Rachel Andres is an independent consultant to non-profit organizations focusing on bridging religions, cultures and communities. She has worked with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Breed Street Shul Project, the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv Partnership and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A highlight of her career was serving as the founder and director of the Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch. Rachel built a national interfaith coalition raising funds to improve the lives of women and girls who fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan only to become victims of rape and attack when searching for firewood outside the refugee camps. By providing simple solar cookers, there was a dramatic reduction in the risk of violence. Rachel traveled to the refugee camps to bear witness to the genocide and received the Charles Bronfman prize for her humanitarian leadership. Rachel served as the Director of the Commission on Cults and Missionaries at the Jewish Federation where she was a national spokesperson exposing destructive cults. She co-edited Cults and Consequences: the Definitive Handbook. She is an active member of Temple Israel of Hollywood where she is part of the Muslim-Jewish Women’s text study. The relationships with the Muslim women have deeply touched her and she looks forward to continuing to learn more from them and to expand their partnership for years to come. Rachel has a degree in Political Science from UCLA.
Rabbi Sarah Bassin serves as the assistant rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills where she oversees the Temple’s community engagement strategy and young professional community. She comes to synagogue life from LA-based NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, where she served as Executive Director for the past three years. Under Rabbi Bassin’s leadership, NewGround was named one of the 50 Most Innovative and Inspiring Organizations in the Jewish Community by the prestigious Slingshot guide and Faith-Based Organization of the Year by the State of California for its high school leadership program. In addition, Rabbi Bassin was named as one of online magazine Splashlife’s list of 30 people under the age of 30 to watch in civic leadership. Her breadth of rabbinic, teaching and community service experience includes work with the School of Jewish Nonprofit Management at Hebrew Union College as their mentor-ship program coordinator, with USC as a Teaching Assistant in Jewish History, as a Rabbinic Intern with the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and as Hospital Chaplain at UCLA’s Santa Monica Health Center.
Paul Beck was born and raised in Los Angeles, educated in public school (University High School, Winter 1968), and confirmed at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Paul attended Harvard College (BA 1972) and George Washington University (JD 1975), clerked 2 years for Hon. John W. Oliver, United States District Judge, Central District of Missouri, in Kansas City, and has been in private practice since 1978 in California. Paul started a solo practice in 1998, specializing in insolvency – dealing with financial distress for businesses and individuals. His practice is primarily in the US Bankruptcy Courts, as well as mediations, representing debtors, creditors, creditors’ committees, trustees, landlords, tenants, asset sellers and acquirers.
Paul has been active in the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council, chairing Community Service and Leadership Development Committees. He joined Leo Baeck Temple (LBT) in 1996 serving as a Board Trustee and Officer, and chaired its annual family and community retreat, and served on Budget & Finance Committee and Congregation-Based Community Organizing in conjunction with One LA as part of URJ’s Just Congregations initiative, focused on creating jobs and transit development-based affordable housing. Committed to working within LA’s diverse community to facilitate and build communication, Paul seeks to foster relationships across cultural, religious, racial and gender-based lines, in relationship with others to connect and empower Muslims and Jews as peace builders in partnership — aligned with the NewGround model — not to avoid conflict but to reveal ourselves within it and accept our differences in order to transform ourselves and our communities.
Pervez Delawalla, President & CEO of Vega, brings with him greater than two decades of unsurpassed technology infrastructure knowledge and enterprise solution expertise. Offering a rare blend of creative and operational strengths, in his current role, Pervez drives the development and implementation of next generation high density compute and network infrastructure design. In addition, he is also closely involved with Vega Next branding and marketing process and oversees high profile sales transactions.
Prior to founding Vega Next, Pervez was the CEO and President of Net Data Center, CTO at Cook Inlet Energy Supply (now operating as Macquarie Cook Energy), a company specializing in the supply, transport, and storage of natural gas. As a valued member of the administrative team, Pervez provided leadership and management for all information technology services and operations. Before joining Cook Inlet Energy Supply, Pervez served as the VP of technology for Alchemy Communications, Inc.
Displaying a wide range of interests, Pervez is deeply involved in public service, as well as community organizations, where he serves in a variety of leadership roles. Pervez was educated at Santa Monica College, located in the heart of the Southern California coastal community. He currently resides in West Los Angeles with his wife and two young sons.
Halim Dhanidina has been serving as a NewGround Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change (MAJIC) Communal Advisory Board Member. He is the first Muslim- American Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, currently assigned to hear criminal cases in the L.A. Superior Court in Long Beach. Prior to his current position, Judge Dhanidina was a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County for 14 years, and he served as a board member for the Asian Pacific American and South Asian Bar Associations. He previously taught Criminal Law as an adjunct professor at the Glendale University College of Law. He earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pomona College.
Farah Khan has worked as a dentist at AIDS Project Los Angeles Health and Wellness (APLA-HW) in downtown Los Angeles for 10 years. This organization has spent the last 30 years serving the HIV-positive population throughout Los Angeles County. In addition to providing dental services to patients, she is also a faculty member of the NYU Lutheran Dental Medicine Residency Program. The latter involves mentoring and teaching dental school graduates during their year-long residency program at APLAHW. She is also an alumnus of the very first NewGround young professional program in 2007. This experience inspired her participation in other projects that were direct outgrowths of the NewGround Fellowship. Among these were the Muslim-Jewish Film Project and several incarnations of interfaith text study groups. Farah hopes that her work with the NewGround board will help continue and build upon the robust interfaith activity in Los Angeles and beyond.
NewGround Board of Directors, Secretary
Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy & Programming, leads the MPAC team of staff and volunteers on strategic initiatives in government relations, media outreach and interfaith collaboration, while also coordinating the organization’s approach to domestic and international affairs. Additionally, Edina acts as a spokeswoman for the American Muslim community to media outlets, government officials, interfaith leaders, academic institutions, and community groups.
From 2004-2010, Edina served as MPAC’s Communications Director. Edina has appeared on national media outlets, including CNN, BBC, MSNBC, and the History Channel. Since joining MPAC, Edina’s work has also been featured in several leading newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. Edina has also participated in numerous national and international conferences and interfaith dialogues speaking on a variety of issues related to American Muslims. Named one of the Top 500 Influential Muslims in the World in 2009, Edina is a proud graduate of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, and has participated in conferences hosted by the United Nations as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Paula Litt grew up in Los Angeles and has been active in social justice movements for over 50 years. Paula is an active volunteer and Board member with the Liberty Hill Foundation. Married to her civil rights attorney husband, Barry, for 51 years, they have three children and seven grandchildren.
NewGround Board of Directors, Vice-Chair
Brie Loskota is the executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she has worked for more than a decade. She is a seasoned trainer and facilitator, designing and leading capacity-building and leadership development programs for participants from over 15 countries across the globe. She was a founding member of NewGround and chaired the initiative for its first five years.
Loskota advises government agencies on effective collaborations and capacity building efforts with faith communities including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, California Emergency Management, California Volunteers, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles City Emergency Management Department, and Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission.
Loskota’s work has been covered by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. Her articles and essays on issues of religious pluralism, government and faith community partnerships, and religious identities and have been published by The Aspen Institute, The Brookings Institute, Religion Dispatches, Los Angeles Magazine, and the Huffington Post. She received her M.A. degree from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and completed her B.A. in history and religion from the University of Southern California. She is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Tasnim Esmail Shamji was born in Dar-es-Salaam and moved to Los Angeles over 46 years ago. Tasnim received a Bachelor of Science from UCLA and a Medical Doctorate from the UCLA/Charles R. Drew School of Medicine, with specialty training also at UCLA. While Tasnim’s education kept her local, it also allowed her to learn and grow in the comfort of her family and religious community as an Ismaili Muslim. In addition to working, over the past decade, Tasnim devotes her time to advancing inclusion at her children’s school bysitting on various committees as well as Parents’ Association Boards. Fundamental to Tansnim’s being are her family, faith, mutual respect, honesty and laughter.