The Mitzvah Project / I Died in Auschwitz
Neil Ackerman is a San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneur who has spent his career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and fell in love with the Bay Area during his postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine. Throughout his career at both large pharmaceutical companies and as an executive leader of smaller biotech companies, he has discovered and developed drugs for cancer and inflammatory diseases. He co-founded his current company, MyeloRx, which has a drug candidate being evaluated in pancreatic cancer patients in China. He is an avid golfer with a membership at the Lake Merced Golf Club where he has been an active participant in their Membership Committee. He served as a member of the University of Maryland Bay Area Advisory Committee. He assists in the care of older members at the Foster City Jewish Community Center. He saw Roger Grunwald's one-person play, The Obligation, at the Potrero Stage in 2017 and began supporting The Mitzvah Project shortly thereafter.
Jini Berman and Roger Grunwald have crossed paths on numerous occasions, initially as colleagues in community organizing efforts and, later, for an urban youth development program in New York City. Professionally, Jini spent many years in the human resources and recruitment space for the pharmaceutical industry in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of both I Died in Auschwitz and The Mitzvah Project and has introduced Roger to some of the projects’ most significant philanthropic partners. Originally from New York, Jini is enjoying her retirement near Austin, TX while continuing to pursue her many-year passion for all things equine, especially riding.
Nancy Carlin directed the 2017 world premiere and 2018 follow-up production of I Died in Auschwitz. She has performed and directed extensively in regional theaters, including the American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre, Shotgun Players, Cal Shakes, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A former company member of A.C.T. and associate artist with California Shakespeare Theater, Carlin is also a writer, producer, dialect coach, and acting teacher. A theater arts lecturer with San Jose State University and UC Berkeley, she holds a BA in comparative literature from Brown University and an MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater. She is the recipient of numerous Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, DramaLogue, and Theatre Bay Area awards for best Principle Performance, Best Supporting Performance, and Best Director. Nancy co-authored the musical, Max Understood, co-produced the feature film, Haiku Tunnel, and can be seen in the Eleanor Coppola film, Love is Love is Love.
Bonny Gildin is a native of Chicago. She received her undergraduate degree from Grinnell University where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Linguistics. Bonny’s career has been characterized by a deep-rooted commitment to finding solutions to intractable social problems through bridge-building & creative reinvention and is thrilled to leverage her broad-based expertise as a member of The Mitzvah Project’s Advisory Board. With over 25 years as a senior nonprofit executive, Bonny has led start-up & growth phases of regional operations, designed award-winning, evidence-informed, sustainable, scalable programs & built deep partnerships with philanthropists, corporations, government officials & academic leaders. Over the years, her work has focused both on growth & opportunity for 25K youth from under-served communities as well as on meaningful opportunities for 5,000+ caring adults to give back, 100+ symbiotic corporate-community partnerships, $22M+ in funding.
Nancy Green is a writer and clinical social worker in New York City. She works at a mental health clinic in Forest Hills, Queens. Her fiction has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Epiphany Editions, Minerva Rising, and elsewhere. She has been a friend and colleague of Roger’s for more than 40 years. Along with Roger she was a founder of New York City's Castillo Theatre. Currently, she is a volunteer instructor at UX, a free school of continuing education open to people of all ages and backgrounds in New York City. Over the years, Nancy has been privileged to see Roger in countless plays and performances. She is passionate about supporting the cultural and emotional development of young people and is a fervent believer in the vision and the mission of The Mitzvah Project.
Brian Rogol is a Connecticut native and has been involved in Jewish education and Jewish communal work for his entire adult life. He attended Camp Ramah as a teenager and was a Near Eastern and Jewish Studies major at Brandeis University. Brian recently retired from GE Capital, where he was involved in commercial aircraft finance for 32 years. He now does consulting in the aircraft industry. In Stamford, CT, Brian was very active in the community including serving as a Little League coach, Junior Achievement advisor, serving on the Board of Directors and as President of Temple Beth El (Conservative Synagogue in Stamford) and sitting on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation of Stamford. While living in NYC, he served on the membership involvement and ‘gabbai’ committees at Romemu. Currently living in Redwood City with his wife Rhonna, he looks forward to continuing to work with Roger on expanding the reach of The Mitzvah Project.
Rhonna Rogol, a Montreal native, attributes her passion for Holocaust education to the inspiration of her beloved lifelong friend and mentor, Shlomo Jaacobi, who escaped the German invasion of Łódź in 1940. A practicing attorney for over 30 years, Rhonna now devotes herself to learning and volunteering. In Stamford, CT, where she raised her family with her husband Brian, she chaired the Holocaust Commemoration Committee and taught teens about the history of anti-semitism and the Shoah. While in NYC, she served as Chair of Romemu’s Lifelong Learning Committee and as a gallery educator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. An avid Hebraist, she has translated S.Y. Agnon novels from Hebrew to English for The Toby Press. Currently living in Redwood City, California, Rhonna continues to teach, virtually for Romemu and her museum colleagues and locally at Congregation Beth Jacob. Ever since seeing Roger perform on the Potrero Stage in 2018, Rhonna has been intent on helping him move forward with The Mitzvah Project and was instrumental in helping to create and edit the student Study Guide.
Hildie Spritzer is a first generation American who was raised in San Mateo and became an educator. After thirty-four years in the classroom and, after having created a Service Learning program for at risk students, she continues to work as a teacher- mentor supporting new teachers. Her paternal grandparents died in Sobibor and her father, who first landed in Cuba, was a Ritchie Boy. She spent over twenty years working on the East Bay Yom Hashoah commemoration. Her loves include her grandchildren, travel, animals and gardening. She also edited two publications: "Crystalline Flight" (a fundraiser for wounded Vietnamese children) and "Our Family Stories" (about and by members of Oakland’s Temple Beth Abraham) and worked on a CD entitled "COVID, Country and Clergy." She is proud to be a member of the Advisory Board to support the amazing work of Roger Grunwald — which she feels is the best way to express her belief in keeping history alive and supporting this much-needed programming for our schools!
Phyl Terry is the Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, a community of senior digital leaders from Amazon to Warby Parker who help each other lead innovation and customer-centric change. He created The Councils (the peer network) in 2002 with Google, Amazon, and others. Since then, thousands of product leaders, general managers, and CEOs have gone through the program. Phil is also the co-author of "Customers Included", the book that defines lessons learned from 15 years as CEO of the pioneering customer experience consultancy Creative Good, where he and his team ran groundbreaking projects for companies like Apple and Facebook. He’s delivered hundreds of keynote speeches at companies and conferences including Apple, Microsoft, Harvard Business School and elsewhere. Phil has also been featured and quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, among others. When not running Collaborative Gain, Phyl works with the volunteer teams of Slow Art Day, a global arts initiative he launched in 2010, and Reading Odyssey, a nonprofit dedicated to lifelong learning that he launched with scholars from Cambridge, Harvard and elsewhere in 2004. Phyl has also previously sat on the advisory boards of the Harvard Business School Center for Entrepreneurship, the University of Southern California Institute of Innovation/Startup Garage, and venture-capital backed startups like StellaService.
M. David Thier has been a practicing Ophthalmologist in San Francisco for over 50 years. After being raised and educated in the South, he first experienced San Francisco in 1962 during his Internship year and realized that this multicultural, tolerant city was in sync with his values and aspirations. During his time in Medical School David was the Cantor at Temple Israel in Daytona Beach Florida and was elected National Treasurer of the Student American Medical Association. He served as a Flight Surgeon for four years in the United States Air Force stationed at RAF Lakenheath/Mildenhall England, where he developed a sub-specialty in aircraft accident investigation. His current activities include taking advantage of the performing arts and museums and collecting and studying textiles, current arts and crafts, and ethnographic objects. He served on the Board of Trustees at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco and is a Lifetime Trustee at the associated Cathedral School for Boys. He has been a member of Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco for over over 30 years. After watching Roger perform in I Died in Auschwitz at the Potrero Stage in 2017, he knew he had to get involved with Roger in educating young people about the Holocaust and is honored to serve on the Advisory Board.