Rick Smilow is President and CEO of the Institute of Culinary Education. He acquired the school in 1995, then known as Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School. ICE has grown in size and stature for 21 years and, in fall 2016, was named the #1 Culinary School in America by both DailyMeal.com and Edinformatics.
 
Prior to ICE, Rick held marketing and sales positions at Nabisco Brands and United Business Publications, and launched a start-up in the pet food industry. In 2012, he co-wrote Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food, published by Clarkson-Potter.
A graduate of Emory University (BA) and Northwestern University (MBA), he lives in Westport, Connecticut with his wife Debi, who is a partner in a children’s dental and orthodontics practice. They have three college-age children, Charlotte, Anna and Griffin.
 
In addition to serving on JOIN Israel’s board of directors, Rick is a board member of City Harvest, Streets International, the advisory board of the Yale Sustainable Farm, and a long-time member of the Young Presidents Organization. He is also a board member and partner in Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Restaurant Group.
 
Rick has been a supporter of JOIN Israel since 1999, having been introduced to the organization by fellow honoree Neil Wessan. “I have always been impressed with Rabbi Stephen Bisk’s entrepreneurial and determined effort to find creative solutions for a range of human needs among economically disadvantaged segments of Israel’s population,” Rick shares. “Stephen identifies what are essentially holes in Israel’s ‘social safety net’ and directs creativity, funding and know-how to attempt to solve those problems in targeted communities.
 
“Among the many great projects that JOIN Israel has started, I have been most drawn to Project Lifeline, an ongoing initiative to provide $250 to $1,000 special-situation grants to elderly residents in five mid-sized Israeli cities. Had my Lithuanian great-grandparents gone to Israel instead of America, these individuals could have been my own relatives.”
 
 

Neil Wessan is Group Head and Managing Director of CIT Capital Markets, where he manages teams of market professionals who structure, price, underwrite and distribute financing packages. Founded in 1908, CIT (NYSE: CIT) is a financial holding company with more than $65 billion in assets. Neil’s areas of expertise include senior bank facilities, private high yield, project finance and mezzanine finance.

Neil previously served as Head of Capital Markets for Gleacher & Company, and Managing Director and Co-Head of Jefferies & Company's Leveraged Loan Capital Markets and Syndications Group. He has held senior-level positions with various financial institutions over the course of his 30+ year career.

Neil received a BS in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He and his wife Sharon reside in Westport, Connecticut, where they raised their two children, Eric and Lauren.

A long-standing board member of JOIN Israel, Neil has also served on many other boards related to Jewish charities, including the Federation of Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County (formerly UJA) and The Conservative Synagogue of Westport.

JOIN Israel’s ability to see results way beyond its scale has been the key attraction for Neil. Over his 25-year involvement, he is proud of the organization’s ability to punch above its weight and provide meaningful help to those in need.