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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Makes Strategic Hires to Confront Domestic and Global Human Rights Challenges
July 17, 2020

Human Rights First Makes Strategic Hires to Confront Domestic and Global Human Rights Challenges

WASHINGTON — As Human Rights First confronts pressing human rights concerns around the world and in the United States of America, the organization is building upon a strong team of leaders and instituting some important staffing changes in order to tackle both entrenched human rights abuse and emerging threats.

Nicole Elkon will serve as Human Rights First’s new Chief Operating Officer, while long-time COO Zach Silverstein is moving to a consulting role. Jim Bernfield has joined Human Rights First as Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications. In June, Hardy Vieux was promoted to Senior Vice President for Legal and Jennifer Mellen was promoted to Senior Vice President for Development. 

Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First said, “Human Rights First has long had a strong reputation for expertise in an array of policy areas. We are excited to be building a leadership team that continues to reflect those strengths and can help to position the organization on the frontlines as we confront human rights issues abroad and increasingly here in the United States.” 

Nicole Elkon served until earlier this year as a Senior Advisor and consultant to Results for America, a not-for-profit focused on the use of data to design public policy to solve the nation’s biggest problems. As Human Rights First’s Chief Operating Officer, Nicole focuses on the organization’s long-term financial stability while working closely with the policy, advocacy, refugee representation, and communications teams to create coordinated campaigns. Her near-term priorities include refining the organization’s strategic vision, launching new branding, and overseeing the transition of our workplace in the COVID era. 

Before joining Human Rights First, Jim Bernfield focused on messaging that elected public officials, branded organizations, and changed policies. At Human Rights First, he is focused on building a brand and messaging strategy that ensure the organization’s public-facing work supports and reinforces the rest of its efforts illustrates how what we do impacts lives and changes policy, and shows all stakeholders how the work of Human Rights First is essential to the global fight for human rights.  

Hardy Vieux has long led Human Rights First’s legal initiatives and our refugee representation work.  As the new Senior Vice President, Legal, he aims to help re-envision the representation team’s work and structure so that their work is sustainable and supports the organization’s advocacy and impact litigation efforts. 

Jennifer Mellen, now promoted to Senior Vice President, Development, will focus on using events as opportunities to introduce new constituencies to the work done by Human Rights First and aims to deepen the organization’s partnerships in the philanthropic community.   

Zach Silverstein served Human Rights First as COO for six years, navigating the organization through a significant transformation. From reimagining the organization’s structure and creating a sustainable workforce to leading the organization as interim CEO, Zach’s resolution and insight have been foundational to all the work done in his tenure at Human Rights First. Silverstein will continue to serve in an advisory role going forward.