2023 Cross Seminary class

Headshot of Shira Botzum wearing a yellow button down shirt and a shiny blue headscarf. Shira Botzum 

Shira Botzum is a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hadar. She holds a BA and MA in Talmud and Rabbinics from JTS and a BA in Political Science from Columbia University. She has studied Torah at the Pardes and Drisha Institutes. Shira is passionate about feminist modes of learning and teaching Torah and has taught and served in tefillah leadership roles at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, and the Fort Tryon Jewish Center. Shira has helped Jews of diverse backgrounds meaningfully connect to Judaism and Jewish texts, including building educational and social programs for Jewish young adults as a Machar Fellow at the YM&WHA of Washington Heights and as an iEngage Intern at the Hartman Institute. She has also held fellowships through the Nachshon Project and Yeshivat Hadar. Originally from Allentown, PA, Shira lives in Manhattan with her spouse, Jonathan, and their dog, Noodles.

Headshot of Naima Hirsch Gelman wearing a puple buisness jacket with a black top and pearl necklace in front of a library bookshelf.

Naima Hirsch Gelman

Naima Hirsch Gelman is a fourth-year student at Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as clergy, and will be ordained as a rabbi in June. As a Rabbinic Fellow at the National Council for Jewish Women, Naima designed educational materials about Judaism and reproductive justice. She previously served as the Programming Director at the Beis Community, where she created a welcoming spiritual home for Jews of varying backgrounds through strategic programming and outreach. Naima was selected as a 2023-24 Va’tichtov: She Writes Fellow and co-edited Monologues from the Makom, a collection of women-written monologues, poems, and creative pieces related to sexuality, body image, gender, and Jewish identity. Naima has a BA from Hunter College in Creative Writing and Gender Studies. She considers herself a lifelong student and a passionate advocate for eating ice cream year-round. Read more at naimahirsch.com

Headshot of Mat Wilson wearing a blue button shirt, a tie, and glasses. Mat Wilson

Mat Wilson is in their second year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Mat previously worked in student affairs and higher education before rabbinical school. They currently serve as the rabbinic intern at Hillels at Drexel University and Gettysburg College where they enjoy service leading and bringing educational opportunities to students. Mat is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon, where they earned a B.S. in Anthropology and conducted research in primate behavior. Mat enjoys swimming, road trips, and exploring local history.

Headshot of Kevin McKenzie wearing a gray button down shirt and red sweater.

Kevin McKenzie

Kevin McKenzie is a 5th-year cantorial student at HUC who grew up in Colorado Springs, CO, and has a BM in Vocal Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Kevin has worked extensively in Operas, Musicals, Choirs, and Shows from 2012-Present in Colorado, Jerusalem, and New York. He is the sole cantorial presence at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor. His senior thesis is on Shabbat Zmirot and ways to incorporate them into Reform communities.

Headshot of Karlolyn R. Benger wearing a pink top in front of a yellow mural with flowers and writing.Karolyn Benger

Karolyn Benger is a second-year student at Yeshivat Maharat. Previously, she worked with Jewish Non-Profits. She was the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Phoenix and the Executive Director of the Jewish Interest-Free Loan in Atlanta. Karolyn has led efforts to improve social justice, and Arizona Jewish Life magazine named her among the Top 10 change makers for Tikkun Olam. She was a member of the Valley Interfaith Project’s 3rd Monseigneur Ryle Public Policy Faith Leader Institute, she participated in the Pardes Machloket Matters Fellowship and in the Sacred Spaces Respect & Responsibility Fellowship. She graduated from Emory University with a degree in Political Science and a specialization in the Middle East, where she studied Arab and Islamist opposition groups in Egypt. Karolyn was previously an adjunct professor of Thought, Middle Eastern Studies, and Comparative Politics at Emory University, Georgia Tech, and Emerson College. You can find her writings in the Arizona Republic, eJewish Philanthropy, The Times of Israel, and Jewish Women of Words, to name a few. Karolyn is a board member of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and a mentor in the Women’s Leadership Institute.

Headshot of Jamie Weisbach smiling, wearing a dark blue button down shirt and glasses.Jamie Weisbach

Jamie Weisbach (he/him) is a member of Hadar’s Advanced Kollel. Jamie studied English, Theater, and Religion at Bowdoin College and has studied Torah, Gemara, and Halakhah at The Conservative Yeshiva, SVARA, Drisha, and Hadar. He is also a member of the steering committee for the Trans Halakha Project and has taught Torah in various settings in New York City, Chicago, and beyond. He is an active member of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center, where he chairs the ritual committee. A Chicago native, Jamie now lives in upper Manhattan with his husband, Amram; their two cats, Perle and Herschel; and an ever-growing collection of books.

Headshot of Ilana Gimpelevich, smiling wearing a red hair covering, and red framed glasses, in an outdoor setting. Ilana Gimpelevich

Ilana Gimpelevich is a second-year student at Yeshivat Maharat. Ilana holds a BA from Stern College for Women and an MS from NYU. She is a mother of five children and is a veteran homeschool educator. She organized Jewish Orthodox homeschoolers in Atlanta and taught at Atlanta Homeschool Cooperative. Ilana has taught various topics in multiple communities where she has lived. Ilana combined her love of Jewish text and experiential learning to create “OREG: Reweaving Our Connections”, a monthly multigenerational program that brought women together to craft with a Jewish lens. She organized the Inaugural Women’s Megillah reading in Richmond, VA.  Ilana’s passion is preventing abuse within the Jewish community. When she is not peering over gemara or another book, Ilana can be found working with her hands, both in textiles and in the kitchen.

Headshot of Gabi Cohn, smiling, wearing a white sleeveless top and glasses in an outdoor setting.

Gabi Cohn

Gabi is a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. She received her Master’s in Hebrew Literature from HUC-JIR in May 2023. She also completed a Certificate in Jewish Organizational Leadership from the Zelikow School of HUC-JIR in Summer 2022. Gabi was born and raised in Fairfax, VA, and grew up at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA. She attended Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s joint program, List College, where she received bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Modern Jewish Studies, respectively. Following college Gabi moved to Mississippi, where she worked as an Education Fellow for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life for two years before beginning school at HUC-JIR. As an Education Fellow, she traveled all around the South, working with congregations of all sizes. Gabi is the student rabbi at Temple Israel of New Rochelle, in New Rochelle, NY. She served as the co-chair for Kallah 2023 at HUC-JIR NYC and does B’nai Mitzvah tutoring for Central Synagogue in NYC and occasional tutoring for Shaare Tefila Congregation in Olney, MD.

Headshot of Barry Rosekind wearing a dark blue sports coat, a light blue button down shirt and a tie infront of a gray background.

Barry Rosekind

Barry Rosekind hails from San Mateo, California. He studied Talmud and European History in the joint JTS/Columbia dual degree program, where he was active in Hillel and AEPi. He served in the IDF before completing the Day School Educator Program at Pardes. When not in the Beit Midrash, Barry enjoys spending time with his wife Esti and son Nehorai, as well as photography, traveling, nature, and basketball.

Headshot of Amalya (Emily) Volz, a woman with curly hair, wearing a floral top and glasses in front a bookshelf.


Amalya Volz

Amalya Volz is a fifth-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She holds a BA in Jewish Studies from Oberlin College, where she was heavily involved with Hillel leadership and wrote a thesis about the intersection of queerness and Halacha. She has also studied at Yeshivat Hadar, the Drisha Institute, and the Conservative Yeshiva. Amalya has served as the rabbinic intern at the Fort Tryon Jewish Center and was the program assistant for the Disability Justice Torah Circle. She has also spent significant time writing about theology and sexual violence. She is passionate about justice, emunah, Mussar, mitzvot, and organ donation.