Spiritual Leadership Working Group

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The Working Group on Spiritual Leadership focuses on the development, practice, and inculcation of courageous synagogue leadership and provides a forum for its members to reflect on their personal and professional journeys. Working Group members confront relevant Jewish texts, meet with experts in the field, share their experiences on the "front lines," and build their own sacred community through worship and the arts. It is a transdenominational group of visionary clergy and artists working in synagogues across the country.

Rabbi Aryeh Azriel
Temple Israel, Omaha, Nebraska

Rabbi Aryeh AzrielRabbi Aryeh (pronounce "R.E.A") Azriel is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel since 1988. Temple Israel has a membership of 765 families. Rabbi Azriel is currently a member of the Executive Board of UAHC-CCAR - Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach; president of the Midwest Association of Reform Rabbis; on the Board of the National Conference for Community and Justice; the Jewish Federation and the United Way of the Midlands. He is also on the Steering Committee for the Omaha 2000 Education Project; and is chairman of the Clergy Group of OTOC (Omaha Together One Community), a faith-based organization.
He had previously served on the boards of Planned Parenthood; the Mayor's Clergy Advisory Committee; the Omaha Food Bank; the Salvation Army and the United Catholic Social Services. Rabbi Azriel was an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Department of Classics.

Rabbi Azriel was the recipient of the 1993 Otto Swanson Spirit of Service Award, and the 1997 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. - Living the Dream Award recognizing his continuing work on building community cooperation with projects such as the Mitzvah Garden, Black/Jewish Dialogue, and Habitat for Humanity. He recently received the 2003 Human Relations Award from the Omaha Education Association.

He is married to the former Elyce Azriel of Chicago. They have a daughter, Leora Ann and a son, Yaniv Zohar.

Cantor Rosalie Boxt
Temple Emanuel, Kensington, Maryland

Cantor Rosalie Boxt Cantor Rosalie Boxt currently serves as Cantor of Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland, a 600 family congregation just north of Washington DC. She serves as a professional team with Rabbi Warren Stone and Educator Dr. Itzik Eshel. Rosalie was invested Cantor from the School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2001. Before entering Cantorial School she worked for the Youth Division of the URJ as an intern for NFTY Programs in Israel as well as the College Education Department. A long-time NFTY, Goldman Union Camp, and Kutz Camp Songleader, she co-edited the Shireinu Chordster, published Fall 2000. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she attended the University of Pennsylvania as a Jewish Studies Major, Theatre Minor.

Rosalie was a Synagogue 2000 Fellow, working with Dr. Larry Hoffman on various projects of synagogue transformation, particularly on a music book of Healing Music, published in the Fall 2001. She is currently a member of the S3K Leadership Network. Rosalie is also a Partner in the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health. She continues to work with the URJ Youth Division on camping and college programming, as well URJ Programs like Hava Nashira, of which Rosalie has been faculty with Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Cantor Jeff Klepper, Danny Maseng, Dan Nichols, and Cantor Ellen Dreskin, and has served as faculty of URJ Summer Adult Learning Kallot.

Rosalie is also active in the ACC (American Conference of Cantors), serving on their Executive Board, is the ACC Youth Committee Chair, and holds a seat on the Mid-Atlantic Council's Board as the ACC representative. Her husband, Jason, is a political strategist who works in DC for Global Strategy Group. The two met at the URJ Kutz camp, and both continue to be involved in Reform Movement programs, particularly those involving youth. She and Jason have a one year old daughter, Tahlia.

Rabbi Sharon Brous
IKAR, Los Angeles, California

Rabbi Sharon BrousRabbi Sharon Brous is the founder and rabbi of IKAR, a vibrant new Jewish Spiritual Community in Los Angeles. She was included in the Forward's annual list of the 50 most influential members of the American Jewish community in 2004 (and again in 2005), which described her as "one of the most dynamic religious leaders to be ordained in recent years." Rabbi Brous is a regular commentator on National Public Radio, and speaks and writes frequently about emerging spiritual communities, human rights and conflict resolution.

Sharon was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary and received a Master's Degree in Human Rights from Columbia University, where she also received her Bachelor's Degree in History. After ordination, she served as a Rabbinic Fellow at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City (BJ).

For the past four years, Rabbi Brous has served on the faculty of REBOOT, a network of Jewish trend-setters, thinkers and activists, and is involved in several justice-oriented initiatives with the Progressive Jewish Alliance. She serves as adjunct faculty at Hebrew Union College and the University of Judaism, where she co-teaches a class on Social Justice and Spiritual Activism, and she serves as a fellow in the Jewish Life Network's Common Judaism Project.

Rabbi Brous is married to David Light, a comedy writer, and they have daughter, Eva Gavriella.

Rabbi Ken Chasen
Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles, California

Rabbi Ken Chasen Rabbi Ken Chasen became the third Senior Rabbi in the 55-year history of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles in 2003. Rabbi Chasen came to Leo Baeck after serving Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York for five years, where his tenure was marked by significant innovation in the areas of religious worship and lifelong Jewish education.

A former composer for television and film projects in Los Angeles, Rabbi Chasen continues to write and record original liturgical and educational works with his partners in the Jewish musical group, Mah Tovu, whose compositions are heard in sanctuaries, religious schools, and summer camps throughout the country. He is a longtime member of the Reform Movement's Joint Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living, a Partner in the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, and a member of the Synagogue 3000 Leadership Network, devoted to instilling synagogues with new vision in the 21st century. Rabbi Chasen also serves on the Reform Zionist Think Tank for ARZA (the Association of Reform Zionists of America), the Board of Directors of KAVOD (a tzedakah collective funding programs that help those in need to live in dignity and honor), and the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

He is married to Allison Lee, and they are the parents of Micah, Benjamin and Eliana.

Rabbi Edward Feinstein
Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, California

Rabbi Edward Feinstein Rabbi Ed Feinstein is senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He serves on the faculty of the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the University of Judaism, the Wexner Heritage Foundation, the Whizen Center for the Jewish Family, and the Synagogue 2000 initiative. He is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and lectures widely across the United States. His book, Tough Questions Jews Ask--A Young Adult's Guide to Building a Jewish Life, published by Jewish Lights in 2003, was one of the American Library Association's Top Ten Books on Religion for Young Readers and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His stories have been published in a number of anthologies, including Sacred Intentions and Restful Reflections, both edited by Kerry Olitzky and Lori Forman.

Rabbi Feinstein was raised in the back of his parents' bakery on the frontiers of the West San Fernando Valley. He graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Judaism, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained in 1981.

In 1982, Rabbi Feinstein became the founding director of the Solomon Schechter Academy of Dallas, Texas, building the school's enrollment from 40 to over 500 in eight years, and winning national recognition as center of educational excellence. In 1990, he assumed the directorship of Camp Ramah in California, the largest Jewish camp and conference center in the Western United States. He came to Valley Beth Shalom in 1993 at the invitation of the renown Rabbi Harold Schulweis.

Rabbi Feinstein lives in the epicenter of the San Fernando Valley with his wife Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein. Nina was the second woman ordained by the Conservative Movement. The Feinsteins are blessed with three teenage children. Every Friday afternoon, Ed bakes brownies from a recipe revealed to his ancestors at Mount Sinai.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY

Rabbi Rick JacobsRabbi Richard Jacobs has been the Senior Rabbi of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York since 1991. Having been ordained in 1982 by HUC-JIR in New York, he served as the Rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue from 1982 until 1991. During his first five years there, he also served as the Educational Director.

From 1980 to 1986, Rabbi Jacobs was a dancer and a choreographer with the Avodah Dance Ensemble, a modern dance company which performs services in dance and concerts throughout the United States. Currently he is working on his Ph.D. in Ritual Dance at New York University. He is the co-author with David Ellenson of "Scholarship and Faith: David Hoffman and His Relationship to Wissenshaft Des Judentums," Modern Judaism, February 1988 and "The Body of Prayer," Compass, Spring-Summer 1989.

Rabbi Jacobs has led workshops on Movement and Prayer at HUC-JIR, Union Theological Seminary and at other settings. Rabbi Jacobs serves on the Board of ARZA/World Union, Religion in American Life and Synagogue 2000, where he is also a program fellow. He has been on the international board of the New Israel Fund since 1992, and now he is the co-chair of the NIF's Rabbinical Council.

Rabbi Jacobs is married to Susan K. Freedman and is the father of Aaron, David and Sarah Jacobs.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
B'nai David-Judea Congregation, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky received rabbinical ordination and a masters degree in Jewish history from Yeshiva University in 1989. From 1990-1996, he served as the Associate Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, working with Rabbi Avi Weiss. He has been at Bnai David - Judea since 1996, and loves what he does!

Rabbi Kanefsky is married to Sari Abrams, and they have 3 children, Ori (16), Adin (12) and Yakir (4).

Amichai Lau-Lavie
Storahtelling/RituaLAB, New York, NY

Amichai Lau-LavieAmichai Lau Lavie is an Israeli-born mythologist, storyteller and teacher of Judaic Literature, recently hailed by Time Out NY as 'Super Star of David' and 'iconoclastic mystic,' and as 'one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world' by the NY Jewish Week. Amichai was a Synagogue 2000 fellow, a consultant to the Reboot Network, and the recipient of a Joshua Venture Fellowship award 2002-2004. He serves on the advisory committee of Bikkurim, an incubator for new Jewish ideas, and is a member of the Synagogue 3000 Leadership Network.

Amichai studied at various yeshivot, including the Shalom Hartman Institute and the Elul Center in Jerusalem. Between 1992 and 1996 he directed the summer programs at Melitz: the Jewish Zionist Centers in Jerusalem, focusing on the integration of Jewish education via the arts. His theatrical experience as a writer and performer includes the Theatre Company Jerusalem, The Acco Theatre Group in Israel and the Avodah Dance Ensemble in the U.S. Between 1997-2000 he served as Artist-in-Residence at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City. Amichai is the theatrical representative for Rebbetzin Hadassah Gross.

Liz Lerman
Dance Exchange, Takoma Park, MD

Liz LermanLiz Lerman is a choreographer, performer, writer, educator, and speaker. Described by the Washington Post as "the source of an epochal revolution in the scope and purposes of dance art," her dance/theater works have been seen throughout the United States and abroad. Her aesthetic approach spans the range from abstract to personal to political, while her working process emphasizes research, translation between artistic media, and intensive collaboration with dancers and communities. She founded Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976, and has cultivated the company's unique multi-generational ensemble, with dancers whose ages span five decades, into a leading force in contemporary dance. Liz has been the recipient of numerous honors, including the American Choreographer Award, the American Jewish Congress "Golda" Award, and Washingtonian magazine's 1988 Washingtonian of the Year. In 2002 her work was recognized with a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, and she was recently designated for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture's Achievement Award and induction into the University of Maryland's Hall of Fame. Liz's work has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, BalletMet, and the Kennedy Center, among many others.

From 1994 to 1996, in collaboration with the Music Hall of Portsmouth, N.H., Liz directed The Shipyard Project, which has been widely noted as an example of the power of art to enhance such values as social capital and civic dialogue. From 1999 to 2002 she led Hallelujah, which engaged people in 15 cities throughout the United States in the creation of a series of dances "in praise of" topics vital to their communities. Her current projects include Ferocious Beauty: Genome, an investigation of the impact of genetic research in our lives, and a commission from the Harvard University School of Law for a work observing the human rights legacy of the post-WWII Nuremberg Trials.

As a frequent keynote speaker and panelist, Liz addresses arts, community, and business organizations both nationally and internationally. She consults regularly with the Mellon Orchestra Forum and Synagogue 2000, and recently participated in Harvard University's Saguaro Seminar, which gathered thinkers to promote the growth of civic connectedness in the United States. She is the author of Teaching Dance to Senior Adults (1983) and the co-author of Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process (2003), and has written articles and essays for such publications as Reconstructionism Today, Faith and Form, Movement Research, and the Rockefeller Foundation's Community, Culture, and Globalization. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Milwaukee, Liz attended Bennington College and Brandeis University, received her B.A. in dance from the University of Maryland, and an M.A. in dance from George Washington University.

Liz is married to storyteller Jon Spelman. Their daughter, Anna, was born in 1988.

Rabbi Chaim Marder
Hebrew Institute of White Plains, White Plains, NY

Rabbi Chaim MarderRabbi Chaim Marder is the rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains (a member of our Westchester, NY cohort), and Co-Chair of the department of leadership and professional training at the YCT (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah) Rabbinical School in Manhattan. With his arrival in 1995, the synagogue has seen a burst of activity and renewed excitement. Under his direction, there has been significant development of programs and exciting educational opportunities.
Rabbi Marder is involved in many communal organizations including the Vaad Harabonim, Vaad Hakashruth, and the Westchester Board of Rabbis. He is a Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America, a member of the Westchester Board of Rabbis, and was recently recognized by the UJA Federation of New York with its annual Rabbinical Award.

Prior to his arrival in White Plains, Rabbi Marder served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, RI from July 1990 June 1995. He taught in the local Day School, Brown U. Hillel, and at other locations around Providence and served on the executive committees of the RI Board of Rabbis, Federation and Bureau of Jewish Education. He was also the Supervising Rabbi of the Vaad Hakashruth of RI. Before that post, Rabbi Marder served as the associate rabbi to Rabbi Avi Weiss at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY.

Rabbi Marder is a native of Richmond, Va., and attended yeshiva in NY, including Yeshiva University where he received a BA, a Masters in Jewish History, and his Rabbinical Ordination. He also studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel.

Cantor Ari Priven
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, New York, NY

Cantor Ari PrivenAri Priven, a native of Agentina, has been the Hazzan and Music Director of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun since 1989. He studied at the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Argentina and graduated with a Masters Degree from the Universidad Technologica Nacional in Buenos Aires.

Hazzan Priven produced and participated in three CD's of the music of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun: With Every Breath (the music of Shabbat), The Music of Pesah at BJ and Tekiyah, Echos of the High Holy Days at BJ. Hazzan Priven was a professional advisor and teacher at Synagogue 2000, working closely with the ethnographers who produced the final Synagogue 2000 report: BJ: a Model for a Revitalized Synagogue Life.

He lives in New York City with his wife, Dr. Nina Priven and three children.

Cantor Benjie-Ellen Schiller
Bet Am Shalom, White Plains, NY

Cantor Benjie-Ellen SchillerCantor Benjie Ellen Schiller is Professor of Cantorial Arts at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music, in New York. Her work involves training cantorial students to bridge the gap between performance and spiritual leadership. She was invested as a cantor and received her master's degree from the institution where she teaches.

Cantor Schiller is also a nationally known composer. She received her bachelor's degree in composition from Boston University. Her works include "Life-Song Cycle," a series of pieces for Jewish life passage ceremonies; "Halleluhu," a multi-rhythmic setting of Psalm 150; "V'ye'etayu," "Grace," "U'kratem D'ror- Proclaim Liberty" and various commissioned works for synagogues, choirs, and interfaith liturgical groups. A World Fulfilled, a solo recording of her compositions, was released in 2002.
As a classical soprano soloist, Cantor Schiller has appeared with the John Oliver Chorale, the Boston Zamir Chorale, the Rottenberg Chorale and Sine Nomine of New York. She has served as cantor in several congregations, and tours the United States as a "cantor in residence," sharing new musical approaches to prayer and celebration. She was a national fellow of Synagogue 2000, a faculty member of the Spirituality Institute Cantorial Program, and a member of the C.C.A.R. editorial committee charged with creating a new prayerbook for the Reform movement.

Since 1989 Cantor Schiller has served as the cantor with her husband, Rabbi Lester Bronstein, at Bet Am Shalom Synagogue of White Plains, New York. They sing together in Beged Kefet, a philanthropic Jewish music ensemble. Beged Kefet's three recordings feature Cantor Schiller's arrangements and compositions.

She has recorded musical cassettes for the Reconstructionist movement's Kol Haneshamah home prayer book, Shirim Uv'rachot, and the UAHC's Come Let Us Welcome the Sabbath (both with her husband). She is a featured cantor in Yamim Noraim, a 1995 CD recording of High Holy day music, published by Transcontinental Music, and in A Taste of Eternity with the Western Wind musical ensemble.

Rabbi Ron Shulman
Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Ron ShulmanRabbi Ronald J. Shulman serves as Senior Rabbi of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Baltimore, MD. Ron came to Chizuk Amuno in July, 2004 to further his goals working as a pulpit rabbi. These objectives include facilitating for synagogue participants meaningful personal prayer and religious development in settings of traditional Jewish worship, as well as developing with them educational and communal programs responsive to Jewish needs and modern society.
In May 1983, Rabbi Shulman was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. Rabbi Shulman also holds Master of Arts degrees in Jewish Studies and Teaching conferred by The Jewish Theological Seminary and the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Rabbi Shulman is a 1978 graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, MA where he earned a degree in Political Studies.

Rabbi Shulman has written and edited materials for personal prayer as well as original reflections and inspirations. He currently contributes columns on the weekly Torah portion to the Baltimore Jewish Times and has had his sermons and Torah commentaries published in The American Rabbi, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and in various other publications and websites.

Rabbi Shulman is a member of the Executive Council of the Rabbinical Assembly and a Past President of their Pacific Southwest Region. Rabbi Shulman taught courses in Homiletics and Bible for 12 years as a Lecturer in Professional Rabbinic Studies at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

Prior to coming to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Rabbi Shulman served for 21 years as the rabbi of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA (an S2K Pilot Congregation). In Palos Verdes, CA he helped to found the Dawn Unity Group, an assembly of clergy and lay leaders devoted to inter-religious dialogue and understanding.

Craig Taubman
Craig 'n Co., Studio City, CA

Craig TaubmanCraig Taubman's dynamic music and moving performance style have been an inspiration to the Jewish community for over 25 years. Craig's magical and enchanting music brings to life the joy and spirit of the Jewish heritage, appealing to young and old alike and captivating audiences wherever he goes. His songs bridge traditional Jewish themes and ancient teachings with passages and experiences of contemporary Jewish life. He speaks a language that is both comfortable and acceptable to children and adults and his recordings have become an integral part of the Jewish community.

Craig enjoys a successful career in television and film, writing music for HBO, PBS and the Fox series Rimba's Island for which he received an Emmy nomination. His music has been featured at the Coca Cola Olympic Pavilion, as well as the Paramount Pictures feature film Andre, New Line Cinema's Pinocchio, and Disney's animated short Recycle Rex. His songs have been recorded by such respected artists as Chita Rivera and Jennifer Holliday and his sell-out concerts draw thousands of fans at such respected venues as Ravinia in Chicago, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, Westbury Music Fair in New York, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and three special performances at the White House.

Craig is currently producing a series of family CD's for the Sony label Shout Factory as well as a PBS pledge drive scheduled to air this coming June. Additionally, a recently commissioned healing service that debuted just this fall.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher
Temple Israel, Boston, MA

Rabbi Elaine ZecherRabbi Elaine Zecher is a rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, MA. Since coming to Temple Israel in 1990, Rabbi Zecher has been instrumental in developing programs that have added to the spiritual richness of the individual lives of congregants and of the community. The Women's Study Groups, Service for the Healing of the Soul, Women's Kallah, Learner's Minyan, Teeny Tiny Tot Shabbat, and the "D" High Holiday Service all were developed under her leadership. Rabbi Zecher has received a tremendous amount of inspiration from her involvements in Synagogue 3000. She has served as a fellow from its inceptions and helped to develop the healing curriculum. She is also a partner in the Kalsman Institute, which focuses on healing and health in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Zecher is the chair of the liturgy and practices committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and has actively participated in the creation of the new Reform siddur, Mishkan Tefilah, as part of the editorial committee and publishing group. After her ordination in 1988 she was program director and Jewish resource director at the Striar Jewish Community Center in Stoughton. She grew up in Monroeville, Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Brandeis University. Rabbi Zecher lives in Newton, MA with her husband and three children.

Rabbi Daniel Zemel
Temple Micah, Washington, DC

Rabbi Daniel ZemelRabbi Daniel G. Zemel is the rabbi of Temple Micah in Washington, DC. He has served in this position since 1983. Rabbi Zemel is active in a number of local and national organizations. Included among these are his positions on the board of Micah House, a group home for homeless women sponsored by Temple Micah, Operation Understanding D.C. a Black Clergy-Rabbi dialogue group and as a Synagogue 2000 Fellow. He has also served on the national boards of ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) and the Commission on Social Action of the UAHC (Union of American Hebrew Congregations), and various CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) committees. He currently serves on the CCAR Task Force on Spiritual Leadership, the CCAR National Board and as president of the CCAR Mid-Atlantic Region.

Rabbi Zemel pursued his undergraduate education at Brown University and his rabbinic education at the Hebrew Union College -Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and New York. Upon ordination in 1979, Rabbi Zemel served as assistant rabbi of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, Minnesota for four years.Rabbi Zemel is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He received his earliest Jewish and secular education at the Anshe Emet Day School. He is married to Louise Sherman Zemel. They have three children, Shira Michal, Adam Solomon, and Ronit Elana. Finally, and for him most significant, Rabbi Zemel is a devoted fan of the Chicago White Sox.