Take Courage Speakers
A fourth generation Arab American of Lebanese and Palestinian descent, Laila was born and raised in Northern Virginia. She currently serves as UNRWA USA's Director of Communications. Prior to joining the dream team, Laila worked at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Both positions illustrate Laila’s passions: humanitarian concern for the people of Palestine and the fight for social justice.
Laila loves connecting people, ideas, things, to one another for a worthy cause! She holds a BA in Global Affairs (concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa) and a minor in Music (piano) from George Mason University.
Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York with a Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he joined the clergy team at Temple Rodef Shalom in 2007.
In addition to his other rabbinical roles, Rabbi Saxe is deeply involved in social justice work that seeks to pursue Jewish values in our efforts at Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. An important part of Rabbi Saxe’s social justice work is centered on building interfaith relationships and acting together with others on local and wider issues. He is active in the Greater Washington Muslim Jewish Forum and has served on the Strategy Team for VOICE, an interfaith social justice group in Northern Virginia. He currently leads the advocacy task force of the Reform Movement’s North American Immigration Justice Committee, and he has served on national committees for the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).
Rabbi Saxe is also passionate about bringing Jewish teachings into our everyday lives. He has brought to TRS the introspective practice of Mussar, in which small groups study Jewish texts with the purpose of cultivating positive character traits such as humility, patience and gratitude. Also an ordained cantor, he plays guitar and writes musical settings of prayers in the Jewish service. He lives in Falls Church with his wife Jaimee and children Shoshana, Aaron and Jonah.
Prior to the closing of the PLO Mission in Washington, D.C., Janeen Rashmawi served as a Public Affairs Officer at the P.L.O. General Delegation to the United States, where she leads the delegation’s programs with civil society organizations, NGOs, policy institutions and think-tanks. Prior to joining the P.L.O. General Delegation in Washington D.C., Ms. Rashmawi led human rights advocacy initiatives with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in Switzerland, Tunisia, and Washington D.C. Her experience includes leading programs for the protection of human rights in the Arab World with the United Nations, U.S. Government, and various international human rights mechanisms. She has extended experience with Palestinian human rights advocacy, research, and analysis. She holds a B.A. in socio-cultural Anthropology from Sonoma State University, and a M.A. in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University of California. Ms. Rashmawi conducted her graduate research on a comparative analysis of socio-political trends in Palestine. Ms. Rashmawi is currently on the board of the Network of Arab American Professionals Washington D.C. chapter.
James Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute in 1985 and continues to serve as its president. He is Director of Zogby Research Services, a firm that has conducted groundbreaking surveys across the Middle East. For the past three decades, he has served in leadership roles in the Democratic National Committee as well as in the Presidential campaigns for Jessie Jackson ‘84, ‘88, Al Gore ‘00, Barack Obama ‘08 and Bernie Sanders ‘16. In 2013 and again in 2017, President Obama appointed Zogby to terms on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, where he twice served as Vice Chair. For two decades he was a host of an award-winning international affairs television. Since 1992, he has written a weekly column published in twelve countries across the Middle East. He is featured frequently on national and international media as an expert on Middle East affairs. In 2010, Zogby published the highly-acclaimed book, Arab Voices. His 2013 e-books, Looking at Iran: The Rise and Fall of Iran in Arab Public Opinion and 20 Years After Oslo, are drawn from his extensive polling across the Middle East with Zogby Research Services.
Colin Christopher is the Director of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, he brings over a decade of experience working in politics, media, and international development. He served as a writer for The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates project where he published articles, facilitated education panels, and co-created content for the Inside Islam Radio Show on Wisconsin Public Radio. During his time in India, he organized diverse constituencies to develop better bicycle infrastructure in Bombay and produced a documentary film exploring the market failures of India’s microfinance crisis in 2010. As a researcher for the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, he evaluated Muslim non-profit organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan that used religious education to delegitimize extremism. He served as Policy Education Coordinator at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice where he advocated for tax-based poverty alleviation programs and other economic justice policies. As Executive Director of Green Muslims, he initiated the organization’s expansion, including eco-Islamic education programming for youth, environmental advocacy, and interfaith partnerships. As Deputy Director of Government Affairs at Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center, he increased civic engagement within the broader Northern Virginia Muslim community and brought together five of the largest masajid to partner with V.O.I.C.E., the region’s largest interfaith power-building organization. Colin received his Bachelors from The George Washington University and his Master’s of International Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives with his wife in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.
Beth Nelson Chase serves as Executive Director for Bright Stars of Bethlehem, US, located in IL. Over the past 30 years she has served in clinical, administrative and development positions with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Wartburg Theological Seminary and Wheat Ridge Ministries. It is during her time with Wheat Ridge Ministries that she encountered the vision and ministries that later formed the US support of Rev. Mitri Raheb and the Diyar Consortium as Bright Stars of Bethlehem, US, serving the whole community of Bethlehem and now through-out the Middle East. During the last nine years as serving in the US, Bright Stars of Bethlehem has grown in support and advocacy for these ministries focused on education, culture, the arts and leadership for Palestine. The Room for Hope Palestinian Arts Festivals’, held across the US in Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Hilton Head and Denver over the last six years, bring Palestinian artists and artisans to US audiences in congregations, community and cultural centers in celebrating this cultural heritage and vision for the future. The most recent was held in Texas October 4-14 in Dallas, Austin and Houston.
Beth received her Bachelor’s of Music Education from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA and her Master’s of Music Education and Therapy from Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Beth has served in clinical and academic positions in California, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois. Beth is the past President of ALDE (Association of Lutheran Development Executives) She resides IL with her husband, John and is a member of St. James Lutheran Church, Forreston, IL. Central Conference of the Northern IL Synod.
Hani Almadhoun is the development officer at the American Near-East Refugee Aid (ANERA) in Washington, from distributing millions of dollars’ worth of medical and humanitarian relief in Palestine to opening school doors to refugees from Syria, Hani works every day to help donors do the great things they want to do. Before joining ANERA, Hani worked at the Jerusalem Fund / Palestine Center and the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee (ADC). For six years he served as grants and accounting officer at the Jerusalem Fund. Hani’s career in development began as he earned a bachelor’s in international studies and Spanish from Brigham Young University and headed several student clubs on campus. He holds a master’s in Public Administration from Brigham Young University.
A frequent contributor at the Huff Post and other news sites. Hani also serves on several boards, including The Main Street Early Child Development Center and the American Muslim Health Professionals. He also serves on the education and communication committees for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, DC Chapter. Hani lives in Washington, DC and is the proud father of two adorable girls.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Cannon formerly served as the senior director of Advocacy and Outreach for World Vision U.S. on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC; as consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International in Jerusalem; as the executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church located in Walnut Creek, California; and as director of development and transformation for extension ministries at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.
Cannon holds an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary, an MBA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She received her first doctorate in American History with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) focusing on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine and her second doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from Northern Theological Seminary. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, Leadership Magazine, The Christian Post, Jerusalem Post, EU Parliament Magazine, Huffington Post, and other international media outlets.
Kyle holds a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Messiah College, and a Master of Divinity Degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Kyle was first introduced to Middle East advocacy work during a semester abroad in Cairo, Egypt. After graduating from college, Kyle spent 10 months serving with the Mennonite Central Committee in Bethlehem, Palestine, where he was seconded to work with Bethlehem Bible College. Most recently, Kyle served as the Program Assistant for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on Legislation where he helped coordinate lobbying work on Middle East policy and trained grassroots advocates on how to lobby their Congressional representatives.
Bshara Nassar earned his undergraduate degree from Bethlehem University (Palestine) in Information Systems and Business Administration in 2010. He earned his Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA) in 2014. As the fourth generation of the Nassar family, Mr. Nassar was deeply involved in his family’s educational farm, Tent of Nations, in Palestine, including education, communication and social media. In 2014, he founded the Nakba Museum Project, where he developed the concept, worked with artists, prepared artwork and exhibits, negotiated exhibit space, coordinated the setup of the exhibits in locations across the country, and raised funds.