top of page

Our Team

Ira Antelis

Ira Antelis

Ira Antelis has been writing and producing music for commercials, records, theater, movies, dance, and television for over 40 years.  Artists such as Marc Anthony, Patti La Belle, Christina Aguilera, B.B.King, Shawn Colvin, Regina Belle, have recorded or performed music he has composed. He has also composed jingles for most major brands including theme songs for McDonalds, Disney, and the well known “Be Like Mike” for Gatorade.  He produced many tribute albums on the House Of Blues Label working with a variety of major artists such as Etta James, Taj Mahjal, Joe Walsh, Charlie Musselwhite, The Charlie Daniels Band, Lou Gramm, & Honeyboy Edwards, while doing so.  During the early 2000s Ira was executive producer with Terrell Harris of a music television show titled “Raw TV” which ran in the Midwest on Fox. Many major music celebrities appeared.  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago just premiered his piece “Love Infinite” choreographed by his longtime collaborator Randy Duncan.  He also spent 10 years as music director for the famed advertising agency Leo Burnett. 

Recently, Ira created “We Have Loved” which is an online memorial to honor those lives lost during covid.  When the war in Ukraine broke out Ira wrote “We Sing For Ukraine” to help raise awareness and money and traveled around the country recording the song he composed with singers from Chicago, New York, L.A., Nashville and Houston.  Many artists submitted their own version to help keep up the awareness and raise money.  Ben Vereen has also been integral to this campaign.  


When Elie Wiesel passed away Ira became aware of the music written in the ghettos and concentration camps. He decided this music needed to be heard, performed and the songwriters honored as most of them were murdered.  Carnegie Hall marks the continued performances of these songs with more cities planned. “This project and these songs have become the most important endeavor of my life”. To have these songs performed with this amazing ensemble of artists is the most meaningful project I’ve ever been a part of. 

Rabbi Charles E. Savenor We Are Here

Rabbi Charles E. Savenor

Rabbi Charles E. Savenor serves as the Executive Director of Civic Spirit. Founded in 2017, Civic Spirit provides training and support to Jewish, Catholic, Christian, and Islamic day schools in civic education. The mission of the organization is to educate, inspire, and empower faculty and students towards civic belonging, knowledge, and responsibility.


He recently finished eight years as the Director of Congregational Education at Park Avenue Synagogue (PAS) in New York. Rabbi Savenor came to PAS from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), where he served as the Director of Leadership and Organizational Development (2008-2014). Previous positions included the Associate Dean and Director of Admissions at the Jewish Theological Seminary (2001-2008) and Associate Rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago (1996-2001).


Rabbi Savenor graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A., summa cum laude, in History as well as Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (1991), having spent his junior year studying at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was ordained at JTS in 1996 with a concentration in Education. In 2008 he earned a Masters of Education at Columbia University, Teachers College. He participated in the 2019-2020 cohort of the LEAP Fellowship created by Clal and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He received an honorary doctorate from JTS in 2022.


He currently sits on the international boards of Leket Israel (the National Food Bank of Israel), Gesher and the Brandeis University’s Alumni Admissions Council. He previously served as the Education Chair of the Rabbinical Assembly.


Rabbi Savenor’s articles on parenting, leadership and Judaism in the 21st century have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Week, The New York Observer, Kveller, Hadassah Magazine, and The Boston Jewish Advocate. He blogs for The Times of Israel. He is currently writing a book called What My Father Couldn’t Tell Me.


Charlie and his wife, Julie Walpert, are the parents of two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Raving fans of the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots, they make their home in New York City.

Eli Newell

Eli Newell

Eli Newell is a Chicago-based artist & organizer working at the intersections of live performance, environmental justice, and Jewish ritual.

As a director and writer, Eli’s work has been shown in Chicago, New York and Minneapolis-St. Paul, including at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Raven Theatre, Pivot Arts, Strawdog Theater Company, Chicago Immersive, the Factory Theater, and in venues ranging from conventional theater spaces to Chicago’s neighborhood streets to a speakeasy on the magnificent mile; associate & assistant credits include Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakes, Northlight Theatre, Guthrie Theater and Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

A 2022 Avodah Justice Fellow, Eli organizes with Sunrise Movement, the Green New Deal Network, Grassroots Collaborative, IfNotNow and Unsilence, and proudly facilitates study, ritual and community programming for early adolescent and young Jewish adults at Mishkan Chicago as well as independently with families all over the world.

A performing arts and food fanatic, occasional thru-hiker and an avid reader of nonfiction, Eli grew up in the Twin Cities Jewish community before receiving a B.A. from Northwestern University, and is now going on 10 years as a Chicagoland local— currently residing in Lincoln Square with four-legged bestie Benny Goodman. Eli’s work on We Are Here is inspired by and dedicated to all those resisting structural oppression, violence, occupation, and silencing worldwide.

Emmet Smith

Emmet Smith

Emmet Smith (writer, co-producer) is a songwriter, actor, and climate activist from New York City. Since graduating from Northwestern, he has been acting on television (New Amsterdam, Law & Order, Blue Bloods), in commercials (Goldfish, Pizza Hut), and on stage (Chicago audiences have seen him in Marriott Theatre’s The Sound of Music). As an award-winning composer & lyricist (Write Out Loud, NMI’s Search for New Musicals) Emmet’s musicals have been produced Off-Broadway and regionally. Proud member of the Dramatists Guild, AEA, and SAG-AFTRA. It is a deep honor to share stories of these writers and the power of their music with you.

Headshot Beth Heller

Beth Heller

A veteran marketing executive and lifelong Chicagoan, Beth Heller brings more than 25 years of experience in strategic planning, execution of high-profile events, leveraging influencer relations and implementing media management and brand marketing. 

Beth Heller Consulting develops marketing and influencer strategies for companies, secures media exposure, and creates pathways to give back to the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth’s alma mater, the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, recruited her to run external relations at SHIELD Illinois, the state’s nonprofit COVID-19 testing program. Recently she partnered as a consultant with M. Harris & Co., a marketing and creative firm.

Prior to founding her consulting agency, Beth was the vice president of marketing for Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, where she worked for over 22 years. She helped the company grow from a single restaurant into one of Chicago’s largest restaurant groups and most iconic institutions. At the time of her departure, HCRG, where she continues to stay involved as a partner, included seven restaurants, a catering company and the Chicago Sports Museum.

Brannon Bowers

Brannon Bowers

Brannon Bowers (they/them) has been the Producing Director of the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University since 2016 where they have developed over 40 new musical projects and produced 6 shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe through an ongoing partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Brannon is on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT), is the creative producer of Get Out Alive by Nikki Lynette, and has produced the Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project since 2017. They have previously worked at McCarter Theatre Center, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater & Redmoon Theater, and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Maddie Burton

Maddie Burton

After the success of We Are Here at Carnegie Hall, Maddie Burton is thrilled to be back and to be part of such a timely and meaningful event.


Maddie is the product of a K-12 Jewish education from Solomon Schechter (now known as the Leffell School). She went on to graduate from Northwestern University, earning her degree in Theatre and Neuroscience. Maddie served on the executive board of the Jewish Theatre Ensemble as the Artistic Director and the Director of Jewish Education, guiding the creation of faith-based performances. Her college experience culminated in a passion project entitled Oy Vey: A Self-Indulgent Cabaret.


Maddie has since been involved in the development of a number of new musicals (Safe Hands, The Angel Makers, Itchin' for an Itch) across NYC and was recognized for her vocal performance at the New York Theater Festival.


When she's not in the theater world, Maddie works at Weill Cornell Medicine's Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, assisting clinicians with diagnostic testing and therapeutic interventions for individuals on the autism spectrum. She is a strong believer in using the Jewish value of "Tikkun Olam" (Repairing the World) to combat all forms of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination.

Patrick Thomas

Patrick Thomas

Patrick Thomas is a web designer who owns and operates PGT Web Design. He is proud to be a part of the We Are Here team by helping run the website. He greatly enjoys his work building websites for small businesses, non-profits, entrepreneurs and creatives. He has worked with We Are Here creator Ira Antelis on several other projects, including We Have Loved, an online memorial to honor those lives lost during covid, and We Sing For Ukraine, a world anthem for people and groups raising money for relief efforts in Ukraine. Patrick has created websites for actors, musicians, authors, filmmakers, artists, dentists, psychologists, hotels, hospitals, engineering companies and many other wonderful clients. He loves working in a wide array of industries and with people who are passionate about what they do. Patrick is a graduate of Emory University and lives in New Jersey.

bottom of page