The Young Adult Department (YAD) builds an inclusive and connected community of young Jewish Coloradans (aged 21-45) through fun, relevant, and meaningful volunteer, social, educational, and philanthropic activities.
Introducing… Team YAD 2020-2021! These are the people you can thank for the next 365 days’ worth of spirited Shabbats, tremendous tikkun olam projects, interesting icebreakers, fascinating Network & Nosh forums, and more.
Carly Schlafer is thrilled to serve as the 2020-2021 YAD Executive Committee chair. Over the past several years, she’s sat on numerous JEWISHcolorado boards and committees, including the Tribe Engagement Network (TEN) and the Israel Engagement Committee. Professionally, Carly has dedicated her career to advancing causes about which she is passionate. She is currently the director of communications for Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), a non-profit that empowers college students advocating for Israel. Carly and her husband Brad have lived in Denver for four years and welcomed their son Aidan into the world in September.
Born in Levittown, New York, Leigh Ackerman first made his way to Denver in 1996. After commuting between New York and Denver for several years, he officially made Denver his permanent home in 2012. Over the past few years, Leigh’s been active in the Jewish community through JEWISHcolorado and other organizations. When he isn’t hanging with the tribe, Leigh can be found at concerts and sporting events, and by sporting events he means Rockies games. A former YAD Ambassador and mentor, Leigh is excited to bring the same level of passion that he has for the Rockies to the YAD Executive Committee.
Originally from Los Angeles, Ezra Balsam lived in Australia and Israel before moving to Denver. A wanderer at heart, he’s travelled to more than 45 countries and likes nothing more than being outdoors and on the move. If you’re looking for Ezra and you can’t find him at a YAD meeting or event, check his favorite local coffee shops and breweries. When he’s not mentoring young professionals over a cold brew or a beer, you’re likely to find him climbing, hiking, or diving for the Downtown Aquarium (he volunteers there too). A connector and community builder, Ezra is excited to join the YAD Executive Committee.
Maya Booth is a passionate crafter, a Colorado-lover, and a member of the young adult Jewish community. She grew up in Denver, making friends through music, creativity, the outdoors, travel, and tikkun olam. Maya finds meaning in discovering Jewish connections to everyday life and in helping others do the same. She first became involved with JEWISHcolorado through the YAD Ambassador program, and she looks forward to deepening her engagement with YAD and its members.
Brian Botnick grew up in Ohio and moved to Denver in 2010 after graduating from Brandeis University and spending a year in Asia. He’s the fourth generation of leadership in his family business, opening and running Botnick Realty Company’s Colorado office. In his free time, Brian enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and anything with two wheels. He’s been an active member of the Jewish community since moving here, and in addition to his work with JEWISHcolorado, has been involved with Kavod Senior Life. Although Brian’s relative newcomer to Colorado, his family has deep roots here: his great-grandfather had a general store in Leadville, where his grandmother was born.
Eric Drucker was born and raised in Denver, though he did live in California for ten years before moving back home. He’s a real estate agent who knows where to find the coolest neighborhoods, the chillest breweries, and the most connected networking events in town. When Eric’s not showing homes, you can find him at one of Denver’s many sports venues (he’s a Nuggets-Avalanche guy), or enjoying a rooftop beer at a local brewery, or checking out a local band or new restaurant. In addition to his work with JEWISHcolorado and YAD, Eric volunteers with the Denver chapter of Start-Up Grind, a community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. He’s looking forward to being the coolest, chillest, most connected YAD Network & Nosh chair.
Adriane Greenberg is honored to have served as the YAD Executive Committee chair for the past two years and excited to take the role of emeritus YAD chair. She currently sits on the board of JEWISHcolorado and is the co-chair of the Jewish Life & Engagement Committee, and she’s just as passionate about building and maintaining a strong Jewish community as she was when she first became involved at JEWISHcolorado. Adriane graduated from the University of Colorado–Boulder and spent a few years in Washington, D.C., before settling down in Colorado. She’s married with three children, and when she’s not working with her friends at JEWISHcolorado, she can be found with her family.
Originally from Los Angeles, Mallory Grossman grew up in Scottsdale and landed in Denver in 2014. She works as a professional nanny and massage therapist, both of which fulfill her passion for nurturing and caring for those around her. Mallory volunteers regularly in and around Denver, and she got involved in the Jewish community in 2016 as a way to make new friends. She was a member of the 2017 YAD Ambassador cohort and joined the YAD Executive Board in 2018. Mallory has chaired the Network & Nosh and Volunteer committees in the past, and she currently oversees the YAD Ambassador program. When she’s not giving her all to YAD, she enjoys traveling, cooking, crafting, trying new restaurants, dancing, game nights, live music, and anything you can do outdoors.
Loren Knaster is a fourth generation Denver native and a partner and senior wealth advisor at RMB Capital in Cherry Creek, with more than 10 years of wealth management experience. Loren earned his undergraduate degree from Syracuse University and his master’s from University of Denver. Before moving into financial planning, he was a television sportscaster. He remains a passionate sports fan and roots for all of the Denver and Syracuse teams, with his remaining enthusiasm directed toward his preferred Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur. Loren is a founder and ex-commissioner of the Denver Jewish Softball League, and he and his wife Laura have served as co-chairs of JEWISHcolorado’s Ben Gurion Society since 2018. Loren and Laura are the proud parents of 4-year-old Meyer.
Adam Laarsen has been living in Colorado since 1992 and considers himself a real Coloradan. He has been a CPA since 2013 and has been practicing accounting since 2008. Adam loves live music (anything loud and fast), reading (a lot of sci-fi and economics), and golfing (badly). He’s been involved in the Jewish community for many years, but it’s only recently that he’s stepped up into leadership roles. As a real Coloradan, he’s really looking forward to giving back to the community he calls home.
Marisa Porter is originally from Pittsburgh, but she’s thrilled to have traded the Alleghanies for the Rockies. A Denverite for the past three years, she currently runs the marketing department for a drinkable probiotics company. Marisa’s been an active member of Jewish community wherever she’s lived, and she’s participated in numerous leadership development programs, including national Cabinet and the Ben Gurion Society. Here in Denver, she’s helped planned Elevate for the past two years. As a member of the YAD Executive Committee, Marisa is looking forward to bridging the gap between Cabinet and JEWISHcolorado. When she’s not volunteering, Marisa loves going to concerts, skiing, and traveling around the world.
Jackie Rutman is a teacher and first-generation Denver native. She’s currently completing her master’s in early childhood education, in addition to an endorsement in early childhood special education. Jackie’s family is from Kiev, Ukraine, and her first language is Russian. She’s been involved with YAD for the past four years, working her way up from an enthusiastic attendee of YAD events to Ambassador and now YAD Family Engagement chair.
Meryl Suissa is a Colorado native who has also lived in West Hollywood and Nashville. She attended Colorado Academy, Colorado College, and CU Boulder, where she concentrated in sociology, Spanish, and pre-med studies. In non-quarantine times, Meryl works as a physician assistant. She’s been on the YAD Executive Committee, with a portfolio that’s included Network & Nosh and YAD Outdoors programming, and she’s also on the board of Jewish Women’s International. Meryl is married to her husband of two years, André Suissa. They welcomed their first child, Asher, in June, and Meryl plans to introduce him to all the things she loves: skiing, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, Crested Butte wildflower exploring, and traveling as much as possible. But not until he’s a bit older.
Wendy Aronson is thrilled to join the JEWISHcolorado team as the YAD Director of Strategic Expansion & Engagement. Wendy has enjoyed a rewarding career in the Jewish community and has worked for Boulder Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, and the Boulder JCC, to name a few. Most recently, Wendy was the executive director of Judaism Your Way, which she led through a period of transformation and growth. Wendy lives in Denver with her partner, Aaron, and their two rambunctious boys, Ravi and Beau.
YAD Coordinator Michelle Jacobson grew up in San Diego and moved to Denver a year ago after spending four years in Montreal. She graduated from McGill University with a major in sociology and a double minor in psychology and gender, sexuality, feminism, and social justice studies. A lay leader in the San Diego and Montreal Jewish communities and a leader in organizations that fight for gender equality and LGBTQ+ equality, Michelle is currently a resident of Moishe House Denver. You can find her at almost any Jewish event in Denver, when she’s not sewing, embroidering, or knitting, and she loves nothing more than tackling a home improvement project and upcycling. Reuse, reduce, recycle, folks!