Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, Executive Director:
Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin originally hails from suburban Washington, D.C., and is an alumna of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland, and her Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies (focusing on Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Shoshanna completed several years of rabbinical school, and is a prolific Jewish educator and writer. Shoshanna came to ALEPH from the Jewish Community Federation, where she served as Director of Women’s Philanthropy, Israel and Overseas Programming in Richmond, Virginia. She began her career in education and development with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, focusing on leadership training for post-Holocaust and post-Communist Jewish communities. Shoshanna has also served with a variety of Jewish agencies and institutions including Young Judaea, Camp Ramah, Hillel, Taglit-Birthright and JDC-Entwine. As an educator, Shoshanna has served as a faculty member in the Departments of Religious Studies and Women’s Studies at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, as well as at the University of Texas in El Paso, Texas.
Tamy Jacobs, Deputy Director of Institutional Advancement:
Tamy Jacobs comes to ALEPH with over 25 years of experience in the Jewish communal world. She has her Master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Tamy has a broad scope of talents and skills she learned from owning an adoption consulting business, fundraising and programming for the JCCs of Chicago and The Jewish Women’s Center as well as directing both an early childhood program and synagogue simultaneously.
Tamy’s work has included development, event and retreat programming, membership, community outreach, marketing, strategic planning and everything in between. Using a philosophy of reflective listening, Tamy builds trust among those who work with her and fosters leadership, initiative and problem solving. As one of her past staff noted, “Tamy is all about relationships. Her eye for detail revolves around people, their strengths and their struggles…” Tamy looks forward to continuing that focus through ALEPH programs and activities.
Steve Weinberg, Deputy Director of Operations and Finance:
Steve comes to ALEPH with significant fiscal and managerial experience running businesses and non-profit boards. His focus has been leading organizations to work for the benefit of all stakeholders in the spirit of Tikkun Olam. His sales and marketing company was a founding B (For Benefit) Corp, prioritizing social and environment ends as well as profit. Steve represented Philadelphia businesses on a Green Economy Task force, and was a founding board member and then co-chair of Philadelphia’s largest sustainable business network, both initiatives which supported the healthy development of our regional economy. At the same time, Steve has convened and participates in Jewish social justice, prayer and leadership building circles. He has been deeply influenced by Renewal practices and programs, which, coincidentally, led him to Philadelphia and to his work at ALEPH. Steve resides in the Mt. Airy neighborhood with his spouse, Rabbi Elisa Goldberg, and their daughter.
R. Marcia Prager, Dean and Director of ALEPH Ordination Program:
Rabbi Marcia Prager, MFA, MHL, D.Min.h.c., is the founding Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program. She serves as Director of the AOP Rabbinic Program where she also teaches Jewish spiritual practice and the Jewish Lifecycle Training sequence of courses and practica. She co-directs and teaches in the prize-winning Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute, and serves as rabbi of the P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation of Philadelphia, PA. She is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and also received personal smicha from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She is the author of The Path of Blessing, a contemporary hasidic text exploring the Jewish practice of blessing, published by Bell Tower and later by Jewish Lights, and has created the P’nai Or Siddurim for Shabbat and other innovative compilations of prayer and liturgy. In 2010, she was selected by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Top Fifty American Female Rabbis.
Ming Lu Shem, Ordination Program Administrator & Program and Retreat Registrations:
Ming (which means “shem”) was drawn to Jewish Renewal after having read about Reb Zalman in “The Jew in the Lotus.” Brought up in Hong Kong, he was introduced to the Jewish world at an early age, when he visited Israel with a youth orchestra. He eventually chose to focus his graduate work on Hannah Arendt and the relevance of her philosophy to contemporary politics. As creative director of a California museum, he worked to promote “fusion cultures” that are both traditional and forward-looking. The book he co-translated, the autobiography of the Chinese philosopher Mou Zongsan, was published in 2014. Ming lives in Philadelphia with his partner Greg.
Lynda Simons, Manager of Finance:
Lynda believes that one of the greatest blessings in life is to love what you do, and for her it’s accounting – the precision of her work and the knowledge that it’s making a difference makes her happy. After beginning college expecting to become an engineer, she spent many years in different industries as a full charge bookkeeper, freelance bookkeeper, CFO and business manager before finding her home in the non-profit finance world working with a variety of different religious, educational, historical and arts organizations. She has helped to build several businesses from the ground up, including being an integral part of setting up systems and technology. Her goal is always to ensure that all accounts reconcile and all accounting is compliant with the letter of the law. Of course, the greatest gifts she’s been given are her two children, who are an accountant and an engineer! When she’s not engrossed in spreadsheets and accounting software, you’ll find her running trails, hiking up tall mountains, or riding her motorcycle into the sunset.
Nadya and Victor Gross, Senior Program Managers: