2021 Seminary Leadership Project Cohort
Madeline is a rising fifth year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati, OH. She holds an MA in Hebrew Letters and a BA in Global Leadership. During rabbinical school, she served as the student rabbi at Temple B’nai Israel in Petoskey, Michigan for two years. She has also served as a fellow for two Cincinnati synagogues and at the Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council. Madeline is passionate about Israel studies. She has been a participant and facilitator with Encounter programs, and a participant in AIPAC’s Leffel Fellowship. She is currently an IFellow at the ICenter. Before rabbinical school, Madeline worked as the marketing and communications coordinator at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. She also spent two years working with Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity, one year serving as an AmeriCorps member on the construction team, and then on the administration team.
Gisel Baler (she/her)
My name is Gisel Baler, and I am a student at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and grew up in Israel and Argentina. I received a Bachelor’s in Jewish Studies from the Seminario Rabínico Latino-Americano (Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina). I also received a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (Law School of Social Studies in Buenos Aires, Argentina). I worked as a Jewish Studies Instructor in both Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia and Camp Ramah Berkshires in New York. Over the years, I worked in various positions at The Lerner School in Durham, NC, including Spanish Language Coordinator, Director of Jewish Studies and Hebrew, Hebrew teacher, and Jewish Studies teacher. Further, I worked as a Spanish Teaching Fellow and Hebrew instructor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. Additionally, I was the Coordinator of Hebrew Language at Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, NY. I am fluent in Spanish, Hebrew, and English. I currently live in New York. I am married and have four wonderful sons.
Ashley is a fifth-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally from Wooster, Ohio, she calls Temple Israel Akron her spiritual home. Growing up Ashley spent every summer at URJ-OSRUI in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Ashley graduated from Miami University in 2014 where she studied History and Jewish Studies. Prior to rabbinical school Ashley taught English in Ramla, Israel. She lived in St. Louis, MO and worked at Hillel at Washington University. As a student she has served communities in Bryan, Texas; Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Jefferson City, Missouri. She lives in Cincinnati with her cat Traffic Coney (Coney).
Caitlin Brazner (she/her)
Caitlin Brazner is a rising 5th year rabbinical and education student at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati. After graduating college in 2010, Caitlin participated in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps in Washington, DC. After her deeply impactful AVODAH experience, she worked for five years in Reform congregations in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland, as well as at URJ Camp Harlam, in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania. Caitlin is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Go Packers!), and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison (Go Badgers!). During her time as a rabbinical student she has served as the student rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel in Kokomo, Indiana, Temple Israel in Paducah, Kentucky, and United Hebrew Congregation in Terre Haute, Indiana. Caitlin will be serving as the Rabbinic Intern for Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio for her 5th Year Jewish Foundation Fellowship. Caitlin is very happy to find herself in the midwest again with her husband, Scott Larsen, and dog, Pig.
Rebecca Benoff (she/her)
Rebecca Benoff is a rising fourth year Rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati. For the past year and a half, she has served as the student Rabbi for a small community in Bryan, Texas. In the Cincinnati community, she was a summer fellow at the Mayerson JCC and has been teaching religious school at Wise Temple. She is also currently in the process of a masters in Education Administration at Xavier University while at HUC. Prior to this, Rebecca served as the Executive Assistant at the Edlavitch DCJCC and was the youth director at Etz Hayim in Arlington Virginia. Rebecca grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended The George Washington University in Washington, DC where she studied Psychology and Judaic Studies. In her spare time, she loves hiking, traveling and cooking.
Dvir Cahana (he/him)
Dvir is in rabbinical school at YCT and earned his M.A. in Jewish Studies from McGill University, where he was the McGill representative of the East Coast Consortium of Graduate Students in Jewish Studies. He taught at the Satmar elementary school, Yeshivat Toras Moishe, founded the Moishe House in Montreal, and is currently a resident at the Moishe House in Harlem. Dvir partook in the Bronfman, Drisha, LABA, iEngage and LTI Fellowships. His future rabbinic aspirations revolve around his fascination of combining the worlds of art expression and Torah. He has begun this exploration with the launch of The Amen Institute where artists and rabbis study with one another to inspire the creation of Divrei Torah and Art. You can follow the progress of this project at www.theameninstitute.com.
Justin Callis (he/him)
Justin Callis is a second year student at Hebrew Union College in the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. He will be singing with Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC and Beth Yam in Hilton Head, SC as a student cantor throughout the upcoming school year. He spent the past several years as Music Director at Shir Tikvah in Homewood, IL, where he led the choir and accompanied from the piano, while serving as principal soloist for their High Holy Day services. He was fortunate to have his first Israel experience through Birthright, traveling between December 2019 through January of 2020. As a teaching artist, music director, and composer in Chicago, he has worked extensively with youth of all ages and backgrounds. He was on the faculty of the Chicago High School for the Arts, where he taught music and theatre. With COT for Teens, he has served as composer, music director, orchestrator, and arranger on Memories of Yesterday, an original musical based on materials from the StoryCorp archives. With Storycatchers Theatre, he worked for many years with incarcerated youth, transforming stories from their lives into original musicals, and music directing and accompanying their performances. Additionally, He teaches private voice and piano lessons. He is the former Music Director at Community Christian Church in Lincolnshire, where he prepared a choir of one dozen adults for weekly services of spiritual music. As a performer, he toured the country with Child’s Play Touring Theatre, performing original plays and musicals based on the work of children, and has performed extensively around the Chicagoland area with Chicago Opera Playhouse. Additionally, Ravenswood Community Orchestra recently premiered his Symphony No. 1. He graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Theatre and English and a Certificate in Music Theatre in 2011.
Sarina Elenbogen-Siegel (she/her)
Sarina is a rising second-year cantorial student at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, originally from Evanston, Illinois. She will serve as the student cantor at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, MD beginning in July. She previously served as co-chair of J Street at Indiana University and director of Jewish A Cappella group Hooshir. Sarina has a BA in Jewish Studies from Indiana University. She is excited to gain new perspectives and sharpen organizing skills with JOIN.
Leah Fine (she/her)
Leah Fine is a student at Yeshivat Maharat and lives In Riverdale, New York. She holds an MA in Modern Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. Leah studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Drisha and was a Fellow of the Melton Senior Educators Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has taught in a variety of general, Jewish and special education settings.
Joseph Flaxman (he/him)
Joseph Flaxman grew up at Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ and was raised on stories about his grandfather, Joseph, who had dreamed of becoming a hazzan. He is excited to continue on his path as he embraces what it means to be a hazzan: a leader and a visionary. Currently he is a rising 3rd year Cantorial Student at the HUC Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, a Tisch/Star Fellow, and the Cantorial Intern at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City. Prior to cantorial studies, Joseph was a professional opera singer who worked throughout the United States and Europe. Some of his favorite memories from that time are from the wide variety of Jewish communities who made him feel at home for Shabbats and Chagim. Currently he resides in Chatham, NJ with his wife Laura, their two sons Eli and Isaiah, and their 7 pound havapoo Ziggy.
Will Guyster (he/him)
Will Guyster is a 2nd year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, with a passion for social justice (chesed), soulful Torah (chassidut), and ancient biblical history. A child refugee from the Soviet Union, he split his childhood between living with his grandparents on the tough streets of the Omaha JCC and as a teenager in Tampa, FL, learning to support LGBTQ rights and becoming woke to black and brown lives. Will earned his BA in Political Science from Columbia University, an MS in Innovation from Northeastern University, and was a Lishma Fellow at The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Prior to beginning the rabbinic journey, Will spent a decade largely in Ghana running a social enterprise to fight poverty, followed by running global entrepreneurship programs and creating educational content to do the same at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the upcoming year, Will is excited to begin Clinical Pastoral certification classes and working in eldercare as a Chaplain intern for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging.
Avidan Halivini (he/him)
Avidan Halivni is the program manager of Solu, a new Jewish social action initiative focused on organizing families for ongoing volunteer projects and interfaith work. He graduated from Columbia University in 2019 with a degree in Religion, and spent two years in Berlin as a community organizer and programmer for the Masorti movement and Base Berlin. He looks forward to learning the power of bringing Jewish communities into partnerships with other communities to work together, and building strategic campaigns for synagogue-oriented life.
Emily JK Holtzman (she/her)
Emily Holtzman, a native of Los Angeles, is entering her final year at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. Emily earned degrees in Art History and Judaic Studies from the University of Oregon. Emily also holds MAs in Jewish Studies and Jewish Education with an emphasis in Experiential Education from Hebrew College. As an educator, Emily’s goal is to help strengthen and develop Jewish identity. With a passion for Jewish texts, and a focus on inclusion, Emily strives to create meaningful experiences for all Jews looking to connect in both their Jewish and secular lives.
Iris Karlin (she/her)
Iris Karlin, born and raised in Haifa, Israel, is a rising third year cantorial student at Hebrew Union College in the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. She will be singing at Congregation Adas Emuno, Leonia, NJ, as a student cantor throughout the upcoming school year. Prior to cantorial studies Iris was a professional opera singer. Iris also produced and directed operas, accompanied and conducted choirs, as well as kids off Broadway G&S productions. She had been around the liturgical world for years, as a HHD soloist, Hebrew and Judaic teacher, not realizing she was meant to be a Cantor, as well as a liturgical composer. Currently she resides in Teaneck, NJ with her husband Tal, and her two virtualy-studying kids Avi and Leah.
Tamar Marvin (she/her)
Tamar Marvin is a student in the Core Semikha Program at Yeshivat Maharat and is based in Los Angeles, California. She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Studies and has taught in various settings, most recently for the Wexner Foundation. Tamar seeks to make Jewish learning accessible to all and believes that Judaism is better the more voices are included within it.
Dina Newman (she/her)
Dina Newman is an incoming 1st year rabbinical student at The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She has also been serving as the Associate Director of Youth & Teen Engagement at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for over six years. Dina is a born and raised New Yorker, hailing from Queens where she still resides with her fiance and very large puppy. She holds a B.A In Judaic Studies from the George Washington University as well as an M.A in Modern Jewish Studies from The Jewish Theological Seminary. Dina is excited to further her love of Judaism and passion for connection through her rabbinical studies.
Noa Rubin (she/her)
Noa Rubin is an incoming first-year student at the Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School. Hailing from Los Angeles (the valley), Noa studied Talmud and Sociology in the dual-BA program between JTS and Barnard College. Noa is currently completing AmeriCorps CityYear, working at a middle school in East Harlem. Her deepest love is youth and family work, and she believes strongly in the power of Jewish education to create deeply passionate, loving, intellectually curious and critical, menschy individuals with a distinctly Jewish sense of social justice. With experience primarily in labor and immigrant rights, she looks forward to launching her rabbinical school experience learning and growing in a supportive cohort this summer with JOIN.
Incoming first-year student at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, studied International Relations and Art History until realizing its vocation for leading prayer. I’m looking forward to learning about organizing Jewish communities for social justice activism
Heather Shore (she/her)
Heather Shore is a rising 4th year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in New York City. Heather earned her undergraduate degree in Studio Art and Judaic Studies from Binghamton University and moved to Israel shortly after graduating. In Israel, she spent time working for Hillel International before beginning her studies at HUC. Last year, Heather had the privilege of serving Beth Am: The People’s Temple of Washington Heights as a student rabbi, and she looks forward to continuing her fieldwork this year as a Pastoral Care intern at the T’shuvah Center in Brooklyn. Now based in Providence, RI, Heather is a passionate advocate for cultivating accessibility and embodied value-alignment within Jewish spaces. She looks forward to spending the summer with JOIN, connecting with colleagues and learning critical skills for organizing communities together.
Claire Shoyer (she/her)
Claire is a rising second-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Originally from Wayland, MA, Claire graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Communications. There, she tutored public speaking, sang in an a cappella group, and was a member of the women’s ultimate frisbee team. Before beginning rabbinical school, Claire worked at a farmers’ market and a tea store and spent time studying at Pardes. Claire will be Zooming into the course this summer from Camp Ramah New England.
Talia Weisberg (she/her)
Talia Weisberg is a student at Yeshivat Maharat. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University in the Comparative Study of Religion with a secondary field in Women, Gender, and Sexuality and wrote her senior honors thesis about the Bais Yaakov girls’ school movement, of which she is an alumna. Professionally, she has previously served as the Director of Academic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel to New England. She is currently the Ritual Chair on the board of the Orthodox Minyan at Harvard Hillel, a community of students, young professionals, and young families in Cambridge, MA. Talia is excited to spend her summer learning how to organize and do her part to create a more vibrant and equitable Jewish community.
Edie Yakutis (she/her)
Edie Yakutis is a second-career rabbinic student, studying at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, OH. She was accepted into HUC-JIR after working with Microsoft Corporation, living near Charlotte, NC, for 22 years in a number of customer-facing management roles. When they lived in the Carolinas, she and her husband, Leo, were one of the 12 founding families of Temple Solel, in Fort Mill, SC. She served there as a lay leader. While at HUC-JIR, Edie has served as student rabbi for Temple Beth Sholom in Marquette, MI and Temple Beth El in Muncie, IN. She looks forward to learning strategies for organizing and motivating communities to accomplish their goals.