2014 Seminary Leadership Project Alumni

IMG_2762 (1)Joshua Mikutis
Hebrew Union College, New York

Joshua Mikutis is a second-year rabbinical student originally from Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Haverford College with honors in History and Religion and a minor in Russian from Bryn Mawr College. After working at a charter school in Boston and a private school in Dayton, Joshua served an AVODAH Fellow at the New York Legal Assistance Group, working as a paralegal in their Immigrant Protection Unit. He stayed there for an additional year to continue his paralegal work and to serve as a grant handler for an employment based grant of $300,000 from the Robin Hood Foundation. Joshua is passionate about the global Jewish community, and he spent the last summer continuing his Russian language studies at Columbia University and working at a Netzer summer camp in Belarus through the World Union for Progressive Jewish Community. This year, he will be working on developing a website that focuses on the global experiences of Jewish youth through the Be Wise Grant. He serves on the JDC’s New York City Planning Committee, works with the Former Soviet Union desk of the WUPJ to develop an alumni network for those who participated in the FSU Pesach Project, and is a proud member of the small but growing Greene Hill Coop.


Rachel_DudleyRachel Dudley Zerin
Jewish Theological Seminary

Rachel is a senior rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she is also earning a master’s degree in Talmud. She currently serves as student rabbi at Temple B’nai Shalom in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In the past, Rachel has worked as rabbinic intern at Rutgers University Hillel and as High Holiday rabbi at Syracuse University Hillel. In addition to her interest in teaching Talmud and helping others create a meaningful Jewish life, Rachel is passionate about interfaith dialogue. She helps organize a Scriptural Reasoning group, in which interfaith dialogue is approached through the shared study of sacred scriptures, and is coordinator of New York City’s Inter-Seminary Dialogue. Thanks to a fellowship from the Myers Foundation Rabbinical Leadership Initiative and training from PresenTense, Rachel is also creating a curriculum and service-learning retreat entitled If We Serve, which brings together people from diverse religious traditions to explore the intersection of religion and service through dialogue, study of sacred texts, and action. When she is not busy with interfaith dialogue or her study and work as a future rabbi, Rachel enjoys playing board games and hanging out with her husband and two cats.

 


Avishai_GeblerAvishai Gebler
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Avishai is a second-year rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the Rabbinic Intern at the Prospect Heights Shul in Brooklyn and at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel in Chicago. He received his BA in religion from Columbia University. While studying at Columbia, Avishai was active in both the Hillel and Greek communities and also played in the Columbia Bluegrass Band. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of the Judaic Studies faculty as well as the Director of Student Activities at the Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion, Pennsylvania. A bluegrass and klezmer banjo player, he also enjoys rock climbing and brewing beer.


Allie_HeadshotAllie Conn
Jewish Theological Seminary

Allie Conn is the Director of Engagement at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel. She has an MA in Experiential Jewish Education from the Davidson School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. While in graduate school, Allie participated in the Kesher Hadash: Semester-in-Israel program, earning a certificate as an Israel Educator, and had practicum placements with 92Y Shababa and AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. Previously, Allie worked as a Berman Fellow at the University of Michigan Hillel; she is an alum of the Pardes summer educator track and holds a BA from Penn State University. Allie enjoys making stove-top popcorn and watching West Wing.


Lauren_TuchmanLauren Tuchman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Lauren Tuchman is entering her second year of rabbinical school at Jewish Theological Seminary. She is an alumna of the Jeremiah Fellowship, a nine-month Jewish organizing fellowship through Jews United for Justice in Washington, DC, where she was first bit by the organizing bug. She is deeply committed to equipping Jewish communities with the skills to act out the best of our values in the world. She is particularly interested in bringing marginal Jewish voices to the fore.

 


LeahLeah Loeterman
Jewish Theological Seminary

Leah Loeterman is a senior rabbinical and education student at Jewish Theological Seminary. Originally from Los Angeles, Leah grew up, and later worked, at Sinai Temple and Camp Ramah in California. She attended Brandeis University, where she majored in International and Global Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Leah has spent time living and studying in Jerusalem and has worked as a hospice chaplain intern in the Bronx. Leah is currently in her second year as rabbinic intern at Park Avenue Synagogue and is also planning her upcoming wedding!

 


Rami_SchwartzerRami Schwartzer
Jewish Theological Seminary

Rami Schwartzer is a Gladstein Fellow and rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, Rami received a BA in Philosophy from Columbia University and a BA in Talmud & Rabbinics from Jewish Theological Seminary. Rami currently serves as the rabbi at Shalom Cypress, a new Jewish community in Northwest Houston, and as rabbinic intern at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York. Prior to his congregational work, Rami spent two years as the Director of Programming at Camp Ramah in New England and three years as the Special Projects Coordinator at the National Ramah Commission. Rami also served as a chaplain with MJHS Hospice & Palliative Care, through which he completed an accredited unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. While living in Israel, Rami worked as rabbinic intern at Kehilat Eshel Avraham, a Masorti kehilah in the southern city of Beersheva. Rami currently lives in White Plains, New York with his wife, Adina Rosen, a student of social work at the New York University and a social work intern at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.


Sarah Marion PhotoSarah Marion
Hebrew Union College, New York

Sarah Marion is a fourth year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She grew up in Westchester, New York and graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University in 2008 with bachelor’s degrees in Women’s and Gender Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. She recently received her master’s degree in Religious Education from HUC-JIR. Prior to entering rabbinical school, Sarah worked as a full-time youth educator in Boston. Sarah currently serves as rabbinic intern at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Seth, and in her free time enjoys cooking and yoga.


Danny_MossDanny Moss
Hebrew Union College, New York

Danny is a third-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is originally from Chicago and remains a strong proponent of the “flyover states.” Danny graduated from Oberlin College with degrees in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion. His undergraduate thesis probed the stories and struggles of Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. After graduation, Danny’s passion for Jewish communal work led him to Temple Micah in Washington, DC, where he proudly served for three years. Danny is a  15-summer veteran of Union for Reform Judaism Camp OSRUI, where powerful, formative, frequently musical Jewish experiences meaningfully shaped his life’s trajectory. He is also proud to have lived and studied in Israel for two years. Since beginning rabbinical school, he served as a tour guide for teens in Europe and Israel, administered the tefilah curriculum at Congregation Emanu-El of New York City, and completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. This year Danny is thrilled to serve as Rabbinic Intern at Cleveland’s Ansche Chesed Fairmount Temple, where he looks forward to implementing some of what he learns in the JOIN class. In his free time, Danny enjoys reading, tennis, jazz and bluegrass music, and the great outdoors.


Rachel_HeapsRachel Heaps
Hebrew Union College, New York

Rachel grew up in New Rochelle, New York. While growing up, Rachel attended URJ Eisner camp, was the religious and cultural VP for my youth group, and participated in NFTY’s semester in Israel program, EIE, in the fall of 2004. She majored in psychology at The George Washington University and minored in Judaic studies. While in college she began working for Temple Micah in Washington, DC as a religious school teacher. After graduating in 2009, Rachel began working for Temple Micah full time as teacher, tutor and synagogue administrator. In 2011, she transitioned her administrative duties to new-member and 20/30s outreach.  Rachel began her studies in HUC-JIR’s Rabbinical program in the summer of 2012 and is currently a third year student living in Manhattan. Rachel also works as a 6th grade teacher at Shaaray Tefila and as the student rabbi at Temple Beth Hashalom in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.


Samantha_ShabmanSamantha Shabman
Hebrew Union College, New York

Samantha Shabman is a fourth-year rabbinical student. She graduated from the George Washington University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. This past year Samantha served as the Student Rabbi at the North Fork Reform Synagogue in Southold, New York and as a summer resident at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City. This school year Samantha will serve as the President of the Student Association at HUC-JIR, as a chaplain intern at Mount Sinai Hospital, and as a teacher in the HUC-JIR Miller High School Honors Program for the second year in a row.


EricEric L. Abbott
Hebrew Union College, New York

Eric Abbott is a third year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR. He grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island and later attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he earned a B.A. in Judaic Studies. While in college, he was heavily involved with the UMass Minuteman Marching Band, the Commonwealth Honors College, Hillel, Alpha Phi Omega, and Residential Life. After college he returned home, where he worked as a teacher and service-leader at his home congregation and also as a manager at a rock climbing gym. In Eric’s free time he enjoys rock climbing, being outdoors, playing various musical instruments, and reading.

 


Dan_RossDan Ross
Hebrew Union College, New York

Dan Ross is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A proud son of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dan attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2009 with a BA in History and Science, Technology and Society. While at Penn, he served as Education Chair on Penn Hillel’s student steering committee and as President of Kesher, the Reform Jewish community. After college, he moved to Washington, DC, where he served as a Teach For America corps member, teaching seventh grade social studies in Prince George’s County, Maryland for two years while earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University. After the Corps, Dan worked for the Advisory Board Company, a health care research and consulting firm based in DC. While in DC, he also sang bass for Makela, the District’s young professionals Jewish acapella group, and he carried his love of music across the ocean, founding Yesh Dagesh, HUC-Jerusalem’s acapella group.


Sasha.Kesler_Photo

Sasha Kessler
Yeshivat Maharat

Sasha Kesler is in the prepatory program for Yeshivat Maharat and completed the year-long program at the Drisha Institute in Gemara, Halacha, and Tanakh this past year. A Seattle native, she holds a BA in International Conflict Management from Fairhaven College. She served as an anti-violence and women’s empowerment educator on her college campus, and after graduation worked for the 2012 Obama Campaign. Sasha is a facilitator with Immerse NYC, guiding conversations on mikvah and sexuality, and a co-organizer of the Beis, a innovative and spiritually-focused shul in Washington Heights. She resides there with her husband, Chaim, and their adorable blind cat, Greg.


Leah_SarnaLeah Sarna
Yeshivat Maharat

Leah Sarna is a first year student at Yeshivat Maharat. She was born and raised in the Boston area, where she attended the Maimonides School and first became involved in poverty activism through Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger and the Maimonides chesed committee. After a year at the SKA Beit Midrash for Women at Migdal Oz in Israel, she returned to America and to poverty activism at Yale University, where she led the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project in its many service, advocacy and fundraising initiatives. She prepared taxes for low-income New Haven residents through the Yale Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, of which she was a founding board member. Additionally she volunteered as a case manager at a student-run case management agency called No Closed Doors, and she created a student-run storage facility for the belongings of homeless individuals in New Haven called Keepsafe. Leah also served as co-director of Dwight Hall, the center for public service and social justice at Yale, which oversees and provides resources for nearly 100 different undergraduate organizations. In the Jewish community, Leah was a co-president of the Yale Orthodox community (Young Israel House at Yale) and also the gabbait of the Yale partnership minyan, Minyan Urim. She graduated in May 2014 with a degree in Philosophy, winning the Schulte Prize for Community Service. In November 2014 she will receive the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Award. Currently, Leah blogs about Orthodox feminism at kovaatitim.wordpress.com. Leah hopes to spend her life building warm, dedicated, and active Jewish communities, and she is so excited to join the Rabbinic and Cantorial Leadership for Public Life Fellowship Course.


Hart_LevineHart Z. Levine
Yeshiva University

Hart Levine hails from New York City and attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2010 with a degree in bioengineering. While in college, Hart began a grassroots student movement called Heart to Heart to welcome Jewishly uninvolved students into the fabric of Jewish life on campus. Heart to Heart now works in partnership with the OU and other Jewish organizations and with students on over 100 campuses around the globe, reaching over 10,000 Jewish students and young adults. Hart is also finishing his rabbinical studies at Yeshiva University, received a Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education from their Center for the Jewish Future, and is working as the rabbi and community organizer of a 98-year-young shul/community being revived in Washington Heights. He was also a 2011 NYC PresenTense Fellow and named a JFNA Jewish Community Hero National Honoree and to Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36.


GLM_6554Willie Balk
Yeshiva University

Willie is in his fourth year of study at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). He attended Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh in the Old City of Jerusalem and later the Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University, where he earned a degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In addition to his rabbinic studies, Willie has been an NCSY advisor, a teachers assistant at YU, and a beit midrash fellow in the RIETS Kollel at Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, New Jersey. This year, Willie serves as the rabbinic intern for the Young Israel of Plainview in Long Island and for the Department of Service Learning at Yeshiva University. Additionally, he is a fellow in the Kehillah Beit Midrash Program at the Young Israel of Scarsdale. Willie is married to Estee (Gross), originally from Teaneck, New Jersey, who serves as the Volunteer Coordinator for Aish New York.


Ari_WeberAri Weber
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Ari is 29 years old and is currently a fourth year rabbinical school student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both social welfare and Hebrew. Following college, Ari spent four of the following five years in Israel learning in yeshiva, serving in the Nachal Brigade of the Israeli army, and volunteering primarily in Tiveria at the Youth Futures branch of the Jewish Agency and Tsfat at Livnot U’Lihibanot, an outreach program involving hiking, volunteering, and light spirituality. He has just completed his third year of rabbinical school studying in Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion. Upon completion of his studies, Ari is looking into either working on Hillel campusesor in the chaplaincy field.

 


Arielle FM PhotoArielle Frankston-Morris
Orthodox Union

Arielle Frankston-Morris serves as the New York Field Director at the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center. She graduated from Yeshiva University’s Stern College with a BA in English Literature and received her MSW from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. As a licensed social worker, Arielle has worked with individuals, groups, and communities to identify challenges and achieve goals. Arielle spent time learning about community organizing in a New York City Councilmember’s office and has gained valuable community engagement experience at several nonprofits, both working and volunteering. With her colleagues at the Orthodox Union, Arielle is working to increase Jewish political engagement in the state and develop communal support for selected legislation.

 

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