Wednesday, December 7, 2022
We are proud to introduce the inaugural class of the Jewish Ideas Fellowship. This fellowship is for post-college emerging Jewish leaders who want to dive into Jewish learning and add to their leadership skill set. Throughout the year, fellows build a foundation in Jewish thought, literature, and culture, while sharpening their leadership skills. The Jewish Ideas Fellows participate in beit midrash sessions, hevruta learning, and 1:1 coaching. In the spring, fellows will work on individual projects with the support of peer mentoring groups.
Rabbi Rachel Gross-Prinz, director of the fellowship shares, “Our Jewish Ideas Fellows are an incredible group of leaders who are curious, crave depth, and want to build meaningful relationships and dynamic communities. Together we wrestle with both rapid change and issues endemic to being human.”
The HUC-JIR Jewish Ideas Fellowship partners include The Torah Studio, founded by recent Covenant Prize Winner Liana Wertman ’22, and Modern Ritual, founded by Rabbis Rena Singer ’20 and Samantha Frank ’19.
Becca Schwartzberg, Youth and Young Adult Engagement Coordinator at Congregation Emanu El Houston, shares, “I am so grateful to get to study with and learn from so many different, yet like-minded Jewish leaders across the country. The members of our cohort challenge me to think about things differently, to dive deeper into Jewish texts and ideas, and inspire me to continue to grow as a Jewish leader and person.”
Jay Potter, lay leader and member at Temple Beth El in Providence, Rhode Island, says, “The JIF experience has become a home, a safety net, to bring my Torah to light. To allow me to bring my joy, sadness, fear and my love of the text into the present- so in that discovery I can bring it home again.”
Sarah Dauer (she/her) is the Editor of Kolture, the new digital arts and culture platform powered by the Jewish Arts Collaborative. She holds a B.A. in English and Art History from Mount Holyoke College and was a 2022 JFNA Jewish Changemakers Fellow. Her poetry has been published in Cosmonauts Avenue, seafood mag, and Vagabond City, amongst others. She currently resides in Cambridge, MA and you find her online @darah_sauer.
Kate Foster Kaplove (she/her) lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her husband, dog, and cat. Originally from Atlanta, she spends the week working on creative for a sustainable beauty brand, and the weekend reading, going to concerts, or playing video games. Kate converted to Judaism in March and cannot wait to learn more from the other fellows! Kate is a member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan.
A New York ex-pat, Jenna Friedman (she/her) moved to Massachusetts for college and hasn’t looked back. Jenna currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her partner Jon, and has been living in the city ever since graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in English in 2017. She is currently in her sixth year as the Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, and feels incredibly grateful to have found a community and a job that feel like home to her. When not in the presence of 8-to-18-year-olds, Jenna can be found watching cooking competitions, attempting to paint or write poetry, paging through a book in her reading nook, taking in a film at her favorite movie theater, singing in the shower, or stalking the aisles of her local thrift shop. Jenna believes that kasha varnishkes and kugel are the most underrated Jewish foods, and yes, even after almost 10 years in Massachusetts, she still has strong opinions about pizza and bagels.
Josh Hare (he/him) is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Iowa City, Iowa. After graduating from American University where he became immersed in the vibrant Jewish life on campus at AU Hillel, Josh began his Jewish Professional work on campus as a Springboard Ezra Fellow at Tulane Hillel. After living in New Orleans, Josh moved to Iowa to serve as the Program Director at Iowa Hillel before starting his role as the Community Engagement Manager at Hillel International. Josh is passionate about opportunities for people of all backgrounds to learn, and more deeply, supporting them in applying what they have learned to their lives in a way that feels enriching.
Mollie Liebowitz (she/her) grew up in New York City and studied Philosophy, Judaic Studies, and Studio Art at Tufts University in Somerville, MA. For the past year, she has worked as a Springboard Ezra Jewish Education Fellow at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. She has found so much joy engaging UVM students in Jewish education and community, particularly through facilitating two cohorts of the Jewish Learning Fellowship: Ask Big Questions and Sex, Love, and Romance. Check out her “Torah Take Thursdays” every other Thursday on the UVM Hillel Instagram page for a short (and sometimes sweet) weekly d’var. In her free time, Mollie likes to play cards (especially bridge), make lynotype prints, and do the NYTimes Spelling Bee. You can usually find her playing with her cat, Chava, and rewatching Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Ethan Nosanow Levin (he/him) is a recent transplant from St. Paul, MN to Nashville, TN where he is working as a chaplain resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The past two years, Ethan was completing a Master of Theological Studies Degree at Harvard Divinity School, concentrating in Jewish Studies. He wrote his Master’s Thesis, titled “In the Hands of God: Theology and the Benefits of American Football” on the role of Christian theology in the development of American football as reflected in his experiences as a Jewish football player in high school and in college. He is both a published theologian and poet, writing on Jewish subjects ranging from AJ Heschel’s critique of Paul Tillich to Midrashic takes on modern events. He is passionate about the study of Torah and is considering the rabbinate as his vocation. In his free time, he loves to read, play, and watch football.
Jeff Levin (he/him) lives with his wife and son in Central Florida, where he is currently a middle school teacher. He earned his Ph.D. in Israeli History, focusing on the British Mandate period, from American University in 2018. In his early 20’s, he felt called to the rabbinate, but realized that he wasn’t yet at a place in his life to make the kind of commitment it requires. Jeff is excited to be part of this program as he once again embarks on a journey that will hopefully end with ordination
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Zoe Levine (she/they) graduated from Chatham University in Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, double minors in French and Theatre Production, and an International Certificate: European Concentration. Zoe believes that social justice and advocacy are linked in totality with Jewish values, which has guided her in her current role as Manager of Jewish Student Experiences and Springboard Social Justice Fellow for Oberlin College Hillel. Outside of her professional life Zoe loves to cook, read, go hiking, do yoga, travel, and spend time with her partner Mack, and their cat, Obi-Wan Katnobi.
Born and raised outside of Akron, Ohio, Maximus Levinsky (he/him) first moved to attend Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he recently graduated with a BA in History and Political Science and a minor in Jewish Studies. While a student, he took opportunities to travel – working at a farm school in India with a sustainable development group, studying independently at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and facilitating a travel seminar focused on Holocaust memorialization throughout the US, Germany, and Poland. As a student he was deeply involved in Jewish life through Allegheny College Hillel. After graduating, Maximus worked as a Legislative Fellow in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, assigned to the Democrats of the Health Committee. He is now back in the world of Jewish student life as a Springboard Social Justice Fellow at Brandeis University Hillel. In his free time, Maximus likes to read histories and mysteries, hike, cook vegetarian food, and relax with his Siamese cat. He can often be found in coffee houses, museums, theaters, and trails around the Boston area.
Miranda Mower (she/her) is a Jewish singer/songwriter and educator from Southern California living in NYC. She studied Vocal Performance, Theatre, and Creativity as Spiritual Practice at New York University. She is very interested in how we can foster intimacy with ourselves, each other, and the divine through creative practices such as art, music, and storytelling. She recently participated in BCI (Brandeis Collegiate Institute) this summer where she experienced living in a beautifully healing, Jewish community based on the shared values of openheartedness, lovingkindness, creativity, learning, transformation, and spirituality. BCI inspired Miranda to seek out and bring together more communities where they can connect to Judaism through authentic creative expression. Some things she enjoys are decorating, singing in jazz clubs, writing poetry, having long and deep conversations, listening to podcasts, and taking the train upstate for a day of exploring nature and charming small-town shops. She is excited to deepen her Jewish learning and cultivate meaningful connection through collaborative study in the Jewish Ideas Fellowship!
Matthew Osterman (he/him) is from Houston, TX and currently works at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, MS. He loves mysticism, mythology, and acquiring as much knowledge as possible. He is looking forward to meeting everyone in the Fellowship and is excited about this opportunity.
Jay Potter (he/him) is from North Providence, RI. He is a father to his foster son, a Jew, a brother, an owner of 2 businesses, a queer man of trans* experience, an advocate, and a storyteller using his story to bring awareness to marginalized communities. Jay converted to Judaism in 2020 after three years of Torah study at his local Temple. Jay was not searching for a faith, but more education, and accidentally tripped into the deep faith he has today.
Samantha Smetanin (she/her) is a 28-year-old Jewish Professional. She works at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Hills, MI in the early childhood center, as the youth group director and as the music teacher for the religious school. She loves working with kids and teens of all ages and especially loves that she gets to do it in the place she grew up. Samantha also has a one-year-old daughter, Anya, and a husband of 2 years, Dmitriy.
Ethan Stone (he/him) is the Youth Director at Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, Colorado. Heavily involved in the Jewish community while growing up in Kansas City and while attending Brandeis University, Ethan now enjoys contributing to Boulder’s Jewish community by fostering a love for Judaism in his community’s youth. In his free time, he loves caring for his dog and many houseplants, road tripping and hiking around Colorado, and slowly getting better at playing guitar.
Leah Trachtenberg (she/they) is the current Jewish Community Advocate at Jewish Family Services in Milwaukee where she connects members of the Jewish community to local resources and provides support to victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and antisemitic hate incidents. They studied Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexualities with minors in Social Justice/Social Policy and History at Brandeis University (Class of ’21). Using her knowledge from her studies, her experience as a sex educator and peer supporter at Brandeis’s Student Sexuality Information Service, and her work at JFS, Leah is currently working on a presentation highlighting the ways sexual education through a Jewish lens can be utilized as a violence prevention tool. She hopes to eventually become a Reform Rabbi. They are excited to meet other current and rising leaders in the Jewish world and continue on her journey of life-long learning in the Jewish Ideas Fellowship
Shawn Aron Weiss (he/him) is an author, husband, and father. He lives in Southern California.
Jacob Glickman (he/they/we) is a singer, dancer, drummer, community builder, and lover of people. After moving through an experience where he questioned his belief in God and connection to Judaism when he was 14, Jacob took an oath to help others connect with personally meaningful aspects of the richness held within the Jewish tradition. Keeping this promise has taken him on a tour through NFTY, URJ Summer Camp, professional synagogue life, and many other vibrant experiences in Jewish spaces. In his free time, he can be found making music around a fire, dancing like nobody’s watching, or taking a quiet moment to himself to process and move through the ever-shifting seasons of life.
Claire Furbush (she/her) is a passionate believer in tikkun olam with a background in diplomacy, policy analysis, advocacy, and public relations. She currently leads the Strategic Accounts Team at Foreign Policy magazine and splits her time between Chapel Hill, NC and Washington, D.C. She spent five years at the British Embassy in a range of political, economic, and trade-focused roles after serving as a fundraiser for several Democratic Senators, with sole responsibility for Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota. She began her career at Citibank and the U.S. Embassies in Panama and London. She was born in Holland and grew up in El Salvador, South Africa, Curacao, and Northern Ireland before moving back to the U.S. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia (with degrees in Comparative Literature and Foreign Affairs) who enjoys hiking, yoga, trail running, reading, art, and exploring this beautiful world.
Rebecca Schwartzberg (she/her) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hofstra University with a degree in Publishing Studies & Literature and minors in Hebrew Language and in Jewish Studies. After graduating, she joined Tulane Hillel’s programming team and became a New Orleans Saints fan. Becca currently lives in Houston, TX where she works as the Youth and Young Adult Engagement Coordinator at Congregation Emanu El. Her background includes more than 10 years of Jewish camping, youth group, and Hillel experience. Born and raised in Denver, Becca never feels more at home than when spending time in the mountains. She is always on the hunt for the next great novel and her next great sushi dinner.
Alex Price (she/her) is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where she received her BA in History and Russian/Eastern European Studies. Since graduating from college, Alex has been working as a social impact consultant in Chicago. Outside of work, Alex is an active member of Chicago’s Jewish community, especially in her neighborhood of Hyde Park, where she strives to build lasting connections between Jewish organizations and individuals across the city. Most recently, she has served as the Program Coordinator for the Chicago Sukkah Design Festival, a weeklong arts and architecture festival during Sukkot. In her free time, Alex can often be found trying to master a new gluten free recipe, practicing Hebrew, or reading a book!
Aaron Lloyd White (he/him) is the Director of Individual Giving for the Forward. He received his BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz and an MA in Environmental Policy from Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies. An Angeleno since 2016, Aaron is working with a number of community organizations to address housing policy, promote diversity in the tech and gaming industries, and is deepening his Jewish practice and studies with the new Der Nister Downtown Synagogue in DTLA. In his spare time, Aaron can be found translating Yiddish prose, writing, or making woodcuts.
Applications for the 2023-2024 cohort of the Jewish Ideas Fellowship will open in June. To get notified when the application is open or nominate a potential JIF fellow, click here.