Director of Youth & Family Education
Rabbi Janice Elster was ordained as a Rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in 2007, and holds a certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education and a BA Honors in Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies. She is passionate about gender inclusivity and women’s empowerment in Jewish practice and making Jewish texts and tradition come alive. Before joining Romemu, Rabbi Elster served as the Director of Engagement and Family Learning at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto, where she created a new approach to supplementary Jewish education that emphasized experiential learning, small group instruction, and family integration into the broader community.
Rabbi David works with our B Mitzvah students on writing their Kavanot (Dvar Torah) and leads B Mitzvah family lunch and learns. With his extensive experience of so many wisdom traditions, Rabbi David brings a unique depth and breadth of understanding to his rabbinic work. He is deeply committed to comparative religious studies and to integrating into Judaism practices which consistently prove effective in opening a connection with the Divine.
Hazzan Basya teaches our B Mitzvah students and also leads our Seekers band. She was ordained January 2016 by ALEPH Cantorial School, and has been the recipient of numerous compositional and project grants from NY State Council of the Arts and the American Music Center. She is also known for her group Pharaoh’s Daughter, a seven-piece neohasidic world music ensemble that travels effortlessly through continents, key signatures, and languages with a genre-bending sound.
Associate Rabbi & Director of Life Long Learning
Rabbi Dianne provides oversight and designs curriculum for Seekers. She was the first woman from the Syrian Jewish community to be ordained as a Rabbi. She graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1995, where she was awarded several fellowships and a prize for academic excellence. Since that time she has served as an educator, scholar-in-residence, and administrator for multiple organizations in the Jewish world, including CLAL, the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, The Curriculum Initiative and UJA Federation. In 2007 she was named one of fifty top rabbis by the Washington Post online. Besides leading education efforts at Romemu she currently co-teaches the Arts Beit Midrash at the Skirball Institute with Tobi Kahn, teaches courses at UJA Federation a nd writes and speaks regularly on Torah, Jewish values and family life, Jewish ethnicity and Judaism and disabilities. Rabbi Dianne and her journalist husband Larry live on the upper west side of Manhattan and have three children.
Jewish Emergent Network Rabbinic Fellow
Board Certified Chaplain
Rabbi Mira Rivera received ordination at The Jewish Theological Seminary in 2015 with an M.A. in Jewish Studies and a Certificate in Clinical Pastoral Education.
While providing ministry as a board-eligible chaplain at Mt. Sinai Hospital and DOROT, she came to Romemu for spiritual community. With Romemu member Dr. Renee Hill, she co-founded Harlem Havruta, “a brave space for Jews of Color, allies and co-conspirators” at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. She serves as a chaplain in their Client Choice Pantry Program every Monday afternoon. Rabbi Rivera is an alumnae of Bend the Arc’s Selah Cohort 15 for Jews of Color, a member of the first cohort of the Jewish Women of Color Resilience Circle with Yavilah McCoy and Auburn Seminary, and a co-chair of the rabbinical council of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). She has taught adults through “Exploring Judaism,” a Rabbinical Assembly program of Jewish learning and experience.
Kita Bet (Grades 1-2)
Batya was raised in a family of 12 children in Crown Heights, and has an extensive background in education including Jewish camping and supplementary Hebrew school. Her mission in working with children is way beyond content. It’s about infusing their subconscious with positive affirmations so that by the time they are adults they have the tools to work with themselves in the best way possible. A Seeker herself, Batya feels Romemu provides an elevated environment which shows children that when they seek truth, they will find truth. She feels that her morals and perspective are aligned with Romemu’s.
Kita Alef (Grades K-1)
Stephanie Guedalia is a graduate of Tisch School and spent her first two years of University studying Intellectual History. She was born in Jerusalem and was raised with a deep love of Jewish texts. She has studied at Yeshiva in Jerusalem and at Yeshivat Hadar in NYC. She is a storyteller through a wide variety of platforms including performance, music, and the written word.
Kita Daled & Kita Zayin (Grades 4 & 7)
Heather is a second year Rabbinical Student at HUC- JIR. Prior to beginning her studies at HUC-JIR in New York, Heather was living in Israel, working for Hillel International and participating in a 2 year Yoga Teacher Training certification in Jewish Mindfulness. Pairing yoga with her undergraduate art studies, Heather is passionate about exploring Jewish education from creative and often tactile modes. She is looking forward to continuing this exploration both in and outside of the classroom in the years to come as an HUC-JIR student and as part of the Romemu community. In her free time, Heather enjoys snuggling with her dog, Chewie, and spending time exploring what still feels like a very new life in NYC
Lauren has loved working with the Romemu Seekers Program for the past five years! She has also worked with youth and families at Lab Shul, the 14th Street Y, Moishe House, Yaldaynu, Beth Elohim, Karma Kids and Bank Street as well as in NYC public schools. Lauren has been mentored by Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses and earned her M.S. in Early Childhood General & Special Education at Bank Street as well as her M.Ed. in Arts Education at Harvard GSE. She has been a curriculum designer, workshop presenter, creative & editorial writer and teacher of language arts, theatre, improvisation, creative writing, creative play and anti-bullying as well as Jewish Studies. She believes that creative, collaborative experiences in storytelling, movement, mindfulness & music along with deep discussion & embodied Jewishness can inspire, empower and unite children, families and communities.
Kita Hey & Kita Vav (Grades 5 & 6)
Yonatan is a rabbinical student and a Weitzman-JDC Jewish Peoplehood Fellow at JIR-HUC. Yonatan is originally from Israel but spent his childhood in Philadelphia. Yonatan holds a MBA from the Morton Mandel Social Leadership Program from Ben Gurion University and a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and Theater from the Hebrew University. Yonatan is also a Sacred Movement Instructor and Founder of Artistic Shabbat Experiences in Ber Sh’eva supported by the Avi-Chai foundation. Yonatan worked this past year as Experiential Educator for children at the “Hand in Hand” bilingual school in Jerusalem.
Yonatan is excited to integrate his passion for Torah, theater, prayer and movement this upcoming year at Romemu.
Additional and Substitute Teacher
Susanne Katchko is a teacher, artist and cantor. She has officiated as cantor and kolbo (solo officiant) at congregations across the United States. Susanne is also a concert performer who toured nationally with her trio, Zemer Atik, together with pianist, Hankus Netsky, and clarinetist, Don Byron. Her Judaic art and jewelry can be found at www.happy-notes.com. She currently coaches foreign-born professionals in American-English pronunciation at www.speechathletes.com. A grateful member of Kehilat Romemu since 2012, Susanne is delighted to be part of the Seekers team this year.
Kita Gimmel (Grade 3)
Yardena was born in Jerusalem and grew up in an Israeli-American environment. She was raised in a Progressive/Reform Congregation Kehilat Kol HaNeshama in a family that was liberal while traditional. She was involved with the Telem Youth Movement and worked there as a madricha. During high school, she became a Medical Clown, working with children with disabilities and the elderly. Like many Israelis who graduate high school, she went to mechina, a post high school program, working with high-risk Jewish and Arab children in a Day Care Center in Yafo. One of Yardena’s passions is drama; from an early age, she studied and performed theatre, which eventually led her to move to New York two years ago. She recently completed an associates degree at the American Academy of Dramatic Art.
Yardena looks forward to working with Romemu and connecting with this wonderful Jewish community.