Members of the AOP Academic VAAD and Core Faculty
Rabbi Dr. Darren Kleinberg
Dean, ALEPH Ordination Program
Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, Ph.D., is Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program. (In June 2022, he succeeded founding dean, Rabbi Marcia Prager, who retired in January 2022.)
Prior to becoming AOP Dean, Rabbi Kleinberg served for three years (2019-2022) as Visiting Scholar/Senior Researcher with the Concentration in Education and Jewish Studies at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where his research focused on pedagogies of spiritual transmission.
Rabbi Kleinberg has also served as Head of School at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, CA (2013-2020) and was the Founding Executive Director of Valley Beit Midrash in Phoenix, AZ (2007-2013).
Rabbi Kleinberg holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, received Orthodox rabbinic ordination, and is the author of Hybrid Judaism: Irving Greenberg, Encounter, and the Changing Nature of American Jewish Identity (2016).
Hazzan Diana Brewer
Dean of Students
Hazzan Diana Brewer serves as Dean of Students of the ALEPH Ordination Program. She was ordained through the ALEPH Ordination Program. 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 singer and string player. She earned her Master of Music at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.
photo courtesy of MileChai Studios
Rabbi Oren Steinitz
Dean of Faculty
Rabbi Dr. Oren Z. Steinitz, Ph.D., serves as a member of the AOP Academic VAAD, teaches in the rabbinics and history departments, and is the incoming Dean of Faculty. Ordained in 2014 at the Mesifta Adas Wolkowisk Rabbinical Academy, he is the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami in Elmira, NY. Rabbi Oren completed his doctorate at the University of Calgary in 2014. He also holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In 2020, after years of rigorous study of the laws of conversion to Judaism and Jewish divorce, Rabbi Oren received advanced rabbinic ordination as Dayan – Mediator and Adjudicator of Jewish Law – from Rabbi Daniel Siegel and ALEPH Canada’s Integral Halacha Institute. He is one of a handful of non-Orthodox rabbis trained as a mesader gittin, an administrator of Jewish divorce. His fields of expertise include the history of Jewish-Muslim relations; modern Jewish fundamentalism; Jewish and Islamic Law; and the religious online world.
Rabbi Marcia Prager
Rabbi Marcia Prager, MFA, MHL, D.Min. h.c., is the founding Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program. She teaches Jewish spiritual practice and the Jewish Lifecycle Liturgy and Training sequence of courses and practica. She is founding Co-Director and teacher in the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) and she serves as rabbi of the P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation of Philadelphia, PA.. She was ordained as a rabbi by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and also received personal smicha from R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She is the author of The Path of Blessing, published by Bell Tower and later by Jewish Lights, a “contemporary hasidic text” exploring the Jewish practice of blessing. She has written and compiled the P’nai Or Siddurim for Friday Evening and Shabbat Morning and other innovative compilations of prayer and liturgy. She is a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders Rabbinic Fellow. In 2010 she was selected by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Top Fifty American Female Rabbis.
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
Department Chair, Tanakh
Department Chair, History
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., D.Min. h.c., serves as a member of the AOP Academic VAAD. She was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and also received ordination from R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She received her doctorate in medieval Jewish history from UCLA, she was a Fulbright scholar and she spent extensive time in Spain researching Jewish history during the Spanish Reconquista. She is rabbi emerita of Kol Ami: The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community in Arlington, Virginia. She was the Founding Director of the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She taught at Reed College, Swarthmore College and Emory University, and was for a decade Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University in Washington D.C. She has published widely on the creation of new feminist rituals and is a pioneer in the unfolding field of contemplative Jewish engagement with the study of TaNaCH. She is currently working on a book on a contemplative approach to studying the Book of Genesis.
Rabbi Fern Feldman
Hebrew Competency Supervisor
Rabbi Fern Feldman teaches Biblical Hebrew and is the program’s Hebrew Administrator. She was ordained by ALEPH in 2003 and received her Spiritual Direction certification in 2007 from the Morei Derekh program of Yedidya. Rabbi Fern is a singer, thinker, spiritual counselor, service leader, and ritual facilitator, with experience in a wide range of Jewish communities, including Conservative, Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform, and unaffiliated. Her current work involves exploring the sacred dark in Jewish text, as well as developing non-dual paradigms for the mysteries of creation. In addition, she works as a certified clinical hypnotherapist and transpersonal life coach in Seattle, Washington.
Rabbi Elliot Ginsberg
Department Chair, Hasidut and Jewish Mysticism
Director, Beloved Land: Israel and Palestine Program
Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg, Ph.D. is Department Chair of Hasidut and Jewish Mysticism for the ALEPH Ordination Program, Director of the AOP Beloved Land: Israel and Palestine Program, and member of the AOP Academic VAAD. Rabbi Ginsburg is Associate Professor of Jewish Thought in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He received his doctorate of philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Sabbath in the Classical Kabbalah, a critical study of the mystical celebration of Sabbath in the classical period of Kabbalah, from the late twelfth to the early sixteenth centuries, and Sod HaShabbat a translation and critical commentary on The Mystical Sabbath, by the influential Spanish-Turkish Kabbalist, Rabbi Meir ibn Gabbai and a plethora of essays and articles.
Rabbi Nadya Gross
Director, Hashpa’ah: Training for Jewish Spiritual Directors Program
Rabbi Nadya Gross serves as Director of the AOP Hashpa’ah Training Program and member of the AOP Academic VAAD. Rabbi Gross is Co-Director of Yerusha and Co-Rabbi of Pardes Levavot, a Jewish Renewal congregation in Boulder, CO. Trained from childhood in the Jewish mystical tradition, by her Israeli grandmother, she now transmits the teachings in a two-year Wisdom School program. She has been a teacher of Kabbalah and meditation for more than 25 years, and is guided by our wisdom tradition and Reb Zalman’s teaching in her private practice as Mashpi’ah Ruchanit – which focuses on individuals, couples, and clergy. She co-founded the Center for Spiritual Friendship in Boulder, an interfaith center for hashpa’ah in many forms. With her extensive experience in end-of-life care, she also serves as a Sage-ing® trainer and mentor.
Rabbinic Pastor De Fischler Herman
Director of Studies, Rabbinic Pastor Program
Rabbinic Pastor De Fischler Herman is a Director of Studies for the Rabbinic Pastor Program. She was ordained by ALEPH in 2009 and, before her retirement, had served as hospice chaplain for ten years. A Mashp’iah and Sage-ing Mentor, R.P. De has taught Jewish bioethics for AOP, presented at Smithsonian ethics conferences, and practiced as an artist and art educator. She is Co-President of the Rabbinic Pastor Association and is a member of the OHALAH planning committee.
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan, MA, Ph.D. was ordained in 2000 through the ALEPH Rabbinic Program, and was a student of R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. Rabbi Danan teaches Talmud for the ALEPH Rabbinic program. Rabbi Danan is spiritual leader of Pleasantville Community Synagogue in Westchester, New York. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Tel Aviv University, and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, where she specialized in Rabbinic Literature and Culture and wrote her dissertation, The Divine Voice in Scripture: Ruah Ha-Kodesh in Rabbinic Literature. Rabbi Danan is trained as a Pastoral Care Specialist with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She teaches at the Academy of Jewish Religion and has been a lecturer at California State University, Chico, and Texas Lutheran University, and is the author of The Jewish Parents’ Almanac. Her personal website, wellspringofwisdom.com, explores ancient Jewish symbols in nature.
Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan
Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, Ph.D. teaches core courses in Jewish Philosophy and Thought for the ALEPH Ordination Program. She serves as Director of Inter-Religious and Studies at Vancouver School of Theology also teaches at the University of British Columbia and the Florence Melton Adult Jewish Studies Program. She is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). During her tenure at UNCC, she served as Professor of Philosophy, Chair of the Philosophy Department, Coordinator of Women’s Studies and teacher in the Judaic Studies Program. She earned many awards for her scholarship, teaching, and service, including the prestigious United States Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She received a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Education at Claremont Graduate University and was ordained as a rabbi by the ALEPH Rabbinic Program. She served as Rabbi of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.
Hazzan Jack Kessler
Director of Cantorial Program
Hazzan Jack Kessler, M.M, is Director of the ALEPH Cantorial Program and member of of the AOP Academic VAAD, Hazzan Kessler teaches the core sequence of courses in Nusach ha-Tefillah and the required Master Classes in voice and the art of hazzanut. He also teaches nusach for the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) and has lectured widely. Hazzan Kessler was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC. He coached Hazzanut with David Koussevitzky, studied composition with Miriam Gideon, and received the Albert Einstein Memorial Prize in Hazzanut, the Cantors Assembly Prize and the Jacobson Memorial Prize in Hazzanut. He went on to have a twenty-year career serving Conservative congregations. He earned a Master’s Degree in Voice from Boston Conservatory (Deans List) and pursued two years work in composition in the Graduate Department of Music at Brandeis University; studied with Arthur Berger and Harold Shapero. He has been a teacher of hazzanut and voice for 30 years, and has continued his own vocal training during this time. He has performed opera and oratorio and he directs, composes, and sings as the vocal lead for the touring ensembles Klingon Klezmer and Atzilut—Concerts for Peace. He was trained as an Ashkenazi Hazzan, but his performance style and original compositions also embrace Sephardi and Mizrachi styles.
Hazzan Abbe Lyons
Music Competency Supervisor
Hazzan Abbe Lyons serves as AOP Supervisor of Music Theory and Sight-singing and teaches practical davennen leadership skills. She received smicha from the ALEPH Cantorial Program in 2010. In 2005, she was honored as a Bat Kol, an emerging voice, by the N’shei Hazon (Women of Vision). Her teaching is informed not only by her education includes a B.Mus. in voice performance from Ithaca College (1987) but also by her training and practice as a Feldenkrais (R) practitioner. Hazzan Abbe has facilitated SpeakChorus Torah at Ruach HaAretz retreat, the ALEPH Kallah, and in congregational settings with adults and teens. She is the lead singer of the Ithaca-based band Resonate. In addition to her solo album, Household Chores (1990), she can be heard on the Vocolot albums Roots and Wings (1992) and Behold! (1998). She served Congregation Tikkun v’Or in Ithaca for 12 years as Cantor and Co-Educator, including as director of the B’nai Mitzvah Program. As a chaplain, she volunteers periodically with the Ithaca Childbearing Loss Network CARES and at Cayuga Medical Center. In addition to music & hazzanut, Abbe has studied and practiced somatic education and healing arts and worked in the nonprofit sector.
Rabbi Natan Margalit
Department Chair, Rabbinic Text
Director, Earth-Based Judaism Program
Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D., is Department Chair of Rabbinic Text and member of the AOP Academic VAAD. Rabbi Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990 and earned a Ph.D. in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley in 2001. He has taught at Bard College, the Reconstuctionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Natan is Rabbi of The Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life, in Connecticut. He is Founder and President of Organic Torah Institute, a non-profit organization that fosters holistic thinking about Judaism, environment and society. (www.organictorah.org). He lives in Newton, MA with his wife Ilana and their two sons.
Rabbi Vivie Mayer
Rabbi Vivie Mayer was raised in Queens, NY, in a Modern-Orthodox family. She lived in Israel on a kibbutz during her 20’s where she taught Judaism to prospective converts. She graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in 1996 and went on to serve a small Conservative congregation in Danbury CT for ten years. She returned to the RRC community where she is now the Director of the Beit Midrash and the Director of the Mechinah Program. Rabbi Vivie is also an alumna of ALEPH’s Kol Zimra Chant Leaders’ Training. R’ Vivie teaches the AOP Foundational courses in Traditional Jewish Practice including courses in Mishnah, Talmud and Halachah.
Rabbinic Pastor Tivona Reith
Director of Studies, Rabbinic Pastor Program
Rabbinic Pastor Tivona Reith is a Director of Studies for the Rabbinic Pastor Program and is currently serving as Shomeret, providing interim leadership for the AOP until a new dean is installed. She received her smicha through ALEPH in 2012 and Mashpi’ah Ruchanit in 2014. She served as hospice chaplain/bereavement support coordinator for a small rural hospice in Washington State from 2010 to 2015, and as hospice chaplain in Portland, Oregon, from 2016 to 2018. She maintains a private practice (Rite of Passage) in spiritual direction, pastoral and grief counseling, lifecycle rituals, and Jungian astrology. She teaches in Jewish and interfaith settings on a wide range of topics, including Jewish mysticism and meditation. Reb Tivona has been active in Jewish Renewal over the years, having served as OHALAH Shabbaton coordinator and conference coordinator, treasurer of the Rabbinic Pastor Association, and member and chair of the ALEPH Ethics Committee. Prior to her calling as chaplain and pastoral counselor, she spent twenty-five years in communication and organizational consulting, and was executive director of a non-profit land trust in Washington State from 2004 to 2006.
Rabbi David Siff
Rabbi David Siff, Ph.D., MAJS, teaches Halachic Process for the ALEPH Ordination Program. He received his B.A. From Dartmouth College, his MAJS from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and his Ph.D. from JTS, with a dissertation on “Messianism, Revelation and the Book: Rebbe Nahman of Breslav and the Torah of Atik. He has served as a day school educator and curriculum designer, congregational rabbi, psychiatric chaplain, and also taught at Rutgers University. Rabbi Siff is a member of the Board of OHALAH: Agudat Harabbanim l’Hithadshut Hayahadut, or Association of Rabbis and Cantors for Jewish Renewal.
Rabbi Shulamit Thiede
Rabbi Shulamit Thiede, Ph.D., is Dean of Faculty of the ALEPH Ordination Program and member of the AOP Academic VAAD. Rabbi Thiede teaches Hebrew Bible, Judaism and Jewish history, the Holocaust and the history of European anti-Semitism in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Charlotte. She was ordained in 2011 as a rabbi and in 2012 as a mashpi’ah ruchanit by ALEPH. Rabbi Thiede founded Temple Or Olam, the first Jewish Renewal congregation in North Carolina. Rabbi Thiede has written and published in a wide variety of settings; her current research project focuses on ritual items created by the women of Ashkenaz. Rabbi Thiede has founded two peace organizations, two interfaith organizations, and a chess school. She was the first Jewish member of the Kannapolis-Concord Ministerial Association, the first Jewish religious leader in Cabarrus County, and has served as the faculty advisor for UNCC’s Hillel group and the Interfaith Alliance. She blogs at adrenalinedrash.com.
Rabbi Orna Triguboff
Rabbi Orna Triguboff, Ph.D., teaches Zohar and other courses in Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism in the ALEPH Ordination Program. She serves at Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, Australia and is the founder and principal facilitator of the Neshama Life Organization in Sydney, Australia and facilitates Kabbalah Tours in Israel. She earned her doctorate in Kabbalah from Sydney University in Australia, specializing in the Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed and the study of Angels. She studied with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l; she was ordained by ALEPH as a rabbi in the Rabbinic Program and as a Mashpi’ah Ruchanit (Spiritual Counsellor) in the Hashpa’ah Training Program. She has been a meditation and yoga teacher for over 20 years, teaching both in Australia and internationally. She was trained in Hatha Yoga by Acharya Upendra Roy. Orna currently divides her time between Israel and Australia.
Rabbinic Pastor & Mashpi’ah Ruchanit Sandra Wortzel
Core Faculty, Hashpa’ah
Rabbinic Pastor & Mashpi’ah Ruchanit Sandra Wortzel, B.F.A., M.A., received her Rabbinic Pastor smicha from the ALEPH Ordination Program. She is a Director of Studies for the Rabbinic Pastor Program, a supervisor for Hashpa’ah Program students, and a Mashpia for AOP students. R.P. Sandra also serves as Co-President of the Rabbinic Pastor Association. She is a graduate of the Kol Zimra Hebrew chant leadership training. Uniting Jewish spirituality, the expressive arts, and nature, Sandra encourages others to express their spirituality and yearnings through the arts, in Hashpa’ah sessions, creative ceremonies, and workshops. Sandra has a BFA in Dance, a MA in Expressive Arts Therapy from Lesley University, and a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies from the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in Training, Research and Leadership in Expressive Arts Therapy.
Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit
Associate Director, Hashpa’ah: Training for Jewish Spiritual Directors Program
Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit serves as Associate Director of the AOP Hashpa’ah Training Program and member of the AOP Academic VAAD. Rabbi Zevit is a seasoned congregational, organizational, and social justice consultant. He served the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years as Director of Congregational Service, Outreach and Tikkun Olam, consulting to and supporting dozens of congregations, organizations, social justice initiatives in the Jewish and larger world. He is Co-Director with Rabbi Marcia Prager of the Davennen’ Leader’s Training Institute (DLTI) and is a spiritual director and trainer of Jewish clergy in spiritual direction for the ALEPH Hashpa’ah Program. He is currently the Lead Rabbi of Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia. Rabbi Shawn has been an organizer for over twenty years of Jewish men’s programming and retreats; and co-editor with Harry Brod of the just published Brother Keepers: New Perspectives in Jewish Masculinity as well as Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Community. He has recorded five CDs of original and liturgical music. Rabbi Shawn is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and has smicha from R’ Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l.