Our Team

Keshet's heart and soul

Keshet Staff

 

Numbering over 200, it’s the skilled, creative and extraordinarily dedicated people who work at Keshet who have made us the unmatched organization we are today. From educators, camp counselors, and administrators to art teachers, grant writers and vocational experts, our staff is the collective force driving inspiration and growth throughout Keshet. Our diverse team is a big part of our family empowering Keshet participants lead their very best lives.

 

President & CEO

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips is an experienced special educator who has dedicated her career to building inclusive communities. Jennifer began at Keshet in 1994 as a one-to-one summer camp counselor, which inspired her to become a special education teacher. Since then, she has risen from being a teacher in Keshet’s High School to the Director of Recreation and then as the organization’s first Chief Program Officer. Her leadership in program development and community partnership building has been an unparalleled success for the organization. Jennifer has established Keshet as a national leader in inclusion, particularly inclusive summer camps, and is regularly called upon to speak at conferences and trainings.

Jennifer received a B.S. in Elementary Education and Special Education from National Louis University. She is currently in the second year of the Masters in Jewish Professional Studies at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Chief Financial Officer

Michelle Ebner

Michelle joined Keshet as its Chief Financial Officer in 2012 after working in the public accounting sector for eight years. Prior to joining Keshet, Michelle served as Keshet’s external auditor for four years. At Keshet, Michelle spends her time planning for Keshet’s financial sustainability and ensures that the organization is fiscally secure. Michelle is a Certified Public Account and holds both a Bachelor and Master in Accounting Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Chief Program Officer

Dr. Audra Kaplan

Dr. Audra Kaplan is an experienced leader in Jewish non-profit organizations with a passion for building inclusive communities. For 18 years, she served as a psychologist at Jewish Child and Family Services where she provided direct services to children and families, supervised and trained of graduate students, and offered consultation services and workshops for schools, recreation programs, youth groups, and synagogues throughout the Chicago area. Dr. Kaplan is the founder of the Tikvah Support Program at Camp Ramah Darom where she held the position of Associate Director. She attended University of Michigan and received a doctorate in clinical psychology from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology.

Chief Communications Officer

Jamie Lake

Jamie’s commitment to creating inclusive communities began from her experiences as a higher education administrator and summer camp professional for over 20 years, including as a director at Camp Chi. From there, she found her way into the world of marketing, communications and non-profit management. Now she oversees development and fundraising at Keshet, where she feels inspired every day. Jamie has an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and J.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Director of Development

Heidi Merritt

Heidi Merritt has been working with non-profits for most of her professional career. She was the Chief Business Engagement Officer at Little City and most recently served as the Senior Director of Development for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. As a mom of a beautiful 18-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, being an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is one of Heidi’s passions. She is excited to be part of the Keshet family and help continue its mission.

Director of Education

Dr. Kelly Baird

Dr. Baird is a talented educator and school administrator. He spent the first nine years of his career as a classroom teacher before moving to administrative roles. Dr. Baird has served as a principal, curriculum coordinator and superintendent in school districts throughout northern Illinois for 17 years. During this time, he has also instructed countless educators as adjunct faculty at local universities. Dr. Baird earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Education Administration, a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies, and Juris Doctor.

Director of Recreation

Joelle Kelenson

Joelle was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. From a young age, she was passionate about giving back and making a difference in the world. Her career has been spent working in the Jewish community starting at the JCC in Northern Virginia where she was the School Age Services Director. Most recently, Joelle spent six years at Camp Chi as the Associate Director. In this role, she worked alongside Keshet to develop Camp Chi’s approach to camper care. Joelle holds a Master of Social work from Columbia University and Master of Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York

Director of Adult Day Services

Traci Kogan

Traci has dedicated her career to supporting individuals in the community while focusing on their abilities and helping to support their independence. She has worked in nonprofits for many years, including, most recently, at Clearbrook as the Coordinator of Community Employment Services. Prior to that, Traci managed Anixter Center’s ACT program and spent years working at Christopher House and the Leyden Family Services and Mental Health Center. Traci resides in Buffalo Grove with her husband Dave, teenage son Max, and her two lovable rescue dogs Toby and Murphy. Traci is looking forward to helping our adults live meaningful lives.

Director of Residential Services

Lauren Feldman

Lauren returned to Keshet in 2019 as a house manager in Keshet’s MY Life Residential Program. Since then, MY Life has developed into a close, connected community. Lauren has over 15 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities and their families. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in special education, and prides herself on being a values-based, forward thinking, leader. Lauren is dedicated to sustaining and growing Keshet’s MY Life Residential program for adults to live meaningful days and extraordinary lives with just the right amount of support.

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