Spiritual Leaders

Rabbi Dev Noily, Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Dev Noily was ordained in 2009 by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia.  Dev returned home to the bay area to serve as a hospital chaplain at Alta Bates, and came to Kehilla in 2010 as the part-time director of Kehilla School.  In 2013, Rabbi Dev became Kehilla’s full-time Associate Rabbi, in addition to being Kehilla School Director.

Since coming to Kehilla, Rabbi Dev has brought exciting innovations to our community, including a three-year partnership between Kehilla School and Urban Adamah, and Pop-up Shabbat, our collaboration with the Bites off Broadway food truck festival.  Rabbi Dev has created lively davening experiences for kids and their grown ups through regular Family Shabbats (with Musical Prayer Leader Beth Dickinson) and Family High Holy Days (with Beth, Jenna Stover-Kemp and Lior Ben-Hur).  Rabbi Dev facilitated a restructuring of Kehilla’s Spiritual Leadership team to deepen the team’s capacity for both shared spiritual leadership and smooth operation.  Rabbi Dev served on the committee that gave rise to our fabulous Glitter Kehilla, and serves on the Legacy Committee, building Kehilla’s financial future.  To support adults in ongoing learning and spiritual practice, Rabbi Dev started Kehilla’s thriving meditation group, created a new program for people exploring conversion to Judaism (with Spiritual Leader Sharon Grodin), and teaches a series of classes that offer intimate access to the life-giving ancient wisdom in Jewish texts like Torah, Talmud and midrash.

Rabbi Dev was one of twenty North American rabbis chosen in 2013 for the inaugural cohort of the Clergy Leadership Incubator, a two-year leadership program that recognizes and supports innovative early career rabbis.  Beyond Kehilla, Rabbi Dev teaches LGBTQ inclusion to rabbinical students at RRC, and to chaplains of all faiths at Alta Bates/Summit Medical Center.  Dev is a member of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is an advisor for Reframing Israel, Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman’s groundbreaking new grade school level curriculum on Israel/Palestine.

You can contact Rabbi Dev by email at rabbidev@kehillasynagogue.org or call (510) 547-2424 x104.

Visit Rabbi Dev’s Page

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.

Rabbi David Jonathan Cooper, Active 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.

Visit Rabbi David’s Page

rabbi-burtRabbi Burt Jacobson, Founding Rabbi

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@earthlink.net or (510) 283-5704.

Visit Rabbi Burt’s Page

Sandra-Safadirazieli-150x150Sandra Razieli, Spiritual Leader

Sandra Razieli, Spiritual Leader, is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program Director and has been teaching at Kehilla since 2000. She is also a spiritual leader and enjoys participating in the community as a congregant.
Sandra has studied and lived extensively in Minnesota, Israel, and California, and has degrees from the University of Minnesota and Stanford University. As an anthropologist with a focus on the modern Middle East, her 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. She is also an avid soccer player.  You can contact Sandra by email at Sandra@kehillasynagogue.org.

Howard HamburgerHoward Hamburger, Spiritual Leader
Bio coming soon.




Avi-RoseAvi Rose, Spiritual Leader

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.

Sharon-Grodin-9-14-150x150Sharon Grodin, Spiritual Leader

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

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. She can be reached at gusfield@comcast.net and chayasgarden@wordpress.com.


Musical Prayer Leaders


DebbieFier-happy-150x150Debbie Fier, Musical Prayer Leader

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.

bethBeth Dickinson, Musical Prayer Leader

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.

JULIENESNANSKY-150x150Julie Nesnansky, Musical Prayer Leader

Julie Nesnansky has been a Cantorial Soloist at Kehilla since 2000, and is a proud member of the Musical Prayer Leader/Spiritual Leader team. In addition to co-leading Shabbat and holiday services, she teaches songs and some percussion instruments to students in the Hebrew School, and has co-written and performed songs in honor of several service leaders over the years. She leyns (chants) from the torah during High Holy Day services and at various Shabbat services throughout the year. She also is a trope (the torah chanting system) teacher for students who are preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

Julie has been a Special Education Teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District since 1988, currently working with preschool students who have autism. 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 many albums. Born and raised in Southern California, she has lived in Oakland since 1982.

Jen and Alon Altman, Musical Prayer and Tot Shabbat Leaders

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 http://jewishweddingwithjenmiriam.weebly.com.