Vanessa keeps IJS running by maintaining financial reports, performing general bookkeeping, and helping those who call the office with questions or concerns. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting from Baruch College and has worked in Accounting in various industries. Working for a nonprofit such as IJS has been her goal for a long time, following in the footsteps of her father, who works at Caritas France. She has strong family values and enjoys helping others.
Rabbi Sam Feinsmith
Sam directs the Educating for a Jewish Spiritual Life and Clergy Leadership Programs at IJS, and writes the weekly Hasidic Text Study track. He has been immersed in the world of Jewish contemplative living, learning, and teaching for over fifteen years, conducting Jewish meditation workshops and retreats for young children, teens, and Jewish educators and community leaders. Sam lives outside of Chicago with his wife and daughter, where he delights in the daily miracles of early childhood.
Director of Finance & Operations
As the Director of Finance and Operations, Denise is committed to supporting the daily operations, finances and employees of IJS. Denise has worked in a variety of institutions, from a Fortune 500 company to start-up E-commerce companies. She 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.
Rabbi Marc Margolius
Senior Program Director
Marc directs the Kivvun program for lay leaders, the Hevraya program for clergy, and the Tikkun Middot project. He also writes the weekly mindful Text Study track. He has led systemic congregational change by integrating mindfulness with middot, and through Shabbat-centered intergenerational learning. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Yale College, and Yale Law School, he lives in New York with his wife, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, and has five children.
Retreat and Programs Manager
Liat oversees logistics for IJS programs and keeps them running smoothly. They are a graduate of IJS’ Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training, and earned a B.A. from Goucher College in Religion, Psychology and Judaic Studies. They believe in using contemplative practice to build Jewish and multi-faith spaces that support Non-Violence and social justice. Liat also works as a consultant for Shine, training organizations in Trans/Queer/LGB inclusion through an intersectional lens.
Firkins stewards relationships with and researches funders and writes all grant materials for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She has done grant writing and development for over fifteen years for schools and educational nonprofits. She holds an M.A. from Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College and an M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She lives in Natick, MA with her husband and two daughters and is active in local politics.
Rabbi Jonathan Slater
Senior Program Director
Jonathan co-directs the Clergy Leadership Program, teaches on multiple programs and retreats, and works closely with the Board of Directors. He was ordained by JTS and served congregations in northern California for over twenty years. He was also a participant in the first IJS rabbinic cohort. Jonathan enjoys living in the NYC suburbs, teaching meditation at the JCC in Manhattan, and visiting with his seven grandchildren around the country.
Barbara works on-site to support faculty and participants on IJS retreats and serves as liaison between participants and the retreat centers. A graduate of IJS’s Kivvun program for lay leaders, she brings eighteen years of experience coordinating the Union for Reform Judaism’s Kallah program of study and spirituality retreats. Barbara is also a Jewish Spiritual Director, and past President of her synagogue and of Pittsburgh’s Agency for Jewish Learning.
Ruth oversees all philanthropic initiatives supporting IJS programs and operations. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University, she has experience creating, building, and managing successful high school development programs. A lifelong Massachusetts resident, she is an active volunteer at her synagogue and high school. Ruth’s children and grandchildren live in NYC, and she loves to visit them when she comes to the IJS office.
Ann Greenstein is pleased to serve as the IJS Board Chair. She has been a member of the IJS Board since 2013. As a Kivvun alumna, Ann has learned to incorporate practices of mindfulness into her daily life, and endeavors to bring those same practices to bear on her organizational activities.
Having had a varied career ranging from Visual Merchandising (Window Dispay) to synagogue Executive Director , Ann earned her BA in History at Boston University and her MFA in Stage Design at Northwestern University (Go Cats!).
She is a native of Rochester, NY but has lived and worked in the Chicago area for over 30 years. She previously served on the board of the BJE (Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago) and on the board of Quest Academy, an independent school. Ann is married to fellow Kivvun alum, Jeff Farbman, and they are the proud parents of two grown children. Ann and Jeff live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with two Siamese cats and Delilah poodle.
David Ferleger has a national law and consulting practice, specializing in public interest, civil rights, and disability law. He has litigated landmark disability cases, including five arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States. David has taught at the New York University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In addition to his legal work, he is President and Founder of Ferleger Wealth Management, LLC, an investment advisory firm. For several years, David was the Treasurer and Chair of the Endowment Committee for the Board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He is an alumnus of Kivvun 4. He is married to Rabbi Dayle Friedman (R6) and lives in Philadelphia, PA.
Judy Fisher has been serving on the IJS board for three years and chairs the technology committee. She is a Jewish meditation teacher and has been the director of Or HaLev, the Center for Jewish spirituality at Peninsula Temple Beth El (PTBE) in San Mateo, California for the past five years. She received her certification to teach Jewish meditation from IJS’s Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training Program (JMMTT3) and is currently in the IJS Kivvun program. Judy also teaches Jewish meditation at Or HaLev and in the Bay Area. She has also been trained as a facilitator for IJS’s Wise Aging Program and facilitates Wise Aging workshops at PTBE.
Judy was a technical and marketing writer, editor and project manager for more than twenty years. She has been serving on PTBE’s board of trustees and has served on numerous boards in the Jewish community in San Diego including Congregation Beth Israel, the Jewish Women’s Foundation and the Central Agency for Jewish Education. She has a bachelor’s degree in Religion from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and studied at the Hayim Greenberg College in Jerusalem. Judy has been married for almost 40 years to Tom Fisher and is the mother of three amazing children, one daughter-in-law and is a new grandmother. They live in San Mateo, California.
Marvin Israelow worked as an organization development consultant for nearly 30 years, providing clients with a broad range of services including strategic planning, team development, leadership counseling, and customize seminars in change management and career development. Prior to starting his own firm in 1983, Marvin worked for the Exxon Corporation as an organizational development advisor> His academic background includes a B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School and a Thouron Fellowship at the London School of Economics. He earned a Master’s degree from Temple University and studied at MIT’s Sloan School of Management where he also taught and conducted research on the innovation process in organizations. Marvin is an alumnus of Kivvun 1 and JMMTT2. He also completed the HUC-JIR Spiritual Director training program. He serves on the faculty of IJS’s Wise Aging program. Marvin is married to Dorian Goldman. He is the father of three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He lives in Chappaqua, NY.
Julie Kohl is a retired pediatrician and mohelet, who is focused on physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. She attended Yale College and Stanford Medical School. After raising her kids, Benjamin Bronx and Zoe Paris, in Silicon Valley, she relocated to Seattle with her husband, Glen, and goldendoodles, Rollo and Yofi. She is currently participating in the Palliative Care Certificate Program at the University of Washington, and is on the founding board of Limmud Seattle. Julie is an alumna of Kivvun 4, and is an avid learner in all areas of her life.
Rabbi Daniel Liben
Rabbi Daniel Liben was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983, and became the spiritual leader of Temple Israel in Natick, MA in 1991. He is a past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, and of the New England Region Rabbinical Assembly. After going through the Institute’s 4th Rabbinic cohort, Dan has made the exploration of prayer as a spiritual practice a cornerstone of his rabbinic work. Dan spent several years exploring mindfulness at Elat Chayyim, where his teachers were Sylvia Boorstein, Jeff Roth, Sheila Weinberg, and Norman Fisher. He subsequently completed JMMTT—for a second time!—and taught meditation for the Institute in the 7th Rabbinic cohort. This year, Dan is completing Bekhol Levavkha, a two-year training program in Spiritual Direction, and is co-facilitating a Wise Aging group at Temple Israel of Natick. Dan is married to Fran Robins Liben, Chief Human Resources Officer at Ropes and Gray. They have five grown children and seven grandchildren.
Rabbi Shuli Passow
Rabbi Shuli Passow is the director of Community Engagement at B’nai Jeshrun synagogue in New York, NY. Shuli received her ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and previously served as the Director of Community Initiatives at the Jewish Funds for Justice, where she worked with synagogues across the country to support their involvement in congregation-based community organizing. She has taught widely in youth and adult education settings, and is particularly passionate about exploring issues of justice, compassion, environmentalism and economics through Jewish text. A trained yoga instructor, Shuli loves teaching yoga in Jewish contexts, and has participated in a number of Institute Programs, including Yom Iyyun and the Tikkun Middot Project.
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.
Immediate Past Chair
Terry Rosenberg has a 25-year career as an executive coach and organizational consultant, specializing in leadership development and communication. Over the last 15 years she has focused on working with nonprofits, specializing in synagogue change initiatives and board development. She currently serves on the boards of Mayyim Hayyim in Boston and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
Dr. Daniel Scharf has practiced cardiology in Kansas City since 1977 and has recently retired. He has been a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He is an active participant in the life of his jewish community and has served as president of the Jewish Heritage Foundation, a major funding source for Jewish social service needs in KC. He currently is on the board of the Greater Kansas City Jewish Federation. Dan participated in the second cohort of the Institute’s Kivvun program, and both he and his wife Miriam have been working hard to bring Institute programs such as Wise Aging and Tikkun Middot study to their community.
Larry Schwartz spent 25 years as a principal of the company that created the Lugz and British Knights shoe brands. He retired from his business recently to spend more time cultivating his Jewish spiritual practice and helping the Institute grow and develop; he is a member of many Institute board committees. He cofounded the Jewish Meditation Center of Montclair and teaches Jewish meditation at Romemu and at elementary and middle schools in the city. Larry also invests in Impact companies and funds and currently serves on the board of one of those companies.
Amanda Silver is a leadership and organizational development consultant to non-profit and social change organizations around the country. She has served as senior training consultant at Dartmouth College and is a founding consultant at the Center for New Leadership through Marlboro College. As a coach, trainer, and facilitator, Amanda draws on mindfulness, emotional-intelligence, and strength-based approaches to create the conditions that allow individuals, teams, and organizations to thrive. She lives in New Hampshire with her family.
Marte V. Singerman, Esq. graduated from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida in 1983. She currently serves as an officer and director on the Boards of The Social Cog, Inc., Temple Beth Sholom and The Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She is also a certified yoga instructor and Jewish Meditation Teacher. Marte resides in Miami Beach with her husband, Paul Steven Singerman. Their daughters Eliza and Rickie are students in Boca Raton, FL
Steven Targum, MD, is a psychiatrist and clinical researcher who consults widely to the pharmaceutical industry regarding the design and implementation of clinical trials for new psychotropic drugs. He has founded several clinical consulting companies that focus on quality assurance and data integrity for drug development. Steve is active in Jewish communal organizations; In 2011, he and his wife, Carol were honored at the Spring Benefit of Boston’s Mayyim Chayyim: Living Waters Community Mikveh.
Larry Yermack has spent his professional career applying technology to the nation’s surface transportation network. He was the creator of the E-ZPass toll collection system, has held several government positions including first deputy transportation commissioner for New York City, was president of a 400-person transportation engineering firm, and now is a strategic advisor to a large international engineering firm. His passion is Jewish Spiritual Practice; along with Rabbi Chai Levy, Larry recently started Congregation Kol Shofar’s Center for Jewish Spirituality in Marin County, California. He teaches Jewish Meditation weekly and at occasional retreats.