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.


Neil Spears Executive Director

Neil grew up in San Bernardino, California where he learned the special magic of growing up Jewish in a town without many Jews. An educator at his core, Neil taught middle school in LAUSD before leading the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions of PowerMyLearning, an education nonprofit.

Neil is captivated by the power of Jewish text and culture to help us lead lives imbued with meaning and purpose. He’s an aficionado of various Jewish spiritual practices and a regular at Queer Talmud Camp (yes, that’s a real thing). Neil cares deeply about justice and equity and he serves on the boards of JQ International (a nonprofit that promotes community and provides services for LGBTQ Jews) and New Leaders Council in Los Angeles.

Neil is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Schusterman Fellowship, a customized leadership development program that prepares Fellows to realize and exercise their full potential as individual leaders and as a collective force for creating change in their communities and the world. He holds a master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University and a B.S. in psychology from the University of California, San Diego. He also maintains an active multiple subject California teaching credential.


 Summre Garber Director of Operations

Hailing from Northern California’s Bay Area, Summre has an M.A. in Film Theory from San Francisco State University. Before landing at SIJCC, Summre was Director of Operations for the Slamdance Film Festival and has done festival-related programming and event work for nearly a decade. She has been a member of the eastside Jewish community since 2012 and is excited to help grow SIJCC as a staff member. Summre lives in Mt. Washington with her two kids, Miles and Lilou. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring Los Angeles and watching a lot of movies, particularly documentaries.

Manda Graizel Director of Jewish Innovation

Manda Graizel is an East-Coast transplant who was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey. She received her BA in Sociology, Holocaust and Comparative Genocide Studies from Clark University in 2006 and has been working in the Jewish world ever since. During her decade in Jewish education, she has worked for Hillel, BBYO, numerous religious schools on both the east and west coasts, and most recently was the coordinator for the Diller Teen Fellows Program at Westside JCC. She received her Masters in Education at The American Jewish University in 2011. When Manda is not working to create meaningful Jewish experiences you can find her traveling, practicing yoga, playing Mah-Jong or hunting down the best cup of coffee in LA.

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.

Liz Schwandt Director of Developmental Programming

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 patiencewhy it’s a terrible idea to eat that thing from the floor.

Lihi Shadmi Associate Director of Early Childhood Education

Lihi Shadmi was born in Tel Aviv and moved to Los Angeles at age 4. After traveling the world in her early-adult years she was inspired to make art and study early childhood education. Lihi graduated from Cal State Long Beach where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics.

Since 1998, Lihi has worked at SIJCC in various capacities. She taught in the Preschool for 6 years, and was instrumental in creating and implementing the Jewish curriculum. As Associate Director of ECE Lihi gets to work closely with teachers and children, while also leading the music program; playing guitar and singing songs throughout the week. Lihi strives to create a joyful and meaningful space for children and their families and is honored to be an instrumental part of a community to which she has long been connected. Her two boys, Aviv and Lev, are proud alumni of the SIJCC Preschool and lifetime lovers of graham crackers.

You can find Lihi on Friday mornings leading the preschool community in our weekly Shabbat sing-a-long.


Shay Roman East Side Jews Coordinator

Bio coming soon.


Wendy Chao Operations Associate

Wendy is happy to be back in California, after 12 years in Minnesota. Before Minnesota, she lived in the Bay Area for nine years (but is originally from Illinois) She recently moved to Glendale for her husband’s new job. As new empty nesters, they are having lots of fun exploring all LA has to offer – concerts, restaurants, beach & museums. She enjoys listening to podcasts, yoga, volunteering at Descanso Gardens, & time with her boys. She is very happy to have found a place at the SIJCC! Wendy earned her B.S. in Marketing from the University of Illinois and her Certificate in Holistic Health Studies from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Chloe Lew Communications Associate

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Chloe recently moved back to her hometown after spending six years in Tel Aviv, Israel. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Kenyon College and a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Tel Aviv University. Alongside her role at the SIJCC, Chloe also works as a freelance writer and editor. Previously, she worked as a reporter and in the non-profit sector, with a focus on improving Arab-Jewish relations and empowering African asylum seekers in Israel. In her free time, Chloe likes to do a lot of things that also start with the letter C: cooking, coffee, crosswords, and camping are among her favorites.