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Rabbi Sandy Zisser
Founder & Director of Education

Rabbi Sandy Zisser is the Director of Education for Darshan Yeshiva and Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary, of which he is also founder.

In addition, Rabbi Zisser teaches in the Center for Academic Support at The Leffell School (formally Schechter Westchester). He holds B.A. degrees in American History and Judaic Studies from the State University of New York at Albany, an M.A. in Special Education from Bank Street College, and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute. He is also a member of the Westchester Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Patrick Beaulier
Director of Innovation

Rabbi Patrick Beaulier is the Director of Innovation for PunkTorah, Inc. as well as Executive Director and President of the Board.

For his role at Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary, "Rabbi Patrick" is Director of Innovation, focusing on helping students prepare for their rabbinic careers.

Rabbi Patrick is also the co-spiritual leader of Kehillah, a pop-up Jewish community in Richmond, VA. 

His smicha is from Rabbinical Seminary International and Rabbi Patrick additionally received a Bachelor of Science from the City University of Seattle with a focus on business administration. 

Sara Stirne Ibanez
Director of Operations

Sara Stirne Ibanez manages the business operations of PunkTorah, Inc. In her role, Sara is focused on sustaining and growing programs and services through an HR lens. A former communications specialist and media maven, Sara holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing from Georgia State University and a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration degree from Baylor University in Waco, Tex. She brings with her over a decade of experience in non-profit healthcare in addition to her sparkling personality and a make-it-work mentality.

Julie Soforenko
Director of Digital Experience

Julie supports the inspiring mission of PunkTorah Inc and its educators, students, and staff using her 5+ years of experience in assisting clients with technical issues, learning curves, and website updates, all with kindness, respect, and joy. Her technical background is in programming for website development, WordPress, and project management tools.

Julie has a deep love for Judaism and the Jewish community, including her participation in the Den Collective and learning Yiddish. When she’s not engaged in Jewish activities, Julie is a freelance, creative non-fiction writer, lover of nature, and world traveler.

Ruthie Honey
Student Support Specialist

Ruthie has worn many hats in her professional life including nurse, an online radio personality, an Executive Assistant and a Chef. While all of these roles may seem completely different, the one thing that they all shared was they allowed her to serve and assist others in one way or another. This is what drives her and why she is thrilled to be the Student Support Specialist for PunkTorah, Inc. 

Ruthie has been a member of a Reform synagogue in Southern California since 2018. She is very active in her community and enjoys volunteering with the synagogue's Tikkun Olam committee.  She is also a mother of three, two boys and one girl, who keep her very active. 

Rabbi Joshua Cahan
Professor - Liturgy

Rabbi Joshua Cahan teaches high school students Rabbinics and Prayer at The Leffell School (formally Schechter Westchester). He received his rabbinic ordination and a Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he also served as director of the JTS Beit Midrash. He previously spent eight years directing the Northwoods Kollel and Beit Midrash Program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Rabbi Cahan’s expertise in liturgy and prayer spans the academic and the practical – he is an accomplished baal tefilla (prayer leader) and song leader, and published a widely-used bencher, Yedid Nefesh, as well as academic articles on the ritual aspects of prayer.

Smicha, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
PhD, Talmud, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
MHL, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
BA, Philosophy, Yale University

Rabbi Fredda Cohen
Professor - Chaplaincy
Rabbi Fredda Cohen, MA, JD, BCC, is the Director of Pastoral Care and Education at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York. She has lectured extensively in the fields of pastoral education, bikur cholim, palliative care and spirituality. Rabbi Cohen was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2010, where she also earned an MA in Judaic Studies. She is a board certified chaplain under the auspices of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC), and currently serves on its board. Rabbi Cohen received the prestigious Chaplain of the Year Award conferred by the New York Board of Rabbi in 2015. Prior to her career as a chaplain/rabbi, she worked as a trusts and estate attorney. Smicha, Jewish Theological Seminary MA, Jewish Theological Seminary JD, Fordham University School of Law
Hadassah Wrightman
Professor - Classical Hebrew

Hadassah Wrightman is a certified teacher, originally from Israel, working at The Leffell School (formally Schechter Westchester) for the past thirty-two years. Hadassah has taught Hebrew and Judaic Studies to all grade levels and for the past decade has served as department chair for Hebrew and Judaic Studies. She is currently at the lower school where, in addition to some teaching, Hadassah works directly with teachers to improve instruction and learning in these areas. Hadassah is proud to be a “student-centered” teacher always focusing on the learning needs of her students first and constantly seeking new ways to engage with her students and improve their learning.

Certification, Hebrew Language and Tanakh, Kfar HaNoar HaDati Teachers' College
Certification, Education, Specializing with Working with Trouble Youth, Beit Rutenberg

Daniel Mond
Professor - Torah & Post Biblical Books

Daniel Mond is a lecturer and teacher in Jewish studies and in film, and has taught and lectured on 4 continents, in 5 countries. He has a Master of Hebrew and Jewish Studies with Distinction from the University of London, a Master of Education from OISE in Toronto, both a First Class Honours degree and a Diploma of Education from Monash University in Australia, and he read for a Doctorate in Philosophy, at King's College, Cambridge. Daniel also was a recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Fellowship from 1989-1991; where he specialized in media for Jewish education. He came to the US from Israel to do a Master of Fine Arts in Film at Columbia University, and has lectured in film at both NYU and Baruch College and was a film reviewer for the Ma’ariv newspaper in Israel.  Daniel currently teaches Tanakh in New York.

Fun facts: Daniel represented Australia twice in the International Bible competition, and, as a recipient of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Award, he met and joked with Prince Charles.

MA, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University of London
MFA, Film, Columbia University
MEd, Curriculum Development, University of Toronto

Rabbi N Siritsky
Professor - Homiletics

Originally from Montreal, Rabbi Siritsky lived in France, Cuba, and Israel before moving to the United States in 1997. They studied at several Orthodox yeshivas, including Pardes in Jerusalem, prior to their studies as a Reform rabbi at Hebrew Union College. For Rabbi Siritsky, studying Judaism from traditional perspectives "was important to understand what we were reforming". Rabbi Siritsky believes in making educated choices from the rich resources Jewish tradition provides to ensure that every ritual and prayer is meaningful.

Rabbi Siritsky is a founding board member of the Society of Classical Reform Judaism due to their unwavering commitment to advocacy for interfaith families and the creation of inclusive Jewish communities that unconditionally welcome all spiritual seekers, regardless of their religious background, relationship status, identity, or Hebrew-speaking ability.

In addition to nearly a decade working in synagogues, teaching, counseling, and participating in life cycle events, they are trained as an interfaith chaplain, and worked with the American Red Cross after 9/11 providing counseling and support at the family assistance center, Ground Zero, and the morgue. This led Rabbi Siritsky to get a second Masters in Social Work and spent several years working as a psychotherapist, social worker, counselor, and chaplain in multiple settings including hospice and palliative care.

Smicha, MHL, Hebrew Union College
MSW, Louisville Kent School of Social Work

Ariel Simon
Professor - Jewish History

Ariel Simon teaches high school students at The Leffell School (formally Schechter Westchester). His courses focus on Jewish History, Tefilah, and Torah. He has also taught Jewish History classes for students of all ages and backgrounds in synagogues throughout the New York area.

Ariel earned undergraduate degrees in Ancient Studies from Columbia University and in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He then spent two years studying Talmud at the Conservative Yeshiva, in Jerusalem. Afterwards, he enrolled at New York University's Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies where he earned a master's degree studying the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Judaism.

MA, New York University
BA, Columbia University
BA, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Rabbi Noam Raucher
Professor - Practical Rabbinics & Theology

Rabbi Raucher has served as a rabbi on both the East and West coasts, and has taught and counseled hundreds of classes and students. Rabbi Raucher has worked in Jewish Community Centers, Federations, school boards, and the entertainment industry, bringing the lens of the Jewish tradition to anyone seeking it.

Rabbi Raucher also has a strong volunteering background, having worked in homeless shelters, provided grief counseling for teenagers, and coaching little league. He is also a proud participant of the Mankind Project and has been trained in integration-group facilitation. Since graduation he has worked with many different institutions and groups- Jewish, interfaith, and secular.

Smicha, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
MA, Graduate School for Jewish Education

Rabbi Dr. Eric Wasser
Professor - Talmud

Eric Wasser is originally from Canada and is an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He  has worked in the pulpit and Jewish education for over thirty years. His academic background includes investiture as Hazzan from the Jewish Theological Seminary, certification as Mohel from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, ordination as Rabbi from Mesivta Wolkowilsk and he additionally holds a doctorate in Jewish Education from the William Davidson Graduate School of Education. He has served pulpits in Chicago and on the East Coast.

He presently teaches high school Rabbinics at the Leffell School in Hartsdale, New York, and serves as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel of the Pallisades in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Smicha, Mesivta Wolkowilsk
Doctorate & MA, Jewish Theological Seminary
Mohel, Chief Rabbinate of Israel

Rabbi Jill Levy
Professor - Jewish Ethics

Rabbi Jill Levy is the Director of Ramah DC Day Camp, which is part of the Camp Ramah New England family. Rabbi Jill joined CRNE after five years as Rabbi at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC in Houston, where she oversaw Jewish learning and engagement as well as taught numerous adult education classes. Prior to her position at the Houston JCC, Rabbi Jill was Director of Congregational Learning at Herzl-Ner Tamid in Mercer Island, WA. Rabbi Jill received her ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2011. While in rabbinical school, she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and served as student rabbi in several different congregations. In addition, she completed a summer of clinical pastoral education at St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s Hospitals in Houston. Rabbi Jill also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University. She currently lives in Silver Spring with her husband, Matt, and two daughters (and eager campers), Nava and Miri. In her free time, you can find her running or bike riding on one of the many trails in the D.C. area.

Smicha, Jewish Theological Seminary
Master of Public Administration, Columbia University
Bachelor’s Degree, University of Washington

Dr. Dan Aviv
Electives Course Developer - History
Dr. Dan Aviv has been engaged with Jewish learning for almost 30 years as an educator, innovator, professor, published scholar and author. He has three kids, two books, and one podcast - and serves as Lead Educator and Design at ADRABA, a Jewish blended-learning high school in Toronto, Ontario.
Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski
Electives Course Developer - Hasidism
Rabbi Kolakowski is the first Rabbi to serve as head chaplain in a state prison in Pennsylvania. He has served multiple Orthodox and post-denominational communities, as well as provided chaplaincy in a variety of settings. His education includes smicha from several yeshivot/seminaries. His life experiences guide him as a talented speaker in areas of religion, politics, spirituality, popular culture, history, chaplaincy, and interfaith affairs. His journey into Hasidic Judaism has been a unique one, and his perspectives entertain and pique the interest of crowds. Smicha, Rabbinical Seminary Netzach Israel Smicha, Yeshivah Or Kedoshim Smicha, Lander College for Men: A Division of Touro College (Bais Medrash LeTalmud) BA, Psychology, Lander College for Men: A Division of Touro College
Barnett Kamen
Electives Course Developer - Neviim and Ketuvim
Barnett Kamen is a teacher of the Hebrew Bible, Jewish Studies, Philosophy and Literature. He received a BA in Hebraic Studies at Rutgers University, having spent his sophomore year at the the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Jewish Studies with a specialty in Jewish History from the Baltimore Hebrew College, and was a PhD candidate in Biblical Literature at Dropsie University. Mr. Kamen has been involved in Jewish education for almost 50 years, having taught Hebrew school, high school, and adult education.
Pastor Kerra English
Educator - Jewish-Christian Relations

Pastor Kerra English is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA, with a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary and more than 20 years pastoring Presbyterian Congregations. She is also a trained spiritual director through the RUAH School of Spiritual Direction at Richmond Hill. Together with Rabbi Patrick Beaulier she hosts talks on the Bible from Jewish and Christian perspectives.

Master of Divinity, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Spiritual Direction, RUAH School of Spiritual Direction at Richmond Hill

Rabbi Brian Mayer
Spiritual Direction

After working as a pulpit rabbi, Rabbi Mayer felt a calling to leave Jewish professional life and instead have a successful career as a high school math teacher and founder Religion-Outside-The-Box (ROTB), which empowers adults to find and be with the God of their understanding. ROTB seeks to feed the spiritually hungry, much like doctors-without-borders – wherever help is needed.

Rabbi Mayer returned to the rabbinate by becoming part of Darshan Yeshiva's conversion to Judaism program and is excited to further his Jewish professional work with Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary.

Smicha, MHL, Hebrew Union College

Dr. Jeremiah Lockwood
Electives Course Developer - Jewish Music History

Dr. Jeremiah Lockwood’s music career began with over a decade of apprenticeship to the legendary Piedmont Blues musician Carolina Slim, playing in the subways of New York City. He also trained under his grandfather Cantor Jacob Konigsberg and performed in his choir. Jeremiah’s band The Sway Machinery seeks inspiration from diverse realms of experience related to the cultural geography of New York City. The Sway Machinery has played around the world, including stints at legendary music festivals like Montreal Jazz, Roskilde, and perhaps most notably, Festival au Desert in Timbuktu, Mali. In addition to leading The Sway Machinery, Jeremiah toured for years as guitarist in the popular world-beat band Balkan Beat Box and has scored numerous film and video projects. Jeremiah was a recipient of the 2007-8 Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, was 2010 Artist-in-Residence for the Forward and was a 2011 Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra Composer Fellow. Jeremiah is currently working on a PhD in Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University. His solo guitar and voice record, entitled LOCKWOOD, was released in the Fall of 2014 on System Dialing Records. The new Sway Machinery LP, entitled Purity and Danger, was released in the spring of 2015 to critical acclaim.

Rabbi Matthew Ponak
Elective Course Developer - Jewish Mysticism

Rabbi Matthew Ponak is a teacher of embodied transformation and a somatic spiritual guide. Rabbi Matt got smicha from Hebrew College where he specialized in the study of Ḥasidut and Kabbalah.  He has learned with many of this generation’s leading teachers of Jewish mysticism including Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, R. Arthur Green, R. Zvi Ish-Shalom, R. Tirzah Firestone, and R. Rami Shapiro. Also holding an MA in Contemplative Religions from the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, Rabbi Matt weaves world wisdom with ancient Jewish insights. His most recent projects are writing a book about universal Jewish mystical teachings and starting a spiritual innovation initiative with his wife, Melina Ponak, called The Sefira Institute.

Rabbi Menachem Cohen
Spiritual Direction

Menachem Cohen is a spiritual director, rabbi, and tabletop roleplaying game designer (like Dungeons & Dragons). His 2 areas of focus are the design and use of roleplaying games for spiritual direction and working with seminary/divinity students and new clergy from all traditions. He was ordained at Hebrew Seminary in Skokie, IL in 2003 and received his Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction at Loyola University in 2019. He has played roleplaying games since 1979. You can find more information about him and his work in this Wired article, https://www.wired.com/story/roleplaying-rabbi-community-building/, and on his website, http://whatmakesyoucomealive.net.

Dr. Sariel Birnbaum
Educator

Dr. Sariel Birnbaum received his PhD. in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies from Hebrew University. He has written and published a book, "Back to the Past - Filmed history in Arab Cinema," through Magnes Press, Hebrew University, and published additional academic articles.

Dr. Birnbaum teaches at UCLA, and previously taught at Binghamton SUNY and San-Diego State University

In addition to Hebrew, his mother language, Dr. Birnbaum worked as a translator from Arabic, and he reads and speaks French and German.

Aaron Levi
Electives Course Developer - Jewish History & Culture

Aaron Levi is an experiential Jewish educator, curriculum developer, and the founder and CEO of Gate City Tours, LLC, which offers hyper-local, neighborhood-based walking tours exploring the history and evolution of Atlanta and its Jewish community. Aaron holds dual Master's Degrees in Education and Judaic Studies from New York University, where he was a Jim Joseph Fellow. He is a graduate of the Yeshiva University Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education; the iCenter Master's Concentration in Israel Education; and the American Jewish World Service Rabbinic and Graduate Student Global Justice Fellowship. Aaron received his bachelor's degree in Journalism, Judaic Studies, and Hebrew from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

MA, New York University
Graduate Certificate, Yeshiva University
Graduate Certificate, iCenter Master's Concentration in Israel Education
BA, New York University



Rabbi Alfredo Winter
Program Consultant

Rabbi Winter was born in South America to parents who fled Europe at the beginning of World War II. Inspired by his father's work to build multi-faith bridges in Uruguay, Rabbi Winter pursued a rabbinic career that would extend his family’s rabbinic dynasty dating back to the 16th century.

Rabbi Winter has lived in five different countries in Latin America as well as in the United States, and has a wealth of experience in working with individuals of all ages and all ethnicities. It is his firm belief that conveying an understanding of the rich tapestry of the Jewish religion and tradition to people raised in an environment with little or no knowledge of it, is a transformative experience.

Smicha, MHL, Seminario Rabínico Latinamerico

Rabbi Arielle Shimko
Electives Course Developer - Creating Inclusive Jewish Spaces

Rabbi Arielle comes to the rabbinate with a background in Jewish education and teaching. She has taught Hebrew language in elementary and pre-school and then decided to attend rabbinical school. Rabbi Arielle served as the Rabbinic Intern to Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach for five years and loved every part of the rabbinate, from officiating at wedding ceremonies, Bnei mitzvah, funerals, teaching Hebrew school, mentoring conversion students, teaching Hebrew, running synagogue programs for young professionals and young families and so much more!

Rabbi Arielle began my rabbinical career through the Jewish Renewal movement where she learned to incorporate yoga and meditation into my Jewish spiritual practices and learned to see Judaism in a new light. She strives to make Judaism relevant and meaningful on a daily basis. Coming from a traditional background, and having a strong background in text study in Hebrew and English, Rabbi Arielle is excited to share my passion and love of Judaism with her students. In her spare time, she enjoys making jewelry, practicing yoga, and taking long walks with her children and husband.

Smicha, Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute
BA, Hebrew Language and Literature, Queens College
BA, Art History and Hebrew, Queens College

Joey Leskin
Electives Course Developer - Modern Diaspora Jewish History
Joey is a Jew of Yemeni descent from London, England. He has spent much of the last decade out of the city since gaining his Masters Degree in International Relations, traveling to over 50 countries including two years in Turkey as the Senior Fieldworker for the JDC. He is currently the Director of Abroad Experiences for KAHAL Abroad, where he leads a team who support thousands of people in connecting with Jewish experiences worldwide when they travel, work or study abroad. He is also the 2020 Program Chair for Limmud, the Schusterman ROI Representative for the UK and a graduate of the m2 Senior Educator’s Cohort. As a lay leader in the British community, he runs educational and leadership development programs in the UK, the US and across Europe.