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Open Circle Faculty

Open Circle Jewish Learning instructors are dynamic, responsive, and learned educators. All bring 

Rachel Adelman

Rachel Adelman, Ph.D.

Rachel Adelman provides a dynamic, open approach to text study, drawing on a wide range of sources, from Tanakh and classical midrash to modern Israeli poetry. She holds a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies from Matan/Baltimore Hebrew University and a Ph.D in Hebrew literature, with a specialty in midrash, from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Adelman's first book "The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha" (Brill, 2009) is based on her dissertation work.  She just completed her second major book project: The Female Ruse — Women’s Deception and Divine Sanction in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2015), which she began as a research associate four years ago in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School.  She also teaches Hebrew Bible at Hebrew College.  When not writing books, articles, or divrei Torah, it
is poetry that flows from her pen.


Rabbi Jeff Amshalem

Rabbi Jeff Amshalem teaches Jewish Studies at Gann Academy and recently began working with the Moishe House. Before moving to Boston, Amshalem studied in Israel at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem and at Ben-Gurion University. He received smicha from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg and an MA in Jewish Thought with a focus on Hasidism and Kabbalah. Amshalem is currently preparing a new translation of Shivhei haBesht, the earliest collection of stories about the Baal Shem Tov.

David Ariel

David Ariel, Ph.D.

David Ariel is an adult Jewish educator in the Boston area and president of Ariel Learning, a global Jewish learning organization. He also teaches for the American Joint Distribution Committee in eastern Europe; for Kivunim, a gap-year program in Israel; and for Hillel. Previously, he served as president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He also served as president of the Hebrew College (Siegal College of Judaic Studies) in Cleveland. Ariel is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and received an MA and Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He is the author of four books, including "Kabbalah: The Mystic Quest in Judaism" and "What Do Jews Believe? The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism.”

Marc Baker

Rabbi Marc Baker

Rabbi Marc Baker is the Head of Gann Academy in Waltham, MA. Before coming to Gann Academy, he served as the director of Judaics and Student Life at the Doris and Alex Weber Jewish Community High School in Atlanta, Georgia. In November 2011 Marc was among five Jewish educators in the country to receive The Pomegranate Prize, established by the Covenant Foundation to honor and nurture exceptional, emerging Jewish education professionals. Marc currently serves as the Scholar in Residence of the Cynthia and Leon Shulman Acharai Leadership Program of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).  He lives in Brookline, MA, with his wife Jill and their four children.

David Bernat

David Bernat, Ph.D. 

David Bernat is the Executive Director of The Synagogue Council of MA, a Lecturer in Judaic Studies at UMass Amherst, and a veteran and popular member of the Meah faculty. His Ph.D. is in Biblical Interpretation from Brandeis.  Before entering graduate school, Bernat spent 8 years in the NYC wine industry.

Tamar Biala

Tamar Biala

Tamar Biala is engaged with Jewish feminism as a writer and lecturer. She received her BA at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and her MA in Women's Studies and Jewish Studies at the Schechter Institute. Ms. Biala has taught at IASA, Jerusalem's high school for gifted students, at the Hartman Institute's teacher training program, in pluralistic batei midrash in Isra,el and for the Israel Defense Forces. She also served for several years on the board of Kolech, the Religious Women's Forum, developing developed high school curricula for the empowerment of young women and for sex and family education for both young men and young women. She is the co-editor of Dirshuni: Midrashei Nashim (Yediot Acharonot and the Jewish Agency for Israel, 2009), the first-ever collection of Midrashim written by contemporary Israeli women.


Margie Bogdanow

Margie Bogdanow, LICSW, is an educator, coach and consultant in the Greater Boston area. Her professional work focuses on impacting adults to make a difference in the lives of young people. She serves as a Senior Consultant to the Commission on Jewish Life and Learning at CJP, and was co- founder and executive director of Parenting Resource Associates, in Lexington. She is passionate about finding ways to make Judaism meaningful for people in as many ways as possible.

Jody Comins

Jody Comins

Jody Comins is the Principal at A Better Way; Divorce & Family Mediation. She is a court-approved facilitator for the required parent Education program and teaches in Boston, Canton, and Waltham and is a mentor for mediators in the Norfolk Probate & Family Court. Prior to becoming a mediator, she worked in the Boston Jewish community for 24 years at numerous agencies. She is a founder and past President of MetroWest Jewish Day School. Jody received her Masters in Social Work with a clinical concentration from Boston University in 1997.

Judy Elkin

Judy Elkin

Judy Elkin is a long-time Jewish educator and a certified personal and professional coach, working with individuals, couples and professional teams. As a Jewish educator, she has worked with adolescents, parents, parent educators, teachers and graduate students, and was the founding director of Ramah Family Camp. Learn more about Elkin at her website.

Rachel Fish, Ph.D.

Rachel Fish is the Associate Director of the Schusterman Center at Brandeis University. She completed her doctoral degree in 2013 in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department at Brandeis University, where she researched the history of the idea of bi-nationalism and alternative visions for constructing the State of Israel. She has taught at Brandeis University, UMASS Amherst and the Me’ah Adult Jewish Education program. In 2015 she held the Rohr Visiting Professorship at Harvard University, where she lectured on modern Israel and received the Derek Bok Certificate of Teaching Excellence. She is co-editor, with Ilan Troen, of the forthcoming book Essential Israel: Essays for the Twenty-First Century.

Lisa Goodman

Lisa Goodman

Lisa Goodman is an experienced Jewish educator and a licensed social worker.  Since 2009, she has facilitated Mussar/Tikkun HaMiddot groups since 2009 Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester, Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Temple Isaiah in Lexington, and in private homes.  Lisa is a 2009 graduate of the Manchim program of The Mussar Institute, which trains Mussar group facilitators.  She has studied Mussar with Alan Morinis, author of Everyday Holiness and With Heart in Mind, and is presently a student of Rabbi David Jaffe.


Rachel Gordan, Ph.D.

Rachel Gordan received her PhD in American religious history from Harvard. She is working on a book about American Judaism and teaches in Jewish Studies and American Studies at BU and Brandeis. She has taught at Northwestern University and at the University of Toronto.

Janette Hillis-Jaffe

Janette Hillis-Jaffe is the author of Everyday Healing: Stand Up, Take Charge and Get Your Health Back . . . One Day at a Time and a sought-after speaker, consultant and coach. She has a Masters in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health and has spent hundreds of hours studying the health care system, the mind-body connection, nutrition, and counseling during her successful effort to heal from a six-year, debilitating autoimmune disorder. She has studied Torah at Nishmat, Yakar, and MaTan in Jerusalem and currently lives in Sharon, MA, with her husband and two sons.

David Jaffe

Rabbi David Jaffe

David Jaffe is the school chaplain at Gann Academy: The New Jewish High School and the founder and dean of The Kirva Institute for Torah and Spiritual Practice. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Jewish Theological Seminary Communal Service program, Jaffe received his rabbinic ordination from the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in Israel. He is a veteran Ikkarim instructor and has taught widely throughout the Boston community. 

Jamie Kotler

Rabbi Jamie Kotler

A mid-life graduate of Hebrew College Rabbinical School, Jamie teaches in a wide variety of settings around the Boston area, from synagogues to campfires. She is energized by the prospect of re-visioning the fullness of our tradition in a way that speaks to the needs of today’s world.  She loves teaching Torah to adults in a way that enables us to reflect on our connection to The One, to one another, to the chain of generations on whose shoulders we stand, and to the world we inhabit.  She brings an extensive range of traditional, Hasidic and modern sources – including art and poetry - to the conversation, to inspire and deepen our understanding of the text and our relationship to it, and to help us to find our own modern voices in the ancient words of our ancestors.

Dan Liben

Rabbi Dan Liben

Daniel Liben has served since 1991 as spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Natck, Mass. A prolific teacher, he is a recipient of the Bureau of Jewish Education's Keter Torah Award for his work in family education. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983.


Layah Lipsker

Layah Kranz Lipsker is a Jewish educator currently teaching for Kevah and Eim Chai. She is also a research associate at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and the creator of, a website that supports women seeking Jewish divorce. Lipsker is part of the newly formed Boston Agunah Taskforce, and serves as a liaison for women with the Boston Bet Din. She lives with her husband and six children in Swampscott.



Rabbi Natan Margalit, Ph.D.

Natan Margalit  is spiritual leader of The Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life, in western Connecticut, and visiting rabbi at Congregation Adas Yoshuron, in Rockville, Maine. After graduating from Reed College with a degree in anthropology, he went on to receive rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary and earn a Ph.D. in Talmud from the University of California, Berkeley.

Todd Markley

Rabbi Todd Markley

Todd Markley serves as one of the senior rabbis of Temple Beth Shalom on Needham. He has a passion for Jewish learning and has helped to reimagine many of Beth Shalom's learning programs for children and adults. He is a graduate of Hebrew Union College's School of Jewish Education as well as their rabbinical school.  

Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World, and The Ladies Auxiliary, which was a national bestseller. Her memoir, The Book of Separation will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2017. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She lives in Newton, MA.

Jim Morgan

Rabbi Jim Morgan

Rabbi Jim Morgan is Rabbi and Chaplain at Center Communities of Brookline, a network of three independent living facilities that is part of Hebrew SeniorLife. He is also Rabbinic Adviser for the Worship and Study Minyan at Harvard Hillel, a lay-led congregation that serves the university and the larger community. He holds a PhD in Russian literature from Yale and was in the first cohort of rabbis  ordained at Hebrew College. He lives in Brookline with his wife and two children

Sarah Mulhern

Sarah Mulhern

Sarah Mulhern is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College, where she is also working towards a Masters in Jewish Education and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. During rabbinical school, Sarah has worked in a variety of settings—including synagogues, social justice organizations, mikvaot, hospitals, and adult and youth education. Previously, Sarah worked for several years as a Jewish educator at the American Jewish World Service. Sarah is an alumna of Yeshivat Hadar, Pardes Institute, Drisha Institute, Beit Midrash Har El, and Brandeis University. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband, Will, and too many books. Sarah is passionate about the idea that Torah belongs to every Jew, and can open up wise and exciting conversations about the issues which really matter to us.