We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village to make AJFF what it is, and we're going to introduce you to some of the people who make up that village. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on not one but both of AJFF’s new board members, Dina Gerson of The Coca-Cola Company and our new Treasurer, Joel Pascaner of Jones and Kolb.
A Little Bit About Dina and Joel
Dina Gerson is Director of Olympic Partnership Marketing for the North America Division of The Coca-Cola Company. She is responsible for managing the Olympic Partnership in the U.S. with the U.S. Olympic Committee as well as all Olympic and Paralympic Athletes that The Coca-Cola Company sponsors.
Dina recently celebrated her 28th year with The Coca-Cola Company and has held a variety of positions at The Company including Fountain, National Promotions, College Marketing, Consumer Promotions, Worldwide Sports and Sports Marketing. She has collaborated on 11 Olympic Games, 10 NCAA Final Fours, 5 Olympic Torch Relays, FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup & Euro 2000. Prior to joining The Coca-Cola Company, Dina worked for Macy’s as a Division Special Events Manager overseeing 30 stores.
She graduated from the University of Texas with a B.S. in Advertising. Dina was a Co-Chair of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in 2006 and 2007 with Mike Leven and then David Kuniansky. She proudly serves on the Boards of the American Jewish Committee and the Atlanta Sports Council and is on the Honorary Board of Special Olympics Georgia.
Joel Pascaner has been a Principal with the accounting firm of Jones and Kolb since 2015. A native New Yorker, Joel received a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a M.S. in Taxation from the School of Professional Accounting at Long Island University. He has worked in the public accounting arena for over 30 years. Joel relocated to Atlanta in 1997 joining Berman & Associates, where he was a Partner through 2014.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
Dina: I was fortunate enough to be part of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) when the AJFF was created in 2000. I remember sitting at the AJC conference room table brainstorming ideas with an eclectic group of AJC advocates who were beyond excited to help bring the AJFF to life.
Joel: I became involved in AJFF about 2 or 3 years before it actually was spun off as a free standing entity, I was contacted by an attorney here in town at the time with concerns relating to Georgia sales tax liability on ticket sales with respect to certain specific organizations. My involvement with this matter as well as a professional connection with current Board Member, Barry Berlin, ultimately led to my involvement with AJFF.
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
Dina: The most interesting challenge I get to help with is retaining existing sponsors. I plan on addressing this by tapping into my relationships with key stakeholders to encourage continued support of the AJFF.
Joel: I believe the most interesting challenge in improving AJFF is in expanding its scope to an event that is more than the annual 3 week experience as well as an event that can appeal to a wider demographic audience. This is a critical juncture for AJFF in this regard, and I hope to be able assist the organization in planning to meet these challenges financially while at the same time maintaining and improving AJFF's overall financial health.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
Dina: When I was an AJFF Co-Chair with Mike Leven in 2006, I was working closely with Kenny Blank on the AJFF Program Guide. I knew we’d get along great due to his shared high standards. He always nodded his head to all of my recommended changes… and then made none of them! I still tease Kenny about that to this day.
Joel: My fondest memory of being involved in AJFF is in being involved in discussions with legislators, lobbyists, and taxing authorities respecting existing and new legislation that affects the things we do. I enjoy analyzing the technical tax aspects of current and new legislation, determining how it affects us, and finding ways of applying those laws in the most beneficial manner.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
Dina: My experience outside the AJFF has played into my work as I have been a passionate internal advocate of the AJFF at The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Company is a founding sponsor of the AJFF partially due to my involvement and continues to be a sponsor to this day. The Coca-Cola Company is very much a part of our local community and the AJFF is a very important part of the fabric of the Atlanta Community thus making it a perfect match.
Joel: I have had extensive accounting and tax experience with not for profit entities throughout my career and have also served on the Boards of other not for profit entities. I believe that the knowledge and experience I have accumulated will assist me greatly at AJFF in my capacity as Treasurer.
A few bonus questions!
What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
Dina: Hearing so many diverse people in the Atlanta community “kvell” about the AJFF and to think that I’ve been so incredibly humbled to be a part of it from the very beginning.
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
Joel: I have enjoyed many AJFF films. Some have given me new insights into historical and political issues. Some have touched me, educated me about other cultures and people, and stirred pride in my heritage. That being said, my favorite film was one from opening night a few years ago back called Jews in Baseball. I was able to attend that showing with my son as well as with friends of his and their families. It was a great group event. Lots of fun, interesting facts, and anecdotes. It brought us all a new appreciation of America's greatest pastime.
Who would you cast to play you in a film?
Dina: Sally Field, because she seems happy and humble and is versatile in genres as well as film to television.
Joel: I'd go with James Caan for two reasons. He has made some good movies a while back and I think he could use the work at the moment.
Thank you to both Dina and Joel for their time this month. Our board is an integral part of how our organization operates and with their experience, knowledge and learnings, we know AJFF will benefit greatly. Stay tuned to see who we profile next month.