Members of the AOP Academic VAAD and Core Faculty
Charles Silverstein, PhD
Member of VAAD
Charles Silverstein, PhD, is the Interim Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program.
Charles “Chuck” Silverstein, PhD, is on leave from the ALEPH Board where he was also the Treasurer, and Chair of the Finance and Governance Committees. After retiring from a successful career as a fixed-income institutional investor, he earned an MA in Conscious Evolution and a PhD in Transformative Studies at the California Institute for Integral Studies. He is the former Executive Vice President at The Graduate Institute of Holistic Studies where he was also the Academic Director of the MA program in Consciousness Studies and Transpersonal Psychology. His experience at the school included founding and directing a spiritual coaching program, accreditation oversight, as well as finance and IT oversight. Since the late 1990s, Chuck has been steeped
in the traditions and practices of the Jewish Renewal movement. He attended retreats at Elat Chayyim, and has attended all Kallah and Ruach Ha’Aretz gatherings since 2013. He has completed the Nondual Kabbalistic Healing 4-year program and the Age-ing to Sage-ing Legacy program.
Hazzan Diana Brewer
Dean of Students
Member of VAAD
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 Marcia Prager
Rabbi Marcia Prager, MFA, MHL, D.Min. D.Div. h.c., is the founding Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program. 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 is a graduate of 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, 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 Dr. Leila Gal Berner
Dept. Chair, Tanakh
Dept. Chair, Jewish History
Member of VAAD
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 Dr. Elliot Ginsberg
Dept. Chair, Jewish Mysticism
Director, Beloved Land Program
Member of VAAD
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 Dr. Aubrey Glazer
Dept. Chair, Jewish Thought
Member of VAAD
Rav Aubrey L. Glazer, Ph.D. (University of Toronto, 2005), rabbinic ordination (JTSA, 2000) is honored to serve as Member of the VAAD, Department Chair of Jewish Thought and Philosophy and is a Director of Studies. Aubrey is founding director and editor in chief of Panui: a think tank devoted to researching, reflecting, and teaching modern and contemporary Jewish mysticism in a dynamic and authentic way to build conscious, compassionate community. Aubrey is currently honored to serve as Senior Rabbi of Beth Abraham Synagogue (Dayton, Ohio), and has served as Senior Rabbi in the following communities: Congregation Shaare Zion, Montreal (2018-2021), Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco (2014-2018), as well as Jewish Community Center of Harrison, New York (2005-2014). Aubrey has served as a mentor for rabbinic students from diverse seminaries. As a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Aubrey co-led Jewish meditation retreats at Makor Or with Zoketsu Norman Fischer as well as teaching Zohar in the Philosophy Circle of Lehrhaus under the direction of Daniel C. Matt. Aubrey has also completed certification of Kashrut: Rav Machshir (JTSA) and Jewish Business leadership (Kellogg School of Business). Aubrey’s recent publications on contemporary philosophy and theology include: Mystical Vertigo (2013); Tangle of Matter & Ghost: Leonard Cohen’s Post-Secular Songbook of Mysticism(s) Jewish & Beyond (2017) and God Knows Everything is Broken: Bob Dylan’s Gnostic Mystical Songbook (2019). Aubrey is co-editor and translator of a multi-volume series on Tiberian Hasidism called From Tiberias With Love.
Rabbi Dr. Natan Margalit
Interim Dean of Faculty
Dept. Chair Rabbinic Texts
Director, Earth-Based Judaism Program
Member of VAAD
Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D., is the author of The Pearl and the Flame: A Journey into Jewish Wisdom and Ecological Thinking. He was ordained in Jerusalem in 1990 and earned a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley, 2001. He has taught at Bard College, RRC, and Hebrew College Rabbinical School. Natan is currently Interim Dean of Faculty and chair of the Rabbinic texts Department at the Aleph Ordination Program. He is also Director of AOP’s Earth-Based Judaism program and founder of the non-profit Organic Torah. He lives in Newton, MA with his wife, two sons and dog.
Rabbi Vivie Mayer
Classes in Liturgy
Rabbi Vivie Mayer was raised in Queens, NY, in a Modern-Orthodox family. She teaches classes in liturgy, midrash and rabincs. 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.
Hazzan Jack Kessler
Director of Cantorial Program
Member of VAAD
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 Dr Jill Hammer
Classes in Jewish Mysticism
Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, author, scholar, ritualist, poet, mystic. dreamworker and midrashist, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion (www.ajrsem.org), and co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute (www.kohenet.org). She is the author of Undertorah: An Earth-Based Kabbalah of Dreaming, Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation, and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah, The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership (with Taya Shere), The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons, Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women, and The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries. She is also the author of academic articles published in Religion and Literature, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Studies, The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and The Journal of Lesbian Studies, as well as anthologies including Best Jewish Writing 2002 and the Encyclopedia of Women and World Religions. She is the translator of The Romemu Siddur and of Siddur haKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook. She has written a children’s book, The Garden of Time. She lives in Manhattan with her family.
Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit, HDD
Director Hashpa’ah Training
Member of VAAD
Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit, HDD, was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1998, and has smicha from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi as a rabbi and Mashpia Ruchani (Spiritual Director). He serves as rabbi at Mishkan Shalom, in Philadelphia, PA. A member of the Aleph Ordination Program VAAD and faculty, he has been involved in teaching, supervising, and training Jewish and Multifaith Spiritual Directors for over twenty years. He is co-founder/director with Rabbi Marcia Prager of the Davennen Leader’s Training Institute (www.DLTITraining.org); and is the Director for the ALEPH Hashpa’ah (Spiritual Direction) Training Program. Shawn has been offering spiritual direction since 1999 through the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, ALEPH and with individuals, teaching at Spiritual Director International conferences and Leadership Institutes, and working with people of all faith backgrounds. He is an active leader is faith and justice work, with POWER, PA: Faith in Action, is a liturgical, recording (www.rabbizevit.com) and performing artist, founder of www.menschwork.org; co-editor of “Brother Keepers: New Perspectives in Jewish Masculinity”; and author of “Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Community”. See: (http://zevit.wpengine.com/
Rabbi Jeff Hoffman, PhD
Classes in Liturgy
Rabbi Jeff Hoffman teaches liturgy in the ALEPH Ordination Program. Rabbi Hoffman delights in exploring primary texts on prayer and primal experiences of the divine. He served for 23 years as a pulpit rabbi in Conservative congregations in Vancouver, B.C. and Nyack, N.Y. He was a faculty member at the Jewish Theological Seminary for five years and has been a faculty member at The Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR) in New York for over 35 years. Reb Jeff holds a B.A. in Judaic Studies/Hebrew from the State University of N.Y. at Albany and an M.A. in Jewish Studies, Rabbinic Ordination, and a Doctorate of Hebrew Letters in Liturgy from The Jewish Theological Seminary. Reb Jeff is the editor of the Siddur Tisha B’Av for the Rabbinical Assembly, co-author (with Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener) of Karov L’Chol Korav, For All Who Call: A Manual For Enhancing the Teaching of Prayer, and the author of many articles and reviews on Jewish liturgy (see his page on academia.edu for all of his articles and reviews). His commentary on the siddur, Weaving Prayer: An Analytical and Spiritual Commentary on the Jewish Prayer Book will be published in late 2023. He has played lead guitar in rock ‘n roll bands (favorite music: The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan) and enjoys creating visual art.
Rabbi Deb Smith
Classes in Ethics
Jewish Pastoral Counseling
Rabbi Debra Smith (“Reb Deb”) is the founder and spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ha Lev, a Jewish Renewal Community in New Jersey. She received Smicha as a Rabbi from the Aleph Ordination Program where she currently serves on the faculty, teaching An Introduction to Pastoral Counseling and Clergy Ethics.
She is also a Clinical Social Worker and Multicultural Family Therapist. Reb Deb is an ordained Maggidah (Jewish Inspirational Storyteller).
Reb Deb has been nationally recognized for her work as an ethicist and ethics educator and is a recipient of the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) Trailblazer Award in the field of professional ethics. Reb Deb’s rabbinic work focuses on Deep Ecumenism and multi-faith dialogue. She currently co-chairs the NJ Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee and co-chairs the NJ Morris County Chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom. Reb Deb is married for almost 50 years to Neil Smith, a now retired physician and mohel, and is the mother of two married daughters, Elana and Dana. Reb Deb and Neil make their home in Boynton Beach, Florida and Parsippany, NJ. Reb Deb and Neil are the proud parents of Sammi, their adorable golden doodle puppy.
Rabbi Caryn Aviv
Classes in Liturgy
Rabbi Caryn Aviv teaches Liturgy of the Lifecycle in the ALEPH Ordination Program and serves as Rabbinic and Program Director at Judaism Your Way. Caryn loves to create and facilitate transformative Jewish experiences that spark joy and meaning for Jews and loved ones. Prior to becoming a rabbi, Caryn earned a PhD in sociology from Loyola University Chicago in 2002. She taught, mentored students, and published research in Jewish Studies and sociology at University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Denver from 2003-2013 before entering the ALEPH Ordination Program. Caryn loves spending time with her family, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, singing with Denver Women’s Chorus, hugging trees as a spiritual practice, organizing for justice, and making art.