Israeli Rabbinical Program

Mordechai Rotem, the first Israeli to be ordained by President Gottschalk at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, 1980.

The inauguration of the Taube Family Campus, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem Israeli Rabbinical Program, which trains Israeli students for the nation’s growing Progressive Movement, took place in 1975. Then-President Dr. Alfred Gottschalk took this historic step out of the conviction that an Israeli-born and educated rabbinate could best address the nation’s need for, and expanding interest in, liberal forms of Judaism. “We need to train rabbis in the environment in which they are to serve,” says Dr. Gottschalk. “This is what caused Isaac Meyer Wise to open Hebrew Union College in America, and it’s why we created the Israeli Rabbinical Program in Israel.”

In February 1980, before an audience of hundreds, Mordechai Rotem, a 33-year old sabra from Haifa, became the first Israeli ordained by President Gottschalk at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem. “We knew with Moti’s ordination that the program was truly up and running,” recalls Dr. Gottschalk. “This was the beginning of something truly significant for the Progressive Movement and the State of Israel.” 

Meet the graduates of the Israeli Rabbinical Program:

Mordechai Rotem (‘80) served as Rabbi of Or Hadash Congregation in Haifa for over twenty years and recently retired from Temple Rodef Sholom in Waco, TX.

Ze’ev Harari (‘82) is Rabbi of Congregation Am Echod (Conservative), Waukegan, IL.

Gil Nativ (‘82) is Rabbi of Magen Avraham Congregation (Conservative) in Omer, near Beer Sheva.

Moshe Yehudai (‘83) served previously in congregations in Israel and in the United Kingdom and is serving at Congreation Kiryat Ono. Yehudai is active in Rabbi for Human Rights.

Uri Regev (‘86) was President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and currently President and founder of “Hiddush” and founding Director of the Israel Religious Action Center.

Yehoram Mazor (‘90) retired as Rabbi of Darchei Noam Congregation, Ramat Hasharon, continues to teach at Bet Berl College and HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, and has founded an Institute of Reform Liturgy.

Edgar Nof (‘91) is the Rabbi of Natan-Ya Congregation, Netanya.

Zion Zohar (‘91) is Director and Chair of the President Navon Program for the Study of Sephardic/Oriental Jewry at Florida International University.

Meir Azari (‘92) is Senior Rabbi at the Daniel Centers in Tel Aviv which includes Beit Daniel , the Mishkenot Ruth Daniel complex in Jaffa, and Kehillat Ha'Lev.

Naamah Kelman (‘92) is Dean at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Michael Marmur (‘92) is the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost of HUC-JIR.

Reuven Bar-Ephraim (‘93) is Rabbi of Or Chadash Congregation in Zurich, Switzerland, and previously served as Rabbi of Temple Beth Jehoeda in The Hague, Netherlands, and was Rabbi of the Nahariya Progressive Congregation.

Sergio Bergman (‘93) has served in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was recently appointed as Minister of the Environment in the government.

Maya Leibovic (‘93) has recently retired as Rabbi of Kehilat Mevasseret Zion outside of Jerusalem, a congregation she co-founded.

David Ariel-Joel (‘94) is Associate Rabbi of The Temple, Louisville, KY, and previously served as Rabbi of the Har El Congregation in Jerusalem and Director General of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

Dana Evan Kaplan (‘94) is Research Scholar at the University of Miami and has published numerous works on the American Reform Movement and other subjects.

Michael D. Commins (‘96) directs Spiritual Wilderness Programs in Jackson Hole, WY, and is associated with Chochmat Halev Center for Jewish Spirituality in Berkeley, CA.

Amir Wind (‘96) is a freelance Rabbi and educator working in Israel.

David Meridach (‘97) is Secretary of the New Givon community, north of Jerusalem, and previously served as the Rabbi of the Sulam Ya’akov Congregation in Zichron Ya’akov.

Ruben Sternschein (‘97) was previously Rabbi of the Har El Congregation in Jerusalem, and is now Senior Rabbi at Congregation Israelista Paulista in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Miri Gold (‘98) is Rabbi of Birkat Shalom Congregation, Kibbutz Gezer, who will be the first Reform rabbi to be supported by Israeli government funds.

Ada Zavidov (‘98) is Rabbi of Har El Congregation, Jerusalem. She teaches Homiletics at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Dan Prath (‘00) previously served as Rabbi of Ohel Avraham Congregation, Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, and is Educational Projects Manager and Advisor at Tefen to Stef Wertheimer's philanthropies.

Ma’ayan Turner (‘00) is a freelance educator in Jerusalem and was Chair of Rabbis for Human Rights.

Gregory Kotlar (‘01) the first Russian-speaking graduate of the Israeli Rabbinical Program, currently serves as the IMPJ’s Outreach to Russian Speakers Unit, the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis, and previously served as Senior Rabbi in Moscow; oversaw the translation of the Plaut Bible Commentary into Russian. Currently rabbi at Congregation Shirat Ha’yam, founded for Russian speakers.

Mira Raz (‘01) was the Rabbi of Netanya Progressive Congregation and currently works at Bet Daniel in Tel Aviv on a freelance basis.

Tamar Duvdevani (‘02) worked as a freelance educator and Master teacher in Jerusalem and has directed the Bet Midrash Program at Bet Shmuel; now at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati to complete her PhD in Rabbinics.

Dalia Sara Marx(‘02) Associate professor of Liturgy and Midrashteaches Liturgy at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Yelena Rubinstein (‘02) was Director of the New Immigrants Department of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism now serving as rabbi in the WUPJ Congregation in St. Petersburgh.

Gilad Kariv (‘03) is the Executive Director of the IMPJ and was the Director of Social Action at the Israel Religious Action Center.

Chaim Rechnitzer (‘03) is Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati.

Galia Sadan (‘03) is Associate Rabbi at Bet Daniel Congregation, Tel Aviv and Executive Secretary of MaRam (Association of Israeli Reform Rabbis).

Vered Sakal (‘03) is a freelance educator in the Tel Aviv area recently at the Tikvah Center at NYU on a post-doc fellowship.

Yehoyada Amir (04) is Full professor of Jewish Thought at HUC Jerusalemand currently Chair of MaRam (The Association of Reform Rabbis in Israel).

Michal Conforti (‘04) is Education Director at Beit Daniel Congregation, Tel Aviv.

Aharon Fox (‘04) has been appointed as General Secretary at his Kibbutz. he most recently directed the IMPJ Mechinah Program in Jaffa, and the Jewish Studies at the Givat Brenner High School.

Alona Lisitsa (‘04) teaches in the Year-in-Israel Program and oversees Rabbinic student placement in the IRP at HUC-JIR in JerusalemShe has worked with HUC-JIR in a variety of projects based in the former Soviet Union and in Israel and served as Rabbi of Kibbutz Yahel.

Sa’ar Shaked (’04) was the rabbi of Rishon Le’Zion’s IMPJ congregation andwas Director of the Carmel Program at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, and the Director of Sulcha, an Israeli organization dedicated to peace and reconciliation. Currently serving in South Africa.

Adi Cohen (‘05) is rabbi in New Zealand and was a Rabbi/Educator in the IMPJ and TALI education systems in the center of Israel; also served as rabbi in Kiryat Ono.

Mira Regev (‘05), currently serving the IMPJ in content and programming, was at BINA, a secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv and researching a Ph.D. in Jewish Mysticism; has worked in youth education, and peace initiatives.

Ofer Sabath Beit-Halachmi (’05) founder of “Aspaklaria” for Jewish art and texts and formerly the Rabbi of the Tzur Hadassah Reform Congregation, near Jerusalem, now living in Cincinnati and has started his PhD studies at the College.

Ayala Sha’ashoua Miron (‘05) is Rabbi of the Bavat Ayin Reform Congregation in Rosh HaAyin and oversees admissions and the first year Orientation course for the IRP.

Ilana Baird (‘06) is living in the US after serving as a freelance rabbi and educator based in the Haifa area, founding a new Chavurah. She has served congregations in the former Soviet Union.

Ezra Ende (‘06) is Rabbi at newly founded Kehilat Hadror in Jerusalem, rabbi-educator at Tali Bayit Ve’gan and Beit Chinuch schools. Worked as an assistant rabbi at Temple Salom in Pittsburgh and at Congregation Kol Haneshama.

Nava Hefetz (‘06) is Education Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, Israel.

Ofek Meir (‘06) is the new Director of the Israeli Rabbinic program and was Headmaster and Rabbi of the Leo Baeck Education Center’s Middle School in Haifa, and founding principal of the elementary school there.

Stas Voichokovitch (‘06) was the Rabbi of the St. Petersburg (Russia) Reform Congregation; is currently in Poland.

Corrie Zeidler (‘06) – Living with her family in Holland; was previously rabbi in Tivon, Israel.

Golan Ben Chorin (‘07) is a freelance educator and was Director of Congregational Learning, Temple Emeth, Chestnut Hill, MA. Currently coordinating programs for the London based Leo Baeck Rabbinical program in Israel and founding rabbi of a new community in Rosh Pina.

Nir Barkin (‘07) is a Rabbi at Yozma Congregation in Modi’in and rabbi-educator in the Progressive school system there.

Yishai Ron (‘07) is a freelance educator and writer living in Gilon, in the Western Galilee.

Moshe Navon (‘07) is serving WUPJ Congregations in Germany and was a lecturer at David Yellin Teachers College and a member of the faculty at the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum.

Tania Segal (‘07) is Rabbi of Bet Krakow, in Cracow, Poland.

Silvana Kandel (’07) now works fo the Tali Fund to support Jewish studies in Argentina and Brazil, she was on the teaching staff at the Seminario for Rabbinical training in Argentina and was an active partner in Kehillat Shachar in Yokneam.

Gili Tzidkiyahu ('08) is currently a freelance educator and Rabbi in Even Yehudah; was an Assistant Rabbi at Kehillat Ra'anan in Ra'anana.

Daniel Meyer ('08) is the Assistant Rabbi at Kehillat Ra'anan in Ra'anana.

Oshrat Morag ('08) is the rabbi of Congregation Or Chadash in Haifa is completing her Ph D. in Jewish and Gender Studies at HUC-JIR Cincinnati.

Orna Pilz ('08) serves as a free-lance rabbi specializing in Mother and Daughter Bat-Mitzvah seminars based on her recently published book on Bat Mitzvah. She worked for many years at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv.

Nir Cohen ('08is a "roving Rabbi" in southern Israel, serving different IMPJ initiatives in the Negev.

Tali Avnon Benvinisti ('09) directs the Center for Jewish Peoplehood at Beit Hatfusot(Museum of the Diaspora) and served as a Rabbi-educator at Bet Daniel in Tel Aviv.

Judith Edelman Green ('09is the founding Executive Director of Rimon Village for disabled children and young adults in Kfar Saba, and currently specializes in Spiritual Care.

Chen Ziphoni Ben Or ('09) after returning from New York, where she was a Marshal Meyer Fellow at Congregation Bnai Jeshrun, she is serving as co-spiritual leader of non-affiliated Congregation Niggun Ha'Lev in Nahallal, and part-time secretary of MaRam (Association of Reform Rabbis in Israel).

Benjie Gruber ('09) is the Rabbi and educator for Kibbutz Yahel, and serving the Arava area.

Tziporah Livne ('09) retired from 30 years in the Israeli school system, now serving an independent chavurah in Jerusalem and teaching in the Tel Aviv area.

Oded Mazor ('09) is a full-time teacher at the new elementary school at the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa and is also the school Rabbi. He and his family live on Kibbutz Hanaton, a liberal kibbutz in the North; recently edited the new Machzor for the Pilgrimage Holidays.

Dalia Tibbon Legziel ('09) is a part-time Rabbi in Zichron Ya'akov and works in a variety of Jewish educational initiatives, including at Bet Hatefutsot (the Diaspora Museum).

Zohar Ofaz Lipsky ('10) lives on Kibbutz Ayelet HaShachar, where she established a Kabbalat Shabbat community; she is a full-time high school teacher of Judaic studies.

Mira Hovav ('10) is the founding Rabbi in a new community in Gedera called "Yuval".

Chaim Shalom ('10) is Director for Outreach and Recruitment for HUC-JIR Jerusalem.

Gabi Dagan ('10) is the Rabbi at Congregation Ohel Avraham and the High School at the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa.

Shai Beloosesky ('11) retired from IDF in 2012 with the rank of Colonel. He was the rabbi of Congregation Or Chadash in Haifa, and is currently serving a Congregation in the US.

Gila Caine ('11) lives in Benyamina with her family; studies and teaches the spiritual elements of giving birth and is active in the amuta "Women in Israel Giving Birth - The Freedom to Choose."

Ariella Graetz Bartov ('11) is the Rabbi of Congregation Emet Vashalom in Nahariya.

Na'ama Dafni-Kellen ('12) is the Rabbi-educator at Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa.

Esteban Gottfried ('12) - Founder, executive director and rabbinic leader of Beit Tefila Yisraeli, the first independent liberal Jewish community in Tel Aviv. Over the summer thousands flock to their outdoor musical Kabbalat Shabbat at the Tel Aviv port. They are a leading force among the network of independent communities in Israel.

Uri Lam ('12) was Rabbi at CIP (Congregacao Israelita Paulista) in Sao Paulo, Brazil; member of the ICCJ (Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel) and a member of the Brazilian Forum for Jewish-Catholic Dialogue.

Gadi Raviv ('12) is Rabbi at Yedid Nefesh Reform congregation in Carmiel; specializes in creating new ceremonies for bar/bat mitzvah, Shabbat and Jewish festivals that are meaningful and inspiring for secular Israelis.

Tlalit Shavit ('12) teaches in "batei midrash" including HUC's "Sugiyot Chaim" program, facilitates groups for mothers and bat mitzvah-age daughters and conducts ceremonies, such as bar/bat mitzvah, kabbalat Shabbat in Northern Israel.

Yehudit (Judith) Werchow ('12) is the Director of Education at Masa Israel. She was the Director of Israel Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism, New York. She sees her role as building living bridges between and with individuals and communities in the U.S. and Israel.

Or Zohar ('12) is the Rabbi of Congregation Maaleh Tivon in Tivon; conducts life cycle and holiday ceremonies throughout Israel, and teaches Judaism, Kabbala and Jewish spirituality; he is a musician, creating and conducting Jewish liturgy with a 'now' style, and a radio personality. He was the founding rabbi of Kehillat Ha’lev in Tel Aviv.

Eli Levin ('13) is the Rabbi of Congregation Darchei Noam in Ramat Hasharon.

Ayala Ronen-Samuels ('13) is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Tefilat Ha'adam in Caesarea.

Nico Sokolovsky ('13) is engaged in writing on Jewish themes and outreach via social media, in Singapore and now in San Diego.

Josh Weinberg ('13) serves as Executive Director of ARZA, the Reform Zionist Organization, in New York.

Ian Chesir-Teran ('14) works as rabbi and attorney at IRAC and also as Educator, Hannaton Educational Center, Kibbutz Hannaton.

Galit Cohen-Kedem ('14) is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kodesh Vachol in Holon.

Meirav Kallush ('14) is the Director of Israel Programming at Golda Och Academy, West Orange, New Jersey.

Noa Sattath ('14) is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, Jerusalem.

Efrat Rotem ('15) is currently the rabbi of Kehillat Ha’Lev in Tel Aviv, a community connected to Beit Daniel.

Lior Nevo ('15) is living in London.

Michali Kentor ('15) teaches in various Progressive settings including the Mechina in Yaffo and is a part-time rabbi in Kibbutz Megiddo.

Tamara (Tati) Shagas ('15) is joining the Education staff of Kehillat Romemu in New York City.

Tamara Shifrin ('15) is serving the Reform Congregation in Rishon Le’ Zion.

 

To learn more about the Israeli Rabbinical Program, please contact Rabbi Ofek Meir, Director, at .