Rabbi Sandy Zisser is the Director of 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) and serves as a member of the Westchester Board of Rabbis. He received his smicha (rabbinical ordination) from the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, his Master of Arts degree in Special Education from Bank Street College, and his Bachelor of Arts degrees in American History and Judaic Studies from the State University of New York at Albany.
Sara Stirne Ibanez is the Director of Operations for PunkTorah. Sara has supported PunkTorah's mission since 2015, during which time she's focused primarily on growing Darshan Yeshiva's conversion to Judaism programming and faculty and developing PunkTorah's organizational structure. In her role, Sara oversees both day-to-day internal operations and a variety of key growth initiatives. Sara received her Master of Business Administration degree from Baylor University in Waco, Tex. and her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing from Georgia State University.
Julie Soforenko is the Director of Digital Experience for PunkTorah. In her role, Julie uses technical expertise to improve every digital aspect of our programs. Her professional background is in programming for website development, WordPress, and project management tools. In addition, 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 nonfiction writer; lover of nature; and world traveler.
Ghanshyam Khanal is the WordPress Developer/Digital Support Specialist for PunkTorah. In his role, Ghanshyam uses his 10+ years of Information Technology (IT) experience to provide back-end support to the development and deployment of PunkTorah’s websites, learning management system, and other technological systems. Ghanshyam received his Master of Science degree in IT from the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology at Sikkim Manipal University in Kathmandu, Nepal and enjoys using his technical acumen to resolve problems and support non-profit work. When he’s not geeking out with us, Ghanshyam spends his time hiking, traveling with friends, and managing his logistics start-up company.
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, 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 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 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
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 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 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
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 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
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
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’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.
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 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 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 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 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