Lani Santo, Executive Director
Lani is the Executive Director of Footsteps, which supports and affirms individuals and families who chose to leave ultra-Orthodox communities in their quest to lead self-determined lives. The successor to Footsteps’ founder, Lani has driven the organization’s growth from a 3-person start-up with a $400,000 budget in 2010 to an established 501c3 with 15 staff, a program center in Manhattan with satellite programs in Rockland and Brooklyn, and a $2.3 million annual operating budget.
Under her leadership, Footsteps’ profile has expanded to reach the pages of The New York Times and the screen of Netflix, which debuted One of Us, an award-winning documentary about three courageous Footsteps members. Along the way, Lani has espoused a leadership philosophy that centers members, including representatives at all levels of governance and decision-making. During her tenure at Footsteps, Lani has also focused on collaborations, including the development of three flagship partnerships with peer organizations: New York Legal Assistance Group, Madison Strategies Group, and Moishe House.
Prior to Footsteps, Lani served as a Senior Program Officer at American Jewish World Service, where she focused on immersive international service-learning experiences for young adults. Lani is an alumna of Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps and served on the Avodah board from 2004-2013. She currently sits on the UpStart Advisory Council and was named to the Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” list in 2015. Lani graduated from Barnard College and holds an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management from NYU’s Wagner School. Lani lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young son.