Guests and Speakers
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is the President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Yehuda is a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, on Jewish history and Jewish memory, and on questions of leadership and change in American Jewish life.
Yehuda led the creation of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America in 2010 as a pioneering research and educational center for the leadership of the North American Jewish community, and teaches in its many platforms for rabbis, lay leaders, Jewish professionals, and leaders of other faith communities. He is also the co-creator of the Shalom Hartman Institute's iEngage Project, which seeks to bridge between Israel and world Jewry through content, curriculum, and cutting-edge educational programs.
Yehuda received his doctorate in Jewish Studies from Harvard University and an MA in Religion from Brown University, and is an alumnus of both the Bronfman Youth and Wexner Graduate Fellowships. Previously Yehuda served as faculty member at Brandeis University where he held the inaugural Chair in Jewish Communal Innovation.
He is the author of Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past, which offers new thinking to contemporary Jews on navigating the tensions between history and memory; and the co-editor of the forthcoming volume The New Jewish Canon, a collection of the most significant Jewish ideas and debates of the past two generations.
He lives in New York with his wife Stephanie Ives and their three children.
Abby Pitkowsky is a native New Yorker. She earned her BA from SUNY Binghamton with a double major in English Literature and Judaic Studies and her MA degree in Jewish Education from JTS. Abby began her career in Jewish Education in both informal and formal frameworks in the NY area. Abby lived in Israel for 9 years and worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, serving Jewish communities overseas primarily in Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. After returning to the U.S. Abby shifted her professional focus to her local NY Jewish community. Abby is currently the Director of the Westchester Region, and of Israel Education for The Jewish Education Project and oversees the Qushiyot Israel Education Fellowship. Abby lives in Riverdale, NY with her husband Michael. They have two children who now attend college following a gap year program in Israel. She is also immediate past president of her synagogue, Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR).
Rebecca Ruberg serves as a Teen Education and Engagement consultant, and has previously held a number of positions focused on engaging teens and young adults in meaningful Jewish experiences. Prior to this role, she served as an Associate Program Officer for Legacy Heritage Fund and the Nachshon Project, the Area Director for the NY/CT region of Jewish Student Connection, and as a Field Worker for the Connecticut Valley Region of BBYO. Rebecca received her MA from the Hornstein Program for Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University and concentrated her studies in informal Jewish education and engagement. She additionally holds a certificate in Jewish Philanthropy from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University, and a BA in Psychology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) from Brandeis University. She currently resides in Closter, NJ with her husband, Rabbi Jeremy Ruberg, her daughter Aliza and her dog, Caleb the Kelev.
Bess Adler is the Director of New York Teen Initiatives at The Jewish Education Project. She previously served as Program Officer for Education at Legacy Heritage Fund and was director and principal of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies and the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. She served on the board of the National Hebrew High School Organization (formerly NAACCHHS, now JTeen) for many years, two of them as President. Bess made Aliya at age 18 and served as a lone soldier in the IDF and then earned an undergraduate degree and teaching certificate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon her return to the States, she earned a master’s degree and completed coursework towards her doctorate in Jewish Education at the William Davidson Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Jodie received a dual Master from The Jewish Theological Seminary in Jewish Education and Hebrew Bible and served as the President of the Davidson School Student's Association. Jodie has helped create curriculum for JCC Association's TAG summer camp curriculum, and worked to strengthen the Hebrew High School program, Havurat Torah, at Temple Israel Center of White Plains. She is currently a Teen Engagement Consultant and Project Manager at the Jewish Education Project. Her role is working to support youth and teen professionals in the New York area through facilitating networks, educational and networking opportunities, and creating professional development events that meet the needs of teen engagement professionals today.
Distant Cousins - the trio from LA made up of Duvid Swirsky (MOSHAV), Dov Rosenblatt (BLUE FRINGE), and Ami Kozak (Producer) - has been lighting up audiences nationwide with their energized performances showcasing their original brand of positive alt folk/pop. With multiple songs featured in commercials, movie trailers, films, and t.v shows, Distant Cousins has garnered the attention of fans and critics alike and they are now bringing their collaborative songwriting process into the classroom and beyond.