Karen Elam

Karen has more than 25 years of experience working with non-profit and community service agencies focused on social justice issues.  She currently works for the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester (NY) as the Director of the Levine Center to End Hate, leading a new $1 million initiative to eradicate destructive, hateful influences in the region.  She also serves as the Director of Community Relations in the same organization, leading legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of the Federation and developing programming to foster dialogue and collaborative action between Jewish and other faith groups. 

Karen was selected in August 2020 to serve as one of 21 commissioners on a recently-formed Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) Commission, a joint city/county effort created in response to national and local calls to address systemic issues of racial and structural inequities. 

Before joining the Federation, Karen served as the Deputy Director of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative at the United Way. From 2013-15 she was the Vice President of Organizational Advancement at a local community health center serving the LGBTQ community of Rochester. Karen, her husband Howard, and her teenage triplets (11th graders for the 2020-21 school year) moved from Brooklyn, New York to the Rochester area in 2013. 


From 2003 – 2012, Karen worked at Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps in New York City, during which time she served as National Director of Development and Communications. From 1998 to 2002 she was the Director of Grants for Montefiore Medical Center’s Division of Community Pediatrics, raising funds for health care programs serving the homeless and other under-served populations. 


Before coming to CIE Karen was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras coordinating literacy projects and managing a radio distance education program. In addition to three years as a volunteer she worked for one year as a cross-cultural trainer for the Peace Corps.


Karen has incredibly fond memories of her years at CIE—passionately discussing Pedagogy of the Oppressed with fellow Masters degree student Ann Hartman, finding every opportunity to give DRE a hard time, and always being grateful for BGW. [11-20]


Email: kelam@jewishrochester.org


Entrance Year: 
Graduation Year: 
5-year span: 
CIE Graduate