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CJS Faculty

Deena Aranoff

Director of Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies
Senior Lecturer in Medieval Jewish Studies

Click Here to watch Dr. Aranoff speak on "Household and Halakha in a Time of Pandemic" as part of Jewish Live's The Plagues Project.

Click Here to watch Dr. Aranoff reflect on the diversity within Judaism and why she joined the GTU's Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies.

Spring 2021 Courses:
BSHR-6100: Sacred Texts Doctoral Seminar

Fall 2021 Courses:
No course offerings for FA21.

Spring 2022 Courses:
HSST-2022: Ancient and Medieval Jewish Civilization

GTU Faculty Page

Sam Berrin Shonkoff

Taube Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies

Spring 2021 Courses:
HSHR-3726: Revelation in Modern Jewish Thought
HSHR-4105: Homeland, Exile, and Diaspora in Judaism

Fall 2021 Courses:
HR-3000: Modern Jewish Thought
FT-6000: Advanced Readings in Hasidism: Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav

Spring 2022 Courses:
HR-3000: Neo-Hasidism
FT-4000: Jewish Feminist and Queer Theologies

Public Events:
Please check back for upcoming public events.

GTU Faculty Page


Visiting Faculty

Charlotte Fonrobert

Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Stanford University

Fall 2021 CJS Courses:
BSHS-3320: Intro to Rabbinic Literature

Stanford Faculty Page

Jhos Singer

Maggid, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

Spring 2022 CJS Courses:
*information forthcoming*


Affiliated Faculty

Ashley London Bacchi

Assistant Professor of Jewish History and Ancient Mediterranean Religions, Starr King School for the Ministry

Summer 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
HR-8440: Advanced Topics in Gender and Religion Intensive

Fall 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
BSHR-8200: Liberation, Social Justice, Bible

SKSM Faculty Page

Aaron Brody

Robert & Kathryn Riddell Professor of Bible & Archaeology, Pacific School of Religion
Director of the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology

Intersession 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
BSRS-4050: Ezra-Nehemiah: Social & Religious Transformations in Early Judaism

Spring 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
No course offerings in Jewish studies this semester

GTU Faculty Page

Rebecca Esterson

Assistant Professor in Sacred Texts and Traditions and Dorothea Harvey Professor of Swedenborgian Studies, Center for Swedenborgian Studies

Spring 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
No course offerings in Jewish studies this semester

GTU Faculty Page

James Nati

Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible & Old Testament Studies, Jesuit School of Theology

Spring 2021 Jewish Studies Courses:
No course offerings in Jewish studies this semester

JST Faculty Page

Past Adjunct Faculty

Carol Bier

Carol Bier, a historian of Islamic Art, studies patterns as intersections of art and mathematics. As Research Scholar at the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley CA, she has published widely on cultural aspects of geometry in Islamic art that inform a beauty of form, pattern and structure. She is concurrently Research Associate at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC (2001-present), where she served as Curator for Eastern Hemisphere Collections (1984-2001). 

Rachel Brodie

Rachel Brodie is a Jewish educator working primarily with adult learners. She specializes in designing and facilitating professional development opportunities for other Jewish educators.  A New Yorker by birth and temperament, Rachel settled in the Bay Area in 1997 after spending a year in Israel on a Melton Senior Educator's Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She holds a master's degree in Rabbinic Literature from The Jewish Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Literature and Society from Brown University. 

Naomi Seidman

Dr. Naomi Seidman is the Jackman Humanities Professor at the University of Toronto, with a split appointment between the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. Her first book, A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish, appeared in 1997; her second, Faithful Renderings: Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation, in 2006. A third, The Marriage Plot, Or, How Jews Fell in Love with Love, and with Literature, appeared in 2016.  Her newest book is Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Yaakov Movement: A Revolution in the Name of Tradition.  

Francesco Spagnolo

Francesco Spagnolo is a multidisciplinary scholar focusing on Jewish studies, music, and digital media. At the University of California, Berkeley, he is the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Music. He is also an affiliated faculty with the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, the Institute of European Studies, the Religious Diversity Cluster of the Haas Institute, and serves on the Digital Humanities Council. Dr. Spagnolo is also a host for the cultural programs of Italian National Radio (RAI) in Rome.

Bernie Steinberg

Dr. Bernie Steinberg, Director Emeritus of Harvard Hillel, also served as President of the Harvard Chaplains, lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government, and Vice-President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, West Coast. A recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award, Bernie is a bridge builder whose life’s work is devoted to dialogic interaction between diverse groups of people and between the academy and the community at large. Bernie holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Current Students

Jonah Gelfand

Degree Program: MA, Center for Jewish Studies with a concentration in Historical and Cultural Studies

Research interests: Jonah's research interest is in the theology of early Hasidism and its use by the modern neo-Hasidic movement. Specifically, he is interested in studying the traditional Hasidic leader of the rebbe to answer the question of leadership in neo-Hasidism. He has a Bachelor in Arts from Oberlin College where he majored in Religion and minored in Jewish Studies and History.

Anthony Gorman

Talia Johnson

Jennifer Lehmann

Degree Program: PhD, Sacred Texts and Their Interpretation with a concentration in Hebrew Bible

Research Interests: Jennifer's main focus is on constructions of masculinity in the Hebrew Bible, and the way that gender and sexuality function in the narrative. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Northeastern University in Religious Studies and Philosophy and a Master of Arts from the GTU with a thesis titled "Second Sons and Mama's Boys: Masculinity in the Jacob Story." She will be teaching a Newhall course in Spring 2021 on Masculinity in the Bible, and will be the instructor for Biblical Hebrew in 2021-2022.

Kendra LeVine

Morey Lipsett

Degree Program: MA, Center for Jewish Studies with a concentration in Historical and Cultural Studies

Research Interests: Morey's research focuses on Modern Jewish Thought and Jewish Political Theology, with a particular interest in Queer and Radical interpretations of Kabbalah and Jewish contributions to Critical Theory and Queer Theory. Morey has previously worked as the Social Justice Coordinator at Or Shalom Jewish Community in San Francisco, and received his BA in Political Theory from the University of Puget Sound.

Leah Macinskas-Le

Degree Program: PhD, Sacred Texts and Their Interpretation with a concentration in New Testament and Rabbinics

Research Interests: Leah's research focuses on the rhetoric of Jewish halakhic debates and the diversity of ways of being Jewish in the Second Temple period. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Critical Theory from McGill University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in Ancient Judaism from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her MA Thesis with honors was titled The Sociological Implications of Halakhic Debates in the Second Temple Period: Qumran, The New Testament, and the Mishnah. In Fall 2018 Leah taught a Newhall course on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Leah is the instructor for Biblical Hebrew 2019-2021.

Brandt Miller

Degree Program: MA, Center for Jewish Studies

Research interests: Brandt is a writer and filmmaker pursuing his MA at the Center for Jewish Studies, as well as the Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate. His creative background is diverse: from a Fulbright Fellowship in Mongolia documenting the underground queer movement – to reporting for an English-language newspaper in Cambodia – to obtaining his MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. Most recently, he has been working as a creative producer in the documentary film world for National Geographic, Discovery, Smithsonian, among others, before beginning his studies at the GTU. Transformation, sacred narratives and storytelling are interweaving threads that will continue to guide his path.

Elijah Blue Reeves

Degree Program: MA, Center for Jewish Studies with a concentration in Historical and Cultural Studies

Research Interests: Blue is interested in exploring the relationships between antisemitism and antiqueerness, especially in pre-World War II Germany where Jewish culture and queer culture both had complex histories. Blue has their Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Humboldt State University.

Hannah Rose

Dan Stein

Todd Whelan

Alumni Profiles

Susan L. Aguilar

Degree Program: PhD (current doctoral candidate, ABD), Cultural and Historical Studies of Religion

Research interests: Susan also received her M.A. in Jewish Studies at the CJS. Her area of focus is on Jewish constructions of identity and cultural production in the Medieval and Early Modern periods. During her doctoral program, Susan was a GTU Presidential Scholar and received research grants from the Taube Foundation, the Academic Consortium of Northern California/Jewish Community Center, San Francisco and was awarded the Elka Klein Research Grant by the Association for Jewish Studies.  She has presented academic papers at the Medieval Academy of America, the Association for Jewish Studies, the International Medieval Meeting in Lleida, Spain and at conferences in Stockholm and Edinburgh.

Susan’s dissertation focuses on Jewish participation in public processions and rituals in the Crown of Aragon during the 13th through 15th centuries in order to explore medieval Jewish identity.

Aya Baron

“I am passionate about cultivating a regenerative Jewish culture, developing rites of passage experiences for youth, and working with adolescent girls. I am the lead mentor for Wilderness Torah's B'naiture, a wilderness based B'nai Mitzvah coming of age program.”

Aya Baron is Wilderness Torah's Youth Programs Director. She joined their staff in 2015 after three years serving part-time as a lead mentor in the field, and has played a pivotal role in growing and evolving their youth programs, now currently serving over 140 youth in the East Bay and Peninsula. She was a 2017 Natalia Twersky Educator Award Finalist, recognized for creatively integrating Jewish women’s stories into Wilderness Torah’s curricula. She holds a degree in Contemplative Education from Brown University, and a certificate in herbal medicine from the California School of Herbal Studies. Her MA thesis, titled Black Fire on White Fire:The Amplification of Women's Roles in Rabbinic Accounts of Redemption, focused on feminist analysis of Jewish texts. Aya has been awarded a Wexner Graduate Fellowship to pursue rabbinical studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. 

Aya was also a Jewish Community Fellow in Fall 2017 in the class Intro to Rabbinic Literature.

Angela Botelho

"In a post-career move (as a former Deputy Attorney General for the State of California), I completed an MA degree in Jewish History and Culture in 2013 under the guidance of Professor Naomi Seidman.   I am currently finishing a book, an outgrowth of my Honors Masters Thesis at CJS, provisionally entitled Writing the Jewish Self: German Jews and the Persistence of Jewish Identity in Conversion.  As the Jewish daughter of German Jewish refugees, converts to Roman Catholicism in the 1930s, my interest in this topic is both academic and personal as reflected in the book's focus, trajectory, and crossover appeal.  In it, I seek to ascertain the impact of a contested Jewish identity on the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Jewish self.  My mixed-genre inquiry is situated at the intersection of history, memory, and life writing (and, in its its contemporary guise, the oral history interview) and their combined impact on the complexities of the post-modern, hybrid Jew whose reality defies categorization and the politics of naming."  

Robert Galoob

"The women of CJS, Deena and Naomi, along with help from Josh, guided me through a transformative and life-altering experience of intellectual and personal growth during my doctoral studies. Their patience, knowledge, wisdom, and kindness gave me the support necessary to navigate the difficulties of researching, formulating, and finally writing a complex dissertation. Through periods of absolute confusion and frustration, buoyed by occasional moments of clarity and elation, their presence and strength helped provide the courage to move forward. The dissertation process is not unlike a marathon, challenging us both mentally and physically. The unexpected turns in research lead to difficult decisions about the direction of our project, and we were often faced with the prospect of jettisoning portions of what we have already set in stone. Without their help, I can't imagine working through the moments of indecision and existential angst. Thank you Deena. Thank you Naomi. Thank you CJS." 

Robert's PhD dissertation is titled Post Hoc Propter Hoc: The Impact of Martyrdom on the Development of Hasidut Ashkenaz.

Merissa Nathan Gerson

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a trained rape prevention worker and sex educator. Her writing on sexuality and Judaism appears in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York Observer, Tablet, Playboy, Elle, and others. She holds an MA in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union with a focus on sex and gender as well as inherited trauma. Merissa has studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, The Jewish Theological Seminary, The Academy for Jewish Religion, Hebrew College, Naropa University, Middlebury's Hebrew Language School, The Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and with many rabbis across the country including the great Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. Her work focuses on the inheritance of trauma and memory and how this impacts tradition. Merissa's MA thesis is titled Individual and Collective Inheritance of Trauma in Joshua Leviticus Divinations Bloom. You can find out more about Merissa and her work at, an initiative to raise-up consent as a Jewish value. Merissa graduated from the GTU-CJS in 2013.

For more information on Ken Means Yes, watch Merissa's talk "The Laws of the Land: Boundaries, Consent and Atonement". Merissa's talk discusses the ways sex education has been historically delegated to the state for American Jewry, and yet Judaism has a very rich tradition of teaching about sex, consent, and pleasure that we need today. Merissa leads the viewer on an exploration of what it means for all Jewish bodies -- across a range of gender identities -- to respect, to honor, and to teach one another about consent. This video was filmed at Repair the World: Detroit.

Follow this link to pledge consent this Yom Kippur. 

Jonathan Homrighausen

"In my time at the GTU, I have written a thesis on the Song of Songs and the Qur'an; penned Illuminating Justice: The Ethical Imagination of The Saint John's Bible (Liturgical Press, July 2018), on The Saint John's Bible, a contemporary illuminated manuscript of the entire Catholic Bible; and co-authored, with David Pleins, Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories: A Student's Guide to Nouns in the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2017). I am especially interested in scriptural conversations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims." 

Jonathan's MA thesis is titled Growing the Garden: Interreligious Intertextuality between the Song of Songs and the Qur'an.  In fall 2018 Jonathan began a PhD in Old Testament at Duke University.

Renée Powell

Renée Powell earned a fine arts degree at UC Berkeley and an MA in Jewish studies at the Graduate Theological Union's Center for Jewish Studies in Berkeley, where she wrote her thesis on “Degenerate Art and the Jewish Question,” titled  Degenerate Art and the Jewish Question: The Attack on Modern Art during the Rise of National Socialism. Powell also has taught graduate-level courses in Jewish art and politics. She is also an art appreciation instructor at the Reutlinger Community in Danville. 

Powell’s art reflects the experiences of her father, grandfather and other family members during the Holocaust. Using both stoneware clay and paper clay fired in wood, raku or gas-fired kilns, she produced tiles that show demolished Jewish symbols in broken glass. 

In Fall 2018, Powell was the featured artist in an exhibit of ceramic and mosaic art pieces at Reutlinger Community's Jewish Heritage Museum.


Christopher Ramsey

"After completing the MA in Jewish Studies at the GTU in May 2014, I moved back to Albany, NY where I rejoined employment with New York State government.  I have recently started an on-line certificate in financial planning with Boston University after which I am excited to continue a career in the financial planning industry."

Christopher's MA thesis is titled Winston Churchill: A Founder of the Jewish State?

Carrie Sealine z”l (1957-2020)

Carrie Sealine received her MA in Jewish Studies from the GTU Center for Jewish Studies in 2016 with a thesis titled Making Maccabees into Jews, Making Jews into Maccabees: Reading Jewish Identity Through Extra-Canonical Texts. Carrie was a significant presence throughout the GTU, ever-present at talks and colloquia, and always keen to engage in dialogue. Carrie brought conversations at the GTU towards their aspect of compassion and consequence. Carrie’s interests in magic, Jewish magic, text, and critical theory, as well as the emergence of post-religious spiritual praxes came together in her stunning doctoral work at the GTU. We keep Carrie and her surviving family in our best thoughts and prayers. Carrie was a generous spirit and friend to so many at the GTU.

Please click here to view the full In Memoriam page for Carrie.

Howard Simon

Howard Simon holds a JD from Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley), an MBA from Babson College, an MA from the Center for Jewish Studies of Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley and an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.  Mr. Simon is a recognized expert in biosecurity and served as an officer and director of the not-for-profit International Gene Synthesis Consortium, an organization devoted to advancing global biosecurity in the synthetic biology industry.  He currently is the board president of Lehrhaus Judaica, the Bay Area's adult school of Jewish studies and is a frequent teacher and lecturer.  Mr. Simon also is a successful singer-songwriter.  His 2014 debut album, "The View from this Horizon," reached No. 1 on the San Francisco Reverbnation folk music chart, and his second collection, "Visitors" (2016), reached No. 2 on the singer-songwriter chart.  He currently is working on his third album, scheduled for release in 2019.  Mr. Simon's music can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and other similar sites.  Mr. Simon performs regularly at Bay Area acoustic music venues.

Howard's MA thesis is titled Children of Exile, Children of the Land: Israel and the Diaspora in the Modern Jewish World.

Jhos Singer

Maggid Jhos Singer is a professional Jewish educator, community and congregational leader, writer, and speaker. He is an out transman, a parent, spouse, mixologist and skillful home chef. He relishes his time spent in Jewish text study, hiking, and facilitating spiritual experiences for his flock and students. Jhos's MA thesis is titled Judaism in a Bottle: The Life and Times of Manischewitz Wine.  He has been awarded one of SVARA's inaugural Transformative Talmud Teaching Fellowships.

SVARA’s Transformative Talmud Teaching Fellowship will train and support a new generation of queer and trans teachers and leaders who will make empowering and transformative experiences of Talmud study as a traditionally radical spiritual practice accessible to all. It is a nine-month teacher education program designed to train a cadre of gifted, experienced educators, rabbis, activists, community leaders and change-makers in both the SVARA method of teaching Talmud and the creation of radical bet midrash-centered communities of Jewishly rooted, svara-dik learners around the world.

H. Jay Siskin

Degree program: PhD (current doctoral candidate, ABD), Cultural and Historical Studies of Religion

Research Interests: Jay is writing a dissertation on medieval vernacular and Hebrew texts which examines the social position of Jews in France.  He has a Ph.D. in French from Cornell University and teaches French language and culture at UC Santa Cruz. 

Earnest Vener

"The Center for Jewish Studies is like a precious treasure to me! At the CJS I was able to engage in rigorous Jewish learning in a passionate, supportive, and thoughtful environment. The leadership at the CJS manages to create a community that is serious academically, yet centered around joy and a love of learning. I am so grateful for my time at the CJS and the foundation in Jewish Studies that the MA program provided me with. After I completed my MA at the CJS I began rabbinical school. The MA program prepared me with a grounding in history, text, and language that enriches my learning everyday."

Earnest's MA thesis is titled Speaking the Unspeakable: The Exposure and Concealing of Rabbinic Self-awareness of the Dissonance between the Oral and Written Torahs from the Bavli to the Middle Ages. Earnest was a Berkeley-Jerusalem Fellow during their time at the CJS, and is currently a student at JTS Rabbinical School. 

CJS Community Fellows

The Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies offers a fellowship for Bay Area Jewish educators and community professionals for a single course in Jewish Studies at the GTU.  This fellowship is generously supported by the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation.  Please click here for more information and to apply.

Amanda Nube

Amanda Nube is a mother, a ceremonialist, a storyteller, and healthworker. She is the author of Healing Mama, a mythical story which highlights the importance of connection to Mother Earth, motherhood, and all the elements. Her writing, workshops, new moon, and mother-daughter circles bring earth based customs and spirituality to life. As a Kohenet of life cycle events, she serves during times of transition such as birthing, adolescence, seasonal phases, marriages, mourning and grief rituals.

Frieda Vizel

Frieda Vizel was raised in a Satmar Hasidic family in NY. Since leaving the community, she has been writing, researching and creating art on the Hasidic experience. She is a licensed NYC tour guide specializing in the Brooklyn Hasidic neighborhoods. Her website is

Becca Heisler

Becca is a Jewish educator in the Bay Area who is passionate about justice, nature connection, singing, and building joyous diasporic Jewish community. She worked for Wilderness Torah for over two years supporting their youth programs, and just spent the summer at Eden Village West leading ritual and adventures outdoor education. She is currently working as an educator at Kehilla Community Synagogue, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, and Moishe House. 

Course: Intro to Rabbinic Lit, Fall 2019

Miriam Kanani

Miriam Kanani, M.A. has a true passion for Jewish Education, Leading Ceremonies and Song, and working with you. She is a Bar and Bat Mitzvah teacher and Jewish educator with over 15 years experience as well as a Lead Teacher in the Tawonga B'nai Mitzvah Program. Miriam has prepared over two dozen students for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and has officiated ceremonies around the Bay Area for families who work within the synagogue setting and also for families doing an independent Bat/Bar Mitzvah. Miriam attained her Master's Degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and also holds a Multi-Subject California Teaching Credential, as well as a certificate in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She has taught children of all ages around the Bay Area and has been a Hebrew teacher at Congregation Beth El for the past 6 years. She is a singer, educator, and Jewish ritual leader.

Course: Geneology of Jewish Culture, Spring 2020

Morey Lipsett

Morey Lipsett recently graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in Political Theory and Religious Studies. At UPS Morey was a founder and treasurer of the University’s Jewish Student Union and a leader in its student government. His research interests include the works and thought of Walter Benjamin and Emanuel Levinas, as well as the intersections of Jewish Philosophy and Critical Theory.

Courses: Hasidic Mysticism, Fall 2019; Modern Judaisms: Religion, Culture, or Nationality, Fall 2019

Jen Roitman

After years working in Social Justice and politics, Jen Roitman became the Executive Director of Chochmat HaLev – Jewish Spiritual Center and Congregation in 2011, where she worked until this year.  

She leads Jewish Meditation and Chanting including a weekly morning service at Chochmat HaLev and Meditation programs for Jewish Holidays.  She is a graduate of Rabbi Shefa Gold’s Kol Zimra Chant Leader Training Program and has been meditating for over 18 years.

At Chochmat HaLev she saw how much support people need when a loved one dies, and she is now part of “Melaveh” which seeks to provide emotional and spiritual support for Jewish people and their families at the end of life.  She is a hospice volunteer and trained as an End of Life Doula.

She is excited to be studying at the GTU where she hopes to develop a stronger foundation in Jewish thought and history to enhance her meditation teaching and End of Life care. 

Course: Intro to Rabbinic Lit, Fall 2019

Daniel Stein

Rabbi Daniel Stein is a creative spiritual leader who is committed to building dynamic, spiritually engaged communities. Since 2016, he has been privileged to serve as the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, CA. Rabbi Stein a proud member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Northern California Board of Rabbis as well as the Contra Costa County Interfaith Council. His commitment to social justice work was recognized in 2016, when he was selected as an American Jewish World Service Global Justice Fellow. He has also been a Balfour Brickner Fellow of the Religious Action Center and a fellow of the Chautauqua Institution’s New Clergy Program. Prior to his arrival in California Rabbi Stein served for six years as the rabbi of Bnai Abraham Synagogue in Easton, Pennsylvania, and on the faculty of Lafayette College. He was also an executive board member of ProJeCt of Easton, an interfaith organization focused on literacy development and poverty alleviation. 

Rabbi Stein was ordained at a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he also completed a master’s degree in Jewish literature with a concentration in Yiddish. As a student, Daniel served as the Legacy Heritage Foundation Rabbinic Fellow at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee, FL, and was an assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai in Middletown, NY. An accomplished musician, Daniel holds a degree in music history from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, and has performed professionally in wide variety of settings. Daniel is married to Dena Wachtel Stein, a senior philanthropy associate at The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. They are the proud parents of Miri and Judah.

Course: Hasidic Mysticism, Fall 2019

Cole Krawitz

Cole Krawitz is a doykait believer, teenage cancer survivor, gratitude practitioner, trans, queer, white Ashkenazi Jewish ritual lover and leader, caring uncle, award-winning writer and poet, and leadership coach who for over twenty years has been working across liberation and social justice movements for freedom and dignity for everyone. He believes that coaching is sacred--that to build a relationship where people tap into their most creative, alive, and truest understanding of who they are is a spiritual practice, an embodied practice, a liberation practice that brings long lasting change. He has been a student in SVARA’s batei midrash since the mid/late 2000’s and is endlessly grateful for Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Benay Lappe and the beautiful network and learning community that is SVARA. He is also a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Bend the Arc, Jewish Voice for Peace and is collaborating on a Trans Day of Torah project to be officially launched in 5781.

In addition to running his own coaching and consulting practice, he’s an award-winning writer who has been a Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Master of Arts in English Program at Holy Names University and in June Jordan's Poetry for the People Program at University of California, Berkeley. He’s been awarded residencies and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Lambda Literary Foundation, and Makor/92nd Street Y. Founding editor of, Cole was a contributor to Beyond the Pale: Jewish Radio Hour on WBAI in NY, and received the Be’chol Lashon Media Award in New Media. His work has been published in Troubling the Line: Trans & Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics Anthology, Tidal Basin Review, The Forward, The Advocate, and more and he has performed his work throughout the Bay Area at Lit Crawl, Museum of Performance & Design, San Francisco Public Library, Bay Area Poetry Marathon, SOMArts Cultural Center, and the National Queer Arts Festival. Cole earned a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, from Smith College and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Poetry, from Lesley University’s low-residency program.

You'll often find him singing, leyning Torah, studying Talmud with SVARA, walking in parks with beloveds, and embracing the joy of Shabbat.

Noa Albaum

Noa Albaum received her BA in English Literature from Brandeis University and is an alumna of the yearlong fellowship at Yeshivat Hadar. Noa is the West Coast program manager at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Formerly, she served as the program coordinator for the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco. Noa and her spouse, Ben Kramarz, moved to Berkeley from the East Coast two years ago. They host the Berkeley Kollel in their living room.

"Through the lens of primary sources, ancient religious texts, and Jewish historiography, our seminar grappled with some of the most difficult questions surrounding the history of views on gender within the Jewish tradition. I am grateful to the Jewish Community Fellowship for the opportunity to engage in deep, dynamic learning with my fellow students under Naomi's tutelage."

Course: Gender & Judaism, Spring 2019

Jennie Chabon

Rabbi Cantor Jennie Chabon, a Berkeley native, has been the cantor of Congregation B’nai Tikvah since 2004.  She found her path to the cantorate and her passion for Yiddishkeit when she was living in Israel for two years after college graduation.  While in cantorial school, Cantor Chabon discovered a deep love of liturgy and the desire to make prayer accessible to all. Since coming to B’nai Tikvah, she has recorded three albums of Shabbat music with her band, Shir Joy.  Cantor Chabon ompleted her rabbinical studies at The Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, where she deepened her love of Judaism and her commitment to the Jewish community through her studies. She lives in Oakland with her husband Steve and their three sons: Ezra, Levi and Judah.  

Course: Ancient & Medieval Jewish Civilization, Fall 2018

Jamie Hyams

Jamie Hackel Hyams is a 5th year rabbinical student at the Academy of Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, the student rabbi at Congregation P'nai Tikvah in Las Vegas, and the Director of Development at Hebrew Free Loan in San Francisco. When she is not in her car or on an airplane, Jamie is an avid cyclist. Prior to beginning her studies, Jamie served as the Associate Director, West Coast for the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and the Executive Director of the Contra Costa JCC. Jamie holds a BA in History from Lewis and Clark College, a BFA from California College of the Arts and is a Wexner Heritage Fellow. She and her husband, Michael, have two grown sons.

Course: Ancient & Medieval Jewish Civilization, Fall 2018

Caroline Kessler

Caroline Kessler is a poet, editor, and author of Ritual in Blue (Sutra Press, 2018). She is currently the Editorial Manager at UpStart, a Jewish nonprofit. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University, an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, is the co-founder of Ashreinu (a spiritual community in St. Louis) and was a 2017-18 Dorot Fellow in Israel.

"The Jewish Community Fellowship enabled me to think critically about how and why we teach particular histories, who benefits from this kind of teaching, and who doesn't. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have explored these issues in community, alongside writing and reading about them as well."

Course: Teaching and Learning the Difficult Past, Fall 2018

Judy Massarano

BA Literature and Judaic Studies, Stern College
MA Special Education, California State University
Teaching Certificate, Jerusalem College for Women
Child Development Associate Teacher, Cerro Coso College

Judy Massarano has taught Judaic Studies in the Bay Area since 1993. Currently working as a private tutor, religious school teacher, preschool specialist, and elder companion, Judy recently served for 3 years as an early childhood educator at Congregation Netivot Shalom. She also taught 2nd-8th graders at Oakland Hebrew Day School for 21 years. Judy teaches private students of all ages about Judaism and Hebrew, and trains young people and adults in synagogue skills. Residing in Berkeley with her partner Glenn, she enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking, and singing piyutim.

Course: Ancient & Medieval Jewish Civilization, Fall 2018

Zoe Baker

Jill Cozen-Harel

Rabbi Jill Cozen-Harel has been teaching and providing pastoral care in the Jewish community for over 15 years. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and also holds a BA in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley.  In addition, she has learned at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative Yeshiva, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. Jill has taught middle school students at Brandeis Hillel Day School, and adults of various ages through Kevah and the Mission Minyan.  She has also served congregations in a variety of capacities. Jill spent several years as a chaplain at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and is a volunteer chaplain for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department and has facilitated groups for domestic violence survivors. She led trips to Israel, Ghana, New Orleans for Birthright Israel, American Jewish World Service, and the organization formerly known as Jewish Funds for Justice, respectively. She is particularly proud that she ran 26.2 miles in the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon on behalf of American Jewish World Service.  Jill is also a business analyst at UCSF, where she manages several cloud applications. 

Course: Levinas, Fall 2017

Alina Fox

“I believe the work of critical feminist anti-racist anti-colonial genealogies of Jewish knowledge (re)production is critical to our collective efforts towards transformative, healing and just futures for all people across time and place.”

Alina Fox was a 2015 Gilda-Slifka Research Intern at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and graduated from UC-Santa Cruz in 2016 with a focus in Critical Jewish Studies. They are currently pursuing their MSW at Smith School for Social Work.

Course: Levinas, Fall 2017

Leo Fuchs

“I am passionate about ensuring a strong Jewish future, about engaging deeply with Torah, and about making Torah meaningful and relevant in the modern world as we pursue a just, creative and connected society.”

Leo Fuchs is the founding principal of Learning Without Limits Elementary school which he has led for nearly eleven years.  He has worked in Oakland public schools for nearly 17 years.  He holds Masters degrees in Education and non-profit management. Leo is currently enrolled as a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

Course: Readings in the Zohar, Spring 2018

Agnieszka Ilwicka

An historian, educator, and Yiddish language lecturer, she is a fellow at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. She has studied at Bar-Ilan University, Hebrew University, University College of London, Southampton University James Parkes Institute in England, and Vilnius University. Agnieszka works for the Taube Philanthropies for Jewish Life & Culture. In her free time she is teaching Yiddish at the Workmen's Circle in San Francisco. 

Course: The Politics of the Bible in Translation, Spring 2018

Margie Jacobs

“Throughout my rabbinate, I have worked to create the conditions for heart-opening, presence, and awareness of the One within the many through text study, contemplative practice and ritual.”

Margie Jacobs is a Reconstructionist Rabbi.  She has served as Rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond, CA, Regional Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and East Bay Vice President of the Northern California Board of Rabbis. She teaches Torah, facilitates mindfulness meditation, and lives in Berkeley with her spouse and two children. 

Course: Intro to Zohar, Spring 2018

Simcha Schwartz

“I am dedicated to Jewish regenerative communities based in culture building, ritual and study.”   

Simcha Schwartz is the Development Director for Wilderness Torah and Co-founder and former Director of the Jewish Farm School.  Simcha’s Jewish professional career has also included working for Hazon Inc, Eden Village Camp, the Teva Learning and American Jewish World Service.  In 2013, Simcha became a Chaplain and is currently on staff with Vitas Healthcare.  He was ordained as a Chaplain in September, 2018 at The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, CA.

Course: Readings in the Zohar, Spring 2018

Sarah Lefton

Sarah Lefton is the founding Director of BimBam. Before creating the organization as a response to her own mediocre Jewish education, Sarah produced early online experiments for The New York Times, the Village Voice, Princess Cruises, and several robotics companies. She graduated from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, where her Masters work looked at the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Augmented and Virtual Reality for film and TV applications.

Sarah is a recipient of the Pomegranate Prize for exceptional educators, a recipient of the Joshua Venture Group fellowship for Jewish social entrepreneurs, and was named one of the “Forward 50” most influential Jews by the Forward newspaper. She lives in Oakland with her family, and dabbles in ceramics and urban sketching.

Course: Intro to Rabbinic Literature, Fall 2017

Luna Schechtor