Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership: Faculty & Staff
Imam Taymullah Abdur-Rahman
Imam Taymullah Abdur-Rahman is a faith leader, educator and activist. He has served as Muslim chaplain for the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Northeastern University and Harvard University over the past two decades. He is a self-proclaimed decarcerationist and host of the podcast, “Exconversations” on the TIDAL streaming network. A frequent contributor to the Boston Globe and Cognoscenti, he believes in practicing fearless interreligious fellowship and exploring the art and science of faith-based leadership along the way. Imam Tay holds a a degree in Islamic studies from Al Baseerah International Institute, a Masters in Global Interreligious Leadership from Andover Newton Theological School and is a candidate for Doctorate of Ministry in Transformational Leadership at Boston University School of Theology. Imam Tay is the founder of SPENTEM, a rapid response crowd activism app available on all digital platforms.
Batya is in her second year of rabbinical school at Hebrew College. She currently teaches with Hebrew College’s Eser: Young Adult Learning program and is training to be certified as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner to use psychobiological approaches to help resolve trauma and stress disorders. Before arriving in Boston, Batya most recently lived in Prescott, Arizona, and worked as Associate Faculty in Integrated Arts/Dance at Prescott College and as a group psychoeducation facilitator for clients recovering from addiction.
Prior to that, Batya grew up in Monterey, CA, and after graduating high school, she moved to Israel, made aliyah, and served in the Israel Defense Forces. Returning to the U.S., she graduated from Prescott College with self-designed majors in Studies in Diversity & Social Sustainability and in Dance & Transformation. Making a decision to become a Somatic Jewish Educator and offer a unique integration of Jewish study, nature-connection, and dance, Batya taught workshops at Limmud Bay Area, Wilderness Torah, co-led a trans-denominational Jewish community in San Francisco, and worked as an educator at a Jewish experiential after school program in Berkeley, CA. She also participated in trainings with Torah Trek Guides and Embodying Spirit, En-spiriting Body.
Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, Josh is in his second to last year of rabbinical school. He graduated from Gettysburg College in 2016 with a BA in Religious Studies and admittance into Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology. He hopes to be able to use the learning and skills he acquires in rabbinical school and in his work with the Miller Center to pursue interreligious literacy among differing faith communities. Ultimately, Josh hopes to help build both within and outside the Jewish community a sense of appreciation for the practices and beliefs of our neighbors. He enjoys sharing moments of Jewish practice with people from other backgrounds who may not have the opportunity to experience them before. Josh is excited to continue his work with the Miller Center and the Boston interfaith community.
Rev. Dr. Soren M. Hessler
Rev. Dr. Soren M. Hessler is instructor of Christian and interreligious studies at Hebrew College and an advisory board member of the Journal of Interreligious Studies. He is an elder in full-connection in the West Ohio Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and served for nine years as a member of the ministry staff of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Currently, Rev. Dr. Hessler is the Coordinator of Assessment for the Faculty of Theology at Huron University College in London, Ontario. He previously served as Director of Graduate Academic Services at Drew University and as Associate Director of the Miller Center from its inception in 2016 through September 2018. He co-edited Words to Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (Orbis, 2018). Rev. Dr. Hessler teaches the Introduction to Christianity course in the Rabbinical School curriculum. He holds master’s degrees in church administration, divinity, and higher education administration as well as a PhD in practical theology from Boston University and his research emerges among the intersections of theological education administration, interreligious studies, and Methodist studies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelton Oakley Hersey
Shelton Oakley Hersey, has sought out, participated and facilitated spaces for reconciliation over the past decade. Her Bachelor degrees are from Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) in Religious Studies and Sociology. From Los Angeles and Fuller Theological Seminary, where she obtained a Masters in Intercultural Studies and Urban/International Development, to Mexico and South Africa, she has worked cross-culturally in bridge-building, development of communities and leaders, and spiritual formation, confirming her deepest passion: seeing lives and communities whole and living out their God-given potential. As the Interfaith Youth Initiative Program Director (a program of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries), she brought together emerging youth leaders of Greater Boston across difference, understanding the significant role in unlearning and relearning that which divides and unites us. With her husband Scott, she enjoys living life in Jamaica Plain and loves being outdoors, sharing a slow meal with community, expressing herself through visual art and reading a really great book.
Rev. Tom Reid
Tom Reid is the Associate Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning and Leadership at Hebrew College. Tom is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and serves as pastor of Newton Presbyterian Church in Newton Corner. He holds a Master of Divinity (MDiv) magna cum laude from Boston University School of Theology where his studies included a focus on religion and conflict transformation and interreligious engagement. Prior to returning to higher education, Tom spent over ten years working in a variety of fields: clean energy in Boston, environmental and green building consulting in Boston and Dubai, and business education in Madrid, Spain. Originally from Kansas, Tom holds a BA with honors from the University of Kansas in Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish and an MA in European Politics, Policy, and Society granted jointly by the Euromasters consortium of European universities and funded by a Fulbright grant.
Rabbi Or Rose
Rabbi Or Rose is the founding Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College. Before assuming this position in 2016, he worked in various administrative and teaching capacities at Hebrew College for over a decade, including serving as a founding faculty member and Associate Dean of the Rabbinical School. Rabbi Rose was also one of the creators of CIRCLE, The Center for Interreligious & Community Leadership Education, cosponsored by Hebrew College and Andover Newton Theological School (2007-2017). In addition to his work at Hebrew College, Rose has taught for the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, The Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Me’ah, and in a variety of other academic, religious, and civic contexts throughout North America and in Israel. Rose is the co-editor of Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from Around the Maggid’s Table (Jewish Lights), and the award-winning anthology, My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (Orbis). His most recent publication is the anthology Words To Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (Orbis 2018). In 2009-2010, he was selected as a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s inaugural North American Scholar’s Circle. In 2014, Northeastern University honored him for his interreligious educational efforts.
Marilyn Stern joined the Miller Center for Learning and Leadership in Fall 2017 as the Community Engagement Administrator. In addition to her work keeping the Miller Center “moving” and “in touch” she also is associate director of Me’ah, Hebrew College’s adult learning initiative.
Prior to her work at Hebrew College, Ms. Stern spent twenty years as a Jewish educational professional, directing family, youth, and adult programs at Temple Isaiah in Lexington and Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge. In her congregational work, Ms. Stern worked closely with parents from a variety of faith traditions, who were raising Jewish children, to help them find their place in the Jewish community.
Ms. Stern, grew up in the Los Angeles area, where she graduated with her B.A. in History from UCLA. She has lived in the Boston area for over 30 years and lives in Brookline with her husband, David. Ms. Stern received Certificate in Family Education at Hebrew College in 1995 and her M.A. Degree in Jewish Education at Hebrew College in 1996.
Dr. Axel Marc Oaks Takács
Axel is an assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Seton Hall University and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Interreligious Studies. He completed his doctorate at Harvard Divinity School in comparative (interreligious) theology, Islamic Studies, and Catholic theology in 2019. As a constructive theologian, his scholarship aims to read pre-modern sources as resources to contemporary questions. His dissertation and current research focuses on poetry, poetics, the imagination, and social imaginary as ways to understand the Christian theology of the Incarnation and the Islamic theology of the imagination. His tangential academic interest attends to how the ideology of capitalism functions as a modern religion that effectively restricts our collective imagination of alternative ways to relate with each other. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with his spouse (Kim), their child (Emery), and two rescue poodles (Donovan and Ducky).
Anine de Grood
Anine is an M.Div. student at Boston University School of Theology who is working with us this year as a contextual education student. Originally from the Netherlands, she has been living in the US for many years now with her Indian husband and two children. In addition to her Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology, she studied Bharata Natyam (a classical dance tradition from South India) and teaches dance and piano in her spare time. Over the years she has been involved in several interfaith organizations, including leading her own interfaith book discussion group. She finds God in multiple places of worship, joined a Torah study group, and is a cantor at a Congregational church.
Grace Harrington joined the Miller Center in Fall 2021 as the administrative assistant. Her role is key to keeping the many Miller Center initiatives on track and well organized. Grace is in her first year at Boston University School of Theology, working toward her Master’s degree in Theological Studies. Her scholarship is dedicated to Interreligious Studies and the intersection of politics and religion. Prior to moving to Boston, she grew up and lived in Miami, Florida, attending the University of Miami. Grace graduated from UM in the spring of 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Religious Studies.
John Lazur (they/them) grew up in a Unitarian Universalist Humanist congregation in Minneapolis, MN. They are currently a student at Tufts University studying anthropology, and they are working on a project examining the history of Universalism at Tufts and its relationship to the vision of religious pluralism on campus. John seeks to facilitate and live within open spaces that invite personal storytelling as a form of community building. They were a BILI Fellow in 2019-2020. Through the Miller Center and cohort-based programs like BILI, they look forward to forging ever-widening circles of interfaith community with peers and mentors.
Simran Singh is a senior at Boston University studying Middle Eastern and South Asian languages and literature, along with psychology. She was a BILI fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year and now serves as one of the alumni liaisons for the program. Simran is very excited for the work that lies ahead!
We are pleased to welcome Joshua Polanski to the Miller Center team! Josh is in the final year of his MTS program at the BU School of Theology. Among his areas of academic interest are medieval Christianity and contemporary Islam. Josh brings expertise in digital communications to his interreligious work. In his free time, he has been learning Turkish.