Kesher Fellows 2023
Please extend a warm welcome and mazel tov to the newest Kesher Fellows!
We received a number of applications from all across the globe. We express gratitude to all who applied.
We appreciate the time and efforts of our selection committee, who had a very difficult task to complete. We are blessed to have so many incredible young leaders in Jewish Renewal.
The Kesher Fellowship is generously supported by The Lasko Family Foundation.
Andrea Levinsky (she/her) is an educator from Portland Maine. She connects most to Judaism through song, nature, social justice, embodied practice, and spirituality. She enjoys kayaking, musical theater, tap dance, and cross country skiing.
Danny Z. Morris
Danny Z. Morris (they/them) is a healer and a somatic + energetic alignment coach. Their work is to help individuals open, connect, and trust in order to heal. A first-generation white American, mixed Ashkenazi / Mizrahi, they are exploring how to make Judaism relevant in this modern context as well as how to heal from the intergenerational traumas that are carried in their bones. They have had an eclectic life that ranged from being an Engineer at IBM to living in a Modern Monastery.
Hilary Rappaport (she/her) is a somatic-informed practitioner and artist with a deep interest in the places where healing, nature, and creativity meet. She is the granddaughter of Ashkenazi migrants, and deeply enjoys studying with the Kohenet community. A lover of the earth and a student of the plants, her work is rooted in earth-based rituals that pay reverence to the more than human world.
She is humbly committed to creating safe space for people to listen to the wisdom of their hearts, nature, and spirit and to ultimately live more embodied lives. Hilary is in the first cohort of legal psilocybin facilitators in Oregon and serves on the board for a non-dogmatic church that uses mushrooms as a sacrament. She is honored to be a part of this fellowship and is deeply inspired by the way it may expand her connection to spirit and her work in the world.
Jessie Duke (she/her) is a ceremonialist who encourages others to cultivate deeper relationships with themselves and the Earth through Jewish rituals, connecting with the elements, plants, and trees, learning to listen, and tending to the body. She is the founder of “Bendichas Manos” (“blessed hands” in Ladino), a ceremonial cacao company, and the Director of Community for School of Living Jewishly, a virtual learning platform focused on lifelong Jewish learning.
She is passionate about living life as the greatest ceremony of all, connecting with both her Sephardic and Ashkenazi ancestors, and expressing her prayer through music and dance. Born and raised on Ramapough Lenape land in Northern New Jersey, she calls Tongva/Chumash land home (Los Angeles) and is privileged to be weaving threads of community globally.
Lorka Scher (she/her) is a musician, artist and educator working with themes of somatic memory and intergenerational healing. She joins the cohort with a background in neuroscience, psychology and healing arts.
Lorka believes music to be an embodied practice of personal and cultural healing. Drawing from her own post-war experience as the daughter of Soviet refugees, she explores themes of belonging, memory, fragmentation and wholeness in her work.
Her sound carries the complexity of paradox alongside the potency of prayer— blending death into life, silence into sound and winter into spring. Her music has been described as haunting, medicinal and intimate.
Lorka is a Fellow with the Witness Institute — an organization centered on questions of moral transformation, inspired by the work of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. She holds a self-designed interdisciplinary degree from the University of Redlands and a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She has worked globally as a humanitarian consultant (United Nations, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative) and teaches graduate courses in Global Health and Psychology while working as a somatic mindfulness educator. Her educational philosophy is rooted in cultural humility, inquiry, curiosity and freedom.
You can follow Lorka’s work and hear her music at www.thespacebetweenbreaths.com.
Mara Heppen (she/her) works as a professional organizer, Cuddle Party facilitator and coach for people with chronic illness. In her work, she shepherds people through their relationship with their space and stuff, offering support to help people move through transitions, change, growth, and feeling stuck. She was raised in New York and holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center. She currently resides in Richmond, Virginia.
Marni Loffman (they/them) is a community-driven ritual leader, musician, performer and educator currently living on Lenni Lenape land. Marni is passionate about using creative practice to hold complexity and contradiction, to cultivate joy, make space for emotion and confront community harm and conflict. Marni works as a music teacher and tefillah educator at Beit Rabban Day School and facilitates music, contemplative practice, deep learning and conversation in various synagogue and grassroots communities.
They hold an MA in Peacebuilding from Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, where they studied tools such as abolitionist and alternative community justice practices, dialogue, mediation, and trauma healing. Marni is thrilled to learn with Kesher, ALEPH and this cohort!
Miriam Kanani (she/her) M.A. is a singer, educator, storyteller, and Jewish ritual leader who has a true passion for Jewish Education, leading ceremonies, and working with Bar and Bat Mitzvah students and children from preschool age until middle school. She is a Rabbinical student at the Pluralistic Jewish Seminary. Miriam Kanani has prepared over 50 students for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. She has officiated ceremonies around the Bay Area for families for families doing an independent B’nai Mitzvah, and works with interracial families, LGBTQ families, and families across the Jewish spectrum.
As far as education, Miriam attained her Master’s Degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and holds a Multi-Subject California Teaching Credential, as well a certificate in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She spent four years in intensive Hebrew study in Israel, and has learned trope through mentorship in the ALEPH Program.
Nicolia Mehrling (they/them, she/her) is a facilitator, mediator, lay teacher, Torah enthusiast, and budding community builder. As a Jew by birth and by choice, Nicolia has experienced both the belonging and the exclusiveness of the Jewish civilization. They seek to create resilient relationships that can hold harm, complex love, communal joy, and interdependency. Nicolia splits their time between unceded Lisjan Ohlone land and traditional home of multiple bands of the Chinook people.
Her worldview is informed by a queer upbringing, years living and working in cooperatives, and the very human foibles of living with an anxiety disorder. After years providing conflict resolution services and training lay mediators, Nicolia invested in a full year of Torah/Talmud study. Nicolia is committed to loving and living Jewishly, and they are thrilled to learn and grow alongside others in the Kesher Fellowship.
Noraa Neither Kaplan
Noraa Neither Kaplan (she/her & they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist and Jewish community leader living on Narragansett land in Providence, Rhode Island. As a disabled trans lesbian, Noraa has always felt like a bit of a misfit, and is used to having to build her own community to practice Judaism on her terms. She hopes to maintain this DIY spirit while learning from and collaborating with other radical Jews.
The author of Min Ha-Meitzar: An Abolitionist Haggadah from the Narrow Place, Noraa is committed to using Jewish ritual to fight for prison and police abolition. A few of Noraa’s other obsessions include: the erotic dimensions of Judaism, environmental justice, trauma, dissociation and healing, responding to Christian hegemony, and poetry.
Ryan Brenner (he/him) lives in Brooklyn, part of the unceded homeland of the Lenape people, where he studies cities. By day, Ryan researches housing policy at NYU, where he is also a doctoral candidate in an interdisciplinary urban systems program studying climate resilience. Outside of work, Ryan is passionate about organizing within the Jewish community, having been involved with Bend the Arc’s Jeremiah Fellowship, Avodah’s Justice Fellowship, JOIN for Justices’ Don’t Kvetch Organize, Hazon’s Adamah at Home, Dayenu’s Taking Down Goliath, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. As a member of B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, Ryan helps organize social justice and activism programming related to racial justice and sustainability. Ryan fell in love with the Jewish Renewal movement while living in San Francisco and looks forward to learning even more about it as a Kesher Fellow!
Søren Hough (he/him) is a DNA repair researcher who enjoys editing with both the pen and CRISPR. He spends his free time writing about science, politics, history, and film with an interest in making complex ideas clear and understandable. His driving motivation in life is the self-liberation of all peoples of the world from kyriarchy, exploitation, and domination.
Søren is an American transplant in the United Kingdom and is still seeking a spiritual home. His religious background includes Reconstructionist, Conservative/Masorti, and Reform Judaism, but can be boiled down to any stream that includes Debbie Friedman in its liturgy. He’s excited to see what the Kesher Fellowship holds in terms of learning and growth as both a Jew and as a global citizen.