As we enter the New Year, we formally welcome our incoming AOP class of extraordinary rabbinic, rabbinic pastor and cantorial talmidim. We collectively send a “Shanah Tovah and Bruchim HaBa-im” affirmation of delight that they are joining us! They come from throughout the continental USA, bring varied backgrounds and life-experiences, span diverse careers, and are united in their aspiration to bring their passion and talents to the service of the Jewish people and the world.
Rabbi Marcia Prager
Dean, ALEPH Ordination Program
Binah Block (Rabbinic Pastor), Pittsburgh, PA. Binah began her Jewish life 14 years ago while studying to be a Christian missionary. Her father’s religion brought her to a synagogue in California, where she learned to davven and to chant Torah. Thus began the adventure that brought her from a life in the theater and the music world to becoming a Rabbinic Pastor and Spiritual Director. As a mother, actor, singer, teacher, director, producer, and clown, Binah prays to be a force of discernment, gentleness and humor in the world.
Ali Buckman (Cantorial), Evanston, IL. Ali has a Master in Social Work and is a licensed clinical social worker. She is also a yoga teacher, an ADHD coach, and a psychotherapist in private practice. With a Bachelor’s degree in theater and education, Ali has been in musicals and choirs, writes and performs original Jewish music, and has served as guest cantorial soloist at a synagogue in the Chicago area. Ali has wanted to become a cantor since she was twenty-two years old and is thrilled to be finally pursuing her passion.
Shayna Caul (Rabbinic Pastor), City Island, NY. Shayna was a special needs educator for 37 years and worked with the United Federation of Teachers as master teacher and magazine editor. She also taught tennis professionally and had a stained glass studio. As a juggler, she was a Cirque Du Soleil trainer and has performed extensively, including as Dr. Juggles, a Health and Healing Associate, at Stamford Hospital. Shayna is active in three synagogues in the New York area and was an active member of Havurah Su Kasha for 17 years. “In retrospect, my whole life was preparation for this path of becoming a Rabbinic Pastor and Spiritual Director.”
Ljuba Davis (Cantorial), Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Ljuba has been singing, singing, singing – from Jewish and Hebrew music in the 50’s, folk music in the 60’s, and liturgical music as a fill-in hazzan all over the San Francisco Bay Area since 1969. She also worked as a registered nurse, took over a real-estate business upon her husband’s death, and has performed nationally with the Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble (their CD, East and West, was released in 2012). In between all that she raised 7 children and 2 stepchildren and revels in being the grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 4.
Sharona Grinsteiner (Rabbinic), Aurora, CO. Born and raised in Israel, Sharona was trained as a teacher in the Israel Defense Forces and has over 20 years of experience teaching Hebrew and Judaica. She served as a program development consultant and lead teacher with the Mizel Museum, Director of Kohelet Hebrew School, as well as a faculty member of the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education. She is a Hebrew teacher, junior congregation leader and bar/bat mitzvah tutor at the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver.
Yehuda Jacobowitz (Rabbinic), New York, NY. Yehuda grew up Orthodox, lived in Israel for three years, and has spent many years in yeshiva. With a B.A. in Psychology and certification in Reiki, he is an experienced group facilitator for healing circles. He also has a business in matchmaking, negotiation and mediation. As a student of Yiddishkeit, psychotherapy, tai chi, meditation, and Feldenkrais method, Yehuda explores how people can find healing and expression through the wisdom in Judaism and other world traditions.
Elkah Katz (Rabbinic Pastor), Bellingham, WA. Elkah co-leads Shir HaShalom, a community known for creative davvenen’. She has taught Hebrew to people with special needs, co-facilitated a crafts workshop for seniors, and worked as a puppeteer. Her B.A. in Linguistics and Anthropology focused on how spiritual wellness is expressed in language, art, and story. She is a student of Resonant Silence Technique, a therapy based on the synergy of sound and silence created by Hazzan Miriam Fein. Elkah lives with her partner Moss and their two daughters.
Steven King (Rabbinic), Anchorage, AK. Steven works at Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage, with responsibilities in operations and assisting the rabbi in services and events. With a Master in Public Policy, he helped develop the first Therapeutic Court for Alaska, as well as initiated several criminal justice reforms that focused on the humane treatment and reformation of incarcerated individuals. He left public service a couple of years ago to pursue his spiritual interests.
Sharon McCord (Cantorial), Charlottesville, VA. Sharon – who has taught winds, piano, classical guitar, and voice for 30 years – recently retired as Band and Chorus Director of the Peabody School. She is currently a music studio owner and Sales Manager and Event Director for Heritage Performance Programs. Since 2006, she has served as music specialist and part-time prayer music leader at Congregation Beth Israel. She performs with the Jewish band Haverim and directs the Chutzpah! Chorus, Mazal Tov Youth Choir, and the Hallelu Band. Her new CD, Shabbat Shalom, was released in 2015.
Chana-Ora Miller (Rabbinic), Danvers, MA. Chana-Ora is an attorney, teacher, chant composer, and spiritual leader. She runs a nonprofit called Congregation Chanting For Life, whose mission is to provide pathways for the absorption of transformative sacred messages. She is married to David, mother to three wonderful daughters, and Savta to her one-year-old grandson who, under her guidance, is learning the art of sacred chant and drumming.
Lisa Rappaport (Rabbinic), El Cerrito, CA. Lisa is an educator – secular and Jewish – who works as an administrator in an independent K-8 school in Oakland and was previously Director of Education at Congregation Beth Israel in Chico, where she taught preschool through b’nai mitzvah students. She now serves as the Rabbinic Intern, Youth Education Committee co-chair, and a lay leader at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. Lisa is the mother of two daughters.
Brielle Paige Rassler (Rabbinic), Davie, FL. Brielle has a B.A. in Dance, Psychology, and Substance Abuse Studies and is pursuing a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Nova Southeastern University. Brielle grew up on the stage and now seeks to combine her love of the arts, psychology, and Judaism to help people heal holistically from a variety of mental disorders. She has created Mindful Movement, a psycho-spiritual movement practice aimed at developing the body, the mind, and the connection between the two.
Vickie Chaya Schulman (Rabbinic Pastor), Miami, Fl. Chaya is a social worker at Jewish Community Services of South Florida, working with Holocaust survivors. Born in New Orleans, LA, she has a Master of Clinical Social Work from Barry University. Chaya is an active member of Temple Israel of Greater Miami and has served as Gabbai and chair of its Caring Committee.
Devorah Tucker (Cantorial), Holt, MI. As the daughter of a Baptist minister, Devorah always felt called to G-d work, but it was not until having converted to Judaism that she knew it was time to pursue that calling. She is a regular service leader, Haftarah leyner, and musician at Kehillat Israel in Lansing. Devorah was the music director at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Missoula, MT, and studied music composition at the University of Montana. She also works as a special education paraeducator and is the proud mom of two daughters.
Stephanie Weishaar (Cantorial), Germantown, MD. Stephanie is the spiritual leader of Kol Nefesh congregation in Columbia, MD, music teacher at Oseh Shalom in Laurel, as well as cantor for the High Holy Days at Beth El in Winchester, VA. Jewish music is Stephanie’s “encore career” after nearly two decades of working in nonprofit development for the former Soviet countries. She serves on the board of the Women Cantors Network and the BlackRock Center for the Arts. Stephanie and her husband, Bobby, have two children in college.
Cat Zavis (Rabbinic), Berkeley, CA. Cat is the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), as well as a collaborative attorney, mediator, and trainer in empathic communication. Cat has been a longtime activist in social change work. She sees the Torah and Jewish teachings as a radical liberatory theology that provides spiritual meaning, practices, and guidelines for how to build an ethical society. Cat also co-leads services with her husband Rabbi Michael Lerner at Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in Berkeley and has two sons.