Staff

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 nearly 20 staff, a program center in Manhattan with satellite programs in Rockland and Brooklyn, and a $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 two children.

Lani Santo

Email: Lani@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0891

Jessica Bloom, Director of Development

Jessica has spent the past nine years working with NGOs, nonprofits and individuals in the US and abroad to raise revenue and awareness for their causes. From on the ground support of women human rights defenders on the Thai-Burma border to creating networks of grassroots giving circles in New York, Jessica has a wide range of experience working with marginalized groups around the globe. She most recently served as the Director of Development at Maloto, an organization dedicated to alleviating poverty and empowering the next generation in Mzuzu, Malawi. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Smith College.

Email: Jessica@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 15

Hoda ElMahdy, Director of Economic Empowerment

Since 2008, Hoda has been serving marginalized and underserved people through her work with local and international NGOs and nonprofits. Prior to joining Footsteps, she was the Acting Manager for the Education and Scholarships Department at Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, where she oversaw a portfolio of 30+ higher education and vocational scholarship programs. During her tenure at Sawiris Foundation, she managed programs that provided development services to individuals struggling with poverty, unemployment, and access to quality education. She led projects with partner organizations in the Middle East, Europe, and USA, including the World Bank Group, the Swiss Academy for Development, and UNICEF. In 2017 and 2018, Hoda was a Fulbright fellow with Penn State University’s College of Education. In 2016, Hoda graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in public policy from the American University in Cairo 2016. She received her undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Science from Cairo University in 2008.

Email: Hoda@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 8

Chani Getter, Director of Special Initiatives

Chani is a leader in the fields of personal growth and spiritual development. She has reached individuals and professionals in North America and Europe through a series of workshops, panel discussions, teachings and motivational speaking. Over the years she has led informational and support groups, on a variety of topics. She coaches individuals and professionals in defining and achieving their goals. Chani is committed to being a part of Footsteps as she knows first-hand the complexity of leaving the black and white world behind. Chani joined Footsteps in 2013 and in her current capacity, she serves members in Rockland and Orange Counties and coordinates the Footsteps Family Justice Program, which includes working with members going through difficult legal family issues. As part of her role at Footsteps she trains staff in various partner organizations that provide resources for Footsteps members, such as attorneys, social workers, and guidance counselors in colleges.

Chani Getter

Email: Chani@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 845.637.3113

Yael Reisman, Director of Field and Movement Building

Yael joined Footsteps in May 2018 as the organization’s first ever Director of Field and Movement Building. In this position Yael will work to raise Footsteps’ visibility in order to mobilize the public around reform efforts and issues of concern to those leaving ultra-Orthodoxy. She will also develop strategies for Footsteps to broaden its reach so that all those who wish to access the organization understand what Footsteps is about and what it has to offer. Yael grew up in the Orthodox community herself, and her own personal experiences there inspired her lifelong commitment to advocating for those who are forging self-determined paths. Yael is a passionate nonprofit professional with proven achievement in management and public policy. With nearly 15 years of experience, Yael has worked with various progressive nonprofit organizations, taking care to honor each organization’s culture and vision. Yael holds a Bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

Email: Yaelreisman@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 646.668.4612

Leon Setton, LCSW, Director of Clinical Services

Leon is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in community based, clinic based and private practice settings. He has a Master’s of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work and also is in post-graduate psychoanalytic training at the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center. Prior to working at Footsteps, Leon’s experience has encompassed working with individuals dealing with substance misuse, trauma, issues of sexual and gender identity, depression, anxiety, and HIV/AIDS. He is very passionate and committed to empowering individuals and communities and the mission of Footsteps. In his role as Senior Social Worker, Leon will provide group and individual support to members, supervise clinical staff, and further grow and develop our clinical care services.

Email: Leon@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0892

Chavie Weisberger, Director of Community Engagement

Chavie has been a Footsteps member since 2012, and a long-time supporter of the OTD community. Chavie will play a key role in building a network of those who have already made the transition out of ultra-Orthodoxy and are looking to be connected with Footsteps. She will be working closely with peer mentors, nurturing Footsteps’ online presence, and assisting in implementing leadership development programs.

Email: Chavie@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 13

Julia Jerusalmi-Henig, LMSW, Member Engagement Manager

Julia is passionate about fostering warm, open and affirming spaces for individuals and communities. Julia joined Footsteps in 2015, and as the Member Engagement Manager, she serves as the fist point of contact for prospective and new Footsteps members. Julia conducts initial meetings, provides direct member support, and facilitates Footsteps members’ integration with, and contribution to, the wider Footsteps community. Julia earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work in 2015. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University.

Email: Julia@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 7

Emma Kraft, Donor Relations Manager

Emma comes to Footsteps from her year of service through Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps where she served as an Advocate at STEPS to End Family Violence. At STEPS to End Family Violence, Emma supported low-income survivors of intimate partner violence in their paths to healing as they navigated the complexities of the criminal legal system, public benefits, and more. Emma holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Brandeis University. Emma is passionate about inclusive Jewish communities and has a long history working at her Jewish overnight camp, Camp Alonim, where she held many leadership roles.

Email: Emma@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 16

Danielle Denver, Operations Manager

Danielle brings experience in nonprofit management, educational programming, advocacy, and startups to Footsteps. Her prior work has centered on promoting the right to self-determination for vulnerable and marginalized populations, with a focus on children, teenagers, and persons with mental illness and physical disability. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Dida Academy, a nonprofit learning center for youth in Brooklyn. She currently serves on the board of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. She holds a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Rochester. Danielle joined Footsteps in 2018 to manage operations, finance, and human resources.

Email: Danielle@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 18

Rae Lipkind, Program Assistant

Rae has been a Footsteps member since 2014 and most recently was the Footsteps Community Engagement Intern. In their new role as Program Assistant, Rae will continue to work with Team Community Engagement to create exciting, creative and meaningful events and programs. Rae also contributes extreme organizing and administrative skills to our Economic Empowerment team, helping to manage Scholarships and Microgrants. Rae brings energy, passion, creativity, along with invaluable insight as a long time member. Rae is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree at Medgar Evers College.

Email: Rae@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 19

Eli Shlomovich, LCSW, Social Worker

Eli earned his Master’s degree in Social Work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 2001. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College. Prior to joining Footsteps, he worked for over thirteen years at The Jewish Board for Family and Children’s Services’ outpatient mental health clinics, providing psychotherapy, crisis intervention and case management to individuals, couples, and families. He regards the therapeutic relationship with others as unique and special, with the opportunity to foster support and change. Eli joined Footsteps in 2017 and in his capacity as Social Worker, he provides therapeutic support for Footsteps members.

Email: Eli@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0893

Yomaly Suero, Economic Empowerment Program Manager

Yomaly is a Human Resources professional with over 12 years of experience providing one-on-one career coaching, resume writing, employer engagement, and strategic recruitment expertise within a variety of businesses and organizations. She is passionate about helping people achieve their professional development goals and finding their path to financial independence. Prior to joining Footsteps, Yomaly was the Senior Career Coach for seven years at a workforce development non-profit organization called Madison Strategies Group. At Madison Strategies, she created the foundation for all career advisement procedures across all the non-profit’s programs, lead many career readiness training initiatives, and cultivated employer relationships that helped hundreds of New Yorkers land gainful employment. Before switching to the not-for-profit sector, Yomaly served as a staffing firm recruiter and in-house recruiter for 5 years at a variety of businesses. She resides in Yonkers, NY and is currently finishing her degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management at Pace University.   

Email: Yomaly@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 20

Molly Weilbacher, Development Operations Associate

Molly joined Footsteps in October 2018 after completing a Master’s degree in Community Development and Planning at Clark University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree from Clark University in International Development and Social Change with a concentration in Gender Studies. Molly’s studies have taken her to work in the nonprofit sector both abroad and domestically, from supporting feminist initiatives in Windhoek, Namibia to researching the barriers to affordable housing for refugees in Worcester, Massachusetts. She has also been an organizer and leader of a successful campaign to secure reproductive health and access on Clark University’s campus. Molly is committed to work that amplifies marginalized community voices in working towards equity and justice.

Email: Molly@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 17

Alexa Cavallo, MSW, Rockland Social Worker

Alexa is a devoted social worker and advocate for all people. She received her Master’s degree from New York University Silver School of Social work with high honors, and has continuing education credits in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Alexa has extensive clinical experience working with families and children, but is passionate about serving people from all communities and backgrounds. Her experience has entailed working alongside individuals in both one-on-one and group settings. Alexa is compassionate, understanding, and committed to supporting her clients, but above all else she has a skill for making her clients feel heard and encouraging them to develop their own voice and sense of agency.

Email: Alexa@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 4

Ayelet Parness, Communications Manager

Ayelet joined Footsteps in July 2019, bringing a strong background in marketing and communications in the non-profit and educational fields to the role of Communications Manager. As an ardent believer in every person’s essential right to education, freedom, and self-determination, Ayelet is passionate about Footsteps’ mission and the vital services the organization provides to its members. Prior to working with Footsteps, Ayelet served as the Communications Manager for Bnai Zion Foundation and Assistant Editorial Manager for Monroe College’s marketing department. Ayelet is an Alum of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with a Bachelor’s in English Literatures, Language, and Criticism.

Email: Ayelet@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 22

Dave Ruder, Volunteer Manager

Over the past decade and a half, Dave has built a wealth of experience strengthening and growing non-profits in New York City. Most recently, he coordinated a large number of volunteers and counseled organizers creating local public art events as Deputy Director of the Make Music Alliance and supported artists and their work as Manager of Gold Bolus Recordings. Dave holds degrees from Brooklyn College and Wesleyan University.

Email: Dave@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 6

Arielle Schwartz, Program Associate

Arielle is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in English Theory and Dance. At Wesleyan, she was also part of the leadership within the campus Jewish community, where a main priority was creating a pluralistic and inclusive space for other students. Prior to joining Footsteps, Arielle was the Camp Director of Habonim Dror Camp Galil where she also spent many summers as a camper, staff member, and part of the camp leadership. Arielle is excited to bring her passion for alternative education and social justice to her work at Footsteps.

Email: Arielle@footstepsorg.org
Phone: 212.253.0890 ex. 14

Pesach Eisen, Mental Health Counseling Intern

Pesach has been a Footsteps member since 2011. After going through this unique journey himself, Pesach is now an advocate for mental health and its interaction with religious disaffiliation, educational rights, and coexistence between religious disaffiliates and their communities of origin. Pesach holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College and is currently a second-year Graduate Student in the Master’s in Mental Health Counseling program at Brooklyn College. His therapeutic philosophy is rooted in meeting people wherever they are and working collaboratively toward improving their quality of life. Pesach is committed to listening to, learning from, building bridges within, validating the experiences of, and passionately supporting the OTD community at large.

Garrett Reuscher, Social Work Intern

Garrett is a social work intern and certified substance use counselor. He completed his undergraduate education at Bard College in Sociology and Social Policy and is currently working towards a Master’s of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work. Garrett has several years of experience working in clinical settings focusing on mental health and drug use through a person-centered harm reduction modality. Additionally, he spearheaded youth activism in policy reform campaigns and is passionate about social justice and developing community inclusion.

Kassondra Glenn, Social Work Intern

Kassondra is a second year MSW student at NYU Silver School of Social Work. Prior experience includes work in case management with older adults and an after school program for children impacted by familial incarceration. Kassondra also holds a BFA in drama from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and has worked as a stage manager in the NYC area. She looks forward to utilizing this combination of skills, as well as to learning with and from Footsteps’ wonderful members and staff.