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Be'chol Lashon Team


Diane Tobin
D. Tobin
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder
Rabbi Ruth
Davi Cheng
Cheng
Davi Cheng
DeYoung
Kenny Kahn
Kahn
Mekah Kahn
Kahn
Juan Mejía
Mejía

meshorer danielle

Meshorer

Lindsey Newman
Newman
Anna Neyzberg
Neyzberg
Lacey Schwartz
Schwartz
Gershom Sizomu
Sizomu
Tema Smith
Smith
Gershom Sizomu
Spencer
Aryeh Weinberg
Weinberg
Rabbi Schlomo Zarchi
Weinberg
Rabbi Schlomo Zarchi
Zarchi
Gary Tobin President of IJCR
G. Tobin, z'l

Research Scholars


Tobin Belzer Research Scholar
Belzer
Rabbi Capers Funnyer
Funnye
Joshua Comenetz Research Scholar
Comenetz
David Dutwin
Dutwin
Jane Gordon
J. Gordon
Lewis Gordon
L. Gordon
Ephraim Isaac
Isaac
Helen Kim
Kim
Rabbi Irwin Kula
Kula
Shawn Landres Research Scholar
Landres
Noah Leavitt Research Scholar
Leavitt
Robin Washington
Washington
Rabson Wuriga
Wuriga

 

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Be'chol Lashon Team



Diane Tobin
Diane Tobin

Director

Diane Kaufmann Tobin is the founder and director of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), a research and community-building initiative that represents the changing landscape of Jewish life. Many Jewish families are ethnically, racially and culturally diverse, reflecting the rich history of Judaism in the Diaspora as well as contemporary realities such as intermarriage, conversion, and adoption. Be’chol Lashon seeks to grow and strengthen the Jewish community through an inclusive global understanding of the Jewish people. Diane Tobin is the author of In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People and co-author of Jewish Family Foundations.

Ms Tobin is also the president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), an independent think tank providing original research and innovative initiatives. Founded by the late Dr. Gary A. Tobin, IJCR has strategic initiatives in three pivotal areas of Jewish life: religious prejudice, philanthropy, and demography.

Ms. Tobin attended the California Academy of the Arts, and prior to joining the Institute in 1991, was the president of a design firm for more than fifteen years, specializing in corporate and non-profit identity, marketing, conferences, and fundraising. She has served as a community leader in a number of Jewish organizations, including president of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 1986—1989. Diane Tobin has six children, Adam, 41; Amy, 37; Sarah, 35; Aryeh, 33; Mia, 30 and Jonah, 15.

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Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder
Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder

Rabbi in Residence

Rabbi Ruth Abusch–Magder Ph.D., Be'chol Lashon's Rabbi–in–Residence and Director of Education has been involved in Jewish education and leadership for over 30 years. A graduate of Barnard College, she received her doctorate from Yale University. The recipient of many grants and fellowships for her work on Jewish food and women's history, in 2006 she was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, where she developed the pilot curriculum for the JCCA's adult learning Journeys initiative. A CLAL Rabbi Without Borders fellow, she is a frequent writer and teacher and has taught and published in Europe, Israel, North and South America. She edits Jewish& Be'chol Lashon's blog on MyJewishLearning.com and loves spending time at Camp Be'chol Lashon.

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Rabbi Davi Cheng
Davi Cheng

Be’chol Lashon Los Angeles Regional Director

Born in Hong Kong, Davi Yael Cheng immigrated to the United States with her family when she was fourteen. In addition to her rich Chinese heritage, Davi has embraced Judaism and is actively involved in her synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), "House of New Life," the world's original gay and lesbian synagogue founded in Los Angeles in 1972. Davi is the past president and co-founder of the synagogue's Klezmer band, "Gay Gezunt," where she plays the trumpet and French horn, she also sings in the choir.

Davi is a graphic designer in Los Angeles and her artwork reflects the diverse aspects of her life and the unique perspective it has given her. Davi designed the twelve stained glass windows at BCC, and fabricated the windows along with three other artists, all BCC members, her new project will be to help create the stained glass door and Ner Tamid for the Ark in the new building her temple will be moving to in April 2011.

Davi has served as the Executive Vice Presidents for the Pacific Southwest Regional Board with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and currently take on the role as a Bridgebuilder for the West District.

Davi holds a B.A. degree in Biological Science from the University of California, Berkeley, where she met her spouse of 31 years, Bracha Yael Cheng.

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Rabbi Davi Cheng
Michael J. DeYoung

Web Manager/Program Coordinator

Michael is the web manager and program coordinator for Be'chol Lashon. He recently graduated from Brandeis Univesity, in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he studied history and business. Michael was born in South Jersey, to an American Jewish mother, and African American father. Michael and his two sisters were raised and adopted by their maternal grandparents. Under their care, he was able to explore his biracial–Jewish identity.

Michael's upbringing played a major role in his choice of college. Brandeis provided an environment where Michael could explore his interest of history, while expanding his knowledge of Jewish culture. With Brandeis' diverse student body, Michael was also introduced to the various cultures and religions of his peers. After graduating in 2014, Michael moved to the Bay Area in search of career opportunities. Michael is looking forward to his future with Be'chol Lashon, and to advocate for the Jewish diversity.

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Kenny Kahn
Kenny Kahn
Camp Be'chol Lashon Co-Director

Kenny Kahn is an English teacher and football coach at El Cerrito High School. He received a bachelor's degree in literature, creative writing and poetry and a master's of education from UC Santa Cruz. He grew up in Richmond, the son of a Jewish mother and black father, played football at El Cerrito High, and returned to El Cerrito and in 2008 become the youngest head coach in school history. In 2012, Kahn received the third Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California's Award for contribution to the local sports scene as well as being named Oakland Raiders Coach of the Week. Kahn was drawn to the message and mission of Be'chol Lashon, and has been involved since its founding. Kahn moves seamlessly between his black and Jewish worlds, and is exceptional in relating to young Jews navigating their multiple identities.

Field of dreams:
Kenny Kahn finds his passion coaching high school football

By Dan Pine, Jweekly, October, 20, 2011


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Juan Mejía
Meka Kahn

DC Program Coordinator

Meka attended the University of California , Santa Barbara where she earned a B.A. in Black Studies in 2001. After graduation, Meka worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a Program Director for Volunteers in Parole, and as Activities Director for Sunny Hills Residential Program (San Anselmo , CA).

In 2003, Meka moved to Washington DC to attend Howard University . In 2007, she received a M.Ed. in School Psychology from Howard. ?Presently, Meka works for a nonprofit organization dedicated to the inclusion of students with disabilities in their neighborhood schools.

Meka became affiliated with Be’chol Lashon December 2001 and has participated as a member throughout the years in various capacities. Meka has seen Be’chol Lashon grow in many ways since then, and is looking forward to its expansion to the Washington DC Area.

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Juan Mejía
Rabbi Juan Mejía

Be'chol Lashon Southwest Regional Director

Rabbi Juan Mejía was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1977. When he was 15, he discovered his converso roots and began to explore the history of the secret Jews of Latin America. This process eventually led him to Jerusalem, where he rejoined his people and decided to pursue the rabbinate in order to help others to find their Jewish souls. There he met his wife, Abby Jacobson, also a rabbinical student. Rabbi Mejía holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the National University of Colombia and a master's degree in Jewish Civilization from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Rabbi Mejía dreams of establishing a Yeshiva and Return Center for Conversos in the American Southwest where he can help train the leadership of these new communities both in the U.S. and in Latin America. In the meantime, he teaches classes to conversos in seven countries through his website: www.koltuvsefarad.com.

Rabbi Mejía lives with his wife and daughter in Oklahoma City, OK.

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Danielle Meshorer

Danielle Meshorer

Be'chol Lashon International Director

Danielle Helene Meshorer is the Be'chol Lashon International Director and director of the Abayudaya development project. Danielle has been working with the Institute since June 2003.

 

Meshorer graduated summa cum laude in anthropology and psychology from the University of Vermont and received an M.A. in international and inter-cultural management from the School for International Training with a concentration on conflict transformation across cultures.

 

Before coming to the Institute, Danielle worked at the Palestine-Israel Journal in Jerusalem and the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel. She also lived and worked in Cameroon teaching and working on economic development projects. Danielle married Gregg Dessen in June 2007 and are the proud parents of Zoe.

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Lindsey Newman

Lindsey Newman

Be'chol Lashon Program Coordinator

Lindsey Newman is a program coordinator at Be'chol Lashon. She received her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. Previously to joining Be'chol Lashon Lindsey worked as a research assistant at a women's rights organization and as an early childhood educator at a small day school in New York City. In 2011 she spent 6 months living in Tel Aviv and working for Itaach Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice. Lindsey is biracial and adopted and grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. While always a New Yorker at heart, Lindsey is excited to explore her new home in the Bay Area while advancing the cause for Jewish diversity at Be'chol Lashon.


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Danielle Meshorer

Anna Neyzberg

Be'chol Lashon Program/Media Manager

Anna is the Bechol Lashon program coordinator. She received a B.A. in political science, along with a minor in chemistry, from the University of California, San Diego. After graduation, she worked for a corporate wellness company as a project manager. She then tutored for Oxford Tutoring, working mainly with foster youth. Most recently, she was assistant to Dr. Viola Frymann at the Osteopathic Center for Children in San Diego.


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Tema Smith
Tema Smith

Toronto Program Coordinator

Tema Smith is the Manager of Community Outreach and Engagement for Congregation Darchei Noam, Toronto's only Reconstructionist Synagogue. She has formerly held the roles of Programming Co–Chair at Limmud Toronto, Programming Coordinator of Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism, and Project Coordinator of the Canadian National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.  

Tema holds a BA (Hon) in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from Trent University, and was a Master's student under the Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish Thought at McMaster University. She has also studied as a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  

The proud daughter of an Ashkenazi Torontonian and a Bahamian New Yorker, Tema is committed to making the Jewish community more accessible to everyone, especially interfaith and interracial families.  

Tema became affiliated with Be'chol Lashon in 2012 and is looking forward to securing a foothold for the organization in Canada.

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Lacey Schwartz
Lacey Schwartz

Be'chol Lashon National Outreach Director / New York Regional Director

Lacey A. Schwartz is a film and television director/producer, who has worked with a variety of networks and production companies, including BETJ, @radical.media, Drive Thru Pictures and The Leon Charney Report, on branded entertainment programs, scripted and reality television series, commercials, feature-length documentaries, narrative films, concert films, live performances, added value DVD content and EPKs.  Currently, she is producing/directing "Outside the Box," a documentary which traces Lacey’s upbringing in a white Jewish family, discovery at eighteen that her biological father is Black and personal exploration of her mixed-race identity; all the while exploring her connection to other Black Jews in America.  

Originally from Woodstock, NY, Lacey graduated cum laude in 1998 from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Studio Arts and received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003, where she wrote, directed, edited and produced her first two films; Schvartze (2002), a short autobiographical film, and, Legally Black, Brown, Yellow and Red (2003), a feature-length documentary on minority experiences at Harvard Law School.  

Previous to her career in television and film production, Lacey worked in corporate, civil rights and entertainment law at the American Civil Liberties Union, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison LLP, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and MTV Networks. She also worked as a New York City Public School teacher teaching math and theater while she DJed on the side for an arts organization, band and private parties.

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Rabbi Gershom Sizomu
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu

Be'chol Lashon Rabbinic Fellow

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is a Be'chol Lashon Rabbinic Fellow and the spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. The Abayudaya Jewish community was founded in 1919 by Semei Kakungulu, a local leader who was to be a missionary for the British. However, Kakungulu favored the old testament and following his lead, the community began practicing Judaism and became known as the Abayudaya or "people of Judah." Rabbi Sizomu is the current leader of the 100-year old Abayudaya community of almost 2,000 Jews living in rural villages in Eastern Uganda. He is the grandson of community elder "Rabbi" Samson and lives near the Moses Synagogue in the village of Nabagogye which he and others from the community's early 1980s "Kibbutz movement" built with their own hands. Their goal has been to gather what was left of the Abayudaya community back together after the devastating reign of Idi Amin Dada ended in 1979.

As a visionary leader, Sizomu’s dream was to attend a rabbinic seminary to better understand ancient and modern egalitarian Judaism and bring the Ugandan community intomainstream Jewish life. Rabbi Sizomu was awarded a Be’chol Lashon Fellowship in 2003 to attend the five-year Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He returned to Uganda in 2008 as the first native-born black rabbi in Sub-Saharan Africa and opened a Yeshiva to train African teachers and rabbis to serve their ancient and emerging Jewish communities.

Rabbi Sizomu and the Abayudaya Executive Council requested Be’chol Lashon help with long-range planning and financial resource development. Feasibility research led to the design of Abayudaya Community Health & Development Plan. The research confirmed that improving healthcare is a critical need for the Abayudaya and their neighbors. Diseases such as dysentery, amoebas, infections, tuberculosis, and malaria flourish, and HIV/AIDS are prevalent. The community suffers high morbidity and mortality rates. Be’chol Lashon works with the community to improved healthcare and develop sustainable projects. Thisincludes the drilling wells, distributing mosquito nets, and the building of a Health Center and Guest House. The Tobin Health Center, run by the Abayudaya, provides medical services to the Jewish community as well as their Christian and Muslim neighbors, fostering good will and cooperation among the communities, combating anti-Semitism and promoting peaceful co-existence.

As a member of the Be'chol Lashon Speakers Bureau, Rabbi Sizomu travels to the United States every year as an ambassador for the Abayudaya and other emerging communities in Africa. Click here for more information about bringing Rabbi Sizomu to your community.

Link to tour page

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Sarah Spencer
Sarah Spencer, LMFT
Camp Be'chol Lashon Co-Director

Sarah Spencer earned her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco. Her marriage and family therapy practice is focused on adolescent identity development and multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious blended families. She also works in schools as a diversity counselor. Ms Spencer has extensive experience as Jewish eductor. She directed Club 18 at JCCSF for five years, a space for teens to explore and express their identities through a variety of social, educational and leadership activities. Ms Spencer was raised in San Francisco in a large, blended multicultural family and is raising two “Jewmaican” children with her husband Kirk.


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Aryeh Weinberg
Aryeh Weinberg

Director of Research

Aryeh K. Weinberg is the Director of Research for Be'chol Lashon / the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.. Mr. Weinberg's core areas of research focus on Jewish identity, philanthropy, as well as anti–Semitism and anti–Israelism in American education. He is co–author of a number of publications including The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in Higher Education, "An Exceptional Nation: American Philanthropy," and "A Profile of American College Faculty vols. 1 and 2."

Mr. Weinberg received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies.

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Dennis Ybarra
Mia K. Weinberg

Research Assistant

Mia K. Weinberg is a research assistant as well as a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and primary care provider in San Francisco. She specializes in family medicine, and treats patients of all ages with a wide range of ailments. Mia Weinberg works closely with many health care professionals including western MDs, psychologists, physical therapists, and chiropractors to build a healthcare plan that is right for each individual. She draws upon her experience as a public health educator and researcher to help her patients navigate through a complicated medical framework. Her goal is to provide integrated, educated, comprehensive healthcare to her patients.

Ms. Weinberg graduated with honors from University of California Santa Cruz with a degree in Public Health. She went on to study at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) in San Francisco and graduated at the top of her class from the four-year Masters of Science program. Clinical experience included rotations at The California Pacific Medical Center Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Clinic, ACTCM Community Clinic, and the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic.

Mia K. Weinberg was born and raised in San Francisco and is inspired by the diverse cultural influences of her city and her family.

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Rabbi Schlomo Zarchi

Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi

Rabbi in Residence


Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is a research fellow at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical Academy in Jerusalem and New York. Rabbi Zarchi is the rabbi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in San Francisco.

Rabbi Zarchi comes from a Hasidic family of rabbis that goes back six generations. Growing up in Brooklyn, he learned Hebrew and Aramaic as soon as he was able to read. He began studying Kabbalah shortly thereafter, at the age of five. He has studied under some of the great Hasidic and Kabbalistic masters. He is one of the foremost experts on the Kabbalah on the West Coast and is a frequent lecturer. Rabbi Zarchi currently teaches classes at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Rabbi Zarchi has traveled to many parts of the world through his involvement in outreach programs. He spent significant time in the Former Soviet Union participating in the synagogue recovery program in the early 1990s.

He presently serves on the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California.

Rabbi Zarchi lives in San Francisco with his wife Chani and their five children.

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Research Scholars



Tobin Belzer
Tobin Belzer, Ph.D.

Research Scholar

Tobin Belzer PhD is Research Associate at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. A sociologist of American Jewry, her research and program evaluations have focused on young adults’ Jewish identity, Jewish organizational culture, Jewish education, and congregational studies. She has worked with numerous Jewish organizations and foundations including: the Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, The Koret Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, Berman Center for Research and Evaluation in Jewish Education at JESNA, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the Covenant Foundation.  Belzer earned her PhD in Sociology from Brandeis University in 2004.  With Rabbi Julie Pelc, she is the co-editor of Joining the Sisterhood: Young Jewish Women Write Their Lives (SUNY Press, 2003). Belzer was awarded the Hadassah Award for Excellence in Writing about Women from the American Jewish Press Association.  She was a 2007-08 Fellow of the Congregational Studies Team's Engaged Scholars Program, funded by the Lilly Endowment.

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Rabbi Capers Funnye
Rabbi Capers Funnye

Research Scholar

Rabbi Capers Funnye is spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, Chicago and the Associate Director of Be’chol Lashon. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Studies and a Master of Science in Human Services Administration from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago and rabbinic ordination from the Israelite Board of Rabbis, New York.

Rabbi Funnye is involved in many community organizations. He serves on the boards of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, American Jewish Congress, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Boys-To-Men and the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce. Rabbi Funnye has served as a consultant to the DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago Historical Society, Spertus Museum of Judaica, and the Afro-American Museum, Los Angeles. Rabbi Funnye has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including: Our Voices, BET, The Jerry Springer Show, WMAQ-TV, Common Ground, WBBM-TV, Talking With Aaron Freeman and WPWR-TV.

Rabbi Funnye and his wife, Mary, have four children.

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Joshua Comenetz
Joshua Comenetz, Ph.D.

Research Scholar

Dr. Joshua Comenetz directs research on international demographic mapping, supervises development of high-resolution geodemographic products and websites for humanitarian relief and disaster response, and advises internationally on best practices in population mapping.

In a paper in the journal Contemporary Jewry, Dr. Comenetz used census data and cartography to derive the most accurate possible estimate of the size of the American Hasidic population. He serves as consultant for the mapping of population by religion.

Dr. Comenetz has published numerous articles on international and domestic population and mapping, ethnic and religious geography, and analysis of spatial data and satellite imagery. He was previously a geography professor at the University of Florida specializing in demographics and international relations. He holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota and an A.B. in geology from Harvard.

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David Dutwin
David Dutwin

Research Scholar

Dr. David Dutwin is Vice President and Chief Methodologist of Social Science Research Solutions, a major market research and social science research firm located outside of Philadelphia, PA. His primary areas of expertise are in sampling methods, questionnaire development, weighting, and data analysis. Dr. Dutwin has conducted a wide range of studies, mostly pertaining to Jewish demography, Hispanic attitudes, opinions, and behavior, health policy, political tracking, and education policy.

Dr. Dutwin is also an adjunct professor at West Chester University where he teaches research methodology as well as business communication, rhetoric and mass media effects. David holds a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where his area of study was the formation of mass opinion. He also holds an M.A. from the University of Washington in rhetorical studies. Dr. Dutwin's prior experience was in politics, where he worked for former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania and Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

David lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife Betsy and his two sons, Aidan and Elias.

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Jane Gordon Research Scholar
Jane Anna Gordon

Research Scholar

Jane Gordon is Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. She is the author of Why They Couldn't Wait: A Critique of the Black-Jewish Conflict Over Community Control in Ocean-Hill Brownsville, 1967-1971 (Routledge, 2001), which was listed by The Gotham Gazette as one of the four best books recently published on Civil Rights, co-author of Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age (Paradigm Publishers, 2009), and co-editor of A Companion to African-American Studies (Blackwell's, 2006) and Not Only the Master's Tools (Paradigm Publishers, 2006). Gordon is currently finishing a book entitled Creolizing Political Theory (forthcoming with Fordham University Press) that advances creolization as a preferable alternative to multiculturalism for approaching abiding challenges of difference in democratic public life and as a useful model for how we might creatively rework relations among currently discrete academic disciplines to better illuminate central, pressing political questions.  Gordon is particularly interested in how most accurately and effectively to emphasize and educate contemporary Jews and non-Jews about the creolized past and present of vibrant Jewish communities. 

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Lewis Gordon Research Scholar
Lewis R. Gordon, Ph.D.

Research Scholar

Lewis Gordon is the offspring of two Jewish communities that converged in his mother.

One was the Solomon family, who migrated to Jamaica in the 19th Century. The other was from Ireland under the name of Finikin, who also immigrated there during the same period. Noticing that admission of his Jewish heritage stimulates discussion and reflection on Jewish diversity and history, Gordon has committed himself to working with fellow scholars and community workers dedicated to the re-appearance of Jewish people who have disappeared either by force or neglect. He is the founder and co-director, with his wife Jane Gordon, of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University, a research institute dedicated to developing reliable sources of information on Afro-Jews and Jewish diversity. He is also a research affiliate of the Institute for Jewish Research and Community. His formal academic appointment is professor of philosophy, African American studies, and Judaic studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Professor Gordon achieved his PhD in Philosophy with distinction from Yale University in 1993. He earned his B.A., with multiple honors, through the Lehman Scholars Program at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, in 1984, after which he had taught as a Social Studies teacher in the Bronx, where he was also founder of the Second Chance Program at Lehman High School. Professor Gordon is the author of several influential and award-winning books, such as Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism (1995), Her Majesty's Other Children (1997), which won the Gustavus Myer Award for Outstanding Work on Human Rights in North America, Exisentia Africana (2000), Disciplinary Decadence (2006), and his co-edited A Companion to African-American Studies, was chosen as the NetLibrary eBook of the Month for February 2007. His forthcoming books are An Introduction to Africana Philosophy, which will be published by Cambridge University Press, and, with Jane Anna Gordon, Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age, which will be published by Paradigm Publishers. He is the author of the foreword to Gary and Diane Tobin and Scott Rubin's In Every Tongue (2005), and he is currently working on a book tentatively titled The Afro-Jewish Question and co-editing an anthology on the study of Jewish diversity. Professor Gordon has received many accolades for his work and has lectured internationally.

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Ephraim Isaac
Ephraim Isaac, Ph.D.

Research Scholar

Dr. Ephraim Isaac is Director, Institute of Semitic Studies, Princeton, NJ; Fellow, Butler College, Princeton University (1994 –); Fellow, The Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation.

Born in Ethiopia, where he got his early education, Dr. Isaac holds a B.A. in philosophy, chemistry and music (Concordia College); an M. Div. (Harvard Divinity School); a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages (Harvard University); a D.H.L. (honorary, John Jay /CUNY). He was Professor at Harvard (1968 – 1977). The first professor hired in Afro-American Studies at Harvard, he was voted the best teacher each year by the students and the department. In addition to Harvard (which endowed the Ephraim Isaac Prize? in African Studies in 1998), Dr. Isaac has lectured at Hebrew U. (ancient Semitic languages), Princeton U. (Near Eastern studies, religion); V. Prof. (religion & African American studies 1995 – 01) and U. of Pennsylvania (religion, Semitic languages), Howard U (Divinity School), Lehigh U. (religion), Bard College (religion, history), and other institutions of higher learning. His subjects range from those mentioned above to biblical Hebrew, rabbinic literature, Ethiopian history, concept and history of slavery and ancient African civilizations. He has been a Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Studies. He has received many awards and honors including an honorary D.H.L. (John Jay College, CUNY), and the 2002 Peacemaker Award? of the Rabbi Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

Dr. Isaac is author of numerous articles and books on (Late Second Temple) Jewish and (Ancient Ethiopic) Ge’ez literatures. Three of his recent works pertain to the oldest known manuscripts of The Book of Enoch (Doubleday, 1983). He has also completed An Ethiopic History of Joseph (Sheffield Press, 1990) and did Proceedings of Second International Congress of Yemenite Jewish Studies (ISS & U. of Haifa, 1999). An expanded definitive version of his The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in print (Africa World Press, 2001.) He is currently working on a new edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments of The Book of Enoch (Princeton Theological Seminary), A History of Religions in Africa?, and A Cultural History of Ethiopian Jews. He is on editorial boards of two international scholarly journals on Afroasiatic languages and Second Temple Jewish literature respectively.

Dr. Isaac has diverse accomplishments. He knows seventeen languages. He is the first translator of Handel’s Messiah into Amharic, the official Ethiopian language. He is widely known in Ethiopia as founder of the National Literacy Campaign that made millions literate in the late sixties. He is currently the international chair of the Horn of Africa Board of Peace and Development Organization (Addis Ababa, Asmara) and the president of The Yemenite Jewish Federation of America. He is on the board of many charitable and educational organizations. Sought after nationally and internationally, he is widely acclaimed as a public lecturer on religion, literature, ancient history, peace and conflict resolution, and various other subjects listed above.

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Helen Kim
Helen Kim

Research Scholar

Helen K. Kim is an assistant professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She earned her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, her M.A. from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan. Helen is broadly interested in race and ethnicity, gender, second generation Asian Americans and interracial/interfaith marriages among American Jews.

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Rabbi Irwin Kula
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Research Scholar

Rabbi Irwin Kula is an eighth-generation rabbi, nationally known speaker and teacher, and the president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. A regular guest on Oprah and The Today Show, he is also the host of the public television broadcast called The Wisdom of Our Yearnings.

Irwin Kula is the author of author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion 2006). In his new public television special, based on his book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, the acclaimed educator, speaker, and author discusses the powerful positive energy of our yearnings. Our everyday lives are driven by deep and profound yearnings for happiness, for certainty, for love and meaningful relationships. By understanding the “hidden wisdom” of our desires, Kula maintains, an individual can transform their life into one of greater meaning, passion and love. Drawing upon ancient wisdom texts, Old Testament and Talmudic teachings, Buddhism, modern literature and contemporary life stories, Kula explains how to celebrate, embrace and grow from the paradoxes, contradictions and “sacred messiness” of life.

Rabbi Kula lives with his wife and daughters in New York City.

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Shawn Landres Research Scholar
Shawn Landres

Research Scholar

Shawn Landres, PhD, is the co–founder & CEO of Jumpstart, a philanthropic research & design lab that helps philanthropic and community leaders expand what they know, adapt how they think, and redefine what is possible. Jumpstart's unique combination of original research, convenings, and funding enables creative changemakers–philanthropists and institutional leaders alike–to realize their own visions and advance the common good. At Jumpstart, Shawn has led the research & publication of such original reports as The Innovation Ecosystem (2009), Haskalah 2.0 (2010), The 2010 Survey of New Jewish Initiatives in Europe: Key Findings (2010), The Jewish Innovation Economy (2011), and the Connected to Give report series (2013–2014).

A respected researcher, editor, and essayist, and a popular lecturer both in the United States and abroad, Shawn has focused much of his work, within and beyond the academy, on convening conversations, where none exist, on matters of intellectual, political, and moral urgency. He has co–edited four books on topics as diverse as the practice of ethnography; the interreligious impact of the film The Passion of the Christ; the intersection of religion, violence, memory, and place; and a campaign biography of Bill Clinton. Shawn holds degrees from Columbia University (BA, religion), the University of Oxford (MSt, social anthropology), and the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he earned a PhD in religious studies. He holds advanced certification from 21/64 as a consultant/trainer in multigenerational family philanthropy and is certified as a facilitator by the Center for Leadership Initiatives. Shawn was elected in 2013 by his peers to the Board of Directors of the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry; he also serves on the Sh'ma Advisory Committee.

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Noah Leavitt Research Scholar
Noah Leavitt

Research Scholar

Noah S. Leavitt is a teacher, author, community organizer and attorney. He serves as President of Congregation Beth Israel in Walla Walla, Washington. He is also a Visiting Assistant Professor with Whitman College.

He earned his B.A. from Haverford College, his J.D. from the University of Michigan, and his M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where his thesis, "The Ends of Ethnicity," analyzed the shifting perceptions of identity among leaders of interethnic networks in the Midwest.

He served as the Advocacy Director for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, directing numerous campaigns to carry out the organization’s mission to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with Chicago’ s diverse communities.

Leavitt’s writings analyzing contemporary legal, cultural and political events have appeared in a wide range of print and online publications including The Forward, Slate, Michigan Journal of International Law, CNN, The Housing Law Bulletin, FindLaw, the International Herald Tribune, Jurist, and the blog of the American Constitution Society.

He is currently working on a project with his wife, Helen Kim, to understand how American Jews and Asian-Americans who are married to each other think about their racial, religious and ethnic identities.

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Rabson Wuriga
Robin Washington

Research Scholar

Robin Washington grew up in Chicago in a family of black and Jewish activists during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Participating in sit–ins and protests when he was three years old, he recalls those events fondly as "family outings."

A nationally award–winning journalist, Washington has appeared on National Public Radio, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC News, CNN and the BBC. He was most recently the top editor of Minnesota's Duluth News Tribune and was previously a columnist for the Boston Herald.

A 1987 Fellow in Science Broadcast Journalism at WGBH–TV Boston, his broadcast work includes "You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow!" — a national public television documentary that rewrote history books to tell the story of the first Freedom Ride in 1947 — and the radio documentary "My Favorite Things at 50," an audio portrait of John Coltrane's recording of the jazz standard.

Washington's commentaries have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun–Times, the Baltimore Sun, San Jose Mercury News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other newspapers.

The co–founder of the Alliance of Black Jews, his most–requested topics — in speeches to Ivy League schools and Dvar Torah presentations at local synagogues — are the diversity of Judaism, media ethics, the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and the origins of the Civil Rights Movement. For all, he encourages and audience participation and engagement.

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Rabson Wuriga
Rabson Wuriga, Ph.D.

Research Scholar

Dr. Rabson Wuriga, a Be'chol Lashon Research Fellow at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, is conducting research and writing a book on Lemba traditions. Dr. Wuriga is a philosopher and biblical scholar by training. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa.

Dr. Wuriga was born and raised in Zimbabwe. He belongs to the Hamisi (or Hamish) clan of the Lemba community. He works with the Lemba community in Zimbabwe as national coordinator and fundraiser.

Dr. Wuriga and his wife, Eveline, have two children.

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Dakotta Alex

Research Interns


Dakotta Alex

Research Intern

Dakotta J.K. Alex is a writer and entrepreneur born in Houston, Texas. Ethnically from India, he is of Cochin or Malabar Jewish descent. Though raised Christian, he has returned to his Jewish heritage and has been practicing Reform Judaism for over 10 years.

He attended the Claremont School of Theology in Los Angeles where he was pursing his Master's of Divinity. Now in San Francisco, he is finishing his M.Div course work at Graduate Theological Union and UC Berkeley with a concentration in applied ethics and social theory with certificates in Islamic and Jewish Education.

Over the past 10 years he has consulted with organizations such as the Los Angeles Times, Amgen, Disney, Microsoft, and Compaq in the US, Europe and China. He has published articles in HR journals and four books with professional accolades from employees of Yahoo!, Intel, University of Washington, Disney, Fox, and Google.

Dakotta is a research intern at Be'chol Lashon, founder of Kishur, a LGBTQ social Jewish group in San Francisco, and is on the Young Adults Committee at Congregation Emanu-el.

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Juan Mejía
Genevieve Okada

Research Intern

Genevieve Okada is a research consultant at Be’chol Lashon. She is currently conducting a study of ethnically and racially diverse Jewish families and was the Cultural Arts Specialist at Camp Be’chol Lashon in 2010. Genevieve is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of California, San Diego where she is specializing in psychological anthropology. She recently began conducting fieldwork in Mexico City where she is studying parenting and family life across public and private contexts.

Previously she was a researcher and administrator in the Department of Applied Psychology and the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at New York University. Prior research included a multi-year, multi-site evaluation of a social-emotional and literacy development program in New York City. Additionally, she examined the moderating role of acculturation within a Latino immigrant subsample of the Chicago School Readiness Head Start study on children's behavior problems. Her primary research interests include the psychology of parenthood, adoption, family structures, attachment, immigration, and multi-ethnic identities.

Genevieve received her B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and her M.A. in the psychology of parenthood from NYU. She is the 2010-2011 Hillel Graduate Student Fellow at UCSD. She lives in La Jolla, CA.

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Gary Tobin President of IJCR
Gary A. Tobin, z'l
1949-2009 | GaryTobin.org

Founder, The Institute for Jewish & Community Research

Dr. Gary A. Tobin was the founder and president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, San Francisco. He was also a senior fellow with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. He earned his Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He served as Director of the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University for 14 years, after 11 years at Washington University, St. Louis. Dr. Tobin consulted with scores of non-profits and foundations, and speaks on a range of topics, from philanthropy to religious stereotypes.

Having edited two volumes on the effects of the racial schism in America, What Happened to the Urban Crisis? and Divided Neighborhoods, Dr. Tobin targeted racial and religious prejudice in America as a key concern. He wrote books and monographs on anti-Semitism, including Jewish Perceptions of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Semitic Beliefs in the United States. His writings on prejudice in America's education systems include The UnCivil University: Politics and Propaganda in American Education, Profiles of the American University Volume 1: Political Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty, and Profiles of the American University Volume 2: Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty. He completed a volume, published by Lexington Books, entitled The Trouble with Textbooks, an examination of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that saturate elementary and secondary school social studies materials.

Dr. Tobin's Jewish demography and Jewish identity texts include In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People, Rabbis Talk About Intermarriage, and Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community. He also wrote about organized religion in America, having completed two works, Church and Synagogue Affiliation and The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States.

His work on philanthropy was extensive. His publications include Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, Mega-Gifts in Jewish Philanthropy: Giving Patterns 2001-2003, and A Study of Jewish Foundations. Among his previous publications are Mega-Gifts in American Philanthropy: General & Jewish Giving Patterns Between 1995-2000 and The Transition of Communal Values and Behavior in Jewish Philanthropy.

Though the Jewish community lost a great leader in July 2009, Dr. Tobin left a gift in both the work he completed and the work he initiated for others to complete. Dr. Tobin worked tirelessly to coach his team of colleagues at IJCR. He wanted his work to live beyond him, not for the sake of his own legacy, but for the sake of the greater good he always pursued. The Institute for Jewish & Community Research will continue to pursue Dr. Tobin’s vision, inspired by his passion, courage, professionalism, and optimism.


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