FOUNDER / executive director
Naomi Ackerman, the founder and executive director of The Advot Project is an experienced actress, consultant, and facilitator creating curriculums that use drama techniques to deal with social, gender, and educational issues as well as exploring identity and promoting tolerance and dialogue between diverse participants. The Advot (ripples) Project uses theater for transformation and works with disadvantaged youth, many have been incarcerated and all come from difficult family situations. Through theater exercises, creative writing, music and dance the youth explore healthy relationships, improve communication skills, nurture personal growth, improve their self-esteem, and transform their lives for the better. Naomi is a social activist who produces events and gatherings that teach, engage, and call to action communities and individuals to take a stand, and find their voice to fight injustice. Naomi served two years in the Israeli Defense Forces and received a BA in Education and Theatre from Hebrew University as well as a Special-Ed Teaching Credential from the David Yellin Teachers Seminar. She has participated in various multinational theater productions. Founding member of “View Points” an Arab Jewish dialogue theater produced by the “Shimon Peres Center for Peace.” Naomi wrote, directed, and performs the acclaimed one-woman show “Flowers Aren’t Enough” which deals with the issue of domestic violence and has been featured over 1900 times globally, translated to four different languages. Including the United Nations for the Commission for the Status of woman (CSW). Naomi is a recipient of the KCET – Link Local Hero 2014 Award, and the 2016 International Woman Achievers Community leadership award.
Amanda Sissman grew up on both coasts of the US. She received her undergraduate degree in Communications and Media Arts from UC San Diego, attending classes at UC Santa Cruz and Royal Holloway at the University of London. After graduating she became a flight attendant for United Airlines. Based out of Washington D.C., she visited 15 countries and most of the United States in the course of just a year! Late in 2008 she moved to Lawrence, Kansas to begin a new adventure as the Program Director for University of Kansas Hillel. While a member of the Hillel staff she attended Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) in the summer of 2009. The following year she moved back to California to become the Assistant Director of BCI, a position she held until 2014. In May 2013 she married Daniel in Italy, and in June 2014 they welcomed their daughter into the world. Amanda now enjoys being a Mother, working as the Assistant Director for the Advot Project, and teaching pottery classes at a local ceramics studio.
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.
home shalom project director
Dr. Steven Carr Reuben has been involved in the field of moral development and spiritual education for nearly forty years. He holds Bachelors degrees in Philosophy and Political Science from the University of California, Davis, two Master’s degrees from the University of Southern California and the Hebrew Union College, Certification in Aging and Human Development from the University of Georgia, a Ph.D. in Religion from Sierra University and two honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1976. Dr. Reuben was a founding editor of Compass Magazine for teachers, a recognized expert on moral education who has appeared on countless television and radio talk shows and travels the country lecturing on character education and how to successfully meet the challenges of interfaith relation. He currently serves as Rabbi Emeritus of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, California and is past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. He is married to Didi Carr Reuben and is stepfather to Gable. www.rebreuben.com ~ www.interfaithrabbi.com
Megan Briggs grew up in Los Angeles, CA. She studied at and graduated from Fordham University in New York with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. She conducted and presented research on how mentoring impacts youths, the education system and the workplace at multiple national conferences. While attending university, she joined forces with a graduate student to conduct research on the importance of mentoring in varied areas of life. It was and still is a passion of hers to connect people together to create opportunities and aid in providing assistance to those working to better their own life and better the community as a whole. Working in the psychiatric industry for the last 10 years, she has been able to work with a specific demographic in the community, which she is she looking forward to expanding on in her role with The Advot Project. Megan’s passion for travel has taken her around the world and has given her unique views on community building that she is also looking forward to bringing with her working with our organization. She is inspired by the work that we do and brings her incredible creative, administrative and operational skills to better our community.
facilitator / Visionary trainer
Whitney Wakimoto was born and raised in Missoula, MT. She has received her BFA in Acting at the University of Montana. After graduating she made the move to NYC to pursue her craft. There she lived as a professional actor and fell in love with the culture and city of New York. Her favorite work is Shakespeare and has trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She has performed on tours with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and played many roles from Shakespeare’s cannon from Queen Margret in Richard III to Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her love for Shakespeare, and theater in general, only grew at the Old Globe Theatre/University of San Diego, where she earned her MFA in Acting as one of the three women accepted to the grad program in 2011. Whitney decided to stay on the west coast where she continued to pursue her love of acting, started her own business and embraced her love of teaching. She is an artist facilitator for the Strindberg Laboratory, where she has the honor to teach inmates the art of acting and helping them learn to feel and express emotions in a healthy, artistic form. As a life long student, Whitney loves working with all kinds of populations and learns so much from every group of students she works with. She is thrilled to be joining the team at The Advot Project where there is a clear passion to serve the community through the arts.
PhotoGrapher / videographer
Thomas Rihs, born in the old world, Austria, was a fashion model for commercial, print and runway for the top designers and brands in Europe and around the world for almost 10 years before settling down in Los Angeles in 2000. Inspired by the advertising world he gradually morphed into the field of graphic design, photography, video and web design (e-commerce). He has remained in Southern California for the last 13 years working as a freelancer for many clients in various positions within advertising all over the world and as staff PR person for Dream World Cirque (photo, video and online presence) which he helped built up from a single performer to a top freelance entertainment company. Today, his passion is primarily, besides his two kids, photo and videography where he continuously strives to improve his skillset and equipment. He hopes to help visualize the mission and vision of the incredible work that The Advot Project brings to the community.
Judy Bain retired in June 2015 as Vice President, Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Epson America, Inc., headquartered in Long Beach, California. She founded the Epson America Legal Affairs Department in 1986 and was the company’s first employed lawyer. As Epson America’s Vice President Legal Affairs and General Counsel, Judy oversaw the legal issues arising from the development, marketing, sales, and support of digital printing, digital display, and advanced sensing technologies in both consumer and commercial products in a rapidly changing and multi-national business environment. Judy actively supported various professional and community organizations throughout her legal career. She served on the Board of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel for several years starting in 1999, where she helped re-invigorate its pro bono activities. In 2005, she joined the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles. As an active Board member, Judy chaired the agency’s program and strategic planning committees, helping the agency move from near dissolution in 2005 to a position of fiscal and programmatic strength in 2015, when she retired from the Board. Judy earned a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. Before law school, she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris following graduation from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in political science. During college, she spent her junior year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Judy has started a consulting practice to merge her experience in the legal and business worlds with her passion to serve non-profit organizations focused on improving outcomes for children living in adversity.
Lauren Budman is a double major in the fields of Psychology and Child & Adolescent Development at California State University, Northridge. She is an active member of the campus, participating in research labs, honor societies, and holding the position of Recruitment Chair for the University's Jewish interest sorority, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi. Lauren is also involved in local Jewish organizations and spends some free time volunteering and fundraising. She is especially passionate about The Advot Project, and enjoys working hands-on with the program. Lauren spent most of her childhood participating in some on-camera work and staring in local plays and musicals. She loves to travel and go to amusement parks for fun, is fluent in Spanish, and is learning Hebrew. Lauren plans on continuing her education by attending graduate school next year while remaining a member of The Advot Project family along the way!