Fellowship Program

Meet the RIKMA fellows

Uri Ayalon - born in Argentina, Uri moved to Israel in 1977 at age 7. He received his rabbinical ordination from the Schechter Institute. Uri grew up in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, and did his military service in a Nachal unit with his peers from the Masorti youth movement (NOAM). Following his military service, he worked in a number of educational and social positions in the framework of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel. Uri's fieldwork position for his rabbinic training is with Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hademokrati, a non-profit devoted to grassroots community education in disadvantaged neighborhoods across Israel. In this framework, he has founded and runs a Jewish-Arab summer camp for disadvantaged children in Jerusalem. In 2003, Uri founded the Yotzer Or community based in low-income housing located in Talpiot, a Jerusalem neighborhood. This innovative community model begins with the needs of the population, with the goal of creating a vibrant Jewish and Israeli community that touches on central questions important to its members in everyday life, and provides a response at the various levels of community. Creative activity is the driving force behind the community, and its varied programming includes activities geared to all ages, families, the community, and the entire neighborhood. In addition, Uri serves as an educational consultant for the Israeli Air Force and works with Conservative congregations in Spain. Uri, his wife Rivka, and their daughters Ofir and Adi live in Jerusalem, in the Talpiot neighborhood.
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Shaike El-Ami - Shaike is the director of the ICCY (International Cultural Center for Youth) and Ginot Ha'Ir Community Center (which serves the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Rehavia, Talbiye, the German and Greek Colonies, Old Katamon and Nayot). The ICCY is a hub of activity, where the topic of Jewish renewal takes expression in a variety of ways: events, workshops, community activities and more. The goal of the center is to work for the advancement of multiculturalism, tolerance, and social solidarity between individuals and groups in Jerusalem, and to constitute a 'community 'home' where partnership, responsibility and leadership in the various communities served can be actualized. The center specializes in various cultural initiatives, with an emphasis on folklore, ethnic heritage, pluralist Jewish culture, and methodologies of dialogue, mediation and open sharing. Shaike was born and raised on Kibbutz Sa'ad (a religious kibbutz), and served in the IDF as a battalion commander in the Tank Corps. He earned his BA from the Hebrew University in Jewish philosophy, and was one of the founders of Elul - a pluralistic Beit Midrash. His MA in Jewish studies is from the Schechter Institute. Shaike was formerly the owner and manager of 'Zusha,' a legendary Jerusalem pub that fused contemporary pop culture with various aspects of Jewish tradition. Shaike lives with his wife Hagit and their four children in the town of Efrata.
Ofer Shabbat Beit HaLahmi - Ofer was born on Moshav Beit Heirut, son to a family of pioneers who were among the founders of the Emek Hefer. After four years serving as an officer in the IDF's medical organization (he is a Major in the reserves), he joined Kibbutz Ma'abarot and worked in industry and in agriculture. He completed his bachelor's degree with honors, and received a teaching certificate and master's degree in rabbinic philosophy through Oranim College and Haifa University. At the same time, we taught Talmud for adults, as well as students at Haifa University and various schools. Through his work at the Midrasha B'Oranim, he developed curriculum and seminars on Jewish identity. There he also led a study group known as Nigun Tzair, whose goal was to create paths of dialogue between the various streams of Judaism in Israel. Ofer was the rabbi for the youth forum of the TELEM youth movment, and today is the rabbi of the Reform Congregation in Tzur Hadassah. He is an active writer and speaker in Israel and the United States, and edited a volume called El Halev, a collection of original prayers and blessings for life cycle events. Ofer lives in Jerusalem. He is married to Rabbi Rachel Shabbat Beit HaLahmi, and is the father of Tehilah-Sarah.
Golan Ben-Horin - A third-generation member of the Israeli Reform movement, Golan is this year completing his rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. In addition, this year he submitted his doctorate in Jewish Education on the topic of 'pluralism as a Jewish concept' to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Golan has worked for many years in informal Jewish education in Israel and in the Diaspora and as a chaplain in various communities and havurot in Israel and the United States. In these frameworks, he has developed a spiritual-educational approach to work and prayer in the realm of family experience. As the rabbi of the Sulam Ya'akov community in Zichron Ya'akov, he is developing Netivei Midrash, an approach rooted in tradition that integrates renewal and expansion by using non-traditional disciplines as of access to Judaism and living a Jewish life. An example of this approach is the workshops in 'Shingei and the Art of Jewish Prayer � Physical Training for the Development of Spiritual Ability." Golan lives in Haifa with his wife and two children.
Esteban Gottfried - Co-founder of Beit Tefilah Israeli in Tel Aviv and director since its establishment and until today Rabbinical student at HUC Jerusalem. Married to Ruthie and father of Maya and Toby. Prior to making aliyah in 1983 from Argentina, he wrote and published the first Children's High Holidays Machzor for Spanish speakers. He studied at the Tel Aviv University preparatory program and at the "Beit Zvi" and "Nissan Nativ Drama Studio" theater schools.
After completing his studies, he began a period of writing, staging and acting, reaching most of Israel's theaters, and also working in television and cinema. A graduate of the "Gevanim" program for the advancement of pluralistic Jewish leadership founded by the Jewish Federation of San Francisco, he went on to establish, together with friends, the "Beit Tefilah Israeli" community. Today, he directs Beit Tefilah Israeli, is participating for a second year as a fellow in the "At Ptach" Beit Midrash for screenwriters and directors sponsored by Alma College, the Avi Chai Foundation, and Channel 2. He is also  completing his new film "An Immigrant's Paradise" for United King Cinema productions, together with director Daniel Burman of Argentina.
Debbie Grinberg - was born in Argentina in 1973, to a Zionist and traditional family, and studied in traditional Jewish educational frameworks. From age five she was involved in youth movement activities, and later worked as a counselor in Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina. Debbie holds an academic degree in business administration from the Economics Department of Buenos Aires University. In 2001 she came to Israel for a year as the counselor for a Taglit-NOAM group, and in 2002, after completing her Jewish studies at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, she was ordained and returned to Chile in order to complete her job as director of the youth division of the Ashkenazi community in Santiago and coordinator of NOAM Marom � Chile. In June 2005, Debbie moved to Israel and today she is the rabbi of the NOAM Youth Movement, while retaining her relationship with NOAM South America and the Jewish Agency's counselor training program. Once every month, Debbie leads a group of South Americans in study of the weekly Torah portion at the 'Eshel Avraham' synagogue in Beersheba. Debbie is also the rabbi of the TALI school in Rehovot, and lives in Jerusalem.
Elisha Wolfin - Elisha received ordination from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem in December 2001. Born and raised on the secular Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi in the Galilee, he served as an officer in the Intelligence and Education Corps and went on to earn his BA at Haifa University. Elisha spent many years in the Bay area of California, first as a shaliach at the Berkeley Hillel and then as a Jewish educator. He began his rabbinic studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and then transferred to the Schechter Institute. Elisha has extensive experience in informal teaching with students of all ages, and particularly in the areas of educational tourism in Israel, prayer and meditation. In 2000, Elisha and his wife, Ronit, settled in Zichron Ya'akov, where he founded a the Masorti Kehilat V'Ahavta. This congregation serves the entire area surrounding Zichron with a host of educational activities for both youth and adults, social action programming and regular Shabbat and Holiday services. Elisha serves as the Rabbi for a number of TALI schools and is involved in teacher training all over the country.
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Leon Wiener-Dow - Leon received his rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman institute in July 2001. He is the founder and director of Ta Shma, an organization that has been providing pluralistic Jewish educational programming to students in Israel since 1996. Born and raised in Texas, Leon earned his BA from Princeton University. In 1991 he moved to Israel, served as a medic in the IDF and completed his MA in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. At present he is writing his doctorate in this field. Leon has served in the past as the Rabbi of the Masorti High School in Jerusalem, and is involved in the founding and development of a spiritual community model in the northern Israel town of Tivon, which includes programming similar to that of the Midrasha B'Oranim. Leon lives in Jerusalem with his wife Beruria and their four daughters.
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Itamar Lapid – born in 1969, was raised and educated on Kibbutz Ayelet HaShachar. He has, since, 1994, been an active staff member of the Midrasha at Oranim., where he currently coordinates two educational projects: "Mahog" The Center for Community Holidays and Ceremonies, and "Social Kashrut" a program that applies questions of social justice to community life. In addition, he is leading the "Havaya" initiative, which includes secular organizations seeking to grapple in-depth with the question of marriage in Israel. He studied Israel Studies and Jewish Thought at the Oranim College and holds a law degree from the Haifa University. He is a member of the Israeli Bar Association though is not currently practicing law. . Itamar lives in the rural community of Shimshit with his wife Moran and their two children Omer and Ziv. For the last five years Itamar has led a secular style congregation in Shimshit that celebrates Kabbalat Shabbat and observes holidays together. He likewise facilitates a local Jewish texts study group . Itamar believes in creating a distinct "Israeli halakha" that would constitute a much needed ideological expression of Zionism in Israel of the 21st century.
Ayala Miron - Ayala was born in the "Ever HaYarkon" neighborhood in Tel Aviv (known today as 'Ramat Aviv') to parents who had been members of the 'Halutz' movement in Iraq. Ayala grew up in a secular environment, and received a BA from Tel Aviv University in liberal arts and film studies. She then traveled with her family to the United States, where she completed her MA in film studies at UCLA. It was in the United States that Ayala first became acquainted with liberal Judaism, and was influenced by the rabbis of the Jewish renewal movement. Two years after her return to Israel, she began a course of study at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. In June, 2005, she completed her studies and received her rabbinical ordination in November. She lives in Tzur Yigal, in the Sharon area, where she and her husband Avi are parents to Nitzan, Noam and Itamar. Beginning in September 2004, she began working with a community taking shape in the town of Rosh HaAyin in central Israel, and in the Neve Daliah secular elementary school there. The community, Bvat Ayin, was recently recognized by the Israeli Reform movement and today is expanding the scope of its activity and its membership. 
Tamir Nir has years of experience in both environmental education and Jewish renewal. He has a B.Arch from the Bezalel Architecture Academy, and a teaching certificate from the Kerem Institute. Tamir recently completed the two-year Tehuda Program for Jewish Leadership, Avichai Foundation, and for the 2008-2009 academic year, he is an Environmental Leadership Fellow of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership. Tamir is the founder and director of Nature Children, an organization for environmental education which fosters connection to and love of nature. He is also currently a facilitor of the Beit Hakerem learning community of the Elul Beit Midrash.
Hagit Sabag - Hagit received her rabbinic ordination from the Schechter Institute in November 2005. She also holds a BA in criminology from Bar-Ilan university. Hagit was born and raised in the development town of Tirat HaKarmel, and at present lives in Jersualem. She served as an officer in the Educational Corps of the IDF. Hagit worked for several years in the realm of informal education in Israel and the Ukraine through Melitz, the TALI system, and Camp Ramah. Since joining Rikma in October 2002, she initiated and has been working on an educational project at the Neve Dekalim TALI school in Ashkleon, and in the Masorti congregation Netzah Yisrael. In the school, Hagit faced the challenge of developing curricula on Jewish subjects that is suitable and meaningful for the largely (85%) immigrant student population from the former Soviet Union. This year, Hagit also began working as the school's rabbi. As part of her job, she teaches mixed groups of parents and students in experiential prayer, and facilitates school ceremonies and events. In addition, she established and still directs a Beit Midrash for parents and teachers, and conducts staff training programs.
Hagit's up-and-coming project is a multi-denominational minyan that will meet on a monthly basis for prayer and joint activity. 
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Ahrele Fox - Ahrele Fox received ordination from the HUC Israeli rabbinical program in November 2004. Born and raised in a Jerusalem-based ultra-Orthodox family, after completing his yeshiva studies Ahrele joined the IDF as a paratrooper, eventually serving as a company commander and later as a Lieutenant Colonel in an elite Air Force unit. He holds a Master's degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University, and today is a doctoral candidate at the university's Melton Center for Jewish Education. Ahrele formerly taught Talmud at the secular Givat Brenner high school, and as part of his work, established a Beit Midrash program for adults at Kibbutz Na'an in 2001. In addition, in 2002-2005, he ran an after-hours Beit Midrash program for 10th-12th graders at the school with a spiritual approach that combines Torah study, gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness) and soul searching. Ahrele works with the pre-army program at HUC, and is now teaching a course entitled "Ethical Dilemmas.". As part of the course, participants study the material and then go out to the field � often to army checkpoints � to meet with soldiers and civilians. He will be taking over as full time director of this program in the summer of 2006. In addition, Ahrele works with Beit Morasha's "Israeli Jewish Identity" project, which integrates Jewish cultural content into the agenda of commanders and soldiers in their line of duty. Ahrele, his wife Hadas, and their son and three daughters live on Kibbutz Naan.
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Chen Ben Or-Tzfoni - Born to a traditional family of Iraqi immigrants, Chen grew up in a secular atmosphere in Tel Aviv, and later on Kibbutz Bahan. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Haifa University and from Hebrew Union College NY. At present finishing her rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College. Chen has worked for twenty years at Midrasha B'Oranim, a center for the renewal of Jewish life in Israel, where she develops workshops on Jewish identity for teens and adults, group facilitating, developing young Jewish community leadership and works with new immigrants. Chen is one of the founders of the Nigun HaLev community at Moshav Nahalal. Members of this community are residents of the Jezreel Valley who gather for Shabbat services, holiday observances, life-cycle events, Jewish studies, social action projects and more. Chen leads prayer, coordinates the community's steering committee, and teaches Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Dealing with developing Jewish spirituality (with IJS- Institute for Jewish spirituality), community building, pastoral care, and developing Jewish people hood. In addition, she is involved in attempting to establish a national network of communities experimenting with renewal in prayer. In 2004, she began working on educational projects in the TALI schools in the greater Haifa area, in an attempt to bring the topic of prayer into the schools' staff rooms, classrooms and community. Chen is married to Guy, and is the mother of Shay, Michal and Nir.Currently leaving with her family in NYC (2006-2009) as a MTM fellow in congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. Will be back to Israel at fall 2009
Hannah Klebansky - was born in the former Soviet Union in the city of Tablisi, to a traditional Jewish family. She studied piano at the National Academy of Music, and in 1995, completed her studies and received an academic degree. Parallel to her studies, she was active in the local Jewish community. A graduate of the Machon Gold teaching certificate program which operates in the diaspora, she taught in Jewish schools and Sunday schools. In 1996, Chana immigrated to Israel. Her spiritual search brought her to the Masorti movement, and since 2000, she has been a rabbinical student at the Schechter Institute. This year is the last year of her studies in the Schechter Rabbinical Program and the Schechter Institute before receiving her MA in Jewish studies. As part of her activities in the Masorti movement, she has taught courses in 'Jewish Liturgy,' 'The Status of Women in Judaism � Contemporary Aspects,' and has worked as a student rabbi in a number of Masorti congregations across Israel. Chana is also a graduate of the 'Tehudah' program for the development of new Jewish leadership. Chana lives with Yigal and their four daughters � Yosefa, Tamar, Rachel and Avigayil � in Jerusalem.
Claudia Kreiman - Claudia received her ordination from the Schechter Institute in December 2002. Born and raised in Chile, she studied sociology, education and rabbinics in Buenos Aires, and went on to earn a BA from Haifa University and a teaching certificate from Seminario Rabbinico Latino Americano. Claudia immigrated to Israel in 1996, and since then has held a number of jobs in the Masorti Movement working with communities and youth. For several years, Claudia devoted much of her time to working with people living with HIV/AIDS in the Jerusalem area. She served as the Rabbi of NOAM, (the Masorti youth movement), and was a volunteer companion for women refused a Jewish divorce by their husbands through the Mavoi Satum organization. Claudia is presently living in Boston, where she works as the rabbi for the Jewish Community Day School of Boston. We miss her and eagerly await her return.
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Yonatan Rudnick - Yonatan received his rabbinical ordination in 2004 from the Schechter Institute. Yonatan was born and raised in Kansas City. He completed his undergraduate degree at Claremont McKenna College and went on to earn two MAs, one in Jewish communal service from Brandeis University and the other in international relations from Columbia University. He is also a graduate of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership in Jerusalem. In the past, Yonatan has worked in community service in the United States and for the Joint Distribution Committee in the Ukraine. In the summer of 2002, Yonatan received training in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) in Kansas City, and returned to Israel to take up a position as the pastoral counselor at a prominent Jerusalem hospital. During his studies, Yonatan did some of his practicum under the auspices of Yahalom, a non-profit that promotes programs in family education around Israel. A year and a half ago, he founded a new project called B'ruach � Pastoral Counseling and Training, which is housed at the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. aimed at promoting and developing the field of community-based pastoral counseling in Israeli healthcare settings. Yonatan envisions a community wherein the local synagogue, school and hospital work together to create a holistic community. Yonatan, his wife Marcelle, their son Sagi and daughter Shirel live in the Beit Hakerem neighborhood of Jerusalem. 
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Chaya Rowen Baker - born to an Orthodox father and a Reform mother, Chaya grew up within the Masorti Movement in Israel.  A magna cum laude graduate of the Schechter Institute and a graduate student in the Hebrew University's Jewish History Department, she was ordained in 2007 by the Schechter Rabbinical School in Jerusalem. During her studies she participated in "B'ruach", pastoral training at the oncology ward of Sha'are-Tzedek Medical Center, founded by Rikma Fellow Yonatan Rudnik, and was the 2007 Tanenbaum Fellow of Congregation Beth-Tzedec in Toronto.  Chaya serves as the rabbi of Congregation Ramot-Zion in French Hill, Jerusalem, and lives in Jerusalem with her husband Etai and their three daughters, Adaya, Keshet and Clil.
Tamar Kolberg - Born in Hadera, received her ordination in December 1997, from Machon Schechter – JTS. After serving in the army Tamar studied both at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University and completed her studies in Jewish Philosophy with a Master thesis on A.J. Heschel. Tamar has worked primarily in the field of Teacher Training both in the TALI school system and at the Levinsky College of Education. She also worked in the field of Adult Education in conjunction with the Tel Aviv municipality, setting up afternoon classes for mothers in the various southern neighborhoods of the city and organizing and running summer camps for underprivileged women. Tamar is the Rabbi of the Reform Congregation in Ra'anana – "Kehilat Ra'anan" which is located in its new building "The Samueli Center". She is married to Lou and they have three children: Talia (who has two daughters), Shai and Itai.