Board Bios

Executive Committee

Michael Appelbaum

Michael Appelbaum has worked in the wealth management business for the past 40 years,
formerly as a Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns and currently, for past 9 years, at Merrill Lynch, where he advises individuals. He has served on the board of the Center for Social & Emotional Education for the past 15 years, working to combat bullying in schools. Michael and his wife, Suzy, live in New York City where they are inspired members of Romemu. They have two daughters, Sydney and Mia

Richard Shuster

When my wife, Betsy, and I found Romemu, we knew we had found our spiritual home. We love the ruach and the positive energy, and the combination of traditional learning and
meditation. Rabbi Ingber is so open and honest about his own spiritual journey and it has helped us explore our own in a more meaningful way. He makes the large congregation feel intimate and helps everyone feel connected.

I first learned of Romemu through my colleagues and friends on the boards of Isabella
Freedman, Hazon, Camp Eden Village, and the Harlem Hebrew Charter School. I feel proud to have participated in these organizations over the past decade. I have particularly been moved to watch Eden Village grow from an embryonic start up to a bi-coastal organization serving 500 children annually in a “community of kindness.”

Our two children, Jake and Henry, have been part of the Heschel community for the past two decades. I have been privileged to oversee the Heschel investment club for the past decade. Professionally, I manage the small cap investment team at Boston Partners, where I have been a money manager for over 30 years.

Board of Directors

Yoni Barnhard

I was raised in an LA synagogue, Valley Beth Shalom, where Rabbi Harold Schulweis was the first to open the door to the wisdom of Judaism. I left college after two years, and spent several years studying at Machon Pardes, Machon Meir, and Hebrew University. That was the decision that determined the rest of my life. 

For 18 years I’ve lived in Riverdale with my wife Shari and our four kids, Gavi, Nadav, Noam and Lia, where we are connected to the Hebrew Institute and SAR.  Two and half years ago we were introduced to Romemu by one of our kids and by a friend.

Romemu engages my mind, my heart, and my soul in a way that I have rarely experienced since we came back to Riverdale from Israel. Romemu has been a wake up. It has been a call to renew and improve our life. Rav Kook writes that our souls are always speaking to us. In his language, the soul is always “whispering, singing, or praying.” Romemu has opened up so many new possibilities to hearing that voice.

Over the past two years, the learning, the yearning (prayer), the singing, the community, the new relationships, and the commitment to inclusion have deeply impacted me. Often, I am deeply stirred both by what Romemu is today and the vision of its leaders for the American Jewish community and beyond. 

I feel something special happening here.

I have been a physician for over 30 years, OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine, presently Director at White Plains Hospital, where I am focused on improving quality of care and patient safety. For five years I have served as the Chairman of the Kupona Foundation, an NGO focused on healthcare in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I make yearly trips to work in maternal healthcare.

I am very motivated to take a deep dive into Romemu over the next several years and feel tremendous gratitude being part of this community founded by Rav David.

Deborah Berstein

The first services I attended at Romemu almost ten years ago, encouraged by my ever seeking cousin Rabbi Shoshonna Mitrani-Knapp, a dear friend of Caren and Arthur Fried; reawakened my heart to prayer. After years of participation in other congregations I had found a spiritual home with music and chanting to stir the higher impulses of the soul and involve the body. Since that time my husband, Harvey Hecht, and I have moved to my ancestral home, Brooklyn, to live down the block from our children and grandchildren. I have been involved with Romemu Brooklyn for several years, before its official inclusion in the Romemu family. My reasons for joining the board are to provide a conduit of exchange from one campus to the other and to assure the Romemu messages, intent and spirit are shared by and incorporated at the Brooklyn campus. I see this unique opportunity as a way to actualize the adage “think globally and act locally.” The call to service comes naturally to me, I am a physician who has undergone several iterations of professional life, as most of us have done by this age, private practice, corporate medical education and medical branding and advertising for pharmaceutical companies and now working with an adult homeless population on the Upper West Side. All of these venues have helped shape my deductive skills, vision for future projects, collegiality, and most of all, my concern for the well being of others. These are the qualities I hope to bring to my board membership.

Claudia Romo Edelman

Claudia Romo Edelman is an advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion. Her mission is to use her voice to build bridges and remind us that we are all human. She is a Special Adviser for the We Are All Human Foundation; she is also the Co-Host of ‘Global GoalsCast’, a podcast distributed by CBS News Digital, which highlights global progress through the stories of champions making a difference. Claudia is the Editor at Large of Thrive Global and it was recently announced that she will step into the role of Editor in Chief of Thrive Hispanics. Prior to this, the Mexican-Swiss diplomat was seconded to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to lead communications and advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals. Claudia is the former Chief of Advocacy of UNICEF. While living in Europe for 25 years, she successfully led public relations and brand and marketing for global organizations including the World Economic Forum, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB & Malaria.

 

A frequent public speaker on development and humanitarian affairs, Claudia holds degrees in Communications, Philosophy and Photography as well as a Masters of Political Communications from the London School of Economics. Claudia is married and has two children. She enjoys sports and speaks six languages. Joining the Board of Romemu is right for me because it has inspired my work and nurtured my belief in the potential of human beings to be more compassionate and inclusive. I believe strongly in bringing acceptance to this diverse world and advocating for every human to be respected and empowered. Romemu has inspired my spirit and my mind, cared for my family and broadened my understanding of my faith. I feel ready to give back and contribute to the growth and development of this community. 

Richard Edelman

Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of Edelman, a leading communications marketing firm. Richard has extensive experience in marketing and reputation management, having led assignments with major corporations, NGOs and family businesses in over 25 industries around the world. He has counseled countries in every region of the world on economic development programs. As the creator of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, Richard has become one of the foremost authorities on trust in business, government, media and NGOs. Richard topped PR Week’s list of most powerful executives (2013), was recognized as the third highest rated CEO by Glassdoor (2014) and was inducted in the Arthur W. Page Society’s Hall of Fame
(2014). He is regarded as an industry thought leader and has posted weekly to his blog since 2004. Richard is consistently mentioned as one of the top 25 foremost experts on corporate trust. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Ad Council, the Atlantic Council, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Children’s Aid Society, the Gettysburg Foundation, the 9/11 Museum and the National Committee on US China Relations. He is a member of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, World Economic Forum and PR Seminar.

Caren Ellis Fried

It has been quite a journey since the first time I discovered Romemu in 2006.  I have served on the Board since we became a full time community in 2008 as Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board from 2010- 2014.  I most recently served on the Executive Committee from 2014-2016.

I continue to engage in building the infrastructure and create a strong foundation for our intentional sacred and spiritual community.  I am committed to further develop the leadership within the community and help create a sustainable structure and process.

I have learned much along the way and am grateful for the collaboration of the many other passionate board members, staff, clergy and members.  I support the vital and dynamic future vision of Romemu and along with the growth that it brings, ensure that it will continue to be true to its values.

I am honored to build a sacred community for the 21st century that stretches beyond our walls and connects to all those who seek spiritual sustenance.  I hope we will inspire other sacred communities and collaborate with like- minded and hearted organizations to advance a shared spiritual vision.

I am a social worker with experience as a facilitator, trainer and advocate.  I now add community builder to my list of experiences.  I am currently working on a new project called, Notes From An Optimist.

John J. Hannan

While not a big fan of organized religion, I find Romemu a very inviting and calming place.

Like so many at Romemu, I have always been curious about the many ways one can live a spiritual life and have developed a deep commitment to my daily yoga practice. At Romemu, I have begun a long desired exploration of Kaballah. David is an amazing human being and presents a wonderful example of how spiritual practice can be meaningful in today’s world.

My career has been in finance. I have been an investor for over 30 years. During this time, I have served on several not-for-profit boards, including my three children’s schools and university.

Judith Hannan

Before joining Romemu, I hadn’t been a member of a congregation since high school when my temple was the focus of not just my Jewish life but my social life. What I found there was a pathway if not to belief than to spiritual uplifting through music and dance. After years of going to various synagogues for the High Holy Days, my family found Romemu, and I felt at home immediately. I also love studying text and the open and non-judgmental manner in which each congregant can explore their Judaism at Romemu. David provides extraordinary spiritual leadership but combines that with feet firmly planted in the world of today.

Writing is another way I explore my inner life. As a memoirist and essayist, I have paid particular attention to family and to those moments in life that change the arc of our personal narrative. I have been proud to conduct my workshop, The Write Prescription, at Romemu. The voices that I am privileged to hear affirm for me the jewel that is the Romemu community.

I have been involved in not-for-profits my entire adulthood, both as a professional and a board member. I currently serve on and/or chair a variety of non-profit boards including the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and the Arnhold Global Health Institute of the Icahn School of Medicine. What draws me to these institutions are the same qualities that define Romemu— openness, service, compassion, and love.

I am eager to help Romemu realize its dream to become a fully-equipped center of Jewish study, prayer, education, and culture, in all the forms and dimensions that come from the creative people that lead it.

Staci Levine

Treasurer

I was raised Reform in Dallas, TX, but always sought out more from my spiritual and community experience. Moving to NYC twenty-two years ago, I assumed finding a Jewish home that fit would be easy. Not so. I’m fortunate though, that the confluence of a Shabbat dinner, a Yom Kippur mitzvah, and a documentary film led me to Romemu. I’m excited to be of service to this wonderful community and grateful to have finally found my Jewish home. My professional life has always revolved around live performance. I founded Groundswell Theatricals, Inc in 2011, after eight years cutting my teeth in commercial theater with a Broadway production company. Groundswell produces and manages concerts, musicals, and plays for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and on tour in the US and abroad. I’m fortunate that I spend my days immersed in a world I’m so passionate about, and with people who share that passion.

Gil Mandelzis

I was born and raised in Israel with limited spiritual or religious connection to Judaism. Moving to America over twenty years ago, raising children and finding a home here, led me on a quest for a spiritual home as well. In Romemu I found a wonderful confluence of Jewish traditions, mindfulness, deep ethics and values, an exceptional community and incredible leadership. Professionally I am an entrepreneur in the financial technology space. I started my first company (Traiana) about 20 years ago, backed by Israeli and American venture capital firms and successfully sold it several years later to a British brokerage company
(ICAP). I stayed with ICAP for the following 8 years and ran the electronic markets division. Two years ago a went back to the garage to start a new company, Capitolis, again with Israeli engineering presence, and US and Israeli backing.

Josh Rechnitz

It is such a distinct pleasure and I feel honored, truly, to have been invited to join the board at Romemu, a home to which I feel, like so many here, I was drawn to as certainly as it seems to have been intended, the end of a long, twisting road a good part of me did not even know I was traveling.  The warmth of spirit of this community, my sense of belonging (!) and the feeling of cascading love here threaten to the point of overwhelming me.  “It’s all too much for me to take, the love that’s shining all around you. Everywhere, it’s what you make, for us to take, it’s all too much.”

Josh Rechnitz is a social entrepreneur and philanthropist, engaged in and a supporter of the visual arts, a diehard bicycle commuter and advocate for a more livable city.  He grew up cartooning in the wooly suburbs of New Jersey, and worked as an independent filmmaker and animator for 15 years in New York.  He makes his home in Greenwich Village.

Heidi Rieger

At this stage in my life my focus is all about re-imagining what an engaged Jewish community can look like.  Part of the reimagining comes from people who are willing to teach and dream in a way that makes sense in the hectic nature of our lives.  Rabbi David has given me hope that such a place is possible.  Friday night services at Romemu are inspirational and beautiful and I always leave feeling uplifted.

I currently sit on Boards that embrace our tradition in an honest way and are fiercely committed to making a difference for the next generation. JCC Manhattan, The Jewish Education Project, CLAL, and UJA Federation,  all  keep me energized and informed. It’s a honor to be a part of Romemu’s journey moving forward and helping Rabbi David further his vision.

I am forever grateful to my dear friends, Caren and Arthur Fried, for introducing Richard and I to such a wonderful community.

Nigel Savage

I’ve known Rabbi Ingber for many years, and I consider myself a friend, a colleague and a student, in relation to him as a person, as a Jewish leader, and as a rabbi. I’ve followed his vision for Romemu from early on. As civilians, Liz and I love Romemu, love the ruach, love the vision, and find the time we spend at Romemu both enriching and challenging, each in good ways. As a Jewish leader – as the founder and director of Hazon – I think that what’s happening at Romemu – and what can and could happen – is significant not just for those of us who attend or are members, but also more widely for the evolution of the American Jewish community.

Both Hazon and Isabella Freedman have been proud to partner with Romemu in the past, and this year, as Hazon & Isabella Freedman proceed with a merger, I am even more busy than usual — I will be away a fair amount, including on the evening of the Romemu annual meeting, and I give my apologies for not being able to be here.

But the work I do at Hazon gives me perspective that I hope I can bring to Romemu. I’m interested in how we weave Jewish tradition and institutional development; I’m interested in what best practice means or looks like, for a shul or a Jewish organization. I care about supporting leaders, building strong and healthy cultures, and the work that boards do and should  do to steward organizations in the deepest sense. These are some of the aspects of myself that I hope to bring to Romemu.

Marc Schiller

I grew up in an orthodox home and was fortunate to study at some of the best yeshivot in the world. I loved the learning, the spiritual connection and the singing that was the daily bread of these institutions and my home. But as I grew into young adulthood many questions arose. My questions and yearning for greater understanding were met with empty platitudes at best and closed-mindedness dismissiveness at worst. Slowly my spiritual anchors lost much of their weight and I began to float away from “home.”

For years I searched for a spiritual home that gave full expression to the warm tradition of learning of my youth but that also embraced an openness to learn from, and be fully part of, the greater world. By the time I was in my mid-forties I reconciled myself to the impossibility of finding such a place and settled into life in a wonderful conservative congregation.

And then, almost by accident, my daughter, Yael, introduced me to Romemu. Sitting in shul that first Shabbat morning and singing “modeh ani lefanecah ruach chai v’kayam” I was overcome with emotion. Once again I was reconnected to the timeless spirit and energy of Judaism. But this time it felt very different. As the tears flowed from my eyes, I covered myself with my talis and all I could say was … “I am home.”

In my professional life, I work as an author, speaker and consultant. My firm, Rain Partners, teaches companies and individuals how to excel in the art and science of IT management.

My wife Karyn and I are blessed with two daughters, Yael and Gabi.

Elana Shneyer

My husband Adam and I came to Romemu seeking a more intimate synagogue experience. We wanted a community where we could grow and also help to shape the community as it grows. Romemu has proven to be all of that and more for us.

My community organizing background helped me start Romemu’s social justice initiative, and I am so grateful that that initiative has taken off. With two small children, I am excited to liaison with the family programming committee to continue developing and integrating our growing community of families.

As the former Chief Program Officer at the Pratt Area Community Council, a community development corporation, and Chief of Staff to a local Assembly Member, I happily bring my non profit management skills and public relations skills to the Romemu board. When not at Romemu, I have my own consulting practice focused on non profit organizations and local governments to help both better serve their constituencies and work with one another.  I am grateful to have participated in the Wexner Heritage Program (NY16) and love being part of Romemu’s dynamic Jewish community. 

Peter Takiff

Board President

I have enjoyed serving on the Romemu board as Treasurer, Chair, and now ex-Chair. It is an honor to help nurture and grow this community that feeds our spiritual, learning and communal needs.

 My wife Pam and I found our way to Romemu with the help of our dear friends, Caren and Arthur. Rabbi David and the Romemu community have enriched my Jewish experience and enabled me to connect with the spiritual part of Judaism that had been missing in my life.

I have over 35 years of finance experience in a wide range of businesses from real estate services and development to media, technology and consumer products. 

I also serve on the boards of The Jewish Child Care Association, a comprehensive child and family services agency whose work is motivated by tikkun olam and Eden Village Camp, a summer camp rooted in the Jewish vision of creating a more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually connected world.

Jade Netanya Ullmann

I first met Rabbi David in 2005 at the JCC Manhattan, a year before Romemu was created and I was fortunate to be at our first service in March 2006.

As a spiritual seeker, it was an incredibly powerful, heartening and enriching experience for me when I discovered a spiritual community that I could call home.

I was inspired to join the Romemu board and served in that capacity for a year before applying for and becoming the second Executive Director in 2009. I was honored to serve in that capacity for 18 months and then became the first Director of Development, Membership and Outreach.

I held that position for 2½ years, during which I helped Romemu grow from a congregation with less than 200 members to its current community of over 500 families. I am humbled and honored to have made contributions to this organization and community.

I am also active with other Jewish Renewal organizations, currently finishing up my tenure on the ALEPH board, as well as other social justice non-profits, including the Social Venture Network, Zen Peacemaker Community and Common Fire Foundation.

I have had a long and exciting journey at Romemu and look forward to serving the community in new ways. Of particular interest to me is continuing to strengthen relationships with our donors, serving as an ambassador when attending conferences and events to introduce Romemu to new individuals and organizations and participating in new member orientations.

Ari Wallach

Ari brings over 15 years of experience helping organizations (from non-profit to corporate and political) strategically grow into the full embodiment of their mission. From the United Nations to CNN, Ari has worked with senior executives in helping define their long-term vision and the necessary steps needed to manifest that vision. He is also active in the Jewish community as a board member of JTA and on the advisory board of CEOJL and Urban Adamah. Ari is also an alumni of several years of Jewish Summer camp, serves as a trustee of AJC’s ACCESS program and is the co-founder of 2008s The Great Schlep with Sarah Silverman.

Ari would like to work with sr. leadership on developing a long-term strategy for Romemu (from building to brand) as well as any and all possible on-line tools and platforms under the Romemu brand.

We see how possible it to live in a community that is open, inclusive, deeply spiritual, authentically Jewish, and committed through words and actions to making our world a better place. This is what we see in Romemu. We believe in Romemu now and even more so–we believe in the potential of what it can become not only for the Upper West Side, or even forNew York, but for our country, and ultimately our world. This is why we would be honored to serve on the board—to help this community continue to grow into the potential we know and believe in so deeply.

Hali Weiss

Secretary

I am pleased to share my experience in construction, building, space, and design with Romemu.

I have been an architect for 25 years.  I am a sole practitioner, and have collaborated regularly, since 2005, with Abelow Sherman Architects. I specialize in customized residential work, in and outside of Manhattan.

A secondary theme in my work has been the study of sacred space.  My design for an interactive auditory  Holocaust Memorial Project for the city of Boston in the early 1990’s entitled “The Echo Chamber”. The project was a competition finalist, but not built.

Alongside architectural work, I have explored how to bring innovation, self-expression, creativity and deeper meaning to another kind of sacred space—cemeteries and the monuments that fill them.  I hold a number of US patents for innovative gravestone concepts.

My family became Orthodox as I grew up.  In the late 1970’s, I studied in a women’s ba’al teshuvah yeshiva in Jerusalem for two years and was strictly Orthodox for many years thereafter.  Eventually,  I realized I preferred an approach to Judaism that was more evolutionary, collaborative, and creative.

I have investigated many different paths to a spiritually rooted Jewish practice. Romemu’s approach and community have become a comfortable context in which to continue that exploration.

Evan Wildstein

I have been a student of contemplative practice for many years with origins dating back to my youth as an avid practitioner of various forms of martial arts and later meditation.  While I have always been drawn to the teachings and practices of the east, having found Rabbi David and Jewish Renewal, our family has deepened its commitment to Jewish life and practice.

I have found the opportunity to study with Rabbi David and my fellow community members to be deeply enriching as we explore mystical interpretations and the practical relevance of the teachings in our daily lives. Romemu is a trusting, warm environment that embraces all congregants in a place where it is safe to be expressive and find a heartfelt connection with the profound truths of Torah.

Professionally, I have spent the last 20 years as a private equity investor and served on numerous public, private, and non-profit boards.

Paula Yormak

I feel blessed to have found a spiritual home at Romemu that seamlessly blends Judaism with humanity to create a special and unique soulful community. As I walk through the doors into our Romemu community, I instantly feel loving energy that permeates every service and gathering.

I met David Ingber in 2009. Almost immediately my husband and I felt inspired to become members and knew we found something very special. I have co-chaired our first two Romemu gala’s and I am now excited to serve on the board and contribute more time and energy to help Romemu grow and flourish. I have years of board membership experience as well as years of chairing different types of charitable events. I am presently training to be a spiritual life coach, which compliments Romemus philosophies and direction. I am passionate and dedicated. I believe in Romemu and I welcome the opportunity to help Romemu create more dreams that together we will make into realities.