News Highlights Hebrew College Welcomes New Rabbinical School Students
From former professionally trained chefs to rabbinical school transfers to professional actors, the incoming class of 2023-2024 rabbinical students come from many walks of life to train and prepare for ordination at Hebrew College. These future rabbis intend to serve the Jewish community with rich and diverse understandings of the rabbinate. Some of them may end up serving as army chaplains, others will be pulpit rabbis—but they will all leave a profound and indelible impact on the Jewish communities they will serve as rabbis.
The new students, who started orientation on Monday, August 28, will enter the Shanah Aleph and Shanah Bet classes. Unusually, there is no Mekorot (preparatory) class this year since all our new students come to the Rabbinical School with prior Hebrew language and text study experience. In the past (and in future years) new students with less background begin their rabbinic studies in their Mekerot year.
“It is always exciting and humbling to welcome a new group of future rabbis and cantors into our program and community. We have just started to get to know this new group but individually and collectively it is clear they are a sweet, talented, creative, and wonderfully diverse group,” said Rabbi Daniel Klein, the dean of students. “We are honored that they have put their trust in us to guide and prepare them for the work as clergy and look forward to all they will bring to our community and the Jewish world.”
We are very excited to introduce you to the newest members of the Hebrew College community—and we ask that you join us in welcoming 14 future Hebrew College rabbis.
We are also enormously proud to be welcoming 11 new certificate and degree students in Jewish education this fall, and we look forward to sharing their profiles in an upcoming issue of Koleinu.
The incoming ordination students include:
Rachel Bloch (they/she)
Hello! I’ve just moved from Berkeley, CA, where I lived for the past nine years, worked as an information architect, and was immersed in Bay Area Jewish life. I was born and raised in NYC and lay claim to 80% of the boroughs (sorry, Staten Island!) While I majored in Mathematics at the University of Chicago, it was there that I fell in love with Torah and Orthodox practice. I went on to study at Drisha and informally in chevruta. I’m no longer part of the Orthodox community, but I maintain strong ties. I’ve also lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, where I raised my two kids and got a master’s in library science; and in the outskirts of Haifa, where I taught high school math. My youngest child is entering college, and I can’t quite believe I’m entering the empty nest phase. Music has been a lifelong passion and I loved being a college radio DJ; I love punk and post-punk of the 70’s and 80’s and a whole bunch of other stuff. I read a lot, mostly fiction, memoirs, and comics; I love dogs and swimming. Studying with Svara brought me back to Jewish life after a hiatus. As a patrilineal Jew, Orthodox convert, divorcee, and non-binary person with chronic illness, I am particularly interested in halacha in a pluralistic context and issues of Jewish status.
Max Davis (he/him)
I am a Chicago native and transfer student from JTS. This past school year I was on leave in Chicago, where I taught at my alma mater Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School and organized around issues of housing justice with Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. This summer I attended Never Again’s Migrant Solidarity Assembly in Austin, TX, and directed an inclusion program at a Jewish day camp. This year I am living in Somerville. I am returning to Hillel as the Conservative High Holiday Service Leader at Vanderbilt University and as a Springboard Mentor. In my free time, I rock climb, bike, practice yoga, and eat gluten-free snacks.
Alex Dillon (they/them/theirs)
Alex is thrilled to be joining Hebrew College’s Beit Midrash in Shana Aleph of the rabbinical program! Alex has lived in New York, NY; Berkeley, CA; Chicago, IL; Edinburgh, UK; and their hometown of Stratford, CT; worked at the Shalom Hartman Institute; learned Torah at Azara, Queer Yeshiva, Yeshivat Hadar, and SVARA; and learned other stuff (English literature, mostly) at the University of Edinburgh. They are a proud member of Cohort 5 of the SVARA Teaching Kollel and look forward to teaching queer & radical Talmud for the rest of their days.
David Kaplinsky (he/him)
David has had a strange, wild, and beautiful rabbinical school ride that has ultimately led him to Hebrew College after spending three years at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies! At Ziegler, he learned many useful and difficult rabbi-texty things, but he also made his first album of Jewish music with classmate Brianah Caplan, entitled “Az B’kol” (available on all streaming platforms). David is excited and a bit nervous to enter Shanah Dalet at a new school in a new city, but hopeful it will be the best way to end rabbinical school on a positive, communal, and heartfelt note. Before rabbinical school, he had a career as an actor in Chicago, performing plays, musicals, and a guest-starring role in NBC’s Chicago Justice. When he wasn’t acting, David was the conference co-chair of Limmud Chicago, a committee member of Windy City Minyan, and a b’nei mitzvah tutor across Chicago. He is proud to have been born and raised in the greatest city on Earth—New Orleans, LA.
Rafi Katz (he/him)
Rafi was born in Israel and grew up in Newton. So, he is excited to be back in Newton learning Torah and working towards the goal of serving the Jewish community. Rafi’s goals at Hebrew College are to deepen his spiritual connection while gaining a breadth of knowledge and skills to best serve the spiritual needs of individuals and communities through rabbinic leadership. After completing his undergraduate studies at Binghamton University, Rafi lived in Israel for a few years, where he was a yeshiva dorm manager. He was also trained as a chef, receiving his culinary arts certification in Israel from the Tadmor School. As a chef, Rafi has worked in hotels, restaurants, and catering companies. Throughout Rafi’s varied career and experiences, there has always been a throughline: helping others, service, and bringing happiness into people’s lives. He has a calm caring demeanor; always willing to lend a helping hand along with an attentive ear. Rafi and his supportive wife live in Cambridge with their baby daughter.
Jonah Gelfand (he/him)
Jonah grew up in Westchester, NY and went to Oberlin College where he studied religion. He focused on Hindu traditions and eventually was exposed to Hasidism. After college (and during COVID) he did an MA in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where he studied Hasidism and neo-Hasidism while living in a Moishe House. He then spent the summer at Yeshivat Hadar and the year at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He loves reading and writing, and he helped start Gashmius Magazine, an online publication for progressive neo-Hasidism. Jonah’s main interest is finding the intersection between Hasidic spirituality and the progressive Jewish left. He loves music, comedy, hiking, gardening, and cooking. At his core, Jonah is an angsty teenager who grew up playing in pop punk bands and quotes from his favorite bands like Torah.
Yitzi Gittelsohn (he/him/his)
Yitzi is from Burlington, Vermont, where he grew up playing music, basketball, and being in nature. After graduating from Goucher College in Peace Studies, he found his way back into Jewish community through programs such as Adamah Jewish Farming Fellowship, Romemu Yeshiva, Achvat Amim Social Justice Fellowship, and most recently, the Pardes Year Program. In between those good times, Yitzi spent some time farming, starting a garden, and working at his hometown public library organizing community programs. He loves writing folk and Jewish songs, leading prayer/meditation/music circles, and having great discussions about life, and is excited to grow a lot in the Hebrew College community!
Aviva Herr-Welber (she/her)
Aviva Herr-Welber is excited to join Hebrew College in Shanah Bet this year! She is transitioning to our community after five years as an organizer with the Essex County Community Organization, where she trained community leaders to work together for racial justice across race, class, and faith. Originally from Northern CA, Aviva moved to the Boston area in 2013 to study Arabic, Middle Eastern Studies, and Education at Tufts University. She lives in Jamaica Plain where she is the chair of the Spirituality & Ritual team at Kavod Boston. She is also a proud member of Nehar Shalom and of TBZ Brookline, and she enjoys the juggling act of holding as many shul memberships as possible at all times! Aviva is an alumna of JOIN for Justice’s community organizing fellowship and Hadar’s Summer Yeshiva, and previously worked with JVS Boston and Resetting the Table. She is very excited to intern this coming year at Mayyim Hayyim. Aviva is always ready for a nerd-out about high holiday nusach, a complicated baking project, or a linoleum block printing session. After 10 years in Boston, she is still adjusting to the idea that snow is not just something that you can visit and return home from later, but she relishes cross-country skiing right after it snows, and she would love for you to join her!
Adira Rosen (she/her)
Adira Rosen is a Jewish theatre artist who loves to make Jewish spaces more theatrical and theatrical spaces more Jewish. She was born and raised in San Diego, CA but has found homes in Pittsburgh, Tel Aviv, New York City, Jerusalem, and now Somerville. Adira has loved theatre since she was a kid and went on to study drama at Carnegie Mellon University, where she earned her BFA in directing for live performance. She became rabbi curious as a participant at the Brandeis Collegiate Institute in 2021 and followed that curiosity all the way to Pardes in Jerusalem. In May, Adira completed a year of study in the Pardes Experiential Educators Program, where she began developing a community-generated documentary theatre piece called The Shabbat Project. In her free time, Adira loves to take dance classes, see theatre, and passively learn to play the banjo. No matter the location or time of day, Adira can be found wearing sunglasses on her head, which a friend once lovingly called her California kippah.
Rivka Nechemya Thrope (any)
My name is Rivka Nechemya mibeit Baruch Moshe v’Simcha Ana. Over the past five years, these names have repeatedly unlocked new meanings to me. First, that Baruch—blessings, tefillot—brought me into Jewish explorations, and then that overwhelming joy—Simcha—keeps me questioning. In the words of countless midrashim, names and their meanings continue to reveal themselves over and over again to ourselves. I continue to wonder how I will introduce myself to you all as we move through this journey together. It’s nice to meet you all, and I am excited to greet all of you with a big Shalom Aleichem, and to hear back from you a long-awaited Aleichem Shalom!
Emma Mair (she/her)
Emma is an incoming Shanah Aleph student who has been waiting to join the Hebrew College community since she memorized the whole website at age twelve as a coping mechanism for having completed her Bat Mitzvah studies… Emma grew up north of Boston on Naumkeag and Agawam land. She is proudly from an Interfaith and Canadian-American family and believes that the pluralism in her own family’s experiences is what inspired her to seek a pluralistic Jewish community to learn with. She attended Mount Holyoke College where she studied religion and psychology & education while also exploring a number of different Jewish communities and deepening her connection to Jewish ritual and spirituality. Emma has studied at Hadar, Svara, and Pardes, as well as with a number of incredible mentors. She’s worked in many roles including line cook, dance instructor, rabbinic intern, Hillel Wellbeing team member, and her most cherished role—B-Mitzvah tutor.
In her spare time, Emma enjoys cooking and baking, taking her dog Luna for walks on beautiful trails (feel free to ask for dog pics), watching “Survivor” with her partner Kelly, chasing sunsets, feeling awestruck by starry skies, and being on the water (usually in a canoe and never on a jet ski). She is so looking forward to meeting you all, hearing your stories, and learning from/with you. If you see her crying (which you surely will), don’t worry—it’s almost always a good thing.
Yael Marans (she/her)
I’m coming to Hebrew College after a year doing the Dorot Fellowship in Jerusalem, during which I focused on studying Torah. Before Dorot, I worked at a non-profit in East Harlem on the finance team. Then before that, I was finishing college at Princeton where I studied English and minored in Arabic. I love reading, hanging out with my friends, and watching tv. I’m so excited to learn from you all, probably in all kinds of ways I can’t anticipate.
Harrison Rosengard (he/him)
Born in Massachusetts, raised in Massachusetts, and sent to college in Massachusetts (Brandeis) I am happy to be back in the Boston area after living in Israel for a year while at the Conservative Yeshiva. I found my Jewish calling fairly recently thanks to some well-placed Hebrew College rabbinic interns at Brandeis, and after I found out that Jewish learning could be fun, I let the rabbinate save me from having to go to med school and never looked back. From there it was as simple as spending four years developing a Jewish identity before going to Israel for a year to learn and fall in love. When not at school I have a wide range of interests from guitar to skating to learning about the history of Sweden. And while it is not yet finalized, I am set to join the US Army Reserves as a chaplain candidate shortly before starting classes this Fall.