The Kelman Institute’s honorary co-presidents are Deborah McCants and Ruth Ticktin, the nieces of Herbert Kelman, who was himself the honorary president of the Kelman Institute until his passing in 2022. Their mother, Esther Kelman Ticktin, was Herbert Kelman’s sister.
Deborah McCants grew up in the United States, and stories about their family’s escape from Nazi Austria were important in shaping her politics and sensibilities. Along with her uncle, she participated in anti-racist and anti-imperialist movements starting in the 1960s. She holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in elementary education and she worked as a remedial reading teacher. Deborah’s father, Max Ticktin, was a well-known Jewish rabbi and professor who was a founder of Breira, an organization which wrestled with alternatives that were open to the State of Israel that would take into account Palestinian rights to a homeland.
By marriage, Deborah is part of a large, multi-racial and multi-ethnic extended family. Since 2013, she is a member of Jewish Voices for Peace and since 2018, she is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. She currently lives in rural Ecuador where she is allied with indigenous people who are struggling to gain the most basic civil rights and economic opportunities.
Ruth Ticktin marched together with her uncle in Washington DC at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, November 15,1969. Ruth has coordinated international programs, advised students, and taught English to Speakers of other Languages and creative writing in Washington DC and Maryland since 1977. Raised in Madison Wisconsin and Chicago, she is a University of Wisconsin graduate.
Inspired by students, family and community, she is the author of Was, Am, Going; Recollections in Poetry & Flash (2022), co-editor with Deborah McCants of Psalms for Contemplation (2020;) co-author of What’s Ahead? (2013). She is also a contributor to literary journals including: BendingGenres Anthology 2018-19; Art in Covid-19, SanFedele 2020; WWPH Writes#4; and PressPausePress #6. In 2021, Ruth acquired Austrian citizenship per the 2019 Act amendment, which recognized responsibility to descendants of the victims of the National Socialist regime. Her mother, Esther, and uncle, Herbert Kelman, believers in reconciliation, would be proud of the full circle.