JJP Faculty

Adam Feder

Adam Feder is the Musical Director of The Shul Band and a teacher at Temple Sholom in Greenwich, CT and at the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Westport, CT. A guitarist, singer and composer since the age of ten, his love of Jewish music has its roots in memories of his grandmother’s Yiddish melodies, her cooking, and years of Passover seder musical marathons, accompanying his father’s accordion. Along the way, Adam has studied the Philosophy of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College; meditated at too many week-long retreats to count; grown and developed a network of inner-city community gardens in Yonkers, New York; received an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work; and served as a Hospice Social Worker for five years. For Adam, music and synagogue have been the common denominator throughout his life. He has produced multiple CD projects and is continuously working with new musicians and communities to ignite ‘heart and soul’ within the synagogue and Jewish community through music.

Amanda Gelb

Amanda Gelb is fascinated by the process of bringing information and ideas to life. She is pursuing an advanced degree in Interactive Telecommunications at NYU’sTisch school for the Arts. Amanda studied Social Innovation at McGill University where she also served as Youth Program Director for Canada’s largest and oldest synagogue. She is part of the first cohort of Yeshiva University’s Experiential Jewish Education certificate and was one of four selected fellows (and the only girl!) in their Innovator’s Circle, a one year incubator for ideas in social action and education. In addition to being a proud founding faculty member of the JJP, she is a member of an interdisciplinary think tank, works for an experience design firm, and is a museum consultant to Jewish History Museums that look at ways to engage audiences using technology.

Amy Fechter

Amy Fechter is the founder of Strategic Hebrew, Inc., a program that makes Hebrew language come alive through real-life, interactive experiences for children and adults. In addition to her Masters’s Degree in Literacy from Bank Street College of Education, Amy brings over a decade of experience in Jewish day and supplementary schools across the religious spectrum and has spent more than 20 years studying and learning Hebrew with a focus on developing strategies for continued language development. Amy looks forward to seeing Jewish Journey Project students develop a passion for the Hebrew language and position themselves as intelligent and competent language users during the coming year. (strategichebrew.com)

Ari Satok

Ari Satok is a writer and storyteller from Toronto, Canada. After graduating from Princeton University, he traveled on a grant to international schools all around the world, interviewing students from dozens of countries about their life experiences growing up in very different societies. He produced many of these stories as audio profiles and then received a follow-up grant to write a book, titled The Architects of Hope. His book captures sixteen of these students’ powerful narratives through poetry. In addition to this project, some of his proudest accomplishments include designing and leading an arts and computer education curriculum in rural Nepal, and successfully implementing a program called Voices of Resilience at Eagle Rock School in Colorado – a program that empowered high school students to share their stories in a variety of creative formats, including audio-based oral storytelling. He is passionate about projects at the intersection of audio storytelling and social justice and is extremely excited to be part of the JJP team.

Avishai Mekonen

Avishai Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and has worked as a photographer and filmmaker on projects investigating issues of race and identity.

“400 Miles to Freedom,” a documentary film executive produced by Be’chol Lashon, is about Avishai’s dangerous journey from Ethiopia to Israel to the United States. In 1984, the Beta Israel–a secluded 2,500–year–old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains–began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co–director Avishai Mekonen, then 10 years old, was among them. In the film 400 Miles to Freedom, he breaks his 20–year silence about the kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus out of Africa. This life–defining event launches an inquiry into identity, leading him to African, Asian and Latino Jews in Israel and the U.S. Avishai’s other work includes Seven Generations, a photography and video installation that offers a view into an ancient Ethiopian Jewish tradition that is grounded in the past but keeps an eye to the future.

Elena Weissmann

Elena Weissmann is a legal and policy advocate who works with individuals facing discrimination based on criminal history, HIV/AIDS, and histories of addiction. She moved to New York with the Avodah Jewish Service Corps after completing a BA/MPP from the University of Virginia, and remains involved in social justice work. She previously worked in local government, taught English through Project Harmony Israel, and coordinated volunteers and nonprofit consulting projects throughout her time at UVA. She served as News Editor and as a Soundboard host with WTJU public radio for four years, and created an independent podcast through a peacebuilding grant.

Ellen Alt

Ellen Alt has exhibited her mixed media artwork in the US, Israel, Germany, former Soviet Union, China and England. One of her pieces was presented to Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem on the occasion of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Ellen received a BFA in art education from the Massachusetts College of Art and an MA in studio art from New York University. She is an instructor in the graduate education program at Brandeis University. In New York City, she is the artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Synagogue and teaches mixed media art courses to adults at the 92nd Street Y. In addition, Ellen organizes community sculpture and mural projects in the Middle East, India, England and throughout the United States. (ellenalt.org)

Hillary Lerer

Hillary taught in a nursery school for many years in Canada, where she also ran her own ceramics studio. Upon coming to New York became very involved in the JCC culinary arts programs. She is a cooking instructor for after school Little Chefs International, Cook Shabbat with your tots, JCC Summer Camp Cooking Instructor and Havurah Cooking Instructor all at the JCC Manhattan.

Jake Friedman

Jake Friedman is an animator, professor, and writer. His animation has been see on The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Saturday Night Live, and he contributed to the recent animated feature film, Epic. He has taught animation to students of all ages and backgrounds, from elementary school to college. His articles have been printed in nearly a dozen publications, and he is the New York correspondent for the leading industry mag, Animation Magazine. He is the authorized biographer of Disney legend and labor leader Art Babbitt, and his “Art Of” book on a certain animation studio will be out next year. See more at http://www.jakesfriedman.com.

Jonathan Goldstein

Jonathan Goldstein is a licensed tour guide by the Ministry of Tourism in Israel and owner a Jewish heritage tour operator – Gingi Tours. A graduate of Columbia University, Jonathan lived in Israel earning a Masters in Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology. Jon also works as a free-lance journalist for such periodicals as the Jerusalem Post and Tel Aviv City, writing on Travel, Food, and Arts and Entertainment. He is now living in New York City, touring the sights that make up the history of the Jews in America, and spending his summers and holidays touring Israel. See more at http://gingitours.com.

Matt Dorter

Matt Dorter is the executive director of “mainstages”, an educational theater company working with community centers, summer camps, and schools nationwide. Matt graduated New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City. He has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is a presenter for the American Camp Association on theatrical best practices and an entertainer at the forefront of using creativity to inspire social action and foster youth development in informal settings. (mainstages.com)

Megan Sass

Megan Sass is storyteller, musician, and teacher. She is a member of Storahtelling/LabShul, and also works with Temple Emanu-El, SAJ, The New Schul, and the JCC Manhattan. She has worked as a song leader at several summer camps, including Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, IN, Passport NYC at the 92nd St. Y, and Camp Yomowha with The Washington Heights Y. See more at http://megan-sass.com/

Miriam Paskind

Miriam Paskind grew up in Lakewood, New Jersey. She attended Solomon Schechter Day School and Lakewood High School. Post high school, Miriam spent a year in Israel on Nativ, a college and leadership training program through United Synagogue Youth (USY), where she took classes at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and lived on a Kibbutz in the Negev. Following her return, Miriam went to college at Binghamton University, where she majored in Art History, with a concentration in Architecture, and minored in Jewish Studies. Miriam most recently earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood, General and Special Education from Bank Street College of Education. She enjoys singing and performing with her A Capella group, Cadence, painting and drawing, designing and making jewelry, cooking and baking. Miriam resides in Sunnyside, Queens.

Naomi Less

Equal parts rocker, ritual leader, trainer, experiential educator and social activist, Naomi Less’ performances and workshops captivate audiences, exploring themes of justice, empowerment and open-heartedness. Founder of Jewish Chicks Rock, a program umbrella for initiatives to invite and empower young Jewish girls to pick up instruments and express themselves through music, Naomi models the change she wants to see. She tours worldwide with her band, providing concerts, rock camps, worship services and workshops to participants of all ages. Naomi has developed and delivered myriad trainings for local and major national organizations in the Jewish community. She is a founding company member and Director of Education and Training Storahtelling and former VP of Programs at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Naomi’s music is available on cdbaby.com/naomiless2 or iTunes.

Peninnah Schram

Peninnah Schram, internationally known storyteller, teacher, author, recording artist, is Professor Emerita of Speech and Drama at Stern College of Yeshiva University. She travels across the US and other countries as a featured presenter at storytelling festivals, conferences, and as Performing Artist-in-Residence. Peninnah is the author of thirteen books of Jewish folktales, including Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another and her recently published Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends and Letters (co-authored with Sandy Sasso). Her latest illustrated children’s book is The Apple Tree’s Discovery. She has also recorded a CD, The Minstrel and the Storyteller, with singer/guitarist Gerard Edery. Peninnah is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator (1995) awarded by The Covenant Foundation.

Rabbi Mick Fine

Rabbi Mick Fine completed his BA in Hebrew Language and Literature at the Ohio State University and continued his studies as a DeLeT Fellow at Brandeis University, where he completed an MA in Teaching Hebrew. He was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2013. Mick has spent the past several years working in Jewish education, first as a Hebrew school teacher and then as a full-time Jewish studies educator at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, and more recently editing and writing curriculum for Hazon, Teva, and JDC. He worked as a rabbinic intern in Youth and Family Education at B’nai Jeshurun in New York City, in addition to being a faculty member for many years at the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School. He is currently the Coordinator of Hebrew and Curriculum at Beit Ramban.

Sara Rosen

Sara Rosen is a veteran Hebrew teacher of over 30 years and has taught at many synagogues in NYC. Sara has developed a simple, yet extremely effective system with which to teach students of all ages to both read and write in Hebrew called Phonetic Hebrew Decoding: PhD Program. It is the basis of the Learn to Read Hebrew classes we offer at JJP.

Sara Stave Beckerman

Sara Stave Beckerman is a teacher of TaNaKh and Rabbinics and the Rosh Hinukh/ Director of Education at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. A curriculum expert and consultant, Sara is also the creative force behind the interactive full-color Jewish prayer curriculum Siddur Sababa. Sara holds an MA in Jewish Studies with a concentration in informal education from the Davidson School of Jewish Education at JTS. Sara loves teaching access skills to Hebrew and Jewish cultural literacy. Sara is the coordinator of the Hebrew Home Page course for the Jewish Journey Project.

Sheila Lewis

Sheila Lewis is a curriculum and children’s writer and supplemental and Hebrew school educator with a background in teaching through the arts, literacy, and contemplative practices. At the JCC Manhattan, Sheila currently teaches meditation classes at Makom and in the Shabbat R&R program, and related programs that foster wellness, creativity, and the spirit of community. She is co-author with her husband Sheldon Lewis of the book Stress-Proofing Your Child. Sheila recently co-authored a summer learning program, the pilot “Project Fast Forward,” for the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is thrilled once again to be leading the Jewish Children’s Book Club and teaching her new classes for JJP. As the mother of two grown sons, one with special needs, Sheila is especially interested in affirming the gifts children of “different abilities” have to offer.

Yona Verwer

Dutch-born Yona Verwer is an artist in New York. She creates works that explore identity, terrorism, Tikkun Olam, and Kabbalah. Yona holds a master’s degree in fine art from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and has shown and curated in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. She is the executive director & co-founder of the Jewish Art Salon in NYC, and serves on the advisory boards of Art Kibbutz: the International Jewish Artist Residency, Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, Jewish Art Now, and the Jewish Design Collective. Her art has exhibited at Yeshiva University Museum, Andy Warhol Factory, the Bronx Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Center for Jewish History, Mizel Museum, Reginald Lewis Museum of African-American Art, Stanback Museum, Canton Museum of Art, and the Holocaust Memorial Center. See http://yonaverwer.com.

Zack Friedman

Zack Friedman is an award-winning writer, performer, and teacher whose work has appeared at the Bleecker Street Theater, 59 E 59, The Barrow Group Theater, and the New York International Fringe Festival. He has been teaching writing and Jewish studies throughout New York City since 2010. Zack holds a BA in Theater Arts & English from Brandeis University.