Core Faculty

Jethro Berkman

Jethro Berkman is the Director of the Educational Leadership Program and a Program Officer in Jewish Education at the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership. Before joining the Foundation, Rabbi Berkman worked at Gann Academy for eleven years, most recently as Dean of Jewish Education. He is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a member of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis. He also studied at the Yakar Center for Tradition and Creativity, the Harvard Divinity School, the Hebrew University, the Pardes Institute, the Conservative Yeshiva and Machon Schechter. Prior to his studies at RRC, Rabbi Berkman spent three years living in Israel, both studying and working for Seeds of Peace, an organization that helps teenagers from regions of conflict learn peacemaking skills. Rabbi Berkman also worked with children with special needs in the Boston Public Schools and volunteered for the community service program City Year Boston.
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Tova Birnbaum

Director of Jewish Content at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. A graduate of the Mandel Executive Leadership Program, Tova is a teacher of Rabbinic Literature, a Judaic studies lecturer, a Theater Midrash workshop facilitator and a secular Jewish lifecycle ceremonies officiant. She is also an actress and a Jewish performance artist. Tova is one of the founders of the BINA Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and served as the Central Shlicha (emissary), Director of the North America Region of the World Zionist Organization.
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Jonathan Krasner

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair of Jewish Education Research at Brandeis University. Jonathan is a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps and The Benderly Boys in American Jewish Education. He is former chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education and was named as a 2012 finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. He is currently working on a history of the American Jewish Day School movement and was the recipient of the Sylvia and Moshe Ettenberg Prize of the Network for Research in Jewish Education to support his research. 
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Devora Steinmetz

Faculty for the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership and the Hebrew College rabbinical school. Devora is the founder of Beit Rabban, a Jewish day school profiled in Daniel Pekarsky’s Vision at Work: The Theory and Practice of Beit Rabban. She is the author of scholarly articles on Talmud, Midrash, and Bible as well as of two books, From Father to Son: Kinship, Conflict, and Continuity in Genesis and Punishment and Freedom: The Rabbinic Construction of Criminal Law. Devora has served on the faculty of Drisha, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshivat Hadar, and Havruta: a Beit Midrash at Hebrew University.
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Visiting Faculty

Adam M. Kleinbaum

Adam M. Kleinbaum is a professor in the Strategy and Management area at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  He teaches leadership and organizational behavior, social networks, and leads learning expeditions to Israel, focusing on technology and entrepreneurship, and to Alabama, focusing on leadership and systemic racism. He also consults to organizations about issues of leadership and organizations, culture, and collaboration.  His research has been published in leading journals from Nature Communications to the Harvard Business Review and has been covered by media outlets ranging from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to Teen Vogue and Cosmo. He enjoys riding his vintage 3-speed bicycle.
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Arielle Levites

Arielle Levites is the Managing Director of the Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE) and a Research Assistant Professor at George Washington University. Dr. Levites’ research focuses on contemporary American Jewish education. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Network for Research in Jewish Education. She is working on a book based on an ethnographic study of contemporary American Jewish spiritual practitioners. She recently served on the advisory committee for the Pew Research Center’s 2021 study of American Jewry.
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Peter Geffen

Professionally a Jewish educator, Peter founded The Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City in 1983. He began his career with the creation of the Park Avenue Synagogue High School in 1967 and most recently Founded and serves as President of The KIVUNIM Institute. In the summers of 1965 and 1966 he served as a civil rights worker for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Orangeburg, SC. He played several historic roles at MLK’s funeral including accompanying Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel throughout the funeral procession and finding the mules for the funeral cortege. In 2012 he was selected to receive the Covenant Award, the highest recognition in the field of Jewish education. He was a civilian volunteer during the Six Days War. Peter served as Hazzan for the first High Holiday Youth Services in the Soviet Union in 1997-99. Peter holds a BA from Queens College (where he studied and developed a close personal relationship with the noted Jewish historian Professor Cecil Roth during the final years of Roth’s life), an MA in Religious Education from New York University and a Certificate in Psychotherapy and Counseling from the Alfred Adler Institute in New York City. He is an ABD (all but dissertation) at NYU with a thesis linking the seminal work of Erik Erikson in Identity formation to his Jewish educational philosophy and approach. He is married to Susie Kessler, Director emeritus of the Makom Mindfulness Center at the JCC in Manhattan. They have three children: sons Rabbi Jonah Geffen married to Julia Mannes and Rabbi Daniel Geffen, married to LuAnne and daughter Nessa Geffen, Director of the new Camp Ramah of the Eastern Great Lakes and married to Micah Bookman. They have 5 grandchildren, Bina, Shula, Eva, Gabriel and Emet. Peter was born, raised in and has lived in New York City throughout his lifetime.
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Kathy Simon

Kathy Simon holds a B.A. in English and Hebrew Literature from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Teacher Education from Stanford University. A former high school English and drama teacher, Kathy co-directed the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national school-reform organization. Kathy is the author and co-author of several books on curriculum, teaching, and school reform, including Moral Questions in the Classroom, Teaching as Inquiry, and Choosing Small. Kathy has served on the faculty of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute since 2006. She also is a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and leads communication courses and workshops for couples, parents, teachers, and non-profit organizations.
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Michal Fox Smart

Michal Fox Smart is Chief Program Officer of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS), guiding its faculty and programs. Michal has crafted ground-breaking programs in personal and spiritual development for over 30 years. She previously served as Director of Ayeka North America and Associate Principal (Judaics) of Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy. A pioneer in Jewish outdoor and environmental education, Michal was Executive Director of the Isabella Freedman retreat center and a co-founder of the Teva Learning Center. Michal is a graduate of Princeton and Cornell, a Fulbright Scholar, and a Wexner Graduate Fellow. Her publications include Spirit in Nature and Kaddish: Women’s Voices. An avid biker, yogini and poet, Michal lives in CT and is the proud Ema of five emerging adults, each deliciously different as people and as Jews.
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Mentors

Saul Kaiserman

Saul Kaiserman, RJE (he/him/הוא) is Founding Director of Lifelong Learning and Scholar in Residence at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. In 2013, Mr. Kaiserman was inducted by Hazon into its “If Not Now Society” as a “Visionary Leader in Jewish Life and Learning;” in 2019 he was recognized as a “Distinguished Jewish Educator” by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE). Mr. Kaiserman is currently writing his dissertation at the Davidson School of Education of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he is a doctoral fellow in the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and where he received his Master of Arts in 1999. He is a board member of the Jewish Education Project, and in the summer of 2020 was interviewed for its podcast, Adapting: The Future of Jewish Education.  He serves as adjunct faculty in the School of Education of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and as a mentor for the Educational Leadership Program of the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership. In July of 2020, he was an all-star songleader for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Campfire on Tour summer concert series. He is a native New Yorker and lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his wife, Elizabeth Freirich, and their daughters, Jory and Zeva. Videos of Saul’s performances and work are on his YouTube Channel.
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Michelle Lynn-Sachs

Michelle Lynn-Sachs, PhD, works with Jewish non-profits and their leaders across North America and Israel, with a focus on leadership development, organizational change, and how people and organizations grow and thrive through reflection and action.  In addition to her coaching and consulting practice, Michelle teaches at the School of Education at HUC-JIR and at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, she co-directs the Wexner Foundation’s alumni mentoring program, and she is an associate editor at the Journal of Jewish Education. Locally, Michelle has served on the boards at Shalom Austin and Temple Beth Shalom, and is the incoming chair of the URJ Greene Family Camp.  Michelle is an alumna of NYU (PhD), HUC-JIR’s School of Education (MAJE), and Brown University (AB).  She lives in Austin, TX.
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Jacob Pinnolis

Jacob Pinnolis is currently Interim CEO at Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass.  Jacob joined Maimonides in 2020 as Chiel Educator-in-Residence, working on the systematic implementation of reflective teaching practice, with a focus on student-centered learning and mastery. He will return to this role in 2022-23. Jacob previously served as Director of Teaching and Learning at Gann Academy, where he was responsible for deepening a culture of reflection, developing a program of professional growth at every stage of a teacher’s career, and constructing a process of supervision to support these goals. While at Gann, he also taught Tanach, Jewish philosophy, and analytic philosophy. Jacob has published numerous articles on Jewish education, teacher development, and leadership culture, and has conducted workshop sessions at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on developing reflective teaching practice. He is the former editor of Gleanings: An Online Journal of Jewish Education, published by the Melton Research Center. Before entering Jewish education, Jacob taught analytic philosophy at the University of Florida and at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jacob has an A.B. in Philosophy from Harvard University and an M.Ed. in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of Education at JTS, and did doctoral work in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Jacob lives in Newton, Mass. with his wife, Sarah. Jacob and Sarah enjoy camping and hiking, stargazing, reading, and gardening. They have two grown children.
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Nigel Savage

Nigel Savage founded Hazon, the Jewish lab for sustainability, in 2000. He served as its CEO for 21 years, stepping down in July 2021. Under his leadership, Hazon became the largest environmental organization in the American Jewish community. Hazon was one of only two groups to have been in every single Slingshot guide, and was recognized by the Sierra Club as one of 50 leading faith-based environmental organizations. Nigel has been a popular teacher and speaker in a wide range of venues. In recognition for his work, in 2015 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Seminary. He has twice been named a member of the Forward 50, the annual list of the 50 most influential Jewish people in the United States. He is a recipient of the Bernard Reisman Award, and has given Commencement speeches at Wagner (NYU, in 2011), at Hornstein (Brandeis, in 2014) and at Spertus (in Chicago, in 2018). Before founding Hazon, Nigel worked in asset management in London for NM Rothschild and as co-head of UK Equities at Govett. He has an MA in History from Georgetown, and has learned at Pardes, Yakar, and the Hebrew University. He was a founder of Limmud NY.
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Michelle Shapiro Abraham

Michelle Shapiro Abraham has worked in the field of Jewish Education for over twenty years.  She currently serves as the Executive Director of Strategic Innovation and Program for the URJ and oversees the Reform Movement’s teen strategies, Israel Immersives, and various camp-related projects.  A longtime educator, author, and consultant for both camps and congregations, she holds a Master’s Degree and an honorary Doctorate in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR.   Michelle is a PJ Library and Sydney Taylor Notable Book Award author, and the proud recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.   She recently expanded her work to explore the intersection between community organizing and youth development as a strategy for reimaging Jewish leadership, communal power, and individual thriving.  When not involved in Jewish education, you can find Michelle at her pottery wheel in her home studio, experimenting with sourdough recipes, or enjoying time with her family
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Susie Tanchel

Dr. Susie Tanchel is Vice-President of Hebrew College in Newton, MA.  Prior that that she served as Head of School at JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School for close to a decade.  During her tenure, Tanchel was an accomplished and deeply beloved leader, guiding the school to preeminence as a national model of excellence in pluralistic Jewish education, and creatively embodying its abiding commitments to community, centrality of Hebrew language, and teaching the whole child. Before going to JCDS, she served as the Associate Head of School at Gann Academy – The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston for 7 years and had taught Tanakh there for 14 years. Susie earned her doctorate from Brandeis University’s Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department. She has been an instructor in a number of pre-service education program including the DeLeT (Day School Leadership Through Teaching) program at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and the Masters of Teaching Program in Secondary Education at Brandeis University. She was on the writing team of the JTS and the Avi Chai Foundation’s Standards and Benchmark project for the teaching of Tanakh. Susie has also taught in a variety of adult education settings including Combined Jewish Philanthropy’s Genesis Program, and Biblical Hebrew and Me’ah at Hebrew College. Over the course of Susie’s career, her teaching, scholarship and leadership has been recognized by a variety of fellowships and awards.  Most recently, she received the 2017 Hachmat Lev Award from Keshet and was a recipient of the 2018 Covenant Award for Jewish Educators.
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