2017 Seminary Leadership Project Cohort

Ari Abelman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Ari Abelman is a rabbinical student currently entering his fifth year at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  He currently serves as rabbinic intern at the Hillel at Brandeis University and has recently served as the rabbinic intern at Mechon Hadar.  Prior to beginning his time at JTS, Ari studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.  A graduate of Brandeis University, Ari enjoys cooking, hiking, and singing.


Sam Blustin
Jewish Theological Seminary

Sam Blustin is a third year Rabbinical Student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His rabbinic passions include young adult and family education, focusing on empowering home observance, as well as creating meaningful, musical, egalitarian prayer communities. He is also a songleader, having song led in a number of camp and synagogue settings. Sam was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN.


Stephanie Crawley
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Stephanie Crawley is a fifth-year rabbinical student at New York Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She has served as a Jewish educator and musician in a variety of capacities in Manhattan, Connecticut, D.C., Jerusalem, Czech Republic, Belarus, Washington, California, and Ohio. Most recently, Stephanie spent a transformative summer as a Spiritual Counselor at Beit T’shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment center, and is currently the rabbinic intern for Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, CT. She loves tacos almost as much as she loves Torah, and believes that the search for hidden voices in sacred texts helps us find our own.


Jessica Fisher
Jewish Theological Seminary

Jessica Fisher is in her third year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary and she is the rabbinic intern at Bet Torah in Mount Kisco, NY. She was a chaplaincy intern this past summer, working with formerly incarcerated individuals at the Fortune Society and with elders through DOROT. Jessica also served as a Social Justice Rabbinic Fellow for the Jewish Community Relations Council in Cincinnati. Before beginning rabbinical school, she ran Chicago Diller Teen Fellows, an international leadership development program for Jewish teens, and worked at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jessica first moved to New York to attend the joint program between Columbia University and JTS, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in the History of Social Inequality in the Americas and Midrash.


Keven Tzvi Friedman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Keven Tzvi Friedman was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and received his B.S. in Speech from Northwestern University (Go Cats with first ever NCAA Tournament Appearance in 2017!), his J.D. from Hofstra Law, his Master’s in Jewish thought from JTS in 2013 and God willing is expected to receive his rabbinical ordination from JTS in 2018. Before returning to rabbinical school he worked as a litigation attorney (licensed in NY, NJ and CA) for 14+ years in various position including a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, a court attorney at the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, a senior associate at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA., and a mediator at Friedman Law Firm and Mediation Center, LLC. During rabbinical school, he completed four units of clinical pastoral education (CPE) as a hospital chaplain at RWJUH in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Tzvi is fluent in Spanish after living in Spain and Argentina. He lives in Highland Park, New Jersey with his wife Rebecca and his two children Madeline and Ariel who a blessing and inspiration every day.


Ben Goldberg
Jewish Theological Seminary

Ben Goldberg is a fifth year student in the rabbinical school at JTS. Thanks to the powerful Jewish experiences he has had in his own life, Ben is pursuing a career in the rabbinate to help others experience that power as well. Currently, he serves as the rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in Woodbury, CT. Previously, he served as Rabbinic Intern at Rutgers Hillel and also at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, NJ. Before enrolling at JTS, he studied for a year at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, Ben graduated from Northwestern University in 2012 with a degree in History and Jewish Studies.


Jacob Kraus
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jacob Kraus is the campaign organizer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leading the Reform Movement’s Urgency of Now campaigns for criminal justice reform and immigrant justice. Based at the Union for Reform Judaism offices in New York City, Jacob grew up in Cincinnati, OH, where his family is affiliated with Rockdale Temple. He is a 2015 graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.


Amelia Lavranchuk
Jewish Theological Seminary

Amelia Lavranchuk is a fourth-year cantorial and education student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. She is currently serving in her third year as the student cantor at Garden City Jewish Center, and tutors b’nai mitzvah students at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan. Recently, she completed a unit of clinical pastoral education at Mount Sinai Hospital, and spent two summers on the leadership staff of URJ Six Points Sci-Tech Academy, which blends Jewish camping with STEM learning. Amelia grew up in New Jersey and received her B.A. in Music, summa cum laude from Brandeis University in 2012. She loves classical music, baseball, public radio, science fiction, and learning languages.


Victoria Litman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Victoria Litman is a 2nd year Masters of Divinity student at Union Theological Seminary concentrating in Buddhism and Inter-religious engagement. She grew up in Fairfax, Virginia where she attended Gesher Jewish Day School and was an active member of the Reform congregation, Temple Bnai’ Shalom. In high school, she served as the NFTY-MAR Religious and Cultural Vice President and spent a semester living in Israel through NFTY-EIE. Consequently, she was awarded a Jewish Leadership Scholarship to attend the University of Southern California where she studied Religion and Archaeology. She plans to begin pursuing her JD concurrently with her M.Div. in hopes of creating religiously informed policy. Vicky is passionate about the potential of interfaith activism, criminal justice and drug policy reform, and traveling.


Preston Neimeiser
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Preston Neimeiser is a second-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in New York. In addition to his studies, he works as a religious school teacher at Congregations Emanu-El and Shaaray Tefillah as well as Temple Beth-El of Great Neck where he also serves as the youth advisor. In his summers, Preston has worked in Jewish summer camps and most recently as an educator for NFTY in Israel. The child and brother of union professionals, Preston is deeply committed to the work of justice and community organizing. In his free time he is an avid reader and aspiring musician as well as a lover of nature and prayer.


Thalia Halpert Rodis
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Thalia Halpert Rodis is in her third year of rabbinical and Jewish education studies at HUC-JIR in NY. She is the Community Organizing Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn and at the Religious Action Center. Before attending HUC-JIR, she studied cultural anthropology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. After graduation, she taught English as a Foreign Language at public elementary schools in South Korea. Thalia was a ’15-’16 Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinical Fellow, an intern on the American Values Religious Voices campaign, she is currently a Daniel and Bonnie Tisch Fellow and a UJA Graduate Fellow, and she serves on the board of Jews in ALL Hues. Thalia is passionate about bringing people together to create holy communities. She believes that rich, grounded, and dynamic Jewish education can enable children and adults to build empathy and become agents of positive change in the world. Her hobbies include eating Chinese food, drinking all the coffee, and reading great books.


Ariana Siegel
Jewish Theological Seminary

Ariana Siegel is a third year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. Originally from Potomac, Maryland, she graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a BA in Peace and Justice Studies and English. After college Ariana served as a corps member in Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps where she worked for The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, a grassroots anti-gun violence organization. Ariana then moved to Israel for the New Israel Fund’s Shatil Social Justice fellowship and worked at Mahapach-Taghir, a Jewish-Palestinian partnership organization that empowers marginalized Israeli communities through educational programming and grassroots leadership. Upon returning to New York Ariana spent a year studying Talmud at Yeshivat Hadar.

In her first year at the Jewish Theological Seminary Ariana helped found and lead a weekly “experimental minyan” in which students could experiment with non-traditional modes of prayer. In the summer of 2016 Ariana worked as a fellow with T’ruah, the rabbinic call for human rights. She spent part of her time working at the Bronx Defenders and learning about criminal justice issues, and the other part discussing a Jewish lens on human rights with other rabbinical students and rabbis. Interested in issues of criminal justice, Ariana took a course through Union Theological Seminary where she studied alongside students at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a prison in upstate New York. Now in her third year of rabbinical school, Ariana will complete a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Rikers Island through JTS’s new program for pastoral care in prisons.


Evan Traylor
Union for Reform Judaism

Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is serving as the inaugural Presidential Fellow for Millennial Engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 where he studied political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. An alum of NFTY, Greene Family Camp, and Kutz Camp, Evan has held many leadership roles in the Jewish community, including serving as the North American President of NFTY, trustee for the URJ Board, and student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors.