Who We Are

Our Mission.

Upward Community is committed to developing emotionally healthy children, teens and young adults. We empower youth by creating safe spaces dedicated to fostering connections and building resilience, while supporting parents and educators as they navigate the challenges of raising children into healthy adults.

Rachie Karesh
Rachel Karesh, LCSW

Executive Director

Rachel Karesh holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She has worked and excelled in social work for nearly two decades. Some of those experiences include: working as a social worker in a therapeutic post high school program for at-risk teens, providing mental health support and mentorship at Meor HaTorah Seminary in Israel, working as a school social worker at Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School and working as the camp social worker at Moshava Wild Rose.

Rachie served as the Clinical Director at Upward Community for over 10 years. During that time, she was instrumental in the building and opening of the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center at Upward Community and was responsible for all assessments, counseling and crisis intervention of the referred teens.

Rachie now serves as the Executive Director of Upward Community where she is responsible for designing, developing and implementing strategic planning for the organization. She manages staff relationships, community outreach, program development and collaboration with the Board of Directors; all in an effort to help even more families reach new heights.

Rabbi Yechiel Bresler
Rabbi Yechiel Bresler, LPC

Assistant Director

Rabbi Yechiel Bresler, previously our Educational Programming Director, has transitioned into the role of Assistant Director of Upward Community. 

Rabbi Bresler earned his Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. Rabbi Bresler has been a member of the Upward Community team since September of 2019. In addition to his role as Assistant Director, he is a Clinician and oversees the educational programming including community lectures and Mental Health Matters podcast. Rabbi Bresler also serves as the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park. 

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Rabbi Ari Scher

Director of Prevention and Enrichment

Rabbi Ari Scher began his professional career in academia teaching at Rochelle Zelle High School and then Yeshivat Hakotel in Israel. Rabbi Scher joins us from Arie Crown Hebrew Day School, where he was the Director of Students (boys division) and prior to that, a Student Guidance Counselor since 2016. 

Rabbi Scher will be overseeing much of our enrichment programming including Upward Expeditions, LevelUp Lounge, UpShots Basketball, as well as developing new and exciting programs for all ages. He will also be an essential part of the prevention team, working with schools throughout the community on educational-based programming and prevention based services. We are thrilled to welcome Rabbi Scher to the Upward team and look forward to great things!

Shuli Tsadok
Shuli Tsadok, LCSW

Clinical Director

Shuli Tsadok received her Master’s in Social Work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She completed her first year of her internship training in Israel and her second year as an intern at Upward Community. Under the guidance of Upward Community, she worked as a clinician at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School and Ida Crown Jewish Academy where she provided individual counseling and educational programming for students. From there, Shuli continued working at Ida Crown Jewish Academy as the school social worker for seven years. Shuli worked with students on an individual basis and taught the Barry and Harriet Ray Step Up to Healthy Living Curriculum. Shuli rejoined the Upward Community staff in July 2017 as a Clinician for our Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center. In July 2020, Shuli began her new role as full time Clinical Director.


Aimee Shemano-Krupp

Manager of Operations

Aimee Shemano-Krupp has a Bachelor’s from Tulane University and majored in English and Jewish Studies. She spent twelve years as owner and operator of a children’s Designer Consignment store in Highland Park called, Principessa. She also serves as the Chicago-North Shore Hadassah Vice President of Philanthropy as well as Co-Leader of their Building Hadassah Communities Cohort program in which she helps recruit and train emerging leaders. Aimee joined Upward Community as Manager of Operations in September 2018.

Enrichment Staff

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Rivkah Efron

Director of Girls Enrichment

Rivkah Efron has been coordinating enrichment programming for girls at Upward Community since 2012. Rivkah has created and overseen multiple enrichment programs including LevelUp Lounge for high school and middle school girls, sports leagues, summer programming, retreats and more. Rivkah recently joined us in a greater capacity as Director of Girls Enrichment. “Rivkah’s enthusiasm and love for all people is magnetic. She is selfless in her giving and knows how to connect with each and every girl while making them all feel special,” says Chaya Tova Hartman, Executive Board Member. Upward is excited to see the amazing programs that Rivkah will create in her new roll.

 

Yaakov Silverman
Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

Coordinator of Level Up Lounge for High School Boys

Rabbi Silverman received his Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to that, he studied at Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, the Mir Yeshiva of Jerusalem and Lakewood Yeshiva. Rabbi Silverman is currently working as a 12th Grade Rebbe at Fasman Yeshiva High School. His charismatic personality, love of teaching and sports makes him a sought after rebbe by all of his students. Rabbi Silverman joined Upward Community as the Boys Lounge Coordinator in 2021 and is excited to take the lounge programming to greater heights.

Clinical Staff

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Lea Dugan, LCSW

Coordinator of Pediatric Mental Health Department Child and Family Therapist

Lea Dugan joined the Upward Community team in February of 2022 as a part-time pediatric clinician. It soon became evident to everyone at Upward Community that Lea was someone whom we wanted to join the team in a full-time capacity. As of June 1st, Lea has joined Upward Community full-time as the Coordinator of the Pediatric Mental Health Department.

Lea Dugan earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from Michlelet Beit Rivka in Israel. Lea has experience working with children, families and communities around the world for over 20 years. She has lived and worked in Argentina, Israel, Iowa and Chicago. As a result of Lea’s success and passion as a preschool teacher, she later earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Erikson Institute- specializing in a developmental psychology approach with an emphasis on the child in its environment. Lea uses elements of play, sand art therapy and bibliotherapy to engage with her clients and is fluent in both Hebrew and Spanish. Prior to joining Upward Community, Lea worked as a clinician in multiple settings including hospitals, infant welfare settings and a pediatric clinic. 

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Rivkie Greenland, LPC

Clinician, Intake Coordinator

Rivkie Greenland is a Licensed Professional Counselor and earned her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Bellevue University. Rivkie comes with 25 years of experience mentoring high school teenagers and young adults through Midwest and National NCSY. Additionally, she has been teaching kallahs and helping young married women in the area of Taharas Hamishpacha for over 12 years. Rivkie joins our team as a Clinician and Intake Coordinator for the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center, “Rivkie brings years of professional and life experience to our counseling center. She is organized, detail oriented and takes great care of each client that she comes into contact with,” says Shuli Tsadok, “We are honored to have Rivkie join us at Upward Community.”

 

Sara Kanowitz
Sara Kanowitz

Clinician and Coordinator of Marketing

Sara Kanowitz is working toward a Master’s degree in Social Work at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Sarah has been involved with several community organizations such as: Chai Lifeline, Friendship Circle, Keshet and NCSY 4G. She is using the skills she has gained in these various areas of chessed and teen leadership to help make Project Impact an exciting experience for adolescent girls across Chicago. Her warm, positive and outgoing personality makes her the perfect fit to run this program. Sara forms meaningful relationships with the “Teen Influencer” girls and provides them with fun and meaningful projects to help them give back to the community.

shoshanah
Shoshanah Altman-Shafer, LMSW

Clinician

Shoshanah Altman-Shafer received her Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work and attained a professional educator’s license in 2022. Shoshanah completed her first year of internship at CJE SeniorLife and her second year as an intern within the Chicago Public Schools District. Shoshanah has experience working with children of all ages.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, Shoshana was recently hired as a clinician at the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center. Simultaneously, Shoshanah will be taking classes in Expressive Arts Therapy and working toward becoming a Registered Expressive Art Therapist (REAT). “Shoshanah’s warm demeanor, desire to learn and experience working with children, made her a perfect candidate to help build out our Pediatric Mental Health Department,” says Shuli Tsadok, Clinical Director. “We are so grateful to the Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts for the incredible opportunity to bring expressive art therapy into our Counseling Center.”

 

Eli i brand
Eli Brand MS, LSW

Clinician

Eli Brand completed his Master’s in Social Work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Prior to becoming a social worker, Eli taught Judaic Studies and Psychology in a boys high school while completing a Master’s in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Education and Administration. Eli draws from his many experiences working with children and adolescents and integrates them in his clinical practice. He utilizes his approachable, friendly and empathic nature to provide a comfortable and warm environment in which one can experience hope and healing. Eli joined Upward Community as a clinician in 2020.

Michal Cohen
Michal Cohen, LCSW

Clinician

Michal Cohen earned her Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University.  As an experienced clinician, Mrs. Cohen has helped countless individuals discover better paths in their relationship struggles and in dealing with mood disorders, anxiety and OCD.  In addition to her work as a therapist, Mrs. Cohen spent 30 years teaching brides through the Daughters of Israel program. She also serves as the Rebbetzin at Congregation Adas Yeshurun, where she has been for the past 30 years. In addition to running her own private practice, Mrs. Cohen devotes one day a week to clients at the Mozes and Helen Stern Upward Counseling Center.

jenny hagage
Jenny Hagage, LSW

Clinician

Jenny earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University.  Jenny joined Upward Community after years of experience working with children, adolescents and adults at the ARK, Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, Lubavitch Girls High School and Ida Crown Jewish Academy. Jenny joined Upward Community as a clinician in 2020. She is excited to be expanding her role at Upward Community, now working as a lead therapist in the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center.

Tzvi Yaakov Miretzky, MSW

Clinician

Tzvi Yaakov Miretzky earned his Master’s in Social Work from Fordham University

Graduate School of Social Service. Prior to becoming a Social Worker, Tzvi Yaakov graduated with a Master’s in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Education and Administration. Tzvi Yaakov comes to Upward Community with a vast knowledge of working with teens and children. He values the effort that goes into building and maintaining healthy relationships and works hard to make sure that others feel the same. Tzvi Yaakov joins Upward Community as a Clinician in the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center. “Tzvi Yaakov is a true asset to our team at Upward Community. His positivity, relatability, and sincerity make him an incredibly valuable member of our team,” said Rabbi Bresler, Assistant Director of Upward Community.

Shoshana Rifkind
Shoshana Rifkind MSW, LCSW

Clinician

Shoshana Rifkind obtained her Master’s of Social Work from Adelphi University School of Social Work. She has worked as a clinical social worker for over 25 years in diverse settings. She served as school social worker and Director of Student Social and Emotional Services at Hanna Sacks Bais Yaakov High School for seventeen years. Prior to that, Shoshana worked in a psychiatric hospital, an elementary school, as Director of Clinical Services in a Vocational Rehabilitation Center and as a clinical therapist and supervisor for consultants serving Medicaid and Medicare recipients. Currently, Shoshana maintains a private practice where she specializes in the treatment of women, children and adolescents struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, social and communication skill deficits, stress management and women’s issues. Shoshana enjoys devoting time to servicing clientele as a clinical therapist for children and adolescents at Upward Community’s Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center.

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DJ Shabat, LPC, NCC CADC

Clinician

DJ Shabat earned his Master’s in Clinical Counseling from National Louis University. Prior to that, DJ had obtained his CADC from IAODAPCA in 2018 as well as his AAS in Substance Use Counseling from Oakton Community College. DJ has been working with people suffering from substance use disorder since 2018. He is excited to continue to help build and grow awareness of mental health at large and substance use services in particular. DJ joins the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center as a Clinician. 

Lynn Shyman
Lynn Shyman, LCSW

Clinical Supervisor

Lynn is a Psychotherapist with certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She was formerly the Director of Counseling Services in the Skokie Center of Jewish Child and Family Services where she provided clinical supervision, staff training and administrative oversight. Lynn also works with children and families in the midst of divorce and other family challenges. As a trained divorce mediator, Lynn has been a referring member of the Mediation Council of Illinois. Lynn started working in the Mozes and Helen Stern Counseling Center as Clinical Supervisor in August 2020.

Yael Sonenthal, LPC

Clinician

Yael Sonenthal received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from North Park University. After spending her internship at Upward Community, she worked as a clinician in Arie Crown Hebrew Day School under the guidance of Upward. At Arie Crown, Yael offered students individual counseling, interpersonal skills groups and educational programming. Since then, Yael has served in various supportive and clinical roles including time at the Yellowbrick Program as well as in a private North Shore practice working with individuals, couples and families. Yael uses collaborative counseling techniques including attachment-based therapy, CBT and DBT to support clients as they work to achieve their goals. In 2019, Yael  joined the Upward Community clinical team in addition to her work at a private practice.

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Aviva Vilenski RN, LPC

Clinician

Aviva Vilenski comes to Upward Community with 25 years of experience as a nurse in intensive medical units, which has given her a deep understanding and appreciation of the connection between mind and body. She received her Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Yorkville University in New Brunswick, Canada. Aviva is a trauma informed clinician, trained in EMDR, who believes that no one should have to go through the pain and the struggles of life alone.

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Upward Community Interns

Upward Community is proud to offer an internship program for those pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work or Mental Health Services. Our interns are placed in a variety of local schools to help the guidance staff and be an extra resource for the students. In the past, interns have joined us from schools such as Loyola, Wurzweiler, University of Illinois and more. The interns facilitate workshops and see children individually in the schools, as well as receive high quality training and supervision at the Upward Community office. Please contact us to apply.