Tobin Belzer, Ph.D
Tobin Belzer 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.
Joshua Comenetz, Ph.D
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.
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.
Jane Anna Gordon
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.
Lewis R. Gordon, Ph.D
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.
Ephraim Isaac, Ph.D
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.
Helen Kim is Associate Professor of Sociology at Whitman College. Her research with co-author and husband, Noah Leavitt, focuses on intermarriage and family dynamics among Jewish Americans and Asian Americans. Her scholarship has been profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Jewish Daily Forward, the New York Times and NPR. University of Nebraska Press will publish her book, JewAsian, in 2016.
Rabbi Irwin Kula
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rabson Wuriga, Ph.D
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.
Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi
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.