Michael Saxe-Taller-BEST

©Susan Freundlich

Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

Michael is a Berkeley native and has been connected to Kehilla in many ways over the last three decades. His mom, Dolores Taller, is a proud Kehilla member (as was his dad before he died 18 years ago). When he first met his wife and life partner, Julie, in 1989, she was teaching in Kehilla’s religious school.

Michael loves working in and building communities, and has done so in many parts of the Jewish community, including at Berkeley and San Francisco Hillels, the JCC in Manhattan and at Congregation Kol Shofar in Marin. He has also been a community organizer working with churches, synagogues and community agencies in the North Bay, building political power for the common good.

Michael is an enthusiastic father (of his son, Sam), a passionate basketball player, a spirited singer and loves nothing more than hanging out and schmoozing.  So give him a call or email him to set up a time to get together, or just drop by the office.

You can contact Michael by email at, or call (510) 547-2424 x101.

Visit the Executive Director’s Blog

Rabbi Gray Myrseth, Director of Kehilla School

Rabbi Gray has recently completed rabbinic studies at Hebrew College in Boston. They have worked extensively with youth of all ages, from pre-school through high school, and bring an extraordinary capacity to connect with anyone and everyone, guiding Jewish learning that is both brightly alive and strongly rooted in Jewish traditions. Rabbi Gray is deeply aligned with the mission of Kehilla Synagogue and Kehilla School, and is eager to share their vision of justice-oriented, radically inclusive Jewish life with our community.

You can contact Rabbi Gray by email at

Visit Rabbi Gray Myrseth’s Blog

Dee Ward, Office Administrator

My name is Deirdra Ward but I prefer to be called “Dee.” I am a California native originally from Los Angeles. I moved to the Bay Area in 1996 and have called Oakland my home and the city where my husband, Bobby and son, Cota reside as well. Most recently, I worked at Starr King School for the Ministry as the Office Manager and Coordinator of Academic Programs. Prior to that, my husband and I ran our own business for several years and I have also worked as a paralegal for the American Cancer Society. I am a member of First African Methodist Church in Oakland where I serve as a Steward and work with the Video Technology ministry. Bobby and I are actively working towards getting Cota ready for college (summer 2018). I like to shop, I love Starbucks coffee, I like cooking and travelling with my family. I feel honored to work at Kehilla as I fully embrace my spiritual gift of helping others and this community will allow me to continue to walk in my gift, as it embodies the servitude of others.

You can contact Dee by email at or call (510) 547-2424 x100.

Sandra-Safadirazieli250-150x150Sandra Razieli, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program Director

Sandra Razieli serves as a Spiritual Leader and is also the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program Director. She has been involved with Kehilla since 2000. Sandra has studied and lived extensively in Minnesota, Israel, and California, and holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and Stanford University.

As an anthropologist with a focus on the modern Middle East, Sandra’s academic interests overlap nicely with her work at Kehilla. She created the 6th grade curriculum at Kehilla and is the author, along with Alaiya Aguilar, of Tree of Life: Torah for Bar/Bat Mitzvah Students.

Sandra also teaches yoga with a specific interest in yoga for scoliosis. She holds a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT500) designation from Yoga Alliance and a teaching certification from the Institute of Yoga and Jewish Spirituality. Her yoga website is Sandra is also an avid soccer player.

You can contact Sandra by email at

Natalie BoskinNatalie Boskin, Youth Programs Coordinator

Natalie began her journey at Kehilla School in 4th grade, had her Bat Mitzvah ceremony in 2006, and became the Kehilla School 6th grade Madricha/Teaching Assistant as a teen. She then spent a few years at the University of Puget Sound where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Comparative Religious Studies. After returning to the Bay Area in 2015, Natalie began teaching in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program and found a deep love for Kehilla’s youth education programs. She is now Kehilla’s first Youth Programs Coordinator, which puts her in the logistical and administrative center of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program as well as Kehilla School. She feels honored and blessed to be so deeply involved with Kehilla’s fantastic youth education programs and to have to opportunity to grow as a Jewish educator.

You can contact Natalie by email at or call 510-547-2424 x107


Copy-of-Josef-118x150Josef Straub, Custodian

I was born and raised in Germany, which I left in 1991. After an odyssey through a couple of countries, most of the time on an island in the Caribbean, I arrived in the San Francisco-Bay-Area in August 1993. In 2004, Kehilla purchased the building and wanted to retain me as its custodian, to keep things running smoothly. Of course, I was available and excited about the new developments.

With a fresh morale, and dedicated to my employment and tasks, as it is my nature, I became part of Kehilla, doing whatever it takes to keep things running, in order, clean and well organized, to make the experience of the synagogue a pleasurable one to all congregants.

I live in Oakland with my wife, Hailon. I consider myself very lucky and am happy to be part of such a lovely community. It is a great fit, not only for my needs in income and living, but Kehilla helps me a great deal on my personal spiritual path and development as well! Rabbi David is certainly a gift to have great conversations with, and all other staff members and congregants I happen to work and socialize with make me feel comfortable, and happy to serve.

Fred Williamson, Evening and Weekend Custodian

Hi, my name is Fred Williamson.  I am originally from Texas and I moved to the Bay Area in 1975 and have called this home with my wife Audrey and our four daughters and one son. I currently work full-time during the day at at Starr King School for the Ministry as the Building and Grounds Manager, where I’ve worked for the last 10 years. In my spare time, I enjoy going on walks or bike rides and watching the Dallas Cowboys.

alt=Molly Melamed, Bookkeeper

Molly was born in Powelton Village, in an intentional inner city community, in Philadelphia , into a family of socially and politically progressive parents.

After completing a comprehensive holistic health & massage therapy program in Boulder Colorado, she migrated to California in 1985 to continue her studies in somatic psychotherapy, and consequently completed a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Antioch University, in San Francisco in 1987. Although mind and body are her true preoccupations, bookkeeping has been her livelihood for the past 30 years.

She loves to dance, sing, and eat! She loves animals, and enjoys problem solving and fixing things.

You can contact Molly at or (510) 547-2424 x102.

Maya Joshua, Programs and Communications Manager

Maya is a community-building enthusiast with a BA in French and computer programming from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. Her logistics and volunteer-management background includes coordinating a volunteer program in Israel and eight months on the road with a mobile exhibit educating Americans on hunger in the US, among other shenanigans.

As someone who grew up bicultural, Maya is a believer that diverse environments are rich in all of the ways that matter, and is delighted to be part of the Kehilla staff and community.

Maya will begin on January 2nd, 2018. You can contact Maya at or (510) 547-2424 x106.


Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees meets at 6:45p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Kehilla members are welcome to attend our meetings.

Ruth Atkin

Ruth has always been committed to building community. Beginning as a teenager when she was social action chair and youth group president in her temple youth group she has always taken an interest in social justice and the common good. For 17 years she served on her city council as mayor and council member in Emeryville. One of her more recent accomplishments was leading the effort for Emeryville to have the highest minimum wage in the country. Community has been a leitmotif for her. Ruth served the public through various regional appointments when she was elected and served on the boards of directors of various non-profit organizations, including the Pacific Center for Human Growth and the Jewish Community Relations Council as Kehilla’s representative in the late 1990s. Now she is eager to serve her home community of Kehilla. Kehilla has been a safe haven and place to be rejuvenated. This is even more important as Kehilla continues its work for social justice and can become even more of a base to support the congregation as a whole in responding to today’s challenges. Ruth looks forward to putting her organizational and political skills to work on Kehilla’s behalf.

Ali M. Cannon

Ali Michael Cannon joined Kehilla in 2015 with his wife, Jessica, and their son, Raffi who will have his Bar Mitzvah in the summer of 2018. Ali spent six years as a school district administrator, managing state and federal grants that improve the lives of youth without equal access to education. Prior to being a District Administrator, he worked as a nonprofit education manager for 20 years. Currently he works as a consultant, supporting schools to become more LGBT inclusive, and address issues of equity and bias. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Ali is a writer, organizer, activist, and public speaker. As a recognized leader in the transgender community, he has been invited to speak on various panels and organized numerous conferences and events for the LGBT, Jewish and Queer Jewish communities. As an extension of his activism he served on the Board of Our Family Coalition for eight years, supporting the rights of LGBT families and advocating for Safe Schools and state and federal inclusion policies. Ali earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Women Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and San Francisco State respectively. He is a passionate outdoor enthusiast who loves to hike, camp, stand-up paddleboard, backpack, play racket sports, ultimate frisbee, and hang out with his dog and cat.

Karen-Cohn-150x150Karen Cohn, Co-Chair

Karen Cohn has served on the Kehilla Board since 2015, and also is the chair of the Personnel Committee. In that role, she helped draft the very first Parental Leave Policy for Kehilla employees. She greatly enjoys the honor of supporting the Kehilla community in this way. When not busy with Kehilla, Karen enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, biking in nature, artistic expression, and exploring the many healthy eating and active living opportunities in the Bay Area. She and her wife, Teri Gruenwald, have participated as Kehilla members since they moved to Oakland in the early ‘90s. They were married (again!) in July 2008 as part of Kehilla’s seven-couple lesbian and gay wedding celebration and have raised two sons, Rafi (19) and Simon (17), within Kehilla’s vibrant community. Karen led the Bar/Bat Mitzvah committee when Rafi and Simon were in Kehilla School and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program, and their family participated in two fantastic Chavurot. Their Kehilla wedding and sons’ bar mitzvahs were a great joy and revelation to their families attending from the Midwest and East Coast. Karen is the Children’s Environmental Health Promotion Program manager in the San Francisco Department of Public Health and is engaged with advocacy for affordable housing free of health hazards. She is often a DPH spokesperson in building trust with community members concerned about air quality, environmental justice and housing habitability.

Marjorie-Cox-118x150Marjorie Cox

Marjorie arrived in the Bay area in 1975, a transplant from Virginia, by way of Baltimore, for college, and New York, where she lived and worked for five years before moving here for law school. Finding the Bay Area to her liking, she stayed and worked as a lawyer for the next 30-odd years, mostly in public service of one type or another, including a 20-plus year stint at the California Attorney General’s Office. Since retiring in 2009, she has remained active as a volunteer both at Kehilla and in the larger community. Marjorie was appointed to the Board of Commissioners for the Berkeley Housing Authority in July of 2007, where she served as Vice Chair and Finance Committee member and sometime chair until stepping down in September of 2016. She also sits on the Board of the Downtown Berkeley YMCA and has served as its Chair since August of 2008. Her family includes her son, Tito Rodriguez, and his wife, Rita. Marjorie became involved at Kehilla in 2013, when she began the process of converting. She joined the Kehilla board in July of 2015, serves as co-chair of Kehilla’s Generosity Committee, and also sits on the Board Development Committee. She is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to continue serving on the board and working to sustain the community that has become her home. When not volunteering, she enjoys singing with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra (and serving on its board), hiking and spending time in nature and with her family.

Shoshana Finacom

Shoshana Finacom grew up in SoCal and was a member of a conservative congregation led by Aaron Weiss, the first Conservative Rabbi to speak out against the Vietnam War, thus setting the stage for understanding that spiritual practice comes in different forms. Shoshana loved Junior Congregation and the youth led Shabbat services. After high school she lived on and off on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi for three years. Upon her return to the US, she defected to the Bay Area where she completed her BA degree at Sonoma State, in Sociology and Gerontology. She moved to Oakland in 1980, and has had a diverse work life, including being a galley cook for whale watching voyages, a small business organizational consultant, and has held administrative jobs in the legal world.

Shoshana’s journey to Kehilla started with the Aquarian Minyan, Chochmat haLev and Temple Sinai – each offering something different and collectively fulfilling some of our family’s needs. She and her husband Dave wanting a more family friendly community, joined Kehilla soon after the building was purchased.

Since then, Shoshana and Dave’s daughter Becca went through Kehilla School and the BBM program. Shoshana has served on the former Youth Ed Committee, as co-chair and chair; has cooked, laughed and created dear friendships as one of the kitchen angels; facilitated the Executive Director search which brought Michael Saxe-Taller to us; currently serves as the chair of the Spiritual Life Practices Committee, and volunteers weekly in the Kehilla office. Shoshana thrives in and loves this community deeply and is honored to be nominated to the board.

Jay Koch-NEWJay E. Koch, Treasurer

Jay retired from full-time high-tech sales in 2010, but continues part-time involvements with tech startups. He and Ruth, his wife of 44 years (and counting), are long-time members. Both their son, Andrew and daughter, Amy, are Kehilla BBMs.

Jay joined the Kehilla board in July of 2012, and was co-chair from July 2013 to July 2015. He has been Kehilla’s Treasurer and Finance Committee chair since 2012. He also sits on the Building Committee and the Committee Against Abuse.

Jay joined the board to sustain Kehilla’s growth and its path toward long-term financial health, and to help Kehilla realize its dreams. He says he has been surprised and gratified to become more deeply involved with the board, with the clergy, with Michael Saxe-Taller and the staff, and the community.

Catherine Lyons

Catherine has been coming to Kehilla for many years – peripherally at first: High Holiday Services, the BBM program with her daughter (who is now 27), and in recent years with increased engagement. She was a member of the Welcoming Synagogues Committee, is currently a member of the Immigration Committee, is a member of a Welcome Team working with Iraqi refugees, and drums with Ketzev Kehilla. Catherine is a nurse practitioner who worked for 30 years in HIV, the 25 years prior to her retirement in 2013 for UCSF at San Francisco General Hospital. She still works a small amount on a research study of patients with HIV in Kenya, and is on the advisory board of WORLD, an organization for women with HIV. Catherine also mentors elementary school children in the Oakland Public Schools in mindfulness, is part of a philanthropic giving circle, and does yoga, zumba, hiking, and traveling. She lives in the Glenview neighborhood in Oakland. She is proud to have grown up in Vermont.

REMEDIOSRemedios Martinez-Cantú

Remedios Martinez-Cantú is a 32-year-old Queer Xican@ Femme (Pronouns: she & her) from New Mexico who found a home in Oakland 10 years ago. She moved out here as a union organizer, but shifted her work and political focus to supporting queer families as a prenatal yoga instructor, post partum doula, and placenta encapsulator.

Remedios found a home in Kehilla last summer, and has been involved in the Adult Education Committee and Glitter Kehilla.

Remedios hosts monthly QTPOC Shabbat dinners, and QTJOC gatherings. She wants to connect Jews of Color within Kehilla and the larger community, and to center disability justice in all of hers and Kehilla’s work.

Barbara Petterson NEWBarbara Petterson, Co-Chair

Barbara Petterson became involved with Kehilla many years ago after a friend brought her to High Holy Days services and has been a member for over 20 years. She was a member of the LGBTQI and Allies Welcoming Synagogues Committee and is a member of a Kehilla Caregiver Support Group. Barbara joined the Kehilla board in 2014 and has served as Co-Chair since July 2015. She also serves on the Finance, Board Development and Personnel Committees.

Barbara is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an Art Therapist. She has a private practice in Oakland and Castro Valley where she works with adults of all ages. Barbara facilitates art therapy groups with older adults at an assisted living center and with people in chronic pain through a Functional Restoration Program. She also worked for non-profits for many years, providing therapy to youth and families, running a school-based counseling program and supervising and training people in training to be therapists.

Barbara is profoundly appreciative of the deep and multifaceted role that Kehilla plays in her life and that of her family. She is excited to continue serving on the board of the community that sustains her.

Nattie-Roden-150x150Natalie Roden

Natalie Roden is a California native and grew up primarily in Berkeley. She graduated in 2013 from the University of the Ozarks, a Presbyterian-affiliated college in Clarksville, Arkansas, with a degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in Political Science.

While in college, Natalie was a member of the Student Government Association and served as the student representative on the university’s Committee on Religion, Ethics, and Vocation. She also was an active member of the Planet Club, the Ozarks Alliance (a club for LGBT students and their supporters) and the Methodist Campus Ministries (MCM), and she participated in Habitat for Humanity projects. One college memory that Natalie will always treasure is sharing with MCM what is like to be Jewish on a Christian campus. After graduating, Natalie returned to Berkeley and completed a summer residential fellowship program at Urban Adamah. She currently attends Merritt Community College, where she is studying Early Childhood Education.

Kehilla has been a part of Natalie’s life for the past 20 years. In July of 2005, Natalie became a Bat Mitzvah at Kehilla. She did an internship at Kehilla, where she planned and wrote a grant request aimed at making Kehilla more accessible. Natalie feels that Kehilla has been more than just a place where she practices religion; the community has been a second family for her, and has always accepted her fully despite her disabilities. She would be honored to join the board. She looks forward to using her communication skills on Kehilla’s behalf, and to sharing her perspectives as a young adult and a member of the disability community.

Marcie-Rubel-150x150Marcie Rubel

Marcie Rubel has lived in the Bay Area for many years after growing up in the Chicago area. She became a Kehilla member right after the synagogue moved to its current location on Grand Avenue. The beautiful singing, soulful drumming, deep spirituality and commitment to social justice drew her into Kehilla. The Kehilla community has been a solace during hardship and a wonderful support when her two children became B’nei Mitzvah at Kehilla in 2010 and 2012. She loves to drum with Ketzev Kehilla for Chai Shabbat and High Holidays. Marcie joined the Kehilla board in 2015 and now serves as chair of the Board Development Committee. As a bilingual, Spanish speaking, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marcie has provided psychotherapy and supervision at La Familia Counseling Service in Hayward since 1992 and has a private practice in Rockridge. Over the past several years she has made home visits to assist Latin American unaccompanied minors seeking refuge. The work she’s done in her career reflects her beliefs in compassionate listening, equal access to mental health services, and social justice. She’s committed to helping Kehilla continue to thrive into the future.

Tova Vance, Secretary

Tova Vance recently moved to the East Bay after spending ten years in Chicago. Originally from Oregon, Tova is happy to be back on the West Coast where she particularly enjoys the quality of life and being closer to family. Tova and her husband, Robert, have two young children, Isa (2.5 years) and Soren (5 months). They were drawn to Kehilla by the warmth and diversity of the community and its emphasis on social action.

In her consulting practice, Tova focuses on helping leaders in the education, not-for-profit and corporate sectors utilize communication to create successful organizations. Her methods include understanding and evolving culture, building leadership competencies, increasing awareness of mission, vision and values, facilitating dialogue, and engaging constituents in accomplishing their organization’s objectives. Tova believes her effectiveness is due to her ability to listen and ask insightful questions.

Tova feels blessed to be a part of the Kehilla community and wants to help the community thrive. She hopes Kehilla will be a source of joy, comfort and inspiration for her children as they find their places in the world.