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Toby Rubin | CEO & Founder |
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Toby's first career began as a civil rights attorney in Mississippi, advocating on behalf of students with disabilities in education matters. She continued this work in her own practice when she moved to San Francisco in 1981. At the end of eight years of litigation that included a favorable 8-0 decision of the Rehnquist led U.S. Supreme Court, Toby embarked on a second "career" in non-profit lay leadership. Toby rose to hold the President or Vice-President position in 8 local and national Jewish and secular non-profits. She is especially proud of her leadership of the San Francisco based Federation's community-wide Teen Initiative that transformed teen professionals and programming around the bay area. Toby is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Fellowship.

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, Eliana; and best pal, Jamba) has been the most successful venture Toby has had to date.


Erik_Headshot_croppedErik Ludwig | Chief Accelerator Officer & COO |
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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 two dogs. On Sundays, you can find him on the basketball court or ski slope.


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Maya Bernstein | Strategic Design Officer |
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Maya designs UpStart’s content, which fuses business learning with Jewish concepts, consults to UpStarters on their Jewish and educational programs, and to organizations on leadership and change initiatives, and writes UpStart’s blog on Jewish social entrepreneurship. Her expertise includes teaching, curriculum design, and leadership education.

Prior to her work at UpStart, Maya developed a unique approach to using Jewish text study as a tool for negotiating conflicts in schools and organizations. She served as the founding Regional Director of The Curriculum Initiative’s (TCI) New England and Bay Area Regions, supporting ethics and diversity education, and Jewish life, in independent high schools. Maya began her career in education working with the Jewish community in the Former Soviet Union, has written curriculum for a variety of formal and informal Jewish settings, and is a frequently published author, online and in print, in the field of Jewish innovation and social entrepreneurship.

A graduate of Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Columbia University and Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Maya has lived and taught in Belarus, Germany, Israel, and China. She and her husband have three young children, and Maya blogs about the joys and challenges of modern motherhood for Lilith magazine.


melissa_headshotMelissa Garai | Development Officer | 
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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 completed her graduate studies in Los Angeles where she earned a Masters of Public Administration from USC, and simultaneously, a Masters of Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College. 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.

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 "the Dish" at Stanford. 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.


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Barbara Reiss | Senior Consultant |
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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).


ML2Marty Linsky | Associate |

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. 


BGKBen Grossman-Kahn | Design Thinking & Innovation Coach |

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.

EBUEla Ben-Ur Project Associate |

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).


danDan Coleman, Ph.D. | Project Associate |

Dan Coleman works at the intersection of education, design, and innovation—working with schools, non-profits, and corporations to develop their capacity to innovate.

Dan holds a humanities degree from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in English from Cornell. He served as a Principal at Continuum, a global design and innovation firm; co-founded a teacher education program at Bennington College; directed the graduate division at Skidmore College; led a Cambridge-based educational non-profit in its nationwide expansion; helped run a high school outside of Boston; taught literature, writing, and philosophy at the graduate, undergraduate, and secondary school levels; led professional development programs for rural and urban charter and independent schools across the Northeast; consulted for organizations including Harvard’s Educational Leadership Program, Jon Saphier’s Research for Better Teaching, and the New Teachers Project; and coached C-suite leaders in the non-profit and for-profit spheres. 


KS3Kelly Sherman Project Associate |

Kelly is an entrepreneur and strategist who uncovers and translates the needs of real people to help organizations identify new opportunities, create meaningful experiences for those they serve, and position themselves for sustainable growth. She has worked around the world in a broad range of industries while at the global innovation consultancy Continuum, where she developed: a fleet management solution for the U.S. trucking industry; community partnership strategies for a multi-national corporation to grow Chinese market share; a product experience strategy for Gen Y mothers; and Gold IDEA Award-winning frameworks that help organizations integrate environmental sustainability into their operations, offerings, and marketing practices. Kelly sits on the board of directors of the education non-profit Learning By Design and has worked consistently with the non-profit Design Studio for Social Intervention. The social impact venture she co-founded was selected as a finalist in the MassChallenge start-up accelerator program. She lectures regularly on innovation at a range of institutions, including Harvard University and the Darden School of Business.

Kelly is also a practicing artist who creates research-driven, ‘socially engaged’ art, as well as traditional media artworks that are in the collections of major private and public institutions, such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.