The Participants


Click names for biographies



Rachel Adler is Professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender at the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College. She is the author of Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. At the time of taping, Professor Adler was also Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California.

Yehuda Bauer is Professor Emeritus of History and Holocaust Studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Academic Advisor to Yad Vashem. He is a member of the Israeli Academy of Science, Honorary Chairman to the International Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, and recipient of the Israel Prize. He is author of numerous books and articles including Out of the Ashes, Jews for Sale? and Rethinking the Holocaust.
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Yael Bendat-Appell works for Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. At the time of the interview, Yael was a Wexner Graduate Fellow working towards a Master’s in General and Special Education at Bank Street College of Education, which she has since completed.
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Motty Berger is a lecturer in Jewish Philosophy at Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He is a graduate of Loyola University in Maryland and received his rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore. Rabbi Berger travels extensively worldwide as the Senior Discovery lecturer. He is known for his provocative and unique take on Judaism that attracts audiences from all levels of observance. Rabbi Berger is the founder of Jews for Judaism.Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, Rabbi Berger does not appear in the series. His insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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Rina Bergman is a student at Michigan State University. At the time of the interview, she was a student at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit. At the time of the interview, Shira, Ariel and Rikki Bergman were students at Yeshivat Akiva in Southfield, Michigan. Shira and Ariel are now at Andover High School. Rikki is now at Hillel Day School.
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David Blumenthal is Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies at Emory University. He teaches and writes on constructive Jewish theology, medieval Judaism, Jewish mysticism, and holocaust studies. His published works include numerous scholarly articles and reviews, and eleven books including God at the Center, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest, The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition, and the two-volume Understanding Jewish Mysticism. Professor Blumenthal is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the European Academy of Sciences.
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Elliot Dorff is Rector and Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy, American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism). He is Chair of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and served on the editorial committee of Etz Hayim, the new Torah commentary for the Conservative Movement. Rabbi Dorff is author of hundreds of scholarly articles and many books, including Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics and, with Louis E. Newman, Contemporary Jewish Theology: A Reader. In addition to receiving ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Dorff earned a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University and holds three honorary doctoral degrees.
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Meirav Shevah Finley is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Ohr HaTorah congregation, where she also serves as Executive and Educational Director. Born and raised in Eilat, Israel, Meirav served in the Israeli Air Force before studying English Literature at the Hebrew University and Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. After moving to L.A. in 1984, she worked as a teacher at Heschel Day School, L.A. Hebrew High, and Union Hebrew High. She also administered an adult education program at Stephen S. Wise Temple. With her husband, Rebbetzin Finley started The Learning Circle and managed the Mountain Top Minyan and Children’s Program.
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Mordechai Finley is Co-Founder, Co-CEO and spiritual leader of Ohr HaTorah. He received his doctorate in Religion-Social Ethics from the University of Southern California, and rabbinic ordination through the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Finley is former Provost and former President of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, where he serves as professor of liturgy, mysticism, Jewish ethics and professional skills: http://ajrca.org/faculty/faculty_bios.shtml# finley. Rabbi Finley has taught courses in spirituality, mysticism, Jewish thought and rabbinics in the Department of Continuing Education, American Jewish University. He has also taught at HUC-JIR, Loyola Law School, USC Law School, the Wexner Heritage Foundation, and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
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Robert Fishman was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and spent over ten summers at Camp Ramah in Canada as camper and staff. He now works in finance, and lives in Cleveland with his wife and two sons.
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David Friedman is an artist who has developed his own original system of translating Kabbalistic concepts into graphic shapes and colors. He has exhibited in North America and Israel, and his works grace many homes and art collections around the world. In addition, Mr. Friedman is a popular lecturer on Kabbalah and Jewish Meditation. Although he is well-versed in classical Torah texts (both conventional and esoteric), he is primarily self-taught, and prefers the way of the mystic – as independent and non-denominational as possible. His work can be seen on his website, www.kosmic-kabbalah.com.
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Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer is Director of Religious Studies and Associate Professor, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University, a Master of Arts from the Yale Divinity School, rabbinic ordination from RRC, and a doctorate in religion from Temple University. Rabbi Kreimer served as director of the Kaplan Institute for Adult Jewish Studies and as rabbinic director of the Jewish Identity Program of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Philadelphia. She has been a board member of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life and the Maternity Care Coalition of Philadelphia, and currently serves on the boards of the Metanexus Institute for Science and Religion and the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia. Rabbi Kreimer also was a member of the Ethics and Executive Committees of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and served as its president. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on interfaith dialogue, practical theology and contemporary Jewish thought, as well as of Parenting as a Spiritual Journey (HarperCollins, 1996; Jewish Lights, 1998).
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Miles Gilbert is a graduate of the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. He will be entering McGill University in the Fall of 2016. At the time of taping, he was a student at the King David School in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
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Neil Gillman is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. Professor Gillman graduated from McGill University in 1954, was ordained at JTS in 1960, and received his PhD in philosophy from Columbia University in 1975. Dr. Gillman is the author of numerous books and essays, including Sacred Fragments: Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew (winner of the 1991 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought), The Way into Encountering God in Judaism, The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians, Traces of God: Seeing God in Torah, History and Everyday Life, The Death of Death, and Doing Jewish Theology. At the time of the interview, Professor Gilman was Professor of Jewish Philosophy at JTS.
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Yehudit Goldfarb – writer, teacher, dancer, healer, and spiritual guide – received her PhD in English in 1975 and has been honored by the Jewish Renewal community with the titles of Morataynu (Our Teacher) and Eshet Hazon (Woman of Vision) for her inspirational work in helping to enliven traditional Jewish forms with renewed spiritual content. She is the originator of Otiyot Hayyot (Living Letters), an integrative form of body prayer and moving meditation embodying the Alef-Bet and rooted in the teachings of Kabbalah.

Dr. Goldfarb currently resides in Tzfat where she is the director of Maor HaLev Institute for Hebraic Dance and Healing Arts. For more information, or to contact her please visit www.otiyot.com.
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Ami Goldfein works in finance in New York City, where he lives with his wife, Jill, and their three children.
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Ariella Goldfein works for UJA-Federation of New York. Following a year of study at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem and two years working as their North American Director of Recruitment, Ariella earned her Master’s Degree in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. At the time of the interview she was an undergraduate student at University of Michigan.
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Irving D. Goldfein is an information and reference media producer and consultant in Southfield, Michigan.
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Janice Starkman Goldfein is a clinical social worker in private practice in Southfield, Michigan.
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Michael Golomb was a disciple of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and a resident of Moshav Me’or Modi’im, where he is the organizer of gatherings, events and festivals. Michael passed away in February 2015.
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Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center, where he is also a senior fellow. At the time of taping, Dr. Gordis was Vice President of the Mandel Foundation – Israel and Director of its Mandel Leadership Institute. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism. Since moving to Israel in 1998, Dr. Gordis has been writing and speaking extensively on Israeli society and the challenges facing Israel’s future. His work has appeared in a variety of journals and newspapers, including the New York Times and the New York Times Magazine.

Further information on Rabbi Gordis, as well as contact information and links to many of his articles, can be found at www.danielgordis.org.
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Marcia Gordon is a Senior Project Manager in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their three children. At the time of taping, she was a law student.
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Irving (“Yitz”) Greenberg is President of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. JLN’s mission is to create new institutions and initiatives to enrich the inner life (religious, cultural, institutional) of American Jewry. Rabbi Greenberg also served as Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 2000-2002. He has published articles on Jewish thought and religion and on American Jewish history, and has written extensively on the theory and practice of pluralism and on the theology of Jewish-Christian relations. His books include The Jewish Way (Summit Books, 1988), Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World (Jason Aronson, 1998), Theodore Roosevelt and Labor, 1900-1918 (New York: Garland Publications, 1988) and For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter between Judaism and Christianity (Jewish Publication Society, 2005).
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Robert Gressis is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Northridge. In 2007, he defended his dissertation, “Kant’s Theory of Evil: An Interpretation and Defense,” and received his PhD in Philosophy from University of Michigan. In his spare time, he performs improvisational comedy. At the time of taping, Dr. Gressis was a PhD candidate at U of M.
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David Weiss Halivni is a Professor of Talmud at Bar Ilan University. At the time of taping, he was Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Classical Jewish Civilization at Columbia University. Professor Halivni is a specialist in Talmud and Rabbinics. He spent thirty years as a member of the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary prior to his appointment at Columbia University. He is the author of many articles and books, including Revelation Restored: Divine Writ and Critical Responses, his continuing multivolume work, Sources and Traditions: A Source Critical Commentary to the Talmud, and his memoirs, The Book and the Sword: A Life of Learning in the Shadow of Destruction. Rabbi Halivni won the Israel Prize in Talmud in 2008.
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Jill Hammer is a rabbi, author, educator, midrashist, and ritualist. She is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion. She is also the director of Tel Shemesh (www.telshemesh.org), a website and community celebrating Jewish earth-based traditions, and the co-founder of the Kohenet Institute (www.kohenet.org). Rabbi Hammer is the author of two books: Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (Jewish Publication Society, 2001) and The Jewish Book of Days (Jewish Publication Society, 2006). She is a poet and essayist whose work has been published in many journals and anthologies, and a celebrated adult educator who has taught in many venues. Rabbi Hammer conducts workshops around the country on ancient and contemporary midrash, bibliodrama, creative ritual, and Jewish cycles of time, and crafts innovative multisensory ritual experiences for the different seasons of the Jewish year. She has served as a senior associate at Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC in Manhattan, where she was employed at the time of taping, and also as the editor of Living Text: The Journal of Contemporary Midrash. She was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001 and received a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Connecticut in 1995.
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Arlene Hisiger graduated Summa Cum Laude from Concordia University in Wisconsin, with a degree in Communications and Management. Subsequently, she earned a Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University in California. A tenured Hebrew and Judaic Studies teacher, Mrs. Hisiger was trained and licensed by the State of Israel.

At the time of the interview, Mrs. Hisiger was employed by the Jewish Vocational Service in Los Angeles, a constituent social service agency of the Jewish Federation. She began her career as Vocational Counselor and later was promoted to Scholarship Administrator of a private scholarship fund for college-bound students.

Currently, Mrs. Hisiger resides in Rochester, NY where she divides her time between freelance writing and teaching Judaic Studies at Hillel Community Day School. She is a featured writer in the Jewish Ledger, Rochester’s Jewish newspaper, and has written public relations and marketing collateral for local entrepreneurs. In addition, she edited Cinnamon, Saffron & Sesame – a Sephardic cookbook containing select Sephardic family recipes compiled in honor of Congregation Light of Israel’s centennial year. Her article “At Home in Shabbat” was published by SUNY press as part of a larger compendium entitled: Where We Find Ourselves: Jewish Women Around the World Write About Home.

Though her career has been varied and richly rewarding, Mrs. Hisiger considers her appearance on film with Minnie Mouse as the pinnacle of her accomplishments.
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Chaim Hisiger, an ordained Orthodox rabbi, has a dual Master’s degree in Psychology and Education. Rabbi Hisiger is a renowned lecturer, having spoken to groups throughout the United States, Israel and the Orient. His research into minority identity issues has been translated into several languages. Rabbi Hisiger holds dual administrator’s (K-12) certification from North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as JESNA. Rabbi Hisiger has served as the founding chair of the Torah High School Network and founding Executive Director of Sephardic Tradition And Recreation (S.T.A.R.), the largest Sephardic youth organization in the United States, where he worked at the time of the interview. Currently he is Principal of the Hillel Community Day School in Rochester, NY and Rabbinic Administrator of Rochester Kosher Services.
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Adam Jacobs is Executive Director of Kids Creative (www.kidscreative.org) and a member of The Dirty Sock Funtime Band (www.dirtysockfuntimeband.com). He earned a Master’s degree in Peace Education/Conflict Resolution from Teachers College of Columbia University.
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Ruth Gan Kagan is the spiritual leader of Nava Tehila, an emergent prayer and study community in Jerusalem (www.NavaTehila.org). She is co-author of the Hebrew book Jewish Renewal – Integrating Heart and World (2006). Ruth teaches Kabbalah and Hassidut in Israel and internationally, creates new and uplifting music for prayer, and works as a spiritual director with individuals looking to come closer to God.
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Leib (Lawrence) Kelemen is Professor of Modern and Medieval Jewish Philosophy at Neve Yerushalayim College of Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem. Rabbi Kelemen earned an undergraduate degree at U.C.L.A. and did graduate studies at Harvard. He began his professional career as a downhill skiing instructor, served as the news director and anchorman for a California radio station, and then traveled to the Middle East to conduct 12 years of post-graduate field research. Rabbi Kelemen is the author of several books, including Permission to Believe, Permission to Receive, and To Kindle a Soul.
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Aryeh Klapper is Dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership (www.torahleadership.org), teaches Rabbinic Literature and Bioethics at Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, and is a member of the Boston Beit Din. At the time of taping, Rabbi Klapper was Rosh Beit Midrash of the Summer Beit Midrash, which he founded, Orthodox Rabbinic Adviser and Associate Director for Education at Harvard Hillel, and Talmud Curriculum Chair at Maimonides High School.

Unfortunately, due to the theft of the tapes of several interviews, Rabbi Klapper does not appear in the series. His insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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Adam Kotok is an attorney and music industry executive. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
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Joshua Kunis works in Miami, where he lives with his wife and children. At the time of the interview he was a third year law student at Cardozo Law School. After graduating, Josh worked as a lawyer in New York City for a number of institutions, including the American Jewish Committee.
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Harold Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel, in Natick, Massachusetts. Rabbi Kushner earned both his rabbinic ordination and a PhD at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including the best-seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
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Justin Jaron Lewis is co-coordinator of the Judaic Studies Program and Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. At the time of taping he was living in Kingston, Ontario, and serving in two half-time positions, as director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Queen’s University, and as rabbi of Congregation Iyr HaMelech, Kingston’s Reform congregation. Professor Lewis’ PhD is from the University of Toronto and his rabbinic ordination is from the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City, where he studied with rabbis and scholars from all streams of Judaism; he also has a background in the art of storytelling. He is the author of two forthcoming books: Imagining Holiness: Classic Hasidic Tales in Modern Times (McGill-Queen’s University Press) and Many Pious Women, co-authored with Harry Fox, an annotated translation of a subversive work of Jewish feminism written in Yiddish 500 years ago (JPS). Professor Lewis has published several academic articles related to narrative and gender, and has told stories and given workshops on Jewish texts and traditions across North America. He is the author of a popular on-line course on the theology of the Zohar (www.kolel.org/zohar/map.html).
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Asher Lopatin is the president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. At the time of the interview, he was the spiritual leader of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago, Illinois. He received his ordination from Rav Aron Soloveichik and Yeshivas Brisk and also from Yeshiva University in New York. Rabbi Lopatin earned an MPhil in Medieval Arabic Thought from Oxford University and a BA in International Relations and Islamic Studies from Boston University. He has also done doctoral work at Oxford in Islamic Fundamentalist Attitudes Toward Jews. Rabbi Lopatin won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1987 from Massachusetts and was a Wexner Fellow.
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Rachel Tessler Lopatin was a Wexner Fellow and most recently worked as the Program Director at Anshe Emet Synagogue. She was also the producer’s Rosh Edah (unit head) at Camp Ramah in Canada in 1989.
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Avraham Loewenthal grew up in Michigan and made aliyah (emigrated) to Israel in 1994. Since his immigration to Israel, Avraham has been living in the Old City Artist Quarter of Tzfat, where he divides his time between painting and studying Kabbalah. Avraham studied psychology at University of Michigan and later studied painting at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. His unique and inspiring work is an exciting expression of Kabbalistic concepts and a significant development in contemporary Jewish Art. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and in Israel, and in private collections throughout the world. Avraham spends time speaking with visitors to the gallery, discussing the basic concepts of Jewish Mysticism which inspire his work. He is also available to speak with large and small groups, giving a basic introduction to the Kabbalah through artwork.

For more information, to contact the artist, or to view his work, visit www.kabbalahart.com.
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Martin Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he taught religious history. Professor Marty is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is the author of many articles and more than 50 books.

For more information, or to contact Professor Marty, please visit www.illuminos.com.
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Harvey Meirovich is Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies, Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, Jerusalem. At the time of taping, Rabbi Meirovich was Dean of the Rabbinical School at that institution. Rabbi Meirovich was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he also earned his D.H.L.
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Paul Mendes-Flohr is Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at the Divinity School, University of Chicago, where he is currently the chair of the Committee on Jewish Studies. Until his recent retirement from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he served inter alia as the director of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Jack Miles, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his God: A Biography, is Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and Fellow for Religious Affairs with the Pacific Council on International Policy. Professor Miles has also served as Mellon Visiting Professor of Humanities at Caltech, Director of the Humanities Center at the Claremont Graduate University, Scholar in Residence and Senior Advisor at the J. Paul Getty Trust, and Visiting Fellow with the Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of Science, University of Chicago. In 2002, he was named a MacArthur Fellow for the years 2003-2007. In 2005, he began a multi-year project as general editor of the first-ever Norton Anthology of World Religions.

For more information or to contact Professor Miles, please visit: www.jackmiles.com.
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Michael Morgan is Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Jewish Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and an ordained rabbi. He is author of several books, including Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America and Discovering Levinas. With Paul Franks, he translated and edited Franz Rosenzweig: Philosophical and Theological Writings, and he coedited, with Peter Eli Gordon, The Cambridge Companion to Modern Jewish Philosophy.
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Haviva Ner-David is a writer, activist and teacher. The founding director of Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage, she earned her PhD in Philosophy of Jewish Law at Bar-Ilan University and is an ordained Rabbi. Rabbi Dr. Ner-David is author of Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination and the forthcoming Giving Chanah Voice: A Feminist Rabbi Reclaims the Women’s Mitzvoth of Baking, Bathing, and Brightening. She has also written numerous articles and contributed to various anthologies. Rabbi Dr. Ner-David sits on the board of Women of the Wall and Rabbis for Human Rights and lives in Israel with her husband and six children.
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Andrew B. Newberg, M.D. is Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College and Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1993 and trained in Internal Medicine at the Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, serving as Chief Resident in his final year. Following his internal medicine training, he completed a Fellowship in Nuclear Medicine in the Division of Nuclear Medicine, Department of Radiology, at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, he has actively pursued a number of neuroimaging research projects which have included the study of aging and dementia, epilepsy, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. His research, which has been performed in collaboration with the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, has focused not only on specific disorders, but on various activation studies designed to explore how brain function is associated with various mental states. He has published numerous articles and chapters on the topics of brain function and neuroimaging and has presented his research at both national and international meetings. He also has made education an important part of his career, participating on education and curriculum committees both at the University of Pennsylvania and at Graduate Hospital. He has trained medical students, internal medicine residents, radiology residents, and nuclear medicine fellows. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Nuclear Medicine, and Nuclear Cardiology.

Dr. Newberg has been particularly involved in the study of mystical and religious experiences as well as the more general mind/body relationship in both the clinical and research aspects of his career. Much of his research has focused on the relationship between brain function and various mystical and religious experiences, and he is the Director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Spirituality and the Mind. His research also includes understanding the physiological correlates of acupuncture therapy, meditation, and other types of alternative therapies. He has taught medical students, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as medical residents, about stress management, spirituality and health, and the neurophysiology of religious experience. He has published numerous articles and chapters on brain function, brain imaging, and the study of religious and mystical experiences. He is the author of Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs (Free Press). He has also co-authored the best selling books, Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief (Ballantine) and How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist (Ballantine Books), as well as The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Belief (Fortress Press), all of which explore the relationship between neuroscience and spiritual experience. The latter book received the 2000 award for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences presented by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. He has been involved in the teaching of the physiological basis of various alternative medicine techniques, including the importance of spirituality in medical practice. Dr. Newberg also teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania. He has presented his work at scientific and religious meetings throughout the world and has appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, and ABC World News Tonight, as well as in a number of media articles including Newsweek, the New Scientist, the Los Angeles Times and Readers Digest.
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David Novak holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of the Study of Religion and has been Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto since 1997. He is a member of University College, the Centre for Ethics of the Joint Centre for Bioethics there. From 1997 to 2002 he was also Director of the Jewish Studies Programme. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Novak was the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. Previously he taught at Oklahoma City University, Old Dominion University, the New School for Social Research, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Baruch College of the City University of New York. From 1966 to 1969 he was Jewish Chaplain to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, National Institute of Mental Health, in Washington, D.C. From 1966 to 1989 he served as a pulpit rabbi in several communities in the United States.

Professor Novak was born in Chicago in 1941. He received his AB from the University of Chicago in 1961, his Master of Hebrew Literature in 1964, and his rabbinical diploma in 1966 from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He received his PhD in Philosophy from Georgetown University in 1971.

Professor Novak is a founder, vice-president, and coordinator of the Jewish Law Panel of the Union for Traditional Judaism and is a faculty member of the Institute of Traditional Judaism in Teaneck, New Jersey. He serves as secretary-treasurer of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York City, and is on the editorial board of its journal First Things. He is a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and the Academy for Jewish Philosophy, and a member of the Board of Consulting Scholars of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. In 1992-93, Professor Novak was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. In 1995 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Business Ethics at Drew University. In 1996 he delivered the Lancaster/Yarnton Lectures at Oxford University and at Lancaster University. In the fall of 2004 he was Charles E. Test, M.D. Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Princeton University. He has lectured throughout North America, Europe, Israel and South Africa.

Professor Novak is the author of fifteen books, the latest being The Sanctity of Human Life (Georgetown University Press, 2008). His book, Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2000) won the award of the American Academy of Religion for “best book in constructive religious thought in 2000.” He has edited four books and is the author of over 200 articles in scholarly intellectual journals.

Since 1963, David Novak has been married to Melva Ziman. The Novaks have two grown children and five grandchildren. David and Melva Novak now live in Toronto.
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Kenneth I. Pargament is a licensed clinical psychologist. He received his PhD from the University of Maryland, completing an internship at Rutgers Medical School and post-doctoral training in the School of Public Health and Hygiene at John Hopkins University. He is a Professor of Psychology at Bowling Green State University, where he teaches courses in psychotherapy and the psychology of religion, supervises clinical psychology graduate students, and conducts research on religion, stress and coping. Professor Pargament heads SPiRiT, the spirituality and psychology research team, at Bowling Green State University. Professor Pargament is also Adjunct Professor at Boston University and a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. He has published numerous articles on stress and coping and has received national attention and awards for his research in this area.

Professor Pargament has written several books, including Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy: Understanding and Addressing the Sacred and The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice.
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Haviva Pedaya is a Professor of Judaism and Culture in the Department of Jewish History at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, specializing in Jewish mysticism. She has published three scholarly books: Name and Sanctuary in the Teaching of R. Isaac the Blind (Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 2001, Heb.), Vision and Speech: Models of Revelatory Experience in Jewish Mysticism (Cherub Press, Los Angeles, 2002, Heb.), and Nahmanides: Cyclical Time and Holy Text (Am Oved Press, Tel Aviv, 2003, Heb.). Professor Pedaya is also an accomplished poet and has published two books of poetry: From a Sealed Ark: Poems (Am Oved Press, 1996) and The Birthing of the Anima: Poems (Am Oved Press, 2002). Professor Pedaya was born in Jerusalem and studied at the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem School for Visual Theatre. She established the “Ha-Yona” Ensemble for Mystical and Liturgical Jewish Music of the Sharq (East), where she serves as musical director.

Unfortunately, due to the theft of the tapes of several interviews, Professor Pedaya does not appear in the series. Her insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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Judith Plaskow is Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and a Jewish feminist theologian. She has been teaching, writing and speaking about Jewish feminism and feminist studies in religion for almost forty years. With Carol P. Christ, she co-edited Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion and Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, anthologies of feminist theology used in many women’s studies and religious studies courses. With Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, she co-founded the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, which she co-edited for its first decade (1985-94). Her book Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (1990) has become a Jewish feminist classic. A collection of her essays, The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003, was published by Beacon Press in 2005.
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Judith Pruchno was born in Romania on May 15th, 1935. She lived in Romania until 1964, when she came to the United States. In Romania, Mrs. Pruchno earned a degree in and worked as a physician’s assistant. In the United States, Mrs. Pruchno became a histologist and cytologist and worked hand in hand with her late husband, who was a pathologist. At the time of the interview, Mrs. Pruchno worked for an advertising company. Currently she lectures at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan and delights in being a wife. Mrs. Pruchno has two biological children and two chosen (step) children.
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Samuel Pruchno was born in Lithuania on January 6, 1927. He spent most of World War II together with his brother in Dachau. Mr. Pruchno was educated in Munich after the war and earned a technical degree in engineering. After working for several different companies, Mr. Pruchno became a partner in the company from which he retired. Mr. Pruchno has two biological children and two chosen children.

Together, Mr. and Mrs. Pruchno have 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Since his retirement, Mr. Pruchno has spent a good deal of his time painting. In the last few years his artwork has focused on his memories of the Holocaust. He has completed a series of paintings entitled “Roll Call,” “Genocide by Labor,” “Death March,” and “Liberation.” His work is currently on loan to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
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Yael B. Ridberg is Rabbi of Congregation Dor Hadash in San Diego, California, and President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. At the time of the interview, Rabbi Ridberg served as the Rabbi of West End Synagogue in New York City. A 1997 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Ridberg served for two years as the first Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, and for three years as the Associate Rabbi of West End before becoming the sole rabbi of that congregation. Rabbi Ridberg received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990 in Communication Arts and Women’s Studies. She has been invited to speak and lead workshops and services for many organizations, including The Jewish Funder’s Network, UJA Task Force on the Jewish Woman, AIDS Interfaith New York, Planned Parenthood of NYC, UAHC Commission on Synagogue Affiliation, Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC in Manhattan, and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. She was named by Jewish Women International as one of 10 Women to Watch in 2003.

In addition to her congregational responsibilities, Rabbi Ridberg has served on the Executive Committee of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Rabbinic Council of the New Israel Fund, and the Board of Plaza Jewish Community Chapel. She has also led a bereavement support group through the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and the Jewish Healing Center. Rabbi Ridberg serves as a commentator for the forthcoming Guide to Jewish Reconstructionist Practice, to be published by the Reconstructionist Movement.
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David Hillel Rosmarin is a clinical fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rosmarin received his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Bowling Green State University, studying the Psychology of Religion. At the time of taping, Mr. Rosmarin was a Master’s Degree candidate in psychology at University of Toronto.

To contact Mr. Rosmarin regarding his psychological research on Jewish religiousness, please visit www.jpsych.com.
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Julie Ruskin, LMSW works for The Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield, Michigan, where she lives with her husband and their two children. At the time of the interview, Julie was a graduate student at Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
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Yoni Saposh works in finance in New York City. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children.
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Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, was the inspiration of the Jewish Renewal Movement and founder of the ALEPH Ordination Programs and ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Reb Zalman was Professor Emeritus at Temple University and Naropa University. He wrote numerous books and articles and was co-author of Jewish With Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. Reb Zalman passed away in July 2014.
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J. Immanuel Schochet, z”l, was an acknowledged authority on Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism and author of more than 30 books and numerous articles on those subjects, including Mystical Concepts in Chassidism: An Introduction to Kabbalistic Concepts and Doctrines. He was a renowned lecturer on Jewish thought, ethics and social issues, as well as on the history and philosophy of Chassidism. Dr. Schochet was the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Joseph in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Humber College in Toronto. While a professor at Humber College, Dr. Schochet also taught Medical Ethics at the School of Medicine of the University of Toronto. Rabbi Schochet passed away in July 2013.
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Harold M. Schulweis, z”l, combined a Talmudic education at Yeshiva College with graduate studies in modern philosophical and theological thought at New York University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Pacific School of Religion, from which he received his ThD in theology. He lectured in philosophy and theology at CCNY, the University of Judaism, and Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Schulweis authored many books, including: Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion (Prentice-Hall), For Those Who Can’t Believe (Harper Collins), Evil and the Morality of God (Hebrew Union College Press), In God’s Mirror (KTAV Publishing House, Inc.), Godliness: Translating God (Jewish Lights), and two books of original religious poetry and meditation: From Birth to Immortality (URJ Press) and Passages in Poetry (Valley Beth Shalom). His book Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey (Jewish Lights) was named Winner of the 2008 National Jewish Book Award: Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice. Rabbi Schulweis was the founding Chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and founder of the Jewish World Watch project. At that time of the interview, Rabbi Schulweis was the Senior Rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA. Subsequently, he graciously relinquished the title of Senior Rabbi, but continued to serve full time at VBS until he passed away in December 2014.
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Avi Shafran serves as Director of Public Affairs for Agudath Israel of America and as American Director of Am Echad. Rabbi Shafran received his rabbinical ordination in 1978 from Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland and spent nearly 20 years in Jewish education at the high school level, primarily in Providence, Rhode Island. Rabbi Shafran has written hundreds of essays for both the Jewish and general media and is co-author of Fire, Ice, Air: A Polish Jew’s Memoir of Yeshiva, Siberia and America (Hashgacha Press).
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Eric Shafran earned his Masters of Science in Real Estate and Construction Management from the University of Denver, Burns School of Real Estate, in August 2006. He is currently a Senior Associate at Romani Group, Inc., where he co-manages a number of real estate projects. He lives in Denver with his wife and children. At the time of taping, Mr. Shafran worked in finance in Chicago.
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Winner of the Israel Prize, Alice Shalvi is an activist and educator who, with her husband, recently completed the Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. Dr. Shalvi earned her BA in English Literature at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, and an MA at Cambridge. She earned a post-graduate Diploma in Social Work at London School of Economics and Political Science, and a PhD in English Literature from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Shalvi taught in the English Department of Hebrew University from 1950 until 1990, and held various administrative positions at the university. She was Founding Chairperson, Department of English, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Shalvi served as principal of Pelech Religious Experimental High School for Girls from 1975-1990 and as founding chairwoman of the Israel Women’s Network from 1984-2000. Between 1997 and 2008, Dr. Shalvi served consecutively as rector, president, chairperson and member of the board of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary degrees from a number of institutions of higher education such as Brown University, the Weizman Institute of Science, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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Esther Shkop is Dean of the Blitstein Institute of Hebrew Theological College and Professor of Bible. She has a PhD in Public Policy Analysis, a Masters in Biblical Studies, and a BA in English Literature and Philosophy. Dr. Shkop has written several articles, including “And Sara Laughed…,” which was published in Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought (www.traditiononline.org/traditionTOC.cfm?id=313), and “Divine Gender,” which was originally published in Jewish Women Speak About Jewish Matters and can be accessed at www.innernet.org.il/article.php?aid=74.

For more information on Hebrew Theological College and the Blitstein Institute, visit www.htc.edu.
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Ben Zion Solomon is a musician, teacher of Torah and music, composer, arranger and publisher. He is one of the founding members of Moshav Me’or Modi’im. Ben Zion has recorded many albums of the music of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the music of Rebbe Nachman and the Breslover Chassidim, and his own compositions. Many of his sons are also renowned musicians and teachers.
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Morris Starkman was, at the time of the interview, a semi-retired accountant who continued to work as a consultant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was also the producer’s grandfather. He passed away in July 2014.
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Daniel Tawil is a student at a Jewish day school in New York. He is one of David D. Tawil’s loving children.
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David A. Tawil, Brooklyn, New York, is grandfather of David D. Tawil and great-grandfather of Daniel D. Tawil. He is a rabbi and hazan.

Unfortunately, due to the theft of the tapes of several interviews, Rabbi Tawil does not appear in the series. His insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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David D. Tawil, a New York-native Allepian Jew, has a legal background and works in finance. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and their four loving children.
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Rachel Traurig was born in Oak Park, Michigan. She attended Akiva, Midreshet Lindenbaum and University of Michigan, where she earned a BA and a Masters degree in Social Work. Ms. Traurig is an LCSW. She works for OHEL on their Mobile Outreach Team, servicing individuals with mental illness in the Jewish community of Boro Park. She is a member of Congregation Ohab Tzedek on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
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Steven Weil is Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union. At the time of the interview, Rabbi Weil was Senior Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, California. During his tenure at Beth Jacob he widely expanded synagogue programming and increased membership substantially. Rabbi Weil is a musmach of Yeshiva University and earned an MBA in finance from New York University. Rabbi Weil is a highly sought-after presenter who has addressed groups across North America and Europe.

Rabbi Weil was the 2007-2008 Scholar-In-Residence for the National Young Leadership Cabinet of the UJC. He has been involved with editing and fundraising for multiple volumes of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s shiurim. Rabbi Weil has been honored by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Governor Schwarzenegger, and Beverly Hills Mayors Webb and Delshad to deliver the invocations for them on numerous occasions.

Unfortunately, due to the theft of the tapes of several interviews, Rabbi Weil does not appear in the series. His insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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At the time of the interview, Sol Weisfeld was the proprietor of Strickley Kosher Meats in Oak Park, Michigan (and the best butcher in North America). Sol passed away in January 2013.
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Andrea Lesch Weiss earned her BA in Education and her Masters degree in Social Work. She grew up in Seattle, Washington in a conservative Jewish home. She was active in USY and attended B’nai Brith camp in Oregon and Herzl Camp in Wisconsin. While in Chicago for college, she enhanced her exploration of Judaism by beginning to keep kosher and observing Shabbat. She later attended Midreshet Rachel in Jerusalem. After searching many paths in Judaism, Andrea lives a modern orthodox lifestyle with her husband, Jonathan, and their children, in Chicago. At the time of the interview, Andrea was studying for her MSW.
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Jonathan Weiss earned his BA in Economics from University of Michigan and his MBA from UCLA. Growing up in Chicago as the son and grandson of rabbis, he gained his fair share of exposure to religion and theology at an early age. Jonathan attended a conservative day school, a reform summer camp, and a modern orthodox high school. Through his time spent studying at Bar Ilan University, his religious ideology was further shaped. Jonathan works in Chicago where he resides with his wife, Andrea, and their children. At the time of the interview, he was studying for his MBA.
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Marc Howard Wilson is a rabbi, syndicated columnist and community relations-organizational design consultant.

Rabbi Wilson has served as a rabbi for three decades, holding pulpits in Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina. His essays have been published in Reader’s Digest, the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greenville News, and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. He is a columnist for the Atlanta Jewish Times and also writes on Jewish food for the Times and the Judische Allgemeine under his pen name, Rabbi Ribeye.

Rabbi Wilson has delivered keynote addresses at Clemson University, Furman University, and the South Carolina United Methodist Church Convention. He is a summa cum laude graduate of DePaul University (Chicago) and was ordained by the Hebrew Theological College (Chicago). He has also been a Graduate Fellow at the Chicago Institute of Pastoral Care.

Rabbi Wilson is the founder of two synagogue-based homeless shelters and has served in a variety of organizations, including Charlotte Area Clergy Association (Chair), Joint Urban Ministries, Bioethics Resource Group, a Clinical Review Committee, and as advisor to two Clinical Pastoral Education programs.

For his efforts and work with the homeless, he was named Community Servant of the Year (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), 50 Most Influential Leaders (Greenville Magazine), and one of the Fifty Best Reasons to Stay in the Carolinas (Southern Living).

Rabbi Wilson is the founder of Faith Communities United, the first interfaith-interracial coalition in the Upstate of South Carolina, and founding chairperson of St. Baldrick’s Day for childhood cancer research.
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Sherwin Wine, z”l, was founder of the Birmingham Temple and of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, and was Dean of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism in North America. Rabbi Wine was a graduate of University of Michigan and earned his ordination at Hebrew Union College. He was the author of several books, including Judaism Beyond God. Rabbi Wine was named Humanist of the Year for 2003 by The American Humanist Association. Rabbi Wine passed away in July 2007.
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Named the #1 Rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California. Previously he taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, The American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and Hunter College. He currently teaches at UCLA. Rabbi Wolpe writes for many publications, including regular columns for the New York Jewish Week and beliefnet.com, as well as periodic contributions to the Jerusalem Post, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. He is an ethics columnist for Campaigns and Elections Magazine and a monthly book columnist for L.A. Jewish Journal. He has been on television numerous times, featured in series on PBS and A&E, and served as a commentator on CNN and CBS This Morning. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of seven books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times and Why Faith Matters, a personal faith journey and response to the new atheists.

Rabbi Wolpe has received numerous honors and awards. He was named one of the hundred most influential Jews in America (Forward, 2003), one of the hundred most influential Angelinos (Los Angeles Magazine, 2006), and one of the fifty most important Rabbis in America (Newsweek, 2007). Rabbi Wolpe was also winner of a Rackower award for Jewish Journalism and winner of a Human Spirit award from the Wellness Community.
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Paul M. Yedwab has served Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan since 1986, after earning his rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. He received an AB in politics from Princeton University in 1979. Rabbi Yedwab is a past president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis and currently serves on the Michigan Board of Ethics. He has authored several books, including Sex in the Texts and The God Book: A Necessarily Incomplete Guide to the Essence of God, as well as many articles and sermons published in a variety of journals and newspapers.

Rabbi Yedwab has founded or co-founded a number of organizations and projects in Metro Detroit, including The Miracle Mission to Israel for Teens, The March of the Living Unity Mission, The Future Leaders of Klal Yisrael Mission, The Singles Shabbat Network, and Forgotten Harvest, a prepared food distribution agency. Rabbi Yedwab is on the National Advisory Board of MAZON, a Jewish Response to Hunger, and the Rabbinic Advisory Group of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
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Shai Zarchi is a third-generation member of Kibbutz Ginegar. He is a teacher of Hebrew Literature and Poetry, as well as Jewish Philosophy. Mr. Zarchi established the Midrasha for Jewish Education at Oranim and served as its Pedagogical Director. He established and directed the “Nigun” Beit Midrash for religious and secular men and women and established the “Nigun–Halev” community at Nahalal, where he directs Kabbalat Shabbat ceremonies. Mr. Zarchi was Chief Editor of the Pesach Haggadah, A Proposal for a Seder (Yediot Achronot).

Unfortunately, due to the theft of the tapes of several interviews, Mr. Zarchi does not appear in the series. His insights were nonetheless tremendously valuable and helpful to the interviewer in shaping her conversations with other participants.
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At the time of taping, Zoe Zdrojewski was in nursery school at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Currently, she is a student at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit.
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***Note: The credits featured on the DVDs generally reflect the titles and responsibilities of the participants at the time of the interviews. These brief biographies reflect the most up-to-date information available to the producer.
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