Our Staff
JCYS is proud to have retained such an exceptionally qualified and dedicated team at each of our Family Centers, Summer Camps and Central Office, who ensure each program’s success.  We are as diverse and unique as the vast array of opportunities JCYS has to offer.  Feel free to reach out to anyone of us to learn more about JCYS and the services we provide.
Learn more about our Central Office Staff, or meet more employees at our various locations around Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

Central Office - Senior Staff

John Thomason, Executive Director
jthomason@jcys.org  |  (312) 726-8891, ext. 108

John came to JCYS in 2014 with a strong track record of not-for-profit organization operations, and financial and program management.  Previously the Associate Chief Operating Officer for the American Jewish Committee, John also held positions at First National Bank of Chicago, Harris Bank and Freddie Mac, in addition to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.  Originally from California, John moved to Chicago in 1991 to pursue his Master’s Degree in Public Policy at the University of Chicago and went on to receive his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Sid Singer, Chief Operating Officer
ssinger@jcys.org  |  (312) 726-8891, ext. 110

A 20-year veteran of Chicago’s Jewish non-profit scene, Sid brings extensive experience working with children, teens, and staff—along with development, strategic planning, project management, and communications—to his role overseeing our three family centers, nine summer day camps, overnight camp and multiple specialty programs. Previously acting executive director for CFJE and formerly the director of Camp Moshava in Wisconsin, Sid came to JCYS in 2014. Originally from Cincinnati, Sid is a graduate of Yeshiva University and earned his Master’s Degree in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute.

Ada Ma, Director of Finance
ama@jcys.org  |  (312) 726-8891, ext. 117

Ada leads the JCYS Accounting Department in providing management, control and administration of all fiscal operations.  Ada worked as an Accountant and then as Accounting Manager for the American Dental Assistants Association for 10 years prior to joining JCYS in 2010. For a brief period of time, Ada returned to her native Hong Kong where she served as the Financial Controller at Rich Creation International. A Certified Public Accountant, Ada received her Bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and her Master’s degree from American University. Ada is also a Chartered Global Management Accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Cathy Carlo, Director for Human Resources
ccarlo@jcys.org  |  (312) 726-8891, ext. 105

Cathy has over 25 years of experience in Human Resources, 20 of which have been in a leadership role in the public sector. She heads the JCYS’s  Human Resource department with a strong knowledge in recruitment, employee relations, leadership and employee development, training, compensation, benefits and workers’ compensation.  A graduate of Loyola University, Cathy is also a Certified Professional of Human Resources by the Society of Human Resources (SHRM), and an active member of local and national Human Resources organizations.  A native of Italy, Cathy grew up and raised her family in Highland Park, Illinois.

Molly Hill, Director of Development
mhill@jcys.org  |  (312) 726-8891, ext. 115

Leading the organization’s efforts to generate philanthropic support from special events, foundations and individual donors, Molly Hill has been with JCYS since 2010.  Prior to joining our organization, she served as the Philanthropy Coordinator at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) and has volunteered with Girls on the Run and Working in the Schools (WITS). A native of Mendota, Illinois, Molly attended North Central College in Naperville and has a BA in Organizational Communications.

Chicago Lakeview - Senior Staff

Jean Sellmyer Losek,
Director of Chicago Operations
jlosek@jcys.org  |  (773) 281-2533

After receiving her BFA degree at Illinois Wesleyan University, Jean relocated from downstate Illinois to Chicago.  Joining JCYS in May 1993, Jean currently oversees the operations of JCYS Chicago programs including the Michael R. Lutz Preschool, Sunflower and Big City Day Camps, After School Care and TEAMcorps.  A testament to the care of JCYS, Jean’s daughter Maggie grew up in the programs of JCYS from the age of two and continued after high school and college as a camp counselor and assistant teacher at the Michael R. Lutz Family Center.  Jean is committed to running great programs that serve our children, families and community.

Debbie Heifitz Porter,
Michael R. Lutz Family Center Director
dporter@jcys.org  |  (773) 281-2533

Debbie has a long history with JCYS!  At 16 years old, Debbie was an arts & crafts counselor at Camp Henry Horner when JCYS was still Young Men’s Jewish Council.  It was in 1996 that she joined JCYS in her official capacity as Center Director.  Debbie received her formal education from National Louis and Spertus College of Judaic studies and is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for Truman College.  She and her family belong to JRC synagogue where Debbie volunteers and is often asked to teach Sunday school. Debbie’s children attended JCYS preschool and Big City Day Camp. Debbie is passionate about early childhood education and working to fulfill the JCYS mission of providing educational and recreational programs for children!

Elysabeth Ashe, Youth Programs Director
lashe@jcys.org  |  (773) 281-2533

Elysabeth directs TEAMcorps during the school year and Big City Day Camp during the summer.  Elysabeth comes to us with a long history as a camp director, naturalist, teambuilding facilitator and program specialist.  She has experience as a professional storytelling and has performed folk tales and personal motivational stories nationally and internationally. Elysabeth received her BFA in Theatre Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University as well as academic work completed in a Master Program in Wildlife Science from Virginia Tech.

Chicago Wicker Park - Senior Staff

Marissa Gray
Director of Michael R. Lutz Family Center, Wicker Park
mgray@jcys.org  |  (872) 315-2300 ext. 110

Marissa earned her degree in early childhood education at Miami University of Ohio and has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Marissa participated in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps in Chicago and joins the JCYS team with professional experience in after-school programming, curriculum development, program management, play therapy, and school social work. Marissa thinks holistically about children and their families, focusing on serving the family unit as a whole and not just the individual child.

Turhan Karabey,
Assistant Director of Michael R. Lutz Family Center, Wicker Park
tkarabey@jcys.org  |  (872) 315-2300 ext. 120

Turhan, who comes to Wicker Park center after teaching in JCYS’ Lakeview center for 11 years, is currently finishing up his ECE Illinois Director Level 1 credential. He passionately believes in cooperative play-based learning and has volunteered for organizations such as Play for Peace®, along with training in developmentally appropriate practices and play therapy. Turhan earned master’s degrees in fine art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and another in education from DePaul, and has also worked as a sculptor’s apprentice and a freelance artist serving low-income neighborhood schools in Chicago.

Highland Park Operations - Senior Staff

Micky Baer, Director of North Shore Operations
micky.baer@jcys.org  |  (847) 433-6001, ext. 105

Micky’s love for JCYS started in the late 80s when she worked as a Sunflower Camp counselor. In 1998 she began her career as the director of North Shore Day Camps and the Lutz After School Club and now serves as the director of The Lil’ and Assistant Director of North Shore Operations. In addition to acting as business manager, Micky loves her role of parent liaison- providing support for parent fundraising and optimizing the sense of community at the George W. Lutz Family Center. She will tell you that her favorite role of all is Lutz Mom, with the joy of watching her own daughters learn and grow through their years at their family center.

Jori Rosenblatt, Director of Lillian L. Lutz Recreation Center and Jon Vegosen Champ Camp
jrosenblatt@jcys.org  |  (847) 432-6355

Buffalo Grove Operations - Senior Staff

Naomi Samuels, Center Director
nsamuels@jcys.org  |  (847) 279-0900

With over 35 years of experience in teaching and Early Childhood Education administration, Naomi Samuels is Northwest Family Center’s Director.   Naomi received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Special Education, and then a Master’s in Education in Early Childhood and Special Education from Loyola College of Maryland.  Prior to coming to JCYS in 2013, Naomi was at Jane Addams Hull House for 15 years as their Vice President of Child Development Services and at Mary Crane League for one and a half years as their Program Director.

Ruth Taxy,
Director of Early Childhood Education
rtaxy@jcys.org  |  (847) 279-0900, ext. 36

Ruth has been the Director of Early Childhood Education at Northwest Family Center since May 2012. In this role, Ruth oversees the entire Early Childhood program including teacher development, parent outreach and fundraising, and overall curriculum implementation, including overseeing the execution of our Creative Curriculum into all of our classrooms.  Earning her B.S. in Special and Elementary Education from the University of Iowa, Ruth also has a Masters in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy and a C.A.S. in Educational Leadership from National Louis University.  Prior to her time at time at JCYS, Ruth was most recently the Director at Sinai Preschool of Congregation Sinai in Chicago, and has held numerous positions within Chicago International Charter School, Glencoe Junior Kindergarten and Nursery School, Chicago Public Schools, Moriah Preschool and the Bernard Weinger JCC.

Ingleside Operations - Senior Staff

Graham Little,
Director of Camp Henry Horner
glittle@jcys.org  |  (847) 740-5010, ext. 2226

Graham has a Master’s Degree in Recreation Administration from Aurora University, and has extensive experience in camping and recreation from his years as a day camp director for Metropolitan Family Services, director of camping services for YMCA of McHenry County, and as a senior program director for the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake.

Erin Newport, Camp Red Leaf Director
enewport@jcys.org  |  (847) 740-5010, ext. 2227

Erin has created programs and services for individuals with disabilities for 14 years.  Overseeing Camp Red Leaf since 2010, Erin has expanded the services and program offerings at Camp Red Leaf to more than 400 individuals each year.