Koya Leadership Partners congratulates the Nathan Cummings Foundation on naming two new members of its senior team. Elizabeth Méndez Berry and Isaac Luria join the Foundation as Directors of Voice, Creativity and Culture. They will jointly lead the Foundation’s work to build empathy, nurture compassion and shift narratives about race, class, gender and ethnicity, who has power and how people value the planet.
After recruiting CEO Sharon Alpert in 2015, Koya was honored to partner with Alpert on this successful search that resulted in the placement of two exceptional leaders. Méndez Berry and Luria will work closely with Alpert and Loren Harris, Vice President of Programs, as they guide NCF into its next successful chapter.
About Nathan Cummings Foundation
Rooted in the Jewish tradition of social justice, Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF). NCF is committed to creating a more just, vibrant, sustainable and democratic society. NCF focuses on finding solutions to the two most challenging problems of our time – the climate crisis and growing inequality – and aims to transform the systems and mindsets that hinder progress toward a more sustainable and equitable future for all people, particularly women and people of color.
Through its Voice, Creativity and Culture program area, the Foundation supports innovative ideas and programs that seek to repair breaches in the social fabric and decrease the divides plaguing our society. The program amplifies the voices of artists, religious leaders and culture bearers to shift the dominant narratives about race, class, gender and ethnicity through culture change, pop culture strategies and stories that offer faith and hope.
“In this moment of social and political turmoil, as we find ourselves once again fighting for progressive religious and cultural values, the Foundation’s Voice, Creativity and Culture program’s grantmaking is critical. Now, more than ever, we need to move hearts and minds through culture, the arts, religious tradition and contemplative practices,” said Nathan Cummings Foundation President and CEO Sharon Alpert. “Elizabeth and Isaac are highly regarded in the field for being innovative, collaborative and willing to take risks. They have both dedicated their careers to the power of storytelling. Each of their perspectives and networks are deep, cross-cutting and complementary. They are exactly who we need on our team to help the Foundation and our partners as we fight against the climate crisis and growing inequality.”
As Director of Voice, Creativity and Culture, Méndez Berry will shape strategies focused on arts and culture, narrative change and pop culture that integrate across the Foundation’s other three areas of focus: inclusive clean economy, racial and economic justice and corporate and political accountability. Luria will similarly develop strategies focused on religious traditions and contemplative practices, as well as support grantmaking in Israel.
Elizabeth Méndez Berry
Méndez Berry is currently a Program Officer at the Surdna Foundation, where she manages the Artists Engaging in Social Change portfolio. Throughout her career as a journalist, professor and funder, she has interwoven gender, race and artistry into her work and elevated the voices of artists working to advance social justice. “Love Hurts,” her landmark investigative article on domestic violence in the hip-hop industry, won ASCAP’s Deems Taylor award for music reporting and was included in Da Capo’s Best Music Writing anthology.
A Spanish-language op-ed that Méndez Berry authored for New York’s El Diario newspaper sparked the country’s first ever public hearing on street harassment of women and girls. And one of the most important rappers of his generation, Jay-Z, cited an essay she wrote as the inspiration for some of his lyrics. Méndez Berry’s experiences as a writer and as a funder have taught her the power of speaking up for justice and the power of helping others find their voices – a core value she embodies to this day.
Raised in Canada with roots in Colombia, Méndez Berry serves on the board of A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based arts organization working with teenage girls of color to end violence against girls and women. She earned a Master of Science at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York and a bachelor’s degree in literature and political science from the University of Toronto in Canada.
Isaac Luria is currently Vice President at Auburn Theological Seminary, where he supports some of the most catalytic faith-rooted, social justice leaders in the country. He co-founded Groundswell, a digital platform where hundreds of thousands of people of faith participate in social action, and he directs programs that have trained thousands of faith leaders in media, storytelling, digital campaigning, social media and more.
As a Jewish leader, Isaac is passionate about the intersection of faith, social justice and public voice and has dedicated his career to exploring these intersections for nearly 15 years. This background has shaped his deep commitment to elevating the voices of faith leaders working to advance social justice across all religious traditions and communities. Isaac is well-regarded as a trusted and deeply networked faith-rooted trainer, coach and strategist.
Luria has written extensively about the intersection of social justice and religious traditions, and has been published in the Jewish Daily Forward, Tikkun Magazine and the Reform Action Center Blog. He earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
For more information, visit http://www.nathancummings.org/.