Across The Table Team

Photo Credit: Kathleen Virginia Photography |

Lauren Grossman

Founder and Executive Director

Lauren Grossman grew up in suburban Detroit and felt very lucky to grow up in a very diverse community and have friends whose families came from countries all over the globe. After attending college at Indiana University, Lauren moved to Chicago where she taught at Kelvyn Park High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side. While teaching she co-founded and ran the student camping club and the student volunteer program, both which she found incredibly fulfilling and gave her the opportunity to connect with her students in a deep way, outside of the classroom. In 2003 Lauren founded Broadtree Adventures, a nonprofit outdoor education and youth-led social change nonprofit for Chicago’s teens. All of these experiences led her to role as the founder and Executive Director of Across the Table! 

Lauren, her husband David, along with their two boys and dog, chose to live in Evanston for its diversity, progressive culture, the beautiful lake and its walkable neighborhoods and they have been blown away by the cohesive and engaged community they now feel so lucky to be a part of. She is thrilled to contribute to the many fun things to do in Chicago and the Evanston communities!


Julie Hacker

Board Member

Living in Evanston is for Julie, living in “the best of all possible worlds.” It is a city which places an emphasis on diversity and dialogue. With this in mind, she is proud to serve as a board member of Across The Table.

Julie is a practicing architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture. She is a partner in the firm of Stuart Cohen & Julie Hacker Architects LLC located in Evanston, Illinois.

Her residential work has been published nationally and internationally and is the subject of a book “Transforming the Traditional,” published in 2009. She has lectured and served on architectural award juries nationally as well as mentored young architects.

She is an Evanston native. She grew up in Evanston, attended public schools and, after graduate school, moved back to Evanston to start her family. She has served as a board member for Chiaravalle Montessori School in Evanston and is currently a Preservation Commissioner for the City of Evanston, helping to rewrite the Guidelines for Preservation.



Angel Ysguirre

Board Member

Angel Ysaguirre is the Executive Director of Court Theater. Prior to his position at Court Theater, Angel was the Executive Director of Illinois Humanities, an organization whose mission is to strengthen the social, political, and economic fabric of Illinois through constructive conversation and community engagement. Across the Table is a perfect fit for Angel's personal and professional interest in building community by bringing together people who might not otherwise encounter one another due to ideological, racial, geographic, or socioeconomic differences. He believes that the most resilient communities are those that value a diversity of ideas and people.


Born in Belize, Angel moved to the United States in his early teens and attended middle school, high school, and college in Florida. He's lived in Chicago for 22 years, where he's worked at the McCormick Foundation, Boeing, and the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.


Lois R. Beznos

Board Member

Lois is passionate about how Across The Table’s conversations address the basic and universal human need to communicate feelings and ideas. She knows that in today's culture, there cannot be enough opportunity to bring together diverse individuals who break down barriers between ethnic, religious, age, economic and geographic differences through conversation. For this reason, she is excited to be a part of the leadership of Across The Table who has come to be recognized for its importance in providing gracious and meaningful occasions to bring diverse individuals together to discover and understand their differences and their similarities.

Prior to Across The Table, Lois joined the Chamber Music Society [CMSD] of Detroit Board of Trustees in 1987 and served as its Chair from 1988 through May 1998 and its President from 1995 to December 2010. Under her direction, the CMSD more than quadrupled its budget and subscription base and completed its Van Dusen Endowment Challenge, thus achieving its first endowment fund, a pivotal new fundraising direction for the organization. 

She oversaw policy decisions and daily operations and was artistic director. In her capacity as President, she formed collaborations with the Wayne State University Department of Music, Detroit Country Day School, the Cranbrook Educational Community and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

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Yeefah Thurman


Yeefah Thurman was born in NYC to very progressive parents, an entrepreneur and educator. Her family was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, especially her maternal grandmother who is memorialized in a song about her activities. Her families’ civil rights activity was influential in forming Yeefah's belief that equality is for all people and that we should all have power to stand up for ourselves and others. She was raised in a home where TV was limited and conversation, books and music were emphasized. This fostered her deep desire for gathering information and communicating with others. Yeefah is well travelled since infancy including living in Europe, Vienna Austria, for 5 years. An artist by nature she attended the famous Music and Art high school, worked in clothing design and is currently working as a hairstylist. Her hobbies include photography, sewing, mixed media art and writing(paternal uncle and maternal grandmother were English professors and uncle a published poet) She has raised and is raising 4 eclectic children: an aviation mechanic, a hairstylist, a singer songwriter and a junior in high school. Yeefah has an internal desire to be exposed to other cultures and to understand people the way "they" want to be understood. She is a lifelong learner currently studying Spanish and has a working knowledge of German. Her previous careers have been modeling, selling African fabric and an holistic health practitioner. Over the years she has won numerous awards and scholarships including the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Yeefah’s motto: If there is a difficult situation like stress, anger, sadness or anything else, remember that tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to handle the situation in a different way.

Claire Kaufman HS

Claire Kaufman



Claire Kaufman has nearly ten years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Claire works to enhance her community in her personal and professional life. Claire is currently on the Leadership Team for the New Impact Chicago Professional Chapter where she works with changemakers to plan programs related to social impact throughout the city.  Previously, Claire organized the Net Impact San Francisco Professional Chapter’s Annual Conference, which brought together 300 social impact professionals throughout the Bay Area. During the conference she was able to learn about the various ways our community can address key issues in the social sector. Claire believes that being part of the discussions at Across the Table dinners regarding social topics is inspiring and hopeful for the future of our society. Claire is honored and excited to have the opportunity to be a facilitator for Across the Table.


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