AJ Aaron is a fourth generation Michigan dweller who was born in the suburbs, raised as a teen in Ann Arbor and now resides on the East Side of Detroit. Aj finds purpose and joy in gathering and strategizing with friends and community to discuss the role that suburban Jews can play in the growth of an equitable and accessible Detroit landscape. Aj can be found cooking at Trinosophes- a cafe in the Eastern Market District, walking the house-dog Charlie on Belle Isle or visiting friends across the city with soup to share!
Jessica "Decky" Alexander is a professor of Applied Drama & Theatre at Eastern Michigan University. Her current creative and scholarly endeavors include: the use of theatre for faculty development; community performance; community art and activism, and academic service-learning. She currently serves as EMU’s Director of its Office of Academic Service-Learning, which houses The B. Side (Business Side) of Youth, Digital Inclusion, The College Coaching Corps and CrossTown Theatre Troupe, a program supporting youth voice through theatre. In 1997, Alexander founded EMU’s CloseUP Theatre Troupe, which performed annually for 8000 plus audience members at multiple universities and colleges, and has been home to over 150 student actor/educators. In 2008, Alexander in collaboration with the Faculty Development Center founded C2 (CloseUP Classroom) a performing ensemble of faculty and students who create theatre for faculty on issues related to teaching and learning.
Alana Alpert, a California native, is excited to be reclaiming the roots her grandmother left behind in Detroit. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Community Studies, where she studied resistance and social movements, exploring the then burgeoning Jewish Social Justice Movement. She is a graduate of AVODAH: the Jewish Service Corps and ACTIVATE! The Community Organizing Fellowship of Social Justice Leadership. Rabbi Alpert has worked as an organizer at NY Jobs with Justice and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Alana received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Boston in 2014 and serves Congregation T'chiyah, a small but mighty Reconstructionist serving Metro Detroit. She is the co-founder of Detroit Jews for Justice, which is organizing Jewish community to participate in movements for racial, social, and economic justice.
Michael Appel participated in the Ann Arbor chapter of New Jewish Agenda from 1984 - 1992. He grew up in a Zionist youth movement, is a member of a Conservative synagogue, works in the field of non-profit, affordable housing and found NJA to be one of the few places that effectively reconciled his varied, eclectic and sometimes inconsistent Jewish and political/social commitments.
Josh Bennett has served as one of the spiritual leaders of Temple Israel, Michigan since his ordination from the Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1994. He holds a Master's Degree of Hebrew Letters in addition to Rabbinic Ordination. Rabbi Bennett has focused his energies on Jewish youth throughout his career. His proudest accomplishment in the realm of youth work is in the connection of American teens to the State of Israel. During his career he has taken more than 1,400 students to explore the Jewish homeland. Currently, Rabbi Bennett is serving as the Vice-President of the Michigan Board of Rabbis.
Jonathan Berger serves as Rav Beit Hasefer of Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit, where he works to build community, foster a love of Torah, and help students develop relationships with God. He has served as a congregational rabbi in the Baltimore and Detroit areas, and is also a mesader gittin. Raised in Teaneck, NJ, he attended Jewish day schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and an MA in Bible and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Rabbi Berger and his wife Laura met as students at JTS, and they are the proud parents of Talya (age 10), Adina (age 8), and twins Rami and Benny (18 months). He enjoys cooking, singing, running and origami.
Aaron Bergman is a Detroit native and a graduate of the University of Michigan. He is a rabbi at Adat Shalom Synagogue. Rabbi Bergman was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and pursued additional graduate work in Jewish Folklore at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was part of the educators program at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Ruth Weiss Bergman has been teaching in the Detroit Jewish community for 22 years. She taught for the Midrasha College of Jewish Studies, Hillel Day School, Frankel Jewish Academy, Global Day of Jewish Learning and Women's Day of Learning. Ms. Bergman is currently an instructor for Melton, Melton Scholars Curriculum and FedEd classes.
Jeffrey Bernstein is Professor of Political Science and Interim Director of the Master of Public Administration Program at Eastern Michigan University. He has been a Carnegie Scholar in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and is a faculty associate in the Jewish Studies program, where he teaches courses on American Jewish Politics, and co-directs the travel course "Becoming Jewish in America."
Michael Brooks was Executive Director of University of Michigan Hillel for more than three decades. He lectures and consults for Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Centers, synagogues and day schools throughout North America on strengthening and stretching the boundaries of the Jewish community and creating an institutional and communal Jewish culture that will make Jews feel that it is a privilege to be engaged in our community. A graduate of Brandeis University, he and his wife Ruth were founding members of the Havurat Shalom community in Boston. He continued his graduate training at Harvard University, the Hebrew University and the Merkaz Ha-Rav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and at the University of Michigan where he taught for many years in the Program on Studies in Religion. In 1997 he received the Covenant Award in recognition of his work as one of the country's outstanding Jewish educators, and he once opened for comedian Yaakov Smirnoff.
Joe Cohen is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan where he is studying PPE (philosophy, politics, and economics). Aside from being a co-president on the I-Lead board, he also is an Assistant Director at the National Model United Nations Competition. He is passionate about Israel and discussing its role in the world, along with talking about how special Israel is in general and is to him.
Liraz Cohen was born and raised in Israel and is currently the Jewish Agency for Israel fellow at University of Michigan Hillel. She studied Law and Government at the IDC Herzliya. Liraz is a graduate of the Rothschild's Ambassadors program, an elite leadership program for Israelis during their academic years. For the last few years, Liraz has been working for the Jewish Agency for Israel in various programs focused on the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. For the last year and a half she has been living in Ann Arbor.
Dan Cutler is a retired medical illustrator, married to a translator of Hindi literature, Prof. Christi Merrill. In 2013-2014 they set up housekeeping and enrolled their four-year-old daughter in a local preschool in South Saket, a neighborhood of New Delhi, while Christi researched a book on Dalit (Untouchable) writings. Her language fluency and years in India gave the family access to unique experiences and Dan spent the year documenting their many adventures with photographs and writings.
Adrienne Dessel - PhD, LMSW, is co-associate director of the Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) where she teaches, provides administrative support, curriculum leadership, and consultations to faculty and staff. She has more than 20 years of experience providing clinical and community-based services to diverse client populations and organizations. Her research focuses on Arab/Jewish conflict, religion and sexual orientation, gender, and dialogue facilitator learning.
Dorit Edut was ordained in 2006 after completing her studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion, a pluralistic Jewish seminary, in Riverdale, NY. She served as student rabbi at synagogues in Brooklyn, NY and Mt. Pleasant MI, as congregational rabbi for four years at Temple Israel in Bay City, MI. , and then did teaching and rabbinic work for four years at the Downtown Synagogue of Detroit, the only standing synagogue left in the city limits.
Five years ago, Rabbi Edut brought together a diverse group of clergy and civic leaders in Detroit to find ways to help revitalize the city of Detroit with a focus on its youth. This resulted in the creation of the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network (DION) where religious and faith groups to share their projects and gain support from this network. DION has also held as series of interfaith services and social/educational programs every few months to spiritually uplift Detroit. The group has also created programs for career exploration, conflict resolution, and arts and cultural awareness for youth and families in Detroit.
For over 40 years, Rabbi Edut has been a Jewish educator in Metro Detroit. She has taught children, teens and adults, trained Hebrew teachers, and administered two Jewish congregational schools. In addition she has taught Jewish subjects at two area colleges in Michigan.
Expanding an annual program of Muslim-Jewish Twinning, in April 2015 Rabbi Dorit helped to create the Greater Detroit Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Council to encourage social action and cultural exchanges to strengthen the relationships between these two communities.
Rabbi Dorit strongly believes in the power of interfaith work to bring peace and enlightenment into our modern world.
Seymour Epstein ("Epi") has been active in every aspect of Jewish education. He was an assistant professor at McGill University where he directed the Jewish teacher training program. He was the director of the Canadian Ramah and of the Mercaz, the Bureau of Jewish Education of Toronto. Epi worked in Morocco as the educational consultant for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He is currently an educational consultant for JDC. He has written two books including his soon-to-be published The Esther Scrol: Refacimento Undone, a radical reinterpretation of the Book of Esther.
Yaffa Epstein serves as the Director of Education, North America, for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. She received Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and holds a Law Degree from Bar-Ilan University. She has studied at the Pardes Kollel, the Advanced Talmud Institute at Matan and the Talmud Department of Hebrew University. Yaffa has been a teacher of Talmud, Jewish Law, and Liturgy at Pardes for over a decade, and has served as the Director of the Beit Midrash at the Dorot Fellowship in Israel.
Jeffrey Falick is a Secular Humanistic rabbi serving The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Originally a member of the Reform movement, Rabbi Falick became involved in Secular Humanistic Judaism in 2009 after a lifetime of searching and questioning. His involvement in Humanistic Judaism includes his roles as president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis and member of the Executive Committee of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
Kirsten Fermaglich has been teaching history and Jewish Studies at Michigan State since 2001. Her interests center around the historical meanings and problematic nature of ethnic identity in the United States: she is particularly interested in secular Jews as both members of and outsiders to the Jewish community. She is also interested in the ways that gender, race, class, and family intersect with ethnic identity. Prof. Fermaglich’s first book, American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares (Brandeis University Press, 2006) looked at secular Jewish intellectuals’ uses of the Holocaust in the early 1960s. Her current project, tentatively entitled A Rosenberg by Any Other Name, explores the history of name changing in the United States in the twentieth century. She also co-edited, with Lisa Fine, the Norton Critical Edition of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (2013).
Ben Freed is a general assignments reporter for The Ann Arbor News covering education, entertainment, public health and anything else that comes across his desk. After returning to the tundra from Texas in 2012, Ben helped found a Jewish Young Professionals organization that has quickly grown and developed into the hub of young adult Jewish life in the Ann Arbor area. In his spare time, Ben dabbles in Uber driving, Yoga teaching, tap dancing, and DJing at B'nei Mitzvah and weddings. Ben is a proud alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and Young Judaea's Year Course gap year program in Israel.
Joy Gaines-Friedler teaches creative writing for non-profits in the Detroit area, including workshops in Memoir for the Jewish Historical Society. Her poetry & essays are widely published, including in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She is the recipient of numerous literary awards. Joy is the author of two full-length books of poetry: Like Vapor and Dutiful Heart.
Howard Friedman is a former University of Toledo law school faculty member, now retired. He edits the award-winning Religion Clause blog that focuses on church-state issues, and has long been involved in Jewish public affairs activities.
Zvi Gitelman is Preston Tisch Professor of Judaic Studies and is a co-founder of the Judaic Studies program. He has been teaching political science at U-M since 1968, specializing in Eastern European and Soviet politics. He has introduced courses in the Jewish political tradition as well as the politics and culture of modern Eastern European Jewry. He has authored or edited 16 books, including A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present. His most recent book is Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine: an Uncertain Ethnicity. (Photo credit: James Reslier-Wells)
Sarah Goldfein is the producer/director of "Who Knows One," an educational video series on Jewish theology and belief. She has a BA in Philosophy and Judaic Studies from University of Michigan and a JD from Harvard Law School. Ms. Goldfein served as a Foreign Law Clerk to Justice Ayala Procaccia of the Israeli Supreme Court. She currently works for the New York Police Department.
Karla Goldman directs the Jewish Communal Leadership Program and teaches American Jewish history at the University of Michigan where she is the Sol Drachler Professor of Social Work and Jewish Studies. A graduate of Yale and Harvard Universities, she previously taught American Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and served as Historian in Residence at the Jewish Women’s Archive . She is the author of Beyond the Synagogue Gallery: Finding a Place for Women in American Judaism and is writing a book about the history of the Jewish community of Cincinnati. Other teaching and research interests include the history of Jews in American higher education and social justice movements, and the Jewish experience of Hurricane Katrina. She serves on the national boards of the Jewish Women’s Archive and Keshet.
Hugh Goodman, MBA, is the Housing Coordinator, Case Manager and Human Resource Coordinator for the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County. He also facilitates workshops and counsels low income families and individuals. He is a community activist working toward equal rights for the GLBTQ community, the recovery community, and those experiencing homelessness. Hugh has worked with many community groups. He is currently the Co-Chair of the Housing Coordinators Network, a member of Barrier Busters, and sits on the Community Housing Placement Committee for Washtenaw County. Mr. Goodman received his BA from the University of Michigan and a MBA from George Washington University.
Susannah Goodman is a Detroit native. As an artist and arts administrator, her life's work has centered on enabling diverse and equitable arts access. She has worked as an educator for many Detroit arts organizations, including Pewabic Pottery, the Heidelberg Project, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and now Living Arts. In addition to managing Ladybug Studios, a ceramic cooperative in SW Detroit, she is an adjunct faculty member at Oakland Community College. Also a political advocate for the importance of the arts, Susannah has served on the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs since 2013.
A steadfast Reconstructionist, Susannah was raised at Congregation T'Chiyah, then meeting in Downtown Detroit. While in undergrad at Guilford College in North Carolina, she led the campus Hillel. Since returning home in 2012, she has been an active member of rebounding Jewish community in Detroit. She now serves as a board member at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, as a chairperson of the Arts, Culture and Community Building team of Detroit Jews for Justice, and as an active member of many regional interfaith organizations. Susannah loves to cook, eat, drink, sing and dance with her friends on any night of the week, but especially on Friday nights at the Downtown Synagogue.
Daniel Gordon is a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science and minoring in Judaic Studies. Daniel has held various leadership positions in Jewish and pro-Israel organizations on campus. He served on Hillel Board as Outreach Chairperson where he oversaw Hillel outreach initiatives and programming, coordinated prospective student visits, and worked to increase the presence of Jewish life on campus. He also served as Director of Consulting for TAMID Group at Michigan, a nation-wide student organization that focuses on the business relationship between the United States and Israel. For the past year Daniel has been intimately involved in Israel advocacy as the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow for Michigan. Also, Daniel is the co-founder of a new grassroots Israel advocacy movement called Think-M, The Israel Network at Michigan, whose aim is to actively promote Israel on the Michigan campus by reaching students of different religions, races, and ethnicities.
As far back as Beth Greenapple can remember, music has been a part of her life. It has provided a way to express her deepest emotions, to comfort and soothe herself, and to connect with others.
A little over twenty years ago, she met Debbie Friedman, z"l, who became a friend and mentor. In healing services using her own music, Debbie demonstrated the power of music to reach inside people, touch souls, calm spirits, release emotions, and move from places they were stuck to someplace new.
Shortly after Debbie's death, Beth realized she, too, could use her musical gifts to help people get in touch with pain—whether physical or emotional—be comforted and soothed, to find and build community. Beth began creating healing services in her synagogue, the first service in memory of Debbie. Since then, she has offered Whole Notes Wellness experiences throughout the Detroit community. She invites you to experience the power of music and words to transcend intellect, access feelings and connect to yourself in the presence of other seekers of greater wholeness.
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, 3 MAs and a JD in addition to rabbinic ordination. An avid basketball player, violinist and Detroit sports enthusiast, Dan is a member of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, the Michigan Board of Rabbis and the State Bar of Michigan.
Arif Huskic is a Bosnian Muslim who lives in Hamtramck, and is the head of the Common Word Alliance, Clergies Interfaith Organization, working for the betterment of the lives of the ciitzens of Hamtramck and greater Detroit through interfaith relations and social action. He has worked on several Muslim-Jewish Twinning programs in the last few years and is very involved in the following community groups: Michigan Muslim Community Council, (MMCC) Executive Board Member, appointed to the GDMJSC (Greater Detroit Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Council) as the MMCC Representative; Bosnian Community Representative and Imam Assistant; Co-Founder and board member of Islamic Association of Hamtramck & Detroit; Director for Public Relations of the Islamic Association of Michigan; Board Member and Co-Founder of the Children of Abraham; Co-Founder and Vice President of Islamic Shura Council of Michigan (ISCOM); Board Member of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan and Imams Council Board Member; Member of Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network (DION); Block Club Association of Hamtramck, Chairman; Hamtramck Homeowners Association Founder and President.
Razi Jafri is a Detroit-based community and interfaith activist, designer, and project manager. Since returning from a trip to Israel and Palestine last winter, he has joined and led the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit, which is a grassroots initiative of young adults working towards change between our communities and serving Detroit together. He has been able to combine his passions for activism, entrepreneurship, and design through various social impact projects.
Menachem Kaiser is a writer and journalist. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic and elsewhere. In 2010-2011, Menachem was a Fulbright Fellow in Lithuania, where he studied post-Holocaust memory and narrative, and was a visiting professor at Vilnius University. Menachem is a graduate of Columbia University, and is pursuing his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Michigan. He is a current Wexner Graduate Fellow.
Gail Rosenbloom Kaplan is a working artist with a studio in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Her portfolio of work includes trompe l‘oeil clay, glass mosaics, printmaking and mixed media. Influenced by her experience working as a college intern at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 1973, Kaplan became entranced with the beauty of Jewish art and has infused her passion for Judaica into her own artwork. She was chosen by the Gifts of Art for exhibition at the Taubman Gallery at the University of Michigan hospital. Gail believes in the power of art to heal and teach and is committed to community projects with schools, hospitals and senior citizen residences.
Jay Kaplan has been the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project since its founding in 2001. He has worked on cases including challenging undercover sting operations targeting gay men, fighting Michigan's constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying, defending the validity of second parent adoptions granted in Michigan, and recently advocating for a transgender high school student to be able to run for prom court. Jay was honored with the 2006 Unsung Hero Award from the Michigan State Bar and the 2010 Virginia Uribe Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association (NEA).
Michael Kasky, a Vice President of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, specializes in planning and conducting historical tours and presentations that explain the history of Detroit's Jewish Community within the broader context of the social and economic conditions of each era. Now living in Grosse Pointe, he is a past president of the Grosse Pointe Jewish Council and currently serves as their ritual director. Mike was born and educated in Detroit and is a retired attorney with an undergraduate degree and considerable graduate level studies in history.
Talia Katz is a freshman in the Honors College of LS&A at the University of Michigan. She is the current co-president of I-LEAD (Israel Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Dialogue), a student group that facilitates thoughtful discussions on Israeli politics, culture, and activities pertaining to Israel on University of Michigan’s campus.
Clare Kinberg was a staff member of New Jewish Agenda 1985-1989 and founding editor of Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal (1990-2011). She is currently adult and children’s librarian at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor and director of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation’s Beit Sefer.
Klezundheit! are: Matt Adler, tuba; Howard Collens, trombone; Glen Gardner, bass; Dan Horwitz, violin; Aaron Lebovic, percussion; Lizzie Lebovic, clarinet; Jacob Levy, Alto Sax; Alan Posner, tenor saxophone; Gail Posner, dance leader; Ken Posner, trumpet; Michelle Posner, flute; David Rodgers, piano; Justin Wedes, accordion.
Anna Kohn is the former Director (2012-2016) of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, the last freestanding synagogue in the city of Detroit. The Downtown Synagogue enjoyed exponential growth under her direction. Today, Anna leads the Associate Support Platform development for the innovative RecoveryPark, an ambitious project that matches underutilized land and talent in our region to grown high-quality produce for local businesses while putting Detroiters with barriers to employment into sustaining jobs. Anna is an accomplished nonprofit strategist with proficiencies in training programs for incarcerated persons, anti-recidivism programs as well as fundraising, grant writing, project management and community engagement/organizing. Anna is a graduate of CUNY Baruch’s National Urban Fellows program where she received her MPA, focused on maturing performance measurement and management of prisoner reentry initiatives. Anna attended Hampshire College where she received her BA in the self-designed field of Detroitology. Anna began her nonprofit career early, having worked with underprivileged populations beginning at age nine when she started her own nonprofit for Detroit’s homeless. Since then, Anna has worked in politics, the nonprofit sector, and education - most recently as adjunct faculty through Jackson College, teaching Entrepreneurship courses at the Macomb Correctional Facility since 2013.
David Kraemer is Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian (=Director of The Library) at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he has also served as Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics for many years. As Librarian, Prof. Kraemer is at the helm of the most extensive collection of Judaica—rare and contemporary—in the Western hemisphere. On account of the size and importance of the collection, Prof. Kraemer is instrumental in setting policy and establishing vision for projects of international importance.
Prof. Kraemer is a prolific author and commentator. His books include The Mind of the Talmud (1990), Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature (1995), The Meanings of Death in Rabbinic Judaism (2000), and Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages (Routledge, 2007, 2009), among others. His most recent book is Rabbinic Judaism: Place and Space (Routledge, 2015). He is also the author and co-creator of The Haggadah app, for iPads.
Joseph H. Krakoff is the Senior Director of Spiritual Care for the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. He offers numerous educational classes and seminars on a variety of spiritual topics to teenagers, adults and Wayne State medical students. Rabbi Krakoff grew up in Los Angeles and is a graduate of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, CA and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, NY. After serving as a congregational rabbi for 16 years and participating in a whole host of life cycle moments, Rabbi Krakoff continues to help individuals realize their best selves. He is married to Susan and has three children, Atara, Micah and Elan.
Max Ledersnaider is a Senior at the University of Michigan and a long-time Israel education activist on campus. Max grew up outside of Chicago where he attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago and was involved in Conservative Judaism circles. Max has been actively involved in Progressive Zionist education through Habonim Dror, a Labor-Zionist youth movement, since 2003. Through Habonim Dror, Max spent the 2011-12 school year living in Israel and working with underprivileged youth through HaNoar HaOved veHalomed in after-school centers outside of Haifa. Since 2012, Max has spent time organizing Progressive Zionist education for Ann Arbor youth and working at Habonim Dror summer camps. On campus, he joined the executive board for J Street UMich and served as chair of the student organization from 2014-15. In 2015-16, Max served on the J Street U National Education Committee and the Midwest Regional Leadership Team where he developed and promoted Progressive Zionist education on college campuses throughout the Midwest.
Becca Levin is a senior in LSA studying English Literature, Linguistics and Art History. A Cleveland native, Becca took a gap year in Israel on the Nativ College Leadership Program before coming to the University of Michigan. She loves reading about, talking about and learning about Israel. Becca has been involved in I-LEAD and Israel Cohort, serving as Israel Cohort chair in 2014. Becca is very grateful for the opportunities she has had to engage in Israel on campus through Michigan Hillel.
Gideon Levinson is from Royal Oak, MI and currently a senior at the University of Michigan where he studies psychology and is premed. Gideon is very active of Hillel campus, serving as president of Ahava (LGBT Jewish group) and the Hillel Players, volunteer coordinator for MedX: Medical Exposure Group (2014), and serving as the culture cohort chair for Programming Board (2015). Gideon traveled to Peru to volunteer at mobile medical clinics in low-income areas and also volunteers at the University of Michigan Hospital in the CVC inpatient and outpatient areas. Very passionate about medicine and research, he works as a laboratory technician for three years in the Feldman Lab at the University of Michigan Medical School Department of Neurology and is currently writing an honors senior thesis on diabetic neuropathy.
Joe Lewis prepares Jewish prayer books to overcome obstacles in our prayer tradition. Several congregations have turned to Joe for customized books, and he continues to expand the range and improve the quality of the work. He is from England and came to the US in 1972. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University. He has produced several children's musicals, including Purim musicals. He started a publishing company to publish Hebrew books & other Jewish topics. He helped create a Siddur which is in regular use at many congregations.
Judy Lewis is currently the Program Administrator for the newest SAGE affiliate, SAGE Metro Detroit. She has spent many years working with caregivers and older adults, providing information and tools for creating a welcoming community for diverse populations. Judy has presented seminars for professionals, including Henry Ford Hospital, U of M School of Social Work and the American Federation of Teachers/Detroit, as well as the Area Agency on Aging Statewide Conference and AARP College. Her work includes training and advocacy workshops for both faith-based and secular organizations. During her tenure at the Federation's Alliance for Jewish Education in Bloomfield Hills, MI, Judy was responsible for a highly successful 4-part NIRIM series on LGBT issues for Jewish Religious School Teachers.
Rene Lichtman was born in Paris, France, in 1937, of Polish Jewish parents. He and his mother survived WWll in hiding in France. His father was killed in combat against the invading Germans. Rene came to the US in 1950, age 13, with his mother. He attended a number of art schools and eventually received a Fulbright Grant in Painting. He came to Detroit in 1969 to make a film on the conditions of Black workers in the auto industry. After attending the first Holocaust Hidden Child conference in New York in 1991, he helped start the Hidden Children and Child Survivors of Michigan. He is a founding member and a Vice President of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendents. He was Chair of the Detroit 2006 World Federation Conference. Rene holds degrees in Fine Arts, Mass Communication, and a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology from WSU.
Kevin Lieberman is the founder of the DC Design Workshop, a young adult-led collaboration with Jewish young adult lay-leaders, innovative organizations, and donors, with the shared goal of creating a greater sense of belonging for young adult Jews in Washington, DC. He was elected the 2014-2015 DC Jewish Guy of the Year by Gather the Jews and he was the 2011-2012 President of the Duke University Jewish Student Union. Kevin is a Moishe House Ignite Fellow, Moishe House Without Walls Host, and a Robotics PhD student at the University of Michigan.
Howard Lupovitch received a Ph.D. in Jewish History from Columbia University. He has taught at Cornell University, Colby College, the University of Western Ontario and U. of M. where he was also a fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies. He is currently Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University. Professor Lupovitch is the 2009 winner of the Bernard L. Maas Prize for Achievement in Jewish Culture and Continuity in the Area of Humanities.
John Marcotte, PhD, is an archivist with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Marcotte has expertise in statistics, numerical methods and data security. Working in academe has led him to appreciate the impressiveness of Moshe ben Maimon. Marcotte and his family live in West Bloomfield, Michigan where they are members of B'nai Israel Synagogue.
Alice Mishkin currently serves as program manager and lecturer for the Community Action and Social Change undergraduate minor at the University of Michigan School Of Social Work. Alice is an alum of the U-M School of Social Work and Jewish Communal Leadership Program. In her spare time, she works on a number of projects including: the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, HEKDESH, and the New Jewish Agenda.
Tzvi Muller pioneered and led a team of scholars in the research of Jewish teachings pertaining to love, respect and consideration for other people. This effort produced an encyclopedic seven volume set of books embraced by thousands of scholars across the world. Through his classes, award-winning programs and innovative educational leadership, Rabbi Muller has brought the values, teachings and practices of kindness to Jews in Michigan and all over the world. He is the rabbi at the Birmingham-Bloomfield Chai Center and directs the Jewish Values Institute.
Blair Nosan is a Jewish pickler, a self-titled "Spontaneous Preservationist." She was born in Detroit's suburbs, first learned to pickle at Adamah in the summer of 2008, and has been thinking about Jews, preservation, and transformation ever since. She lives in Detroit.
Mitch Parker has a child psychology practice in Bloomfield Hills and has been learning with Jewish adults for over 30 years. Dr. Parker has devoted his career to the inclusion of individuals with challenges into the Jewish community, first as the founding director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in Canada and most recently in Toronto as the Principal/Clinical Director of Zareinu, a Jewish day school for children with moderate to severe challenges.
Yisrael Pinson is the founder and executive director of Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit and a chaplain with Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. Rabbi Pinson received his high school and college-level education at several intensive private schools the world over, including the distinguished Machon LeSmicha Center for Ordination in Melbourne, Australia. He has served communities and individuals from the Caribbean to Canada and is fluent in four languages. French born Rabbi Yisrael directed the Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House from 2002 to 2011. In that capacity he helped create a Jewish Recover Community in Metro-Detroit where recovering addicts and their families are helped through support, guidance, friendship & community. He teaches Torah to a wide variety of audiences from the novice to the scholars, while focusing his lessons on the mystical and spiritual aspects of Judaism and their practical application in living a meaningful life.
Jennifer Romberg is the Co-Chair of the Jewish Young Professionals of Ann Arbor (JYP), where she works with her amazing co-chair and board to plan events for young Jews in the Ann Arbor area. Raised in the greater Philadelphia area, Jennifer came to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan and received her BA from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy. Since graduating, she has remained in Michigan working in political campaigns. When not working or planning programming for JYP, Jennifer enjoys Broadway musicals and cheering for her Philly sports teams.
Hayley Sakwa is a University of Michigan graduate working and living in the City of Detroit. Hayley works at United Way for Southeastern Michigan, where she builds community partnerships to improve child nutrition and food access in the region. She recently moved to Indian Village to help kick off the Detroit City Moishe House, which creates opportunities for young Jewish professionals to explore Detroit in meaningful ways. She loves running and her favorite colors are Maize and Blue.
Justin Sakofs is an entrepreneurial educator. He created MagneticShul to engage children when escaping was the sole option. Justin is an avid biking and chef who loves spending time with his family. Justin is on Limmud Chicago’s steering team.
Mary Schuman is an artist and currently serves as a member on several Boards of Directors including IHN at Alpha House, ORT America and the Learning Disabilities Association of Washtenaw County. She is also a member of the EMU Jewish Studies Advisory Board.
Art Schuman retired from Washtenaw County Community Mental Health and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and The Housing Bureau for Seniors. He is also a member of the EMU Jewish Studies Advisory Board.
Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership where he directs the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI), a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders. He is also the director of the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program, a year-long fellowship on Judaism and human rights for young professionals with hubs in New York, London and Jerusalem. Sid founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values for 21 years. He is also the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD where he continues to teach and lead services. Rabbi Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is the author of two groundbreaking books: Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue (Jewish Lights, 2000) and Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World (Jewish Lights, 2006). He was awarded the prestigious Covenant Award for his pioneering work in the field of Jewish education and was named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in North America. Sid's newest book is Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future (Jewish Lights, 2013).
Sid Schwarz's presentations are made possible by a grant from The Covenant Foundation.
Martin B. Shichtman is Director of Jewish Studies and Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University. He has been a fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and at Brandeis University’s Schusterman Institute for Israel Studies. He teaches classes on Jewish-American Literature, Holocaust Literature, Culture and the Holocaust, and co-directs the "Becoming Jewish in America" travel course.
Aubree Sepler is a second-year MSW student studying Social Policy & Evaluation and concentrating in communities and social systems. Aubree's passion for the intersection of gender-based identity and Judaism stems from intergroup outreach efforts. In particular, engaging in dialogue work, non-profit involvement, and grassroots coalition-building has shaped Aubree's vision for the future of progressive Jewish organizing. Aubree has worked extensively with LGBTQ organizations on the local and national level, including a summer work experience with Keshet, a nonprofit that works for the full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life. After graduating from the School of Social Work and the Jewish Communal Leadership Program, Aubree hopes to bridge her passions for creative outreach, community capacity-building, and strategic planning.
Melissa J. Ser is the Director of Education at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Melissa holds a BA from Florida State University and an MA and PhD from the University of Rochester. She studied rabbinics at Hebrew Union College and is currently pursuing a second MA in Jewish Educational Leadership for Synagogues and Communal Settings at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Melissa spent almost a decade in Jerusalem as the Academic Director of the Ramah Jerusalem High School and Director of the Ramah Jerusalem Day Camp. She previously served as the Youth Director and Interim Education Director at Temple B'rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York. Melissa and her family reside in West Bloomfield.
Tilly Shames is the Executive Director of University of Michigan Hillel. Tilly has worked with Hillels in Toronto and Michigan for 13 years in various positions, including Director of Israel Affairs and Associate Director, before becoming Executive Director at the University of Michigan in 2012. Tilly brings to Michigan, along with her Canadian accent, a passion for Jewish life, community-building, women’s advancement, and social justice. She holds a Masters Degree in International Affairs and a Bachelor degree in Environmental Studies and Political Science. Tilly previously taught at Holy Blossom Temple’s high school in Toronto, and worked at the Canada-Israel Committee and United Nations Environment Programme. She is currently a Wexner Field Fellow and the Chair of the Association of Religious Counselors. She loves art, traveling, yoga, anything food related, and diving into a conversation about our Jewish future.
Rabbi Ariana Silverman received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She served as the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, and the rabbi for the Grosse Pointe Jewish Council. She is currently the rabbi for Temple Beth Israel in Jackson and teaches extensively in Metro Detroit. She lives in the city of Detroit with her family.
Justin Sledge received his M.A. in Religious Studies and Mysticism at the Universiteit Van Amsterdam before turning his attention to philosophy in which he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Memphis. He currently teaches part-time and is an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers at Wayne State. His interests include radical political philosophy, metaphysics, and non-canonical philosophy.
Aaron Starr serves as spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, and has been part of the CSZ family since 2008. He is the author of the book Taste of Hebrew (URJ Press) and Tradition vs. Modernity: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) and Conservative Halachah, published in the Journal of Conservative Judaism, as well as numerous other on-line publications. Rabbi Starr also has received numerous awards for youth work and for adult education. Rabbi Starr and his wife, Rebecca, also a Jewish educator, are the proud parents of two beautiful sons, Caleb and Ayal.
Corinne Stavish specializes in personal narratives and midrashim that are witty and poignant, enhanced by powerful performances. She has been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival, co-chaired the Storytelling Network of CAJE, and was a Detroit Jewish Woman Artist of the Year 2001. Corinne is a College Professor in Humanities at Lawrence Tech University.
Lauren Steinberg is the Terrorism Analyst for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, responsible for monitoring the threat and activities of Islamic extremist organizations both at home and abroad. Prior to her current position, Lauren worked as an Assistant Director in the ADL’s New York regional office and as a research assistant for the Terrorism Research Initiative, an international research consortium dedicated to collaborative research on terrorism studies and publishers of the journal Perspectives on Terrorism. Lauren has a master’s degree from Columbia University in political science with a focus on international security, and undergraduate degrees in political science and religion.
Lisa Stella, known to her students as Rav Lisa, is the Senior Jewish Educator at the University of Michigan Hillel. She received her rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical School at Hebrew College, a trans-denominational institution in Newton, Massachusetts. Lisa has spent most of her adult life building, learning in, and teaching in vibrant, pluralistic Jewish community in Hillels, synagogues, and learning institutions across the US and in Israel.
Jeffrey Veidlinger is Joseph Brodsky Collegiate Professor of History and Judaic Studies and Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of the award-winning books The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage (2000), Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire (2009), and In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (2013). He teaches courses on the Holocaust, Antisemitism, and Modern Jewish History. (Photo credit: D.C. Goings)
Dena Weiss is the Rosh Beit Midrash at Mechon Hadar, an institution for higher Jewish learning based in NYC. Dena earned her BA in Religious Studies from NYU and a MA in Theology from Harvard Divinity School. She has also studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum, Drisha, and Pardes and is looking forward to some great learning at LimmudMI.
Michael Weiss has taught classes for both adults and youth in the Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor communities for more than 15 years, including classes at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit. He was a founding faculty member of the Frankel Jewish Academy, as well as the Florence Melton Adult Mini-Schools in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Windsor. Since 2012, Dr. Weiss has been an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, where he teaches courses and does research in the field of Mathematics Education.
Amit Weitzer is committed to building intentional and equitable communities in the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck. Since graduating from University of Michigan’s Residential College, Amit has been involved in justice activities as a volunteer and as an employee. As a prisoner rights advocate with the American Friends Service Committee, Amit worked directly with incarcerated individuals and their families to improve conditions of confinement for Michigan prisoners. As an organizer for the Michigan Campaign for Justice, she immersed herself in the statewide fight to reform Michigan’s failing public defense delivery system. She has led students in critical social justice service-learning trips in Detroit and managed youth leadership and youth employment programming for young Detroiters through her role as the Detroit Program Manager for the Student Conservation Association. She is currently working as a graduate student instructor, managing the University of Michigan Department of Psychology’s criminal and juvenile justice service learning program, while completing her Masters of Social Work, focused in youth and community development. Amit looks forward to contributing to participatory planning and equitable development processes through which she can be a part of building more just communities in Detroit and Hamtramck. Amit is a member of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue Board of Directors.
Ralph G. Williams is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature Emeritus, at the University of Michigan. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and took as his first faculty position, the post of Assistant Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. In 1970 he returned to the University of Michigan, and has remained here since. Professor Williams is especially known for his courses in Shakespeare, the Bible in English, and Primo Levi. He has received numerous awards, including the first-ever Lifetime Golden Apple teaching award and the Carnegie "Professor of the Year" Award for the State of Michigan.
Samantha Woll grew up in Metropolitan Detroit and has been active in Jewish, interfaith and social justice activities for over fifteen years. She is currently co-chair of The American Jewish Committee's Detroit ACCESS chapter as well as the Muslim-Jewish Forum, a collective of young adults in the area of both faiths who are working together to build shared community. She is an active member at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and is also very involved with the Greater Detroit Muslim Jewish Solidarity Council.
Zeitouna Dialogue Group: Back in the summer of 2002, a few Arab and Jewish women met in a comfortable Ann Arbor home to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, they all wanted to end the increasing polarization of their communities, both locally and globally, but what to do and how to do it? Some had never spent time with ‘the other.’ Some had been in a Palestinian-Jewish discussion group that soon failed and fell apart. They were Muslim, Christian and Jewish, with Middle Eastern, American and European backgrounds and they brought their individual histories, assumptions and fears with them, so their expectations were qualified and tentative. These women, with their strong desires and firm opinions, could not foresee that years later they would still be together, would be intimate and caring friends, and would be changed profoundly by the experience they shared in Zeitouna.
Eli Zucker is a Senior at the University of Michigan, studying English, Political Science, and Intergroup Relations. After working with the Hand-In-Hand school in Jerusalem as well as Project Ten on Kibbutz Harduf this past summer, he returned to Ann Arbor determined to be a proactive leader in the Israel conversation on campus. Through the national initiative of Resetting the Table, Eli has worked to change the ways in which Jewish community on campus interacts with the Israel conversation through dialogue. He will be continuing his studies at the University of Michigan for the next two years as a master’s student in the School of Social Work.