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The Wexner Heritage Program New Member Institute 2014 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).


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 Steven Greenberg

Rabbi Steven Greenberg is a Senior Teaching Fellow at CLAL, a think tank, leadership training institute and resource center and is the Director of the CLAL Diversity Project. He is the author of the book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, (University of Wisconsin Press) which was awarded with the 2005 Koret Jewish Book Award for Philosophy and Thought. Steve is a founder and co-director of Eshel, an Orthodox LGBT community support and education organization and serves on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Steve lives with his partner Steven Goldstein and his daughter Amalia in Boston.


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.


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 Proceedings 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.  


Julie Silver

Julie Silver is one of the most celebrated and beloved performers in the world of contemporary Jewish music today. She tours throughout the world, and has been engaging audiences with her lyrical guitar playing, her dynamic stage presence, and her megawatt smile for over 25 years. Although she resides in Southern California, Julie’s roots are deep in New England. She was raised in Newton, Massachusetts and by the time she was 18, she was leading raucous song sessions throughout the Reform Jewish movement and playing coffeehouses in and around Boston. Without backing from a major label, Julie has sold more than 100,000 copies of her CDs. Between 1992 and 2000 she released some of the highest selling, successful albums of original Jewish music (Together, From Strength to Strength, Walk With Me, and Beyond Tomorrow)Her songs have become so tightly woven into the fabric of American Judaism that they have become “standards” in worship, camp, and academic settings. Julie plays regularly for The World Union of Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), Limmud UK, the largest European Jewish convention held in England, and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) throughout North America.She also performs for The National Council of Jewish Women, American Jewish World Service, and “wherever and whenever I can be of service”, Silver says. Silver lives in Southern California with her partner Mary Connelly, a highly successful Executive Producer and their delicious daughters, Sarah and Catherine.  


Rabbi Avraham (Avi) Weiss

Rabbi Avraham (Avi) Weiss is the founder and president of YCT, the Modern and Open Orthodox Rabbinical School in New York.  He is also the senior Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a congregation of 850 families.  Most recently, he founded Yeshivat Mahara”t, a school training women to become Jewish spiritual leaders. Rabbi Weiss was named one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine the past five consecutive years (placing 12th this past year).  He is the author of Spiritual Activism: A Jewish Guide to Leadership and Repairing the World (Jewish Lights).  His book on prayer, Holistic Prayer: A New Guide to Jewish Spirituality, will be published this year by Toby Press. Rabbi Weiss served as the National Chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, and is the National President of AMCHA – the Coalition for Jewish Concerns.  


Dr. Wendy Zierler

Dr. Wendy Zierler is Professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies at HUC-JIR in New York. Prior to joining the faculty of HUC-JIR in 2001, she was a Research Fellow in English and American Studies at the University of Hong Kong. She received her Ph.D. and her MA from Princeton University and her BA from Yeshiva University and is currently completing an MFA in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her book, And Rachel Stole the Idols: The Emergence of Hebrew Women’s Writing was published in 2004 from Wayne State University Press. Together with Carole Balin, she is editor of Behikansi atah, a collection of the Hebrew writings of Hava Shapiro, (Resling Press, 2008). Their English volume of Shapiro’s writings, featuring Dr. Zierler’s translations of Shapiro’s stories, diary and letters, will be published by Wayne State University Press in Fall 2014. Other publications include a Feminist Haggadah commentary in My People’s Haggadah (Jewish Lights, 2008), and To Speak her Heart, an illustrated anthology of Jewish women’s prayers and poems, to which she contributed the introduction, several translations, and an original poem. She is currently working on a book entitled Reel Judaism, which uses film and popular culture as a springboard for Jewish religious and theological conversation. As a fiction writer, she was recently a finalist in the Moment Magazine Karma Foundation fiction contest for her story “The One Lamb You Should Offer”; another story entitled “The Great American Canadian Jewish Chinese Novel” was published in 2013 in Jewishfiction.net.