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Our Team
Spiritual and Executive Leadership

Rabbi Dev Noily

Senior Rabbi

Pronouns: They/Them
rabbidev@kehillasynagogue.org

Rabbi Dev Noily grew up in Tongva / Chumash territory in Southern California, with roots in Eastern Eurorpe (Cracow, Brzozow), and family migrations through New York and Palestine/Israel. Seeds of Torah were planted in them by Rabbi Michael Roth, z”l, and were watered by the queer Jewish community of Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco / Ramaytush Ohlone land. Rabbi Dev is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and also studied at the Graduate Theological Union and SVARA. They are a proud alum of San Francisco State University. R’ Dev trained as a chaplain with Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Philadelphia, and at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

R’ Dev came to Kehilla in 2010, and served as the Director of Kehilla School, Associate Rabbi, and Co-Rabbi with R’ David Cooper before becoming Senior Rabbi in 2017. They are grateful beyond measure to be part of the Kehilla community.

Dev is moved to build empowered and nourishing Jewish community by connecting people with Jewish ancestral teachings and practices, including the creative interpretive practices that deepen our living relationship with Source of our lives. For them, nurturing this spiritual connection is the foundation for compassion, justice and joy. Read their blog here.

Rabbi Dev is a co-founder of Jews on Ohlone Land, and of 700 Benches, Kehilla’s Beit Midrash/House of Study.

Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman

MUSIC DIRECTOR

Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman, Music Director, hails from Mid-Missouri, where she began her personal and professional Jewish journey. Graduate studies in Boston led to a freelance career as a prayer leader, educator, and ritual creatrix. B’nai Or, the Jewish renewal community in Boston, became her spiritual home for six years, where she was mentored by her beloved Rabbis, Daniel and Hanna Tiferet Siegel. Since her youth, music and activism have been integral threads in the spiritual matrix of her life. Serving Kehilla since June of 2005, Shulamit continues to weave her vision of community building, personal healing, and world change through music and prayer. She was ordained through the ALEPH Cantorial Program in January, 2013.

You can contact Shulamit by email at shulamit@kehillasynagogue.org.

Michael Saxe-Taller

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 michael@kehillasynagogue.org, or call (510) 547-2424 x101.

Staff

Dee Ward

Office Administrator

Pronouns: She/Her
dee@kehillasynagogue.org

My name is Dee Ward and I’ve been with Kehilla Community Synagogue as a staff member for the last 6+ years. I am a native Californian originally from Los Angeles and I have lived in the Bay for 20+ years. I currently live with my husband Bobby, and our son Cota. In my years here at Kehilla I have broadened my knowledge of Judaism and although my family and I are Christians and a member of First African Methodist Church, at Kehilla I’m considered an “Honorary Jew of Color” and I say to folks that I am a Christian with Jewish tendencies. I continue to feel honored to work at Kehilla as I fully embrace my spiritual gift of helping others and this community allows me the ability to walk in my gift, as it embodies servitude for others.

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

Natalie Boskin

Assistant Director of Youth Programs

Pronouns: She/Her
Natalie@kehillasynagogue.org

Natalie grew up at Kehilla. She has been a part of this community since fourth grade and join the staff (formally) in 2015. She plays many roles at Kehilla in addition to helping run the B’mitzvah program- she is a B’mitzvah teacher, does AV and Zoom tech work, fairy’s for 700 benches, and loves to chant Torah. She feels honored and blessed to be so deeply involved with Kehilla’s youth programs and to have the opportunity to grow as a Jewish educator in the context of the Kehilla community.

You can contact Natalie by email at Natalie@kehillasynagogue.org or call 510-547-2424 x107

Rabbi SAM Luckey

Rabbinic Program & Community Builder

An Oakland native, Rabbi SAM was ordained at Hebrew College in Boston in 2020, returning home to work as a Chaplain Resident at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. A long-time Kehilla member, Rabbi SAM was a graduate of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, a past Board co-Chair, a founder of Glitter Kehilla, and Kehilla’s first Rabbinic Intern, during which they founded our Rad Trad Kab Shab experience and was a leader in the founding of our Belonging & Allyship Racial Justice Initiative. Rabbi SAM’s work at Kehilla is focused on key programs and community “pockets,” including our Conversion and Adult B’nei Mitzvah programs, Radically Inclusive Liturgically Traditional Kabbalat Shabbat (Rad Trad Kab Shab), and creating a chavura for folx withbabies and tots (age 0 – 4). After many years of being a professional circus performer, Rabbi SAM continues to climb on everything and prefers being upside-down.

Maria Lewis

Kehilla School Administrator

Pronouns: She/Her
maria@kehillasynagogue.org

Maria joined the Kehilla team in the summer of 2022, filling the new role of Kehilla School Administrator, working alongside Rabbi Gray Myrseth and Natalie Boskin. Maria has been an activist and educator since her youth, and loves helping shape the next generation of Jewish changemakers. Born and raised in the Ramaytush Ohlone territory commonly known as San Francisco, Maria has been attending services and taking adult education classes at Kehilla since 2015. She is an organizer with Jews On Ohlone Land, and a regular participant in Kehilla’s White Folks Decentering Whiteness Affinity Group. She loves kids, community, and pizza-based pedagogy.

Jonathan Ruchlis

Technology and Operations Manager

Jonathan Ruchlis grew up in Berkeley, California as a lightly-practicing Jew in the Renewal community. He was Bar Mitzvahed by Bon Singer, and got some of his first videography gigs filming B-Mitzvahs at Kehilla. He studied film and video amongst other things at UCLA and afterwards embarked upon a career as a filmmaker and videographer.

Since then, he’s worked many jobs, worked on short and feature films, traveled, re-connected with the saxophone and begun performing & writing music, lived at Urban Adamah, and developed the AV, live streaming and tech skill-set he uses in this role. He was referred to the job posting by his loving mother and Kehilla member Jan Ruchlis and he started in March 2023. You can view some of his work here.

Fred Williamson

Custodian

Pronouns: He/Him
fred@kehillasynagogue.org

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.

You can contact Fred at fred@kehillasynagogue.org or (510) 547-2424 x162.

Yeshi Gusfield

Director of B'Mitzvah Program

I am a life-long Oakland resident and 3rd generation Ashkenazi-American raised by two moms and an extended community of teachers, activists, and artists. I’m a flamenco dancer, educator, historian, auntie/god mom, Aquarius, challah baker, and game night enthusiast working on my sewing skills. In my professional life, I have spent 20+ years with young people as a history and performing arts teacher in formal classrooms, at summer camps, after school programs, retreats, hallways, living rooms and kitchen tables. I am passionate about supporting young people to find powerful ways to be themselves, to understand their world, and to build liberatory communities. I have been a Kehilla member since 1996 when I joined the B’Mitzvah program as a 6th grader, and I am so excited to be returning to this formative program. This coming of age ceremony and the process that builds to it help create a powerful foundation for young people that seems more and more essential in increasingly turbulent times. As a history teacher I always strive to make the past feel relevant and useful; I am excited to be part of an educational program in which students are embodying ancient traditions, adapting where necessary, and working not towards grades, but towards a deeper sense of self, purpose, and community. I’m also excited to step more fully into my Jewish identity and to play a direct role in supporting positive Jewish identity development for young people of all Jewish backgrounds.

Kaiya Garcia

Director of Kehilla School

I am excited to guide this next chapter of Kehilla School and to broaden my roots in the Jewish community! As a child of a Berkeley Public school teacher, my belief in high quality accessible education led me to become an educator for the past 20 years, and a Jewish professional for over a decade.

I now reside in Alameda with my wife, 3 year old kiddo, a cat, a dog, and lots of chickens. I love to read, spend time in the sun,  and dance at Hipline Studio. I also volunteer with East Oakland Collective and CK Kitchens to help provide food security for the unhoused. As part of an interfaith, multi-ethnic family, I am passionate about fostering relationships and building community that celebrates diversity.

Spiritual Leaders

Rabbi David Jonathan Cooper

Emeritus Rabbi

Rabbi David Jonathan Cooper was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York where he attended Hebrew day school for 10 years, and further pursued his Jewish studies on the high school, college, post-graduate and rabbinic program levels. His youthful synagogue participation was inter-movement: Conservative school and synagogue, regular Orthodox synagogue attendance and camp, Reform synagogue and camp. Part of his extended family owned an orthodox hotel in Monsey, NY where he celebrated becoming Bar Mitzvah.

Throughout high school, college, law school and several years of practice as an attorney, David was involved in anti-war, anti-sexist, pro-LGBT and affirmative action struggles while becoming increasingly involved in the embryonic Jewish Renewal Movement.

Rabbi David credits his eclectic exposures for his familiarity with the varieties of Jewish liturgy and practice. He credits his years of inter-disciplinary study and his grappling with the realities of our post-holocaust generation for his non-conformist theological outlook and the variety of Jewish and non-Jewish religious practices which continue to influence his spiritual endeavors.

Inspired by Rabbi Burt Jacobson’s vision of a community synagogue, Rabbi David became one of several co-founders of Kehilla in 1984. Prior to David’s service as Kehilla’s community rabbi—which began in 1999—he had various careers including political activist, community organizer, attorney, bookstore owner, religion/theology graduate student. He regards it as one of his highest joys that he has been able to be part of a synagogue of such wonderful, exciting and loving people.

You can contact Rabbi David by email at rabbidavid@kehillasynagogue.org or call (510) 547-2424 x103.

Visit Rabbi David’s Blog »

Rabbi Burt Jacobson

Founding Rabbi

Pronouns: He/Him
rabburt@icloud.com

Rabbi Burt Jacobson was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1966. He was involved in the creation of both the Havurah and Jewish Renewal movements. In 1984 he founded Kehilla Community Synagogue in Berkeley (now in Piedmont).

Rabbi Burt currently serves as Founding Rabbi of Kehilla. He has been a student of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov for twenty-five years, and is engaged in writing a book that reconstructs the life and spiritual philosophy of the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism. Rabbi Burt celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination as a rabbi in 2006. He has been greatly influenced by the work of Martin Buber, the Baal Shem Tov, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.

You can contact Rabbi Burt by email at rabburt@icloud.com or (510) 283-5704.

Visit Rabbi Burt’s Blog »

Fresh “Lev” White

Spiritual Leader

Pronouns: He/Him

Fresh “Lev” White is a love and compassion activist. He offers mindfulness, mediation, and diversity trainings as tools for shifting towards more authentic, conscious, and passionate living.

Learn more about my offerings here: https://affirmativeacts.org/ 
 
You can book a free consultation with me here: https://booktimewithlev.as.me/

Sharon Grodin

Spiritual Leader

Pronouns: She/Her

Sharon Grodin, Spiritual Leader, is a home-grown leader of Kehilla, having been inspired by Kehilla services to learn and create with Kehilla’s spiritual leadership. Serving in this capacity is the latest of Sharon’s experiments in Kehilla volunteerhood; over the years she has participated as a volunteer in most aspects of Kehilla life. Sharon is a 3rd generation Oaklander, a former lawyer, a current knitter and accordion player. During her lawyer life she served on the boards of San Francisco’s Bureau of Jewish Education and the Jewish Bulletin (the J. Weekly).

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Spiritual Leader Emerita

Pronouns: She/Her
cgusfield@gmail.com

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield joined Kehilla in 1997, initially for the bat mitzvah journey of her daughter Yeshi. As a result of that life changing journey for their family, she entered synagogue life and became one of Kehilla’s lay leaders involved in all aspects of Kehilla Spiritual Leadership. Through Kehilla’s Rabbi Zari Weiss’ encouragement, she became a Spiritual Director in 2001 and provided group and individual direction to Kehilla members. After rabbinical ordination in 2006 from ALEPH, she served as rabbi at Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville for seven years until she began work as a hospital chaplain at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Kaiser Oakland/Richmond.

Rabbi Gusfield continues her long association with Kehilla through her periodic workshop and service offerings with her beloved friend, Eve Decker, dharma teacher and musician. She also offers teachings, ritual leadership, spiritual direction and service leadership when time permits. In collaboration with Kehilla spiritual leadership, if you know someone who could use support while in any of the East Bay hospitals where she works, please feel free to contact her.

Avi Rose

Spiritual Leader

Pronouns: He/Him

Avi Rose, Spiritual Leader, first joined Kehilla in 1993 when he gave a Yom Kippur sermon about full inclusion and welcoming of lesbians and gay men. He has offered spiritual leadership in the congregation since the mid 1990’s.

Avi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who currently serves as Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay. He received his B.A. degree from Brandeis University in 1976 and later earned his MSW from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College. Much of Avi’s career has been devoted to HIV/AIDS work as well as community-based health care for low-income people.

Avi is also known for having co-edited a groundbreaking anthology, Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian or Gay and Jewish, published in 1989. He has been highly involved as a writer, speaker and organizer with efforts to address LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues in religious communities and was a founding board member of the AIDS National Interfaith Network.

Avi is also a longtime board member of Jewish Funds for Justice and has served on several other boards of directors and planning and advisory bodies for agencies, foundations and communities. In 1995 he was honored with KQED’s “Community Hero” Award.

Avi lives in Oakland with his partner, Ron Strochlic, and their children, Oren and Aviva.

Rabbi Sandra Razieli

Spiritual Leader Emerita

Pronouns: She/Her
Sandra@mauirabbi.com

Sandra Razieli began her connection with Kehilla in 2000 when she was looking to teach part-time and quickly realized that Kehilla was a place she could bring her whole self. Since that time, she has been proud and grateful to be a Kehilla member and served for over 15 years as B’Mitzvah Program Director and Spiritual Leader. She played a pivotal role in developing Kehilla’s educational curricula and now serves as a consultant for Jewish Education and Spiritual Life.

Inspired by her time at Kehilla, Sandra received rabbinic ordination in 2021. She weaves her Jewish knowledge with her training as a Movement Educator and Cultural Anthropologist to create embodied learning experiences and meaningful rituals. Along with Hazzan Shulamit Wise-Fairman, she created the CD, “Moving with Morning Blessings.” 

Sandra lives on Maui and is the founding rabbi of mauijewishohana.org, a place for progressive Jewish life on the island. She officiates rituals and ceremonies for locals and visitors and teaches movement practices in-person and virtually. Sandra also spends significant time in her home state of Minnesota. She is grateful for the virtual offerings that allow her to continue to serve the Kehilla community and participate as a congregant. You can find more about Sandra at www.mauirabbi.com and www.raziyoga.com

Howard Hamburger

Spiritual Leader

Pronouns: He/Him

Howard Hamburger, a now retired marriage and family psychotherapist, joined Kehilla soon after attending its very first High Holiday services, when Kehilla was a synagogue without walls.  He has occupied many roles:  congregant, co-chair of the first program committee, service leader, B’nai Mitzvah teacher, Torah study leader, and Lay Spiritual Leader. At Kehilla, he teaches and learns from within the intersection of social justice work, psychology, and spirituality. 

Musical Prayer Leaders

Debbie Fier

Musical Prayer Leader

Pronouns: She/Her

Debbie Fier brings over 30 years’ experience to her life as a performing vocalist, drummer, pianist, composer, percussionist and teacher. She has studied numerous drum and dance styles for over 25 years — including Middle Eastern, North African, Indian and Afro-Cuban, has taught drumming to individuals and groups, adults and children, and has led many, diverse community drumming circles – musical, educational and spiritual.

Debbie has spent over 20 years exploring voice in many different contexts, including western/classical vocal technique, theory, ear training, improvisation, jazz, meditative chanting and Indian raga singing, as well as exploring and teaching about the healing qualities of music and the voice. Debbie has spent many years studying different forms of spirituality and meditation. Over the past 6 years, she has found a home at Kehilla Community Synagogue as a spiritual leader through drumming. For more information about classes, workshops, recordings and performances, go to www.DebbieFier.com.

Beth Dickinson

Musical Prayer Leader

Pronouns: She/Her

Beth has been a joyous participant at Kehilla for the last 20 years, appreciating Kehilla’s emphasis on both social justice and on music as a spiritual pathway. In her capacity as a Musical Prayer Leader, she has led Shabbat services and co-led High Holy Days Services, as well as weddings, b’nai mitzvah services and other lifecycle events.

Beth started her musical journey as a flautist and became a vocalist in her early 20’s, singing with Molly Holm’s Oakland Jazz Choir. She has led prayer and ritual singing in a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish settings. She is currently focusing on music as a healing force via the music therapy and sound healing program at the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS).

Beth has studied with local cantorial leader Julie Batz, Shulamit Wise Fairman, and vocalists Linda Tillery, Molly Holm and Carey Sheldon.

Julie Nesnansky

Musical Prayer Leader

Pronouns: She/Her

Julie Nesnansky has been a Musical Prayer Leader at Kehilla since 2000. In addition to co-leading Shabbat and holiday services, she leyns (chants) from the torah during various services throughout the year. She also is a trope (the torah chanting system) teacher for students who are preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

After working as a Special Education Teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District for 31 years, she retired in 2019. For several years she taught students with special needs at Temple Beth Abraham (TBA) in Oakland. She has helped to create specialized Bar/Bat Mitzvah services for students both at TBA and Kehilla. She loves merging her two worlds when she has the opportunity to teach Jewish Special Education.

Julie has performed in folk, Balkan, and jazz groups, singing (and playing the acoustic folk bass) in venues as varied as folk festivals, birthday parties, weddings, memorial services, fundraisers, clubs, retirement parties, and classes. She has sung publicly for over 30 years, and has been recorded on several albums. Born and raised in Southern California, she has lived in Oakland since 1982, and recently moved to Richmond.

Jen & Alon Altman

Musical Prayer and Tot Shabbat Leaders

Pronouns: She/Her and He/Him

Jen Miriam Altman is a mom, doula, childbirth educator, puppeteer, percussionist and ketubah artist. She is part of the popular family entertainment band Octopretzel, and leads Tot Shabbat services at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley and Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont — always with one of her favorite puppets, Raizel the Camel, in tow. She is a former music together teacher and has a Master’s degree in Pre and Perinatal Psychology.

Her love of puppets and music goes back to her childhood, when she would put on musical puppet shows for the neighborhood kids in her backyard starting at age 5. She has been performing puppet shows  ever since all over California and Oregon.

In 2008, Jen married Alon Altman, a musician, aquatic therapist and scuba diver.  Alon grew up on a Kibbutz in Israel, playing music with his best friends and brother who are now some of the biggest names in Israeli rock music. He was the perfect fit to join with Jen Miriam as musician and all around funny person.  They have been performing music and puppets together all around the bay area for the past 8 years.  Their two daughters, Ellah and Tali, are often seen joining in with music and antics.

For more info check out her websites, www.jenmiriam.com and Ketubot and Puppets by Jen Miriam.

Ore Ganin-Pinto

MUSICAL PRAYER LEADER

Pronouns: They/Them

Ore (formerly known as Wren) Ganin-Pinto (they/them) is an ordained Chaplain and Oreget Adamah (Earth Weaver). They currently serve as a spiritual care provider and death doula at Stanford Children’s Hospital and Hospice of Santa Cruz, and as musical prayer leader at both Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland and Temple Beth El in Aptos.  Ore lives in community and are grateful for the redwoods, ocean and expansive possibilities of love in action.

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