Meet the Team
Click a team member below to find out more:
Michelle Barnett MBE
Michelle is a true example of the values and ideals that GIFT aspires to. Having been educated at Haberdashers she took a gap year to study at Brovender’s Seminary in Jerusalem before gaining an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Manchester, an MA in Social Work from Brunel University and an MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling from Regents College.
Shocked by the volume of wasted food in supermarkets and restaurants and inspired by R’Naftali Schiff’s vision, GIFT started from Michelle’s kitchen table in 2004, gathering excess bread from bakeries each week and redistributing it to struggling families whilst continuing her work as a probation officer.
However, very soon it became apparent that her passion for giving and her need to inspire others, were too strong and Michelle became GIFT’s very first employee.
15 years later that passion has created an organisation that has left an indelible mark on the Jewish community and the name Michelle Barnett synonymous with giving. The opportunities and acts of giving that GIFT has created now rank in their hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of families in need across the community have benefited from the thousands of hours that GIFT’s army of volunteers have given, supporting them in numerous important ways.
In her personal life, Michelle’s long-suffering husband Danny has supported her in dedicating much of her married life to GIFT whilst also successfully raised their 3 talented children, all who are deeply imbued with a sense of giving, making Michelle the embodiment of the phrase - To Live is to Give
Rabbi Sandor Milun
Born and raised in South Africa, he graduated with a degree in accounting and economics. After acquiring a black belt in judo, Sandor went on to represent South Africa at the Maccabi games in Israel in 1997. After living for 6 years in Israel, he then joined the Jewish Experience of Madison (JEM) in 2007 as program director and after 3 and a half years living on campus with 5000 Jewish students moved to London and took a role in JLE’s campus department. In 2014 Sandor became JLE’s Campus Director.
Sandor’s life vision: developing opportunities and engaging our youth in the community ensuring positive change through social action and education, fits perfectly with GIFT’s mission to inspire and enable giving. Sandor joined the GIFT team in March 2019. His energy, enthusiasm and enterprising nature coupled with his determined mindset are a natural fit to spearhead the GIFT team.
Fun fact: Sandor has been writing a blog for 889 consecutive weeks, having never missed a week in 17 years.
Rabbi Avrohom Zeidman
Rabbi Avrohom Zeidman has a wealth of experience teaching all ages and stages of life. As a previous Head Boy of Hasmonean, he gained 3 semicha’s after studying in various yeshivot in Israel. On his return to the UK he worked for both Seed and the United Synagogue educating young people, young professionals and parents.
During this time Rabbi Zeidman designed many youth programmes and ran sessions for a wide demographic displaying his passion for teaching. A strong creative personality, he created ‘Simcha cards’ selling more than 20,000 and compiled and designed the artwork for the very popular book ‘Foundations’, now used as a syllabus in many Jewish High schools in the UK.
Rabbi Zeidman’s time with GIFT has seen him create an entire curriculum based around educating the next generation of givers, which the GIFT Education team teach in a variety of schools. Inventor (amongst others) of the unique sessions Small Change, Big Difference and the increasingly popular Supermarket Shopping Challenge, his enthusiasm is infectious and teachers often comment how inspired the students are after one of his sessions. Married to Rivka, a trainee Psychotherapist and father to 5 lovely children, Rabbi Zeidman is also a talented balloon modeller and beatboxer. He used to be a vegetarian, but isn’t now.
High Schools, Student & Volunteer Manager
After taking her gap year in 2003-4 to study at Michlala Seminary in Jerusalem, Shira returned to the UK to attend Central School of Speech and Drama. Her love of volunteering caused her to spend all her free time (and some of the time she should have been in lectures) supporting every charity under the sun (ironically except for GIFT).
Shira is a passionate, heartfelt and effective educator, having previously been a Madricha for Aish UK, Bnei Akiva and Kinloss, she combined her easy going and warm personality with her love of educating and in 2006 took up the post of ‘Informal Educator’ in Hasmonean High School.
In 2008 Shira and her husband Rafi moved to St Johns Wood to become the Youth Directors (a week before her eldest daughter was born), a post she thoroughly enjoyed before becoming Directors of Young Professionals where she and Rafi created numerous successful networking and single events and education programmes.
Shira and Rafi are also raising their 3 children, all of who enjoy volunteering at GIFT packathons. They say that their mum has the best job in the world but Shira knows this is actually because of all the sweets in the warehouse.
Community Engagement Co-ordinator
Before moving to London from her life in Manchester 3 years ago, Roxanne worked for Chabad for 17 years. Her accomplishments were far ranging, from setting up a day centre for the elderly to recruiting and coordinating a large pool of volunteers. Roxanne organised a number of services and coordinated her volunteers to help take residents to hospital appointments, make home visits and to bereavement counselling appointments when required.
In 2003 Roxanne became a registered Jewish Chaplin at Wythenshawe Hospital and her weekly visits soon became the highlight of her week. Roxanne’s natural empathy and positive manner, coupled with her gregarious, out-going nature and her deep care for people made a huge difference to the lives of those she engaged with.
In 2016 Roxanne made a life changing decision to leave Manchester and come to live in London. Soon after, she joined the team at GIFT initially as the Volunteer Coordinator and more recently as Events and Projects Coordinator. Roxanne is a natural born giver and an excellent networker and organiser and is delighted to have found another organisation that inspires and motivates her.
Roxanne’s infectious and bubbly personality makes everybody’s day a bit brighter and the team can always be assured that whilst Roxanne works for GIFT, no-one is ever going to celebrate their birthday without a dutch pound and some interesting singing.
Miri (Michelle) Belnikoff
Miri (whose real name is Michelle) studied at uni in Manchester and graduated with a BSc in International Management with German. Miri started her career on the graduate marketing scheme at Ford Motor Company where she worked for 7 years. However her strong passion for community and volunteering won out and after having a short career break to raise three children, moved into the not-for-profit sector.
Prior to joining GIFT, Miri worked in the eVOLve team at JLGB, co-ordinating volunteer awards for teenagers including Yoni Jesner, Duke of Edinburgh and Vinspired awards.
Before moving to Borehamwood last year, Miri was very involved at Chigwell and Hainault Shul including time on the Board of Management, organising social and educational events for young families and as Project Chesed Co-ordinator.
Miri is also a trustee of Onechild Ghana, an International Development Charity, that she helped set up with her husband and in her ‘spare’ time sits on the PTA at Rimon Jewish Primary School.
Having spent all her life as Michelle, Miri is slowly getting used to her new name which she was asked to change when she joined GIFT. With the same name and same initials as GIFT’s Founding Director, it was all too confusing for everyone.
Family Liaison Officer
Originally from South Africa, Yasmine immigrated to Israel in her early 20’s where she not only studied Hebrew on Kibbutz but also met her husband. Staying in Israel until after the arrival of their son, they then made the move to the UK, settling in London.
For the last 9 years, Yasmine has worked as the Centre Manager for the Jewish Marriage Council. During her tenure, Yasmine studied for a Diploma in Counselling and since graduating, has worked in private practice in Bushey and Watford. Yasmine has also volunteered on the Jewish Helpline, Jewish Women’s Aid Helpline and as a counsellor for the Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service.
She has recently joined GIFT and believes her professional background and experience of counselling will complement the role as a Family Liaison Officer. Yasmine loves the ocean and hopes to one day return to Israel where she will spend her senior days in a cosy home by the sea.
GIFT Giving Hub Manager
Marshall has been an active volunteer within the not-for-profit sector for over 30 years, working with both Jewish and Zionist causes. He is an active fundraiser and organiser, having led teams on a variety of community projects. Marshall has previously managed and delivered large-scale community events, procurement initiatives and environmental policy changes for the main Jewish bodies in the UK. In his spare time, Marshall enjoys walking, cinema and reading.
GIFT Giving Hub Assistant
Josh has been with GIFT for over 2 years, working hard to ensure that all our recipients receive their food parcels every week. Josh studied Educational Research at Greenwich and his interests include current affairs and football. Josh loves listening to music and spending time with his nephews and nieces when he is not working at GIFT.
Keren grew up in Stamford Hill and gained a BA Honors in Fashion Management from Nottingham University. After a year of working in Fashion PR at Browns in Central London, Keren decided to spend 9 months in Jerusalem studying at Seminary and volunteering for Shalva, a not-for-profit that supports individuals with disabilities.
It was during her experience at Shalva, that Keren realised her love and passion for giving. Upon her return to London she spent another year working in PR and was involved with a range of Yong Professional charity committees.
When the opportunity to work for GIFT came about, Keren jumped at the chance to steer her career towards work with greater meaning and fulfilment.
Outside of work, Keren cites her passions to be noodles, chocolate, baking and shopping - but not necessarily in that order.
After earning a Master’s in France where she grew up, Miriam moved to London where she became the admin backbone of the International Federation of Actors for two decades, and then of Campus Dept at JLE for close to 10 years.
Her particular blend of values and abilities, coupled with her passion for Yiddishkeit and Chessed, is perfectly aligned with GIFT’s mission as she simply lives to give and strongly believes in giving back to the community.
Bnei Mitzvah Coordinator
Esther was born and bred in Gateshead and after studying in Seminary in Israel, Esther spent a year in Johannesburg South Africa where she worked as an informal Educator at King David High School Johannesburg.
She then moved to NY to work for Meor Manhattan as a women’s educator. She met her husband Akiva in Israel and lived there for 4 years after their wedding while working for different programs which enabled students from around the world to come and explore their Jewish Identity in Israel.
Esther is so excited to join the team at GIFT UK where Giving, Community and Jewish education are all combined. Esther loves connecting with people, and laughing and singing are her favorite things to do.
Born and raised in Manchester, Sophie attended Yavneh High School and went on to study media and fashion make up in Manchester’s northern quarter. In 2011, inspired by an Aish trip she became a Madricha for Aish Manchester whilst starting a freelance makeup business.
In 2012 Sophie decided to further her Jewish education and took a year out studying at Midreshet Tehillah Seminary in Har Nof.
In 2013 Sophie married Alex Woolfstein spending 6 months in Israel before returning to Manchester, where they now live in Whitefield with their 2 young children. Sophie has been working for GIFT since 2014 and loves being involved with GIFT Manchester’s various programmes such as the Foodbank, Bat Chayil programme and various education initiatives across primary schools and high schools.
Sophie’s bubbly yet determined personality has helped make a difference to GIFT Manchester and she has enjoyed watching it grow over the last few years. She relishes meeting new people and understanding what makes them tick and as such has recently started to mentor for Keren, a charity supporting vulnerable girls in the Manchester community supporting girls within the Jewish community.
Born and raised in Manchester, Aliza graduated from Yavneh Girls High School, and went on to study in Michlalah Seminary in Beit V’gan, Jerusalem. Upon returning from seminary she became a big sister for the charity Camp Simcha, helping to support families whose children suffer from serious illnesses.
In 2011 Aliza married Moishe Noe and now has 2 beautiful boys. Aliza joined GIFT Manchester in 2017 and loves the variety of work that is involved with running a busy regional office. She often wears many hats but particularly enjoys her involvement in the Bat Chayil Program and the education sessions run by GIFT in Primary and Secondary schools across Manchester.
Aliza enjoys entertaining Shabbat guests and prides herself on being a friendly and approachable person. Aliza has a love of baking and can often be found whipping up a batch of brownies for the office to enjoy.
Hannah was born and educated in Liverpool at the Kind David School. After a year’s study at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, Hannah moved to London to continue her studies at the University of London. After graduating, Hannah made Aliyah with her husband, Yisrael. Hannah now lives in Jerusalem with her 6 children. In the past, Hannah has held various key educational, charitable and communal roles.
Her creative and innovative programmes have drawn hundreds of participants and she continues to inspire and promote personal and communal growth in all areas of Jewish living.
Hannah is the powerhouse behind GIFT Israel’s success - and a constant source of amazement from the rest of the GIFT team as to ‘how does she do all of that?’
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility