Staff Bios

HODA BARAKAT

Hoda Barakat is the Palestinian Regional Manager for Hands of Peace. She has been working with HOP since 2007 and has successfully recruited a wide range of diverse Palestinian teens from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hoda is involved in co-planning and executing our Middle East Alumni Program and leadership program. She earned a degree in Civil Engineering but has found her passion working with people and focusing on youth development. Hoda believes that change comes from the people. She works with young adults to empower them as leaders of change in their own communities.

AMIT CARACO

As our Jewish Israeli Regional Manager, together with Hoda and Rana, Amit is responsible for overseeing all of HOP’s work in the Middle East. Our work in the Region includes bi-national seminars, continued dialogues, tours and community service, as well as leadership programs and new initiatives that our alumni in the Middle East develop in the years after they’ve joined Hands of Peace. Amit worked in various facilitation roles throughout her career, including leading workshops for Arab and Jewish Israeli High Schools and divided communities in Israel. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Hebrew University.

JULIA DUERST

As Chicago Program Director, Julia Duerst recruits our American participants, coordinates the activities, events, and volunteers of the Summer Program with Site Director Rhonda McCarty, and develops and facilitates their preparatory and follow-up curriculum. This includes co-chaperoning American alumni on HOP’s program to Israel/Palestine and co-teaching an Independent Study course on Israel/Palestine at local high schools. She also serves as our grant writer and administrative assistant. Julia graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR with a BA in History and Religious Studies. As a 2009 Hand and 2010 XL, she is extremely passionate about expanding education in the U.S. dedicated to a nuanced understanding of reality in Israel/Palestine.

MINDI FRANKEL

As our Marketing and Communications Consultant, Mindi is responsible for all of our marketing strategies and communications, including production of marketing materials, implementation of marketing plans, and production of all external communications. Mindi has a BA in English Literature and Marketing from San Diego State University, and an MA in Literature and Writing from Cal State San Marcos, and has been working as a marketing strategist for over 25 years.

GRETCHEN GRAD

As Founder of Hands of Peace, Gretchen has served many roles over the life of the organization, focusing on leadership, strategic planning, and fundraising as the organization has grown. Gretchen currently serves on the Board of Directors, where she invites supporters to discover how they can find meaningful ways to support the mission and the always-growing financial needs of the organization. Gretchen holds a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Hamilton College and an MBA from the University of Chicago. From 1985 to 1997, Gretchen worked for First Chicago Capital Markets, as an economist, securities trader and fixed income expert; she left as a Managing Director.

RANA HADDAD

Rana Haddad is the Palestinian Citizens of Israel Regional Manager for Hands of Peace. She began her career with Hands of Peace as a participant in 2003 and an XL in 2004. She then came back as a chaperone in 2008, and was promoted to Regional Manager in 2009. She has received her BA in Pharmacy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and currently works as a pharmacist at Meuhedet, which is the third largest health care provider in Israel. She balances her job as a pharmacist with her work for Hands of Peace and continues to help develop young leaders dedicated to peace in the Middle East.

SARAH HEIRENDT

San Diego Site Director, Sarah Heirendt, is responsible for overseeing the summer program and year-round projects that take place in the San Diego area. This includes community education and outreach, participant and volunteer recruitment, alumni engagement and event planning as well as coordination and execution of the many details that go into the summer program. Sarah served as our San Diego Assistant Program Director in 2016 as well as one of the leadership training facilitators. She received her BA from Vanguard University in Cultural Anthropology and her MS from George Mason University in Conflict Resolution.

HUSAM JUBRAN

Husam Jubran has a master’s degree from the Eastern Mennonite University in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding, and a diploma in tourism. In addition to serving as our Director of Facilitation, Husam also works as political and interfaith tour guide to the Holy Land. He works with Mejdi Tours providing tours to National Geographic Expeditions. In his free time he provides trainings in conflict management, crisis management, and nonviolence.

DIANA KUTLOW

As Director of Development Diana is responsible for strategic planning and development of fundraising initiatives across all of our sites. Diana has a BA in history from Barnard College at Columbia University and a Master’s in Peace and Justice from The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at University of San Diego. She is completing USD’s Non-Profit Management Certificate Program. Diana joined Hands of Peace after a long tenure at the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice, where she managed the Distinguished Lecture Series, and served as Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the Kroc School.

RHONDA MCCARTY

Chicago Site Director, Rhonda McCarty, is responsible for overseeing the summer program and year-round projects that take place in the Chicago area. This includes organizing events for community education and outreach, supporting our volunteers, keeping older alumni involved in the organization, and helping to plan and execute the many details that go into the summer program. Rhonda has a BA in History from University of Memphis, and an MA in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is currently doing doctoral studies in Pastoral Theology, Personality, and Culture. She has been actively involved in working for peace in Israel/Palestine since her first visit to the region in 1998.

RICK ROSENFELD

As Executive Director, Rick helps develop and implement the strategic direction for Hands of Peace, as it strives for a just and positive peace for all Israelis and Palestinians. He manages the Hands of Peace staff in both the United States and Middle East in operations, programming, and fund development. Rick brings a wealth of experience in international travel, risk and crisis management, strategic planning and business/non-profit management. He has a keen interest in the Middle East. Rick holds a BS in Journalism (Medill School) and an MBA (Kellogg School of Management) both from Northwestern University.