Boston Bridges Fellowship

A Fellowship for Religious & Communal Leaders

As an imam, I do not often find spaces in which I can open up with peers about the questions, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams that I hold at any given time. Being in community with the other Bridges fellows has allowed me to enter such a sacred space. Each person brings their own life experiences to the table, which has helped me reflect more deeply on my own work and religious journey. I’m hoping to stay connected to the members of my cohort and to the program in the future.

– Imam Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, Program Associate, New England, Facing History & Ourselves


Hebrew College & Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries


We live in an age of unprecedented interaction among people with different religious identities and communal affiliations. In order to foster a healthy democratic society and enrich our religious communities, we need leaders that can help their constituents engage this diversity in constructive and meaningful ways.


Hebrew College is excited to present the Boston Bridges Fellowship Program for emerging religious and communal leaders. The purpose of the initiative is to provide outstanding individuals the opportunity to develop sustained relationships with peers from different religious and cultural contexts and to refine and deepen their leadership skills for service in a diverse society. 12 Fellowships will be awarded annually.

Program Structure

The Boston Bridges program will consist of 9 in-person meetings (once monthly from September to May) on the Hebrew College campus in Newton, MA. Each meeting will include an informal dinner (30-45 minutes), a leadership development presentation (45-60 minutes), and group discussion (45-60 minutes). Sessions will be led by Hebrew College faculty and staff, as well as outstanding religious, cultural, and civic leaders from the Greater Boston area. Fellows will also be invited to introduce each other to their respective religious communities in creative ways.


This fellowship program is open to leaders with up to approximately five years of professional or significant volunteer experience in houses of worship, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and health care facilities in the Greater Boston area (or from elsewhere in New England with permission from the program coordinator).

Participant Expectations

Each participant will actively engage in at least eight of the nine in-person sessions. The group meetings will require 30-45 minutes of reading or other preparation. All fellows will be expected to write two short reflective essays on their experiences in the program or on a related topic.

Anticipated Meeting Dates

Thursdays, 6-9pm: September 13, 2018; October 11, 2018; November 15, 2018; December 13, 2018; January 24, 2019; February 21, 2019; March 14, 2019; April 11, 2019; May 9, 2019.

Fellowship Stipends

Each participant will receive a $500 stipend paid in two equal disbursements, January 2019 and June 2018. Final stipend disbursements will be contingent upon participation in a minimum of eight cohort gatherings, submission of two reflective essays no later than May 31, 2019, and a brief exit interview and written evaluation with the Boston Bridges coordinator to be completed by May 31, 2019.

How to Apply

Application deadline: Contact Tom Reid, Miller Center Assistant Director:

Meet Former Fellows

2018-2019 Boston Bridges Recipients

Zachary Cole is the Program Manager for the Tufts University Chaplaincy, a dynamic hub supporting religious, spiritual, ethical, and cultural life for all members of the Tufts community. He is charged with coordinating and implementing high-level programming and outreach efforts to connect and integrate the University Chaplaincy with all segments of the university and external partners. He also serves as the Co-Chair for the Spirituality and Religion in Higher Education Knowledge Community for the NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education professional organization.

Prior to joining Tufts, Zachary spent a year as the Values in Action Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he organized monthly interfaith community service programs in partnership with local religious and philosophical communities. Since December 2015, he has served as a consultant and event planner for the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College to plan an annual interfaith meal-packing event. Zachary holds a BA in Religious Studies and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a MA degree in Higher Education from Boston College. He is a proud North Carolina Tar Heel (Go Heels!) and loves basketball and his two cats, Cassidy and Henry.

Rabbi David Finkelstein has been the rabbi and spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel in Waltham, MA since 2014.  His current rabbinic work maximizes musical and textual engagement in prayer, teaching and facilitating study groups, and the use of storytelling.  Rabbi David holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison (minor in piano performance), a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Newton, and chaplaincy training at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Among Rabbi David’s interfaith activities are regular participation in the Waltham Ministerial Alliance, a multifaceted partnership with Waltham’s First Lutheran Church, weekly participation in an informal interfaith gathering called Two Priests and a Rabbi (2-3pm every Wednesday at Waltham’s Cafe on the Common–all are welcome), membership in Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and a budding friendship with the Waltham Islamic Society.

Sara Gardner is the Associate Director of Young Adult Programs at Hebrew College. Before joining the college’s Adult Learning team, Sara conducted research on the culinary heritage and cultural identity of Sephardic Jews in Madrid as a Fulbright Scholar. Sara is also the creator and head blogger of Boka Dulse (, a food blog dedicated to Jewish food history, and regularly contributes to The Nosher, a Jewish food publication sponsored by An avid cook and food historian, Sara also teaches cooking classes – some of her past teaching engagements include the Reform Jewish Community of Madrid and The Gefilteria. She is also the editor of the recently-published cookbook, The Rosh Hashanah Seder Cookbook: Stories and Recipes from the Reform Jewish Community of Madrid, currently available on Amazon. In 2016, Sara graduated with a BA in International Literary & Visual Studies and Spanish from Tufts University. Sara also worked as a Fellow for Innovative Community Building for Tufts, employing her passion for creating vibrant and engaged Jewish communities.

Philip Halikias is a Coordinator for online learning and continuing education at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where he helps creating and overseeing content for the online Masters, as well as clergy and lay leader education. Philip is working on a Doctorate of Ministries in Transformative Leadership at Boston University, and is awaiting ordination to the diaconate, in the Greek Orthodox Church. Philip has been involved in Interreligious and Ecumenical activities, and is passionate about authentic engagement with the religious other. Philip is originally from New York, and has lived in Boston for four years. He is married to his wife, Christine, and they have a daughter, Maria.

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 brings 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.

Tom Reid is the Assistant Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning and Leadership at Hebrew Colllege. He is also in the final year of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program at Boston University School of Theology. His studies include a focus on religion and conflict transformation and interreligious engagement. In conjunction with his studies, Tom is an inquirer seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 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.

Joe Viola is a second year M.Div. student at Boston University School of Theology. Joe is from New Haven, CT and attended college at Clark University in Worcester, MA. At Clark he co-founded an interfaith group and served on the board of directors of Greater Worcester Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministries. During his first year at BU, Joe served as the Recruitment Coordinator for the Interfaith Youth Initiative (IFYI). He is currently interning at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, where he will work on interfaith programming across the university. He is hoping to pursue university chaplaincy. Joe is interested in the intersections of faith and social justice, interfaith dialogue, and youth/young adult spiritual development. He currently lives in Boston, and in his free time enjoys seeing live music, reading, and spending time outdoors.

Yan Wang is a third year MDiv student at Boston University School of Theology. In 2014, he came to the US to be a researcher at the Elie Wiesel Center of Jewish Studies, Boston University. In the same year, he was baptized into Christ in Grand Rapids, Michigan and became a member of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). After settling in Boston, he joined the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and transferred his membership to the First United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge. He is now under the care of Boston Presbytery in the ordination process to be a Presbyterian minister.

Before coming to the US, Yan Wang was a professor of Judaic Studies at Shandong University, China. He did his master and PhD at the same university. In 2009, he was granted a faculty position upon his graduation from his doctoral studies. Since then he taught at the Department of Religious Studies till 2014 when he left China. Yan Wang lives in Quincy, MA, with his wife and their daughter.

Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota) has worked for the past two decades with tribal community programs, including on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas, where she has served her tribal government as an environmental outreach coordinator and grant writer. Currently she is project director for Mukayuhsak Weekuw: The Children’s House, and Language Department Director for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, where she has worked since 2012. From 2008 to 2012 Weston managed the Endangered Languages Program for Cultural Survival in Cambridge, MA, and served as assistant producer for the film WE STILL LIVE HERE: Âs Nutayuneân. Weston previously worked as an associate/web producer for the PBS documentary series WE SHALL REMAIN, and as a correspondent for Lakota Nation Journal. As both a student and staffer at Brown University, she developed Native studies curricula and community programs to support student retention. Weston trained as a journalist with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters in Providence, RI, the founding editor of Indian Country Today, and through a PBS-funded research and production apprenticeship at WGBH-Boston.

2017-2018 Boston Bridges Recipients

Imam Taymullah Abdur-Rahman has been a thought-leader, family counselor and educator for over a decade. He received a degree in Islamic Studies from Al-Baseerah Institute in Saudi Arabia in 2006 and is pursuing an MA in Global Inter-religious Leadership from Andover Newton Theological School. After a seven-year career as a chaplain in the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Imam Taymullah served as Spiritual Advisor for Northeastern University and Islamic Studies teacher at the Islamic Academy for Peace. He went on to become the first paid Muslim chaplain at Harvard University, where he also taught a graduate course on Islamic Polity at Harvard Divinity School. Currently, he is an Educator Liaison at Facing History and Ourselves where he teaches difficult moments in history such as Post-Civil War Reconstruction & the Fragility of Democracy as well as Holocaust and Human Behavior to high school educators. In addition, Imam Taymullah works intimately with Boston Public School teachers, creating strategies to meet the learning needs of at-risk youth. He serves on several boards including Shared Nation and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s Resilient Collaborative Committee. Imam Taymullah writes a blog on Huff Post and hosts a podcast about reformed criminals called Exconversations, available on itunes.

Sidra Ali is a Master’s of Divinity student at Harvard Divinity School concentrating on the interplay of politics and religion within the social justice realm. Sidra’s work in the non-profit sector includes her work as a teacher in Detroit Public Schools and as the co-founder of Detroit is My Home, a non-profit organization that seeks to serve the impoverished community with material resources such as food, clothing and hygiene supplies. Sidra also served as an assistant lecturer for an interfaith class at Rochester College and University of Detroit Mercy. While her graduate work is still evolving, Sidra’s research looks at narrative and social polity and applies them to Muslim and interfaith communities in the West. She looks forward to working with her colleagues and learning from their experiences and enriching her own perspective on structural and sustainable peace.

Elder William H. Dickerson, II is the Executive Director of a Faith- Based community organizing non-profit called Brockton Interfaith Community. He is a Colorado native, a pastor, and has been community organizing for 5 and half years. His expertise is in racial equity and leadership development. Over the past five years as a community organizer, he has spearheaded activities to impact change within faith and oppressed communities. His work is deeply rooted in his Faith in G-d and his love for community. His main focus is to develop ordinary people in communities to become prophetic faith leaders that develop power to strengthen communities, develop relationships with Public Officials, and ultimately develop other community members to become leaders as well. He fights not just for himself but for his Family including his parents, siblings, wife two nephews, Morgan and Samuel and his future son William III.

Donna Hakimian is the Baha’i Chaplain at Harvard University. From 2012-2015, she served as the Representative for Gender Equality and the Advancement of Women at the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs in Washington D.C. Ms. Hakimian holds an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a M.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of Toronto, and a B.A. from McGill University.

Ordained at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in 2012, Adam has been a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, JOIN for Justice Clergy Fellow, and recently completed training as a Jewish spiritual director through Bekhol Levavkha at Hebrew Union College. For the past five years, he has directed these passions toward building communities that support the development of the whole person by connecting individuals with religious and spiritual resources – and one another – to promote spiritual wellness, social justice, collaboration, dialogue and understanding. As Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek and Jewish Advisor to Swarthmore College – and now Rabbi-Chaplain at Hebrew SeniorLife, Adam enjoys supporting and mentoring visionary leadership, facilitating dialogues across difference, and having conversations about what matters most to people.

The Reverend Amy Lunde-Whitler is an ordained Minister in the United Church of Christ and serves as the Pastor of Christian Union Church in West Groton, MA. She is also an Executive Co-Director at Walker Center for Ecumenical Exchange in Auburndale, MA. Amy also serves as the President of the Community Chaplaincy Council, an inter-faith chaplaincy group serving Newton and Wellesley. Amy graduated with an M.Div from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. She is from Houston, Texas but has made a home in Auburndale, MA along with her husband, Josh and her son, Josiah.

Originally from Minnesota, Katie grew up in a large family with a strongly committed Christian faith. She received her BA in Theology from Bethel University in Minneapolis, followed by a MA in Theology and Culture from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, where she focused on Spirituality, Creativity, and Leadership. Having been a member of many different Christian communities, Katie eventually landed in the Roman Catholic tradition and remains passionate about ecumenical and interfaith work, grounded in her own experience and relationships. She now works at The Paulist Center, a Catholic community in downtown Boston, as the Pastoral Minister for Young Adults and Communications. Katie has recently received a spiritual direction certification from Still Harbor, an organization focusing on social justice and contemplation in interfaith settings. Nurturing people’s spiritual lives, both individually and collectively, has long been her passion and great joy. She is excited to see what adventures and learning will unfold in the coming year.

David Penn is a PhD Candidate in Theological Studies at the Boston University School of Theology who is passionate about cultivating community. His research interests include imagination, wonder, and theology; human and ecological flourishing; and human development. His publications include the articles “Youth and Cultural Construction,” and the upcoming “Against the Generation Gap: Thinking ‘Otherwise’ About Adolescence.” He is a member of the interfaith Newton Religious Educators group and is working on several ecumenical youth initiatives in the Newton area.David also cultivates community through music. Prior to moving to Boston from South Dakota, he taught and played percussion professionally and he currently plays in a local orchestra and teaches in the summer. He can also be seen around town training for triathlons. He is grateful to his wife and two children for their love and enthusiasm on this shared journey.

Rabbi Becky Silverstein believes in the power of community, Torah, and silliness in transforming the world. He is passionate about building Jewish communities (and a world) that invite, allow, and encourage people to bring all of their identities into them. These communities are built primarily through active, affirming engagement with Jewish tradition, texts, and culture. Becky currently works as a Jewish Spiritual Advisor at Northeastern University and is the Program Director at Teen Beit Midrash. Becky also sits on the boards of the Jewish Studio Project (Board Chair), Keshet, and SVARA. Becky identifies as a genderqueer, transguy and uses he/him pronouns. He is a lifelong NY Mets fan, has no problem rooting for the Red Sox (unless they are playing the Mets), and lives in Jamaica Plain, with his spouse, Naomi.

Shrestha Singh serves as Hindu Chaplain at both Brandeis University and Wellesley College. Shrestha grew up in the Bay Area in California with her Indian immigrant parents and her older sister and has spent many years navigating that confusing territory in between cultures and worlds. The work she does with students stems from that place, and she is particularly interested in that intersection between the “inner” spiritual life and the work of engaging in the sacred and beautiful mess that is community and the “outer” world. Shrestha is passionate about talking about mental health, gender, race, and sexuality, and about working with folks to navigate issues of identity and faith. She enjoys hiking, cooking, drinking tea, and playing with her two pit-bull mixes, Clooney and Scout.

Kelly Steinhaus is the Executive Director of UniteBoston, a 501c3 non-profit organization that she co-founded in 2010. Motivated by Jesus’ prayer in John 17 “that they would be one,” UniteBoston pursues friendship and reconciliation among Christians of all denominations and ethnic backgrounds. UniteBoston runs an online events calendar, inter-church worship and prayer, and collaborative service days for churches in Boston. This fall, UniteBoston will be hosting dinner parties in neighborhoods to further shared prayer and mission among Christians. Kelly has studied at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and is now pursuing her Masters of Divinity at Boston University. She is preparing to be ordained in the American Baptist tradition, and was invited to speak at the North American Academy of Ecumenist gathering in Fall 2017. Kelly also enjoys spending time outdoors, and you can find her frequently biking around the city, swimming in the ocean, and climbing mountains.