SooJi Min-Maranda, Executive Director
SooJi Min-Maranda believes in the power of personal stories. Whether providing direct services, advocating for policy change, or fundraising for nonprofit organizations, Ms. Min-Maranda begins with personal narratives that illustrate the need for programs, policies, and resources that raise the voices of those underserved and underrepresented in mainstream society. A seasoned nonprofit executive with 15 years of experience, Min-Maranda brings a for-profit mindset to the nonprofit arena. She advocates for strategic partnerships and efficient, effective resource allocation.
Previously, Min-Maranda was the executive director of Temple Beth Emeth, a 600+ member reform Jewish synagogue in Ann Arbor, MI; the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization that focuses on adolescent sexual health and parenting; and Korean American Community Services, a comprehensive social service agency in Chicago. The Asian Health Coalition of Illinois presented her with its Outstanding Community Health Advocate Award in 2008.
She currently is in Cohort 3 of Leading Edge’s CEO Onboarding Program for high-level organizational leaders in the American Jewish community. Min-Maranda served on Governor Quinn’s Illinois Human Services Commission from 2010-2012 and is a member of the Selah Leadership Program's National Executive Cohort 9. She was a 2010 Chicago Community Trust Fellow and a 2010 Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Awardee. She is a 2007 Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Delegate and a 2006 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. A graduate of Barnard College, Min-Maranda holds master’s degrees from Northwestern University and The University of Chicago.
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 Shem Lu, Ordination Program Administrator
Ming (which means “shem”) was drawn to Jewish Renewal after reading 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 were both traditional and forward-looking. The book he co-translated, the autobiography of Chinese philosopher Mou Zongsan, was published in 2014. Ming lives in Philadelphia with his partner Greg.
Lynda Simons, Finance and Operations Manager
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.
Stephanie Bello, Events Manager
Stephanie's background in event planning and management spans conferences, galas, fundraising events, and so much more. Prior to ALEPH, Stephanie worked as an Event Support Specialist with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, organizing and overseeing fundraisers to raise funds to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Stephanie is also incredibly passionate about securing equitable educational opportunities for all, having spent time working with Repair the World, an organization which seeks to engage young Jews and their peers around volunteering in the areas of education and food justice. When not busy working, Stephanie can be found spending time with her loving fiancé, Aaron, and their two dogs, Katonah and Tolstoy.
Nora Chernov, Program and Event Coordinator
Nora most recently served as Jewish Student Life Engagement Coordinator at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she also graduated summa cum laude with a degree in political science in May 2017. She relocated to West Philadelphia in September of 2019. In her free time, Nora likes to read, play board games, and make her way through an extensive backlog of podcasts.
Rabbi Shefa Gold, Director of C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional Energy and Ecstatic Practice and SOULIFT
Shefa received her ordination both from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She is the director of C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice, and was named “One of the 33 Most Inspiring Rabbis in America,” by the Jewish Forward. Her latest project is called SOULIFT, a one week immersion in spiritual practice designed to lift us into the Soul perspective. Shefa combines her grounding in Judaism with a background in Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Native American spiritual traditions to make her uniquely qualified as a spiritual bridge celebrating the shared path of devotion.
Rabbi Diane Elliot, Director: Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body
Rabbi Diane Elliot, based in the Bay Area, is a spiritual teacher, ritual leader, dancer, writer, and somatic therapist who inspires her students to become clearer channels for Presence through awareness and movement practices, dance, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish sacred text. For six years she directed ALEPH’s Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body training program, and she continues to work to bring the essential wisdom of the Jewish path to diverse Jewish and interfaith groups.