Dr. Sara Shadmi-Wortman
Co-Founder and CEO
I am Sara Shadmi-Wortman, known as Sarale. I am the Co-Founder and CEO of The Varda International Institute for Community Building.
I devote my professional life to helping groups and individuals live meaningfully by joining together, bringing their talents and uniqueness, and creating strong, vibrant communities that can address shared challenges. Based on my experience building a new kibbutz in Israel, leading the young Kibbutzim movement, and being a member of an educators group that established an educational center for Jewish education (HaMisrasha), I developed a new approach to strengthening communities. This approach is based on creating a culture of belonging through Community Building, and today, it is successfully implemented worldwide.
During the past 30 years as a faculty member of Oranim, the Academic College of Education of the Kibbutz Movement, I developed a Community Building BA and an MA degree program. During that time, I also co-founded SHDEMOT, Oranim’s field department dedicated to leading processes of Community Building in urban, rural, and peripheral regions in Israel, impacting national policy for the Israel Association for Community Centers.
Previously I established and directed a teacher training program-HOTAM and served as the Northern Regional Director of the Ministry of Education, overseeing the activities of 600 schools.
I hold a BA in Sociology and Political Science, MA in Political Communication, and a Ph.D. in Community Work and Education from Tel-Aviv university. I published two books and multiple articles. I am a graduate of the 4th cohort of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership, the 7th cohort of the Maoz National Leadership Program, the Encounter Program, and a board member of the IACS.
I am married with four children and live in Moshav Nahalal, in Northern Israel.
Maia Tchetchik Sharir
Head of Organization’s Success
I am passionate about building communities.
I bring two decades of experience building community in the US and Israel to my current role, where I spearhead Varda Institute’s efforts to build cultures of belonging in organizations globally, working closely with both our organizations and consultants.
I am an organizational consultant by profession, holding a private practice working primarily with the tech industry.
I hold an MBA, and I’m a certified group facilitator. I am a graduate of the “Gvanim” program for Israeli leaders living abroad and a co-founder of “Shivat Gvanim” (Gvanim return) program in Israel.
I have lived in Europe, Israel, and the US. During the time in the US, I served on the Oshman JCC Steering Committee and as a board member at Wornick Jewish Day School. I am the dreamer and founder of “Kol Banot,” a community-wide mother-daughter Bat Mitzvah Journey. I love the outdoors, planning new adventures, and just hanging out with family, friends, and my spoiled dog.
I’m excited to be able to share my passion for developing creative processes, bringing people together, forming and advancing resilient communities where every voice is seen and heard; where people feel they belong.
Head of Content Development and Knowledge Management
I believe in people’s power to improve our world and try to practice it in my personal and professional life. Born and raised in Jerusalem, I served for 13 years in executive positions in the Israeli public sector. Relocating to America 20 years ago, I searched for alternative paths for social impact while looking for a place to call my second home.
Since then, I have built communities and developed frameworks connecting Israelis and World Jewry.
I directed the G’vanim Leadership program at the OFJCC in Palo Alto, later expanding it nationally as Director of engagement at the IAC (Israeli American Council), leading the organization’s community-building strategy and strengthening Israeli – American communities in North America. I also co-found ‘Belong,’ a collective impact initiative aiming to deepen connections of Jews in Israel and worldwide.
Currently, I am fortunate to combine my passion for Jewish Peoplehood and Community Building in two roles, complementing one another in a strategic partnership:
At the ‘Varda institute’ as Head of Content Development, and with ‘Hakhel,’ the Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator, as Director of Programming, overseeing the strategy and the work with 140 communities worldwide.
I hold a BA in Political Science and MA in Public Policy and Management from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
I live with my family in NJ, spending weeks in Israel with our extended family, friends, and colleagues, enjoying everything both our homes can offer.
Head of Planning and Operations
Hi, I am Asaf.
For many years I have been working in both the business and social worlds and aiming to combine them, driven by my belief that the social world needs professionalism, no less than the business world, to fulfill itself.
In the Israeli Association of Community Centers (IACC), I was the Director of entrepreneurship and innovation, creating technological spaces and solutions. As a senior support solution expert and support project manager at SAP, I also managed lab activities for the community. I served as a vice president of education for the Aharai! (Follow Me!) leadership development organization, and I am currently a staff member at Mandel Leadership Institute in the Mandel Youth leadership program.
I have seen and been part of many complex community processes. I understand how crucial it is to be professionally supported and guided in raising a sense of belonging, meaning, and commitment of all members and stakeholders to succeed. That is why I joined the Varda Institute team.
I hold a BA degree in Industrial Engineering (Information Technology) from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a MA degree in educational leadership from Oranim Academic College of Education.
I love to travel in Israel and the world. The first place I go to in any new city is the food market, where you can see everything.
Administration and Operations Coordinator
Hi, I, Omer, and I live in Tel Aviv, though I have many thoughts about moving to another country for my Master’s degree.
My BA is in Geography and International Relations, and I wrote one of my final seminar papers on a Jerusalem municipal project: “Young Neighborhood.”
While exploring this project, I truly understood the impact of a community and a sense of belonging on the day-to-day lives of people in the city.
At the Varda Institute, I serve as the Administrative and Operations Coordinator. Send an email to our info mailbox, and you will reach me easily :-) My job is to ensure our team and partners have all the conditions to achieve the VI’s ambitious goals.
I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to combine my professional skills with my values and be part of our wonderful organization!
You can find me running, jamming or reading Harry Potter when I’m not working.
VI Senior Consultant
I am Tali. I live with my family in Haniel, a moshav in the center of Israel.
I joined the Varda Institute a year ago, accompanying the senior management of the Edmond de Rothschild Center in establishing a sustainable alumni network for its art and design program. Alongside being a consultant on the Varda Institute team, leading Culture of Belonging processes, I lead the implementation of an innovative educational project called The Holistic Educational Space, part of the formal education system in the local Regional Council.
This project operates in approximately 50 schools nationwide. The program’s core goal is- connecting the dots- engaging people together so that every child will fulfill their potential.
In the past, I held senior management and coordination roles at Mechinot (The Joint Council of Pre-Military Leadership Academies). There, I led community-building initiatives, supported the young-adults leadership development program, and contributed to reducing socio-geographic gaps.
I have guided multi-sectoral and nationwide projects for diverse populations, including disadvantaged youth, Ethiopians, girls and women, seniors, and more. Ever since my year of service at Rabin pre-military academy, I have been motivated to create social impact intending to promote a more united, egalitarian, and inclusive society in everything I do.
VI Senior Consultant
I was born in Wales and grew up in Jerusalem. After completing my studies in sociology and anthropology, I volunteered for the Jewish social justice organization “Tevel” in Nepal and ended up spending over two years living and working there. I worked with local communities, practicing and researching participatory community development models in multi-cultural settings. It was a life-changing experience and inspired me to return to Israel to participate in the first cohort of the Glocal Community Development MA program at Hebrew University. Upon completion, I continued working in various international and local community-centered organizations in South East Asia, East Africa, and Central America.
After a decade of fascinating international work, I decided it was time to deepen my
involvement in the local social-community context back home in Israel. I joined Dr.
Sarale Shadmi designing and training teams in community building at the ICCA.
Today I am an organizational consultant specializing in multi-cultural settings, creating and implementing participatory models across various sectors. I love meeting different people and listening to their stories.
I live in Zichron Yaacov with my wife and son, adore the beach, and enjoy making fancy patisserie in my free time.
VI Senior Consultant
Hi I am Michal.
In the last ten years, I’ve worked with different communities in Nepal, Haiti, Burundi, Zambia, and Israel. I was lucky to feel how a strong sense of community helps every attempt to change lives become more sustainable.
Through my work, I’ve experienced healing from loneliness and separation.
It inspires me to belong to a community with my family and continue this healing work through healthy togetherness. I am also a DJ, screenwriter and director.
VI Senior Consultant
I am Naama and I am from Jerusalem, Israel.
Being “a Jerusalemite” is an important part of my identity and guides my professional choices. I studied public policy (MA) and seeing as at the time many young people my age were leaving Jerusalem, I became involved in young adult initiatives and projects, I wanted the city to become more attractive for people like me.
I was appointed Director of the Students Union at the Hebrew University, and later coordinated a project that aimed to develop Jerusalem’s neighborhoods as a place that attracts young families.
During this time, I met Dr. Sara Shadmi. Dr. Shadmi who taught how to build community in the neighborhoods. I was amazed and inspired by the theory and applied the learnings to my work. Later, I managed a community center in a central Jerusalem neighborhood for 6 years. As a consultant at the Varda Institute, I continue to practice the community building principles and apply the framework.
I enjoy leading processes with organizations from all over the world, seeing people come together and build community. I am a mother to 2 young lovely girls, who teach me new lessons every day, and a co-chair on the board of “15 Minutes – the public transportation users organization”.
VI Senior Consultant
I’m Rabbi Esther Lederman and for the past 7 years, I’ve worked at the Union for Reform Judaism as the Director of Congregational Innovation and Leadership. I work with congregational leaders across the U.S. and Canada to imagine new creative possibilities for belonging and community building.
Prior to this work, I was an associate rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington, DC. I became a rabbi because I was motivated to create communities of meaning and purpose with others.
Much of that inspiration came from my time in the youth movement Habonim Dror, where I had the privilege to serve as camp director at three of our camps, and the Mazkirat Tnua (Secretary General) for two years.
I’m originally from Ottawa, Canada and earned my B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from Mcgill University. In addition to work, I’m dedicated to pursuing justice and equity in my community, and this means I serve on a number of boards:
T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Habonim Dror Foundation, Ameinu, and I chair the Advisory council of Avodah in Washington, DC. I’m also on the board of the local Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. I’m married with two kids. I enjoy traveling, taking walks in the woods (or unexplored neighborhoods), baking, LOTS of reading, and dancing.
VI Senior Consultant
I am a community social worker and a union organizer. In recent years I have been working as the head of the transportation branch in the trade union ‘Koach LaOvdim’ (Power to the Workers), which is a democratic Workers’ Organization in Israel.
Communities in all their forms fascinate me, and my passion is to accompany communities and assist them in their strategic processes. I hold a BA in Community Social Work and Political Science and an MA in Non-profit Management; both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. My thesis was about organizing female workers as a tool for social change.
In my free time, I coach community social work students, and together with women from around Jerusalem, I founded “Zaza – A Women’s Sports Community”, where I serve on the board.
I live in Jerusalem with my wife. When not being an activist, I love hiking and am a big fan of the Hapoel Jerusalem soccer team.
VI Senior Consultant
I love working with communities and helping them become the best version of themselves.
I grew up in a small kibbutz, Ketura, in the far south of Israel. I have always been fascinated by the way we live together, make decisions together and plan our future together. As I grew up, I have specialized in community studies and practices that I use every day in my work and life, as a kibbutz member, today.
I have a B.A in Administration and Public Policy from Sapir Collage and an M.A in Organizational Development from Haifa University. Over the last 15 years I have consulted and managed processes in many communities, including leadership courses in the Golan region and Kibbutzim all over Israel.
I believe that people can make a difference, wherever they are, all they need is love, faith and determination. I am a proud mother of three wonderful girls, love horses and dogs and can’t imagine living anywhere but in a safe and strong community as the one I found in Kibbutz Mevo Hama, in the beautiful Golan.
VI Senior Consultant
Throughout my career I have worked to create a Jewish community that is inclusive, accessible, and welcoming to all. I believe that each person has something meaningful to learn from others and has something significant to contribute; when we create environments that facilitate that exchange, our entire community will thrive.
I live in the Boston area where I served as CEO of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education center for more than a decade, having grown the organization’s reach and impact significantly during my tenure.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work (Macro Practice) from Skidmore College and Boston University respectively, I also participated in DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) at Brandeis University, learned at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, the fifth cohort of Schusterman Fellows, and was named one of the 18 most influential young adults in Boston by Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
You can find me online leading the Mental Health in the Jewish Community Facebook group and through my blog, “ There’s no I in Uterus,” that tracks my journey as gestational carrier. I enjoy knitting, cooking, creating homemade Purim costumes, and live with my husband, Jamie, and our three children.
VI Senior Consultant
I am a community social worker, organizational consultant, and social entrepreneur. I combine my work in the field with academic work: Lecturing in the Department for Non-profit Management and coordinating the practical training in the Department of Community Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lecturing at the School of Education at the College of Management.
I am also a Doctoral student at the University of Haifa researching attachment to a place and community. I am the founder of the Time Bank program in Israel and the Community Gardens and placemaking in Jerusalem.
Some of my past roles include being a supervisor of community administrations in the Jerusalem Municipality and a district supervisor for community building in the Israel Community Centers Association.
I am an activist and an entrepreneur in the community field (establishing a neighborhood school, etc.). Currently, I am managing a welfare services program in 6 mixed Arab – Jewish cities (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa, Lod, Ramla, and Acre) on behalf of the Ministry of Welfare. I live in Jerusalem with my dear husband, three cute children, and a dog.
I often dream of exercising and developing hobbies.