JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI, PRESIDENT
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. She regularly works with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. Mizrahi has submitted testimony on employment for people with disabilities in all fifty states and at the Federal level.
She has published dozens of op-eds and publications on disability issues, including in USA Today, The Hill and other publications. She has columns in The Huffington Post, Times of Israel and The Mighty. Mizrahi is a co-author of Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, which brought critical attention to the school-to-prison pipeline for people with disabilities and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. She is involved in the Emmy-winning TV show Born This Way and advancing diversity in Hollywood. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities.
Mizrahi has met one-on-one with 43 of America’s governors on disability issues. She also has done projects with the White House and more than 60 U.S. Senators, as well as helping elect Prime Ministers and Presidents around the world. She is an expert in strategic communications, political strategy and on numerous public policies including international relations. A former spokesperson for a national political party, Mizrahi became “post-partisan” after 9/11 when she dedicated the next decade to “winning hearts and minds” on issues of terrorism and Middle East peace. She has worked with ambassadors from 85 different nations.
Mizrahi founded and led Laszlo Strategies and previously was political and training director for Campaigns and Elections magazine, campaign manager for a winning Congressional campaign, and founder of the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s award-winning community services program and public policy programs. She was a regular columnist for The Daily Record where she published more than 300 columns/op-eds on policy and politics. She has produced numerous videos, and has been more than a hundred times on national television including on CNN, MSNBC, FOX and others.
The co-founder/director of The Mizrahi Family Charitable foundation, Mizrahi is active in the philanthropic community. A graduate of Emory, Mizrahi also studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, L’Institute Catholic in Paris and successfully completed further work on performance metrics at Harvard. She can be reached at JenniferM@RespectAbility.org.
LAUREN APPELBAUM, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
Lauren Appelbaum is Director of Communications at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. She brings more than 10 years of experience in strategic and crisis communications, writing, video and web production, news gathering and social media to the disability agenda. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit, where she worked with Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell.
Appelbaum has published hundreds of articles on the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. The talent behind www.TheRespectAbilityReport.org and #RespectTheAbility, she is a champion for people with disabilities. The #RespectTheAbility campaign highlights model employers that demonstrate how hiring workers with disabilities benefits the employer, the employee and society. The campaign’s goal is to erase negative and untrue stigmas associated with hiring people with disabilities.
Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to stand up against ableism and other prejudice – while promoting positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. She also supervises several Fellows in stigma and social media through RespectAbility’s Fellowship Program. During the 2016 election season, Appelbaum led a team of Communications Fellows, which interviewed all of the presidential candidates about the importance disability employment, reporting all interviews via accessible video and articles in The RespectAbility Report.
Outside of work, Appelbaum is active in community theater and has served as a director, stage manager and rehearsal assistant for more than a dozen musicals and plays. Having organized volunteer ASL interpreters and coordinated ADA seating at performances, as well as directing a nonverbal actor with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, she understands first-hand the importance of inclusion of both performers and others with disabilities.
Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University and undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She also successfully completed further studies on marketing through the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she serves on several national and local nonprofit boards. You can reach her at LaurenA@RespectAbility.org or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.
PHILIP KAHN-PAULI, POLICY AND PRACTICES DIRECTOR
Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. He educates leaders at the federal and state level about best practices to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. Kahn-Pauli coordinated the development and distribution of both the Disability Employment First Planning Toolkit and Disability and Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success report. He frequently organizes accessible webinars on best practices, which are attended by workforce boards, agencies, VR, disability organizations, public officials, artists and more – reaching a national audience of more than 2,000. Kahn-Pauli also speaks at national and regional conferences for workforce boards, agencies and professionals.
Kahn-Pauli serves as the co-chair of the Employment and Training Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). He works with more than 110 national disability organizations to impact federal policy and move the disability employment agenda forward at the national level. At the state level, Kahn-Pauli advocates for cost effective solutions, replicable models and school-to-work transition programs for youth with disabilities.
Kahn-Pauli’s career in disability began with several years of work at a local nonprofit focused on traumatic brain injury. He holds a master’s degree in social policy and philosophy from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. Raised by a single mother with serious chronic health issues, he is deeply committed to building a better future for people with disabilities. You can reach him at PhilipP@RespectAbility.org.
BEN SPANGENBERG, NATIONAL LEADERSHIP PROGRAM MANAGER
Ben Spangenberg is the manager of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program where he recruits and trains talented young leaders for careers in public policy, advocacy and media. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities.
Spangenberg was previously RespectAbility’s Special Assistant to the President and was responsible for scheduling appointments and travel for the president, coordinating monthly Board updates and assisting with the day-to-day administrative operations of the office.
He also assisted with RespectAbility’s democracy work, spending several weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire interviewing presidential candidates. He has met 100 percent of the candidates on both sides of the aisle, educating their campaigns on the importance of not only ensuring accessibility of events and materials but also creating thoughtful policies for helping people with disabilities achieve employment goals.
Prior to working with RespectAbility, Spangenberg worked on Capitol Hill and spent seven years working with a government contractor on several disability-related projects pertaining to employment, education and community living. Spangenberg received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. You can reach him at BenS@RespectAbility.org.
MEAGAN BUREN, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCH & MESSAGING
Meagan Buren is Director of Public Opinion Research & Messaging at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Buren is a strategist and public opinion research expert with a strong background in focus groups, dials tests, polling, media relations, and in leading communications and training programs. Before joining RespectAbility, Buren served as Senior Project Director for Luntz Global, a leader in corporate, political, and nonprofit message creation and image management worldwide.
Prior to that, she worked at The Israel Project (TIP) where she helped build it into a major educational, policy and communications organization that reached out globally in 10 languages. At TIP, Buren managed focus groups, polling, dial testing, grassroots and educational training, and media outreach in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and the Arab world. Buren conducted interactive language and media training sessions for ambassadors, top public officials, professionals, and leaders who had a significant impact on Middle East security and peace. She initiated and led media tours of Middle East experts worldwide, including at two cycles of the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention, and presidential primary and debate seasons.
Buren has been interviewed on national and international television and radio and is gifted in strategic communications. She holds a Master’s degree in Communications, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. You can reach her at MeaganB@RespectAbility.org.
TONYA KOSLO, DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION
Tonya Koslo is the Director of Finance and Administration of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Koslo is an experienced administrator whose skills include database management, state charitable registrations, computers, billing, legal requirements of human resource administration, websites and support services.
Prior to joining RespectAbility, Koslo worked for Laszlo and Associates as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager and for eleven years in various capacities for the Mayor, Town Board and Town Administrator Biltmore Forest, North Carolina. In her free time, she volunteers at her church, is the president of her homeowner’s association and is active in local adoption groups. You can reach her at TonyaK@RespectAbility.org.
HILLARY STEEN, DEVELOPMENT AND INCLUSION ASSOCIATE
Hillary Steen is the Development and Inclusion Associate of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. Her first professional work in the disability space was in high school when she volunteered at the Daisy Recreation Program as a camp counselor for children with disabilities. With that experience and others – like her synagogue’s inclusion initiative for people with disabilities – Steen became committed to supporting, including, and welcoming people with disabilities in all areas of life.
Steen began her work at RespectAbility in the summer of 2013 as one of the first fellows. After graduating from college, she returned to RespectAbility in January 2015 to work in her current capacity. As the development and inclusion associate, Steen mainly works on fundraising especially grant writing, research, reporting and donor database management. She also assists with our Jewish inclusion work and supervises the development and Jewish inclusion fellows.
Steen previously interned at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and worked at Eisner Camp. An avid volunteer, she spent time with Elijah’s Promise, Hebrew Union College Soup Kitchen and NYU La Pietra Dialogues. Steen held various leadership positions at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, Temple Beth Torah Senior Youth Group and NFTY-GER. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with Honors in 2014. You can reach her at HillaryS@RespectAbility.org.