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Director of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School , Jewish Theological Seminary
Hazzan Nancy Abramson serves as director of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the director of the Women’s League Seminar Synagogue at JTS. She trains future hazzanim in prayer, nusah and religious leadership, and oversees the School’s curriculum development in Jewish education and teaching, pastoral care, and modern Israel. Hazzan Abramson is helping JTS shape cantorial arts and practices for the 21st century. She received undergraduate degrees from the joint program of Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, earned a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her cantorial training at JTS.
Hazzan Abramson is a past president of the Cantors Assembly, and was the first female president in the Assembly’s history. She serves on the board of the Zamir Choral Foundation and is a member of the Women Cantors Network. Hazzan Abramson has performed at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, and with the Selah Vocal Ensemble, and the Rinat Choir in Israel. Before coming to JTS she served as cantor at the Park Avenue Synagogue and West End Synagogue in Manhattan and Congregation Sons of Israel in Westchester. She has taught at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York and directed the music program at Ramah camps in Wisconsin and New England. She has been a cantor/scholar-in-residence in communities throughout the United States.
Hazzan Abramson was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is married to Mitch Glenn; they have three children and one grandson.
Senior Vice-President, Mandel Center for Jewish Education
Dr. David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education, has over 25 years experience in Jewish camping. He received his Ph.D. in Special Education at UCLA and was instrumental in establishing numerous programs for Jewish children with disabilities. He has worked in all levels of formal and informal Jewish education from early childhood through graduate teacher training. He lectures widely on Israel, prayer and spirituality, children with special needs, and the arts in education. The Mandel Center for Jewish Education, funded by a generous grant from the Mandel Foundation, helps JCCs improve their ability to be excellent venues for Jewish living and learning. Its primary focus is the Jewish and educational training and development of senior personnel, along with elevating the Judaic nature of JCCs in all program areas. Prior to coming to the MCJE, Ackerman was the director of educational services at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles.
Rabbi Brad Artson is one of the most prominent leaders of Conservative Judaism. A top rabbi, author, speaker and educator, Rabbi Artson brings 25 years of experience in leading and growing spiritual communities and educational programs. Rabbi Artson is Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California, where he is Vice-President. He also serves on the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism; provides educational and religious oversight for Camp Ramah of California; and is Dean of the Zecharias Frankel College at the University of Potsdam in Germany.
At a time when many Jewish congregations are struggling to retain and engage their communities, Rabbi Artson has been incredibly successful in growing communities. During his ten-years as Rabbi of Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo, the congregation tripled from about 200 families to over 600. During that period, his Introduction to Judaism course helped over 200 people convert to Judaism, and 10 of his congregants have since entered the rabbinate. In 2008, Artson ordained the first African Rabbi in Subsaharan Africa. While in Africa, he joined a Beit Din in converting 250 Africans from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda.
Artson’s books, magazine articles and Internet articles garner audiences in the tens of thousands. He is the author of 7 books, a regular contributor to Huffington Post, and has written over 250 articles in several magazines. His weekly Torah commentary has over 13,000 internet subscribers!
Fingerhut Professor of Education, Graduate Center for Education at AJU
Ron Wolfson, Ph.D. is the Fingerhut Professor of Education in the Graduate Center for Education. He joined the AJU faculty in 1975 as an Acting Professor.During his 40-plus year career at AJU, he has served as Director of the Education Department, founding Director of the Whizin Center for the Jewish Future, Director of the Ramah Academy, Dean of the Fingerhut School of Education, Special Assistant to the President, and Vice President of the University. He is the author of Relational Judaism and the co-author with Rabbi Nicole Auerbach and Rabbi Lydia Medwin of The Relational Judaism Handbook: How to Create a Relational Engagement Campaign to Build and Deepen Relationships in Your Community.
Dr. Wolfson is a frequent scholar-in-residence for synagogues and communities, speaking on a wide range of topics in Jewish life, a co-founder of Synagogue 3000, an institute whose mission is to catalyze excellence in synagogue life, and a pioneer in the field of Jewish family education.
Todd Herzog is an artist who takes the raw material of life experiences and creates soulful, spiritual, acoustic pop music that opens the hearts of his listeners and leaves them feeling inspired – as if the songs were written only for them. His voice comes from the center of his being, combining the grit and power of Bono with the clear falsetto of Jason Mraz and Five for Fighting.
After the loss of a girlfriend to Leukemia at the age of 28, Todd turned to music as a vehicle for healing himself and those around him. Through this process, he realized that despite the difficult external reality, there was still joy and love and things to look forward to in life. Some of the most rewarding feedback he has received on his work has come from people who have used his music to get to the other side of a dark place.
“I play music because it’s the thing that makes me feel whole. When I am fully immersed in my music, it is like a meditation and I am able to disappear into the sound. When I am in that space, it feels like I am praying and singing at the same time. It is then that I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.”
Todd’s music is intended to transform his audience, to allow them to observe their own lives and to open them up to a sense of gratitude and appreciation. His music allows us to feel connected to one another and to something larger than ourselves.
Todd’s latest recording, Something to Believe In, is a very personal introspective project that chronicles his return to a sense of his authentic self and to his singer/songwriter roots. His plan is to continue to use his gifts to uplift and to heal his listeners for as long as he is able.
Touring Artist/Educator, New York, NY
The Artist in Residence at Temple Israel of the City of New York, Sheldon Low performs rock concerts, ‘Light Up Shabbat’ services, and leads Artist-in-Residency weekends in Jewish communities throughout the U.S. He has four hit albums and has been featured as the headliner and head songleader at various national youth group conventions and Jewish festivals. Low has an undeniable appeal to youth and family audiences, not only as a musician, singer/songwriter, and entertainer, but also as a Jewish educator and role model. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Low is a third generation songleader.
Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of IKAR in Los Angeles, was recognized in 2013 as the most influential Rabbi in the United States by Newsweek and the Daily Beast, and as one of the Forward’s 50 most influential American Jews. Rabbi Brous has been on the list of America’s 50 Top Rabbis every year since 2008. In 2012, she became the first female rabbi to break into the top 10. In 2013, she blessed the President and Vice President at the Inaugural National Prayer Service. Rabbi Brous is co-founder of IKAR in Los Angeles – one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the country.
Rabbi Ed Feinstein is delighted to return to SLBC. He works as senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California and lecturer at the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the American Jewish University. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he earned his doctorate in education, he served as the founding director of the Solomon Schechter Academy of Dallas and director of Camp Ramah in California. He teaches for the Wexner Heritage program, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and lectures across North America. Rabbi Feinstein is author of five (good) books, father to three (married & employed!) children and one small dog, and husband to Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein. Every Friday, he bakes brownies from a recipe revealed to his ancestors at Mount Sinai.
Author, Touring Artist
Saul Kaye is an internationally touring musician, artist, and entrepreneur. He has released ten albums of his own and produced for numerous other artists.
In Go!, He uses his life story to show how, at any moment, you can transform your brand, your identity—and your entire life.
Engagement Officer, PJ Our Way
Jamie Light works for the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) as an Engagement Officer for PJ Our Way™, the newest chapter of PJ Library® for kids ages 9-11. In this role, she leads the PJ Our Way at Camp partnership and provides marketing and programming resources for over 90 partner communities. Prior to joining HGF, Jamie worked as a consultant specializing in program and leadership development, strategic storytelling, strategic planning, and alumni engagement. She previously worked in higher education in student affairs and enrollment management. Jamie has a master’s degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business from Washington University in St. Louis. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Jamie lives in Beachwood, Ohio with her husband and daughter. She is actively engaged as an alumnae volunteer for Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority and in the Cleveland Jewish community.
Touring Artist, Educator
Nationally touring music educator Jay Rapoport takes Jewish values and stories and transforms them into “Ruach Rock,” a catchy piano-pounding style influenced by Ben Folds and Billy Joel. His first album of original Jewish songs, “With All Your Heart,” was released in November 2010, and he travels the country sharing his unique blend of instant sing-alongs and engaging musical storytelling that gets people out of their seats and rocking! An award-winning songwriter, Jay has shared stages with Craig Taubman, Rick Recht, Kol B’seder, Josh Nelson, Michelle Citrin, Nefesh Mountain, Shira Kline and Naomi Less, and he is featured on Jewish Rock Radio and PJ Library Radio. Songs from “With All Your Heart” have been featured on NFTY’s “Ruach” Series, NewCAJE’s “New Voices,” URJ’s “Shabbat Anthology” and PJ Library compilations. Jay has performed at URJ Biennial, NewCAJE and NFTY Convention and has served on the faculty of Song Leader Boot Camp, led T’filah for ARJE gatherings, and taught at Hava Nashira. Jay honed his skills as a camp songleader, touring clubs and colleges with various bands, and incorporating original music into his roles as Camp Director at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA and Youth Advisor & Educator at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in NYC.
Jay studied piano and singing at Berklee College of Music and has a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. His thesis curriculum, “Ruach Rock T’filah,” is an approach to creative prayer for teens. In June 2014 Jay began a new role as the Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago. His second album of Jewish music, “They Tried To Get Us, We Won, Let’s Rock!” was released in December 2014.
Educator, New York City, NY
A graduate of Jewish day school, the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and Mercy College, Orlee holds bachelors and masters degrees in Judaic Studies and Education. After 8 years teaching students with a wide range of special needs at elementary schools in Manhattan and the Bronx, Orlee joined Matan, a non-profit organization that educates Jewish leaders, educators and communities, empowering them to create learning environments supportive of children with special needs. As the Director of Education, Orlee supported children with special learning needs in Jewish educational settings by working with parents and teachers alike to differentiate instruction and ensure all students received the modifications necessary to achieve a successful Jewish education.
Orlee Krass currently works as the Director of Education at Matan, Education and Inclusion Specialist at the Jewish Journey Project and as the Tikvah Director at Camp Ramah in the Poconos.
Orlee lives in New City, New York with her husband Matt, and their children Micah, Raya and Gavi.
Program Director, The Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell is a Program Director and teacher of Jewish mindfulness for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Jordan was ordained in 2008, after which he served as a congregational rabbi and began interning with the Institute. Prior to pursuing his rabbinical studies, Jordan studied Conservation Biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, spent several months at Zen centers in California and France, led spiritually engaged Jewish backpacking trips, worked at a number of Jewish summer camps and studied Jewish text at yeshivot in Jerusalem. Jordan is a founder of the Center for Jewish Mindfulness in Chicago, now a part of Orot: Center for New Jewish Learning.
He is a 2014 recipient of the Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators.
Jordan is a proud father of three and partner to Yael Bendat-Appell; they live outside of Chicago.
Director of PJ Goes to School, PJ Library
Lisa Litman is the Director of PJ Goes to School, PJ Library’s initiative to enhance the Jewish content of the early childhood classroom. Under Lisa’s directorship PJ Goes to school has more than doubled in size. She joined PJ Library after 10 years as co-creator and Director of An Ethical Start®, a values-based curriculum created for JCC Association. Before that Lisa was a Jewish super hero, Captain Tikkun – complete with suit and cape – teaching families about repairing the world. Lisa has skills ranging from curriculum writing and conference coordination to music composition and theatre directing. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Jewish Education from Gratz College.
Jewish Educator & Technologist
Founder, The Advot Project, Los Angeles, CA
Naomi is the founder and executive director of The Advot (ripples )Project , a nonprofit organization that uses theater for transformation. She was born in the United States and then immigrated to Israel in her childhood. Naomi is an experienced educator and actor, who has trained extensively in varied settings and methods. Her credits include theater, musicals, films, television as well as being an accomplished street performer, stilt walker, and professional clown. Naomi’s acclaimed one woman show that she wrote directed and produces, “Flowers Aren’t Enough” has been presented over 1800 times globally, including at the United Nations.
Naomi is a creating member of “View Points” an Arab Jewish theater in Jaffa Tel-Aviv. She is also an organizer of the Jerusalem Municipality children’s clown school, as well as being one of the first clowns to integrate professional medical clowning into Israeli hospitals. Naomi travels globally as a consultant for organizations using drama techniques to deal with gender and educational issues, as well as exploring identity, promoting tolerance and dialogue between diverse participants
For the past three decades she has used art to promote peace, evolve change and encourage self-empowerment. Naomi is a social activist who produces events and gatherings that teach. engage and call to action communities and individuals to take a stand, and find their voice to fight injustice. But most important of all she is the mother of three beautiful girls Zohar, Ella and Hadar.
Naomi was an American Jewish Global Justice fellow, in the inaugural AJWS cohort 2014-15, a recipient of the KCET and Union Bank 2014 Local Heroes award for Jewish American Heritage month. and 2016 International woman achievers award (IWAA) for Community leadership. She has written/Blogged for forward thinking, and the good magazine.
Josh Goldberg is a touring artist, producer, and cantorial soloist in Los Angeles, California. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, Josh went on to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Popular Music at USC’s renowned Thornton School of Music. Josh released a self-titled EP in 2012, and followed up with a full-length album of Jewish music called ONE, which Cantor Richard Cohn described as “an expertly produced album filled with creativity and spirit.” He has performed with Grammy-Award winning musicians Macy Gray, Lamont Dozier, and Melissa Manchester, and toured internationally with renowned Jewish musicians Craig Taubman, Rick Recht, and Mikey Pauker, we well as with his own band. Josh has been a featured performer and presenter at URJ Biennial, Limmud UK (London), BBYO International Convention and more. Josh’s compositions and arrangements have been performed at the (Obama) White House, major concert halls including the Grammy Museum, the Troubadour, Meyerson Symphony Center, UCLA Schoenberg Hall, and Winspear Opera House, as well at synagogues, summer camps, and youth conventions across the United States. Josh’s music is regularly played on Jewish Rock Radio, has been published by Berman House Publications and Transcontinental Music Publications. He has been mentioned in the New York Times, and featured on NBC, in the Jewish Journal, ReformJudaism.org, the Texas Jewish Post, and OC Jewish Life. In 2017, Josh created his own record label and production company, Kosher Style Records, specializing in producing music for contemporary Jewish songwriters from around the country. In addition to touring and producing, Josh is studying to be a cantor at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Andrea, and their pets, Frankie and Jazz.
For more info visit: www.joshgoldbergmusic.com www.kosherstylerecords.com
Director of Congregational Engagement, Central Synagogue, New York City
Rabbi Nicole Auerbach is the Director of Congregational Engagement at Central Synagogue in New York City. She joined Central in 2016 as the Reform Movement’s first-ever Rabbi for Small Groups, creating and supporting lay-led groups of congregants that come together on a regular basis to build relationships, explore shared passions, and connect with Jewish tradition. Ordained by HUC-JIR in New York, she is the author, with Dr. Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Lydia Medwin, of The Relational Judaism Handbook: How to Create a Relational Engagement Campaign to Build and Deepen Relationships in Your Community (Kripke Institute, 2018).
Director of Congregational Engagement and Outreach, The Temple, Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Lydia Medwin is the Director of Congregational Engagement and Outreach at The Temple in Atlanta, GA. She was ordained on the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College in May of 2010. While there, she received a Masters of Hebrew Letters and a Masters in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Lydia attended the University of Texas in Austin (hook ’em) and Hebrew University for undergraduate studies, earning degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Honors Humanities. Between undergraduate and graduate studies, she worked as the education director for a synagogue in Jackson, Mississippi, and traveled to places as varied as South Africa, Peru, and Greece.
While in rabbinic school, Lydia met her husband, Dan Medwin, and they and their three children, Zimra, Gavi and Jasmine, are thrilled to be a part of The Temple community. Lydia is a co-Author with Dr. Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Nicole Auerbach on the forthcoming The Relational Judaism Handbook: How to Create a Relational Engagement Campaign to Build and Deepen Relationships in Your Community (Kripke Institute). Purpose and people are at the center of what Rabbi Medwin believes a synagogue community should be about – she’s excited to learn and create with you.
Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, Philadelphia
Yosef Goldman is a prayer leader, composer, and educator. He is Rabbi & Director of Sacred Music at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia and incoming Co-Director—with Joey Weisenberg—of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute. Raised Orthodox in a mixed Ashkenazi and Mizrachi home, Yosef has facilitated prayer in communities throughout the Jewish denominational spectrum. He was a founding member of Romemu’s prayer team and the first cantorial intern at B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. As a sought-after harmony vocalist, Yosef has performed and recorded with a wide range of Jewish artists. He’s a long-time member of Joey Weisenberg’s Hadar Ensemble, founding member of the Middle Eastern Jewish music ensemble the Epichorus and the Philadelphia Jewish musician’s collective Shir Singing Circle, and a 2018-19 Jazz Fellow at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Yosef’s songs are sung in synagogues and camps across the country. His debut album will be released this summer.
Community Singing Consultant of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute, New York City
A transformative prayer leader and musician, Deborah Sacks Mintz has served innovative institutions around the country as a teacher of Torah and communal Jewish music. As the Community Singing Consultant of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute, Deborah serves as a resource to those seeking to cultivate the grassroots musical and spiritual creativity of the Jewish people. As an experienced ba’al tefilah and leader of communal prayer, Deborah seeks to support communities in unlocking their own abilities to lead and empower their spiritual selves. Through composing and sharing new liturgical music, Deborah offers a fresh take on a deeply traditional sound. In addition to composing new Jewish music and teaching nation-wide, Deborah can be found regularly performing and recording with a myriad of musicians and ensembles. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Deborah is pursuing rabbinical ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Executive Director, Mainstages
Matt is the Executive Director of mainstages, an educational theater company working with Jewish Community Centers, Summer Camps, Synagogues and Day Schools nationwide. Matt’s “Perform Judaism” interactive programs and shows include the popular “PJ Library Storybook Theater” series, where PJ Library books are brought to life with professional performers and multimedia. Matt graduated New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City. He has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is passionate about using creativity to inspire social action and foster Jewish identity in informal settings. (mainstages.com)
Director of Community Engagement, PJ Library
Judi Wisch has served as the Director of Community Engagement for PJ Library since 2007. Judi dedicates her energies to supporting more than 200 PJ Program Professionals in North America and beyond in reaching out and engaging families with young children, both within and outside of the organized Jewish community. Her past endeavors include serving as a supplementary school education director, Jewish film festival director, Judaic studies teacher, director of the Conference on Judaism in Rural New England, and conflict resolution facilitator at the Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam School for Peace in Israel. Judi earned a BA in Jewish History from Hebrew University and a MA in Intercultural Management from the School for International Training. She loves games, music and nurturing a playful spirit.
Director of Jewish Family Life, Commission for Jewish Education of the Palm Beaches
Amy Bergman has worked in both the business and the non-profit sectors for nearly twenty years. Originally from Miami, Florida, Amy received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She is currently serving as the Director of Jewish Family Life at the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education in the Palm Beaches. In this role, she oversees her community’s PJ Library® program, in addition to her work as a concierge – connecting young families raising Jewish children to local synagogues and institutions. Amy has designed and created educational, traveling curriculum projects for her community, bringing PJ Library® main characters alive in interactive kits with rich curriculum enhancement materials and resources.
In her spare time, Amy also works in the PJ Library® Home Office Community Engagement Department as part of a team dedicated to building a cooperative network among a cadre of more than 200 PJ Library® Program Professionals around the world while designing relevant resources to support them. Previously, Amy worked as a Program Director at the JCC where she supervised the Cultural Arts, Special Events and Adult Departments. During her six-year tenure there, she planned the community’s Israel Fest 50 Celebration and the Annual Jewish Book Fair which included literary programs for all ages. Amy and her husband, along with their two daughters, live in Wellington, Florida.
Congregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis
Rabbi Andrea Goldstein has served Congregation Shaare Emeth, the largest Reform synagogue in St. Louis, for the past 20 years. For over 10 years she has been weaving mindfulness practices such as meditation, tikkun middot study and yoga into her personal and professional life. She is a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Rabbinic Leadership Program and the Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teachers’ Training Program. Rabbi Goldstein finds that these practices bring Judaism alive for her and her community in new and meaningful ways. She is proud to be the founder and director of the Jewish Mindfulness Center of St. Louis, which officially opened in the spring of 2018. The Center offers classes, workshops and holiday celebrations to all, and she is excited and honored to be bringing two workshops to SLBC this year. Rabbi Goldstein is married to Brett Goldstein and is the mother of Macey, Eli, and Lila.
Coordinator of CommunityChaplaincy , The Jewish Family & Children’s Service of St. Louis
Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael serves as coordinator of community chaplaincy with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in St. Louis, MO. He serves the Jewish needs of a wide and diverse population, and works as an advocate and educator on issues of LGBT justice. Originally from Washington DC, Micah earned a BA in Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies at Washington University. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York with Rabbinic Ordination, a MA in Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, and a Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling. He lives in University City with his wife Aviva and their children Naftali, Yeshara, Elior, and Leora.
Director of Congregational Learning, Temple Beth Sholom: Cherry Hill, NJ
A nationally recognized Jewish educator, Alex has presented his inspirational prayer leading style and innovative curricula at the national CAJE conference, the national Song Leader Boot Camp, Camp Ramah, JEA and USCJ, and at congregational schools across the country. He enjoys sharing, teaching, and learning with students, parents and Jewish educators of all types.
Alex is currently a doctoral candidate in the Gratz College EdD program. He has a master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and 2 Bachelors degrees from the List College Joint Program of JTS and Columbia University.
Alex started his career in Day School and has since moved his way through the congregational world from Youth Director to Informal Education Director to Education Director, and finally Director of Congregational Learning. His early childhood students think he lives in the chapel and his family knows that he eats, sleeps and breathes Jewish education!
Alex is constantly trying to raise the bar for Jewish education. He believes that through innovative curricula, original programming, and high energy community building efforts we can provide inspiration for communities across the country.
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