Staff

STAFF AND AFFILIATES

Aziza Hasan

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Aziza Hasan, named an influencer by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, is the executive director of NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership For Change. She has extensive experience in program management and coalition building. An experienced mediator and conflict transformation practitioner, she has co-facilitated with multiple groups. Aziza’s work has been featured on Ozy, Yahoo News, MSN, Public Radio’s “Speaking of Faith” with Krista Tippett, the United States Institute for Peace, Arabic Radio and Television, and the LA Times. 

Her two years of AmeriCorps service gave her hands-on experience in community organizing and group problem-solving. She earned the “President’s Volunteer Service Award” in 2006 under President George W. Bush. Aziza served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2015 to 2016, and the Executive Service Corps recognized her with the “Megan G. Cooper Leadership Award” in 2017. Aziza currently serves on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Advisory Council and is a volunteer mediator with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.

Maya Al-Mansour Matthews

MAJIC Alumni Facilitator

Maya is currently a first-year at UCLA, studying neuroscience and political violence. She is a graduate and former Associated Student Body President of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, CA. In 2019, Maya joined Newground’s Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change Youth Leadership Council (MAJIC) and organized a blood drive with her cohort mates that focused on COVID relief. Her past projects include: advocating for homelessness prevention at the United States Capitol, volunteering with Friends In Deed, a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, and tutoring elementary students through Reading Partners. Among many skills and interests, Maya Al-Mansour Matthews is a proud, nationally ranked debater and an avid lover (and player) of basketball (Go Lakers!).

McKenna Blackshire

Intern

McKenna Blackshire is currently a senior at Pasadena High School in Pasadena, California. In her high school, she is a Principal’s Honor Roll student as well as founder and president of Cinema Club. Outside of school, McKenna is a Planned Parenthood Peer Advocate, providing health resources to students in Los Angeles, a writer for an online publication known as Unpublished Magazine, and the producer of her own video series called “We Look Like This”, which aims to tell the experiences of youth from different communities. Throughout the past four years, McKenna has developed and pursued many passions, especially art and social justice work, especially through her time in MAJIC as a member of the 2019-2020 cohort. She’s thrilled to be able to continue to make a tangible impact on the world by supporting NewGround as an intern. In regards to her future, McKenna will be attending Wesleyan University next fall as a prospective Film Studies and Sociology major. After graduating from college, she hopes to become an independent filmmaker as well as a journalist who specializes in arts & culture. 

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Stacie Chaiken

Story Consultant

Stacie Chaiken facilitates group-process workshops in which NewGround Fellows and Friends of NewGround develop compelling stories for Iftar and Spotlight events. Stacie’s solo plays include The Dig, Genesis + the double helix (2017 Los Angeles Stage Raw Theatre Award), What She Left, and Looking for Louie.​ Formerly on the performance faculty of USC’s School of of Dramatic Arts and NYC’s Circle Repertory Company, Stacie runs an LA-based workshop for writers and performers called What’s the Story? and teaches Master Classes on creating powerful stuff based on personal material.

Stacie’s work has received the generous support of the Wallis Annenberg Helix Project, the Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation; the Fulbright Foundation; University of Southern California Visions & Voices program; the California Arts Council; the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; the USC Arts Initiative; the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture; the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity; and the Hebrew Union College Artist in Residency program.

Maia Ferdman

FACILITATOR/GRANT-WRITER

Maia Ferdman is a facilitator, educator, and community-builder who believes that our capacity to build connections across difference is essential to our communities’, country’s, and world’s survival. She founded Bridges, an intergroup relations consultancy that supports organizations and communities to build vibrant spaces of belonging — spaces where we celebrate our complex identities, explore our differences productively, and build resilient relationships between groups. She has worked with a range of organizations, including Abrahamic House, Resetting the Table, and Museum of Tolerance, to promote positive intergroup relations. She is honored to support NewGround’s vital work both by overseeing the MAJIC alumni program and by researching and applying for grants and other development opportunities.

Maia is also the Assistant Director of the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, a center dedicated to elevating the role of historical analysis in policy-making. In her prior role as Human Relations Advocate for the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, Maia pursued intergroup peace-building through intentionally designed community engagement initiatives, dialogue programs, and policy reporting. She holds a B.A. in Global Studies and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from UCLA. A native San Diegan, Maia has lived in India, Israel, and Bulgaria, and LA, and her family hails from Argentina.

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Ben Ginsburg

Communications & Operations Coordinator

Ben Ginsburg is a Los Angeles native with a penchant for starting difficult conversations. While studying Communications and Economics at UC Davis, he was a student writer for the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and a program development intern at Hillel of Davis and Sacramento. After spending a year in the international school at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he discovered a passion for diving into the tangled complexities and intersections of politics, religion, culture, economics, etc. He then remembered that most people are uncomfortable talking about those things. Ben is passionate about innovative storytelling as a vehicle for opening up these conversations in surprising ways. Besides his conventional writing, he has helped design game experiences to train teamwork and ideological discourse. 

Shachar Cohen-Hodos

MAJIC Alumni Facilitator

Influenced by the faith-rooted community organizing of her childhood, Shachar studied Human Rights at Columbia University and Biblical Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary, receiving her B.A.’s in 2019. She was in the inaugural cohort of MAJIC (2012-13) and sat on the advisory board during high school. During college, Shachar mobilized Columbia University’s Jewish students to link their religious and political values. She spent her summers exploring her political passions, including organizing with UniteHere and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, to foster support for the fair treatment of Santa Monica hotel workers. She is a 2020 alum of the Coro Fellowship in Public Policy in New York where she cultivated her facilitation skills and strengthened her resolve that sustainable social change comes through building deep relationships.  

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Andrea Hodos

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

Andrea Hodos spent five years as NewGround’s programs co-director and now works as associate director. She has facilitated NewGround’s MAJIC high school leadership council since 2014, the year she was in Professional Fellowship, and the Professional Fellowship since 2016. Andrea has trained as a facilitator with Resetting the Table through its partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Jews of Color & Allies Leadership cohort from Dimension Educational Consulting, and is currently in Cohort 8 of Leading from Within’s Courage to Lead program. Andrea is also the creator of Moving Torah, a method for exploring Jewish text and Jewish story using movement, theater, and writing. Her creative project, Sinai and Sunna: Women Covering, Uncovering and Recovering, initially brought her into the realm of Muslim-Jewish engagement.

Andrea taught Jewish Studies and directed the Jewish Arts program at Milken Community High School. She has a BA in English Literature from Yale University, and a MEd from Temple University in Dance Education. She and her partner, Aryeh Cohen, are grateful life brought them to Los Angeles where they could raise their children, Shachar and Oryah, and be a part of vibrant Jewish community-building and strong multi-faith coalitions. She is married to Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen, and they have raised two children together in Los Angeles, Oryah and Shachar (who was in the first MAJIC cohort).

Tasneem Noor

Programs Director

Tasneem Farah Noor is the award-winning author of the best-seller The Faith Connection: Your Journey Starts with Knowing Yourself. Tasneem is the founder of Noor Enterprises: SOULful Transformations—committed to providing transformational experiences, personal development, and opportunities for meaningful dialogue. Her mission is to establish thriving, peaceful communities where conversations of faith build bridges of compassion and collaboration. Through coaching, trainings, and facilitation she helps people learn how to deepen their faith (self-trust), authentically express themselves, and take courageous action. 

Tasneem received her Masters in Education in Student Affairs from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). For over seven years, Tasneem worked within student affairs on campuses including Santa Monica College, UCLA, and Cal State University, Los Angeles. The Inter-religious Council of Los Angeles recognized Tasneem as an emerging faith leader. She is now serving as the Interfaith Minister-in-Residence with the Southern CA Diocese. As a proud NewGround alumna herself, she is honored to actively support NewGround’s mission.

Farzana Waseeq

Research & Media Specialist

Farzana is a researcher with a background in community outreach. She holds a BA from CSULB and an MSc from the University of Oxford. Farzana is primarily interested in tribalism, estrangement, and constructions of belonging, as well as on how these processes factor into collaborative projects in heterogeneous contexts. She loves the Mad Max: Fury Road musical score and listens to it with a frequency that is neither healthy nor reasonable.