Speakers

Haim Amit is the owner of neighborhood favorite Vino Levantino, which is first and foremost a wine bar. Vino Levantino’s wines are imported from all over the world, mostly from boutique wineries in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Israel, and the Americas. The menu reflects the diversity of the Ottoman Empire, influenced by the Sephardic Jews who reached Israel through Turkey.vinolevantino.com

Smadar Bar-Akiva is the executive director of JCC Global, a network that represents more than 1,000 Jewish community centers worldwide and is a pre-eminent organization in Jewish peoplehood education. In this capacity, she initiates, designs, and implements global Jewish leadership programs, global partnerships, and the facilitation of the professional and volunteer network of JCCs the world over.

Elisa Spungen Bildner is a former lawyer, CEO, reporter/editor, and journalism professor. She has written numerous articles for consumer, trade, and scholarly publications. Robert Bildner is a former attorney who grew up in a food family and left the practice of law to create, run and eventually sell food distribution and manufacturing companies. He continues to lead on a number of nonprofit boards. He graduated from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Jeannie Blaustein, Ph.D., D. Ministry, has spent her professional career supporting people in the work of having difficult conversations about love, loss, and conflict. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, pastoral counselor, and the founding board chair of Reimagine End of Life. Jeannie serves on the steering committee of What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life and is a certified What Matters facilitator and instructor. She is an adjunct faculty member at Pace University, where she most recently taught a course entitled the Psychology of Death and Dying. She has worked as a chaplaincy intern on The Wiener Family Palliative Care Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, and has completed Level I trainings to become an end-of-life doula with INELDA.

Liraz Cohen Mordechai is the founder of Fashionating by Liri, a social enterprise with the mission of telling the story of Israel from a new perspective of fashion and promoting Israeli fashion designers and brands. The company offers customized educational lectures, tours, trips,and special productions both in Israel and North America, focusing on the impact of cultural, social, and economic factors on the evolution of Israeli fashion.

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove is senior rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. He was ordained in 1999 at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and subsequently earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. An officer of the New York Board of Rabbis, he serves on the board of the Hillel of University of Michigan and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Joseph Dorman is a winner of the Peabody Award. His films include Arguing the World, which was shortlisted for an Oscar; Moynihan, about the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; and Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness. He was a senior producer for Media Matters, the prime time PBS news magazine series on the news media. He co-wrote the script of the documentary blockbuster The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Journey, named the best documentary of 2001 by the National Board of Review.

Josh Ehrlich is a composer, lyricist, arranger, music director, and music educator in New York City. Josh has written hundreds of compositions, orchestrations, and vocal arrangements for various ensembles including the hit Off-Broadway musical, The Imbible: Day Drinking. He is the music director at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and the Leffell High School and recently completed The Choral Torah: 5 Books in 4 Parts, a 54-song a cappella anthology reimagining biblical texts. joshehrlichmusic.com

Dr. Elan Ezrahi is a native of Jerusalem, where he also resides. He is a consultant to international Jewish organizations and the head of the master’s of arts program in Jewish peoplehood at the University of Haifa. Elan is a community activist in Jerusalem and the author of Awakened Dream—50 Year of Complex Unification of Jerusalem.

Jeff Feig's passion for Jewish learning is evident from his participation on the boards of the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, the Shefa School, The Jewish Week, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is an investor living in Manhattan with his wife, Michelle, and their three sons. He is actively involved in the Tikkun, which is named in memory of his brother.

Rabbi Lisa Gelber is a mother, marathon runner, spiritual director, breast cancer survivor, and Peloton enthusiast. As the rabbi of Congregation Habonim in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the UWS, she guides seekers to share their story, learn, sing, pray, and discover. An advisory committee member of BFOR: The BRCA Founder Outreach Study (BFORStudy.com) and nationwide speaker on domestic violence in the faith community, she also serves on the Rabbinical Assembly Executive Council and the New York Board of Rabbis Board of Governors.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is founder of The Mindful Living Collective, the central online network for mindful living, learning, and connection. He is also the co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles. He is the author of several books, including Uncovering Happiness, The Now Effect, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, and MBSR Every Day. In an increasingly fragmented society, he is working to bring people together so they may motivate and inspire one another in far-reaching ways.

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Hermann is rabbi of SAJ-Judaism that Stands for All. Rabbi Lauren's rabbinate has been driven by a desire to create inclusive Jewish communities of meaning, where a sense of belonging and community commitment is palpable. Rabbi Lauren is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and before coming to SAJ was the founder of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia. She is also co-chair of the Rabbinic Council of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ).

Rabbi Igael Gurin-Malous is a renowned Talmud teacher, spiritual counselor, and educator. He grew up between Belgium, Israel, and the U.S. in a traditional Jewish Orthodox home. He is a frequent author, speaker, and teacher on subjects ranging from Talmud, Jewish text, spirituality, addiction, recovery, fatherhood, and LGBTQI+ issues. He is the founding rabbi of T'shuvah Center, a new Jewish recovery community in Brooklyn and was formerly the director of spiritual counseling at Beit T'Shuvah, LA.

Rabbi Hilly Haber is the director of Social Justice Organizing and Education at Central Synagogue.

Nadine Jane is an astrologer who uses her background as a digital designer to make astrology accessible, relatable, and beautiful. Through her platform, she works to share the tools of self-discovery and self-knowledge that astrology practice has given her. You can find her online at nadinejaneastrology.com or join her more than 230K followers @nadinejane_astrology.

Yael Kanarek is an artist whose practice focuses on the relationship between language and form. She works in net art, print, sculpture, and fine jewelry. Born in NYC and raised in Israel, in 1991 she returned to Israel to practice art, exhibiting at the Jewish Museum, Whitney Museum, SFMoMA, and HUC. In June 2016, after reaching a spiritual impasse in her Kabbalah studies, she began regendering the Torah, recently completing the first draft of Chumash Toratah. yaelkanarek.com

Ilana Kaufman is the executive director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative as well as a senior Schusterman Fellow. A nationally regarded thought leader on the importance of grappling at the intersection of Jewish communities, Jewish identity, and racial justice, Ilana has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and Code Switch, and in the series ELI Talks: Inspired Jewish Ideas.

Rabbi Naamah Kelman grew up on the UWS and moved to Israel in 1976. A descendent of many generations of rabbis, she was the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 1992. She has served many roles at HUC and was named dean in 2009. She has been active in promoting liberal Judaism, pluralism and equality, interfaith work, and feminism.

Monika Kibrit de Snaiderman has been a volunteer at the CDI JCC in Mexico City for several years, and now serves as vice president of its executive board. Her husband, Benjamin Snaiderman, is also a volunteer and board member, and they are the proud parents of two daughters, Daniela and Rinat. Monika attended Jewish schools in Mexico and spent a year abroad in Israel as a teenager. She has always been involved in youth organizations and Jewish institutions. As a member of Anajnu Veatem, the oldest dance company in Mexico, one of her proudest experiences at CDI is the dance festival Festival Aviv. Since 2014 she has been an active member of JCC Global and a member of Amitim. She is a true believer in the diversity and unity of the Jewish people and our responsibility to the continuation of the Jewish people into the future.

Founded by Or Taicher, Ben Yaffet, and Michal Shahaf, Koolulam centers around musical performances created by convening large groups of individuals to form uniquely collaborative musical creations.

Rabbi Irwin Kula, a seventh-generation rabbi, is a disruptive spiritual innovator, rogue thinker, author of the award-winning book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, and president of Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, which works at the intersection of religion, innovation, and the science of human flourishing. A popular commentator in both new and traditional media, he is co-founder with Craig Hatkoff and Clay Christensen of The Disruptor Foundation, whose mission is to advance disruptive innovation theory and its application in societal critical domains.

Brad Lander is the New York City Council Member representing the 39th Council District in Brooklyn, which includes the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Gowanus, Columbia Waterfront, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park. He is a founding member of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus and the Council's deputy leader for policy. He is also the board chair of Local Progress, a national network of progressive municipal elected officials.

Rabbi Joy Levitt is the executive director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. Prior to coming to the JCC, Rabbi Levitt served as a congregational rabbi on Long Island and in New Jersey for 20 years. She earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College, followed by a master’s degree from New York University and a rabbinical degree from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Levitt founded the Jewish Journey Project, an initiative designed to revolutionize Jewish education for children. As a lay leader, she serves on the boards of Avodah: The Jewish Corps for Service and The Shefa School, a new Jewish community day school for children with language-based learning disabilities. Joy is married to Michael Strassfeld, also a rabbi, with whom she coauthored A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah. Together, they have five children.

Daniel Matt is a leading authority on Kabbalah, who has been featured in Time, Newsweek, and on NPR. His books include The Essential Kabbalah and God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality. His nine-volume translation of the Zohar— The Zohar: Pritzker Edition —has been hailed as “a monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought.” Currently he teaches Zohar online: sup.org/zohar/course.

Ruth Messinger is the social justice activist in residence at the JCC’s Joseph Stern Center for Social Responsibility. She serves as global ambassador for American Jewish World Service, as organization she ran from 1998 to 2016; is the Social Justice Fellow at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; and is a consultant and teacher for the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York and the Jewish Social Justice Round Table. Previously Ruth was in elected office in New York City for 20 years.

Merav Michaeli has been a member of the Knesset since the 19th Knesset in 2013. Since her election to the Knesset, MK Michaeli has served on the House Committee, and on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, including its subcommittees. From 2015 to 2019 she served as head of the opposition whip (Hamachane Hazioni). MK Michaeli’s activities have extended over many issues and sectors, including; socioeconomic discourse, gender equality, the relationship between state and religion, LBGTQ rights, labor rights, and promoting the peace process. MK Michaeli successfully spearheaded legislative initiatives providing support to individuals in substantial debt to Israel’s Collection Agency (Hotzaa-Lapoal) and workers and members of the LBGTQ community. MK Michaeli is ranked as one of the most prolific and most socially oriented legislators.

Rabbi Sydney Mintz was ordained in 1997 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. She is the founder of the award-winning Late Shabbat Young Adult Program at Congregation Emanu-El, where she has served as rabbi for the past 22 years. Rabbi Mintz became a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in 2004 and serves on the National Board of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. She serves on the 360Advisory Council of the Reimagine End of Life Festival. In 2018, Rabbi Mintz’s one-woman show, You May Think I’m Funny, But It’s Not, premiered and sold out at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco.

Ruby Namdar is an Israeli-American author born and raised in Jerusalem. His novel The Ruined Hous won the Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literary award. The English edition of The Ruined House (translated by Hillel Halkin) was published by HarperCollins in 2017. The French edition was nominated for the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger 2018. He currently lives in NYC with his wife and two daughters and teaches Jewish literature.

Noa, an Israeli-born, NY-raised singer/songwriter of Yemenite origins, is an internationally renowned artist who has performed on the world’s most prestigious stages, including numerous performances at the Vatican for three popes, the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the most important theaters of Europe. She has been produced and endorsed by Pat Metheny and Quincy Jones and has shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, and many other notable performers. She is Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Good Will Ambassador to the UN, and Global Leader of Tomorrow, and has received endless awards for her artistry and commitment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jonathan Ornstein is the founding executive director of JCC Krakow, an organization devoted to rebuilding Jewish life in Krakow and one of Poland's most visible signs of Jewish revival. A NYC native, he moved to Israel in 1994, living on a kibbutz and serving in an IDF combat unit before moving to Poland in 2001. Jonathan, a primary architect of Poland's contemporary Jewish rebirth, is a frequent international speaker on issues relating to Jewish Poland.

Rabbi Michael Paley is a senior scholar for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) living in Budapest, Hungary. Previously he was the scholar in residence of UJA-Federation of New York. He has also been a professor of Jewish studies and dean at Bard College and the vice president of the Wexner Heritage Foundation, and served as the university chaplain at Columbia University and associate university chaplain at Dartmouth College. Additionally, he was the founding director of the Edgar M. Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel. Rabbi Paley earned his bachelor’s degree at Brandeis and graduate degrees in Jewish and Islamic philosophy and science at Temple University. He received his rabbinic ordination from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. He is married to Anny Dobrejcer, and has three children and a grandchild. He is a fan of the Boston Red Sox, so he is happy all the time.

Nissim Pingle works for the JDC, India office, as director for the EPJCC (Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center). He is responsible for the day-to-day operations and growth of the JCC programs as well as developing and implementing programs that help in community-building and/or Jewish learning. This includes classes, workshops, holiday celebrations/commemorations, Israel-related programming, and community wide events for children, youth, adults, and seniors.

Idan Raichel is an Israeli singer and songwriter. During a career spanning a mere 15 years, Idan has become not only the most successful artist in Israel but also one of Israel’s most successful artists abroad. His tours have included performances at some of the leading festivals as well as shows in the most prestigious venues around the world. Idan has become an ambassador representing a world of hope, in which artistic collaboration breaks down barriers between people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

Randi Reed brings her passion for creating safer, more inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ+ community as Keshet’s Bay Area LBGTQ education and training manager. Prior to joining Keshet, Randi helped build LGBTQ teen and community programs for the JCC of San Francisco. She also managed volunteers, community programs, and donations for Covenant House California, the largest youth shelter in Northern California.

Rabbi Mira Rivera was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Jewish studies. She is Romemu's Jewish Emergent Network rabbinic fellow and board-certified chaplain. With Dr. Renee Hill, she co-founded Harlem Havruta, a brave space for Jews of Color, allies, and co-conspirators. She is rabbi/teacher at Ammud JOC Torah Academy and co-chair of the rabbinical council of JFREJ.

Avery Robinson works as a senior researcher at The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization. A culinary historian and educator, he has written over 100 pages on kugel, co-curated American Foodways: The Jewish Contribution museum exhibit, baked challah for 300 people over an open fire, and worked in bakeries in NYC and Tel Aviv, where he led market tours. Avery has been researching coffee cultures since his DOROT fellowship in 2016/2017.

Oren Rudavsky is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and several NEA and NEH grants. He co-wrote and directed the American Masters documentary Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People, nominated for an Emmy as part of the American Masters series as well as a Critics Choice Award. His film A Life Apart: Hasidism in America was short-listed for an Academy Award and broadcast on PBS; Hiding and Seeking was nominated for an Independent Spirit award and was chosen for the PBS POV series.

John Ruskay, Ph.D., served as UJA-Federation’s executive vice president from 1999 to 2014. In addition to his emeritus responsibilities at the Federation, he is a Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Planning Institute, a mentor in the Mandel Foundation's Leadership Institute, and serves as a consultant and coach. In May 2016, President Barack Obama appointed him to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. John earned his Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University, specializing in Middle East politics.

Jeffrey Salkin is one of American Judaism's most prolific rabbis. His book Putting God on the Guest List changed the American conversation on bar/bat mitzvah. His essays have appeared in the Washington Post, Commentary, Tablet, and the Forward. His column, Martini Judaism, appears in Religion News Service. He has discussed the American political scene on CNN and the BBC. He currently serves as rabbi of Temple Solel, Hollywood, FL.

Ruben Shimonov is a Jewish educator, community builder, and social entrepreneur based in New York City, by way of Seattle and Uzbekistan. He is the executive director and co-founder of the Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network, a grassroots organization building a vibrant, supportive community for LGBTQ+ Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. He also serves as vice president of education and community engagement on the Young Leadership Board of the American Sephardi Federation, as well as director of educational experiences and programming for the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee.

Dr. Maria Sirois is a positive psychologist and seminar leader who teaches internationally in the intersection of resilience and flourishing. Known for her wisdom, authenticity, and humor, she brings invigorating practices and perspectives to corporate and nonprofit audiences alike. She is the author of two books, A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (And Other Dark, Difficult Times) and Every Day Counts. mariasirois.com

Rabbi Dr. Jenny Solomon is a spiritual director, dynamic adult educator, and leader of creative Jewish prayer and ritual, who compassionately inspires her congregants and students as they navigate their Jewish journeys. Uniquely attuned to people’s emotional and psychological needs, Rabbi Solomon blends her expertise in counseling, ritual experience, and Jewish text and tradition. Rabbi Solomon is also the founding director of Libi Eir Awakened Heart Community Mikveh, and as an alumna of several training programs at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, teaches yoga and Jewish mindfulness meditation. With roots in Dallas, Rabbi Solomon received her undergraduate degree from Brown University, was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and completed a doctorate in counseling at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and HUC-JIR. Rabbi Solomon spent extensive time studying in Israel and was awarded a Wexner fellowship. She currently serves as a rabbi at Beth Meyer Synagogue, in Raleigh, NC, where she works and parents in partnership with her husband, Rabbi Eric Solomon.

Devi Stern is an advanced energy healer (innersource.net) and teacher with a private practice in Highland Park, IL, and a longtime student of Kabbalah and Kabbalistic healing. She is the author of Energy Healing with the Kabbalah, Integrating Ancient Jewish Mysticism with Modern Energetic Practices (Llewellyn, 2018).Visit her online at: dragonflyhealer.com.

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld is rabbi emeritus of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism. He writes a weekly newsletter on the Torah portion (sign up at MichaelStrassfeld.com) and is finishing work on his new book, Judaism Disrupted.

Casper ter Kuile is the author of The Power of Ritual, a ministry innovation fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and the co-founder of Sacred Design Lab. He co-hosts the award-winning podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text and lives in Brooklyn with his husband.

Rabbi Abigail Treu is the director of the Center for Jewish Living and the David H. Sonabend Center for Israel at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

Anna Winger is an American writer, producer, screenwriter, and photographer who lives in Berlin, Germany. She is creator of the television dramas Deutschland 83, Deutschland 86, and Unorthodox.

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