OUR TEAM BIOS
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Iowa, Alex Abbeduto set out to make a difference in her community. After volunteering as an ESL tutor and interning with a local women’s political organization, Alex realized she could begin her peacebuilding journey at home with Hands of Peace as Office Administrator. Alex is excited to learn about nonprofit operations in her position and discover where her true skills and passions lie. In her free time Alex practices her foreign language skills and keeps track of current events in order to lay the foundation for a diplomatic career.
A peacebuilder and leader, Hamze Awawde is committed to inspiring and empowering youth to create change. Before joining Hands of Peace as Regional Manager of the Palestinian Delegation, Hamze recruited young participants for skill-building and conflict resolution programs with YaLa Young Leaders, where he developed the YaLa Online Academy, YaLa Press, and YaLa Social Media channels. Most recently, Hamze organized and recruited 130 young activists from the Middle East and Africa for a 6-week online leadership course and coordinated an online Facebook for Journalists program with the International Center of Journalists. Hamze earned an MA in Global Community Development from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Business Administration and Economics from Birzeit University in Ramallah.
Debby is a retired human resources professional whose H.R. career was in the Fortune 100 high tech industry. Debby has been involved with Hands of Peace almost from the beginning – as a volunteer, host family, Board member, and Board Chair. She is a member of Glenview Community Church and lives in Glenview IL with her Cairn Terrier Riley. Debby believes that Hands of Peace provides a safe space for young leaders to become change agents in their communities and beyond.
As Founder of Hands of Peace, Gretchen has served many roles over the life of the organization, focusing on leadership, strategic planning, and fundraising as the organization has grown. Gretchen currently serves on the Board of Directors, where she invites supporters to discover how they can find meaningful ways to support the mission and the always-growing financial needs of the organization. Gretchen holds a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Hamilton College and an MBA from the University of Chicago. From 1985 to 1997, Gretchen worked for First Chicago Capital Markets, as an economist, securities trader and fixed income expert; she left as a Managing Director.
Rana Haddad is the Regional Manager of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel Delegation for Hands of Peace. She began her career with Hands of Peace as a participant in 2003 and an XL in 2004. She then came back as a chaperone in 2008, and was promoted to Regional Manager in 2009. She has received her BA in Pharmacy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and currently works as a pharmacist at Meuhedet, which is the third largest health care provider in Israel. She balances her job as a pharmacist with her work for Hands of Peace and continues to help develop young leaders dedicated to peace in the Middle East.
Husam Jubran brings his extensive peace and conflict resolution experience to Hands of Peace as Director of Facilitation. Engaged in community organizing and activism from a young age, he earned a Fulbright to attain a masters degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University and now educates others in conflict management, crisis management, and nonviolence. As a tour guide, Husam works for Mejdi Tours which offers dual narrative tours of Israel/Palestine. Husam also works as a political and interfaith tour guide to the Holy Land. Husam also served as a representative of Palestine and Jordan in Synergos’ social entrepreneurship programs from 2007 to 2017.
Rich Katz and his wife, Heidi, have been a part of the Hands of Peace community for many years, hosting participants and facilitators each year from 2009 through 2018. Rich co-chaired several of the annual Chicago Benefits and Farewell Celebrations during those years and joined the Hands of Peace Board in late 2019. Rich helped launch the Reimagining project as Interim Executive Director in 2020.
Rich has long had a keen interest in peacebuilding in the Middle East. He has a broad knowledge of the political and social life of the people who live there, traveling extensively through Palestine and Israel and joining the Mejdi Multi-Narrative Tour.
Rich is a retired middle school social studies teacher; he and his family live in Denver, Colorado.
Emily is excited to join Hands of Peace as Chicago Site Director. She participated in the summer program as a Hand in 2015 and as an XL in 2016. She also participated in the Hands of Peace/EcoPeace Collective Impact Project in 2018 and was awarded the Rooftop Consciousness Award in 2020. Inspired by her Hands of Peace experience, Emily wanted to explore further the intersection between environmental justice, peace, and security within communities affected by armed conflict. She graduated with honors from Tulane University in May 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Biology and a B.A. in Political Science: International Relations. In August 2021, she graduated from Tel Aviv University with an M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Mediation, as well as received a mediation certificate from the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution under the auspices of UNITAR. Emily specializes in feminist foreign policy and the ways in which increasing women’s leadership and amplifying historically excluded voices leads to more equitable, transformative, and holistic peace and policymaking.
As Director of Development, Diana Kutlow is responsible for strategic planning and development of fundraising initiatives for Hands of Peace. Diana has a BA in history from Barnard College at Columbia University, a Master’s in Peace and Justice from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at University of San Diego (USD), and a certificate in Non-Profit Management from USD. Diana joined Hands of Peace after a long tenure at the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice, where she managed the Distinguished Lecture Series, and served as Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the Kroc School. In previous positions at the New York Post, CBS Sports and ABC Sports, she covered national and international sports events, including several Olympic Games.
Kim is a marketing and strategic planning professional whose involvement in Hands of Peace began with her two daughters, Sophie and Rebecca. Both are Hands of Peace alumnae and together they have hosted five young women from Israel, Palestine and Brooklyn. Kim chaired the San Diego Benefit for three years and served as co-chair of the Reimagining process. She has supported Hands of Peace with her creative talent as a communications and public relations strategist, writer and, most recently, as producer of the “What’s Possible” video. She received the 2022 Peacemaker of the Year award from the Encinitas Rotary.
Deborah brings her award-winning media, public relations and branding savvy to Hands of Peace as Marketing and Communications Manager. Deborah has recently partnered with many high-profile clients for event planning, messaging and brand development including the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Her creative leadership helped to propel NBC 7 San Diego, an NBC-owned television station, to long-term ratings success. Deborah has been rewarded with multiple regional Emmys, a national Emmy and four San Diego Press Club awards for journalistic excellence. She is also the proud recipient of the YWCA “Women and Industry” TWIN Award and she was recently inducted into the National Television Academy’s Silver Circle, a prestigious honor roll of professionals who have made significant contributions to television.
Based in Chicago, Il., Lisa Notter brings more than 20 years of experience in strategic and creative nonprofit fundraising, solicitation strategies and proposals, advancement operations, annual giving, and donor relations to Hands of Peace as Development Officer. Lisa most recently served as the Vice President for Advancement for Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), a graduate school of theology. During her tenure as VP at CTS, she led efforts to secure $1M in funding from Lilly Endowment and the historically Christian institution’s first-ever gift from a Muslim philanthropist for initiatives to combat Islamophobia.
Ayala Shalev brings a unique combination of skills, commitment and vision to Hands of Peace as Regional Manager of the Jewish-Israeli Delegation. Fluent in English and Hebrew, Ayala is passionate about peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Ayala has managed the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony and worked with
The Parents Circle – Families Forum, co-leading its Young Ambassadors for Peace Program. She also created a volunteer program that presents creative workshops for young cancer patients at Shiba Hospital in Tel Aviv. Throughout her peacebuilding career, Ayala has created both uninational and binational dialogue programs – designed for participants to see “the other.” Ayala graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tel Aviv University with a BA and an MA in Democratic Education.
Dania Zanaid graduated Magna Cum Laude with her BA in International Studies-Political Science at UC San Diego in 2020. She now balances working as a refugee case manager and coordinating the Raising Youth Voices program that brings the experience of dialogue and leadership development to local San Diego youth. She has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and spent time abroad in Europe studying Mediterranean politics and migrant issues. She is passionate about the refugee crisis and works everyday helping families obtain housing, education, and employment to reach self-sufficiency. Dania also seeks to bring people together through music and dance. She is a proud Palestinian-American who remains connected to her culture through a traditional dance known as dabke. She is a member of the Zaytouna Dabke group that performs for the House of Palestine in Balboa Park and she taught dabke to two Hands of Peace summer cohorts. Dania is very excited to continue the important work of supporting youth leaders and bringing diverse voices together to create a space where everyone can be heard.