Like all communities, it’s our wonderful team that make us special. We’d love you to meet them!

head office

CEO

Debra Brunner

Debra has been working in Belarus for over ten years and is a passionate advocate for Jewish community, history, heritage and identity. Debra has worked tirelessly to grow The Together Plan in order to give agency to Jewish people coming out of a traumatic past, to empower them and give them skills and self-belief to rebuild and revive. It is Debra’s mantra that together we can make a real and positive difference for a better, stronger and more cohesive Jewish landscape in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Making History Together coordinator

Leo Levine

Leo has been involved as a volunteer at The Together Plan since 2018, having taken part in the first Zoymen as well as traveling across Belarus to pave the way for the Jewish Heritage Trail. Majoring in History and Politics at Bowdoin College, USA and more recently receiving his Masters in History from McGill University, Canada, Leo’s dissertation focused on the Soviet and post-Soviet history education on the Great Patriotic War. He believes history education is intrinsic to national collective memory, and is working with The Together Plan to raise awareness of the history of the Holocaust during the occupation of Belarus. His grandparents currently live in Brest, Belarus which adds a personal note to his interest in the history of ex-Soviet countries.

office administrator

Elaine Collins

Elaine Collins volunteers in the Together Plan office as the Office Administrator. She began her journey by volunteering at Pinner helping to sort aid and she was inspired by Debra Brunner’s story and her endless energy and enthusiasm! Since Elaine has many years of office work, she felt that lending her time to helping the charity with admin would be the best position for her and was certainly something that the charity needed. Elaine says that she learns more about The Together Plan every day and loves being a valued member of the team.

Aid Together coordinator

Suzanne Goodman

Suzanne used to be a part of the volunteer team at World Jewish Relief when they ran their Gifts in Kind project. When that project closed, she found The Together Plan and was delighted to be able to offer her services and experience to the Aid Together project – which sends humanitarian aid and resources to community centres in Belarus.

In 2018, Suzanne took on the role of Project Coordinator and now manages a dedicated team of 12 volunteers who meet weekly at Pinner United Synagogue.

digital media coordinator

Hannah Ryder

Hannah is an undergraduate studying chemistry at the University of York. She has recently become involved in The Together Plan as she believes the work we do is incredibly important and valuable to the communities involved. Hannah is very excited to get involved and join the team and she is ready to help in any way she can!

heritage trail IT coordinator

Eli Kaufman

Eli was born in Russia, grew up in Israel, lived in the UK (where he encountered The Together Plan) and currently resides in the Netherlands. He helps The Together Plan in a few areas such as teaching Hebrew and setting up the IT systems supporting the Heritage Route project. His own family connections to Belarus as well as his interest in the Yiddish language and Jewish history inspired him to travel with the Together Plan to Belarus and continue helping the charity.
strategy and development

Sam Heller

Sam has been involved with The Together Plan for 9 years and headed up the Youth for Youth arm from 2014 to 2019. She has now taken on the role of Young Adult Development Coordinator. Sam has planned camps and taught leadership skills to multiple communities in Belarus; helped to sort and pack humanitarian aid; planned and participated in a plethora of fundraisers, and now heads up the young adult engagement side of the charity.

In her professional life, she is Head of Programming at Alyth Synagogue, London and in her personal life, she is an avid Arsenal fan and an incredibly competitive Scrabble player.

volunteer

Paul Demby

Paul has worked with The Together Plan since its inception and today, together with fellow trustees, provides guidance, governance and advice to The Together Plan’s employees and volunteers. He visited Belarus travelling to different communities in 2018 to gain a first-hand knowledge of how the charity functions in the country. At the same time, the highly acclaimed book, “We Remember, Lest the World Forget – Memories of The Minsk Ghetto” was launched in Belarus. This was made possible because of The Together Plan.

Paul has had previous involvement with other charities and has experience of being a School Governor as well as Treasurer and Council Member for Finchley Reform Synagogue, for which he is now involved in the synagogue’s rebuilding programme. Before retiring in September 2018, Paul was the Finance Director for a major financial service outsourcing joint venture.

Paul has been married for 31 years to Bett Demby, a fellow volunteer of The Together Plan, and has two sons now in their 20s. He has recently stepped down as Chair of Trustees but looks forward to continuing to support The Together Plan as a general volunteer.

archive services

archive services manager

Gillian Gruder

Gillian is an experienced Events Coordinator having fulfilled a similar role for the last 20 years with an Israel-focused charity. She is delighted to be volunteering for The Together Plan which is a truly inspirational organisation. Gillian is genuinely enthusiastic to use her skills and experience to contribute to this wonderful venture.

Belarus archive services coordinator

Vasily Zaitsau

Vasily is a very active person and has been volunteering for years; making a difference in a large variety of campaigns. He only recently met The Together Plan and has now joined Artur, our Belarus Country Director, in the Minsk office, immediately becoming a part of it all. Openhearted, thoughtful and eager to help, Vasily is proud to be a member of a charity and is looking forward to making our world better.

archive services case worker

Mike Boda

Mike retired from a long career in I.T. Management in 2015. Since then he has been helping a number of charities in a variety of voluntary roles. Mike has a special interest in genealogy after researching his own family roots in Belarus.

archive services case worker

Carl Kaplan

Carl became interested in The Together Plan while successfully enlisting them to trace his family roots in Minsk. As Carl learned more about The Together Plan he wanted a way to get more involved and support our work. As a result Carl has recently joined The Together Plan volunteer team as a new Archive Services Case Worker, helping to share his genealogy knowledge and passion with others. Carl retired from a long career at IBM in 2012. Since then, he has volunteered for a diverse group of non-profits, including several Israel advocacy groups, and a walking tour group in Boston. His other hobbies include cycling, travel and hiking with his dog Buster.

archive services case worker

Laura Konviser

Originally from Zimbabwe, Laura has lived in London for some 37 years. She worked as a school librarian for many years and, after retiring, worked in a local bookshop. Recently she volunteered with AJR (the Association of Jewish Refugees) on their My Story project, interviewing refugees and helping them to write their stories, which were then published. She is very interested in Jewish history and genealogy and is excited to be starting as a Case Worker in The Together Plan’s Archive Services.

archive services case worker

Tasha Ackerman

Tasha is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She loves being active in the community and is passionate about documenting our history and preserving stories. She has been an advocate for migrants as an ESL teacher, and education has also brought her close to communities around the world through her own studies and by teaching in Colombia, Nigeria, Spain, and Israel. Tasha is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and is excited to volunteer with the Together Plan to support families seeking archival services.

archive services case worker

Samuel Wirth

Samuel recently retired after 50 years as CEO of a family business, which was sold to a US Private Equity
Company and continues to trade internationally. The business is a language service provider (LSP) specialising in translations for the pharmaceutical industry especially in the field of regulatory affairs. Samuel has considerable experience in building a small medium enterprise (SME) involving the co-ordination of in-house project managers, freelance translators along with applying evolving technology.

In addition, Samuel has been, for some years, a Trustee of Raphael Jewish Counselling before its merger, this year, with JAMI.
He is very interested in The Together Plan as his parents came from Eastern Europe. His mother’s family were originally from Minsk and his father from Lvov (then Poland). He looks forward to contributing to the work of The Together Plan.

archive services case worker

Scott Familant

Scott lives in NYC and has had an eclectic professional background. Combining his degrees in chemistry and law, he began his career as a patent attorney, representing branded Fortune 500 life sciences companies in litigations over their blockbuster technologies. Some eight years ago, he chose to pivot, letting his love for music lead him to his current operations-dominant role as a VP at Electro-Harmonix, a $30M B2B manufacturer of guitar effects, vacuum tubes and related articles. Scott has a strong interest in The Together Plan’s cause, having taken his family to Belarus to visit the villages that four branches of his family are from, Konvalishki, Smilovich, Voronova, and Uzliany.

events team

events coordinator

Chloe Mihaleto

Chloe is a business analyst who has worked for various asset management companies since graduating from University. She has been involved in Jewish organisations throughout her youth and is passionate about using her corporate skills to enhance the Events team.

events coordinator

Gwen Horwitz

Gwen is retired and originally came from South Africa. She was a PA to the chairman of a newspaper. Since taking retirement, Gwen volunteers on a helpline for a Jewish charity and also in her local library. She is avidly reading novels and books of history about Belarus. Gwen has an interest in Jewish history and particularly of the Holocaust – both her grandparents and an uncle perished at Auschwitz and her father fought in the French resistance. She has a good knowledge of spoken Yiddish.

“I am looking forward to joining the Together Plan and will also hopefully discover my other grandparents’ – family name Minsk – family history”.

fundraising coordinator

Stephen Feiner

Stephen has had a long career in commercial estate agency and valuation surveying, focusing on the creative industries in the West End of London. He has been actively involved in fundraising, community work and volunteering throughout his working life and now seeks to make a difference with The Together Plan.

events coordinator

Vivienne Cowan

Vivienne moved to London from Reading ten years ago to be near her daughters and growing grandchildren. Originally from Manchester, she moved with her husband’s job to Worcester and then Reading. She is a qualified teacher but decided to set up a successful Bridal business which she handed over to her daughters when she moved to London. Sadly, due to Covid, the business closed. She volunteers for Jewish Care as well as working part-time at Marks and Spencer.

Dialog office

Belarus country director

Artur Livshyts

Artur was born in Minsk and spent two years living with a relative in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there, as a child of the Soviet Union, that he discovered Judaism; he studied Hebrew and had a bar mitzvah. It was his first foray into Jewish life. He spent a year living in a boarding school in Israel before returning to Belarus where he completed his education in Minsk, studying Human Rights Law. Having had a taste of Jewish life, he has made it his life’s work to strive for a revival of the Jewish community in Belarus. He met Debra Brunner in 2009 and together, since that time, they have worked to build and grow The Together Plan.

heritage coordinator

Sonya Shaipak

Sonya is a valued member of The Together Plan team in Minsk, Belarus. She is a very inquisitive and active person. Even as a child she was interested in learning foreign languages and studying the peculiarities of the development of history and culture. Recently Sonya ‘found herself’ and now understands what she wants to do in the future – contribute to the research, preservation and popularisation of cultures of different countries and their historical and cultural heritage.

This led her to The Together Plan, where she was a volunteer at first. Today she is a Heritage Development Coordinator for charity. It is here that Sonya explores Jewish history and culture and gains experience for her personal development. She has delved into Jewish heritage by creating audio tours of cities in Belarus and a database of the country’s historical heritage. She also coordinates heritage clubs in Minsk, Gomel and Polotsk, promoting Jewish culture among the population.

Sonya is excited to be a member of The Together Plan team and believes that together we will be able to preserve our history and heritage for the building of a successful future!

Jewish heritage specialist

Tamara Vershitskaya

Tamara is a passionate Holocaust researcher with many years of experience. Previous roles include the position of Director of the Novogrudok Museum of History and Regional Studies. She played a key role in the establishment of the Jewish Resistance Museum, a memorial exhibition on the former ghetto site dedicated to the tunnel escape and the Bielski partisans.

Tamara has written many publications for both the Russian and American Holocaust Encyclopaedias and was a translator for the book of memoirs Surviving the Holocaust with the Russian Jewish partisans by Jack Kagan and Dov Cohen. Her research into Jewish resistance in Novogrudok and in other parts of Belarus have resulted in numerous scientific publications and a book, Pain and Anger – Holocaust and Resistance in Novogrudok, published in 2019 by the Belarusian Encyclopaedia.

Tamara has organized many conferences and educational seminars on Jewish heritage for secondary school teachers throughout Belarus on the subject of the Holocaust. She also collaborated with Jewish heritage professionals in Poland in a cross-border project entitled “Shtetl routes. Vestiges of Jewish Cultural Heritage in Cross-Border Tourism” (2013-2015).

Brest heritage coordinator

Efim Basin

Currently, Efim is Head of the Brest Jewish Charitable Center “Hesed-David”. He is the author of the book A Brief Guide to Jewish Brest as well as many publications on the history of the Jews of Brest. He works in the Brest Regional Archives, exploring the many unique documents available there and he is currently developing a complete list of the victims of the Nazis among the Jews of Brest – It includes about 18 thousand names! Some of them not even included in the database of Yad Vashem.

Minsk historian

Vladimir Melnitskiy

Vladimir was born in Starie Dorogi in the Minsk region. After failing to be accepted to study history at the Belarusian Statue University, he started working at the age of 16. Initially he was a miller assistant and later worked as a test-engineer of KAMAZ at a factory in Borisov. He later graduated from the High military-political academy in Lvov and now has a degree in History from BSU, Geography from the Pedagogical University in Smolensk and has a degree of Candidate of Science in the military.

After the Soviet Union broke up, Vladimir worked in a variety of Jewish organisations in Belarus: As a vice-editor at “Berega” newspaper; as a chief at “Aviv” newspaper; as a public and media affairs coordinator at Jewish Agency for Israel “Sohnut” in Belarus; as a chief editor at “Sohnut” newspaper in Belarus – “Bezavta”.

During the 34th Zionist congress which was held in 2002, the Belarusian delegation was headed by Vladimir as he was the head of the Belarusian branch of the Avoda party and the head of the Israel Institute named by Moshe Sharet in Belarus.

Vladimir has been studying the history of the Holocaust in Belarus since 1979 and completed the course “Jewish identity” at Bar-Ilansk University in Ramat-Gann, Israel.
Currently he is an independent historian, writer, journalist and publicist. In addition, he leads a scientific research division at International program of Judeo-Christian dialogue “Shomer International” in Belarus.

head of the Polotsk Jewish Cultural Educational Foundation and Polotsk heritage club coordinator

Kristina Gabranskaya

Kristina was boring in the little town of Shklov (Mogilev Region, Belarus), where she went to school and lived with her parents. Her first introduction to Polotsk was when she entered Polotsk State University in 2005. However, she lived there for only two years. She returned in 2019 and a year later she met the Polotsk Jewish Cultural Educational Foundation “Finchley”, where she was a physical education instructor: Her mission was to engage children in sports and instil healthy lifestyle skills.

Mostly, she worked at the Polotsk Sunday school with children of different ages. The topic of Jewish heritage has always been of interest to her, even at university she touched on the subject. In 2023 she became head of the Polotsk Jewish Cultural Educational Foundation “Finchley”. She now aims to reach out and involve as many people as possible in the topic of Jewish heritage through various activities that focus on heritage issues within Belarus and specifically Polotsk.

trustees

chair of trustees

Mike Segall

Mike is a serial entrepreneur with a long career in credit management writing policy, improving processes and training staff in efficiency. He also headed a successful marketing company. He is a dedicated networker and professional speaker on mental health issues and mentors both professional speakers and networkers. Mike has been actively involved as a trustee with several charities promoting mental health, homelessness and spinal injury. Mike’s family history starts in Romania and he recently visited his great great grandmother’s birthplace in Iasi. He has two daughters in their thirties.

Mike has recently taken on the role of Chair of Trustees. He is looking forward to supporting the work of The Together Plan by providing guidance and leadership to the Board of Trustees.

trustee

Gelena Rozenberg

Gelena was born in Odessa, Ukraine, known for its vibrant Jewish community which was once among the largest in Eastern Europe. That changed as the countless Jewish families from across the former Soviet Union left in the last decades before country’s break-up, and she established new roots in New York. After studying economics, Gelena joined a global financial institution focusing on change management and product development; a role which took her to London in 2006, where she now lives.

A native Russian speaker, Gelena first learned about The Together Plan through a Jewish Volunteering Network ad looking for an English/Russian translator. Through that advert, she became a part of a volunteer team on an exciting project preparing a boy in Belarus, through distance learning, for his Bar Mitzvah.

trustee

Jack Baum

Jack has been a volunteer and member of The Together Plan team since 2017, initially joining as a general office volunteer. However, he quickly identified the need for a dedicated focus into IT and so, took on the role of IT and Development Coordinator. In 2021 Jack took on the role of Operations Manager, systematically applying structure to the charity’s processes to sustainably remove inefficiencies and enable the continued growth of The Together Plan.

Most recently, in October 2022, he joined the Board of Trustees, focusing on continuing to define the charity’s growth strategy and support the volunteer team with regular capability reviews and implementation of new systems/processes to enable the charity to continue to expand its impact.

He is an invested member of the Youth for Youth programme and has been to Belarus to run training for young adults. Jack is a Chemistry BSc graduate from the University of York and strongly believes that with the power of “Togetherness”, Jewish communities can be supported, grow and thrive.

events trustee

Andy Mihaleto

Andy is an experienced project manager with over 20 years of international experience in the Financial Services sector. Throughout her career she worked with various financial institutions developing and implementing projects to achieve their strategic goals. The experience gained in her career enabled Andy to leverage these skills to benefit the small and medium businesses where she worked to improve efficiency and create a solid platform to achieve their growth strategy.

Andy also has the role of The Together Plan’s HR Coordinator. Working to ensure that all of our volunteers are fully supported and that the charity is able to grow effectively, safely and efficiently!

treasurer

Russell Eisen

A Chartered Accountant specialising in taxation for over 35 years, Russell is very much a numbers person, backed by his Yorkshire born no-nonsense attitude to problem solving. Whilst workwise Russell has created award winning tax teams and contributes to tax media, he has a desire to use those professional skills in the charity sector. With a history of being involved in local community charities coupled with a newly created enthusiasm for The Together Plan following remarkable personal results from its Archive Services, Russell is now ready to assist where he can.

Youth for Youth: office

aid sales coordinator

Abi Brunner

Abi is a recent Film Music graduate, and has incorporated ideas around Jewish heritage into her composition and daily musical practices. Having volunteered for The Together Plan and Youth for Youth since 2014, Abi has recently joined the Youth for Youth team as the Youth for Youth Development Coordinator and hopes to act as a port of call for the Youth of the charity, and develop the cohort into a desirable and exciting movement!

office volunteer

Sam Behrens

Sam has been involved with The Together Plan since 2015 and has helped run four successive Youth for Youth summer camps in Belarus. His involvement with the charity has also taken him to Poland, to build connections with the Jewish community there, as well as to the London office to assist with the day to day running of The Together Plan. Sam is currently training to become a barrister.

translators

translator

Daniela Gavronsky

Daniela is a new volunteer translator with The Together Plan and a recent graduate of the University of York, where she studied English Literature and completed a dissertation in the area of literary translation from Russian into English. She speaks Hebrew, Russian, and German. Coming from a Russian-Jewish background, she wanted to become involved with the charity because she firmly believes in the importance of preserving and educating Jewish history and heritage in Eastern Europe; she would also like to gain future experience in professional translation.

translator

Svetlana Ershov

Svetlana is a second generation Holocaust survivor and young at heart. Born in the former Soviet Union, she has now lived in Canada for 22 years. Svetlana is fluent in English, has a working knowledge of French and Hebrew and is passionately studying Yiddish. Her mother tongue is Russian. She is impressed by The Together Plan’s work and is excited to contribute her knowledge and life experience to the organisation.

volunteer

Vesta Svendsen

Vesta Svendsen was born in Pinsk, Belarus, growing up between Brest and the United States. She is currently a Master’s candidate at Yeshiva University’s Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, graduating in Spring 2024, writing her Master’s thesis on Brest, Belarus from 1937 – 1941. Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, Vesta majored in Russian Studies. During summer 2023, Vesta was in residency as a Summer Graduate Research Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Beginning her work with The Together Plan in 2021, Vesta’s first interviews with Brest’s displaced Jewry led her to become a Russian-language interviewer for the USC Shoah Visual History Archive and underpin her thesis. She has coordinated and edited numerous translation projects for TTP, is at work on translations of two Russian-language survivor memoirs, and hosts TTP’s US sister charity, the Jewish Tapestry Project.

our patron

Lady Esther Gilbert

I am lucky to have relatives – a few in Canada, in Israel, in the United States. If not for the Holocaust I would also have relatives in Belarus and Ukraine – and these are just the ones I know about. Most of the close relatives I grew up ‘with’ were dead already, but I know (and carry) some of their names, have some photographs and have stood in some of the villages where they lived and the fields and forests where they are buried. Their memory is part of how I look at the world and hopefully has been transmitted to my children. Memory is also a part of the Jews who live in our ancestral homeland today. Their journey back to Jewish life after the Holocaust and the deprivations of the Soviet regime is due in no small measure to the work of Debra Brunner and The Together Plan.

I first met Debra and Artur Livshyts at a film they presented. I brought Artur a copy of my late husband Sir Martin Gilbert’s book Atlas of Jewish History, to take back to Belarus with him for the community there. In hearing about the work The Together Plan is doing in rekindling Jewish life and culture in the very places where our ancestors put Yiddishkeit on the map, I was in awe.

The Jews of Belarus that The Together Plan are reaching are not the embers of the vibrant Jewish life of the Pale of Settlement. We, the descendants of Jews who came West before or during the last century, we are the embers of that life that have kept the flame going. The Jews in these eastern lands have survived Soviet, Nazi, and again Soviet occupation, have had their families, their religion, and their culture ripped from them, and have seen so many take advantage of open borders to move to Israel and the West. But their communities in Belarus are being reinvigorated and reconnected with Jewish life, their communities are taking shape and gaining strength. The Together Plan is playing an important role in memorialising Jewish history in Belarus and helping to create vibrant Jewish communities there, while at the same time connecting communities in the UK and lending expertise and energy. ‘Together’ the flame of Jewish life will burn even brighter.

With her Lady (Esther) Gilbert hat on, and as the wife of the later Sir Martin Gilbert, she edits his website and creates his monthly newsletters. As Esther Goldberg, she is the creator and editor of the three volumes of Holocaust Memoir Digest, published by Vallentine Mitchell.