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WHP New Member Institute 2015 Faculty Bios

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 at @DrEricaBrown and tweets an inspirational quote or question called Happier Days. She resides with her husband and four children in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Rabba Yaffa Epstein

Rabba Yaffa Epstein teaches Talmud at Yeshivat Maharat and serves as the U.S. based Educational Director at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. She received her rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Maharat in June, 2015, and holds a law degree from Bar-Ilan University. Epstein has studied at the Pardes Kollel, the Advanced Talmud Institute at Matan and the Talmud Department of Hebrew University. Epstein has been a teacher of Talmud, Jewish law and Liturgy at Pardes for over a decade, and has served as the Director of the Beit Midrash at the Dorot Fellowship in Israel. She has taught at the Drisha Institute June Kollel, Kayam Farm Kollel, the Lookstein Center, Ta Shma and Young Judaea Year Course, and has lectured at Limmud events around the globe. Epstein has written curricula for the Global Day of Jewish Learning and has created innovative educational programming for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. 


Rabbi Ed Feinstein

Rabbi Ed Feinstein has been the rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA for more than 20 years. 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, 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, was also a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His latest book, Capturing the Moon 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.


Rabbi David Ingber

Rabbi David Ingber is the Founder and Spiritual Leader of Romemu (, a Jewish Spiritual Center in New York City. Named by Newsweek as one of 2013’s top 50 most influential rabbis in the United States as well as by The Forward as one of the 50 most newsworthy and notable Jews in America,  Rabbi David promotes a renewed Jewish mysticism that integrates meditative mindfulness and physical awareness into mainstream, post-modern Judaism. A major 21st Century Jewish thinker and educator, his rich perspective, open heart and mind, and full-bodied approach to Jewish learning has brought him to speak throughout the United States and worldwide throughout Canada, Europe and Israel.


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

Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Her book The Eichmann Trial, published by 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.” 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.  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." The judge found David Irving to be a Holocaust denier, a falsifier of history, a racist and an anti-Semite. 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." In July 2001, the Court of Appeals resoundingly rejected Irving’s appeal of the judgment against him. Her book Denying the Holocaust: The Grosing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press/Macmillan, 1993) is the first full-length study of those who attempt to deny the Holocaust. At Emory she directs the website known as HDOT [Holocaust Denial on Trial/] which contains answers to frequent claims made by deniers. Portions of the site are translated into Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Turkish. The site is frequently accessed in cities throughout Iran. 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 has been appointed by both Presidents Clinton and Obama to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. President George W. Bush asked her to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. She has advised former Secretary of State Madeline Albright on matters of religious freedom abroad. 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. In April 2014, she was invited by the government of Rwanda to participate in a conference commemorating the Rwandan Genocide. In June 2014, she visited Budapest and Prague at the invitation of the United States Embassies in those countries, where she lectured on Holocaust denial and contemporary anti-Semitism. 


Basya Schechter

Basya Schechter, most known for her group, Pharaoh's Daughter, a 7 piece world music ensemble that travels effortlessly through continents, key signatures, and languages with a genre-bending sound. Basya Schechter’s earthy, soulful, beautiful voice rings out over instruments that form a vibrant collage of East/West, Ashkenaz a vision of a new Middle East. She is also the musical director of Romemu a fast growing progressive spiritually adventurous community in the Upper West Side. In the summer she is a cantor for the Fire Island synagogue, a smaller flip flop wearing community, co-led with banjo playing Rabbi, writer and academic, Shaul Magid. Her prayer project "Dumiya" (7th album) was released in the early fall, and she is now working on a collection called "Songs of Desire," integrating texts from Songs of Songs.