Staff

Lani Santo, Chief Executive Officer

Lani is the CEO 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 26 staff, a program center in Manhattan with satellite programs in Rockland and Brooklyn, and a nearly $4 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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0891

Hoda ElMahdy, Senior Director of Programs

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 8

Chani Getter, Senior Director of Organizational Development

Chani is a licensed social worker and a leader in the fields of personal growth and spiritual development. Chani has reached individuals and professionals in North America and Europe through a series of workshops, panel discussions, teachings and motivational speaking. Over the years Chani has led informational and support groups on a variety of topics. Chani coaches individuals and professionals in defining and achieving their goals. Chani is committed to being a part of Footsteps as Chani knows first-hand the complexity of leaving the black and white world behind. Chani joined Footsteps in 2013 and served as the program manager for Rockland, later Chani was instrumental in launching Footsteps Family Justice Program. This included training attorneys, social workers, and guidance counselors on the unique journey Footsteppers encounter when leaving their community. Now, as Senior Director of Organizational Development, Chani is leading Footsteps’ effort to create a culture of appreciation and well-being for staff and all that they serve.

Chani Getter

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 845.637.3113

Jessica Markowitz, Senior Director of Finance, Data, and Administration

Jessica Markowitz joined Footsteps in March 2020 as its first Senior Director of Finance, Data, and Administration. Jessica has spent most of her professional career in nonprofit management. Prior to joining Footsteps, Jessica served for over 20 years as the Director of Finance and Administration at Pro Bono Partnership. Jessica is a graduate of Purchase College and holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from Baruch College.

Email: [email protected]
Phone:  212.253.0890 ext. 18

Stephanie Oster, Senior Director of Development

Stephanie Oster brings 18 years of fundraising experience in international humanitarian aid, and social and health services to her role at Footsteps. Most recently, as the Senior Development Advisor at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), she secured revenue from private sources for groundbreaking treatments to eliminate African sleeping sickness and to revolutionize antiretroviral treatments for infants and children with HIV. As the Director of Major Gifts at the New York Women’s Foundation, she developed a major giving program that provided millions of dollars in annual investments to advance the economic security of low-income and vulnerable women and their families in New York City. From 2004 to 2015, Stephanie worked at Doctors Without Borders, where she helped grow their US annual budget from $150 million to $300 million in order to fund programs for victims of gender-based violence, armed conflict, natural disasters, epidemics, and childhood malnutrition. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Hunter College.

Naomi Moskowitz, Director of Economic Empowerment

Naomi joins Footsteps with 15 years of experience in managing community relationships for nonprofit organizations. As a Footsteps member herself since 2013, Naomi is passionate about using her professional expertise to contribute to the Economic Empowerment team by strengthening and expanding relationships with agencies and stakeholders in order to enable members to pursue educational opportunities, find employment, and develop their careers. Naomi is also devoted to social advocacy and standing up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves. She has spent the past 5 years speaking publicly about issues relating to the LGBTQ community and the OTD community, and has provided strategic planning for marketing, development, and community outreach to agencies serving those populations. Naomi resides on Long Island with her partner and their 4 children. She is committed to providing her children with opportunities that she wasn’t afforded, having been raised in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 4475

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: [email protected]
Phone: 646.668.4612

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 13

Tobi Erner, Director of Clinical Services

Tobi Erner brings to her work over a decade of experience as a clinician and advocate for survivors of complex trauma from marginalized, low-income communities. Her primary expertise is in gender-based violence, interdisciplinary social work, and working with multicultural communities, and she has previously worked in forensic, medical, outpatient, Family Justice Center, and shelter settings. Most recently, she served as the Senior Social Worker at Brooklyn Legal Services, providing holistic social work services to undocumented families in immigration proceedings. Prior to that, she was the Senior Social Worker in the Domestic Violence Project at Queens Legal Services where she provided individual and group clinical services, developed programs and community partnerships, and advocated for legislative change to support survivors of gender-based violence in achieving safety, justice, and healing. Tobi’s clinical philosophy is strengths-based, client-driven, and systems and trauma-informed. She strives to build therapeutic relationships that honor individuals’ self-determination and resilience and empower people to harness their innate capacities for transformation and healing. Tobi served on the Steering Committee of the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Taskforce and was awarded the 2019 Advocate of New York City. Prior to her career as a social worker, she worked as an organizer and managed grassroots campaigns for progressive causes across the U.S. Tobi received her Masters of Social Work from Columbia University and her B.A. in Gender Studies from New York University.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 347-471-1829

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 7

Sophie Kaufman, LMSW, Senior Social Worker

Sophie first joined Footsteps as a Social Work Intern, and has returned with great excitement to take on the role of Senior Social Worker. She approaches the therapeutic process as a collaboration that enables safety in the space and works to help individuals harness their own capacity for integration and joy. Sophie has training and experience working with survivors of trauma and deeply believes in therapy as a tool for healing. Before coming to Footsteps, she managed a portfolio of economic empowerment programs as well as a team of direct service workers at a New York City non-profit. Sophie holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from NYU’s Silver School.

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 6

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

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 4

Pesach Eisen, MHC, Case Manager

Pesach has been a Footsteps member since 2011. Inspired by his lived experience, he is now a psychotherapist and researcher with a focus on the interaction between mental health and religious disaffiliation. Pesach holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College. His therapeutic philosophy is rooted in the Person-Centered approach, and he believes in working collaboratively with individuals on their journey toward healing, self-actualization, and a healthier quality of life. Pesach is committed to listening to, validating the experiences of, and passionately supporting those who leave ultra-religious communities.

Jake Frankel, Peer Connector

Jake grew up in Monroe, NY; his family is Hasidic Orthodox, his mother tongue is Yiddish, and he did not learn English until his late adolescent years. Jake has been a Footsteps member for over a decade and is a long-time supporter of the OTD community. Jake is a searcher, and his open heart has led him to practice conscious movement for the past four years. He is now pursuing teacher training to become a PATHofAZUL conscious movement teacher. Jake’s long-term goal is to become a life coach, so that he can help his fellow searchers find their own journey and passion in life. He is pursuing his BA in Human Services. As a Peer Connector, Jake will play a key role in listening to and holding members while they make their transition from not knowing they have a choice in life to recognizing that choice is the birthright of every person on this planet.

Jenevieve Goldman, Operations Assistant

Jenevieve joined Footsteps in 2020, bringing her experience in education and international program management to her role of Operations Assistant. Prior to working at Footsteps, she helped students on their study abroad journey’s at AFS-USA. In her spare time, Jenevieve volunteers with the New York Chapter of CISV, an organization that supports peace education through international and local programs. She attended Muhlenberg College and has a degree in Cultural Anthropology, where she learned there is no wrong way to be human. She believes that everyone should have access to a world of possibilities and the knowledge that their choices are their own.

Julie F. Kay, Senior Legal Strategist (Consultant)

Julie F. Kay is the Senior Legal Strategist for Footsteps, where she provides legal consultation and referrals with a particular focus on protecting the parenting rights of people leaving the ultra-Orthodox community. Julie’s additional experience in litigation and policy initiatives to advance gender equity and human rights includes serving as an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, at Legal Momentum (the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), as a Senior Strategist for the Ms. Foundation for Women. Julie was the lead attorney who designed and litigated the landmark abortion rights case ABC v. Ireland before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the Irish Family Planning Association. Julie received a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Social Studies cum laude from Harvard University in 1990, and a J.D. cum laude with a focus on public interest law from Brooklyn Law School in 1995. She is writing a book with Kathryn Kolbert, Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom, which will be released by Hachette in July 2021.

Sarah Otero, Peer Connector

A Footsteps member since 2013, Sarah knows and understands firsthand the challenges that OTDers face when leaving ultra-Orthodox communities. Sarah initially joined the Footsteps development team from 2014 to 2017, while simultaneously completing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Purchase College. She has worked with various clinical populations for the last 3 years in a research capacity, and has recently begun a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Pace University, where she will study the short-term and long-term consequences of religious disaffiliation. She has now returned as a Peer Connector and hopes to use her personal and professional experience to support, affirm, and connect new and potential members.

Chana Prus, Peer Connector

Chana has been a Footsteps member since 2014. While working in the special education field, she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hunter College. In July 2017 she co-founded Moishe House-Footsteps, where she hosted 7+ community based events a month for two years. In the role of Peer Connector, Chana hopes to continue building community by welcoming new and current members, helping them navigate Footsteps, and connecting them to each other and staff.

Rachel Szachara, Executive Assistant

Rachel is a recent graduate of Muhlenberg College, where she earned a BA in Political Science with minors in Gender Studies and Creative Writing. Before joining Footsteps, Rachel interned at various nonprofit organizations serving her local community. She provided assistance on numerous research projects domestically and internationally in Australia, and she led a research team in Costa Rica studying opportunities and barriers for women in the workforce. She was involved with environmental activism on campus and volunteered to help promote school and college readiness to students in local schools throughout college. Rachel is passionate about social justice and advocating for inclusive and welcoming communities.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 21

Molly Weilbacher, Development Operations Coordinator

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: [email protected]
Phone: 212.253.0890 ext. 17

Ophir Gilad, Economic Empowerment Program Coordinator

Ophir joined Footsteps in August of 2021, bringing their experience with community organizing, youth work, and program management to the role of the Program Coordinator on the Economic Empowerment team. Prior to working at Footsteps, Ophir worked at OutFront Minnesota supporting youth, educators, and parents in creating safe school environments for LGBTQ+ youth. Ophir attended Macalester College and has degrees in Political Science and International Studies. They are excited to be working with Footsteps’ members to help them access resources and support to be able to thrive!