Like all communities, it’s our wonderful team that make us special. We’d love you to meet them!
the UK office
Debra has been working in Belarus for over ten years and is a passionate advocate for Jewish community, history, heritage and identity. Debra has worked tirelessly to grow The Together Plan in order to give agency to Jewish people coming out of a traumatic past, to empower them and give them skills and self-belief to rebuild and revive. It is Debra’s mantra that together we can make a real and positive difference for a better, stronger and more cohesive Jewish landscape in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Gillian is an experienced Events Coordinator having fulfilled a similar role for the last 20 years with an Israel-focused charity. She is delighted to be volunteering for The Together Plan which is a truly inspirational organisation. Gillian is genuinely enthusiastic to use her skills and experience to contribute to this wonderful venture.
Michelle is a retired Food Product Developer from Marks and Spencer, having spent over 20 years in the corporate world. Today she is a part-time cookery teacher and full-time obsessed foodie. Michelle is now also using her skills from her past life volunteering as an Events Coordinator at The Together Plan. This role has enabled her to meet a great new team of people and pushed open new doors to enable her to learn new skills. Because of The Together Plan, Michelle is now researching her own family who she has discovered originated from Minsk.
Suzanne used to be a part of the volunteer team at World Jewish Relief when they ran their Gifts in Kind project. When that project closed, she found The Together Plan and was delighted to be able to offer her services and experience to the Aid Together project – which sends humanitarian aid and resources to community centres in Belarus.
In 2018, Suzanne took on the role of Project Coordinator and now manages a dedicated team of 12 volunteers who meet weekly at Pinner United Synagogue.
Sophie has been to Belarus four times, taking a lead role in Youth for Youth annual summer programmes; training young Belarusian adults skills to work in a community setting, planning and running a youth symposium and travelling through Belarus exploring the potential for the development of a Jewish heritage trail. When Sophie is not working in her professional capacity as an Educator at Alyth Synagogue, Sophie volunteers as the Coordinator for The Together Plan’s Youth for Youth programme.
Elaine Collins volunteers in the Together Plan office as the Office Administrator. She began her journey by volunteering at Pinner helping to sort aid and she was inspired by Debra Brunner’s story and her endless energy and enthusiasm! Since Elaine has many years of office work, she felt that lending her time to helping the charity with admin would be the best position for her and was certainly something that the charity needed. Elaine says that she learns more about The Together Plan every day and loves being a valued member of the team.
Sam has been involved with The Together Plan for 9 years and has headed up the Youth for Youth arm for the last 5. She has since handed over to Sophie Peterman to become the Young Adult Development Coordinator. Sam has planned camps and taught leadership skills to multiple communities in Belarus; helped to sort and pack humanitarian aid; planned and participated in a plethora of fundraisers, and now heads up the young adult engagement side of the charity.
In her professional life, she is Head of Programming at Alyth Synagogue, London and in her personal life, she is an avid Arsenal fan and an incredibly competitive Scrabble player.
the Belarus office
Artur was born in Minsk and spent two years living with a relative in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there, as a child of the Soviet Union, that he discovered Judaism; he studied Hebrew and had a bar mitzvah. It was his first foray into Jewish life. He spent a year living in a boarding school in Israel before returning to Belarus where he completed his education in Minsk, studying Human Rights Law. Having had a taste of Jewish life, he has made it his life’s work to strive for a revival of the Jewish community in Belarus. He met Debra Brunner in 2009 and together, since that time, they have worked to build and grow The Together Plan.
Victor lives in Minsk and has been a valued member of The Together Plan team for 4 years. He works closely with Artur Livshyts and is staunchly reliable and well-loved by everyone, especially the Youth for Youth UK team who look forward to seeing him year on year. Victor loves the work that The Together Plan does because it fills him with hope for renewed Jewish community life in Belarus.
Vlad was born in Bobruisk and was an active member of a local Jewish community when he was growing up. Since 2012 he has been involved in The Together Plan’s projects. In 2014 Vlad moved to England where he lived almost for a year. At the moment he is a member of The Together Plan Minsk team. He is proud and excited to be working as part of a charity that is helping to renew Jewish community life in Belarus.
Paul has worked with The Together Plan since its inception and today, together with fellow trustees, provides guidance, governance and advice to The Together Plan’s employees and volunteers. He visited Belarus travelling to different communities in 2018 to gain a first-hand knowledge of how the charity functions in the country. At the same time, highly acclaimed book, We Remember, Lest the World Forget – Memories of The Minsk Ghetto, was launched in Belarus.
Paul has had previous involvement with other charities and has experience of being a School Governor as well as Treasurer and Council Member for Finchley Reform Synagogue, for which he is now involved in the synagogue’s rebuilding programme. Before retiring in September 2018, Paul was the Finance Director for a major financial service outsourcing joint venture.
Paul has been married for 31 years to Bett Demby, a fellow volunteer of The Together Plan, and has two sons now in their 20s.
Michael was a practising chartered accountant for 40 years. He built up his own practice and eventually became one of 10 partners in a very successful accountancy firm. Michael specialised in advising start-up businesses and small and medium-sized companies. His advice involved the development of growth strategies, mergers and acquisitions, raising funds, and successful exit planning.
He was also involved with forensic accounting. He helped organisations devise business plans and develop their teams to take their companies to the next level. Since leaving general practice Michael has continued his career as a business coach. Michael is also a school governor of a primary school in North London.
Laurie has over 25 years of experience in business development, skills and employment, strategy, leadership and bid development within the public and private sectors. He has specialised in employment and skills policy, funding and delivery and held senior positions in both public sector and private sector organisations.
Laurie has previously established his own business and has worked with businesses both large and small to assist their strategic direction, diversification and growth. He has hands-on experience of EU and UK funding streams and has successfully secured significant funding to deliver skills, employment, business support and transnational projects. Laurie has held a variety of leadership roles with regional development, strategic planning and skills policy and has a master’s degree in urban regeneration and is also a magistrate.
support and IT
Jack has been a volunteer and member of The Together Plan team since 2017, helping with IT and office development. He is an invested member of the Youth for Youth programme and has been to Belarus to run training there for young adults. Jack is a chemistry student at the University of York and strongly believes that with the power of “Togetherness”, Jewish communities can be supported, grow and thrive.
Paul has had a non-traditional career path, after dropping out of university after one year. He was a secretary and office manager but eventually found his calling as a Business Systems Manager. He’s a firm believer that the right IT can be used to help unlock organisations’ and individuals’ potential.
Paul first encountered The Together Plan in 2015 at a synagogue community day and hasn’t looked back. He happily acknowledges that The Together Plan has benefited him hugely too. In 2016 he went to Belarus to see our work in action, a transformative experience.
Paul moved from London to Amsterdam in 2017 but still helps out behind the scenes, helping keep our systems running smoothly.
Lady Esther Gilbert
I am lucky to have relatives – a few in Canada, in Israel, in the United States. If not for the Holocaust I would also have relatives in Belarus and Ukraine – and these are just the ones I know about. Most of the close relatives I grew up ‘with’ were dead already, but I know (and carry) some of their names, have some photographs and have stood in some of the villages where they lived and the fields and forests where they are buried. Their memory is part of how I look at the world and hopefully has been transmitted to my children. Memory is also a part of the Jews who live in our ancestral homeland today. Their journey back to Jewish life after the Holocaust and the deprivations of the Soviet regime is due in no small measure to the work of Debra Brunner and The Together Plan.
Two years ago I met Debra and Artur Livshyts at a film they presented. I brought Artur a copy of my late husband Sir Martin Gilbert’s book Atlas of Jewish History, to take back to Belarus with him for the community there. In hearing about the work The Together Plan is doing in rekindling Jewish life and culture in the very places where our ancestors put Yiddishkeit on the map, I was in awe.
The Jews of Belarus that The Together Plan are reaching are not the embers of the vibrant Jewish life of the Pale of Settlement. We, the descendants of Jews who came West before or during the last century, we are the embers of that life that have kept the flame going. The Jews in these eastern lands have survived Soviet, Nazi, and again Soviet occupation, have had their families, their religion, and their culture ripped from them, and have seen so many take advantage of open borders to move to Israel and the West. But their communities in Belarus are being reinvigorated and reconnected with Jewish life, their communities are taking shape and gaining strength. The Together Plan is playing an important role in memorialising Jewish history in Belarus and helping to create vibrant Jewish communities there, while at the same time connecting communities in the UK and lending expertise and energy. ‘Together’ the flame of Jewish life will burn even brighter.
Lady (Esther) Gilbert, wife of the late Sir Martin Gilbert, editor of his website and creator of his monthly newsletters.
As Esther Goldberg, Creator and Editor of the three volumes of Holocaust Memoir Digest, published by Vallentine Mitchell