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Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Orren Alperstein, President

Trained in publishing and marketing, and currently a teacher of special needs preschool children, Orren is a founder and current president of the Canavan Foundation. As the mother of a child born with Canavan disease, she knows firsthand the challenges that come with caring for, and losing, a child to the disease. These experiences inform her work as president of the foundation, inspiring her to work to both prevent and cure Canavan disease.  Watch a  video of Orren and her late husband Seth Gelblum talking about their personal experiences with Canavan disease. 

Pat Hirschhorn, Vice President 

In 1992, when the Canavan Foundation was formed, Pat made a commitment to work on behalf of widespread screening for Canavan disease, and she has been true to that commitment ever since. As co-chair of the annual benefit committee Pat has used her considerable organizational skills to help the foundation's annual theater benefits run smoothly and efficiently.

Mari Devito, Treasurer

Mari Devito has served as the Foundation’s treasurer since early 2018.  Her professional experience includes 20 years at a major NYC law firm, time on Wall Street and work as a travel agent. In her spare time she acts and sings in community theater and volunteers at many non-profits in Brooklyn, where she lives. A self-proclaimed “numbers person,” she is delighted to bring her talents to the Canavan Foundation.

Leslie Alperstein, Secretary

Leslie Alperstein is a licensed and certified Speech Language Pathologist with the Manhattan Behavioral Center in New York City.  She specializes in Alternative and Augmentative Communication inspired by personal experience with children who have limited or no means of verbal expression.  Prior to becoming a speech therapist, Leslie lived in Washington DC and worked in the non-profit sector with a variety of organizations dedicated to serving women and minorities.

Marilyn Platzer

Having recently ended a most fulfilling chapter as Chief Financial and Operating Officer of the James Beard Foundation, after a successful career in the publishing industry, Marilyn is thrilled with the opportunity to spend some newly available time to support the Canavan Foundation's mission to educate the at-risk population about genetic disease and ways to avoid them through timely and comprehensive screening.

Beth Zuriff

One of Beth Zuriff's earliest New York memories is a Canavan screening at Mount Sinai hospital in 1995, soon after she and husband Laurence moved from Washington, DC.  A long-term supporter, along with her husband, of the Foundation, Beth joined the board in 2008, citing her feeling that this is a particularly promising time in the field of genetics: “We’re entering a new era of testing combined with genetic technology,” Zuriff says, “which presents the chance to reach a generation just entering their reproductive years.

Deedy Goldstick

Touched by the diagnosis of Morgan Gelblum in 1991 and moved to dedicate herself to the prevention of Canavan disease, Deedy Goldstick has been an unflagging worker for the cause of genetic screening for nearly 30 years and a member of the Board since the start of the Canavan Foundation in 1992. For many years Deedy was the co-chair of the Foundation's annual theater benefit.



 Lois Neufeld (1946-2020)

A past president of the Canavan Foundation, Lois was a tireless advocate for carrier screening. In 2005 Lois co-founded the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium, of which the Canavan Foundation is a member, to expand efforts to educate at-risk communities about all the diseases more prevalent in the Jewish community. Her loss is keenly felt by everyone whose life she touched with her spirit and generosity. Read more here. 


Seth Gelblum (1954-2016)

Seth and his wife, Orren Alperstein - along with Orren's parents, Eileen and Arnold - founded the Canavan Foundation in 1992 after their daughter, Morgan Gelblum, was diagnosed with Canavan Disease. Seth’s energy and wise council were instrumental in the growth and success of the Canavan Foundation. As one of the nation’s foremost entertainment lawyers, he was a moving force behind the Canavan Foundation’s annual Theater Benefit, and his Q&A sessions with noted theater personalities were a highlight of the dinner before each year’s production. Read more about Seth here and watch the video of Seth and his wife Orren Alperstein talking about their personal experiences with Canavan disease.

Arnold Alperstein

Eileen Alperstein

Rosalind Poss Rosen