THE TEAM BEHIND IT ALL
People with a passion for giving back are the driving force behind ChabadAid
RABBI ISRAEL UZAN
Executive director and co-founder
Visiting Nigeria for the first time in 2009, Rabbi Uzan was confronted by a severe humanitarian crisis. “I remember thinking that I had a responsibility to change what I saw.” Rabbi Uzan has studied all over the world— in Brunoy, France; Jerusalem, Israel; Morristown, New Jersey, Montreal, Canada, and Brooklyn, New York, where he was ordained as a rabbi. His exposure has given him a unique cultural sensitivity that helps him connect to his Nigerian neighbors.
In 2012 he moved with his wife Haya and two kids to establish the first Jewish institution in Nigeria. Soon after they opened the first Jewish school. Still, Rabbi Uzan couldn’t shake the feeling that they were not doing enough. “We needed to do something for all people of Nigeria, not only Jews.”
Today, Rabbi Israel and Haya his wife have established over 3 children’s schools and 5 charity organizations that deal with first aid, strengthening women in need, food distribution, education, and emergency medical response. His only complaint about Nigeria? “There’s too much to do in these very short 24 hour days.”
Senior Educational Director and co-founder
In 2012, Haya’s husband took her to Nigeria on a “honeymoon.” The trip was a whirlwind, and after visiting a center for disabled children, Israel and Haya knew she needed to come back. “Helping people has always been part of my education, says Haya. “I hope my children will also grow up with the same mindset.” Growing up in Lille, France, Haya’s parents established the first Jewish presence in an area far from any Jewish resources. Haya left home at an early age to attend a Jewish school in Paris, then Montreal. She studied developmental psychology and education, and spent her free time volunteering with special needs children. So with the financial backing of generous donors who believed in the cause, ChabadAid was born. “It’s our dream come true,” Haya says. Now they go from one project to another. “Helping others is contagious. Once you start you can’t stop.”
RABBI MENDY STERNBACH
Director of Operations
As a student of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Mendy was educated from a young age to seek out the welfare of others. After studying in Brunoy, France, receiving Rabbinical ordination in New York City and Judiciary Degree in Jerusalem, Mendy ran a drug rehab center in Mumbai, India. He spent summers visiting Jewish prisoners in Northern California, and once organized a sleepover camp for 150 orphans in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Mendy met his wife Mazal in Nigeria, while they were both working for ChabadAid. Together they decided to move back to Nigeria and continue building community organizations. Life in Africa isn’t easy, but Mendy says, “When I see those kids smile, I’m reminded that we are changing lives.”
Growing up, the door of Mazal’s home was always open to guests of all kinds. Whether it was giving up her bed for a stranger or staying up late cooking for whoever walked in the door, Mazal loved sharing what she had with others. After graduating from Beth Rivkah in Yerres, France, 2015, she looked for opportunities to help others. She volunteered at community centers in Central American, Asia, and Europe before deciding to spend a full year as a volunteer director of a Jewish school in Abuja, Nigeria. “I knew I’d be back,” Mazal shares. “I knew something big needed to be done in Nigeria.” What Mazal didn’t know is that she’d meet her husband Mendy, a fellow volunteer, and choose to raise their family in the center of the Nigerian community. “Our goal with ChabadAid is to help as many people as we can.”
Born and educated in Accra, Ghana, Rebecca is passionate about helping Nigerians receive adequate nutrition. With nearly 40 years experience in preparation of nutrition program profiles, Rebecca has seen firsthand how access to fresh, whole foods can change the course of a family’s life. Rebecca manages the ChabadAid procurement office for emergency and holiday food drives, putting a special emphasis on the health of women and children who are most at risk for malnutrition.
PASTOR YINUSA RAZAQ
Director of Interfaith Relations
Pastor Rex has a vision: to inspire, motivate, and educate as many Christians in Africa to love and stand with Israel and the Jewish people. At the same time he makes a concerted effort to use creativity and insight with good organizations and institutions in the areas of peace and development for the betterment of everyone. He also works as the executive director of Hope for HIV/AIDS International and is the national director of IstandwithIsrael. With his extensive experience along with an MBA from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Pastor Rex has the skills to navigate diplomatic relations, promoting peace and goodwill for Jews and Nigerians alike.