Toby Rubin | CEO & Founder
In 2002, Toby joined the Bureau of Jewish Education staff to direct the ti-ke-a Fellowship for Educators of Jewish teens. While at the BJE, Toby conceived and established two groundbreaking projects for the Bay Area: the Jewish Service Learning Project, (dedicated to helping Jewish community professionals integrate service learning into their program mix) and the Jewish Professionals Co-op, the precursor to UpStart. From 2006-2008, Toby served as Associate Director of the BJE.
Advancement of the Rubin family (husband, Robert; daughters Rachel, Sadie, and Eliana) has been the most successful venture Toby has had to date.
Erik Ludwig | Chief Accelerator Officer & COO
Erik Ludwig is the Chief Accelerator Officer & COO for UpStart. He is responsible for operational efficiency (people, systems, and know-how) and ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace. He also leads the Bay Area UpStarter Program, consulting with social entrepreneurs to accelerate the development and implementation of their vision, build their infrastructure, attain fiscal sustainability, adapt to shifting needs and environments, and gain access to networks and resources needed to achieve a profound impact on Jewish life.
Erik’s structural expertise includes strategic planning, business reorganization, funding strategies, board development, human resource management, team building, financial reporting, accreditation, and project management. His 15 years of leadership experience in the Jewish community spans working in pioneering organizations like Be’chol Lashon and spearheading innovation in traditional institutions like Jewish Federations and Jewish Community Centers where he has held positions including program director, development director, chief operating officer, and executive director. These experiences provide differentiated frameworks to understand the multifaceted challenges in launching or reorganizing around the key concepts of making Jewish life accessible, relevant, and transformative. Erik has enjoyed consulting and coaching with for-profit and non-profit organizations including Siemens, Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Centers, and non-Jewish NGOs.
A believer in life-long education, Erik is nearing completion of his Ph.D. in Education, Culture and Society from University of Utah. He also holds a M.A. in Teaching & Writing from Humboldt State University and B.S. in Psychology from University of Utah. Erik lives in Oakland with his wife, daughter and son and two dogs. On Sundays, you can find him on the basketball court or ski slope.
Melissa Garai | Development Officer
As UpStart’s Development Officer, Melissa is helping to accelerate UpStart’s growth from contributed revenue. Prior to joining the team, Melissa propelled the fundraising and marketing efforts of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, leading Women’s Philanthropy and spearheading the Community Campaign. A Jewish Federations of North America FEREP Fellow, Melissa has extensive knowledge of the landscape and structure of the national Jewish Communal field.
Melissa has professional fundraising and marketing experience with a number of nonprofit organizations and universities including the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Progressive Jewish Alliance (now, Bend the Arc), Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, and UC San Diego. She earned her Masters of Public Administration from USC, and a Masters of Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College.
A native of Southern California, Melissa is excitedly discovering all that the Bay Area has to offer, including bike rides over the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring wine country, and hiking. Melissa loves cooking recipes she finds on Pinterest, playing Mah Jongg with her girlfriends, and is enjoying newlywed life in Palo Alto with her husband, Ellis.
Carrie Sullivan | Office Administrator
Carrie is the Office Administrator at UpStart, responsible for all things "officey". Carrie joined UpStart in December 2013, and is very happy to be part of the team. Previously, she worked for the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation for 17 years, first in the Israel & Overseas department, and most recently in the Endowment department.
Carrie attended the University of Minnesota. Here in the Bay Area, she loves hanging out with her dog, taking dance classes and reading books by southern authors.
UpStart Bay Area
Taylor Epstein | Bay Area Program Manager
As UpStart's Bay Area Program Manager, Taylor assists in the design and implementation of our UpStart Lab programs in the Bay Area. Prior to joining the team, Taylor developed and implemented dynamic Youth Development programs at both Jewish Family and Children's Services and the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center. As a Shofar Fellow and participant in the Community Leadership Program with the Shalom Hartman Institute, Taylor gained expertise in designing educational experiences that engage and positively impact the Jewish community.
Taylor received her Master's in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, where she studied how to create optimal learning environments with the consideration of three key areas: cognition, socio-cultral context, and design. For her master's thesis, Taylor designed a professional development curriculum for informal educators, incorporating video into training practices in an effort to increase an educator’s self-efficacy when working with students.
After a year of living in Chicago, Taylor is excited to be back home in the Bay Area. If she's not at the office, Taylor is probably watching a Giant's game, at the theater, or enjoying dinner with friends.
Cindy Pogrund | Chicago Director
Cindy Pogrund is the Director of UpStart Chicago. She brings to this role, years of experience in strategy and technology consulting, executive management in startups and numerous lay leadership roles. Prior to joining us, Cindy was the Executive Vice President at Ifbyphone, a start-up technology marketing company, where she created and led the sales, customer engineering, customer experience and HR teams. Prior to Ifbyphone Cindy spent the majority of her career in consulting including Senior Vice President for Metamor Worldwide (IT Consulting Firm) and President, Paradigm Pursuits (Streamlined Strategy Consulting). She has held multiple lay leaderships positions including President of Chicagoland Jewish High School and The ARK. She has also led strategy sessions for both established and startup nonprofits ranging from schools to synagogues to social service agencies. Cindy has an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and her MBA from Northwestern University.
Cindy believes passion combined with action, breeds results. Key actions include streamlined strategic planning to identify the right activities, messaging and tools, focused execution; and, knowing when and how to pivot while always maintaining your core values.
Cindy is an avid reader of fiction and business books and welcomes all reading recommendations. Her first and most memorable startup was her marriage to David, followed by the birth and raising of their children, Brian and Emily. In 2012 they had their first merger when their daughter-in-law Hannah joined their family.
Maya has been a member of UpStart's team, in a variety of capacities, since its inception. She consults for UpStart on design thinking, strategic planning, adaptive leadership, and Jewish theories of change and innovation. She manages the Day School Collaboration Network, bringing innovation and creativity to Jewish day schools in the NY area, and writes UpStart's blog on the intersection of Jewish thought and change theory.
Maya's work has included: consulting on change and innovation for JCCs, schools, and synagogues; writing curriculum for Shalom Sesame, the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation, and the American Jewish Committee; teaching for the Jim Joseph Foundation, Kevah, and the Wexner Heritage Program; and serving as the founding Regional Director of The Curriculum Initiative's New England and Bay Area regions, supporting diversity education and Jewish life at prep schools. Her writing has appeared online and in print in a variety of publications, including The Jewish Week, Sh’ma, Zeek, e-jewish philanthropy, and The Huffington Post. She serves on G-dcast's board, as well as on the board of her synagogue, Emek Beracha. A graduate of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Columbia University and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Maya has lived, taught, and spoken with the natives in Belarus, Germany, Israel, and China. She and her husband Noam Silverman live in the Bay Area with their four children. Maya is a 2012 recipient of the Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize.
Barbara has over 25 years experience as principal of her own management consulting practice. As a business strategy consultant, coach, and facilitator, Barbara's expertise includes strategy development and execution, business planning and implementation, new ventures and affiliations, and organizational assessment and redesign. She is committed to helping clients develop tailored solutions to achieve business success. Barbara's clients are nonprofit and for profit organizations that include startups, healthcare organizations, and media.
Barbara holds a B.A. and an MPH, with a concentration in management and planning, from UC Berkeley. She serves on the Board of the Northern California Association of Strategic Planning (ASP) and Chair of the San Francisco ASP venue for sustainable business practices, the Board of Huckleberry Youth Programs, and the Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves. Barbara enjoys tending to her vegetable gardens, keeps fit with hiking, cycling, tennis, and skiing, and treasures her time with husband Jim, her twin sons Danny and Alex, and beloved dog Toby (not to be confused with UpStart’s CEO).
Marty Linsky is Co-Founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates, an international leadership development practice and the home of Adaptive Leadership, and has taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School for over 25 years. He served as Chief Secretary and Counselor to Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld; Assistant Director, Harvard’s Institute of Politics; Executive Editor, The Advocates, PBS; Editorial Writer and Reporter, The Boston Globe; Editor, The Real Paper; Assistant Minority Leader, Massachusetts House of Representatives; and Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General. Marty has published widely, in print and online. He has authored or co-authored 10 books including, with Ron Heifetz, the best-selling Leadership on the Line (Harvard Business Press 2002) and, with Heifetz and Alexander Grashow, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (Harvard Business Press 2009). A graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, Marty lives in New York City with his wife Lynn Staley. He has three children, works out every day (9 marathons, but no more!), enjoys Mexican food and collects baseball cards.
Linda has worked in strategy, marketing, and innovation roles with leading business and social purpose organizations throughout her career (including Mission Minded, The Learning Company, and the Stanford Center for Social Innovation). She currently heads brand and innovation efforts for Net Impact, a nonprofit that inspires a new generation of leaders to use the power of business to improve the world. She also serves as a strategist and coach with Upstart. Linda has served in leadership roles for numerous nonprofit boards, including the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team, Remember Us, Brandeis Hillel Day School, and the SF Jewish Community Federation Innovation Fund and Executive Allocation Committee. She has a passion for working with individuals and organizations to re-imagine a better future. Linda holds a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
Ben Grossman-Kahn is fascinated by the pedagogy of design and creativity and how to scale a culture of innovation, creativity and empowerment across organizations. In addition to his Upstart work, Ben is the Program Manager for the Nordstrom People Lab and a former innovation coach with the Nordstrom Innovation Coach and Stanford d.School. Ben's background in education includes stints teaching Pre-K and 5th Grade, running summer camps, and leading the Innovation and Education programs at the Childrens Creativity Museum in SF. His past projects have included building design/innovation cultures and teams in K-12 schools, non-profits and corporate organizations.
Proud alum of Pomona college, Stanford Graduate school of Education, and Stanford d.School.
Ela Ben-Ur is passionate about the capacity of human-centered design thinking to empower individuals and organizations to shape themselves, as well as their offerings, communities, and world. She consults, coaches and teaches in design research, strategy, and innovation through her independent business, i2i Experience. Prior to launching her own practice, Ela worked at IDEO— an award-winning global design firm – for over 13 years. As a project leader and then Content Guide, Ela led and coached teams through front-end user research, opportunity synthesis, strategy, concept development, and prototyping. Her work spanned products, services, and merchandising across diverse industries, in developed and developing markets, with for-profit and non-profit organizations. Ela holds BS and MS in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she specialized in design and developed a force-feedback laparoscopy simulator for the Massachusetts General Hospital. Ms. Ben-Ur loves her daughters Maia and Daliea, her husband Arrin, being outside (running/hiking/biking/kayaking/skiing…), traveling the world, making things, and taking pictures of all the above. And she fiddles (for real).