Leadership Change at ERRC Brings Roma to Top Posts

18 May 2016

Budapest, 18 May 2016: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is proud to announce that it has selected Ethel Brooks, a US-based Romani scholar, to become its new Board Chair, and Ðorđe Jovanović, a long-standing Romani member of staff, as its new President. We are proud to announce other leadership changes as well: Adam Weiss has been promoted to Managing Director; William Lazarus Bila and Mirjam Karoly have been selected to join the ERRC’s Board, which will give the ERRC a Roma-majority Board for the first time; and Robert Kushen has been asked to take on the newly created role of Board Secretary.

Ethel Brooks will be both the ERRC’s first Romani Board Chair and our first woman Chair.  Brooks is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Women's and Gender Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University (USA) and a Tate-TRAiN Transnational Fellow at the University of the Arts-London, where she was 2011-2012 US-UK Fulbright Distinguished Chair. She is on the U.S. Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and on the boards of a number of journals and organisations, including the RomArchive and the USC Shoah Foundation. She holds a PhD from New York University and a BA from Williams College. Brooks is the author of Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women’s Work (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) which received the award for Outstanding Book for 2010 from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. President Obama also recently appointed Brooks to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Ðorđe Jovanović’s relationship with the ERRC dates back to 2001. Jovanović’s family instilled in him an abiding aversion to fascism, racism, and other forms of injustice. Motivated by his relatives’ experiences of torture, forced labour, and, in some cases, extermination in Nazi concentration and death camps, Jovanović has dedicated his professional life to working for the emancipation of his fellow Roma.  Jovanović is also openly gay and is particularly interested in the intersectional forms of discrimination many Roma face. He holds a university degree in preschool education and completed Romology studies at the University of Novi Sad. He also studied psychotherapy at the school of Transactional Analysis (TA) and is a TA practitioner. Prior to being named President, Jovanović was the ERRC’s Research and Networks Director. 

Brooks and Jovanović launched the ERRC’s open online #RomaAreEqual campaign in April 2016, the first example of their commitment to demonstrating how Roma are at the forefront of their struggle for equal rights and dignity. 

Adam Weiss originally came to the ERRC in 2013 as Legal Director to channel his passion for strategic litigation into change for Roma. Raised in a Jewish community with a deep education about the Holocaust, he keenly feels how serious and widespread anti-gypsyism in Europe is today. He wants to be part of fighting the everyday racism Roma experience, and realising the European ideal of equal societies based on human rights that he was raised to believe would be the legacy of what happened in the Second World War. He is a member of the New York State bar and holds an LLM from King’s College (University of London), a JD from Columbia Law School, a diplôme d’études approfondies from the Université de Paris-IV (La Sorbonne), and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He has nurtured expertise in strategic litigation, non-profit management, and professional activism, and, as a lawyer, specialises in European Union migration law and litigation before the European Court of Human Rights. Weiss has been involved in the litigation of a wide range of cases before the European Court of Human Rights, as well as cases before domestic courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union.  He has lectured widely on European law to judges, lawyers and NGOs and has published numerous academic articles and blogs on human rights and non-discrimination. 

William Lazarus Bila is a human resources professional and program manager with over twenty years of experience working in consulting and financial services across Europe and the Americas. He has volunteered in the Roma movement since the 1990s. From 2009 to 2011 he served as Vice President for the Roma Community Centre in Toronto. Since 2012 he serves as a volunteer at Amnesty International France, on the board of Roma Education Support Trust (Brighton, UK) since 2013, and the board the Roma Education Fund (Zug, Switzerland) since 2014. A Rom whose family originates from western Slovakia, Bila is also a member of la Voix de Rroms, where he has been actively involved since 2011. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and International Business from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University and an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Mirjam-Angela Karoly is Chief of the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues (CPRSI) and Senior Adviser on Roma and Sinti Issues at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) since 5 December 2013. Karoly, political scientist by education, joined the OSCE/ODIHR in November 2009. In her professional career she focused on human and minority rights. From 2007-2009 she served as Senior Communities Adviser at the OSCE Field Mission in Kosovo, where she worked in particular on the rights of minority communities including the situation of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians and on refugees and displaced persons and their property rights, return and reintegration. Prior to this she was active member of Austrian Roma civil society with work experience in the civil society sector and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Karoly is member of the Austrian Ethnic Council for Roma and Sinti at the Federal Chancellery of Austria and board member of the non-governmental organisation Romano Centro, Vienna.

Rob Kushen has been a pivotal figure in the ERRC since 2008, when he was appointed Executive Director. Since September 2011 he has been the Board Chair. Following over four years of tremendous service in that role, Kushen has agreed to continue to serve the ERRC in the newly created role of Board Secretary until the expiration of his term on the Board in December 2016. Kushen has worked in the areas of international law, human rights and health and development for over 25 years, holding senior positions in government, foundations and NGOs. Robert has a JD from Columbia Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and Soviet Studies from Harvard College. He is currently working as Senior Specialist of Society at the Porticus Foundation. 

The ERRC’s new leadership also recently led a round of recruitments which has brought six new permanent staff members to the organisation, five of whom are Roma. Most will be working directly under Jovanović to head the ERRC’s advocacy and communication efforts.

For more information contact:

Atanas Zahariev
Advocacy Officer


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