Great leaders do work that is effective, sustainable and meaningful. At the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, we believe that this requires da’at, which, as understood in Hasidic literature, means a rich, spacious awareness that leads to righteous action. Da’at (from the word lada’at, “to know”) implies intimacy, a knowing grounded in trust and compassion. When we cultivate that kind of knowing, we become more aware of how things are interconnected, of the underlying Unity, its dazzlingly diverse manifestations and our own place within it. This awareness allows the necessary insight for leaders to evaluate their own behaviors, make wise decisions and find true joy in the work they do. Through personal investment in spiritual practices that support the cultivation of da’at, we all can better embody the characteristics of great leadership.
Jordan Bendat-Appell, Director of Regional Programming
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell is the co-founder and director of the Center for Jewish Mindfulness in Chicago. Jordan was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2008, after which he served as the rabbi at Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in Glencoe, IL. Prior to pursuing his rabbinical path, Jordan studied Conservation Biology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, spent several months at Zen centers in California and France, and studied Jewish text at the Conservative Yeshiva and Machon Pardes in Jerusalem. He and his family live outside Chicago.
“The Institute for Jewish Spirituality represents the best of Jewish living through the practice and development of authentically Jewish, sustainable tools that help facilitate our becoming the people that we hope to be in this world.”
Mara Bernstein, Retreat and Programs Manager
Mara Bernstein comes to the Institute with a background in Jewish nonprofit program support and event management. She served as a program administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she coordinated professional development fellowships for Jewish educators. Mara also has a background in museum education – she has served as an educator at the Museum at Eldridge Street and Fraunces Tavern Museum, and also leads neighborhood walking tours in New York City. A native of southern California, Mara received her BA in History and Judaic Studies from New York University. Mara enjoys swimming, cooking, and exploring her Upper West Side neighborhood.
Nancy Flam, Co-Director of Programs
Rabbi Nancy Flam was the first Director of the Institute and a co-founder of the Jewish Healing Center in 1991. She then directed the Jewish Community Healing Program of Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco. She has served as a consultant for Synagogue 2000 and the National Center for Jewish Healing. Rabbi Flam earned her B.A. in Religion (Phi Beta Kappa, Summa cum Laude) from Dartmouth College in 1982; her M.A. in Hebrew Literature from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1986, and was ordained in 1989.
Lisa Goldstein, Executive Director
Rabbi Lisa Goldstein is the Executive Director of the Institute; prior to that, she spent 15 years as Executive Director of Hillel of San Diego where she garnered local and national recognition for her devotion to students and her leadership. She has been a service learning group leader for the American Jewish World Service and as a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow in 2009-2010, she designed a new methodology for combining local justice work and contemplative practice within a Jewish framework.
“I have been an enthusiastic participant in Institute programs since 2002 and believe that the cultivation of spiritual practices as taught by the Institute has the potential to transform leadership in the Jewish community towards greater wisdom and commitment to right action in the world.”
Denise Lorentz-Kirchner, Director of Finance and Operations
Denise came to the Institute after working in a variety of institutions, from a Fortune 500 company to start-up E-commerce companies, to businesses in the garment and diamond worlds. Denise has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting with a double minor in Economics and Business Education from Salem University. She is a Boston native currently residing in Westchester, NY, with her husband and daughter.
Marc Margolius, Hevraya Director
Rabbi Marc Margolius directs the Institute’s programming for rabbis, cantors and educators who are alumni of our leadership training programs. In addition, he serves as spiritual leader of West End Synagogue on New York City’s Upper West Side. Previously, Rabbi Margolius directed the Legacy Heritage Innovation Project, an initiative supporting congregational educational transformation, and served as Director of Jewish Life and Identity for the Jewish Community Centers of Philadelphia. Rabbi Margolius received his B.A. and J.D. from Yale University, and graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He is a graduate of the original cohort of the Rabbinic training program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
Paul Schulman, Bookkeeper
Paul joins the Institute after working in corporate finance and studying Finance, Accounting, and Math at Northeastern University. He’s excited to be involved with an organization focused on cultivating spirituality and mindfulness in Judaism, as he recently became more involved in his own practice. His hobbies include triathlons, cooking, nutrition, travelling, and yoga.
Zena Schulman, Communications and Development Associate
Zena comes to the Institute after graduating from Tulane University with a BSM in Marketing, a secondary Jewish Studies major, and a Management minor. After growing up in Young Judaea, she stayed involved with the Jewish community through Hillel, as well as Tulane University for Israel. In her spare time, Zena enjoys dancing, laughing, hiking, and crafting.
Barbara K. Shuman, Director of Wise Aging
Barbara Shuman directs the Wise Aging Project. A graduate of IJS’s Kivvun Program, she brings 18 years of experience in coordinating the Union for Reform Judaism’s Kallah program of study and spirituality retreats. Barbara has been a URJ Board member since 1993, and is currently President of Pittsburgh’s Agency for Jewish Learning. Barbara has a BA from Brandeis University and a MA from Columbia University. She is also a Jewish Spiritual Director, having completed the Morei Derekh Training Program. When not involved with the IJS and her other commitments, she enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren.
Jonathan Slater, Co-Director of Programs
Rabbi Jonathan Slater co-directs the Clergy Leadership Program and participates as staff in many other programs at the Institute, and is a graduate of the Institute’s first rabbinic cohort. He is the author of Mindful Jewish Living: Compassionate Practice (Aviv Press, 2004), and is currently engaged in a publishing project, presenting translations of classical Hasidic texts with commentary. He received his ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1979, and served as rabbi at Beth Am in Santa Rosa, California, for 19 years. He is on the faculty of Makom: Center for Mindfulness at the JCC in Manhattan, teaching and leading mindfulness meditation.
“I am constantly amazed and inspired at how the focused, sustained and honest inner work of our participants generates such deep personal transformation, inspired leadership and strong commitment to ease human suffering and sustain the world.”
Max Amadeo Thomas, Office Manager
Max came to the Institute with a background in operations and program support at several nonprofits relating to social services and human rights. He now serves as office manager and assists with programs. He holds a BA in Psychology from CUA, with a minor in philosophy. He likes to hike, bike, read, and eat.
Lisa Zbar, Development Director
Lisa Zbar comes to the Institute after a career making films about Judaism, Islam, access to health care, and other social issues. She was president of Brooklyn’s congregation Kolot Chayeinu and co-founded Shir Chadash: The Brooklyn Jewish Community Chorus. From 2006-2008, Lisa participated in Vetaher Libeynu, the Institute program of adult education.
“Through Vetaher Libeynu I discovered the transformative power of integrating mindfulness practices and Judaism. I hope that through my work I can introduce others to the riches that await us in these various traditions.”
Larry Schwartz, Chair
Larry Schwartz spent 25 years as a principal of the company that created the Lugz and British Knights shoe brands. He retired recently to spend more time cultivating his Jewish spiritual practice and helping the Institute grow and develop. He cofounded the Jewish Meditation Center of Montclair and is teaching Jewish meditation at Romemu and elsewhere in NY city.
“The Institute means so much to me because it deeply touches and inspires so many people and is helping to revitalize Judaism throughout North America.”
Nancy Kaplan Belsky is Vice Chair of the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation and on the board of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Her previous board experience includes Vice Chair of the Rashi Reform Jewish Day School and Chair of the Governing Board of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston. Nancy has focused her efforts on enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. Her current interest includes responding to the needs of seniors, specifically those living with Alzheimer’s. Nancy is a Kivvun graduate; her love for Jewish study has motivated her to study text at Hebrew College and participate in numerous study groups, including Mussar. She and her husband, Mark, live in Waban, MA; they are members of the Reform congregation, Temple Beth Elohim. Nancy and Mark’s pride and joy are their family.
Dr. Jeannie Blaustein
Jeannie Blaustein graduated from Brown University with Honors in history; she received an MA in history from NYU, and then shifted her studies to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. A licensed clinical psychologist, Jeannie worked in the Barnard College Counseling Service for several years, and is currently an Adjunct Supervisor to City College’s Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She serves on the board of the Phoebe Berman Bioethics Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and on the Board of LitWorld, an extraordinary non-profit dedicated to promoting sustainable literacy in the Third World.
Ellen Friedman is the Executive Director of The Compton Foundation, which seeks to ignite change toward a sustainable, just, and peaceful future. Ellen brings to her work a deep interest in organizational design and leadership and a passion for transformative social change around the world. She is a trustee of Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, New Field Foundation, and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and she holds an MBA from UCLA.
“The Institute matters to me because I believe we cannot transform the world until we transform our hearts. Jewish wisdom has much to teach about both and the Institute has found a way to bring that wisdom alive in our time.”
Dorian S. Goldman
Dorian Goldman, Vice-Chair, is a trustee of the Goldman family real estate holding company. She is a member of the Friends of Ben Gurion University, the American Jewish Committee, and is a member of the Conservative Congregation in Pleasantville, New York.
Ann Greenstein served as an Executive Director of a Reform congregation and came to IJS as part of the first Kivvun cohort. Ann lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Jeff, also a Kivvun participant.
“I became interested in the work of the Institute because I was convinced that there was a different way to see and to inhabit this world beyond what I already knew and understood and I wanted to explore that within a Jewish framework.”
Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen
Marion Lev Cohen began her rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, in August 2006. She is currently serving as a rabbinic intern at Central Synagogue in New York. She is the national chair of MAKOM, an initiative of the Jewish Agency to deepen Israel engagement. She currently serves on the boards of the Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish Agency, American Jewish World Services and Synagogue 3000.
Rabbi Rex D. Perlmeter
Rabbi Rex D Perlmeter is the Founding Director of the Jewish Wellness Center of Montclair. He credits the vision of this provider of holistic teachings and services leading toward personal and communal sh’leimut in large part to the inspiration received from his participation in several of the programs of the Institute. A former member of the Senior Staff of the Union for Reform Judaism, he resides in New Jersey with his wife, Rabbi Rachel Hertzman and family.
Terry Rosenberg has a 25 year career as an executive coach and organizational consultant specializing in leadership development and communication. She has focused her work more recently in the synagogue and Jewish camping worlds. She currently serves on the boards of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Synagogue3000.
“The Institute matters to me because true leadership requires personal transformation. The Institute creates Jewish leaders who illuminate the values of justice, compassion, and truthfulness in the communities they inspire and serve.”
Daniel Scharf has been a cardiologist in Kansas City since 1977 and a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri in KC. For many years he has been an active participant in the life of his Jewish community. He has served as President of the Jewish Heritage Foundation, a member of the Jewish Community Foundation and is currently the chair of the Financial Resource Development Committee for the Jewish Federation of Greater KC. Dan participated in the second cohort of the Institute’s Kivvun program.
Amanda is a leadership and organizational development consultant to non-profit and social change organizations around the country. She draws on mindfulness, emotional-intelligence and strength-based approaches to create the conditions that allow individuals, teams and organizations to thrive. Amanda serves on the Advisory Board of the Selah Leadership Program at Jewish Funds for Justice and holds an M.S. in Positive Organizational Development from Case Western Reserve University.
“As a recent graduate of the Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training program, I admire the Institute as a unique organization in which my passion for social justice, Jewish spiritual practice, and mindfulness intersect in an integrated way.”
Larry Yermack, Treasurer
Larry Yermack has spent his professional career bringing improvements to the regional and national transportation network. He was the creator of the E-ZPass coalition, has held several government positions including first deputy transportation commissioner for New York City, was president of a 400 person systems integration firm, and now is president of a consulting company in the Intelligent Transportation field. He served as his synagogue president and co-founded the Jewish Meditation Center of Montclair.
“The Institute is important to me because it provides the tools to integrate spiritual practices into a full meaningful Jewish life.”