JPAC Capitol Summit 2023
Confirmed Speakers and Biographies
This list is in formation
Jerry Sampson Memorial Award Recipient for Legislator of the Year: Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins
Pro Tem Toni Atkins
Senate President pro Tempore (“Pro Tem”) Toni Atkins is the first woman and openly LGBTQ person to lead the California State Senate. She was previously the first San Diegan and first lesbian Speaker of the Assembly. She is the first person in 150 years, and the third person in California history, to lead both houses of the Legislature. Atkins was born and raised in southwestern Virginia—the daughter of a miner and a seamstress. From her eight-year tenure on the San Diego City Council to her years in the Legislature, Atkins has dedicated her career to serving as a champion for affordable housing and homelessness, the environment, healthcare, veterans, women, and the LGBTQ community.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon
Speaker Anthony Rendon
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is the 70th Speaker of the California State Assembly and the fifth Latino Speaker in the state’s history. He is now the longest serving Speaker in 27 years. Speaker Rendon was elected in 2012 and represents the 63rd Assembly District in Southeast Los Angeles County. Prior to serving in the Assembly, Rendon was an educator, non-profit executive director, and environmental activist. Under Rendon’s leadership, the Assembly restored funding for early childhood education, enacted a landmark $52 billion transportation funding plan, extended California’s climate change reduction and clean air goals, and established the nation’s first $15 minimum wage.
Earl Raab Award Recipient for an Outstanding Lay Leader: Allison Gingold
Allison Gingold is a distinguished leader and a passionate advocate for the Jewish community and public health in Los Angeles. Currently, she holds the position of Immediate Past Chair on the Board of Directors for the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California. With over two decades of active leadership, Allison has contributed significantly to the Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and presently serves as the Chair of Community Engagement on the Executive Board. Allison is well-known for her unwavering dedication to public health, which is exemplified by her impressive achievements. She founded the Los Angeles Affiliate for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation and received the American Heart Association Outstanding Advocacy Award in 2015 for her contributions as a member of the Greater Los Angeles Advocacy Committee. Moreover, she serves on the Executive Board for the SAM Initiative, a social venture fund that supports programs aimed at improving the lives of women, children, and families in the Greater Los Angeles area. As an active member of Visionary Women, Allison remains committed to the advancement of women in society. Allison is an alumna of UCLA, where she earned her undergraduate degree, and Southwestern University School of Law, where she obtained her JD.
Senator Ben Allen, Chair, Environmental Quality Committee
California State Senator Ben Allen was first elected in 2014 and is now serving his third and final term in the State Senate. Ben chairs the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee, the Legislature’s Environmental Caucus, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Arts, and the Senate Select Committee on Aerospace and Defense. He previously served as Chair of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, Education Committee, and Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. He has authored nearly 60 new laws in various areas, from environmental protection to electoral reform. CalMatters recently recognized him as one of the Legislature’s foremost leaders in the field of environmental protection. Prior to his election to the Senate, Ben served as President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, lecturer at UCLA Law School, and worked as an attorney at the law firms of Bryan Cave LLP and Richardson & Patel and at the nonprofit Spark Program.
Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, Secretary and Treasurer, Legislative Black Caucus
Assemblymember Isaac Bryan represents parts of Pico-Robertson and South LA. He chairs the Assembly Elections Committee and the Assembly’s first Select Committee on Poverty and Economic Inclusion. He is the Secretary and Treasurer of the California Legislative Black Caucus and Vice Chair and a founding member of the Renters Caucus. Isaac is a community organizer, highly regarded policy expert, and a published academic. Prior to his election to the Assembly, Isaac led a ballot measure that brought millions of dollars a year to address racial injustice and strengthen communities in Los Angeles. He served as the founding Director of the UCLA Black Policy Project, the first Director of Public Policy at the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center, and the Director of Organizing for the nationally recognized Million Dollar Hoods project, a community-based participatory research project.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Co-Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus
Jesse Gabriel was elected to the Assembly in June 2018, representing the west San Fernando Valley. Gabriel is Co-Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and Chair of the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. Recognized as a “California Influencer” by the Sacramento Bee, Jesse has authored more than two dozen new laws, including highly regarded measures to address California’s housing and homelessness crisis, fight climate change, reduce gun violence, strengthen hate crimes protections, and expand access to justice for all. Before being elected to the Legislature, Gabriel worked as a constitutional rights and general litigation attorney. A committed environmentalist and longtime community activist, Gabriel previously served as a Los Angeles County Commissioner and as a board member of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Assemblymember Evan Low, Chair, Legislative AAPI Caucus
Evan Low was elected in 2014 as the youngest Asian American legislator ever elected to the California State Assembly. Assemblymember Low is Chair of the California Asian American & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and a Member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. In 2015, he launched the California Legislative Technology & Innovation Caucus. Prior to serving in the Legislature, he was the first Asian American to serve on the Campbell City Council, and then the youngest openly LGBTQ mayor in the country, at just 26 years old. He has also served as a community college instructor at De Anza Community College, where he taught American Government and Political Science.
Senator Caroline Menjivar, Member, Legislative Latino, LGBTQ, and Women's Caucuses
Senator Caroline Menjivar is a member of the Legislative Latino Caucus, LGBTQ Caucus, and Women’s Caucus. Prior to her election in 2022, she served as a city field deputy and then as East Valley Representative for the Mayor’s office. She served in the Marin Corp from 2009 – 2016. She volunteers her time serving on the GLSEN Los Angeles Chapter Board and The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope Advisory Board. Both organizations work to create more inclusive learning and family environments for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.
Senator Nancy Skinner, Chair, Legislative Women's Caucus
A social justice advocate, clean energy and climate change trailblazer and accomplished legislator, Senator Nancy Skinner was first elected to the state Senate in 2016 after completing three terms in the state Assembly. Senator Skinner currently serves as chair of the Senate’s Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Skinner began her public service in 1984 as the first and only student elected to the Berkeley City Council. Skinner is a past member of the East Bay Regional Park District board, a former small business owner, and an active advocate to increase the number of women in elected office. She served on the Board of the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus and launched the Women in Power PAC to support Democratic women running for state office.
Senator Scott Wiener, Co-Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus
Senator Scott Wiener has represented San Francisco and northern San Mateo County in the State Senate since 2016. He Co-Chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, Chairs the Senate Housing Committee, and is the past Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. Before his election to the Senate, Senator Wiener served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing the district previously represented by Harvey Milk. He also chaired the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Before taking public office, Senator Wiener was a Deputy City Attorney in the San Francisco, served as co-chair of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and served on the national Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign.
Assemblymember Lori Wilson, Chair, Legislative Black Caucus
Assemblymember Lori Wilson proudly represents California’s 11th Assembly District. She is the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. Prior to her election to the legislature, she was the first Black female Mayor to serve in all of Solano County. Before Lori took office, she also served as Vice Chair on the Suisun City Parks & Recreation Commission and founding President of the Suisun City Community Services Foundation. Most recently, Lori worked as Director of Finance for national homebuilders for over 10 years and previously held roles as the Chief Accountant at Fair Housing Napa Valley and an Auditor of Solano County. She is also a founding member of WIP Solano, a non-partisan organization formed to inspire more women to become visionary leaders in Solano County.
Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, Member, Legislative Jewish, LGBTQ, and Latino Caucuses
Rick Chavez Zbur
Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur was elected to the Assembly in of 2022, and is a member of the Legislative Latino, LGBTQ, and Jewish Caucuses. A former Executive Director of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, he worked to advance civil rights and social justice for the diverse communities to which LGBTQ+ people belong — communities of color, communities of faith, immigrants, women and people living with HIV. He was also an environmental lawyer and Board President of the California League of Conservation Voters (now California Environmental Voters).
Members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus
California Legislative Jewish Caucus
Founded in 2014 with just four members, the California Legislative Jewish Caucus is now made up of 18 elected officials in the California Assembly and Senate. They work together to advance the Jewish community’s top priorities and uplift vulnerable Californians of all backgrounds. Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and Senator Scott Wiener serve as co-chairs, and Senator Josh Becker is the vice chair. The other members are Assemblymembers Dawn Addis, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Marc Berman, Laura Friedman, Matt Haney, Josh Lowenthal, Gail Pellerin, Blanca Rubio, Chris Ward, and Rick Chavez Zbur, and Senators Ben Allen (past chair), Steve Glazer, Josh Newman, Susan Rubio, and Henry Stern.
Diego Cartagena, President & CEO, Bet Tzedek
Diego Cartagena is the President & CEO of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a legal services agency founded by members of the Jewish community nearly 50 years ago and dedicated to providing free legal services to low-income individuals in Los Angeles County. Diego joined Bet Tzedek in 2012 as Director of Pro Bono Programs and was promoted Vice President of Pro Bono in 2015. In 2017, Diego became Bet Tzedek’s Vice President of Legal Programs and helped launch several of the organization’s exemplary programs, including the Preventing & Ending Homelessness Project, Family Preparedness program, Harbor UCLA Medical-Legal Partnership, and Small Business Development Project. Diego assumed the position of CEO in 2020. Diego received his BA and J.D. from UCLA.
Cantor Rebecca Joy Fletcher, Director of Jewish Life, Coastal Roots Farm
Rebecca Joy Fletcher
Rebecca Joy Fletcher inaugurates the Director of Jewish Life position at Coastal Roots Farm, a nonprofit Jewish community farm and education center that cultivates healthy, connected communities by integrating sustainable agriculture, food justice, and ancient Jewish wisdom. An ordained synagogue cantor, professional actor, and climate activist, Rebecca started her career as cantor/educator at a NYC synagogue and as a creator and performer of original works of Jewish theater. After moving to Chicago, she stepped into the new position of Director of Experiential Jewish Education at The ARK, while working as an actor on multiple city stages. In time, Rebecca began working with Climate Change Theater Action and became a certified climate coach. She founded The Fletcher Studio to coach and train individuals as well as organizations in embodied leadership & climate communications.
Rabbi Jocee Hudson, Clergy and Formation Lead, LA Voice
Rabbi Jocee Hudson joined LA Voice as the Clergy and Formation Lead in July 2021. An affiliate of PICO California, LA Voice is a multi-racial, multi-faith community organization that awakens people to their own power, training them to speak, act, and work together to transform our County into one that reflects the dignity of all people. Jocee received rabbinic ordination, as well as Masters in Hebrew Letters and Jewish Education, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University. Prior to joining LA Voice, she was an Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood.
Catherina Nou, Director, Department of Justice's Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement (CARE)
Catherina serves as the Director of the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement (CARE). Catherina joins the Attorney General’s Office with over 15 years of diverse experience in management specializing in policy advocacy and program development for governmental and nonprofit organizations. Previously, Catherina served as the Chief of Staff for Sacramento City Councilmember Mai Vang, Senior Policy Consultant for Assemblymember David Chiu, and Chief of Staff for Assemblymember Mariko Yamada. Prior to those roles, she served as Chief Consultant for the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and established the policy arm for Everyday Impact Consulting. Catherina earned a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership and policy studies from California State University, Sacramento and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of California, Davis. Catherina is a Central Valley native and sister and daughter of Cambodian refugees.
Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bureau Chief, LA Times
Laurel Rosenhall is LA Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, overseeing the Times’ coverage of the California Capitol, state government and state politics. She joined the company in 2021 and spent a year as a member of the editorial board writing about California politics, policy and power. Before joining The Times, Rosenhall covered state politics for CalMatters and the Sacramento Bee. A lifelong Californian, she grew up in San Francisco and graduated from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Russell Roybal, Commissioner, California Commission on the State of Hate
Russell Roybal is a long-time leader in the Latinx and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) movements. They previously served as Chief Advancement Officer of San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) and worked alongside the organization’s development, volunteer services, marketing and communications, and AIDS/LifeCycle teams. In addition, Russell was deputy executive director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where they directed programmatic and policy work, and the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. Russell also served as deputy executive director of external relations, and as director of movement building at the organization. The Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. As a Latinx, male-bodied, non-binary queer leader, their activism is rooted in a family tradition of public service and the pursuit of social justice.
Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Lead Organizer, California Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller is the Lead Organizer for the California Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-CA). She supports congregational social justice teams and builds the network of congregations who are harnessing a statewide voice for justice as Jews, with a focus on combating climate change. Previously, she served Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, from 2004 to 2017. Rabbi Saxe-Taller is passionate about bringing the spiritual, creative, and justice-seeking elements of Judaism together, as they are meant to be.
Dan Schnur, Professor of Politics, Communications, and Leadership
Dan Schnur is a Professor at the University of California – Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy, and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications, where he teaches courses in politics, communications and leadership. Dan has also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He is the founder of the USC/LA Times statewide political poll and currently hosts a weekly webinar for the LA World Affairs Council Town Hall called “Politics in the Time of Coronavirus.” (www.lawac.org) . Dan is a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) and as a senior advisor to the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) leadership training programs. He is the former Los Angeles director for the American Jewish Committee and serves as the politics editor for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
Oren Segal, Vice President, ADL's Center on Extremism
As ADL’s Vice President of the Center on Extremism, Oren Segal and his team combat extremism, terrorism, and all forms of hate in the real world and online. Recognized as the foremost authority on extremism, the Center provides resources, expertise and training which enables law enforcement, public officials and internet and technology companies to identify and counter emerging threats. Oren joined ADL in 1998 after working for The New York Times and the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco. Much of Oren’s 21 years with ADL has been devoted to evaluating the activity and tactics of extremist groups and movements from across the ideological spectrum, training law enforcement officers and publishing reports and articles on a wide range of extremist topics. In 2006, Oren was recognized by the FBI for his exceptional service in the public interest. He was named to the Forward’s list of 50 influential, intriguing, and inspiring American Jews in 2019.
Rabbi Joel Simonds, Founding Executive Director, Jewish Center for Justice
Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds is the founding executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice, where he envisioned the need for a Jewish justice organization to reach the unaffiliated and expand the breadth and scope of the wider Jewish community. Previously, he was the West Coast Legislative Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Simonds also serves as Rabbi of the Synagogue for the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, and for the past ten years has been the Associate Rabbi at University Synagogue in Los Angeles.
Rachel Sumekh, Project Executive, Jewish Funders Network’s Poverty Affinity Group
Rachel Sumekh is an Iranian Jewish activist and entrepreneur. She is the founder of RNS impact which supports philanthropists and nonprofits in increasing their impact. Through this, she serves as the Project Executive for the Jewish Funders Network’s Poverty Affinity Group. After founding and serving as CEO of Swipe Out Hunger from 2013-2022, she passed the baton this past summer. Under her leadership, Swipe Out Hunger became the leading national nonprofit in addressing college student hunger. Today, its network of 550 university partners has helped serve over 5 million nourishing meals to students through campus food pantries, dining meal swipe donation programs and other strategies. Rachel is a systems-level thinker and wrote the Hunger-Free Campus Act which has passed in 6 states and sent over $100M to fund anti-hunger programs on campus. Rachel served on the board of her synagogue, IKAR for six years, is a proud graduate of UCLA and Schusterman Senior Fellow. Her work has been recognized by The Obama White House, Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, and the Forward 50.
Dan Walters, Political Columnist, CalMatters
Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At age 22, he was the nation’s youngest daily newspaper editor. He joined The Sacramento Union’s Capitol bureau in 1975, and later became the Union’s Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Mr. Walters began writing the state’s only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events. In 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee, and in 2017 to CalMatters. He has written more than 10,000 articles and his column appears in dozens of California newspapers, as well as those in other states. Mr. Walters is the author of “The New California: Facing the 21st Century,” the founding editor of the “California Political Almanac,” and the co-author of “The Third House: Lobbyists, Money and Power in Sacramento.” Mr. Walters frequently appears on CNN, Fox, and other networks, commenting about political developments in California.