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Hineni Faculty

2020-2021

Deborah Newbrun

Deborah Newbrun’s career as a Jewish community leader (particularly in Jewish environmental education) spans thirty years, including working twenty-five years as Camp Tawonga’s Director, four years as Hazon’s Director in the Bay Area, and eight months as Keshet’s Interim Bay Area Director. Additionally, she serves on the faculty of multiple fellowships including Lekhu Lakhem and Hiddur for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Before entering the Jewish not-for-profit world, Deborah was a National Park Service Ranger.

Deborah co-authored Spirit In Nature/Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail. Recently she co-founded JOLT (Jewish Outdoor Leadership Training)–for staff working in Jewish summer camps across North America–which she directs for Hazon’s JOFEE Fellows. Deborah is known for being an engaging and creative Jewish educator and infusing deep spirit into her teachings. She is married to Sue Reinhold. They have four children and are about to become empty nesters.

Jonathan Krasner

Jonathan Krasner is the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Associate Professor on Jewish Education Research at Brandeis University. He is the author of The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education (Brandeis University Press, 2011), which won the 2011 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies. He was a finalist for the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. From 2002-2012 he was a professor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Jonathan is the past chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education and an associate editor of the Journal of Jewish Education. He serves on the editorial board of the American Jewish Archives Journal and is also the co-director of the National Educators Institute at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Jonathan's articles have appeared in a variety of journals including American Jewish History, Contemporary Jewry, Jewish Social Studies, Modern Judaism, the American Jewish Archives Journal, Shofar, Polin, Images, and the Journal of Jewish Education. He also has chapters in a number of edited volumes, including Sisterhood, Love, Marriage and Jewish Families, and Queer Jews. His research interests include the history of American Jewish education, contemporary American Jewish life, the history of Jewish youth, American Jewish culture, and gender and sexuality, including the mainstreaming of LGBTQ Jews in American Jewish life. His current projects include a volume on Hebrew at Jewish residential summer camps (with Sarah Benor and Sharon Avni), which is forthcoming in 2020, and a history of Jewish day schools in North America.

Jonathan is an Executive Board Member of Moving Traditions, a gender and sexuality educational organization for Jewish pre-teens and teens, and the founder of Keshet, a national organization working for LGBTQ equity and inclusion in Jewish life. He has also worked as a Jewish educational consultant for various foundations and organizations

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Idit Klein

Idit is a national leader for social justice with more than 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Since 2001, she has served as the leader of Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. Idit built Keshet from a local organization with an annual budget of $42,000 to a national organization with an annual budget of over $3 million. Under her leadership, Keshet has supported tens of thousands of rabbis, educators, and other Jewish leaders to make LGBTQ equality a communal value and institutional imperative. Idit also spearheaded the creation of leadership development programs for queer Jewish teens and mobilized Jewish communities to help defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and pass two transgender rights bills in Massachusetts. In addition, she served as the Executive Producer of Keshet’s documentary film, “Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School.”

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the Founding Spiritual Leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, and performance artist, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2016. Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, and serves on the faculty of the Reboot Network. Since 2018 he serves on the Advisory Council of the International School for Peace – a Refugee Support Project in Greece. Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “rock star” by the New York Times, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the thirty-two “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America, and in 2017 he was top five on “The Forward 50,” their annual list of the most influential and accomplished Jews in America. In June 2017 Rabbi Amichai published the JOY Proposal, offering a new response to the reality of Intermarriage and taking on a personal position on this issue, including his resignation from the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement. Amichai is Abba to Alice, Ezra and Charlotte.

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Educational Consultants

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Dr. Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is an associate professor at George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership. She is the author of eleven books on leadership, the Hebrew Bible and spirituality; her forthcoming book is a commentary on the Book of Esther. She has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Tablet and The Jewish Review of Books and writes a monthly column for the New York Jewish Week. She has blogged for Psychology Today, Newsweek/Washington Post’s “On Faith” and JTA and tweets on one page of Talmud study a day at Dr. Erica Brown.

Erica has degrees from Yeshiva University, University of London, Harvard University and Baltimore Hebrew University. She previously served as the scholar-in-residence at both The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and as the community scholar for the Jewish Center of New York. Erica was a Jerusalem Fellow, is a faculty member of the Wexner Foundation, an Avi Chai Fellow and the recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award for her work in education. She is also the author of Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet, Take Your Soul to Work: 365 Meditations on Every Day Leadership and Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death (Simon and Schuster), which won both the Wilbur and Nautilus awards for spiritual writing. Her previous books include Inspired Jewish Leadership, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, Spiritual Boredom, Confronting Scandal and co-authored The Case for Jewish Peoplehood (All Jewish Lights). She also wrote Seder Talk: A Conversational Haggada, Leadership in the Wilderness, In the Narrow Places and Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe (All OU/Koren).

Dr. Sharon Blumenthal

Dr. Sharon Blumenthal-Cohen is the Associate Program Director for the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She also teaches in GW’s M.Ed. program in Curriculum and Instruction. Her past research has focused on havruta study and its use in the literature classroom. In her current research, Sharon is exploring how to build self-reliance in students by fostering a culture of mistake-making in schools.

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2018-2019 Faculty

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Idit Klein

Idit is a national leader for social justice with more than 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Since 2001, she has served as the leader of Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. Idit built Keshet from a local organization with an annual budget of $42,000 to a national organization with an annual budget of over $3 million. Under her leadership, Keshet has supported tens of thousands of rabbis, educators, and other Jewish leaders to make LGBTQ equality a communal value and institutional imperative. Idit also spearheaded the creation of leadership development programs for queer Jewish teens and mobilized Jewish communities to help defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and pass two transgender rights bills in Massachusetts. In addition, she served as the Executive Producer of Keshet’s documentary film, “Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School.”

Tyler Gregory

Tyler (Tye) Gregory envisions a progressive movement in the U.S. that sees no contradiction between a love for Israel and a commitment to social justice and equality. Tye serves as the Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, the LGBTQ organization advancing equality in Israel, and equality for Israel. In his capacity at AWB, Tye partners with his talented team and dedicated board to advance our LGBTQ Israel movement. Previously, Tye served for three years as the Deputy Director of A Wider Bridge, managing the fundraising and programming portfolios of the organization. Before AWB, Tye spent several years working for AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), America’s pro-Israel lobby. Tye is a native of San Diego, California, and a graduate of the University of California, Davis.

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Dr. Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is an associate professor at George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership. She is the author of eleven books on leadership, the Hebrew Bible and spirituality; her forthcoming book is a commentary on the Book of Esther. She has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Tablet and The Jewish Review of Books and writes a monthly column for the New York Jewish Week. She has blogged for Psychology Today, Newsweek/Washington Post’s “On Faith” and JTA and tweets on one page of Talmud study a day at Dr. Erica Brown.

Erica has degrees from Yeshiva University, University of London, Harvard University and Baltimore Hebrew University. She previously served as the scholar-in-residence at both The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and as the community scholar for the Jewish Center of New York. Erica was a Jerusalem Fellow, is a faculty member of the Wexner Foundation, an Avi Chai Fellow and the recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award for her work in education. She is also the author of Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet, Take Your Soul to Work: 365 Meditations on Every Day Leadership and Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death (Simon and Schuster), which won both the Wilbur and Nautilus awards for spiritual writing. Her previous books include Inspired Jewish Leadership, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, Spiritual Boredom, Confronting Scandal and co-authored The Case for Jewish Peoplehood (All Jewish Lights). She also wrote Seder Talk: A Conversational Haggada, Leadership in the Wilderness, In the Narrow Places and Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe (All OU/Koren).

Rabbi Eliana Yolkut

Elianna Yolkut, strives through challenging questions, dynamic study and meaningful connection to help Jews at all life stages reach a deeper understanding of and connection to Judaism. Raised with three brothers in her native St. Louis, where as a toddler she would often lose herself in the folds of her father's tallit. Elianna is a thinker, writer and educator who seeks new models for religious community-building and fresh ways to teach Torah. She serves part time at Adas Israel Congregation as the Rabbi in Residence of Lifelong Learning and teaches throughout the metro DC area helping people a diverse set of backgrounds and interests connect to and develop a deep commitment to Torah and study of Jewish texts. Rabbi Yolkut is a Fellow in the 6th Cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative at the Hartman Institute North America. Through her studies there she is involved in a vibrant exchange of ideas aimed at integrating learning into rabbis’ ongoing work and creating a multi- denominational community of colleagues uniquely able to elevate the quality of Jewish life. She completed the Rabbis Without Borders fellowship in 2012 where she shaped a view of the Jewish future that uses Jewish practice, wisdom and study as the technology to help human beings flourish. Ordained as a Conservative Rabbi in 2006 by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, she later served an adjunct faculty member, while serving as Assistant Rabbi at Adat Ari El in nearby Valley Village. Elly, who holds a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology from Brandeis University, now lives with her partner and their three children in Washington D.C. (Learn more at www.rabbielianna.com)

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Rabbi Jonah Presner

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He has led the Religious Action Center since 2015. Rabbi Pesner also serves as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position to which he was appointed to in 2011. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader and tireless advocate for social justice.

Rabbi Pesner’s work has focused on encouraging Jewish communities to reach across lines of race, class, and faith in campaigns for social justice. In 2006, he founded Just Congregations (now incorporated into the Religious Action Center), which engaged clergy, professional, and volunteer leaders in interfaith efforts in pursuit of social justice. Rabbi Pesner was a primary leader in the successful Massachusetts campaign for health care access that has provided health care coverage to hundreds of thousands and which became a nationwide model for reform. Over the course of his career, he has also led and supported campaigns for racial justice, economic opportunity, immigration reform, LGBTQ equality, human rights, and a variety of other causes. He is dedicated to building bridges to collectively confront anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate and bigotry.

Rabbi Pesner has trained and mentored students on all four campuses of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and gives speeches in interfaith and secular venues all over the world. Rabbi Pesner serves as a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, JOIN for Justice, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and the New England Center for Children. He is a member of the Leadership Team for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. He has served as a scholar for the Wexner Foundation, American Jewish World Service, the Nexus USA Summit, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, among others.

Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1997, Rabbi Pesner was a congregational rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston and at Temple Israel in Westport, Conn. A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Bronx High School of Science, Rabbi Pesner is married to Dana S. Gershon, an attorney. They have four daughters: Juliet, Noa, Bobbie, and Cate.

JoHanna Potts

JoHanna Potts is currently the Education Director of The Jewish Studio and the founder of Advancing Wisdom and Education. She served as Director of Education at Temples Solel and Shalom, Director of The Primary School at Washington Hebrew Congregation, and Director of the Middle School at Gesher Jewish Day School in the Washington, DC area. She also taught in the Florence Melton School for Adult Learning for several years. While at the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning, she designed and led a community education change initiative. Prior to moving to the Washington, DC area, Rabbi Potts worked in university administration and student development. She teaches adults across the metro area at JCCs and multiple congregations. Her current areas of focus involve strengthening organizations and families, engaging others in enJOYable Jewish learning and empowering individuals to create lives of meaning through Judaism.

Rabbi Potts earned an B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She holds an M.A. in Education and Human Development and Jewish Studies from The George Washington University. She has done graduate work in Organizational Studies at the University of Wisconsin and is a certified mediator.

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Dr. Lauren B. Strauss

Dr. Lauren B. Strauss is Scholar in Residence and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Jewish Studies Program at the American University in Washington, D.C., where she teaches modern Jewish history and literature. She has also been on faculty at the George Washington University and the University of Maryland. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, an M.A. in International Relations from Yale University, and a B.A. from Brandeis University. Her courses range from American Jewish history – especially politics, popular culture, and women’s history – to modern Jewish history and literature, Jewish travel and migration, Holocaust literature and art, and Yiddish culture.

She speaks throughout the D.C. area, giving public lectures and adult education courses, and serving as commentator at Jewish cultural events. From 2012 to 2017, in addition to her teaching, Dr. Strauss served as Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Studies, the largest independent provider of Jewish adult education programs in the Washington area.

Dr. Strauss is co-editor of the book Mediating Modernity: Challenges and Trends in the Jewish Encounter with the Modern World. She is the author of articles and chapters in anthologies, academic journals, and encyclopedias. She served as historian and curator for a major museum exhibition on the history of the State of Israel, opening in Fall 2018, and was also an historical consultant for the 2004 Library of Congress exhibit “From Haven to Home,” celebrating the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in North America. Dr. Strauss is currently preparing her book, Painting the Town Red: Jewish Visual Artists, Yiddish Culture, and Radical Politics in Interwar New York for publication.

Rabbi Irwin Kula

Rabbi Irwin Kula inspires people worldwide by using Jewish wisdom to speak to all aspects of modern life. He has worked with leaders from the Dalai Lama to Queen Noor and with institutions in Bhutan and Rwanda and across Europe and the United States to promote compassionate leadership. Named one of the leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape, he received the 2008 Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award and has been listed in Newsweek for many years as one of America’s “most influential rabbis.” He is the Co-founder and Executive Editor of The Wisdom Daily, found at www.thewisdomdaily.com.

A popular commentator, he is a regular on FoxNews.com’s Spirited Debate, has appeared frequently on NBC’s Today Show, and was a repeat guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. A blogger for The Huffington Post and Washington Post’s “On Faith,” he has also appeared on The O’Reilly Factor (Fox), Frontline (PBS), and PoliticsDaily.com, among many others. He is the author of the award-winning book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (2006), creator of the acclaimed film, Time for a New God (2004), and the Public TV series Simple Wisdom (2003), and is the President of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

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Stuart Kurlander

Mr. Kurlander has a long history of involvement in the Jewish community. He is a Past President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and serves on its Executive Committee. He has previously served as Vice President for Financial Resource Development, Vice-President for Israel and Overseas, Vice President at Large, Co-Chair of the Campaign’s Philanthropic Leadership Group, and Co-Chair of Operation Promise, all for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Jewish Endowment Fund. Mr. Kurlander serves on the Council of the World Jewish Restitution Organization and the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). He currently serves on the JDC’s Legal and Resource Development Committees and is a former chair of the Government Relations Committee He is also a trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Stuart Kurlander was the first National Board Chair of Keshet (leading national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life). He is the Founder and past Chair of the Kurlander Program on Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, the first program of its type at a Jewish Community Center. In 2012 and 2014, GLOE was selected by Slingshot as one of the 50 most innovative nonprofits in North American Jewish Life. Stuart was also a funder and adviser for the Human Rights Campaign Jewish Organization Equality Index released in 2012. He was National Chair of the first UJC LGBT Pride Mission to Israel in 2005. He served as the National Chair of the 2016 JFNA LGBTQ Mission to Israel which brought to Israel more than a 100 LGBTQ persons from around the country.

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer serves as the Acting Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Student Life at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where he was ordained in 2003. From 2013-2017 he directed social justice programming for Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NYC, the world's largest LGBTQ synagogue. His projects there included original programming and public advocacy for LGBTQ asylum seekers from the former Soviet Union and for LGBTQ homeless youth, as well as helping build important ties between Muslim and Jewish communities in NYC. One of very few openly HIV-positive rabbis, Rabbi Bauer was the rabbinic director for Talk to Me About HIV, a CBST initiative funded by the NYC Department of Health to educate Jewish clergy and professionals in HIV awareness and prevention. In addition to over a decade of congregational rabbinical service in Massachusetts, California, and New York, Rabbi Bauer’s background comprises 20 years of international theater experience, 25 years of yoga practice, academic study on sexuality and spirituality, and several years of work as a touch healer. He earned his B.A. in Theatre Studies and English Literature at Yale University, studied Talmud at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 2011 he became the first Jew to earn the Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, writing on “Blessings for the Erotic Body” and “Jewish Queer Sexual Ethics.” His essays can be found in The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality, published by the Reform Movement, and Queer Religion, published by Praeger, edited by Donald J. Boisvert and Jay Emerson Johnson.

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Rabbi Julia Watts Belser

Rabbi Julia Watts Belser is an associate professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Georgetown University. Her research centers on gender, sexuality, and the body in Talmud and rabbinic literature, as well as Jewish feminist ethics. Her latest book  is Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2018). She’s held faculty fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and the Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. A longtime advocate for disability and gender justice, she co-authored an international Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities, developed in collaboration with disability activists from 40 countries and translated into 14 languages. As a rabbi, she’s passionate about
building queer and feminist Jewish community, as well as bringing disability culture into conversation with Jewish tradition. Her essays, poetry, and cultural criticism can be found in Tikkun, Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, Midstream, and Fireweed: A Feminist Quarterly. She has a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union, as well as rabbinic ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion California.

Rabbi Steven Greenberg

Rabbi Steven Greenberg is the Founding Director of Eshel, a support, education and advocacy organization for LGBT Orthodox Jews and their families. As well, he is on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and a Senior Teaching Fellow at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. In 2001 he appeared in Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews, and joined the film maker, Sandi DuBowski, carrying the film across the globe as a tool for dialogue. He is the author of the award winning book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, (University of Wisconsin Press) and currently lives with his partner Steven Goldstein and daughter Amalia in Boston.

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Warren Hoffman

Warren currently serves as the Executive Director for the Association for Jewish Studies in New York where he leads the largest membership organization of Jewish Studies scholars, teachers, and students in the world. Click here to learn more about this new position.

Warren brings over 13 years of experience in the Jewish, arts, academic, and nonprofit sectors. In Philadelphia, he was the Senior Director of Programming for the Gershman Y in Philadelphia where the Jewish Exponent named him the "next wave" of arts and culture in the city.

Warren also served as the literary manager and dramaturg for Philadelphia Theatre Company where he dramaturged world premieres by Bill Irwin, Chris Durang, and Terrence McNally.

In New York, Warren was the Associate Artistic Director of Jewish Repertory Theatre where he produced and dramaturged a season of Jewish musicals in concert. He was also a writer and reviewer for TalkinBroadway.com where he covered the Off-Broadway and cabaret scene. In addition to working in the theater community, Warren holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of California-Santa Cruz and has taught at multiple universities. He earned rave reviews for his book The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture published by Syracuse University Press. Warren was also a core playwright with InterAct Theater Company in Philadelphia and his play The Last was named a recipient of the 2008 Foundation for Jewish Culture Theatre Projects Grant and was a finalist for the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition. His newest play The Black Slot​ premiered with Aston Rep in Chicago in 2016.