together with Danielle.