JPAC Advocacy Day 2022
Confirmed Speakers and Biographies
Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis
Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis
Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis was sworn in as the 50th Lieutenant Governor of California by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 7th, 2019. She is the first woman elected to the post. From 2010 to 2013, Kounalakis served as US Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary and in 2015 published her acclaimed memoir, “Madam Ambassador, Three Years of Diplomacy, Dinner Parties and Democracy in Budapest” (The New Press).
Attorney General Rob Bonta
Attorney General Rob Bonta
On April 23, 2021, Rob Bonta was sworn in as the 34th Attorney General of the State of California, the first person of Filipino descent and the second Asian-American to occupy the position. He was an Alameda Council Member and later an Assemblymember representing Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. In the State Assembly, Attorney General Bonta enacted nation-leading reforms to inject more justice and fairness into government and institutions.
Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon (joining by video)
Speaker Anthony 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.
Jason Elliott, Senior Counselor to Governor Gavin Newsom
Jason Elliott is Senior Counselor to Governor Gavin Newsom for housing and homelessness, and the Governor’s Liaison the the Jewish community. Previously, he served as Chief of Staff for San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, then, upon Mayor Lee’s passing, for three subsequent Mayors, including current Mayor London N. Breed. His past experiences include working in a variety of positions in San Francisco City Hall, including as then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s policy director.
Israeli Consul General Shlomi Kofman
Israeli Consul General Shlomi Kofman
Shlomi Kofman began his appointment as Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest in August 2017. He most recently served as a Policy Advisor to the Deputy Foreign Ministers based in Jerusalem, Israel. Over the course of his 20 year diplomatic career, Kofman has served as Israel’s Deputy Consul General in New York City, Chief of Staff to Ambassadors in Washington D.C., Deputy Ambassador in Thailand and Deputy Consul General in Shanghai. Shlomi was born in Tbilisi, the capitol of the Soviet Republic of Georgia and made Aliya (immigrated) to Israel at the age of nine, after being refused for three years by Russian authorities.
Jerry Sampson Memorial Award Recipient for Legislator of the Year: Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian
Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian
Adrin Nazarian was elected in November 2012 to represent California’s 46th Assembly District in the East San Fernando Valley. He chairs the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee. Prior to being elected, he served as Chief of Staff to Paul Krekorian in both Mr. Krekorian’s capacity as Assistant Majority Leader in the California State Legislature and Los Angeles Councilmember. Adrin also served as an aide to Congressman Brad Sherman, participated in the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs program, and was appointed as Special Assistant to the California Trade and Commerce Agency by former Governor Gray Davis.
Earl Raab Award Recipient for an Outstanding Lay Leader: Lynn Bunim
Lynn Bunim was the Executive Director of External Affairs at AT&T in San Francisco from 1986-2011. She went direct special projects for Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), working to increase the economic power and public policy clout of women business owners. A lifelong civic leader, Lynn has sat on the boards of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal, Mt. Zion Health Fund, YMCA, San Francisco Day School, and served as the Board Chair for Jewish Vocational Services (JVS). Of note, Lynn is the immediate past Chair of JPAC’s Board of Directors and led the Executive Director Search Committee.
Barbara Yaroslavsky Award for a Jewish Woman in Civic Leadership: Nancy Kirshner-Rodriguez
Nancy Kirshner-Rodriguez is the co-founder of Synergy Public Affairs and Western Director for the Business Network for Offshore Wind. From 2014-2018, Nancy led the State of California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Her career also includes senior leadership roles for then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and more than fifteen years in Washington DC. During the Clinton Administration, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Relations at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and US Department of Labor. A committed civic leader, Kirshner-Rodriguez is the President of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation. She serves on the Advisory Council of Emerge America, the preeminent training organization for Democratic women candidates for office, the National Leadership Council of Futures without Violence and on the Board of the National Council of Jewish Women in San Francisco. Nancy previously served on the San Francisco JCRC and completed Bend the Arc’s SELAH training program.
Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, Chair, Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee 1
Dr. Joaquin Arambula was first elected in 2016 to represent the 31st Assembly District in the Central Valley. He is the first Latino physician elected to the California State Assembly. Arambula’s experiences as an emergency room doctor in Selma in Fresno County forged his determination to improve health care for all people, especially the most vulnerable. He has authored legislation that improves health and mental health services, but he also has been vigilant to include measures that ensure transparency regarding management of these services and their costs.
Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Member, Legislative Jewish Caucus
Laura Friedman was elected to the Assembly in November 2016 to represent the 43rd District. She is the Chair for the Assembly Committee on Transportation and the bicameral Environmental Caucus, and led the Joint Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response that made historic reforms to the legislature’s response to sexual harassment. Laura got her start in the private sector working as a film and television executive and producer. In 2001, she launched her own web-based small business. Building on her years of community service, she was elected to the Glendale City Council in 2009, served as Mayor from 2011 through 2012 and was re-elected in 2013.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus
Jesse Gabriel was elected to the Assembly in June 2018, representing the west San Fernando Valley. Gabriel is Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, and the Select Committee on Jobs and Innovation in the San Fernando Valley. 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.
Senator Melissa Hurtado, Chair, Senate Human Services Committee
State Senator Melissa Hurtado is the youngest woman ever elected to the California State Senate, representing California’s Central Valley. She is Chair of the Human Services Committee, the Select Committee on Human Security, and is Vice Chair of the Agriculture Committee. Prior to her election to the Senate in 2018, Melissa served on the Sanger City Council. In 2020, she was appointed to the national Biden Latino Leadership Committee—one of only two California Latinas on the committee. More recently, she was appointed to Co-Chair of the Economic and Workforce Health Subcommittee of the Council of State Governments Healthy States National Task Force.
Senator Sydney Kamlager, Vice Chair, Legislative Black Caucus
Senator Sydney K. Kamlager represents the 30th Senate District, ranging from Century City to South Los Angeles. Elected to the California State Senate in the March 2021 special election, Senator Kamlager is the Chair of the Budget Subcommittee #4 on State Administration and General Government and Vice Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Los Angeles County Delegation and has sat on the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles Board of Directors since 2018. Prior to being elected to the California State Assembly in 2018, Kamlager served as District Director for California State Senator Holly J. Mitchell while also serving as President of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD).
Assemblymember Chris Ward, Assistant Majority Leader
Assemblymember Ward was elected in 2020 to serve the 78th Assembly District. He is the Assistant Majority Leader and an associate member of the Legislative Jewish Caucus. Prior to his election to the Assembly, he was Chief of Staff to Senator Marty Block and then served on the San Diego City Council. Assemblymember Ward has long been a community volunteer, serving on the San Diego Community College District’s Citizens Oversight Committee, serving as a board member of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and San Diego LGBT Center, and serving as a member of the Truman National Security Project.
Senator Scott Wiener, Vice Chair, Legislative Jewish Caucus
Senator Scott Wiener has represented San Francisco and northern San Mateo County in the State Senate since 2016. He chairs the Senate Housing Committee and is Vice Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. He is the immediate 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.
Aziza Hasan, NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change
Aziza Hasan, named an influencer by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, is the executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. An experienced mediator and conflict transformation practitioner, she has co-facilitated with multiple groups. Hasan’s work has been featured by NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, and the L.A. Times. She earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2006 under President George W. Bush and served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2015 to 2016. Hasan currently serves on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Advisory Council and the city of Los Angeles Civil and Human Rights Commission.
Cynthia Buiza, California Immigrant Policy Center
Cynthia Buiza is the Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), California’s premier immigrant rights organization. She previously worked on international refugee, migration, human rights, and civil rights issues in Southeast Asia before working with ACLU San Diego as Policy Director and then as Policy and Advocacy Director at CHIRLA in Los Angeles. In June, 2003, she co-authored the book Anywhere But War, about the armed conflict and internal displacement in the Indonesian Province of Aceh.
Michael Hopkins, Jewish Family Service of San Diego
Michael Hopkins, MSW, has served as CEO of Jewish Family Service of San Diego since January 2012. Prior to JFS, Michael served as Executive Director of Nehirim, a national Jewish LGBTQ organization, and CEO of Jewish Community Center MetroWest, one of the largest JCCs in the country located just outside of New York City. Michael has also worked in the Jewish communities of Pittsburgh, PA, Columbus, OH, Tucson, AZ, and Richmond, VA.
Santosh Seeram-Santana, Stop AAPI Hate
Santosh Seeram-Santana is the Legislative Director for Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and Stop AAPI Hate, where she develops, advocates and implements the organization’s state budget and policy agenda at the state capitol. Prior to joining CAA, Ms. Seeram-Santana was the Legislative Advocate for Asian American for Civil Rights & Equality. She also worked as the Senior Lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and for Assemblymember Martha Escutia, staffing her on Assembly Budget Subcommittee 1 and Assembly Health Committee.
Joanna Mendelson, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Joanna Mendelson is the Senior Vice President of Community Engagement of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. In this role she helps convene statewide and national coalitions, expand interfaith and multi-faith community relationships, lead local, state, and federal advocacy efforts, and strengthen ties to Israel. Prior to this, she worked for more than two decades for the ADL, most recently serving on the national team as Associate Director for the Center on Extremism. In partnership with law enforcement partners, Ms. Mendelson has helped thwart potential extremist attacks against Jews and other vulnerable communities. She frequently speaks to national and international media outlets, including CNN, the BBC, and CBS.
Joe Goldman, HIAS
Joe Goldman is the Community Engagement Director for the Western Region at HIAS, the world’s oldest – and only Jewish – international humanitarian agency serving refugees and asylum seekers of all backgrounds. He mobilizes activists, organizations, and lawmakers across California to ensure that displaced people are treated with the dignity they deserve. Before joining HIAS, Joe worked at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council.
Melissa Immel, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom
Melissa Immel is Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary for Governor Gavin Newsom and has served on his legislative team since 2019. She previously worked as a legislative advocate for Shaw / Yoder / Antwih, Inc., where she began in 2015 as a legislative aide. From 2015 to 2018, she also worked on advance teams for First Lady Michelle Obama and the Office of Barack and Michelle Obama, having served as a White House Intern in the East Wing in 2014.
Claire Conlon, Office of Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris
Claire Conlon has been Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris since 2018. She previously served as District Director for Senator Dr. Richard Pan and Press Secretary for Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon. Claire worked for ballot initiative campaigns for 5 years before become a Legislative Aide in the Capitol. She is a mentor in the SheShares program, served on the board of the Sacramento New Leaders Council for 5 years and is now a newly elected Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Sacramento.
Nick Brokaw, Sacramento Advocates
Nick Brokaw is a lobbyist and General Counsel at Sacramento Advocates. A corporate litigator by training with campaign experience at the local, state and federal level, Nick has over a decade of experience providing clients with political, legal and strategic consulting services. Before joining Sacramento Advocates, Nick was an attorney at the Los Angeles office of an AM 100 law firm, where he counseled companies from start-ups to hedge funds and Fortune 100 corporations in complex commercial litigation matters. Before beginning his legal career, Nick served as a political strategist for a Southern California Tribal Nation. Nick holds a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of a law review.
Adam Sieff, JPAC Board
Adam Sieff is a constitutional litigator at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Los Angeles. Outside his practice, Adam is a lecturer in law at the University of Southern California and Executive Vice Chair of the American Constitution Society in Los Angeles. He also serves on the boards of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, Bet Tzedek’s New Leaders Council, and Jewish World Watch. The Los Angeles County Empowerment Congress has named Adam a “40 Under 40: Emerging Civic Leader,” and Equality California honored him with its Community Leadership Award. He was recognized with the Julie Orr Heart of Justice Award for his voting rights advocacy in 2022.