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News Highlights Hebrew College Welcomes New Ordination Students 

By Hebrew College

Hebrew College’s new rabbinical and cantorial students include former teachers, musicians, start-up founders and managers, and divinity students, as well as a Jewish day school dean and a professor of anthropology. The new students, who started orientation on Sunday, August 22, will enter the Mekorot (preparatory), Shanah Aleph, and Shanah Bet classes.  

“I’m incredibly excited about the incoming class this year. We have a rich diversity of students who have joined us,” said Rabbi Dan Judson, Dean of Graduate Leadership Programs at Hebrew College. “We have an array of people who will deeply enrich the Hebrew College community and ultimately enrich the rabbinate and the cantorate.”  

Students say they are excited to come to Hebrew College because of the faculty, their fellow students, and the culture of the beit midrash, and that they are looking forward to learning and creating, to exploring texts and traditions, and to deepening their practice as they prepare to become Jewish leaders.   

“I chose Hebrew College because of the institution’s willingness to engage all questions about what it means to live as a Jew at this moment,” said Deborah Anstandig, a former Dean of Instruction at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City, who is entering the Shanah Bet class. “I’m excited about the faculty, the colleagues, and the ability to return to a beit midrash filled with profound respect for tradition, openness to innovation, and the desire to emerge as a confident and compassionate leader.” 

“When I was discerning which rabbinical school I wanted to attend, a teacher of mine suggested that I go where I think they are asking the type of questions I want to be asking,” added Emily Rogal, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and will join the Mekorot class. “I chose to come to Hebrew College because I trust that the faculty and students are wrestling with the type of questions that we need to be asking ourselves as twenty-first century leaders, thinkers, and healers . . . . I am committed to Hebrew College’s commitment to a lived Jewish praxis which seeks to marry a deep engagement with the beit midrash as well as the world around us.” 

Hebrew College also welcomes graduate students in the Master of Jewish Education program at Hebrew College and the joint Hebrew College-Pardes Institute Master of Jewish Education/ Certificate in Jewish Day School Education, as well as hundreds of students in its Adult Learning and Teen Learning programs. The new ordination students creates a student body of 80 future rabbis and cantors. 

Incoming ordination students include:  

Deborah Anstandig, Shanah Bet 

Deborah AnstandigDeborah Anstandig taught Judaic Studies and served as the Dean of Instruction at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York City. Deborah is passionate about promoting meaningful student and teacher learning and curricular design. Deborah studied English and Music at Yeshiva University, and holds two Master’s degrees, one in Jewish Education from Hebrew College, Graduate Jewish Education (in 2009), and the other in Learning and Teaching from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Deborah mentors teachers at Heschel, and has coached educators and designed curricula for a variety of institutions including Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Ayeka, The Institute of Play, and Yeshiva Maharat. Before teaching at Heschel, Deborah was a member of the Tanakh faculty at SAR High School. When not at school, Deborah loves to bike, swim (try to) nurture plants, learn Torah, and converse in Hebrew. Pre-pandemic, Deborah was an active leiner, Tefilah leader, and gabbai at her synagogue, Darkhei Noam. Deborah attributes her love of school to the chalkboard and stuffed animals from her childhood playroom.  

Morgan Figa, Mekorot 

Morgan FigaMorgan is excited to begin her first year of studies at Hebrew College this fall. Originally from Iowa, she has spent the last seven years in Washington, D.C. When not at work, she can often be found at the New Synagogue Project and GatherDC, “nerding out about Jewish texts.” A former elementary school teacher, she is a proud alum of William and Mary, and misses getting to walk around Colonial Williamsburg in her free time. She also has a master’s degree in Language and Literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In her free time, she enjoys reading non-fiction, watching the Premier League, and the occasional hiking trip. She is excited to start Hebrew College this fall to “continue to grow and learn from text, explore ritual, and deepen my practice and relationship with Judaism.”  

Sara Klugman, Shanah Aleph 

Sara KlugmanSara (she/her) is excited to be joining the community, in study and exploration, as a member of shanah aleph. Raised in rural Western Massachusetts, Sara has made homes in Brooklyn, Jerusalem, and New York City. Sara has a Bachelors degree in religious studies from Carleton College, with a focus on dance and performance studies, a Masters in Arts in Education from Harvard Graduate School in Education. She has worked at the nexus of arts education, and liberatory work for the past 10 years—in New York, Boston and Jerusalem—and understands religious and spiritual work as necessary pathways to individual and collective transformation. Sara loves to dance, write, cook big meals, fold laundry, walk, sing and lay on the ground. She is excited to grow, learn, collaborate and create at Hebrew College.   

David Mahfouda

David Mahfouda, Mekorot 

Before attending Hebrew College, David worked as an artist, entrepreneur, and community organizer. He was the cofounder and CEO of an early social transportation company called Bandwagon, which organized shared rides taxi from major New York City airports and conference centers; co-founder of the Fixers Collective, a weekly meeting where community members gather to fix broken objects in their lives; and co-founder of ‘432’, a living community and event space in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He writes, “I want deeply to live well and I think that this involves keeping hashem in frame when possible. I chose to attend Hebrew College because I believe that the students here have a similar sensibility about religious life and the ways in which it can support living with deep presence, awe, and kindness. I’m really looking forward to meeting and supporting and learning about and with everyone this year and in the years to come.”

Rayden Marcum, Mekorot 

Rayden MarcumRayden Marcum (he/they) grew up in a lay-led congregation in Northern California, where he started leading services at age five. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 2017 with a BA in Critical Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and has a passion for community outreach and education about trans and queer issues. He conducted advocacy work during high school and college and then spent nearly three years traveling and living abroad to learn more about the world and cultivate a sense of the world that decentralizes his own experiences. In his travels, he dedicated himself to learning Spanish (mostly in Ecuador) and Hebrew (nearly a year in Israel). In his down time and more settled moments, he loves learning new crafts, snuggling time with his birds, baking, rock climbing and spending time outdoors both in his garden and exploring wild spaces. He enjoys living spontaneously and uses his love of photography to help him slow down and “notice the small things.” He is eager to begin my formal training to become a better community resource and leader. 

Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth, Mekorot 

Sivan Piatigorsky-RothSivan (they/he) was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he studied art and English literature. He spent the past year working as a preschool teacher for a Jewish school and as a cartoonist. He also loves reading, drawing, comics, cooking, canoeing, and watching reality TV. Sivan writes, “I love Judaism that is thoughtful, traditional, and prioritizes joy and love above all else!”  

Meredith Reiches, Mekorot 

Meredith ReichesMeredith is a professor of anthropology at University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches about human evolution, adolescent growth and development, and why we need feminist, anti-racist, and queer approaches to human biology. She is originally from the Midwest and lives in Newton, with a majestic cat and a sourdough starter named Bertha (for a maternal great-grandmother, long-lived and fertile). She is “extremely excited to transform [her relationship with Judaism] into one of learned, engaged complexity in the rabbinic ordination program.” 

Emily Rogal, Mekorot 

Emily RogalEmily Rogal is a former midwestern emo kid turned aspiring rabbi. She graduated from The New School in 2017 with a degree in Religious Studies, where she focused on the mikveh as a site of contemporary feminist ritual intervention and care, before pursuing a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. She is a trained birth and postpartum doula, mikveh guide, and a Jewish educator, invested in cultivating Jewish spaces which center reflection, resilience, joy, justice, and just the right amount of angst. Most recently, she has spent time working for Fat Torah (an organization centered on fat and body liberation in the Jewish community), USY (the USCJ’s youth group), and Harvard Hillel. She spends the majority of her free time drinking oat milk lattes, hunting down weird midrashim (which is basically rabbi fanfiction in her book), reading and writing fantasy, and finding her perpetually lost water bottle.  

Julia Sabra, Mekorot 

Julia SabraJulia is thrilled to be starting the Mekorot year at Hebrew College as a Cantorial student. As a classically trained musician from South Florida, Julia did not have a traditional path to the cantorate. In 2019, she graduated from the University of Florida (go Gators!), and then worked as a music specialist in a pediatric clinic, with plans to pursue an M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology. Through college, Julia remained heavily involved in Hillel as student president, a board member, Birthright staff, and “Spiritual Experience Coordinator” intern. She has worked as song leader and cantorial soloist, traveling to unite communities internationally, focusing on empowering teens in BBYO. She brings ruach to Shabbat, High Holidays, and life-cycle events, merging modern concepts and mindfulness with traditional practices to engage and activate people of all ages. She is passionate about education, spirituality, serving her community, and using music as a tool to inspire and amplify the voices of those around her. Eventually, her involvement and ties to the Jewish community pulled her towards the Cantorate. Julia cannot wait to continue to further her Jewish knowledge and involvement, shape her own practice, and root herself in a community that is supportive, vibrant, passionate, and welcoming. In her free time, Julia enjoys writing her own music, cooking, playing board games, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with her dog, Ralphie. 

Claire Spaulding, Mekorot 

Claire SpauldingClaire Spaulding (they/them) is beyond excited to join the Hebrew College community in Mekorot this year. They grew up in Arlington, VA and studied sociology at Columbia University in New York, where they nurtured a fondness for musical theater and public transportation, and served as the president of the Reform Jewish student community. After joining an interfaith climate justice book club during their first year of college, Claire became interested in mobilizing religious communities to address the climate crisis, and they currently volunteer with the Temple Rodef Shalom Dayenu Climate Action Circle back home in Northern Virginia. For the past two years, they have enjoyed teaching, mentoring, and learning from college students as the Springboard Innovation Fellow at the Princeton Center for Jewish Life. Claire’s time spent studying at SVARA and Hadar sparked their love of Talmud. As a rabbinical student, they are looking forward to wrestling with questions of humanist theology, exploring their relationship with halakha, and “nerding out” about Hebrew grammar. In their free time, Claire loves to read and write speculative fiction, dance Argentine tango, sing with friends, and go for long Shabbat walks. 

Jaz Twersky, Mekorot 

Jaz TwerskyJaz Twersky is an incoming Mekorot student. For the last couple of years, they’ve been teaching Jewish holidays and life cycle rituals to delightful eight-year-old students in Brooklyn and cohosting a weekly parsha podcast called Kosher Queers on the side. Before that, they got a BA in linguistics at UC San Diego. They’ve moved around a fair bit, but are excited to get to know Boston! In their free time, Jaz enjoys Talmud study, knitting, prison abolitionist organizing, watching reality TV about artistic competitions, and drinking lots of tea. Jaz isn’t a lesbian, but their girlfriend and mothers all are. 

Carrie Watkins, Shanah Bet

Carrie WatkinsCarrie Watkins is excited to start Hebrew College in Jerusalem this Fall. Her laundry list of educational institutions looks something like this: Pardes (2 non-consecutive years), Hadar (this past summer), Romemu Yeshiva (two mind-altering summers), MIT (Master’s degree in City Planning), Brandeis (undergrad). Professionally, she spent several years in Boston managing a large team in a fast growing solar start-up. She has since slowed down and currently works part time with Or HaLev Jewish Spirituality and Meditation. Carrie will be arriving in Israel after serving as Hazzanit for a shul in Toronto called Makom. Carrie delights in wild adventures. In another life, she would probably be one of those people who lives in a van and surfs and/or climbs all day.   

Talia Young, Shanah Aleph  

Talia YoungTalia Young can’t wait to begin learning in Shanah Aleph next fall. She is headed to Boston with homes in the Bay Area, the Twin Cities, and Falls Village, CT. As a Teva Educator at Isabella Freedman, Talia fell in love with earth-based Judaism and building community through immersive experience. She continues this work, currently as Program Director at Eden Village West, a Jewish organic farm camp in Sonoma, CA. From her work facilitating brave spaces to the communal home she shares with twenty people, she’s committed to radical interdependence. She loves spontaneous kitchen conversations and learning from the wisdom of plants. 


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