In Ethical Culture, clergy are referred to as Leaders. They fulfill traditional functions of clergy, including performing marriages and other ceremonies and providing pastoral counseling. In addition, our leaders deliver Sunday addresses, preside over gatherings, lead programs and educational series, and serve as the public voice of our community.
Dr. Joseph Chuman
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Joe is Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture along with the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, NJ, and has been so since 1974. Before that he was Leader of the Essex Ethical Society, and Leader-in-Training at the Bergen and New York Societies. He served on the Leadership Committee of the AEU for over 20 years, and was president of the National Leaders Council for six years. Joe is a representative from the AEU to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and was co-mentor of the sixth class of Humanist Institute – also serving on the Institute’s Board.
Joe has a Ph.D. in religion from Columbia University. He teaches seminars in human rights, and human rights and religion to graduate students at Columbia University, advises them in the development of their dissertations, and helps them advance their studies through internships in the international community. He also teaches human rights to undergraduates at the Honors College at Hunter College. Formerly, he taught at the United Nation University for Peace in Costa Rica and Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
Joe is the former chairman of Amnesty International USA’s Committee Against the Death Penalty and was the chairperson of NJ’s Committee Against the Death Penalty. He recently served on the advisory board of New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Alternative, which helped abolish capital punishment there last year. He is a member of the Teaneck Clergy Council, which he chaired for three years in the ’90s. He helped organize interracial dialogues after a civil disturbance in the city in 1990, and serves on the Ethics Committee at Holy Name Hospital.
Joe has testified before legislative committees in New Jersey on such issues as the death penalty, moment of silence legislation, and religious cults. He has been amicus curiae in Lewis v. Harris, supporting the legalization of gay marriage in New Jersey, and Alberto R. Gonzalez v. State of Oregon, upholding physician assisted dying in the State of Oregon, which was litigated before the US Supreme Court. In 1983, he was a defendant in a landmark case that established free speech rights in New Jersey shopping malls.
Joe founded and is president of the Bergen County Sanctuary Committee for Political Asylum Seekers. The Committee provides a range of services and advocacy for political asylum seekers. In addition to direct activism, Joe spreads the word on Ethical Culture and related themes through extensive writing and publishing in newspapers, journals of opinion and academic texts. He is a former freelance opinion writer for the Bergen Record. He published a collection of his essays in a book entitled “Speaking of Ethics: Living a Humanist Life.
Dr. Richard Koral
Richard Koral is Leader at the New York Society for Ethical Culture and the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. He attended The Humanist Institute and holds a Doctor of Ministry in Interfaith Pastoral Counseling as well as a J.D. degree. Richard is a long-time member of the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester and served as president of the American Ethical Union, the national federation of Ethical Societies, from 2012 to 2015. He is also currently a part-time counselor with the Scarsdale Family Counseling Service.
Dr. Anne Klaeysen, Leader Emerita
Anne Klaeysen is Leader Emerita of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, where she served as Leader from 2008 until her retirement in 2019. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College, as well as Masters degrees in German from the State University of NY at Albany and business administration from New York University (NYU). Dr. Klaeysen is the Ethical Humanist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University and Humanist Chaplain at NYU. She is also co-dean of Center for Education of the American Humanist Association and serves on the board of Sunday Assembly NYC. Dr. Klaeysen participates in several interfaith social justice coalitions.
Robert Liebeskind, Executive Director
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Bob is Executive Director of the Society, responsible for budget development and fiscal management, overseeing the room rental program and management of the building, and working with the board and committees in long-range planning and developing programs for membership and the public. Bob has been with the society since July of 2004.
Prior to joining the Society staff, Bob was Director of Administration for the Department of Psychiatry at North General Hospital. There, he oversaw the day-to-day operations, provided short-and long-term strategic planning and worked closely with the medical staff. He has also served as the Associate Executive Director for the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, providing budget development and fiscal management, long range planning, and the supervision of staff members who ran the agencys myriad programs.
Bob holds a Masters degree in Social Work Administration from Hunter College. He lives with his wife and two children in New York City.
Ed Beck, Communications Manager
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Dr. Joseph Chuman, Leader
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Margaret Determann, Membership Coordinator
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Yalitza Garcia-Krawczyk, Office Manager
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Leonardo Gibson, Facilities Manager
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David Gracia, Music Director
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Audrey Kindred, Children and Youth Programming Coordinator
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Dr. Richard Koral, Leader
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Yolanta Kosmaczewska, Accountant
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Robert Liebeskind, Executive Director
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Marie Orraca, Rentals Manager
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Board of Trustees
The Society is governed by a Board of Trustees, elected from the membership of the Society. Board elections take place each May at the annual membership meeting. Eligibility for the Board requires being a member in good standing for at least eighteen months prior to election.
Honorary Board Members
Elizabeth (Liz) Singer has been a member of the Society for three years. She has served on the Membership Committee in 2014. In 2015 she became the Chair of the Membership Development Committee and oversees the sub committees Fair Share Giving and the Caring Committee. She is also a member of the Communication’s Committee and on the Web-site Task Force. Liz began serving as President in 2016.
Prior to joining NYSEC, Elizabeth was married for 25 years. After her husband passed in 2012 she looked for an important and worthwhile involvement to fill the void. Ethical Culture, recommend by a friend, became just the thing.
Liz was born in Pasadena California and was raised in Whitter California. Her childhood dream of a fashion career lead her a degree from Stevens College in Retail Management, Merchandising and Design.
After the downsizing of the garment business Elizabeth realized the time had come to move on and utilized her textile education and creative talents to start an Interior Decorative Painting business. This became a highly successful business in Bergen County and Manhattan for 10 years.
Personal family tragedies then led Singer to her present career, Geriatric Care Manager. The difficulties and confusion of navigating the Senior Care world lead her to earning a certificate in Geriatric Care and Geriatric Mental Health. As an independent GCM, Elizabeth is able to help seniors and their families plan a fulfilling future servicing many countries in both New York and New Jersey.
Law’nence Miller (“L”) has been a member of the New York Society for Ethical Culture since 2007 and a Trustee since 2011. He serves as Chair of the Personnel, Audit, Policy and Procedure, Bylaw, Board Nominating, and Leader Search committees, and serves on the Finance, Rental, Archive, Advisory and Caring committees. Currently L holds the position of Vice President.
L works for the American Ethical Union as Director of Administration, managing the national headquarters of the Ethical Culture movement; and he serves on five committees for AEU’s Board: Archives (chair), Assembly (co-chair), Board Development, Finance and Communications. He also is co-owner and President of Carson Robert Event Designs, an Events company under the direction of his designer husband Shaun.
His professional work experience has primarily been in operations and management for music, employment, entertainment law, and other businesses and industries. He obtained his BA and BS in Psychology and Theatre from SUNY Purchase and Regents College, and completed graduate work in Business/Accounting at NYU.
William Baker and his wife Marilyn joined the Society in 2009. Before being elected to the Board of Trustees in 2015 he worked as a member of the Personnel and Building Committees and consulted with the Communications Committee.
Bill was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he and Marilyn met when they were both in their teens. They moved to New York in 1970 and raised their two daughters here.
Bill holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Environmental Engineering (Air Pollution Control). He was awarded a commission in the U.S. Public Health Service shortly after graduation and, despite his conviction never to work for the government once he fulfilled his service obligation, Bill spent the next 45 years as a civil servant. Until his retirement in 2013 Bill held a variety of technical and managerial positions in the Environmental Protection Agency, where he was one of its founding members.
Bill does volunteer work helping elderly and/or disabled people manage their day-to-day financial affairs and tutors underprivileged students primarily in math and science. He also pursues a lifelong interest in art and paints.
Robert Berger and his wife Muriel have been members of the new York Society for Ethical Culture since 1995. They enjoy the community, the activities, and the varied opinions of all that are involved. Bob has served on the Board twice before and is honored to be serving again. He has served on numerous committees over the years and attended the Ethical Union’s Summer School.
Joe Fashing is approaching his third anniversary as a member of NYSEC. Though a relative short-timer he’s been an active participant in a number of activities and committees and offered one class in the Ethical Enrichment Program, “Race Relations in the ‘Post Racial’ Society.”
Joe was born and reared in the southeast section of Los Angeles (Huntington Park) where he lived until he departed for college at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After securing his BA in sociology, Joe went to work for Boeing at Vandenberg AFB in what was then called Industrial Relations (now Human Resources). He returned to UCSB to secure an MA and then moved on to obtain a PhD at the University of Oregon. Subsequently, he taught at the University of New Mexico for four years where he held a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the College of Education. In 1973 Joe came to New York for what he thought would be a brief sojourn at SUNY Purchase, and he’s been a New Yorker ever since.
While at Purchase, Joe organized the Faculty Union chapter and was its president for a number of years, served a term on the statewide union executive board, served a couple of terms as presiding officer of the college faculty, represented the college faculty on the statewide academic senate and was head of the Division of Social Science (Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology and Women’s Studies) for six years. Currently he is retired (Emeritus Professor of Sociology), a sometime lawyer (JD Pace University) and reading as much 19th and early 20th century literature as he can while otherwise enjoying life in the City.
Elinore Kaplan joined Ethical in 2011, and the Membership Development Committee (MDC) the following summer, co-chairing, then chairing that committee through to 2015. Still on the MDC, she is presently the co-chairperson of the Communications Committee (CC), and a trustee on our board of directors.
Elinore has always been a New Yorker — born and bred in Brooklyn, raising a family on Long Island, and happily retired to Manhattan since 2010. Over the years she’s had diverse professional experience — briefly as an elementary school teacher; then writer, reporter and editor on community newspapers and trade publications; free-lance copywriter; advertising director at Esselte Pendaflex, c.e.o. of Adfinity Advertising; adult programs director at the Bryant Library,; and finally as a high school English and journalism teacher.
She has served on various organization boards (L.I. Museum Association, L. I. Advertising Association, and School-Business Partnerships of L.I.). Her last volunteer stint on the Island was as founder of a chapter of MoveOn.org. She would like to continue to draw on her experience and abilities to help Ethical Culture continue to flourish as it so richly deserves.
Hazel May has been a member of NYSEC for three years, and has been regularly attending platform for five years along with her partner Loren Fox. Their daughter, Lillian May-Fox, has also been a participant in the children’s group for five years.
Hazel holds a PhD in sociology and was a professor in the UK for 7 years. Discovering that she has a greater vocation for academic administration she joined Columbia University in 2004 and has served in leadership roles in both Columbia College and Columbia Law School.
Skilled in strategic planning, project management, and problem solving, Hazel hopes to contribute to the Society’s sustainable future through service on the Board.
Steven Serling, originally from metro-Detroit in Michigan, Steve’s path to NYSEC began in undergrad at Michigan State University when he joined an organization called the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience (MRULE). MRULE helped bring racially diverse groups of students on campus together for roundtable discussions around different social justice issues. The group also provided community service and socializing opportunities for members to engage with each other outside of the discussions. Through MRULE Steve learned the importance of relationship building through service and socializing, and how that made their roundtable discussions more ‘real’ since there were even stronger bonds. It was an attitude Steve saw in NYSEC, with activities for members and non-members to participate in that are social, service oriented and for us as a community to learn and grow together.
MRULE gave Steve the passion to move to New York City and work in an urban school environment, where he’s currently a social studies teacher. Steve fell in love with the city and what it has to offer, including NYSEC. Growing up with both the Christian and Jewish traditions, he was unfortunately left with a few negative experiences from both, and explored other faiths before realizing he was agnostic. He did not know that there were other larger communities for those who did not believe in God, but still wished to “do good.” Steve enjoys being part of a community that is both thoughtful and caring, but also active, and that NYSEC not only talks about social issues, but puts the theory into action, be it the programs within the SSB, marches and rallies or co-sponsoring of relevant events to raise awareness within the larger NYC community.
Richard Van Deusen married the former Carol Nadell in the Auditorium in January 2007 and joined the Society in 2009. He was first elected to the board in 2012, serving two years as Treasurer and two as Vice President. He has chaired the Building Committee since 2012 and is an active member of Ethics and the Theatre and platform presider.
A native of New Jersey, he managed media production for the Prudential Insurance Company for 30 years. After accepting early retirement he formed a consulting practice specializing in business process improvement, which he ran for 15 years. Dick has now returned to his first career producing and directing play readings for the Society and other New York Theatre Companies.
Along the way he co-founded a professional association that grew to over 10,000 members worldwide. He served as Treasurer of two professional associations and Executive Director for another. In his community he was chairman of the Zoning Board and served two terms on the Township Committee, including two years as Mayor. He also was a Trustee of a regional symphony orchestra and is now a member of The Holland Society of New York.
Dick has a B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College and an M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Boston University. His son, Derek, lives in Cincinnati
Honorary Board Members
Meg Chapman joined Ethical Culture in 2000. She was elected to the board in 2007. Meg was elected as Board President in June 2014. Her interests in the society lie in promoting activism through educational programs and the engagement of families and children with ethics. She is chair of the Sunday School Committee, the Sunday Charities Committee and has served as co-chair of the Sunday Programs Committee. She has also participated in the Ethical Action Committee and the Advocacy Forum. She is a practicing architect and brings that experience to the Board.
Meg was born in New York City, was raised in Massachusetts and returned to New York after seven years in New Haven with a BA and Master of Architecture from Yale University. She lives in New York with her husband Mo Malekshahi and daughter Clara.
After joining NYSEC in April 2003, she volunteered to present a short piece on spirituality for a panel program the last Sunday of that year. Trained for society volunteer work at the Lay Leadership Summer School of 2004, she has since presented an address on Felix Adler’s “Supreme Moral Rule” both at this Society and the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County; an end-of-the-year talk, “Goodbye 2006,” on the activist legacy of the New York Society for Ethical Culture; and a talk in March, 2008, on “Unity and Diversity,” concepts Dr. Adler espoused that bear periodic revisiting. Her most recent address was “Your Brain, Your Mind and Who You Are.”
Andra is now Co-Chair of the Ethical Action Committee, and is a member of the Membership Development Committee. In the past, she served as director of Sunday afternoon programs; and was a member of the Adult Education and the Ethics and the Theater Committees. She is a certified Ethical Culture Officiant.
Andra has read books onto tape at JBI, interviewed political candidates for Citizens Union and served on its program committee, and served on the watershed protection committee of the New York State Sierra Club. She has been active for many years in community theater (acting, singing, dancing, choreographing and directing). Her professional background is in business writing, business administration, magazine editing and public relations.
Charles H. Debrovner, MD (or “Chuck”, when he is wearing his Ethical Culture hat) has been a member of our society for almost 25 years. He served as President from 1988 to 1994, and has been an active Honorary Trustee since that time. He has represented the Society on the Board of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School since 1988, and this year became an Honorary Trustee. He is on the Board of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which was founded by the New York Society. He completed fourteen years as President of the Humanist Institute in 2006, and is now on its executive committee. He, also serves as its representative to the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He recently completed a term on the Board of the American Humanist Association and is now Associate Director of its Appignani Bioethics Center and represents the AHA at the United Nations.
Chuck graduated from Yale University and received his M.D. degree at New York University School of Medicine. He has also served as President of their Alumni Association. He trained in obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU-Bellevue Medical Center, and recently retired from clinical practice after a 43-year career devoted primarily to gynecology and infertility.
One of Chuck’s hobbies is photography, and he videos many of the Society events for our website and our archives. His wife, Pat, also a member for 25 years, is an Ethical Culture Officiant and a Humanist Celebrant, performing many wedding ceremonies. Chuck assists her as “prop man and sound engineer,” and also records the ceremonies on video, which he sometimes presents as a gift to the couple.
Judith D. Wallach is an honorary trustee of the Society, having served as the first woman president for seven years, from 1994 to 2001. Prior to that, she was chair of the Social Service Board, of which she was a founder of the Shelter for the Homeless and the Supervised Visitation Project. She has also served on the board of the American Ethical Union and chaired its Fund Development Committee. During her 26 years of membership in the Society, Judy has served as chair and member of numerous committees, been a Sunday speaker and served as a wedding and memorial officiant. She has also served on the Ethical Culture Fieldston School’s Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee. A graduate of the Humanist Institute and, for 12 years, on its Board of Governors, she chairs the Institute’s Education Committee.
Her passion for the past six years has been the effort, with a group of educators and others, to start public charter schools based on the educational philosophy of Felix Adler and incorporating the essential elements of an Ethical Culture Fieldston education. Making a free, public education with ethics as its base and using a child-centered approach and a thematically integrated curriculum has been, and continues to be, her dominating interest. Judy has also been a board member and secretary of the Partnership for the Homeless, and a member of Citizens Committee for Children of New York. For the past 10 years she has chaired Palladia, Inc., a multi-site human services agency that provides residential and outpatient treatment for substance abusers, many of whom have serious mental and physical illness. She’s been on its board since 1991.
In her otherwise unoccupied time, she pursues her private practice in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Judy is a psychology affiliate of Lenox Hill Hospital and supervises doctoral candidates in their group work. She and her husband, Sylvan Wallach, have a large, blended family spread across the U.S. and in Australia.