Staff

SIJCC’s leadership team is made of up a group of talented and delightful folks who are committed to building community on LA’s east side.

Ayana Morse, Executive Director

Ayana is deeply committed to reanimating Jewish life on LA’s east side. As an educator and community leader she is galvanizing individuals and families through authentic communal experiences, and introducing meaningful access points to Jewish culture for all ages. She has over a decade of experience in non-profit management and Jewish education. Her work has been featured in Lilith Magazine, Sh’ma, the Jewish Journal and she has been a presenter at several conferences including the National Council for Jewish Women and JCPSCA. 

Prior to coming to the SIJCC Ayana was the operations director for IKAR, a spiritual community that sits at the intersection of Judaism and social justice. She studied theater education at Emerson College, was a participant in LA Boost, a mentor program for small business owners, and has a BA in elementary education from Prescott College. She and her husband, Josh, live in Echo Park with their two kids, Lazer and Diggy.

Liz Schwandt, Director of Early Childhood Education

Liz has worked in early childhood education for almost 20 years.  She is dedicated to promoting the importance of a true developmental, play-based program here at the SIJCC Preschool, and believes fully that early childhood is the critical period of human development.

Liz has been at the helm of several organizations that serve young children (with a wide variety of needs and profiles) and is currently completing her doctorate in Child Clinical Psychology. Her research examines the role of attachment in developmental neurobiology between the ages of 2 and 6. Most importantly, Liz considers the position of Director of Early Childhood Education to be the perfect culmination of her life’s work and passions—she is committed to offering children opportunities to engage joyfully with each other and adults, to explore with wonder and security, and to tolerate the word “no” without the world ending.

Liz lives in NELA with her husband James and their daughter Rae (along with two excitable dogs and a grumpy tortoise). You can most likely find her, at home or at work, explaining—with a lot of love and patience--why it’s a terrible idea to eat that thing from the floor.

Deanna Neil, Director of Jewish Innovation

Deanna is a playwright, journalist, biblical translator, sister, step-sister, Jew, teaching artist, singer and ukuleleist, bar/bat mitzvah mentor and officiant, and award-winning children’s novelist of 3 books (and 1 picture book) focusing on the National Parks, particularly Yellowstone. Time Magazine named her a "Hero for the Planet." Chuck D used to drop her off at home after her producing job at Air America Radio in New York. Once, she studied in Italy to be an opera singer.

Having worked on the ground in the Jewish community for over a decade with Storahtelling, Hebrew Helpers, NYU, Yale, AJU, Camp Ramah and Synagogues nationwide, Deanna is happy to have a home as the Director of the Jewish Learning Center.

Shannon Rubenstone, Development Director

Shannon grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon. She received her B.S. in Communication and Media Studies from Portland State University and quickly left the rain to come to sunny LA. Initially working in marketing and PR, Shannon was an events coordinator for an entertainment agency and a publicist for Center Theatre Group. She honed her fundraising skills while working in fund development and alumni relations at Sinai Akiba Academy. As the SIJCC’s Development Director, she is thrilled to be working for an organization that she’s passionate about, right here in her own neighborhood! In her free time, Shannon enjoys exploring new spots on the east side, playing with her puppy, and singing in a duo with her husband, Michael.

Lihi Shadmi, Associate Director of Early Childhood Education

Lihi Shadmi was born in Tel Aviv and moved to Los Angeles at age 4 where she attended both Jewish and secular schools. After traveling the world in her early adult days she was inspired to make stuff and study early childhood education. Lihi studied at LACC, PCC, and finally at Cal State long beach where she received her BFA with a focus in ceramic art.

Lihi taught at SIJCC’s Preschool for 6 years, and was instrumental in creating and implementing the Jewish curriculum. More recently, she worked closely with the teachers, coaching and running education workshops. She also has taught at the Jewish Learning Center for the last two years, where her creativity, love for art and Jewish values was infectious.

With one son an SIJCC Preschool graduate and another currently enrolled, Lihi is excited to be part of the leadership of a community she has long been connected to.

Anna Hodgson, Operations Manager

Anna is an office administrator with a background in stage management, lighting design, performance, teaching, baking and children’s ministry. Upon receiving her B.A. in Production at Azusa Pacific University, Anna worked as a freelance artist for several years before transitioning to administrative work. She is passionate about developing effective systems and bridging innovation with communication. She is excited to make a home in Los Angeles after living in various locations around the world including Malaysia and Australia.

Joel Serot, Events Coordinator

Joel Serot was born and raised in Anaheim, California. He received his B.A. from California State University Fullerton. While in school Joel worked for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as staff writer for the team publication Angels Magazine. In 2012 he moved to Los Angeles, dedicated to making an impact within the Jewish community here.

Prior to working at SIJCC, Joel worked as an events producer for the Jewish Federation Campaign department. Joel remains an active member of the Silverlake community and the Neighborhood Council Green Committee. Food and nature conservation are just a few of many subjects that he has great passion for. He also considers himself an experienced backpacker, who loves to be out on the trail and camping.

Audrey Davis, Programs Associate

Leah Rom, Communications Associate