Meet the first cohort of Kesher Fellows!
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is pleased to announce the launch of the Kesher Fellowship, a new program of transformational learning and mentoring for young adults between the ages of 22-40. The Kesher Fellowship seeks to empower and train the next generation of ALEPH participants, teachers and leaders.
The fellowship consists of:
- Distance learning every few weeks from ALEPH faculty and teachers, on topics of specific importance to Kesher Fellows
- Monthly mentoring, spiritual direction, and guidance from a teacher connected to ALEPH
- An in-person gathering in the summer of 2019
- A private listserv where we can share reflections and community
- A commitment to helping expand and grow ALEPH’s impact and influence with the next generation
Daniel Berchenko (Oakland, CA) Daniel Berchenko lives and works on a farm in Northern California. The first generation American-born son of Soviet Jewish immigrants, Daniel is an eager student of ancestral wisdom and the medicine of grief. He recently returned from a two-year pilgrimage connecting with jis roots in his ancestral homelands. Daniel gets excited about reawakening the indigenous soul of Jewish tradition. Though he was bar mitzvah’d at a Reform synagogue in his home state of Ohio, he didn’t really begin walking the Jewish path until he moved to California and did the Urban Adamah farming fellowship and got involved with Wilderness Torah. He thought he was going to these communities just to learn farming and connect with nature. Little did he know that through soulful niggunim, stories, and ritual that were shared, ancient memories would be awoken in his bones that wouldn’t allow him to go numb to his ancestral heritage again. Much was healed through that awakening. Now Daniel is studying with indigenous elders how to facilitate for others that sort of awakening of ancient memories, wisdom, and medicine that lie deep within the bones. He dreams of integrating this learning into the ways he serves his Jewish community.
Jonathan Billig (Falls Village, CT) Jonathan Billig enjoys facilitating connections between people and with the more-than-human world, and has always had a "spiritual" bent to his life and work. "Spiritual" is in quotes because, to paraphrase the eminent nature educator Jon Young, ‘if anything is spiritual then everything is spiritual.’ Jonathan is excited to see how that approach interacts with the Jewish practices and traditions that have come to mean more and more in his life. He has had a variety of leadership and educator-level positions in the field of environmental education, most recently as a Teva educator at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and board member of the NYS Outdoor Education Association.
Julie Bir (Helena, MT) Julie Bir lives in Helena, Montana, and has worked in the nonprofit/human services sector for nearly 10 years. Through ALEPH, she attended Ruach Ha'aretz in 2017 and is currently enrolled in the Biblical Hebrew course. She is excited to join the Kesher Fellowship to continue learning about Jewish Renewal, connect with others, and learn ways to build welcoming Jewish community. Her personal spiritual path includes visual art inspired by liturgy and psalms and creative writing. She is passionate about feminist approaches to religion and spirituality and increasing accessibility to Jewish learning and rituals for interfaith families, LGBTQ folks, and others from various walks of life.
Elana Brody (Brooklyn, NY) Elana Brody is a song-leader and future Kohenet priestess, currently living in Brooklyn, NY. After her truly transformative Jewish experience as an Adamah fellow at Isabella Freedman, she has been actively sharing her voice and unique musicality with the Jewish Renewal community. Some of her notable prayer-leadership work includes: High Holiday services at Nevei Kodesh in Boulder, CO, for 3 years; co-leading Renewal Shabbat and holiday services at 'Sukkahfest' for 2 years; leading Renewal Shabbat services at 'LIMMUD NY' in 2018; co-leading Kohenet Shacharit at the 'Parliament of World Religions' in 2018; leading Shabbat morning prayers at Singing Alive Appalachia for 2 years; along with others. She has contributed her voice to renewal services at Romemu, Lab/Shul, Shir Haamalot Brooklyn, Kohenet Priestess Shabbats, and sings and records with ALEPH artists such as Shir Yaakov Feit and Darshan. She is a songwriter and a performing artist, and studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Elana plans to eventually co-create a tradition-honoring (and celebrating!) Jewish community in rural Appalachia, and facilitate earth-based Jewish ritual and musical prayer to the Jewishly-seeking souls there. She is very much looking forward to the connections and revelations sparked by the Kesher Fellowship this year.
Ilana Cohen (Montague, MA) Ilana is a Research Associate at Verite, a non-profit research, advocacy, and training organization dedicated to ensuring that people worldwide work under safe, fair, and legal conditions. Before joining Verite, Ilana completed an MA in Anthropology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Brandeis University, where she conducted research on menarche ceremonies in Tamil Nadu, India and the intersection of menstrual hygiene management programs, cultural menstrual practices, and gender equality. She has BAs in Cultural Anthropology and Jewish Women and Gender Studies from Columbia/JTS and has worked on organic farms in the U.S., France, and India. Ilana is interested in critical studies of religion and spirituality as well as the embodied practice of ritual and religion, and is very excited to explore these topics and more through the Kesher Fellowship.
Amber Ikeman (Bozeman, MT) Amber Ikeman’s mission is to create transcendent experiences through music. An award-winning folk songwriter, her spirited, earthy music carries audiences across the open spaces of the American West and into the depths of their souls. She has released two original albums and tours all over the U.S. Born in Canada and raised in Florida, Amber began songleading and working for various Jewish organizations while pursuing her Bachelor's in Music with a minor in Judaic Studies. A longing to explore the West led her to a job in Yellowstone National Park, then to Bozeman, Montana, where she worked as Cantorial Soloist with ALEPH Rabbi Ed Stafman at Congregation Beth Shalom. Currently, Amber is Beth Shalom's full-time Director of Music and Community Engagement. She loves going to Kallah, making amazing connections through Kesher, and just finished her first ALEPH class. She’s thrilled to be a Kesher Fellow and looks forward to deepening and sharing her passion for Jewish Renewal.
Kathryn Imray (Fiji Islands) Bula vinaka! Kathryn Imray is writer and counsellor, and an academic. At the moment she lives and works in the Fiji Islands, teaching Hebrew and Tanakh. She has been circling ALEPH for years, and has begun taking classes through the Tikshoret program and the public courses. She is interested in the storytelling tradition in Judaism — especially spooky stories! — and also in developing an earth-based Judaism for the southern hemisphere. She is so pleased to be part of this fellowship, and hopes to enrich and be enriched by creative, passionate, committed people as practice and spirituality is deepened.
Josh Levine (Houston, TX) Josh Levine is a choir director in a public high school near Houston, TX. They also serve Jewish congregations in Houston as a leader of prayer through music, primarily at Temple Sinai in west Houston. Josh is eternally grateful to have been in the ninth DLTI cohort, their “gateway drug” into Renewal. They are excited to explore spirituality through a Jewish Renewal lens with this new group!
Lenny Molina (Tucson, AZ) Lenny Molina is a Quechua/Jewish writer and activist. He works and writes primarily on radical environmental and indigenous struggles, and is a former editor of the Earth First! Journal. He is a founding member of Tucson's radical chavurah, and has created liturgy and led prayer services for many of the chavurah's iterations over the past 15 years. He is particularly interested in helping restore Judaism's earth-centered traditions and cosmovision. He writes under the pen name Daniel Delgado.
Phreddy Nosanwisch (New York, NY) Phreddy Nosanwisch is currently studying to get a masters in Jewish education at JTS, where his intellect is deeply engaged and his neshamah is a bit thirsty, which is why he is seeking the ALEPH community. He loves G-d and he loves halacha, and his relationship with both (together and separately) feels complicated at the moment: he is hoping to learn new ways of relating to G-d/halacha AND to have opportunities to renew the parts of his relationships that he has long-cherished.
Annie Prusky (Washington, DC) Annie Prusky is currently an Ezra Jewish Education Fellow at the University of Maryland Hillel, where she works mostly with the large population of progressive Jews, oversees social justice and identity-based student groups, and facilitates immersive experiences. Originally from Philly, she attended Brown University where she studied sociolinguistics and Deaf Studies, and where she was deeply involved with the Jewish community via Brown RISD Hillel. Annie has a passion for crafting accessible, fulfilling, and community-driven Jewish experiences, and is enjoying the process of "shul shopping" and settling into her new life in DC. She applied to the Kesher Fellowship because she wants to add spiritual practice into her Jewish life; learn more about "Big Tent" Judaism; explore new rituals with intention; and practice more giving, more sustainable leadership.
Sharma Rapoport (Eugene, OR) Sharma Rapoport is so excited to return to being involved with ALEPH with this unique opportunity. Sharma was first exposed to Renewal when she randomly took a class titled “Models of Jewish Renewal” taught by Elliot Ginsburg as a 19 year old undergrad at the University of Michigan. She felt that it was so inspiring that Judaism could be so much more than what she was raised with, and this began a long and intertwining journey, finding affinity with Jewish Renewal wherever she went. Sharma now lives in Eugene, Oregon, and works as a mental health therapist and crisis director. She is excited to find ways to become more involved with her Judaism through this program.
Jenna Shaw (Los Angeles, CA) Jenna is a second-year Rabbinical Student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. She grew up in Chicago and fell in love with political activism and the ways that social justice interacts with her Judaism. Her activism and Jewish engagement continued when she was in college at American University in Washington DC where she worked for Hillel and NCJW. She's passionate about LGBT specific Jewish ritual, experiential Jewish education, and political activism. Currently, Jenna teaches sixth grade at a local synagogue, works for BBYO as a Judaic Educator, and organizes with Bend the Arc. As a Rabbi, Jenna hopes to fuse her love of Jewish education with her passion for justice to create justice- oriented authentic Jewish learning opportunities for teens and young adults and cannot wait to be a part of this wonderful and diverse group of fellows.
Joy Silvey (Methuen, MA) Joy Silvey carries an interfaith history into her Jewish practice. Her Jewish journey began approximately six years ago when she attended a week-long Jewish Farm School program held in Western Massachusetts, which sparked her interest in food justice and sustainability activism through a Jewish lens. Additionally, she has developed an interest in the history and present work of Jewish feminism and the relationship between the collective and the individual in ritual practice. She participated in the Kesher program at the 2018 ALEPH Kallah and is presently enrolled in a course through the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute exploring the foundations of Judaism. Joy received her BA in History with a focus on U.S. LGBTQ+ life in the 20th century from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and currently works in IT as a Systems Administrator. She is grateful to have the opportunity to continue learning and growing with ALEPH and the other Kesher fellows.
Eri Svenson (Tucson, AZ) Eri Svenson is a Jewish educator and engagement professional presently serving as the Director of Jewish Student Life at the University of Arizona Hillel. They have a background in experiential education, community organizing, and Jewish studies, and are passionate about creating Jewish experiences that are accessible, impactful, and reflect the diverse mosaic of Jewish identities. Outside of work, you can most often find them curled up with a page of Talmud alongside good friends, hot chocolate, and their trusted cat Thimbelina.
Hannah Weintraub (Pittsburgh, PA) Hannah Weintraub lives in Pittsburgh, PA where she is a Hebrew school teacher and founder of Shulayim L'Shalom - an LGBTQ+ youth group for Jewish teens. She enjoys hosting loud, songfilled Shabbat Dinners for Jewish and queer friends. Hannah believes that Judaism has a revolutionary spark that she is excited to explore. She grew up in the DC area attending Adat Shalom Reconstructionist synagogue, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 with a degree in history and fiction writing and a certificate in Jewish Studies. She is also a graduate of the Steiner Summer Yiddish program at the Yiddish Book Center.
Kineret Ando Yardena (Santa Fe, NM) Kineret Ando Yardena lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she is a youth worker, artist and poet. Her work grows out of her love of learning from the lives and stories of others, and her love for Earth. She is engaged in international and interfaith peace work and guides youth rites of passage ceremony. Kineret's hope for participating in the Kesher Fellowship is to investigate how we hear, acknowledge, and follow the voice of True Inner Calling & Mystery within the Ancient Wisdom Teachings passed on to us by our ancestors; and within that, how we open to and honor departures, deviations, and discoveries.