FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS
Ben Birnbaum is an award-winning journalist and a research fellow at Princeton University’s Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination. He wrote New Republic’s 2013 cover story on the two-state solution—called “mind-altering” by former Secretary of State John Kerry—and co-authored its 2014 article on the Kerry peace talks, which was the recipient of the National Press Club's Edwin Hood award for diplomatic reporting and a National Magazine Award finalist. He has written also for Newsweek, Tablet, and Politico Magazine, and been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, and BBC. Born and raised in Newton, MA, Ben graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2009 and earned an MPA at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs in 2016. See his 2013 Cover Story and 2014 Article here.
Bissan Salman is the Director of External Relations of the Regional Organization for Peace, Economics & Security (ROPES), where she oversees the diplomatic relations with our government partners in Europe and across the Middle East, in addition to managing the development of the program’s various components. Prior to joining the ROPES team, Bissan served as the Political Advisor of the Japanese Embassy in Tel Aviv. Her work focused on connecting between the Palestinian community in Israel and Japanese diplomats, focusing on the economic and political sectors. Bissan has wide experience in peacebuilding, having been involved with various nonprofit organizations dealing with issues such as coexistence, children’s rights, and minority rights. She has been invited to speak at multiple conferences around the world including in Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S. Bissan completed her graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she received the prestigious Chevening scholarship from the British government, and delivered a Ted Talk, accessible on this link.
Director of Development
Basya Gartenstein joined the ROPES team to oversee engagement and donor relations in the USA, Europe, and the Middle East in tandem with Ben and Bissan, after serving as the Logistics Manager for the Vienna summit. Basya received her Master of Divinity from Yale University where she simultaneously earned a Graduate Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies and a Certificate in Educational Leadership. Invested in the intersection of scholarship and interreligious encounter, Basya has worked with a series of intercultural organizations over the past ten years. After being awarded her Bachelor of Arts in Conflict Resolution and International Relations from the IDC Herzliya, she served as the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Jewish Service Corps Fellow in Mumbai, India, and Helsinki, Finland. Basya worked for the Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC) from 2015-2017. In 2019, she was the recipient of the SALAM Sultan Qaboos Scholarship for Advanced Arabic Study and Intercultural Exchange. In 2020, she received the Critical Language Scholarship through the U.S. State Department, to solidify her linguistic goals in the service of her broader vocational aspirations. Prior to working with ROPES, Basya worked with Sharing Sacred Spaces (SSS) to advise communities across North America on how to respond to hate crimes targeting religious minorities.
Nivine Sandouka joined ROPES as a participant in its first summit, helped plan and co-moderate its second summit, and plans to join the organization full-time in 2021 as its COO and lead grant writer. Nivine is a Palestinian activist and expert in the fields of program development, management, peace building, and gender issues. In addition to ROPES, she works with the German Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH) and runs a grassroots-based initiative called “Judi-from me to you” that connects women and volunteers in several civil-society organizations. She is the Executive Director of the newly established NGO Our Rights in Jerusalem, focusing on civic and political rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. She was identified by the U.S. State Department in 2014 as a young leader and participated in the prestigious “International Visitor Leadership Program." She was also the co-director of IPCRI (Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives).