Staff

Melissa

Melissa Barros Allen

(she/her)

Program and Communications Coordinator

Bio ---

Melissa knows that programs happen because a large number of things amazingly fail to go wrong-she’s just there to make sure that everyone has the Zoom link. Melissa has worked in grassroots movements, presidential campaigns, and human rights advocacy and strives to leave the world a better (and infinitely more interesting) place than she found it. She enjoys reading large books accompanied by large cups of coffee, as well as making things up and writing them down. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her partner and her rescue husky.
Diana Brewer

Hazzan Diana Brewer

(she/her)

Dean of Students | Ordination Program

Bio ---

Hazzan Diana Brewer was ordained through the ALEPH Ordination Program, where she now assists the Cantorial Program and student affairs. 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

Lynda Simons

Stephanie Buncher

(she/her)

Events Manager

Bio ---

Stephanie’s background in event planning and management spans conferences, galas, fundraising events, and so much more. Prior to ALEPH, Stephanie worked as an Event Support Specialist with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, organizing and overseeing fundraisers to raise funds to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Stephanie is also incredibly passionate about securing equitable educational opportunities for all, having spent time working with Repair the World, an organization which seeks to engage young Jews and their peers around volunteering in the areas of education and food justice. When not busy working, Stephanie can be found spending time with her loving husband, Aaron, and their rescue dog, Katonah.

Diane Elliot

Quinn Diacon-Furtado

(they/she)

Development and Alliance Manager

Bio ---

Quinn Diacon-Furtado believes creativity is a spiritual practice. Their work as a writer spans across multiple genres including grants, curriculum, editorial nonfiction, speculative fiction, contemporary fantasy, and picture books. Regardless of the forum or topic, Quinn grounds their work in the values of community, inclusivity, and creativity. Their work in Development has been heavily influenced by Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth–they prioritize authentic relationships and assets-based thinking as the root of ethical fundraising and network building. As a writer of fiction, they particularly love creating for young audiences after years of teaching middle school and high school. Quinn holds a BA in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from the University of Virginia. In 2021, they received their MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. They live with their partner on Mohican lands, in what is commonly known as Troy, New York
Diane Elliot

Rabbi Diane Elliot

(she/her)

Director | Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body

Bio ---

Rabbi Diane Elliot, based in the Bay Area, is a spiritual teacher, ritual leader, dancer, writer, and somatic therapist who inspires her students to become clearer channels for Presence through awareness and movement practices, dance, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish sacred text. For six years she directed ALEPH’s Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body training program, and she continues to work to bring the essential wisdom of the Jewish path to diverse Jewish and interfaith groups.
Kohenet Keshira

Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife

(she/they)

Director | Kesher Fellowship Program

Bio ---

Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife (she/they) sprinkles sparkles, disrupts expectations, and offers blessings wherever she goes. She serves as Oreget Kehilah (Executive Director) of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, founder/co-leader of Kesher Pittsburgh, Program Director of the ALEPH Kesher Fellowship, Lead Facilitator for Keshet’s GLBTQ+ Jewish Youth of Colour programming, and member of the leadership team of the JOC Mishpachah Project. Additionally, she delights in serving as a shlichat tzibbur, life spiral ceremony/ritual creatrix, liturgist, songstress, teacher, and public speaker. Her work in these realms is informed by her lived experience as a queer Jewish Woman of Colour and the quandaries she encounters as a scholar of the Orphan Wisdom School. Keshira received Kohenet smicha in 2017 and earned her BS 2000 and MS 2001 at Carnegie Mellon University. Dual-citizens of the USA and Australia and avid travelers, she and her beloved are currently leaning into stillness and sheltering-in-peace on Osage and Haudenosaunee land also called Pittsburgh, PA.

Jake

Rabbi Shefa Gold

(she/her)

Director |  C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional Energy & Ecstatic Practice and SOULIFT

Bio ---

Shefa received her ordination both from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She is the director of C-DEEP: The Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice, and was named “One of the 33 Most Inspiring Rabbis in America,” by the Jewish Forward. Her latest project is called SOULIFT, a one week immersion in spiritual practice designed to lift us into the Soul perspective. Shefa combines her grounding in Judaism with a background in Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Native American spiritual traditions to make her uniquely qualified as a spiritual bridge celebrating the shared path of devotion.
Zelig

Rabbi Zelig Golden

(he/him)

Creative Director | Earth-Based Judaism

Bio ---

Rabbi Zelig Golden is the Executive Director of Wilderness Torah. He received rabbinic ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, supported by the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, and was previously ordained Maggid by Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi z”l. Rabbi Zelig holds a Masters in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. He previously worked as an environmental lawyer protecting food and farms and has long guided groups into the wilderness. Zelig livesin Occidental, CA, with his wife, Rachel, and his kids, Emma and Ilana.

Shelby Haverson

Shelby Haverson

(she/her)

Operations Manager | Ordination Program

Bio ---

Shelby brings varied backgrounds in corporate law, restorative practices, mediation and non-profit leadership to the position of Operations Manager for the Aleph Ordination Program. During her three decades of legal practice, Shelby also worked as a community mediator for the Good Shephard Mediation Center and as an Executive Committee member of Artwell, a non-profit focused on violence prevention and healing through the arts. She later transitioned professionally to promoting educational access, working as a college advisor at Martin Luther King High School and as an academic advisor at Temple University, both in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. She holds a J.D. from Georgetown University, an M.S. in Restorative Practices from the International Institute for Restorative Practices and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Throughout her career, Shelby has had the great fortune to learn with exceptional Jewish teachers, many of whom grew out of the Renewal movement.

Natan

Rabbi Dr. Natan Margalit

(he/him)

Director | Earth-Based Judaism and Organic Torah

Bio ---

Rabbi Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley in 2001. He has taught at Bard College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Rabbi Natan is Founder of Organic Torah, a non-profit which fosters holistic thinking about Judaism, environment and society. Natan is a member of the Va’ad (steering committee and core faculty) of the ALEPH Ordination Program. He lives in Newton, MA, with his wife, Ilana, and their two sons.

SooJI

SooJi Min-Maranda

(she/her)

Executive Director

Bio ---

SooJi Min-Maranda believes in the power of personal stories. Whether providing direct services, advocating for policy change, or fundraising for nonprofit organizations, Ms. Min-Maranda begins with personal narratives that illustrate the need for programs, policies, and resources that raise the voices of those underserved and underrepresented in mainstream society. A seasoned nonprofit executive with 18 years of experience, Min-Maranda brings a for-profit mindset to the nonprofit arena. She advocates for racial justice, strategic partnerships and efficient, effective resource allocation.

Previously, Min-Maranda was the executive director of Temple Beth Emeth, a 600+ member reform Jewish synagogue in Ann Arbor, MI; the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization that focuses on adolescent sexual health and parenting; and Korean American Community Services, a comprehensive social service agency in Chicago. The Asian Health Coalition of Illinois presented her with its Outstanding Community Health Advocate Award in 2008.

She recently completed Cohort 3 of Leading Edge’s CEO Onboarding Program for high-level organizational leaders in the American Jewish community. Min-Maranda served on Governor Quinn’s Illinois Human Services Commission from 2010-2012 and is a member of the Selah Leadership Program’s National Executive Cohort 9. She was a 2010 Chicago Community Trust Fellow and a 2010 Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Awardee. She is a 2007 Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Delegate and a 2006 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. A graduate of Barnard College, Min-Maranda holds master’s degrees from Northwestern University and The University of Chicago.

Marcia Prager

Rabbi Marcia Prager

(she/her)

Dean Emerita | Ordination Program

Bio ---

Rabbi Marcia Prager, MFA, MHL, D.Min.h.c., is the founding Dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program. She serves as Director of the AOP Rabbinic Program where she also teaches Jewish spiritual practice and the Jewish Lifecycle Training sequence of courses and practica. She co-directs and teaches in the prize-winning Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute, and 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 Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She is the author of The Path of Blessing, a contemporary hasidic text exploring the Jewish practice of blessing, published by Bell Tower and later by Jewish Lights, and has created the P’nai Or Siddurim for Shabbat and other innovative compilations of prayer and liturgy. In 2010, she was selected by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Top Fifty American Female Rabbis.

Geela

Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael

(she/her)

Spiritual Arts Director

Bio ---

Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael is an “unorthodox” visionary rabbi. As Director of Spiritual Arts at ALEPH, Reb Rayzel curates special programs to enhance community and shine a light on Jewish creativity. She has a private practice for lifecycle events in the Philadelphia area. Previously, has served four congregations and currently is the spiritual leader for Darkaynu. Geela Rayzel is a singer/songwriter/liturgist (with 6CDS to her name); and author of two children’s books: Angels for Dreamtime & New Moon. Rabbi Rayzel offers musical Shabbat services, concerts, and leads Jewish spiritual travel adventures. For more information on all her many projects, including the forthcoming Shechinah Oracle deck, see her website www.Shechinah.com

Lynda Simons

Rabbinic Pastor Tivona Reith

(she/her)

Shomeret | Director of Studies, Rabbinic Pastor Program

Bio ---

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.
Shelby Haverson

Jake Sapon

(he/him)

Organic Torah and Earth-Based Judaism Operations

Bio ---

Jake (Ya’akov) Sapon is fascinated by how we can build a Judaism that is both deeply rooted in Jewish wisdom and relevant to the most pressing issues of our own time. In particular, he is interested in how ancient Jewish texts can illuminate problems like climate change and environmental degradation: how Jewish wisdom can shift our contemporary paradigm from independence and isolation to interdependence and connection. Studying music, mindfulness, and religious studies at Brown University, Jake’s professional background is in experiential education, holistic wellness, communication, and community building. Born and based in Philadelphia, PA, Jake loves soulful davenen, exploring nature, and meeting new cats.

Ming

Ming Shem Lu

(he/him)

Administrator | Ordination Program

Bio ---

Ming, which means “shem,” was drawn to Jewish Renewal after reading about Reb Zalman in “The Jew in the Lotus.” Brought up in Hong Kong, he was introduced to the Jewish world when he visited Israel with a youth orchestra. Ming is a graduate of Brown University, Harvard Divinity School, and Stanford University, where his studies focused on Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy, how it provided a critical framework for his own involvement in gay Asian activism. As creative director of a California museum, he put together education programs, community events, as well as exhibitions, exploring “fusion cultures” that were both grounded in tradition and constantly evolving. The book he co-translated, the autobiography of the eminent Chinese philosopher Mou Zongsan, was published in 2014. When Ming moved to Philadelphia to join his partner Greg, he sought out ALEPH – he feels blessed to serve in its Ordination Program.
Lynda Simons

Lynda Simons

(she/her)

Finance and Operations Manager

Bio ---

Lynda believes that one of the greatest blessings in life is to love what you do, and for her it’s accounting – the precision of her work and the knowledge that it’s making a difference makes her happy. After beginning college expecting to become an engineer, she spent many years in different industries as a full charge bookkeeper, freelance bookkeeper, CFO and business manager before finding her home in the non-profit finance world working with a variety of different religious, educational, historical and arts organizations. She has helped to build several businesses from the ground up, including being an integral part of setting up systems and technology. Her goal is always to ensure that all accounts reconcile and all accounting is compliant with the letter of the law. Of course, the greatest gifts she’s been given are her two children, who are an accountant and an engineer! When she’s not engrossed in spreadsheets and accounting software, you’ll find her running trails, hiking up tall mountains, or riding her motorcycle into the sunset.