The Cohen Family Leaders in Light Fellowship is designed to help participants explore the unique challenges and opportunities each of our communities face. It brings fellows together in education and action to work toward a stronger inclusive democracy. Each fellow will leverage their extended networks to multiply influence and maximize impact, working together to create systemic change and empower positive outcomes.


The Cohen Family Leaders in Light Fellowship has two components. First, it includes a series of seven seminars over a nine-month period. Second, after completion of the seminars, the Fellowship promotes practical application of the seminar content in which participants will leverage their learnings to enhance their own work, raise awareness and inspire action in their respective communities, and catalyze change.


1. To combat antisemitism, extremism, and hate.

2. To create a network of informed, influential, and motivated change agents.

3. To inspire action in participants' respective communities and catalyze change.

4. To build a cohort of fellows who feel more capable of working across difference.


2023-2024 Seminar Dates

I. The Scope and Nature of the Problem

Seminar 1 | Thursday, September 7, 2023: Introduction & What's at Stake


Scholars in Residence 

Amy Spitalnick CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Rabbi Ken Kanter Rabbinic Director, Roots of Reform Judaism


Today's Takeaway

Extremism threatens democracy by eating away at / overtaking the civic and political center, which is where the work of democratic practice happens.                        


Seminar 2 | Tuesday, October 17, 2023: Mainstreaming of Hate


Scholar in Residence

Pasha Dashtgard Director of Research, Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL)


Today's Takeaway

We’ve seen increased violence from extremist networks, the mainstreaming of extremist and conspiracy thinking, and the erosion of democratic civic culture (polarization, increase in hate of others, rising influence of populist and xenophobic political parties, shift in public discourse norms).       


Seminar 3 | Tuesday, November 28, 2023: How Our Neighbors Become Radicalized


Scholars in Residence

Shannon Foley Martinez former violent white supremacist

Dr. Sophia Moskalenko Professor & Research Fellow at Georgia State University and at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NC-START) at the University of Maryland


Today's Takeaway

The erosion of democratic civic culture (polarization, increase in hate of others, rising influence of populist and xenophobic political parties, shift in public discourse norms) has led to a breakdown in trust amongst community partners. Rebuilding trust is a prerequisite to creating strong coalitions.


II. Bridges and Intersections

Seminar 4 | Thursday, January 25, 2024: The Role of Antisemitism Past & Present


Scholars in Residence

Jackie Congedo Chief Community Engagement & External Relations Officer, The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center

Eric Ward Executive Vice President at Race Forward


Today's Takeaway

Antisemitism is toxic and antithetical to democracy because it functions as a conspiracy theory, which allows people to go after/scapegoat/blame Jews instead of engaging in democratic practice to fix what’s broken. It is unique from other bigotries in that it is not just a social prejudice—or hatred—but also a conspiracy theory.


Seminar 5 | Wednesday, March 6, 2024: Intersectionality in Equity Movement Building 

Scholar in Residence

Yavilah McCoy CEO, DIMENSIONS Inc.

Dr. Gary Zola Executive Director, Emeritus, of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati


Today's Takeaway

Intersectionality means recognizing the complexity of individuals’ identities. Our intersectional identities should give us ample ability to come together; however, often, they are used as excuses to drive people apart. Like most groups, Jewish identity is bound up in many intersecting parts.



Seminar 6 | Tuesday, April 9, 2024: Working Across Difference


Scholars in Residence

Bernie Mayer, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Conflict Studies, Creighton University, founding partner of CDR Associates, author of The Neutrality Trap, with Jacqueline N. Font-Guzman


Today's Takeaway

Working across difference is essential to community building. Being an ally doesn’t mean always agreeing—it means knowing how to stay in relationship even when you have strong disagreement. 


III. Making an Impact

Seminar 7 | Thursday, May 30, 2024: Strategies for Maintaining Relationship through Disagreement


Scholar in Residence

Jay Rothman President, ARIA Group


Today's Takeaway

We are stuck in a rut of social divisions. However, there are principles and practices we can deploy to better navigate and heal the difficult divides in our homes, workplaces, and communities.