Our Leadership and Staff

Bernard Cherkasov, Esq. | Executive Director, Chicago

Bernard Cherkasov is the Executive Director of Cradles to Crayons in Chicago.  Bernard came to the Unites States as a refugee 28 years ago.  When Bernard was a kid – before he and his family fled Azerbaijan – his family used to receive an occasional package with winter coats and other clothing, organized by the Joint Distribution Committee in the U.S..  He remembers how empowering it felt that someone showed care and support for his family; and he feels that emotional connection to the Cradles’ mission.

Bernard is a lawyer by training, and practiced law at corporate law firms before joining the nonprofit sector.  He also served as the International Law Clerk for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel.  He earned his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in the relationship of theology, policy, and law from Harvard.

Prior to Cradles, Bernard served as CEO of Equality Illinois, Midwest’s largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBT equality.  Under Bernard’s leadership, Equality Illinois passed several pieces of historic legislation, including the marriage equality law, bullying prevention measures, and a national model ban on so-called conversion therapy.  EI had grown to become the nation’s second largest state equality organization, with offices in Chicago and Central Illinois.

Bernard is married to Hon. Dr. Danny M. Cohen, and they have a daughter.

Our Staff

Chicago Staff

  • David Cotugno, Senior Manager of Development
  • Kayla Furjanic, Group Volunteer Coordinator
  • Julia Giordano, Executive & Development Assistant
  • Jessica Lewis, Community Engagement Coordinator
  • Amanda Marks, AmeriCorps Community Engagement Fellow 
  • Catherine McDonough, Manager of Community Engagement
  • Jaron Newton, Senior Operations Manager
  • Yaritza Sandoval, Partner Relations Coordinator
  • Lotta Schwerk, ARSP Operations Fellow