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.
Rabbi 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 when he visited Israel with a youth orchestra. Ming is a graduate of Brown University, Harvard Divinity School, and Stanford University, where his studies focused on Hannah Arendt's political philosophy, how it provided a critical framework for his own involvement in gay Asian activism. As creative director of a California museum, he put together education programs, community events, as well as exhibitions, exploring “fusion cultures” that were both grounded in tradition and constantly evolving. The book he co-translated, the autobiography of the eminent Chinese philosopher Mou Zongsan, was published in 2014. When Ming moved to Philadelphia to join his partner Greg, he sought out ALEPH - he feels blessed to serve in its Ordination Program.
Hazzan Diana Brewer, Ordination Program Admissions Officer
Hazzan Diana Brewer was ordained through the ALEPH Ordination Program, where she now assists the Cantorial Program and student affairs. She is on the faculty of the Davennen' Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) and serves as hazzan at the Jewish Community of Amherst in Massachusetts, leading Shabbat, weekday, and High Holy Day services. Also finding joy in teaching, she tutors individuals in voice and hazzanut, and works with B'nei Mitzvah students. She came to hazzanut from an active professional life in Early Music performance as a signer and string player. She earned her Master of Music at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. (photo courtesy of MileChai Studios)
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 rescue dog, Katonah.
Jacob Sapon, Program and Communications Coordinator
Jake is driven by a passion for Jewish Renewal and a deep curiosity for Jewish spiritual tradition. Graduating with a B.A in Religious Studies from Brown University, Jake is a life-long student of trans-denominational religious practice, as well as a Torah School teacher at congregation Kol Tzedek. His professional background ranges from wilderness leadership education, to peacebuilding, to arts and movement mentorship, and he is excited to bring this breadth of experience to his role at ALEPH. Within ALEPH’s Organic Torah program, Jake works as an administrator and strategic planning consultant. He is passionate about building a holistic vision for Judaism and our planet rooted in the wisdom of interconnection. A musician and poet, Jake aspires to encounter the world through a lens of beauty, joy, and transformation.
Rabbi Shefa Gold, Director of C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional Energy & 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 of 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.
Rabbi Natan Margalit, Director of Earth-Based Judaism and Organic Torah
Rabbi Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received rabbinic ordination at
The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley in 2001. He has taught at Bard College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Rabbi Natan is Founder of Organic Torah, a non-profit which fosters holistic thinking about Judaism, environment and society. Natan is a member of the Va’ad (steering committee and core faculty) of the ALEPH Ordination Program. He lives in Newton, MA, with his wife, Ilana, and their two sons.
Rabbi Zelig Golden, Creative Director of Earth-Based Judaism
Rabbi Zelig Golden is the Executive Director of Wilderness Torah. He received rabbinic ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, supported by the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, and was previously ordained Maggid by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi z”l. Rabbi Zelig holds a Masters in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. He previously worked as an environmental lawyer protecting food and farms and has long guided groups into the wilderness. Zelig lives in Occidental, CA, with his wife, Rachel, and his kids, Emma and Ilana.