May their gifts serve the world
and light the way for the future of Jewish Renewal!
Click HERE to watch the ordination ceremony, January 10, 2021
• scroll down to meet the graduates •
Rabbi Sarah Tauber z"l
Rabbi Sarah was a member of the Class of 2021/5781, and we fully expected to receive smicha with her in January. We are still reeling from her being taken from us and from all her loved ones by cancer so suddenly. Sarah received smicha from our teachers the day before her death. She remains at the center of our cohort, and her spirit will be present with us for every moment of our smicha ceremony and beyond into our life as rabbis, rabbinic pastor, and cantors.
— The Class of 2021/5781
A lifelong educator, Rabbi Sarah received her B.A. from Yale University and a teaching credential from University of California, Berkeley, before getting her doctorate in education from Jewish Theological Seminary, where she had been Assistant Professor since 2011. Her deep knowledge and innovations in Jewish education, however, did not arise as an academic pursuit. It was her years as an on-the-ground Jewish educator in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York that informed her commitment and enlivened her imagination. As part of the AOP community, Sarah was always engaged, curious, provocative, funny, and intellectually expansive. She carried out her rabbinic journey joyously, with the support of her parents, brother, and children Benjamin and Hannah.
Rabbi Sharona Grinsteiner (Denver, Colorado)
Rabbi Sharona serves as the Education Director and Rabbinic Intern at the Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver. Born and raised in Israel in an orthodox moshav, she brings the authenticity of her Yemenite tradition into all aspects of Jewish liturgy and rituals. She is a veteran of the IDF, where she served as officer of a teaching unit. A passionate Torah reader, Sharona has over 25 years of experience as a Hebrew and Judaic teacher in various synagogues, schools, and Jewish institutions. As an amateur writer of poetry and midrashim, she enjoys bringing new meaning to the sacred texts and the stories of our past. Sharona is the proud mother of four adult sons and is living her version of the American Dream with the love of her life Leo.
Rabbi Irwin Keller (Cotati, California)
Rabbi Irwin has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Shalom in California’s Sonoma County since 2008. His past work included LGBTQI and HIV advocacy. He authored Chicago's first gay rights law, in effect since 1989. He directed an AIDS legal services organization in San Francisco and was a founder and, for 21 years, a writer and performer in The Kinsey Sicks, known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet,” a career which included an Off-Broadway show, appearances in 42 states and abroad, 8 albums, and 2 films. Irwin's writings on Torah, mysticism, queerness, and hope can be found on his blog, Itzik’s Well, at irwinkeller.com. He is a founding steward and faculty member of Commonweal's Taproot Gathering. He lives in a kibbutz-like setting with his husband, co-parents, brothers-in-law, kids, cats, and chickens.
Rabbinic Pastor Chaya Lerner (Miami, Florida)
Born and raised in New Orleans, Rabbinic Pastor Chaya has been living in Miami for 34 year. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Louisiana State University and a master’s in clinical social work from Barry University. As a licensed social worker, she worked with HIV/AIDS patients during the AIDS crisis and with Holocaust survivors for Jewish Community Services, where she has been providing clinical services for over two decades. Chaya is also in private practice. She enjoys chaplaincy, teaching Torah study, and leading services. She is Co-President of the Rabbinic Pastor Association, an association for Jewish Renewal rabbinic pastors, chaplains, and students. She lives with her beloved Nancy and their black lab Jake.
Hazzan Steven Margolin (Oroville, California)
Hazzan Steve is the cantor of Congregation Beth Israel in Chico, CA, where he also previously served as interim spiritual leader. He is the clarinetist in the Hemlock Street Klezmer Band, has played saxophone in the Oroville Community Concert Band for over 20 years, and was a founding member of the Skyliners swing band. Steve was president of the Golden Gate Audubon Society in the early 1990s and has led birding trips in Northern California, Panamá, Kenya, and Tanzania. Born and raised in New York, he graduated from Yale College with a bachelor's degree in biology, and received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is in the process of winding down his law practice after practicing trusts and estates law for 39 years. Steve and his wife, Renee, live on eleven acres of blue oak savanna in Butte Valley, CA.
Hazzan Sharon McCord (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Hazzan Sharon has been singing, performing, and shepherding souls since her youth. As a music director and educator in the Charlottesville area, she teaches in the community and in schools, manages a music studio, and directs music education and programming at Congregation Beth Israel. For the past 15 years, she has led Shabbat and High Holiday worship for various congregations. The ensembles under her direction - The Chutzpah Chorus and The Hallelu Band – have gone virtual, creating content for High Holidays and offering a schedule of online events. Sharon is Co-President of IMPACT, Charlottesville’s interfaith rodef tzedek organization. She also leads a runner’s minyan on local trails. Upon ordination, Sharon looks forward to continue spreading joy through Jewish music, prayer, and rituals.
Rabbi Hazzan George Mordecai (Sydney, Australia)
Rabbi Hazzan George was born in Sydney to Iraqi Jews from India and Singapore. After receiving his cantorial ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and serving as cantor in congregations throughout the US, he recently returned to The Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, where his professional career began in the early 90’s. As a performing artist, George has sung with the Renaissance Players, an innovative early music ensemble, and has performed Sephardic and Judeo-Iraqi liturgical repertoire around the world. In 2007 he and the choral ensemble Seraphic Fire developed a performance project, Shalom/Pax, which drew from both Gregorian and Iraqi Jewish musical traditions. As an educator, he infuses his teaching with a deep sense of spirituality and historical perspective. George and his beloved Michal Frankel are proud parents of daughters Gabriella and Eliora.
Rabbi Lex Rofeberg (Providence, Rhode Island)
An educator and activist, Rabbi Lex is Strategic Initiatives Coordinator of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future and co-host of its Judaism Unbound podcast. He grew up in Milwaukee, WI, and now lives in Providence with his wife Valerie and cat Peeve. He graduated with a B.A. in Judaic Studies from Brown University and has a graduate certificate in interfaith families Jewish engagement from Hebrew College. He spent two years serving as an Education Fellow for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, based in Jackson, MS. He has been involved with Jewish justice projects including Open Hillel, IfNotNow, Tikkun Olam Productions, and Never Again Action.
Rabbi Charna Rosenholtz (Boulder, Colorado)
Rabbi Charna has been a Jewish educator since 1995, when she began teaching 7th-grade religious school. A Grinspoon-Steinhardt national educator winner, she explores engaged and embodied spirituality from a Jewish Renewal perspective. Ordained as a Hebrew wisdom teacher (Maggid) by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone in 2007, Charna also holds a master's degree in comparative religious studies from Naropa University. A healing arts practitioner with over 35 years of experience, she has mentored with medicine women, clergy, and master teachers in psychospiritual development. Charna teaches nationally and is currently the Reb Zalman Scholar in Residence at Congregation Nevei Kodesh in Boulder.
Hazzan Stephanie Weishaar (Clarksburg, Maryland)
Hazzan Stephanie serves as the spiritual leader of Kol Nefesh, a progressive congregation in suburban Maryland for young families, and as cantor for Bet Aviv, a Reform congregation focused on empty nesters and retired folks. She has served several Jewish communities in Maryland and Virginia as a religious school teacher, youth group advisor, and worship leader. She devotes much of her spare time to leadership roles in organizations close to her heart - the Women Cantors Network and the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. Prior to immersing in Jewish music and education, Stephanie studied Russian and International Relations at The American University in Washington, DC, and worked on nonprofit development projects in Eastern Europe. She lives on a farm in Clarksburg with her husband, one of their two grown children, and their dog.
Rabbi Carl Woolf (Watertown, Massachusetts)
Rabbi Carl holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a M.Sc. in Computer Science from Northeastern University. His spiritual practices include music-making, davening, meditation, and movement. Carl taught philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Northeastern University, Dartmouth College, and the University of New Hampshire. As a software engineer, for the past several years he has worked for Harvard Medical School, developing web applications to aid in medical research. He has also busked as a Klezmer musician in Harvard Square. Carl has been leading services and leyning Torah since high school, at synagogues, havurot, and university Hillels. His latest adventures include chaplaincy training at Brigham and Women's Hospital and playing solo string music by composers ranging from Bach to Elgar.