Legacy’s staff is a group of highly dedicated individuals,  many of whom were integral to the founding of the organization and its continued growth. Our combined experience in cross-cultural training, conflict resolution, community development and exchange programs gives us the ability to meet the needs of those experiencing great changes. Our staff team brings together people from a wide range of backgrounds. Among our staff are individuals fluent in Amharic, Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and Spanish; conversant in Russian; and with basic skills in Bahasa Indonesia and Croatian.  We have a wide network of colleagues who join us for specific projects and contribute their expertise.


J.E. Rash
President and Founder

J.E. Rash is a lecturer, writer and consultant in dialogue, NGO development, conflict resolution and education. His career includes studies in law, religion, and alternative medicine, work in professional theater and media, and the design of educational training programs for inner and outer leadership. Entrepreneur, innovator, and visionary, Mr. Rash has founded and leads four organizations, each with a 40-year record of success.

His flagship organization, Legacy International, (http://www.legacyintl.org), is a U.S.-based international non-governmental organization, dedicated to equipping emerging leaders with the skills to transform their values and vision into sustainable success. Utilizing cutting edge methods for professional development Legacy international focuses on a values-based approach to capacity building, catalytic leadership, network thinking, socially responsible entrepreneurship, diversity training, conflict prevention, and youth and women’s empowerment. Under Mr. Rash’s direction, Legacy international has become a global leader in Helping People to Help Themselves and Others in navigating the challenges of a global society.

Throughout his work, Mr. Rash seeks to build bridges of understanding and to develop practical interfaces among people of diverse backgrounds by emphasizing universal values, social responsibility, mutual respect and tolerance.

In 1987, he received the Friends of the United Nations Environment Program 500 Award for outstanding contributions to the environment. He has presented at the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Conference on Religion for Peace; Islamic Unity Conference; University of Colorado’s Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership; and International Symposia on Science and Consciousness in Olympia, Greece and Cancun, Mexico. He has addressed numerous college and academic audiences and served on Ph.D. committees at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI).

Known also as Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid, he is an authorized teacher in five traditional schools of Sufism, offering a unique approach for the contemporary seeker, which he calls: Applied Sufism. Author of more than 40 publications, Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid’s articles and speeches have been translated into Arabic, Turkish, Russian, and Kazakh.

He sees himself as a change agent striving to create a positive Legacy for future generations who will be faced with planetary challenges and opportunities of heretofore unseen magnitude. He often quotes: “you cannot change a community until you change yourself.’ And seeks to encourage people to balance their outer life and goals with a rich and contemplative inner life and practice.

Shanti Thompson
Vice President: Director of Training

Ms. Thompson is involved in the design, funding, and program and financial administration of Legacy’s projects. She has over 35 years’ experience directing initiatives, developing training programs and curricula in leadership, pluralism, conflict prevention and resolution, cross-cultural communication, and civic education. Ms. Thompson has authored three published curricula and has directed projects in the U.S., Spain, Russia, and Ukraine. She has visited 23 different nations, and worked closely with adults and teens from Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia and Ukraine.

Mary Helmig
Vice President: Youth Initiatives

Ms. Helmig directs many of the organizations’ international leadership training programs. She is fluent in French and conversant in Bahasa Indonesia, and has traveled to Indonesia and the Middle East many times to direct various Legacy projects involving adult and/or youth audiences focused on leadership development and on inter-religious dialogue. As Director of the Global Youth Village, she has 25 years experience managing international, multicultural staff teams, mounting annual training programs, and providing leadership development experiences to people ages 15 – 40.

Marlene Ginsberg
Vice President: Professional Programs

Ms. Ginsberg has 35 years non-profit experience, including 20 years directing professional development programs for citizens of Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Topics included NGO development, religion and society, business development, women’s issues, and civic education and engagement. With activities both in the US and in the counterpart country, she has wide travel experience and is fluent in Spanish, conversant in Russian and French. In addition, she has produced two documentaries that have aired on the Discovery Channel.

Leila Baz 
Senior Program Officer & Human Resources Coordination

Ms. Baz has been working in the non-profit sector for over 25 years. As Program Director  for various Legacy adult professional exchange programs, she has designed and delivered numerous projects for citizens from Azerbaijan, Morocco, Egypt, Belarus, the Republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Focuses have included NGO development, education reform, youth advocacy, conflict resolution, public health, and civic education & citizen engagement. As Staff Director for Legacy’s annual Global Youth Village, she oversees seasonal staff hiring, and coordinates the day to day operations and risk management for this residential program. She also spearheads all outreach and screening for both temporary and permanent staff for Legacy.

Mitra Nafissian Rash
Senior Program Officer

Mitra holds an MA and AbD in International Relations from New York University. She has worked at the United Nations in New York at the Center on Transnational Corporations and at the Department of Public Information. At Legacy, Mitra acts as project director for professional development programs in public health and education. She also directs Legacy’s NSLI-Y Arabic Language Institute in Morocco, an initiative of the U.S. State Department. A native of Iran, Mitra has lived in the United States for over 30 years and has taught Middle Eastern Studies at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Atefeh Leavitt
Senior Project  Director

Atefeh’s work at Legacy has included program coordination and training in civic involvement and project planning for youth and adults from Indonesia, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. She is also part of the development and public relations team and is responsible for the website and other media outreach. A native of Virginia, Atefeh has traveled and worked in Bahrain, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Morocco. She has an MPA in public administration and non-profit management from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. and a BA in Political Science from Randolph Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, VA.

Jason Scott
Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 
 As the Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Jason impacts and shapes the increased innovation activity at Legacy International by developing and delivering programs and resources relevant to the existing global network of alumni projects as well as engaging emerging entrepreneurs and innovators. Jason has over 15 years of experience leading organizational learning, designing and delivering training topics to an international audience, and working with youth. He holds a Masters of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management from the University of Delaware.