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The Wexner Heritage Program New Member Institute 2013 Faculty Bios

Click here to view the New Member Institute Schedule.

Rabbi Matthew L. Berkowitz

Rabbi Matthew L. Berkowitz is the Director of Israel Programs for The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and co-founder of Kol Ha-Ot, a new Jerusalem-based venture devoted to exploring the arts and Jewish learning.  For ten years (1999-2009), Matt served as the JTS Senior Rabbinic Fellow, organizing substantive adult learning throughout Florida and beyond.  He is a member of The Wexner Heritage Program Faculty and has taught the Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix groups. He completed his undergraduate work in International Relations and Middle East Studies, summa cum laude, at Colgate University. While in rabbinical school, he studied at Pardes and The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. He was ordained from JTS in 1999 and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow alumnus.

An accomplished artist, Matt was formally trained in Jewish scribal art in Jerusalem and completed the writing of Megillat Esther, the illumination of several ketubbot, and a limited edition artist portfolio entitled Passover Landscapes: Illuminations on the Exodus which was acquired by Yale University, exhibited at Yeshiva University Museum (April, 2006) and is on permanent exhibit at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He is the author and illuminator of The Lovell Haggadah (Nirtzah Editions and Schechter Institute, 2008).

Rabbi Berkowitz and his family made aliyah in August, 2009 (after a seven year sojourn in Boca Raton, FL).  They reside in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.  He is married to Rabbi Miriam Berkowitz, author of Taking the Plunge: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to the Mikveh.  They have three children, Adir (14), Rachel (8) and Shira (5).


Dr. Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is a writer and educator who works as the Scholar-in-residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and consults with for the Jewish Agency and other Jewish non-profits. Erica’s forthcoming books are Happier Endings: A Meditation on Life and Death (Simon & Schuster) and Leadership in the Wilderness: Authority and Anxiety in the Book of Numbers. She is also the author of the books, Inspired Jewish Leadership, a National Jewish Book Award finalist, Spiritual Boredom, Confronting Scandal, In the Narrow Places, Return and co-author of The Case for Jewish Peoplehood. Erica writes a monthly column for The New York Jewish Week and the website Psychology Today and writes a weekly column for JTA on Jewish leadership.

She was a Jerusalem Fellow, is a faculty member of the Wexner Foundation, an Avi Chai Fellow, winner of the Ted Farber Professional Excellence Award, recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award for her work in education, and winner of the 2011 Bernie Reisman Award for Jewish Communal Service (Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, Brandeis University). Erica has degrees from Yeshiva University, University of London, Harvard University and Baltimore Hebrew University. She lectures widely on subjects of Jewish interest and leadership and writes a weekly internet essay called “Weekly Jewish Wisdom.” She tweets daily on one page of the Talmud  @DrEricaBrown and tweets an inspirational quote or question called Happier Days. She resides with her husband and four children in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Rabbi Yonatan Cohen

Rabbi Yonatan Cohen is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel, a Modern Orthodox community in Berkeley, California.  Under R. Cohen’s leadership over the last seven years, Congregation Beth Israel has significantly grown its membership and broadened its educational programming for youth and adults.  Recognizing the community’s innovative educational programming CBI together with R. Cohen were awarded a prestigious grant from the Legacy Heritage Innovation Project for Congregational Education.

Rabbi Cohen regularly teaches classes at Congregation Beth Israel and for the broader San Francisco and East Bay Jewish community. He is a frequent teacher of Kevah learning groups and at larger community learning opportunities on topics including Rabbinic Literature, Jewish Law, Prayer, and Jewish Thought.  He has been a guest lecturer on Jewish Medical Ethics at the University of California, Berkeley and on Jewish Liturgy at the Magnes Museum of Jewish Art and Life.  He also teaches Jewish Thought to middle school students at Oakland Hebrew Day School. 

Rabbi Cohen serves on a variety of Jewish community related boards of directors, including Kevah and Oakland Hebrew Day School.  He is a member of the Hartman Rabbinic Advisory Board and is a Rabbinic Mentor for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical students.  He is an advisory member of the Merkavah Torah Institute for Women and is a mentor to Kevah Teaching Fellows.  He previously served on the Board of Directors of Berkeley Hillel. 

Rabbi Cohen received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT Rabbinical School).  He recently completed a Fellowship at the Rabbinic Leadership Institute program of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  He was born in Israel and grew up in Montreal, Canada, where he received his BA in Philosophy from McGill University and studied at Kollel Torah Mitzion.

Rabbi Cohen is passionate about teaching students of all ages and leading community events that integrate children and adults.  He is married to Frayda Gonshor Cohen, a consultant and doctoral candidate in education at Mills College (and a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar Alumna).  Together, they enjoy re-experiencing life through the eyes of their two young sons.


Rabbi Ed Feinstein

Rabbi Ed Feinstein just celebrated his 20th year as rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California. He serves on the faculty of the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the American Jewish University, the Wexner Heritage Program, and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is a member of the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and the Milken Community High School. He lectures widely across the United States on Judaism and the Jewish future.

Rabbi Feinstein is the author of three books. Tough Questions Jews Ask – A Young Adult’s Guide to Building a Jewish Life, (Jewish Lights, 2003), taught in synagogue schools and youth programs around the country, was chosen for the American Library Association’s Top Ten Books on Religion for Young Readers and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.  Jews and Judaism in the Twenty-First Century: Human Responsibility, the Presence of God and the Future of the Covenant (Jewish Lights, 2007), was also a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His latest book, Capturing the Moon (Behrman House, 2008) retells the best of classic and modern Jewish folktales.

Rabbi Feinstein was raised in the back of his parents’ bakery on the frontiers of the West San Fernando Valley. He graduated with honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Judaism, Columbia University Teachers College, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained a rabbi in 1981. He is currently completing his doctorate at J.T.S.

Rabbi Feinstein formerly served as the founding Head of the Solomon Schechter Academy of Dallas, Texas, Associate Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, and Executive Director of Camp Ramah in California. He came to Valley Beth Shalom in 1993 at the invitation of the renowned Rabbi Harold Schulweis.  

Rabbi Feinstein lives in the epicenter of the San Fernando Valley with his wife Rabbi Nina Bieber Feinstein. Nina was the second woman ordained by the Conservative Movement. The Feinstein’s are parents of three adult children. Every Friday afternoon, he bakes brownies from a recipe revealed to his ancestors at Mount Sinai.


Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg

Since 2008, Rabbi Irving Greenberg has been working on a two volume comprehensive theology of Judaism. Volume I – tentatively titled The Renewal of the Covenant: Humanity Comes of Age - is nearing completion. Before this project, he completed a 10 year term as President of Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. The foundation’s mission was to create new institutions and initiatives to enrich the inner life (religious, cultural, institutional) of American Jewry. Alongside Michael Steinhardt and his son, JJ Greenberg, zichrono livracha, he played a founders role in the JLN initiated partnerships which include such major projects as birthright Israel, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE), and MAKOR (now Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y). Greenberg was one of the founders of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and served as Chairman of United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 2000-2002. He has written extensively on theology after the Holocaust, the theory and practice of pluralism, and on the theology of Jewish-Christian relations. An ordained orthodox rabbi, a  Harvard Ph. D. and scholar, Rabbi Greenberg has been a pathbreaking figure in the Jewish Christian dialogue and a seminal thinker in confronting the Holocaust as an historical transforming event and Israel as the Jewish assumption of power and the beginning of a third era in Jewish history.  Rabbi Greenberg is the author of The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (Touchstone Books, 1988), Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World (Rowan and Littlefield, 1998), and For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity (Jewish Publication Society, 2004). From 1974 through 1997, he served as founding President of CLAL - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a pioneering institution in the development of adult and leadership education in the Jewish community and a leading organization in intra-Jewish dialogue and the work of Jewish unity.  The Wexner Heritage constituency has provided his sustaining teaching experience for the past three decades.


Elana Jagoda and Saul Kaye

Elana Jagoda Kaye is a prayer leader, music educator, performer and composer who brings soul and innovation to Jewish music. She adds new dimensions to this music genre by blending her energetic folk-rock vibe with her passion for world music. Elana infuses a unique spiritual quality into the music she brings to both performance and prayer.

Saul Kaye is an international touring artist who is pioneering a new genre of music: Jewish blues. Saul brings together the sounds of the struggle of the African Slaves in South Africa with the history of the Jewish slavery experience. The Characters in the Tanach are the central points of his narratives.


Elliot Kranzler M.D.

Elli Kranzler M.D. practices psychiatry in Manhattan and is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  He has published in the areas of bereavement, depression and child development.

He is the Shliach Tzibbur at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and has recorded numerous Jewish music albums, including those of D’veykus and Journeys.  He has performed throughout the country in Israel, England and Australia.  Recently, he has been involved in the synagogue renewal movement, speaking and leading Shabbatons, centered on the challenges of meaningful Jewish spirituality and engaging prayer.  Elli is also a Wexner Heritage Alumnus from one of the first New York groups (1992-94).


Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt

Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Her book, THE EICHMANN TRIAL, published Schocken/Nextbook Series in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, was called by Publisher’s Weekly, “a penetrating and authoritative dissection of a landmark case and its after effects.”   The New York Times Book Review described  Lipstadt as having “ done a great service by… recovering the event as a gripping legal drama, as well as a hinge moment in Israel’s history and in the world’s delayed awakening to the magnitude of the Holocaust.”   Her conclusions, the Times notes “are rendered with devastating fairness.”   The Washington Post observed that “The Eichmann Trial makes an excellent primer on a landmark event.  With impressive authority and commendable concision, Lipstadt frames and explores… the vast universe of moral quandaries thrown open by the Eichmann trial. [And] makes a welcome contribution to our record of the 20th century’s most horrifying and depressing episode.”  The Wall Street Journal described the book as “a thoughtfully researched and clearly written account of the courtroom Pro-
ceedings and of the debates spurred by the trial.” 


Her book History on Trial:  My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2006) is the story of her libel trial in London against David Irving who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier and right wing extremist.  The book won the 2006 National Jewish Book Award.   Amazon.com listed it as the fourth best non-fiction history book of 2005.  The book has been optioned for a movie by Participant Pictures and BBC Films and is currently in active development. 

David Irving v. Penguin/Deborah Lipstadt was described by the Daily Telegraph (London) as having "done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations."  The Times (London) described it as "history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory."    According to the New York Times, the trial "put an end to the pretense that Mr. Irving is anything but a self-promoting apologist for Hitler."

Her book Denying the Holocaust:  The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press/Macmillan, 1993) is the first full length study of those who attempt to deny the Holocaust.  It was the subject of simultaneous front page reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

At Emory she created the Institute for Jewish Studies and was its first director from 1998-2008.  She directs the website known as HDOT [Holocaust Denial on Trial/  HYPERLINK "http://www.hdot.org" www.hdot.org ] which, in addition to cataloging legal and evidentiary materials from David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, contains answers to frequent claims made by deniers.  The site is frequently accessed in cities throughout Iran.  Its seventh most visited country is Saudi Arabia.

While it was being built Professor Lipstadt was an historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and helped design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust.  She was subsequently appointed by President Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council on which she served two terms.  She has been reappointed to the Council by President Obama and chairs the Museum’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. From 1996 through 1999 she served as a member of the United States State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad.  In this capacity she, together with a small group of leaders and scholars, advised Secretary of State Madeline Albright on matters of religious persecution abroad.  In 2005 she was asked by President George W. Bush to be part of a small delegation which represented the White House at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. 


On April 11, 2011, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Eichmann Trial Dr. Lipstadt gave a public address at the State Department on the impact of the trial.

Dr. Lipstadt has also written Beyond Belief:  The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust (Free Press/MacMillan, 1986, 1993).  Professor Lipstadt is frequently called upon by the media to comment on a variety of matters.  She has appeared Good Morning America, NPR’s Fresh Air, the BBC, Charlie Rose Show, and is a frequent contributor to and is widely quoted in a variety of newspapers and journals including the Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, and New York Times.


The Jewish Council for Public Affairs awarded her its highest honor, the Albert D. Chernin Award given to “an American Jew whose work best exemplifies the social justice imperatives of Judaism, Jewish history and the protection of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment.” Previous winners included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Professor Alan Dershowitz.


In 2006 she was elected to the American Academy of Jewish Research, the oldest organization of Judaic scholars in North America. Fellows are nominated and elected by their peers and thus constitute the most distinguished and most senior scholars teaching Judaic studies at American universities.


She has received numerous teaching awards including Emory's student government association's award for being the teacher most likely to motivate students to learn about new and unfamiliar topics and the Emory Williams award, for her courses on modern Jewish and Holocaust studies. 

She has received Honorary Doctorates from Ben Gurion, Ohio Wesleyan, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Yeshiva University, Bar Ilan University, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Hebrew Union College.  The Forward named her number two on its list of the “Forward Fifty”: the fifty top Jewish newsmakers for the year 2000.  


Rabbi Jan R. Uhrbach

Rabbi Jan R. Uhrbach is the founder of NAHAR, a new Jewish experience in Manhattan, the founding Rabbi of the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons in Sag Harbor, and a distinguished teacher of Torah.  She is a member of the Wexner Heritage faculty, has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical School , the 92nd Street Y, and the Skirball Center for Adult Learning.  She has served as scholar-in-residence in many synagogues, as well as at national conventions such as the Women’s League for Conservative Judiasm.  

Rabbi Uhrbach is currently associate editor of Siddur Lev Shalem, a new Shabbat and festival siddur to be published by the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, having served a member of the editorial committee for Machzor Lev Shalem, published last year.  She is also the author of numerous published essays.  

Rabbi Uhrbach received her ordination from JTS, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and the recipient of academic prizes in theology, philosophy, Talmud, and professional skills.  

The rabbinate is Rabbi Uhrbach’s second career.  A graduate of Yale University (1988) and Harvard Law School (1985), Rabbi Uhrbach served as Law Clerk to Federal District Judge Kimba M. Wood.  She then joined the New York law firm of Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP, where she specialized in media litigation, becoming a partner of the firm in January, 1996.