JGS, Inc. Executive Council Biographies
Jane Rosen Berenbeim, President, is a consultant to non-profit organizations. She worked for more than 25 years as a Development Officer for New York City social service, educational, healthcare, and cultural institutions, including Columbia University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. In earlier incarnations, she taught History and managed a financial planning service. She has been researching her family history for nearly fifteen years and served as Fundraising Chair of the 2006 IAJGS Conference.
Robin Brown, Vice President Membership, is relatively new to genealogy. Her other avocation is also her vocation. She is an avid bridge player and an ACBL certified Bridge Director and Teacher who has attained the rank of Gold Life Master. Competitively, she has represented her district in the Grand National Teams and the North American pairs events at the National Bridge tournaments. Her teaching experience includes teaching bridge on cruise ships, as well as local adult education programs, community centers and senior centers. In addition to teaching, she directs a bridge game at the Bridge Deck, a full time Westchester County Bridge club. Robin ran the District 3 Newplicate program and served as the President of the Westchester County Bridge Association Board where she has also chaired the Tournament, Hospitality, Membership and Education Committees. In her first year of playing bridge she won the North American Ace of Clubs Rookie of the year race and the Mini-McKenney medal for her unit, and she has won this many times since.
Linda Cantor, a retired teacher for the New York City Department of Education, has been researching her family history for over thirty years and has done considerable research on her Lithuanian, Galician and Volhynian roots. She coordinates the Rokiskis, Lithuania town SIG and is the webmaster for five KehilaLinks sites. She was the registration chair of the 1999 Annual Conference on Jewish Genealogy, the co-chair of the 2006 IAJGS Conference in New York, secretary of JGS, and president of JGS, Inc (New York) from 2007 to 2010.
Stewart Driller, Treasurer, is an electrical engineer who retired from Con Edison ten years ago, when an interest in New York City history and the Lower East Side raised questions about his family's origins. Since then he has been researching his family in the Lublin area of Poland and northern Galicia. Stew is also a volunteer at the Genealogy Institute and Conservation Lab at the Center for Jewish History.
Joy Kestenbaum, Vice President Programming, is an art and architectural historian and librarian, who served as chair of the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America. She has been on the teaching and library faculty of Queens College (CUNY), Pratt Institute, New York Institute of Technology, and Purchase College (SUNY), and was also Director of the Gimbel Art and Design Library at The New School. A consulting historian for numerous award-winning preservation projects, she has also lectured widely on Jewish architects and synagogue architecture. Her research on Henry Fernbach led to her rediscovery, in the 1980s, of his original nineteenth-century architectural drawings for New York’s Central Synagogue, which proved to be an invaluable contribution to the building’s restoration after a severe fire in 1998. She credits her interest in family history to meeting many of her older immigrant relatives at a very young age and to her grandmother, who requested that she visit her great-grandmother’s grave in London while studying abroad. She has researched members of her extended family who lived in the United States, Canada, England, Argentina and Palestine/Israel, in addition to her roots in Western Galicia and the Grodno/Bialystok region. In 2010, she traveled throughout eastern Poland, conducting archival research and visiting ancestral towns. She created the JewishGen KehilaLinks web pages on Narewka and Krzywcza, both now in Poland, and assists others with their genealogical research.
Bob Kosovsky is Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts for the Music Division of the New York Public Library; he is also a teacher of music theory at Mannes College, the New School for Music. Bob received his undergraduate degree from Mannes, a Masters Degree from Queens College, a Masters in Library Science from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in music theory from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Though interested in genealogy since he was a teen, Bob began working on serious genealogical research in the early 1990s when several people contacted him, wondering if they were related (subsequent research revealed that they were). His research focuses on Belarus (Slutsk in particular) and Poland, and he is also involved in a one-name research involving his surname.
Jeffrey Levin is a self-employed attorney who has had a lifetime passion devoted to learning about the roots and stories of his extended family and of the Jewish immigrant experience in America. Among his diverse interests, he has served as a volunteer with many civic and political organizations. He is the founder of WNYPIRG (Western New York Public Interest Research Group), a predecessor of NYPIRG. He is a past board member of the Temple Israel Center of White Plains Community High School, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Yonkers and the Tuckahoe Youth Association. He has coached and managed youth baseball, softball, ice hockey and basketball teams and is a past president of Scarsdale Summer Baseball and the Quaker Ridge Athletic Association. After graduating from SUNY Buffalo and St. John’s Law School, he was an assistant corporation counsel and prosecutor for the cities of Mount Vernon and Long Beach, New York. He is the co-coordinator of Westchester for Obama, a coordinator of Westchester for Change and a vice chair of the Scarsdale Democratic Committee. He has attended three Democratic National Conventions as a newspaper journalist and a radio reporter. As a member of the JGS executive council, he hopes to encourage and further others' interest in their families’ histories and in the preserving of family documents and photographs for the enjoyment and knowledge of future generations.
Michael Levine is a Systems Analyst in the telephone industry. He started researching his family when he was in high school. He resumed his search when he found that he could combine his interest in genealogy with his interest in computers. Michael led an effort to transliterate revision lists from the Borisov District of Belarus, whence his family originates.
Roni Seibel Liebowitz, Immediate Past President (2012-2014), held the position of Vice President of Programming from 2009 through 2011. A board member of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, she is the Archive Coordinator of Lodz and the Town Leader of Belchatow. She serves as coordinator of JewishGen’s KehilaLinks for Lodz, Lodz Area Research Group, and Belchatow, Poland. As consultant and participant in a documentary about a World War II liberator and survivors, she traveled in the United States, Poland and Israel to interview subjects. At the 26th IAJGS Conference in New York in 2006, she was Registration and Exhibit Chairperson. She is a retired speech and language pathologist.
Hadassah Lipsius is a Supplier Quality Engineering Manager for a major defense contractor. She was co-chair of the 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York. She is a board member of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, a board of Governor of JewishGen and the Database Manager for the Warszawa Research Group. Hadassah has traveled many times to Poland to pursue her family research. Das takes pride that her family were city dwellers (Warszawa and St. Petersburg) for over 200 years.
Harriet Glickman Mayer, Vice President Communications, is a retired school librarian who has been researching her family in Belarus and Ukraine, and her husband’s family in Germany, for ten years. She has done extensive research in German archives and maintains contacts with research facilities there.Harriet currently serves as a volunteer for the Italian Genealogical Group database project, and has in the past volunteered on projects for Ancestry and Jewishgen. She is a member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the Computers in Genealogy Special Interest Group.
Lauren Shulsky Orenstein began her career in research with a Master’s Degree in Classical & Near Eastern Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College. She has been investigating her own family tree for more than twenty years after watching her grandmother conduct YIVO research long before the computer age. After several years in academic publishing and real estate, Lauren has been working as a genealogist on a professional basis for the last four years, specializing in New York City area research. Lauren also lectures on family research to children and adults to encourage an understanding of our origins and is currently studying the Torah held by her synagogue for the Czech Memorial Scrolls Project.
Michael Pertain is a guidance counselor formerly with the NYC school system, more recently, an adjunct counselor and language arts instructor at Brooklyn College. He has been researching and writing about his family for fifteen years and has created a museum exhibit about it. His volunteer work includes mentoring teens in the Samberg Family History program, conducting workshops and presentations about family research, photographing and translating headstones and has been secretary, VP and member at large on the JGS Executive committee.
Howard Rotblatt, Secretary, has been a bank examiner for more than 20 years. Prior to that, he had been an assistant nursing home administrator at several health care facilities in the New York City area. The son of a Holocaust survivor, he has been researching his family history from the Lodz area of Poland for the past ten years.
Paul Silverstone is the author of several books on naval vessels and recently completed a five-volume series covering all US warships from 1775 to 2007. He does genealogical research on his extended family with particular emphasis on families from Winnipeg, Makow Mazowiecki & Shumskoye. Paul has been a member of the Executive Council since December 1996 and was Treasurer of the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. from 2000 to 2007. He is the treasurer of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).
Steve Stein, Webmaster, is a retired software professional and manager with more than 40 years in the telecommunications industry. He has been researching his own and his wife's genealogies for more than 35 years, whose origins include Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania. He has volunteered for H-SIG and JOWBR, is currently coordinating research projects and the KehilaLinks page related to Nyasvizh, Belarus, and hopes to start one for Kupel, Ukraine in the near future. He has served as president both of the local day school and his synagogue.
Richard Werbin now retired, served for more than 20 years as VP in Computer Systems Architecture at Prudential Financial and Chase Manhattan Bank. He was active in application development plus data analysis and worked with data center server administrators. He was an officer and webmaster for the NY chapter of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS). Richard holds a PhD in Physics from Columbia University. His grandparents came from Poland and the Ukraine in the early years of the 20th century. His wife Susan’s family is from Romania and Poland. According to an autosomal DNA analysis, they are 5th cousins.