Full Time Staff

Andrea Sonnenberg, CEO and Co-Founder

After practicing law for many years and having children of her own, Andrea realized her true calling was to help children. She began by leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. After joining forces with her then teenage daughter to form a girls club for inner city girls to instill in them a love of learning and strength of self, she joined the Advisory Board of the Para Los Ninos charter school. She also used her legal skills to help unaccompanied child immigrants escaping abuse and neglect in their country of origin gain legal residency.

Andrea’s experience with the girls club offered her a firsthand look at the impact she could have on literacy and self esteem through commitment to these students in a positive and safe environment, with a high mentor to student ratio. With her family’s experience developing the girls club, Andrea was confident that they could scale the concept to Wise Readers to Leaders while galvanizing the Jewish community to live its values.

Andrea serves as Chair of the Board of the Wise Readers to Leaders, on the Board of USC Hillel, where she is Vice-Chair of Development, and as a Women’s Philanthropy Vice-Chair of the Jewish Federation. She has served on the Executive Board of both Curtis School and Harvard-Westlake School Parents’ Associations and was the founding Co-President of the Sisterhood at Stephen Wise Temple.

Andrea graduated cum laude from the USC Marshall School of Business in Finance in 1983 and received her JD from Loyola Law School in 1986.

Rabbi Ron Stern, Teen Advisor and Co-Founder

Rabbi Ron Stern has been serving Stephen Wise Temple for 17 years. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1990. In addition to serving as a pastoral, pulpit and educational rabbi of Stephen Wise he also directs the Center for Social Justice. Rabbi Stern is charged with the task of broadening and deepening the Social Justice mission of the congregation. He has expanded the reach of the congregation into several partnership organizations including: The Fulfillment Fund, Imagine LA and LA Voice. As a member of the LA Voice/PICO organizing network, Stephen Wise has become a major voice in the interfaith community working to achieve justice for all of Los Angeles’ citizens. Wise seeks to leverage our network of relationships with the Mayor, the City Council, the School Board and LAUSD board members to advance these vital causes.

Our commitment to strong public education leads us to establish of coalitions with Latino and Black communities in our city. By far, the most meaningful work that Wise has done in recent memory is to establish Wise Readers to Leaders. This represents one more step towards realizing the vision of establishing this congregation as a force for meaningful, progressive change in the city of Los Angeles.

Riley Runburg

Program Manager

Riley has been working with Wise Readers to Leaders since 2015, first as a Literacy Leader, then a Site Coordinator, and now as a Program Manager. Riley’s first summer with us sparked a passion for education and the students we serve, which made her come back each summer. Riley graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California, majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Psychology. Riley recently finished her Masters in Teaching program at USC, where she also received a California Teaching Credential in Science Education. Riley is excited to be working closely with Literacy Leaders over the summer to provide a fun and valuable learning experience to the scholars we serve!

Liesel Staubitz

Program Coordinator

After spending two summers as a Literacy Leader and one summer as a Site Coordinator, Liesel came on full time as Program Coordinator. She recently graduated summa cum laude from New York University where she majored in Psychology and minored in Studio Art and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. During her time at NYU, she was a Research Assistant at the NYU Politics and Intergroup Relations Lab, where she worked on her Honors Thesis about the relationship between empathy and socioeconomic status. She is so glad to continue with Wise Readers to Leaders after spending so many summers with the program!