Cohort 2


Ahuvia_A-picRabbi Aura Bartfeld Ahuvia is rabbi to Congregation Shir Tikvah, a Reform and Renewal-affiliated shul located in Troy, Michigan, north of Detroit. Ordained as both rabbi and Mashpiah (spiritual guide), she brings a passion for community-building and experimentation, alongside an abiding respect for the deep wisdom embedded within Judaism. She is an accomplished guitarist and singer, as well as an innovative teacher, preferring active learning methods to involve students.

Originally from Milwaukee, Rabbi Ahuvia lived in Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Woodstock, NY—her first pulpit—before moving back to Michigan. As a rabbinic student, she led the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, which she and her husband helped co-found. Before that, she served on the board of Ann Arbor’s Hebrew Day School, and spent four years as the program director for Beth Israel Congregation. Rabbi Aura holds two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, one in journalism and the second in Judaic Studies. Her master’s thesis focused on the childhood antecedents of synagogue affiliation.

Reb Aura sits on the board of ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and created “Clergy Camp,” a week-long, continuing professional development intensive for Renewal rabbis, cantors and rabbinic pastors, which debuted July, 2016. She is a member of OHALAH Rabbinical Association. Rabbi Aura enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee, cooking and quilting. She and husband Aaron, a marketing professor who studies materialism and happiness, just celebrated 25 years of marriage. They have two grown sons, Isaac and Jonah.

Alpert_A-picRabbi Alana Alpert serves as the rabbi of Congregation T’chiyah as well as a community organizer with Detroit Jews for Justice (DJJ). Congregation T’chiyah is a small, intergenerational Reconstructionist congregation. DJJ organizes the Jewish community of metro Detroit to participate in movements for racial, social, and economic justice. Alana is a graduate of AVODAH: the Jewish Service Corps and ACTIVATE! The Community Organizing Fellowship of Social Justice Leadership. She has worked as an organizer at NY Jobs with Justice and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.

During her time in rabbinical school, Alana assumed leadership around several issues including feminism, Israel/Palestine, GLBTIQ rights, and prison reform. She co-founded the Liberatory Minyan, a place for rabbinical students to explore the nexus between prayer and activism. The burnout epidemic, which has led to increasing demand from social change-workers for spiritual counseling, inspired her capstone project “Like a Burning Bush: Jewish Practice for Activists.”

While in rabbinical school Alana worked at Harvard Hillel, Temple Shir Tikva, the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution, and completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education where she served Holocaust survivors. Alana was ordained at Hebrew College in Boston in 2014.

Basik_G-picRabbi Geoff Basik is the founding rabbi of Kol HaLev in Baltimore, a synagogue community that balances intellectual and spiritual curiosity with mindful practice. The community consensus is around engaging with Jewish resources in the service of leading lives of meaning, relationship and ethical action. Geoff worked for ten years at the Center for Jewish Education where he also led teen trips to Poland and Israel. He graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2007. While Kol HaLev is affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement, Geoff is a member of both the RRA and Ohalah, the rabbinical association of the Jewish Renewal movement. Geoff has worked with the Alternatives to Violence Program in the Maryland Department of Corrections system and participated in The Mankind Project which trains men to be compassionate role models in our communities. With his wife of over 36 years, Geoff has enjoyed a lot of travel, two daughters, lots of dogs, yoga, a meditation community and, lately, a lot of gardening.

Rabbi David Baum is the first full-time rabbi/spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Kodesh in West Boca Raton. He was ordained by JTS in 2009 where he also received an MA in Jewish education. While in rabbinical school, David gained valuable and diverse experiences ranging from congregational work in the Northeast and South, to Hillel and organizational work, to social justice and community organizing. David is president of the Southeast Region of the Rabbinical Assembly, and a member of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Social Justice Commission. He is also the vice president of the Palm Beach Board of Rabbis, serves on the Levis JCC Board of Directors, and is an active member of the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association. David has written chapters in two books and writes a blog for the Times Of Israel. David met his wife Alissa, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology who specializes in eating disorder treatment, at Camp Ramah Darom where he served on the staff in various capacities for nine summers. They have two children, Avraham (Avi) and Harrison.

Dresner_H-picRabbi Hannah Dresner is the rabbi of Jewish Renewal congregation Or Shalom in Vancouver, BC. Ordained as both rabbi and mashpiah ruchanit by ALEPH, Hannah served Reform congregation B’nei Torah in Brentwood CA as visiting rabbi and has facilitated large-scale High Holiday services at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, where she also co-led a monthly chant and meditation group. Hannah comes to the rabbinate having piloted interdisciplinary curricula across the arts at Northwestern University. She was also the Curator of Education for the Spertus Museum of Judaica in Chicago. Hannah has offered Elul retreats for Jewish Renewal congregation Nevei Kodesh in Boulder, combining journaling, movement, niggun, meditation and Chassidic text study into the practice of teshuvah. A painter, cook and avid singer, Hannah thinks of her rabbinate as an aspect of her artistic expression. She blogs for Rabbis Without Borders and is also a contributor to the Sh’ma and Maqom online journals. Married to child psychiatrist Ross Andelman, she is mother and stepmother of three young adult daughters.


Finegold_R-picMaharat Rachel Kohl Finegold is the director of education and spiritual enrichment at Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. She previously served as the education and ritual director at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago, where she was named one of the Jewish United Fund’s “36 Under 36.” Rachel is a founding member of the Orthodox Leadership Project and serves on the editorial board of the JOFA Journal (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance). She received her B.A. in Religion from Boston University and completed the Drisha Scholars Circle in New York City. She was ordained as part of the inaugural class of Yeshivat Maharat. Rachel spends much of her time engaging young children and their families in meaningful Jewish experiences, helping preschoolers find joy and excitement in Jewish life, while teaching adults to glean parenting wisdom from Jewish tradition. She has also worked extensively in the area of mikvah education, including conducting frank discussions around Jewish views of sexuality and relationships. Rachel lives in Montreal with her husband, Rabbi Avi Finegold, and their three daughters.

Gershun_SB-picRabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny was raised in a modern orthodox home in the UK. At 23 she discovered Jewish Renewal during a year-long residency at the Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center, which led her to apply to rabbinical school. She graduated from Hebrew College in 2012 with rabbinic ordination and an MA in Jewish education, spending the next two years serving as Director of Congregational Learning at a Reform synagogue in suburban Connecticut. In 2014 Sarah Bracha became rabbi of Congregation Nevei Kodesh in Boulder Colorado, a flagship Renewal synagogue led formerly by R’ Tirzah Firestone. Sarah Bracha is a skilled musician able to conduct and contain spiritual experience for large groups of people. This coming summer, Sarah Bracha will also be ordained as a Kohenet, a Hebrew Priestess. She believes that together, women have the ability to rescue the planet and its systems of human governance from their currently very broken state, and is excited to be on the edge of that wave. She is a deep lover of Torah, spiritual adventure, music, ritual, dance, deep communication, Earth-intelligence and the sacred calendar.

Daniel HorwitzRabbi Dan Horwitz is the founding director and rabbi of The Well, a pluralistic Jewish community-building, education and spirituality outreach initiative in metro Detroit geared to the needs of young adults and those who haven’t connected with traditional institutions. Committed to lifelong learning, Dan holds a BA in Politics from Brandeis University, an MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College, a JD and an MA in Sport Management from the University of Michigan, and an MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew College. Ordained by the non-denominational Mesifta Adas Wolkowisk in 2011, he worked for a number of years as the Rabbi and Director of Immersive Learning for Moishe House, the global leader in young adult engagement and education. An avid basketball player, violinist and Detroit sports enthusiast, Dan is a member of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal and the State Bar of Michigan. Dan makes his home in suburban Detroit with his wife Miriam and their sons Jonah and Micah.

Jacobs-Velde_D-picRabbi Daria Jacobs-Velde is the co-founder and co-rabbi of ZMANIM, which is located about 1.5 hours north of San Francisco. In 2014 she and her husband (and also co-rabbi, Josh Jacobs-Velde) left their congregation in Ohio to move to northern CA – an area that seemed particularly ripe for cultivating Jewish community dedicated to exploring and celebrating the connections between Judaism and the natural world. Since then they have led monthly gatherings and Shabbat services in the outdoors, creating opportunities for attuning to the rhythms of the seasons, the sacred Hebrew calendar, and the cycles of our lives. As a child, Daria had a warm connection to Judaism, but as a Hebrew school dropout, her self-consciousness about what she didn’t know kept her feeling on the “outside.” On her quest to clarify for herself her relationship to Judaism, she lived and traveled abroad, spending one year in Israel and three years in Japan. She completed an Ed.M. at Harvard University and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2009. Daria engages Judaism’s potential through a variety of formats, including “putting the ‘nature’ back into Judaism,” teaching the powerful practice of Mussar, sacred Hebrew chanting, bibliodrama, meditation, and teaching Hebrew.

Kaiman_A-picRabbi Ari Kaiman is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta, GA. Upon ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Ari served as Assistant Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Amoona in St. Louis for five years. During his tenure there Ari was instrumental in founding Makor, a young adult group.  He has also worked closely with the Miller Introduction to Judaism program through which he brought dozens of seekers to their home in Judaism. Ari loves to sing and pray with his community.  He loves a good conversation after a delicious Shabbat meal.  He loves learning with children, teens, and adults.  Ari and his wife, Emily, are graduates of the University of Florida and are the proud parents of Eliana, Amalia, Maayan, and Shai.


Kaiman_D-picRabbi Daniel S. Kaiman is a rabbi at Congregation B’nai Emunah, a progressive center for Jewish renewal in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With a strong focus on social activism and cultural programming, he is intimately involved in projects ranging from Hispanic and Burmese immigrant support services to an award winning pro-social bakery. A 2013 graduate of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Dan sees the project of re-inventing small town Jewish life as a bellwether for a changing American Jewish landscape. He has partnered with the American Jewish World Service, Bend the Arc and Encounter Programs as an educator and facilitator. Dan has worked in synagogues and educational institutions from California to New Jersey, Georgia to Wisconsin, and many places in between.

Knopf_M-picRabbi Michael Knopf is the rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Virginia, where he has partnered with a dynamic and innovative community to inspire a renaissance, fusing heritage with contemporary relevance and imagination. Before his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2011, Michael helped coordinate the nation’s largest preparatory program for conversion to Judaism, worked as a spiritual counselor at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment facility, and served several congregations and educational institutions. Prior to assuming the pulpit at Temple Beth-El, Michael served as assistant rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, PA.

He was named by The Jewish Daily Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, publishes widely, releases two weekly podcasts, and is a regular contributor to Haaretz, Huffington Post, Jewish Values Online, and other publications. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Michael relishes spending time with his wife and two young children, and enjoys movies, traveling, and pizza.

Nickerson_J-picRabbi Joel Nickerson is an associate rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, CA. He grew up in the Bay Area and received his B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University. After working for Hillel at Stanford as a Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow, he enrolled at HUC-JIR during which time he created an alternative religious school program for a large Reform synagogue in Los Angeles, served as the rabbinic fellow at the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI), and was the rabbinic intern at Temple Judea and Valley Beth Shalom synagogues in Los Angeles. After ordination from HUC in 2009, he was hired to serve as a Senior Jewish Educator at the University of Pennsylvania, charged with developing innovative and relationship-based learning opportunities for students peripherally connected to Judaism. Joel spent two years working at Penn and then moved back to Los Angeles to begin his work at Temple Isaiah. He regularly lectures at the Los Angeles campus of HUC to the Pastoral Counseling class and is a member of a clergy/mental health professional roundtable group sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health. He lives in West Los Angeles with his wife, Julia, and their three daughters.

Phillips_L-picRabbi Laurie Phillips is the creator and director of BEINEINU, an independent initiative offering personalized pathways to Jewish life and learning. Based on the havurah model, pods (groups of up to 10 households) are being established in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Harlem. Laurie began her professional life teaching the deaf in Baltimore City Public Schools. She holds a BA in education, special education, an MA in Leadership in Teaching, Curriculum and Supervision and was ordained by HUC, Los Angeles in 2003. Profoundly impacted by her participation in the Brandeis Collegiate Institute, Laurie set out on a path of intentionally cultivating her own spiritual journey. She worked for JCC Association as the associate director for the Mandel Center for Jewish Education, co-creating Lechu Lachem, a program designed to immerse camp directors in a personal exploration of their relationship with Judaism. Laurie served as the director of education for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and for Congregation Habonim in Manhattan. She participated in the Mandel Senior Educator program and the Rabbinic Leadership Institute of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Laurie is a trained birth doula and deeply committed to empowering women to reclaim mikveh through education and crafting individual experiences and is also a teacher of mindfulness. Laurie lives in Harlem with her husband Howard, step-son Adam and their dog Daisy.


Rabbi David Segal was born and raised in Houston, TX and is now the rabbi of the Aspen Jewish Congregation in Aspen, CO. David graduated from Princeton University with a BA in Classics and Jewish Studies. After graduation, he worked at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC on a range of domestic political issues as well as interfaith dialogue. He was ordained in May 2010 by HUC-JIR in New York. During rabbinic school, David spent summers interning as a hospital chaplain in Seattle, WA and as a community organizer with the URJ’s Just Congregations in Boston, MA. David was named by the Jewish Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis. He is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and is on the board of the Aspen Homeless Shelter and the Pitkin County Senior Services Council. He writes a monthly column for the Aspen Times, blogs occasionally, and dabbles in stand-up comedy. David has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado since July 2010, along with his wife and co-clergy, Cantor Rollin Simmons, and their two children.


Silver_D-picRabbi Deborah Silver serves Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation in Metarie, New Orleans.  She was ordained in 2010 by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, after which she spent six years as assistant rabbi at Adat Ari El, Valley Village, Los Angeles. She holds a Master’s degree in Hebrew Studies from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, England, and a further MA in Theory and Practice of Literary Translation from the University of Essex, England. After stints in theater, publishing and editing (including The Oxford English-Hebrew Dictionary of Current Usage) she qualified as an attorney. She worked in private practice and then as a law professor before crossing the ocean to fulfill her long-held dream of becoming a rabbi. She is convinced of Judaism’s evolving relevance and its capacity to inspire our spiritual growth and seeks to create entrances to its riches through exploration of Jewish text, music and modalities such as yoga (she is a qualified instructor). Deborah writes periodically for LA-based Jewish Women’s Theater, aspires to slam storytelling and enjoys travel, good food and reading with her feet up.

Swedroe_G-picRabbi Gail Swedroe is the assistant rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, Texas. She graduated from UC-Santa Barbara with a degree in Religious Studies and received rabbinic ordination in 2012 from the Jewish Theological Seminary with a concentration in Pastoral Care. Additionally, she is part of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders. From 2012-2014 she was the assistant director and campus rabbi at the Hillel at the University of Florida, working with lay leaders to bring their vision of Jewish life on campus to fruition.

Wall_G-picRabbi Greg Wall is the spiritual leader of Beit Chaverim Synagogue in Westport, CT. He received smicha from HaRav Don Channen of Yeshivat Pirchei Shoshanim in 2006, as well as from HaRav Zalman Nechemya Goldberg in 2007 and HaRav Sha’ar Yashuv Cohen in 2009. Previously he served as rabbi of the Sixth Street Community Synagogue, in NYC’s East Village. While at Sixth Street, Greg created the Center for Jewish Arts and Literacy, presenting nightly classes in Jewish literacy and thought followed by world class cutting edge performances of music, spoken word and theater, as well as visual art exhibitions and installations. Greg is a celebrated musician and recording artist whose innovative downtown blend of jazz, world music and Jewish sounds has filled the halls of top venues in NYC such as Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, The Village Vanguard and Joe’s Pub, to stages of major festivals throughout North America, Europe and Israel.

Wax_S-picRabbi Seth Wax is the rabbi at Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, NY. A native of Sharon, Massachusetts, he is a 2013 graduate of Hebrew College where he focused on mysticism, Kabbalah, and Hasidism. Prior to entering rabbinical school, he received a Master’s of Theological Studies in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School, researching meditation theory and practice. He attended Columbia University and got a BA in the Religion department. After college, Seth worked at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a researcher on ethics and professions, authoring a study on spirituality and work. As a Jewish educator and meditation instructor, Seth has taught spiritual seekers of all ages in synagogues, schools, and colleges. He was director of Hebrew College’s Makor program, an innovative collaboration for 6th & 7th grade students that brought together five synagogue religious schools.

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