Laurie Akers (Cantorial), Chicago, IL. Laurie is cantorial soloist at Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills and was the interim cantorial soloist at Temple Sholom of Chicago. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a Musical Theater degree, Laurie spent a decade performing in Broadway productions and, as Miss USO, spent a year entertaining U.S. troops around the world. Laurie is Vice President of Education and Convention for the Guild of Temple Musicians. A pianist and guitarist, she recently started composing Jewish music – her Oseh Shalom can be heard on Jewish Rock Radio. Laurie and husband Brad are proud parents to Isaac, Levi and Ashton.
Nachshon Carmi (Rabbinic), Boca Raton, FL. Nachshon is a Jewish Studies teacher at Rosenblatt High School of the Donna Klein Jewish Academy. He grew up in Haifa, Israel, where his second-grade teacher assigned him the rabbi role in the Chumash party, and he has been working toward it ever since. With a B.Sc. in Medicine, M.Ed. in Education, and certificates as life coach and retreats facilitator, Nachshon has worked as a naturalist, landscaper, couples counselor, and sexuality educator. He is married to journalist and author Ilene Prusher Carmi and is the father of two.
Sarah Freudenberger (Cantorial), Boca Raton, FL. Sarah has wanted to be a cantor since her Bat Mitzvah and, after completing her Bachelor of Music at the University of Miami in 2006, has been working as a cantorial soloist and substituting for local cantors. She is Cantorial Associate at Congregation B'nai Israel in Boca Raton, where she leads services every Shabbat and holiday and directs a large children's choir. Sarah is the proud mom of two young daughters, Aria and Ada, and wife to Peter, a professional classical and jazz trombonist.
Deborah Lesk (Rabbinic), Ajax, ON, Canada. Deborah decided at fifteen she wanted to become a rabbi, but it wasn’t an option for women. After earning a degree in psychology, she worked in the computer industry and then as a stay-at-home mother to two sons and three stepchildren. In 1994, she was a founding member of her Reform congregation, where she is a lay leader and served many terms as the Lifecycle and Shabbat Director. Deborah has studied meditation, Reiki, and Shamanics (traditional Native healing). She is a holistic nutritional consultant and has facilitated depression support groups and, most recently, job search workshops for new immigrants.
Laura Lewis Mandeles (Cantorial), Fairfax, VA. For over 30 years Laura has worked with nonprofit organizations as a fundraiser and consultant, while deepening her knowledge and participation in all things cantorial. She has been the High Holiday cantor at Temple House of Israel in Staunton, VA, for 26 years, tutors B’nei Mitzvah, and is an auxiliary service leader at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria. She serves on the boards of the Women Cantors’ Network and Shalshelet: The Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music and has been on Shalshelet’s concert production team. Laura is the mother of two grown children and a cat.
Heather Paul (Rabbinic), Mountlake Terrace, WA. Heather is the Springboard Fellowship Manager at Hillel International and had previously worked for Hillel at Santa Cruz and Stanford. She volunteers as the Assistant Director for Milton Marks Neuro-Oncology Family Camp, serving families coping with brain cancer – Heather has extensive experience facilitating children’s grief groups. She holds B.A.’s in Creative Writing and History and an M.A. from U.C. Santa Cruz, as well as a graduate certificate in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College. Heather’s writing has appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy.com, Ritualwell, and HuffPost Religion. She has performed her work on stage and live radio.
Nancy Shapiro (Rabbinic Pastor), Germantown, TN. With a Doctorate in Audiology and a Master’s in Counseling, Nancy worked for 36 years in the Memphis public schools with hearing-impaired children and their families. When she converted to Judaism 18 years ago, little did she know that her love of Torah, davvening, and Jewish music would bring her to the Rabbinic Pastor Program. She has led Shabbat services, sung in shul choirs, taught Biblical Hebrew, and participated in medical missions to Nicaragua. As a meditation facilitator and hospice volunteer, she has learned the holiness of being present for others with loving-kindness and compassion.
Pauline Tamari (Rabbinic), Woodstock, NY. With a Doctorate in Speech and Language Pathology, Pauline has directed programs in early intervention, taught courses on special-needs children and their families, supervised clinical practitioners, as well as created curriculums and model therapeutic programs. She has held lay-leadership roles in various congregations and havurot. Her first trip to Israel in 1963 ignited her passion for Zion. Her love for learning and Judaism, as well as her immersion in Jewish Renewal for many decades, has led her to the Rabbinic Program. Pauline has four children and nine grandchildren.
Lisa Vendeland (Rabbinic), Apex, NC. Lisa is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and has Master degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Studies. With a passion for teaching Torah and Judaic studies, she was active in a six-year-long women’s Torah studies group at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor, FL. Lisa thinks she inherited her grandfather’s wonderful storytelling skills and her father’s G-d gene, a perfect combination for building Dvar Torah. She feels as drawn to the rabbinate as she is to help women deliver. She and her life partner of over 20 years have just moved to Apex, NC, with their ten-year-old daughter, Nisa Zaitah Olive.
Carl B. Viniar (Rabbinic Pastor), Voorhees, NJ. Carl, a divorce mediator, went to Cornell University and Villanova Law School and trained with the Academy of Family Mediators. He founded the South Jersey Mediation Center and is on the board of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. He is retired from Rutgers Law School but still teaches at its business school. Raised in New York, Carl spent his junior year in Israel and worked for Hillel after returning to the U.S. His intention to start rabbinic studies had been delayed for 45 years by law school, marriage and family, but now he is thrilled to be in the Rabbinic Pastor Program.
Ira Stewart Wiesner (Rabbinic), Sarasota, FL. Ira is an elder law attorney and founder of Advocates in Aging, the first elder law firm in Sarasota. Ira is board-certified as a Specialist in Elder Law. Ira holds a Master of Laws in Taxation from the University of Florida, Master in Transpersonal Psychology from Naropa University, as well as graduate certificates in Advanced Gerontology and in Authentic Leadership. Ira is a graduate of ALEPH’s Hashpa’ah Spiritual Direction Program Cohort 4 and is now in Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) Cohort 9.