Our Staff Rocks!
Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz is the Assistant Rabbi at Judea Reform Congregation in Durham. She grew up in Broomall, PA, and earned her B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Journalism from Brandeis University. She was ordained in 2008 at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, where she also earned masters d egrees in Hebrew Literature and Religious Education. During her studies at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Berkowitz served as a rabbinic intern at hospitals and Hillels, camps and congregations throughout the Northeast. She has had stories and essays published in God: Jewish Choices in Struggling with the Ultimate , Jewish Women’s Literary Annual , and Spirituality 101: The Indispensible Guide to Keeping- or Finding- Your Spiritual Life on Campus, and also contributed to the creation of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. Rabbi Berkowitz is excited to be a part of the Midrasha team and the Jewish community in the Triangle. It is her goal as a Jewish professional to empower the members of this community to lead their best Jewish lives.
Hey folks! My name is Hasan Bhatti and I'm one of the fabulous Midrasha teachers for this upcoming year. As an alumni of the Midrasha program, a native Chapel Hillian, an ongoing member of Beth El Synagogue, and a Jewish youth group leader/educator over the past 10 years, I consider myself so fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to the community that raised me. My primary interests include education (both inside and beyond the classroom), conflict resolution, writing, rainbows, music, continually thinking/acting/fighting carefully and tactfully in the name of what is communally and socially just, brewing India-style Chai tea by hand, and doing practically any activity outside. People have told me my spirit animal is a sea otter, and I enjoy kicking back with anyone who will be good company. I seek to be a steward of justice and kavod. I've traveled to India where I witnessed people living in truly desperate conditions first hand, and I keep these people's struggles to make ends meet in this world at the forefront of my own life. I'm continually driven to resolve conflict, knowing that when many groups that disagree work through conflicts as one, true positive change and strong relationships come about for the players involved. Looking forward to meeting you all!
Rabbi Zalman and Yehudis Bluming - Rabbi Zalman is the Rabbi and Director of the Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill. He grew up in Atlanta and enjoyed a diverse educational background studying in Manchester, England; Melbourne, Australia; Jerusalem, Israel as well as throughout the Far East. His classes have been among the most popular classes in many of years of teaching at the Community Midrasha.
Yehudis is the co-director of the Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill and has traveled around the country running various Chabad youth and teen programs. She's been head counselor and the director for Jewish camps for teenagers and was the teen program coordinator for a high school of 600 teens. She then ran a young adult-teen program for a year in Melbourne, Australia.
They spend their summers leading Birthright Israel trips for college students.
Rabbi John Friedman is the Rabbi of Judea Reform Congregation. He has been teaching the Midrasha 10th graders for many years with his very popular course "Introduction to Plurality and Diversity within the Community at Large"
He was born in Kansas City and studied at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and Cincinnati where he was ordained in 1976. He has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award, the Durham Better Human Relations Award and the Elna Spaulding Medal for Social Justice awards for his work in our community. In 1994, Rabbi Friedman was a Charles Merrill Fellow at Harvard University, and he was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Friedman has served as president of Durham Congregations in Action and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Reform Rabbis, and has been a popular speaker for many civic and religious groups. He has also served as chair of the Interreligious Affairs Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Friedman has written articles that have been published in "The Journal of Reform Judaism," "Brotherhood Magazine," "Judaism," "Compass" and others.
Rinah Rachel Galper is an ordained Maggid (Jewish Spiritual Guide and Storyteller) and is pursuing ordination through Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute. She is an end-of life doula, mikveh guide, licensed art educator and embodied prayer facilitator. Originally from New York, she moved to Durham, North Carolina in 2006 and now works throughout the Triangle and country with people of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of secular and religious institutions and organizations. Rinah Rachel is the director of the after school program at the Lerner Jewish Community Day School and works closely with local area synagogues, chaverim, and the DCH Jewish Federation to provide special programs and professional development workshops. She also provides support to individuals and groups through creative ritual, prayer, energy work, story, art, and dance. Rinah Rachel is a founding member of Yavneh: A Jewish Renewal Community and a member of Beth El, Kehillah, and Judea Reform Congregations.
Rabbi Daniel Greyber became the full-time pulpit rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in July, 2011. He spent the 2010-2011 academic year as a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel and visited us several times throughout the year. At the end of the summer of 2010, he completed an eight-year tenure as the executive director of Camp Ramah in California and the Max & Pauline Zimmer Conference Center of American Jewish University. Rabbi Greyber was selected in 2006 for the inaugural Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, a program which provides experienced camp professionals business, management, and leadership skills required to enrich their camps and compete in the summer marketplace. During rabbinical school, he founded The Neshama Minyan at Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles and Minyan Nifla at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, soulful, egalitarian, Friday night services using the melodies of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. While in rabbinical school, Rabbi Greyber also founded LISHMA, an innovative learning program of Ramah and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies (ZSRS) where young adult Jews spend the summer exploring traditional Jewish texts, prayer and practice in the beautiful setting of Camp Ramah in California. As a result of the success of the LISHMA program, he was selected in 2001 as a recipient of the Joshua Venture Fellowship, which supports and trains emerging Jewish social entrepreneurs to transform their visions into action. While in his role at Ramah, Rabbi Greyber was an adjunct faculty member of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, teaching courses on liturgy, Halakhah and a variety of seminars about Judaism and the American rabbinate. Greyber served as a scholar-in-residence for programs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and a variety of Conservative synagogues throughout the West, and as a teacher at conventions of the Rabbinical Assembly and Jewish Educators Assembly. His writings have been published in Dancing on the Edge of the World: Jewish Stories of Inspiration and Love (Lowell House Press, 2000); Many Ways into God’s Palace: Essays in Honor of the 36 th Anniversary of the Library Minyan (Temple Beth Am, 2008); CJ Voices Magazine, Conservative Judaism, Midstream Magazine, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and other Jewish periodicals. A gold medalist and Captain of the U.S. Swimming Team at the 1993 World Maccabiah Games, Rabbi Greyber holds a Masters in Speech and Communications Studies from Northwestern University and was ordained in 2002 at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University where received the Henry Fisher Award for outstanding achievement in Jewish Studies. He and his wife, Jennifer, and their three boys, Alon, Benjamin, and Ranon are happy to be joining us full time in Durham and look forward to many great years at Beth El Synagogue.
Judith Roth has over 15 years of religious school teaching. She has worked as a mental health lobbyist, a child and adolescent therapist in a variety of settings, and as the Children's Services Specialist for the Cuyahoga County Mental Health Board when she lived in Cleveland, OH. She has an Masters in Library Science, a Masters of Social Work, and half of a masters in Judaic studies from the Siegel College. Judith lives with her husband in Durham, has 2 dogs, and is very proud of her daughter, Rachel who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature.
Hello! My name is Sarah Shapiro. I am originally from Lawrence, Kansas but have lived in Raleigh for 2 years. I received my B.A. in Sociology at Kenyon College and my Master's in Youth Development and Management at NC State. I have worked in a number of before and after school programs for elementary and middle school students. I currently work at the YMCA as a Site Coordinator. I am really excited to start my work with Community Midrasha. I believe that all youth deserve positive development opportunities that will challenge yet support them in finding their place in the world. I am eager to develop and question aspects of my own Jewish identity right along with the students.
Dr. Margarita Suarez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious and Ethical Studies at Meredith College in Raleigh. Her area of concentration is Women, Religion and Culture, specializing in Global Liberation/Feminist Theologies. Dr. Suarez teaches courses in Anthropology of Religion, Religion and Film, Religions in the United States, World Religions, Women in the Bible and Christian Theology and Ethics.