Our team has the most incredible people, all united by one purpose - to bring the best, most comprehensive, nuanced and inspiring Israel education to the next generation of the Jewish people.

Masha Merkulova

Founder and Executive Director

masha
Masha Merkulova founded Club Z to provide teens with a platform to connect to Israel, Jewish history, Zionism, and one another. Born in the Former Soviet Union, Masha did not know that she was Jewish. As she grew up, she began to question her identity and embrace Zionism, realizing that it is a movement of justice that corrects many wrongs throughout history. Before founding Club Z in 2011, Masha spent more than a decade as a Jewish community activist in the San Francisco Bay Area, spearheading efforts to address antisemitism on campus and to advocate for Israel. During these years, Masha witnessed the need for teens to have a platform to connect to Israel and Zionism, which propelled the founding of Club Z. Masha is a commentator in print media, with op-eds published on FOX News, in the Jewish News Syndicate, and more. Her writing focuses on antisemitism, bigotry, and the delegitimization of Israel.

Devora Fine

Deputy Director

Devora
Devora Fine is a lifelong advocate for the State of Israel. Her strong Jewish identity was forged growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, where she attended Jewish Day School, Hebrew School, and Synagogue. Before attending college, Devora took a community service gap year in Israel through Hassadah and Young Judea. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from UCLA, where she became a proud and active member of the Israel community. After graduating, Devora spent two years bringing her talents to tech companies, but she wanted to harness her passion for Zionism and Israel to make a larger impact. Devora joined the Club Z team in 2017 so that she could help the next generation of Jewish leaders connect to Zionism.

Naya Lekht

Director of Education

Naya
Naya Lekht is the Director of Education for Club Z. She develops and teaches Club Z’s dynamic curriculum, helping to cultivate articulate and thoughtful teens who advocate for the Jewish people and Israel. Naya is a scholar of Russian Jewish culture and writes about contemporary anti-Semitism. Before joining Club Z, Naya taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she obtained a Ph.D. in Russian Literature in 2013. Naya lectures widely on modern-day anti-Semitism and was a scholar-in-residence at Oxford University through the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism (ISGAP).

Arielle Mogil

New York Regional Director

Arielle
After returning home from her first Birthright Israel trip in 2012 Arielle found a new love for Judaism and Israel. Arielle began her work in the Jewish non-profit space at The Birthright Alumni Community, as the Director of Special Projects responsible for the coordination, planning, procurement, and execution of both intimate and large scale events of 300+ attendees, educational classes, guest speakers, and Shabbat Meals. From there she began serving as the Vice President of Operations for Legion, a revolutionary self-defense organization offering an exclusive 9-month training program that includes physical self-defense and classroom-setting counter-terrorism training to combat antisemitism. Club Z was the natural fit where she is currently serving as NY Regional Director cultivating the next generation of proud and articulate Jewish, Zionist Leaders.

Alexandra (Sasha) Ostrov

Director of Operations and Human Resources

Sasha
Originally born in the former Soviet Union she immigrated to USA with her parents, landing in New York, where she remained to live and work. After a teen trip to Israel, Sasha became and an ardent supporter of Israel and an unapologetic Zionist. Sasha is an experienced HR professional with a demonstrated history of working in various industries and has spent many years working for top Wall Street organizations. She has managed large populations of workforce at such organizations as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, among others, obtaining valuable experience in growing and establishing best practice processes. Sasha has strong business advisory and operations skills having applied them to various facets of Human Resources such as talent acquisition, vendor management, on-boarding, CRM/ATS deployment and usage, as well as client management. Sasha joined Club Z in January 2020 to help take Club Z to its next level of success.

Olga Washington

Charlotte Regional Director & Educator

Olga
After leaving her legal career as a partner at Webber Wentzel Attorneys, one of South Africa’s preeminent law firms, Olga became a director and lead transformation consultant at Transcend Corporate Advisors. There, Olga advised corporate entities and non-profit and non-government organizations on developing and implementing strategic socio-economic development programs that were sustainable, had impact, and changed lives. Olga is also a keen pro-Israel advocate and in this capacity serves as the Chief Executive Officer of DEISI International (Defend Embrace Invest(in) Support Israel). Olga’s unique narrative on South Africa and Africa relations with Israel, the Christian mandate to stand with Israel and her engaging delivery have contributed to Olga being a regular on the speakers’ circuit. Olga has served as a guest speaker for leading Jewish, Israel, and Christian organizations across parts of Africa, Europe and the United States. These include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Christians United For Israel, the World Jewish Congress, the European Coalition for Israel, Stand with Israel – Nigeria, and the South African Zionist Federation. Olga has also made guest appearances on several tv stations, including the Christian Broadcasting Network. Olga is also a published author having contributed to Israelophobia and the West. Olga also serves as a board member of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel. She is married to Joshua Washington, Director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel. Olga and Joshua have two sons, Ezra and Judah.

Odin Ozdil

Los Angeles Regional Director

Odin
As a Turkish Jew, Odin is very aware of how the amazing historical record of the Jewish story is not only being forgotten, but in too many cases, rewritten by those with their own agendas. He is proud to be at Club Z where teens are taught not to compromise their identity and lead others to embrace Zionism. Previous to Club Z, Odin was Program Coordinator at JIMENA where he developed deep relationships in the LA Sephardic and Mizrahi community. Odin has also participated in numerous Jewish leadership programs, including leading Birthright trips and participating in NLP (New Leaders Project), a premiere civic engagement program for rising leaders in the LA Jewish community.

Ella Shteingart

Chief Partnership Officer

Ella
As a child émigré from Belarus, Ella experienced anti-semitism first-hand. An alumna of the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, she is passionate about helping young adults develop a strong sense of identity, connection to Israel, and effective leadership skills.

Ella has been active as both a professional and a lay leader in national and local non-profits. She has held leadership positions at Jewish Day Schools, developed mentoring and leadership programs, and helped launch new initiatives at start-up and established Jewish organizations, including The Wexner Foundation and the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women.

She has served on the Advisory Boards of the Bronfman Youth Fellowship and Limmud NY and as a Board Member of the Jewish Communal Fund. Ella was selected to participate in “The Conversation” and the Paideia Program.

Ella is inspired by Club Z’s mission and is excited to see Club Z become a national movement. 

Julia Schmidt

Regional Associate Director and Educator

Julia
Julia Schmidt is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and educator with over 28 years of experience in education related to language, culture, history, and communication, both as a teacher and as an educational director.  She is currently the regional associate director and educator of Club Z in Charlotte, which is a Jewish non-profit that has a unique Zionist curriculum to educate Jewish teens to become the next generation of Jewish leaders. Prior to this, she was the education director of a Temple where she developed religious school curricula, recruited and trained teachers, and provided adult education. She taught Jewish and Israeli history and culture, as well as the Hebrew language. Before her move to the United States in 2016, she was the founder and director of a language service, where she supervised a staff of 14 teachers who taught communication in foreign languages and understanding the cultures and history behind trans-lingual communications.  Clients included major corporations, executives and administrators, government agencies, and universities. She also gives presentations and talks on anti-Semitism as well as specially designed education sessions on Israel. Julia has a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the University of Reading, in Reading, United Kingdom, with additional certifications in Jewish and Zionist education.

Karen Gritz

Educator

Karen
As a Colombian Jew, Karen Gritz understands the importance of promoting an active and passionate Jewish diaspora. She holds a BA in Communications and Journalism from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and recently obtained a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from Columbia University. She is the author of The Patriarch, a book that reconstructs the history of the Jewish community of Bogota through the memories of her grandfather, and is currently involved in leadership and advocacy programs, both in the United States and Latin America.

Jake Benyowitz

New York Regional Manager

Jake
Growing up in a Modern Orthodox Zionist Jewish household in Los Angeles, Jake has always had a passion for working within the Jewish community. Jake joined Club Z in June of 2021. Prior to joining Club Z, Jake worked at Yeshiva University as their Alumni Engagement Associate focusing on creating a Philanthropic Young Alumni program. Graduating from Yeshiva University in 2020 with a Political Science degree, Jake focused his studies on International Affairs and Security. Jake worked closely with the Administration at Yeshiva University to help reshape Israel Advocacy on campus. In 2019 he was named AIPAC’s Advocate of the Year and brought the largest College Delegation to AIPAC’s 2020 Policy Conference in Washington DC. Jake has interned for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles and AIPAC. Jake currently serves on many Advisory Councils including Jewish Federation of North America’s Council on Security and Antisemitism as well as World Jewish Congress’s Jewish Youth Assembly.

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