Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director
Rabbi Gray Myrseth, Youth Education Director
Dee Ward, Office Administrator
Natalie Boskin, Youth Programs Coordinator
Josef Straub, Custodian
Fred Williamson, Evening & Weekend Custodian
Molly Melamed, Bookkeeper
Maya Joshua, Programs and Communications Manager
Board of Trustees
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 email@example.com, or call (510) 547-2424 x101.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com or call (510) 547-2424 x100.
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 Natalie@kehillasynagogue.org or call 510-547-2424 x107
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 547-2424 x102.
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.
You can contact Maya via email@example.com or at (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 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 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 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 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 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 looking forward to continuing serving on the board.
Lisa Korwin came to the Bay Area from New York 36 years ago in search of an environment that was welcoming to lesbians and politically progressive. She put down roots in Oakland and hasn’t looked back since. Lisa launched her own firm in 2001 — Korwin Consulting — where she evaluates programs that are dedicated to advancing social justice solutions. The work is tremendously satisfying and she is inspired by the important work she supports.Lisa began attending Kehilla’s high holiday services in the ‘90s and was drawn to the politics and commitment to inclusive practices. As someone who grew up assimilated yet culturally Jewish, it was deeply important to feel welcome and to have a place to explore her Jewish identity. After years of loving Kehilla from the periphery, Lisa and her wife Kip finally decided to become members. When Lisa saw a post in the newsletter soliciting new members for Kehilla’s Art Gallery Committee, she saw it as a wonderful way into the working life of Kehilla. She joined the committee and now serves as its chair. The Art Committee was only the beginning. She is co-leading the beautification of Kehilla’s lobby to use beauty in providing respite. She served on an accompaniment team for an Afghan family who came to settle in the East Bay. She looks forward to serving on the Board and bringing her organizational skills to the Kehilla organization and the community she loves.Lisa can also be found hiking in the East Bay Regional Parks with her beloved wife and her dog, or reading, spending quality time with friends, hearing live music, and singing.
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.
Barbara Petterson became involved with Kehilla almost 30 years ago when a friend brought her to High Holy Days services. She is grateful to have participated in many services, classes and other offerings over the years, was a member of the LGBTQI and Allies Welcoming Synagogues Committee and is a member of a Kehilla Caregiver Support Group and of Ketsev Kehilla. Barbara joined the Kehilla board in 2014 and is finishing her third year as Co-Chair in June 2018. She 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. She also facilitates art therapy groups with older adults at an assisted living center and at a memory care center, and with people in chronic pain at a Functional Restoration Program. In addition, she provides clinical supervision to therapists-in-training.
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.
Natalie Roden grew up in the East Bay. She graduated in 2013 from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas. 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 and the Ozarks Alliance.
After returning the Bay Area, Natalie attended Merritt College and obtained an Associate Teacher certificate in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an on-call substitute for several preschools for about two years.
She now lives in Pleasant Hill, where she is getting experience in retail at T.J. Maxx while exploring other opportunities. Natalie loves animals, and spends lots of her free time doing crafts such as knitting and cross-stitch. She also spends lots of time in her kitchen, cooking a variety of foods and sharing them with friends.
Being Jewish is an integral part of Natalie’s life. She has been a member of Kehilla for over 20 years. In July of 2005, Natalie became a Bat Mitzvah at Kehilla. She also did an internship at Kehilla, during which 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 has practiced religion; the community has been a second family for her, and has always accepted her fully despite her disabilities. She would be honored to serve her third term on the board. She looks forward to using her communication skills on Kehilla’s behalf, and to sharing her unique perspectives as a young adult and a member of the disability community.
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 found and fell in love with Kehilla when she moved to the East Bay a few years ago. Tova and her husband, Robert, have two young children. Her family was drawn to Kehilla by the warmth and inclusiveness of the community and emphasis on social action.
Through her consulting practice, Tova helps leaders in the education, not-for-profit and corporate sectors utilize communication to build successful organizations. She develops strategies that cultivate leadership competencies, drive operational transformations, engage people in accomplishing their organization’s objectives and connect people to their organization’s mission, vision and values.
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.