Joshua Richman, Founder and Executive Director

Joshua Richman, a Milwaukee native, founded RUACH and serves as its Executive Director. During the fifteen years since Josh moved back to Milwaukee, RUACH’s development has been shaped in part by his growth as a leader in the Jewish, artistic, and educational activities of Milwaukee’s Jewish community. Josh was educated as a classical musician, with a focus on trombone, conducting, and voice.  He attended Whitefish Bay High School, during which time he soloed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and at the International Trombone Association’s Convention as an award winner.  At Yale University, he was Principal Trombonist and Assistant Conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and was the recipient of the Bach Society Prize for significant contributions to the musical activities on campus. After graduating magna cum laude from Yale College with a BA in Music, Josh studied Torah and Judaic texts for two years at the Machon Shlomo yeshiva in Jerusalem. Returning to Milwaukee from Israel, he was the coordinator of the highly successful “A Season of Jewish Music in Milwaukee,” produced through the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.  Josh’s conception of RUACH emerged in part from this combination of concerts and educational programs throughout the Jewish community, including such locations as day schools and assisted living centers. Josh, who was awarded the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s 2011 Benjamin E. Nickoll Young Leadership Award, resides in the Congregation Beth Jehudah community of Milwaukee’s diverse Sherman Park neighborhood.  He is the proud father of Sara Tikvah, Bentzion, and Reuven Shlomo.

Yaffa Karan, Program Manager

Yaffa Kayla Karan brings a broad background in the arts, Jewish Studies and community outreach to her role as Program Manager for RUACH, Inc. She has worked in various educational settings including camps, Hebrew schools, inner-city schools, colleges, and day schools, teaching music, art, theater, conflict resolution, and Judaism. She received two BA’s in 2001, one from Columbia University in American Studies with an emphasis on music and religion and the second from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jewish law.

Her Senior Project explored, “The Impact of the 1960’s Counter-cultural Music Revolution on Traditional Religious Practice.”  Yaffa is originally from New York, where she was an active member of various community theater troupes (actor/ pit orchestra/ asst. director, with involvement in more than 50 shows), the Clarkstown String Quartet (violin) and the Columbia Klezmer band (violin). In addition to music and theater, her background also includes a strong involvement and academic grounding in the visual arts. Her New York activities included serving as a Peace by PEACE teacher, teaching conflict resolutions skills to students in Harlem (5th grade).

Yaffa Kayla Karan has been involved with RUACH, Inc as an artist-in-residence since 2010, bringing her strong background in music, theater, and Judaism into the classroom before recently becoming RUACH Program Manager. She is passionate about the organization’s mission of bringing arts programming rooted in Jewish values to diverse and underserved populations.

Yaffa currently resides in Milwaukee with her family where, in addition to her work for RUACH, she directs the Milwaukee Jewish Women’s Choir and teaches private violin and piano lessons. Apart from the arts, Yaffa has also acquired strong budgeting and organizational experience in several business settings.

Nicole Carver, Operations Manager

Nicole Carver has worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology at Marquette University, she continued to develop and expand her passion for social justice, social inclusion and diversity through her professional and volunteer work. Her nonprofit career began as the receptionist at M.A.U.D., which, during her tenure, changed its name to the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee (NPC). After leaving the NPC, she worked as the Office Manager for the Planning and Policy Department at the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee and ended her tenure as a Senior Quality Assurance Specialist. While working in the Planning and Policy department, she also coordinated the YWCA’s Regional Racial Justice Program (RRJP). Through the RRJP, she became acquainted with Camp Everytown, WI, now a program of the YWCA. Camp Everytown is an anti-bias camp where teens from throughout Wisconsin learn to challenge stereotypes, build self-confidence, and gain leadership skills. Nicole continues to serve as a volunteer for the program.

After the YWCA, she worked nearly 8 years as Program Director at Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, where she developed and expanded her knowledge and respect for the interfaith community. At Interfaith, she directed the Interfaith Congregation Action Network, an interfaith social advocacy program; the Racial Justice Program; and she coordinated the annual CROP Hunger Walk which raised tens of thousands of dollars annually for Church World Service and collected tons of food for Hunger Task Force.

Her volunteer work includes, serving as a member of the ACLU Milwaukee Chapter Board, Camp Everytown, WI coordinator, Future Milwaukee, MOSAIC Milwaukee, Restorative Justice Community Representative and more.

Karen Reiffman, Project Manager/Art Consultant

Karen Reiffman received her BA in Studio Art at the University of Illinois at Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been making and teaching art in Israel and the U.S. for over 10 years. Karen began teaching with RUACH as an artist in residence in 2009. Since then she has also worked with the organization on projects with a variety of agencies, and has been praised for her creativity and collaborative, open-minded approach to her work. She has had artwork featured in the 2011 Milwaukee Jewish Arts Festival, the Pull Up A Chair Fundraiser and has work on permanent display in Shorewood Village Hall. Karen served as Project Manager and as instructor for RUACH’s 2012 Visual Arts Residencies, Project: Positive Speech, and helped spearhead and develop Project: VITAL (Values In The Arts & Life), including designing the annual curricula for the visual arts component of the program.