Ryan Torok is a staff writer at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, where he reports on community news, writes the weekly column, Moving and Shaking and edits the weekly calendar section. He also contributes to jewishjournal.com. In 2008, he graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Community Studies, a major focused on social justice and community activism. He spends his free time reading, listening to music, hanging out with family and friends, including his nephew, Jake, and traveling around the world.
Molly Rubin grew up in the tight knit Jewish community of Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Tufts University and graduated with a BA in Literature before completing a Masters in Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Molly moved to New York to pursue additional graduate work in Jewish texts at a feminist Orthodox Yeshiva called Drisha. While at Drisha, she completed a fellowship at CLAL, an organization that promotes understanding between Jewish denominations. In 2002, Molly and her husband Zach had their twins, Yael and Akiva. Eventually, Molly and her family settled in Los Angeles, California. Molly is currently a stay-at-home mom while Zach practices medicine at UCLA. In 2009, Molly and Zach adopted their youngest daughter, Rosa, from Ethiopia. Raising Rosa has transformed Molly’s family, her cultural and religious identity, and her entire world view. Witnessing through Rosa’s eyes what it is like to be a person of color in this country, has challenged Molly and her family to envision the world beyond the lens of their American Jewish identity. Molly is committing to the NewGround Changemaker Program as part of her ongoing exploration of how her family fits into a larger multi-faceted American community.
Yair Agmon is a visual artist documentary filmmaker and educator. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, he currently resides at Los Angeles, where he received his Masters in the Photography and Media Program at the California Institute of The Arts. Through archival research, documentary and essay films, photo installations, critical writing and publications, Agmon subverts social myths by recontextualizing historical events and expose social injustice and civic inequalities in Israel and Palestine.
Currently, Kenry Hutchinson is a student at American Jewish University and studying Media Arts. He is working toward a profession in film directing. Kenry served in the United States Air Force from 2010 to 2014 and worked in Logistics Management. He literally is the guy who loves long walks on the beach or at least some mountain area. His curiosity of people is a major motivation for wanting to be a part of NewGround. Additionally, he would like to learn how to be a more effective contributing factor in communities on both an interpersonal and group level.
Kulsoom Sizar is a Los Angeles native. Although she has lived in many places across the U.S. in her childhood, she credits the diverse fabric of the Los Angeles community to her keen interest in learning about different groups of people and their traditions and backgrounds. Kulsoom received her Bachelor’s in Anthropology from University of California, Los Angeles. While at UCLA, she was involved in UMMA Community Clinic as a health education instructor for elementary-school age children in Los Angeles. She was drawn to the core values of UMMA Community Clinic, an organization committed to addressing the health and well-being concerns of underserved communities, of which included service, compassion, human dignity, social justice, and ethical conduct. Kulsoom was also an active mentor for MAPS at UCLA (Mentors for Academic and Peer Support), an outreach program dedicated to improving the American education infrastructure by providing career and college counseling as well as academic and personal development to the students of Jordan High School in Watts, California. After UCLA, Kulsoom has continued with her passion to help disadvantaged communities and has developed a career of service in healthcare administration to the underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles. In her free time, Kulsoom enjoys hiking, listening to podcasts, volunteer work, and traveling. She is committed to the Newground Changemaker Program because she identifies with Newground’s vision and firmly believes that one of the most effective ways to bring people of different backgrounds together is by creating a space to have respectful and meaningful discussions and interactions in order to nurture compassion, build lasting bonds, and broaden our worldly perspective.
Julie Sugar is a writer, a first-generation American, and a recent transplant to Los Angeles via Nashville and New York City. She is the script writer for a website that teaches Yiddish using short animated movies, and her personal writing spans genres: fiction, playwriting, creative nonfiction, poetry. She also founded and ran the interview series Pulpit Plus One: The Secret Lives of Rabbis’ Husbands, Partners, and Wives, which interviewed partners of congregational rabbis. She is honored and excited to be in this year’s NewGround cohort because she believes that we live in a time where feelings of community are splintering and many people are sometimes too angry, frightened, or fatigued to really listen to one another — what an incredible collective charge it is to focus first on relationship-building and deep connection.
Akifas\ Khan is the co-founder of Khantent Productions which changes minds through the power of storytelling. Akifa is also a MPAC Hollywood Bureau Fellow. She works on award shows, panels, screenwriters’ workshops, and young leaders summits to help create opportunities for American Muslim artists to expand their network and knowledge. She also interns at The Sundance Institute. She recently worked as the social media and outreach coordinator for a documentary called Dalya’s Other Country. As a screenwriter and producer herself, she co-created a short film called Muslim Writers’ Room to tackle the lack of diversity in the industry. Akifa has also produced projects honing in on racism and bigotry, including a PSA with Russell Simmons and a music video that calls on more Muslim women to vote. She is a proud graduate of Emerge California, which teaches minority women to seek and run for political office. She graduated with a B.A. in both Political Science and Communication from the University of Southern California. Akifa has an incredible passion as both a political activist and writer/producer. She vehemently works to intertwine the two passions in her career.
Fakhrul Shawaludin is a first generation immigrant from Malaysia. He earned his B.S. in Industrial Technology with a minor in Business from California State University Los Angeles. An entrepreneur, he is currently working on his startup that provide solutions via 3D printing, bridging the intersection of design and engineering. Living in America has exposed Fakhrul to a wider and diverse range of cultural diversity, which helped formed his beliefs that in order to dispel the negative stereotypes, prejudice, and racism, it is vital to have healthy dialogues with the other. As a NewGround Fellow, Fakhrul looks forward in creating, building and sustaining collaborative and meaningful relationships with those whom are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Roxanne graduated from UCSB with a BA in History. She plans on continuing her higher education, but in the meantime has become involved with 30 Years After, first as a Maher Fellow, and then as it’s Program Manager. She also volunteers her time as the Resident Historian of the Legacy Project. In March 2017, Roxanne launched an email newsletter called What I Wish I Knew (WIWIK), a forum for Iranian-Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Each email newsletter has a personal essay from an Iranian-American: the goal is for the author to share what he or she has learned, so that the reader might do it better. WIWIK was launched with the hope that members of this tight-lipped community would not have to struggle through adversity, if they could hear how their peers handled similar situations.
Zachary Zysman, born December 12, 1977 in Los Angeles, CA is the Director of Jewish Student Life/Campus Rabbi at Loyola Marymount University. He received his BA in early childhood education from San Francisco State University, MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College, MA in Hebrew Letters, and MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College where, on May 15, 2016, he was ordained as rabbi. Zach hopes to weave together his many years of experience working with children and families and the twelve years in Jewish education as an early childhood educator, combined with the rabbinical education to make a significant and measurable difference in people’s Jewish and spiritual lives. He is married to Nadine and has three children: Bernie (7), Taryn (5) and Jac (1). It is Rabbi Zach’s honor to be bringing his passion and excitement to the ChangeMaker Program.