Our Staff

Our staff powers our mission and vision. Learn more about the people behind the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines and contact us if you’d like to be connected with one of our staff members.


Director of Education

Sophie grew up in Des Moines and moved to Washington, DC for college in 1995. In November 2012, she moved back to Des Moines with her husband Matt, daughter Hailey, and son Lester. Formerly a Family Care Coordinator at Early Stages with DC Public Schools, Sophie supported families of children ages 0-5 from time of referral through the child’s placement into special education.

 Sophie received a MEd in School Counseling from George Mason University and a BA in Elementary Education from American University. Sophie taught elementary school in Montgomery County, Maryland and Fairfax County, Virginia for 9 years. Sophie’s primary goal is to support and foster children’s growth and inquiry into Judaism.


Director of Jewish Family Services

Jody is the Director of Jewish Family Services and Outreach. She works closely with seniors in our community, arranging luncheons and other social activities, as well as visiting in-home to provide support. She also works with volunteers to provide transportation and support to Jewish seniors and oversees the Tzedakah funds to help those in need. Jody is also involved in community groups focusing on food insecurity and aging issues. Prior to joining the Federation, Jody was a program manager at the Iowa Department of Human Services.


Iowa Jewish Historical Society Director

Sandi is the Director of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society and has been with the Society since 2008. Sandi holds an MA in History and an MBA from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and a BA in History from Lenoir-Rhyne College in NC. She is the Past President of the Iowa and Nebraska Museum Associations and served as an officer and on the national Council of the American Association for State and Local History. Sandi is responsible for the management, development, promotion, and funding of the IJHS.


IJHS Curator, Manager of Collections

Sarah is the Curator and Manager of Collections at the Iowa Jewish Historical Society and has worked at IJHS since 2011. Sarah earned her MA in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and her BA in Anthropology with a Minor in History from Iowa State University. Sarah main focus is on the development, management, and care of the IJHS collections, and the development of exhibits.


Accounting and Data Administrator

Henry works in the Accounting department and really loves the friendly atmosphere and the rich Jewish history of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. He enjoys cooking, reading, and going to social activities such as concerts. One thing most people don’t know about Henry is that he used to play the banjo!


Technology Technician Student-to-Student Coordinator

Kyle is a recent graduate of Drake University with a BSBA in Data Analytics. He provides IT support for the Jewish Federation. He is also the Coordinator for the Student to Student program as well as an assistant to Drake Hillel.


Judaic Specialist, Engman Camp Shalom Camp Director, Editor In Chief of The Jewish Press

Giovanna is the Judaics Specialist and works with Gan Shalom, Beit Sefer Shalom and Engman Camp Shalom children to bring Jewish education to their daily lives. When she isn’t in a classroom with students, or outside with campers, she serves as the managing editor for The Jewish Press. She is responsible for creating content, working with others for content and layout of the Jewish Press. Zavell is a graduate from Drake University with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and a BA in English. She is a native of Skokie, Illinois but admits Des Moines has captured her, and is her second favorite city, after Chicago.

In Memoriam

Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein

Mark served as community relations director since 1996. A native of Brooklyn, Mark was raised amidst the splendid diversity of ethnicities in New York City, an education that he thoroughly enjoyed. His formal education culminated in a Ph.D. in Music Education/Music History from Michigan State University. During his graduate studies, Mark was active at the MSU Hillel and a member of the Lansing Jewish Federation’s Public Affairs Committee.

After teaching at the college level for a number of years, Mark returned to East Lansing to serve seven years as executive director of the MSU Hillel. It was from that similar position that Mark transitioned into community relations work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. Mark and his wife Jody have three grown children.

Mark passed on December 25th after a battle with a rapidly progressing illness. The Federation has set up a memorial fund in his name if you would like to donate in his honor.

If you are interested in being a part of our team, check out our current job openings.