Fellows and Staff
Born and raised in New York City, David Sacks attended Harvard College,
graduating with a degree in Government in 1984. While there he began his
comedy writing career as an editor of the school's humor magazine, The
Harvard Lampoon. Upon graduating, David moved to Los Angeles and began
writing for television.
Among the shows he's worked for are "The Simpsons", where he
won an Emmy Award, and "Third Rock from the Sun" for which he
won a Golden Globe Award. He is currently a producer on "Malcolm
in the Middle". David is the co-founder and Senior Lecturer of The
Happy Minyan of Los Angeles. David is married and has four children.
Mitchell R. Julis
A founding partner of Canyon Capital Advisors LLC, Mitch focuses on the
firm's secondary market investments and direct investment activities.
The firm pursues a credit-oriented value investment strategy and manages
over $9 billion in various investment limited partnerships, some of which
fall into the popularly known category of “hedge fund.” Mitch
has been a special situation value investor since 1983 in special situation
debt and equity securities in the public and private markets, including
bankruptcies, reorganizations and restructurings. Prior to the formation
of Canyon and its predecessors, Mitch was a Senior Vice President of Drexel
Burnham Lambert, where he directed a group of professionals responsible
for a portfolio of approximately $500 million in distressed and special
situation securities. Before 1983, he was a bankruptcy and creditors'
rights attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York. Mitch
has authored a number of articles published in law journals and other
periodicals on the subject of bankruptcy and distressed credit investing.
He is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University
(B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), Harvard Law School (J.D., magna
cum laude) and Harvard Business School (M.B.A., honors).
Mitch is currently completing a book project on value investing for Wiley
Finance with Professor Michael Kirschenheiter of Purdue University.
He and his wife Joleen have been involved with Aish HaTorah for about
7 years and are currently focusing on supporting and broadening Aish.com.
Additionally, Joleen is on the Executive Committee of Jewish Family Services
- Aleinu Family Resource Center. Mitch is a Vice President on the Board
of Directors of the Maimonides Academy.
Mitch and Joleen have four children – Elliot, Esther, Maia and
Jason Venokur graduated from Dartmouth College in 1992. He spent eleven
years on the west coast, writing movies for Dreamworks, Warner Bros, Fox
and Vanguard Films. In 1996, he started as a staff writer on NBC's "3rd
Rock from the Sun", and left five years later as Executive Producer,
along with his partner, Dave Goetsch.
Since then, he has developed three sitcoms along with Goetsch and brother,
Ross Venokur. The three, along with David Sacks, developed UPN's critically
acclaimed "Game Over". Sacks and Jason also created "Jewish
Comedy Camp", along with Steve Burg, founder of the Jewish Student
Union. "Jewish Comedy Camp" will open this fall to high school
students interested in the history and creation of Jewish Comedy.
David N. Weiss
David N. Weiss (co-writer, "Shrek 2") with his partner, J. David
Stem, wrote "The Rugrats Movie," and co-wrote "Rugrats
in Paris," two of the highest grossing traditional animated features
of all time. The duo were co-writers on the Academy Award nominated, "Jimmy
Neutron" and received an Emmy nom as head writers of the "Rugrats"
series, where they penned the acclaimed perennial "Rugrats Channukah."
The team co-wrote Paramount's "Clockstoppers," Revolution Studios'
upcoming "Are We There Yet," (starring Ice Cube) and "Daddy
Day Camp", (sequel to Revolution's "Daddy Day Care"). They
are currently developing live-action projects with Tom Shadyac, Warner
Bros. and Disney.
In television, the writing duo served as executive story editors on the
series, "Cybill" and as co-producers on The WB's "Mission
Hill." Mr. Weiss received his graduate degree from USC's School of
Cinema/TV. Prior to teaming with Mr. Stem, he wrote and directed several
award-winning shorts and penned the screenplay for the popular "All
Dogs Go To Heaven."
Michael Borkow, a television comedy writer, is currently under
an overall deal at the Twentieth Century Fox Television studio to develop
new projects and assist on the studio’s current shows. At present,
Michael is working as a writer/producer on the new Andy Richter sitcom,
“Quintuplets.” Previously, Michael has worked on "Malcolm
in the Middle", "Friends" (Executive Producer, '97-'98
season), and "Roseanne."
Michael is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University
School of Law, and is the founder of the Israel Volunteer Corps.
Rabbi Yaacov Deyo
Rabbi Yaacov Deyo attended Philips Academy Andover and Harvard
where he conducted thesis research in Nicaraguan land reform. He went
on to complete a year long grant project in conflict reconciliation in
Northern Ireland, as well as stints building and testing high performance
sailboats, coaching Irish crew teams, and running a homeless shelter in
Boston. He received Rabbinical Ordination in 1996 in Jerusalem after seven
years of study.
As the Educational Director of Aish HaTorah in Los Angeles in 1999 he
and his students created SpeedDating, a new concept in dating which has
since spawned a new industry. He is the author of a Harper-Collins book
describing the process. Just returned from a year long sabbatical in Jerusalem,
he now lives in LA with his wife Sue and daughter Avigial.
Bronx raised and Yeshiva educated, Brian Ash is president of
Outer Boroughs Entertainment, a versatile producer of multi-media entertainment.
Five years in music videos led to a production deal with the late George
Jackson’s UBO Network. There, Brian created “IndiePlanet”,
an animated series later syndicated by Sci-Fi Network and featured theatrically
with “X-Men: The Movie”.
In 2001, Brian received World Animation Celebration’s Best Animated
Drama award for “The Road to Graceland” a trilogy of animated
prequels to the Warner Bros. release, “3000 Miles to Graceland”.
Starring Kevin Costner and Christian Slater, the project marked the first
time a major film’s cast created original content for the internet.
Making the move to features, Brian served as a co-producer and writer
on Universal Pictures’ and Roc-A-Fella Films’ “Paper
Soldiers” and has written screenplays for Lion’s Gate Films
and Urban Entertainment with co-writer Myles Reiff. An alumnus of NYU
Film School, Brian currently lives in LA with his wife, theatrical milliner,
Avigayil Metal and is working on a new animated project for Warner Bros.
Avery Pack is the founder of Petakim,
an innovative nonprofit that provides Internet strategy consulting to
Jewish organizations as well as develops technology driven ideas that
connect young Jewish adults to each others' ideas. Run by young leaders
in technology, marketing, and Jewish education, Petakim aims to amplify
the broadcast of young Jewish ideas through imaginative distribution.
Stacy L. Sokol (Corporate Counsel)
When David Sacks casually mentioned the idea of Jewish Impact Films to
Stacy in a chance encounter in line for coffee one morning, Stacy, a corporate
attorney in Century City, California offered to act as its corporate counsel
to form and organize the company and help it obtain its tax exempt status.
Hailing from Miami Beach, Florida, Stacy is a graduate of Stanford University
and UCLA Law School. When not setting up non-profits, Stacy forms new
companies and represents clients in complex business and real estate deals.
Stacy is married to Miriam Sokol, also an attorney Stacy and Miriam have
Born in Beershiva, Israel raised in West Hills, CA. Receiving
a very early start at age 16 in the entertainment industry as an intern
for Digital Domain working on the location based attractions as Terminator
2:3D. There he learned all different aspects of production design, pre-visualization
and visual effects. Under the supervision of vice president Steve Schklair,
he was hired to stay on at Digital Domain’s new media division as
assistant designer on Barbie Fashion Designer, which ranks among the best-selling
software titles ever produced for the children’s market. In 1998,
he joined Station X Studios for commercials & video game cinematics
working for such clients as Activision and Budwiser.
Transitioning to video game industry, in 2000, he joined the 3DO Company’s
New World Computing division to serve as a lead artist on the award winning
Heroes of Might & Magic 4. Later he served as art director on the
8 part saga Heroes Chronicles. In 2003, Yariv left working fulltime behind
to pursue a degree in Transportation/ Product Design Art Center College
of Design. Working on sponsored projects by Razor, Nelson Watering Products,
Honda, Nickelodeon, and Audi. Yariv applies these disciplines to the entertainment
industry by working freelance as conceptual designer on feature films
ranging from Troy to The Aviator. In his junior year, he serves as an
instructor in communication sketching at Art [email protected] teaching potential
designers and working professionals. He is currently working on a series
of educational Anatomical Design DVDs with his instructor Rey Bustos.
Jumping between entertainment and advertising, Daniel Kaufman represents
a unique breed of content innovators. He has directed more than 120 commercials
for such clients as Budweiser, Comcast and Paramount Pictures and with
ad agencies like McCann-Erickson, Goodby-Silverstein & Partners and
TBWA/Chiat-Day. His spots have won many accolades, even being inducted
into the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In
several instances, Mr. Kaufman has been asked to write some of the campaigns
he has directed. In 2003, he was appointed the American Creative Director
of Yomiko, Japan’s third largest ad agency.
Daniel wrote the book To Be A Man (Simon & Shuster, 1994) a photo
essay exploring the issues of male identity and conflicting gender expectations.
His photographic work has been viewed in solo and group shows around the
country and internationally.
Mr. Kaufman’s short-films have won awards and screened all over
the world. He has also directed stage as well as some television.
As an actor, Daniel trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the
Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has more than fifty professional
stage credits as well as numerous film and television appearances.
Mr. Kaufman was graduated Magna Cum Laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Bachelor
of Arts (BA). He has a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film Directing from
UCLA and is also an Acting Associate to the Guildhall School, in London
Sheryl Giffis (Program
A native Angelino, Sheryl graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in
Rhetoric. She has taught creative writing at the Park School in Baltimore,
Maryland, announced classical music on public radio KBAQ 89.5 FM in Phoenix,
Arizona, trained in financial sales at Morgan Stanley in Beverly Hills
and worked as a freelance writer and copy editor for several public and
private organizations across the U.S. Her articles and poems have appeared
in Horizons Magazine, Guest Informant's In Baltimore, Restaurateur Magazine,
Builder/Architect and The Modern Review.
For three years, she ran film director John Dahl’s office in New
York and then LA, working with Miramax and New Regency on the films "Rounders"
and "Joyride." In 2002-2003, she spent the year in Jerusalem
at a women’s yeshiva studying Torah and spirituality. Upon her return,
she became the director of the Jewish Learning Institute in Pacific Palisades,
a Chabad adult education learning program.
She is the founder of Be Great Life Coaching, a coaching practice dedicated
to helping people discover and express their highest gifts.
Yaron G. Kaplan (Production Supervisor)
Raised in New York City, Yaron Graduated from the University of Southern
Mississippi in 2001. At that point he moved out to Hollywood. He along
with his writing partner Arthur Bonner wrote and directed music videos
for both hip-hop artist Afroman, and the Moshav Band. He has been working
steadily in both television and film.
In the summer of 2000 Yaron filmed a documentary in Vietnam that returned
American veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the
battlefields that caused it. This documentary is being at used as a tool
of recovery at Veterans Affairs hospitals for others who suffer but will
never make the trip.
Yaron has also written, directed and produced multiple short films. He
just finished producing his first feature film, and is in pre-production
for Four-gotten Country, with his partners Arthur Bonner and Matthew Magee.
Arthur W. Bonner III (Production
Born in Alabama and raised in South Los Angeles, Arthur graduated from
the University of Southern Mississippi in 2001. At that point he returned
to Los Angeles where along with his writing partner, Yaron, they have
produced projects including music videos for hip-hop artist Afroman and
the Moshav Band. Arthur was Unit Production Manager on a recently completed
Arthur has written, directed and produced multiple short films. He has
been working steadily in the both television and film.
Arthur, a prolific writer, is also a co-writer with Yaron Kaplan and
Matthew Magee on a film currently in pre-production Four-gotten Country.
Matthew J. Magee (Production
Matthew was born and raised in Magee, Mississippi. He graduated from the
University of Southern Mississippi in 2001. He has been working on and
directing films in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating.
Matthew is also an accomplished fiddler and guitar player. Having already
recorded a few albums, Matthew is currently working on an album with Yaron
Matthew, a co-writer with Yaron Kaplan and Arthur Bonner, is currently
in pre-production for Four-gotten Country, which will be filmed in his
hometown of Magee.
John Freund (Director of Operations)
John Freund graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Since
that time, he has worked as a Production Assistant both in house and on
set with various independent productions, ranging from commercials to
independent features. John has been involved in the film world both in
New York City, where he currently resides, as well as for a brief period
in New Olreans. In addition to serving the JIF community, John is also
working on a feature-length script which he hopes will one day land him
in Hollywood (feet first).