Rabbi Zalman Kastel AM – National Director
Rabbi Zalman Kastel AM is the National Director of Together For Humanity. Rabbi Kastel was raised in the ultra-orthodox Hasidic tradition in the racially divided Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York. He saw the world through the lens of his absolute tradition and the narrative of his community. This changed in 2001 when encounters with Christians and Muslims transformed him. He has had a lot of laughter, surprises and dilemmas on his journey of interfaith cooperation and bringing positive experiences of diversity to over 100,000 young Australians. He is still a Hasidic Rabbi teaching bible study at Chabad House North Shore in Sydney. He was ordained as a Rabbi after study in the UK, Australia and the US, and completed a Graduate Diploma in Education with the University of New England, Armidale. In 2020 he was made a member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his work on interfaith and intercultural understanding.
Julia Gyomber – General and Engagement Manager
Julia is the General and Engagement Manager at Together For Humanity, and has over 15 years’ experience in successfully developing, designing and delivering programs to strengthen communities and families across Australia, with a focus on refugee, indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse youth. Her work in Perth was awarded the state’s Premier’s Award for Strengthening Families and Communities. Julia holds a Bachelor of Arts (Women’s Studies) from La Trobe University and a Bachelor of Social Work (Anti-Oppressive) from Victoria University. Working for Together For Humanity, Julia has continued to heighten her sense of fellowship for the team as she is surrounded by the kind of people who empower one another to be at their best.
Mark van Ommen – Education Coordinator
Mark has worked in Catholic education for over 20 years, including 10 years as a senior leader in metropolitan and regional settings. During this time, Mark has facilitated interschool opportunities for students from different faith and ethnic backgrounds. He has presented at Iftar gatherings and published an article on interfaith dialogue and global citizenship. Mark has a passion for interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and believes that schools are crucial to developing an Australian society where people feel like they belong and are still comfortable celebrating their unique and multiple identities.
Nicky Sandler – Communications Officer
Nicky is a professional communicator whose areas of expertise span marketing, communications and writing. She has over 15 years’ experience designing marketing and communication strategies, managing large scale projects and producing compelling content. A passionate teacher, Nicky has taught communications and management at several universities as well as English as a Second Language. Nicky holds a Bachelor of Arts (English and French), Masters in Communication Management, Cambridge CELTA and Certificate IV in TESOL. She is inspired by working with bold organisations and crafting authentic, engaging stories that touch people. Bilingual in French, Nicky loves French language and fromage in equal measure.
Kate Xavier – Senior Education Officer
In her role as Senior Education Officer, Kate facilitates Together For Humanity’s Interschool program and heads up Teacher Professional Development. A high school Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) teacher specialising in HSC Geography, Studies of Religion and Society and Culture, Kate holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Sydney. Kate is a practical and creative educator who enjoys creating new learning resources for students and is passionate about promoting critical and creative thinking in young people. In 2008, she was awarded a Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship in Canberra, where she attained a Graduate Certificate in Interfaith Relations. She has two young daughters and enjoys volunteering for various community groups. She was a foundational member of the Bankstown Council Youth Advisory Committee, St Vincent De Paul Conference President, and committee member for the Abraham Conference.
Taha Allam – Education Officer
As a Lebanese Muslim, Taha grew up in a minority background in Sydney’s Western suburbs. Throughout his school years, he experienced prejudice and distrust, which led him to stereotyping and distancing himself from people outside his community. This changed in 2011, when Taha became Together For Humanity’s youngest youth worker. In his current role as Education Officer, Taha has impacted and helped thousands of students get the help that he never received to navigate the world. Taha holds a Bachelor of Medicinal Chemistry and a Masters of Teaching (Secondary).
Calisha Bennett – Informal Education Officer
Calisha is an educator with Together For Humanity and within Australia’s Muslim community. She is an international speaker who has spent over fourteen years educating communities about issues associated with identity, confidence, resilience and the Islamic faith. She has worked closely with countless women and youth through her coaching business Developing Diamonds, and regularly collaborates with many community charities and organisations as an ambassador for important campaigns and causes.
Tanja Hagedorn – Queensland Coordinator
Tanja is a senior professional with over 20 years’ experience in health, youth development, community and volunteer engagement in the US, South Africa and Australia. She is a skilled facilitator and mediator, committed to building inclusive processes in community settings, with a special interest in interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Tanja’s experience as a facilitator has given her the experience and belief in the transformation of individuals, families and communities through authentic dialogue, creative and spiritual processes and quality education. She is passionate about challenging people’s biases and societal norms, encouraging critical thinking and empowering people to use their voice to fearlessly journey through conflict and find peaceful and lasting resolutions. Tanja loves travelling, reading historical fiction and spending time with her husband and three children. When she has a moment to herself, you can find her sweating in her local community boxing gym.
Kathleen Gordon – Curriculum Advisor
Kathleen is Together For Humanity’s Curriculum Advisor. Based in Queensland, Kathleen has taught in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors and worked on diverse curriculum projects including the United Nations Environment Programme (Teacher Education Project), and advised the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on its development of the Australian Curriculum: History. Kathleen has considerable experience presenting at conferences, facilitating workshops and writing student and teacher materials for education and curriculum authorities, NGOs and professional associations. Most recently, she authored two chapters in the 8th edition of the university text Teaching Humanities and Social Sciences (Cengage Learning, 2019). Kathleen is passionate about integrating social justice, peace, sustainability and democratic process into teaching and learning programs.
Mercedes Esteban-Lyons – Executive Assistant/Office Manager
Mercedes Esteban-Lyons is an experienced Executive Assistant/Office Manager/Facilities Manager with companies such as Cisco Systems, Twilight Aged Care, Macquarie University, Panasonic and currently with Together For Humanity. Mercedes is skilled in business planning, management, business process improvement, conference and events management, facilities management and social media. She is a strong administrative professional with exceptional people skills and is an excellent team player.