Shalom is a
lay-led congregation. We rejoice in the pool of spirit, skills and
scholarship which our members and friends bring to this community, as
together we study, pray and grow.
Spiritual Leader: Reb Irwin Keller
Irwin Keller is Ner Shalom's lay
Spiritual Leader and Shaliach Tzibur.
Reb Irwin brings a lifetime of study,
spirit and song to his joyous work with Ner Shalom. His most visible
past work focused on LGBT and HIV advocacy: Reb Irwin authored
Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Ordinance which was passed into
law in 1989; he later served as staff attorney and executive director
of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel of the San Francisco Bay Area. He
currently maintains an active career as a
the acclaimed Kinsey Sicks, known
as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet."
Irwin also brings a wealth of Jewish study and leadership to his work.
studied Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish and a range of Jewish Studies at the
University of Chicago and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has
worked as a Jewish educator, teen programmer and cantorial soloist at
synagogues in Illinois, California and Washington, DC. Reb Irwin is also a Storahtelling Maven®,
in the ritual art of bringing Torah off the page.
Reb Irwin is especially appreciated at
Ner Shalom for his musical gifts and his challenging, humorous and
unorthodox sermons, or drashot.
You can read many of these - about Torah, Israel, God, community,
disillusionment, hope and finding inspiration on the fringe on his blog, Itzik's
Well. His interest in making Jewish experience welcoming for
everyone (including himself) has at times resulted in his wearing a
skirt to shul. Read
why. You can reach Reb Irwin by
email or by calling the Ner
Shalom office at (707) 664-8622.
Rabbinic Intern: Reb Shifrah Tobacman
Ner Shalom's Rabbinic Intern, Reb Shifrah Tobacman, is a student
in the Rabbinic
Ordination Program of the Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal. She is a
member of several Jewish Renewal and Reconstructionist communities in
the East Bay where she has served as a lay service leader and teacher.
She is also a Compassionate Listening facilitator and a trained teacher
of the Feldenkrais Method of movement awareness. In her "day job," Reb Shifrah works in
the field of public health where her current focus is healthy housing,
especially as it pertains to people with asthma and other respiratory
Reb Shifrah is a poet as well and is the
author, producer and performer of "Rooftop Poems," a presentation of
poetic vignettes about her travels to Israel and Palestine in 2001 and
2002. Reb Shifrah completed a graduate program in Jewish studies
in the Spring of 2010 with a thesis entitled "Ancient Threads, New
Weavings: Counting the Omer Then and Now." She recently published Omer/Teshuvah,
a series of
poetic meditations on the annual Omer (and "Reverse Omer") period.
Reb Shifrah is delighted and grateful to
have this opportunity
to serve the Ner Shalom community while honing her skills as a
spiritual leader. You can reach Reb Shifrah by calling the
Shalom office at (707) 664-8622.
Music at Ner
Shalom: Lorenzo Valensi and Atzilah Solot
Ner Shalom is blessed with the rich
musical gifts of Chief Musician Lorenzo
Valensi and Chantleader Ellen
Lorenzo, in addition to a long career
behind the scenes in the music industry, is a classical guitarist and
composer. His soulful melodies for Jewish liturgy have captured the
hearts of the Ner Shalom community. Many of these can be heard on Ner
Shalom's Youtube site.
Reb Atzilah is a performance artist,
painter and master teacher in body-mind movement arts. She is also a
veteran chantleader, a student of Rabbi Shefa Gold and a graduate of the Kol Zimrah chantleading
program. Reb Atzilah also writes original chants for Ner Shalom. An
example can be heard online: Kechu Terumah - "Gifts of the
Read more about Atzilah's work on her
Additional Rabbinic Support
Ner Shalom also engages guest rabbis to
to lead services periodically, and to serve as scholars-in-residence.
Click on Calendar to see what guest rabbis
will be visiting us over
the coming months.
If you are in crisis and seek
rabbinic counseling or other specific rabbinic services, Rabbi Ted
Feldman at Congregation B'nai Israel in Petaluma has graciously agreed
to be on call for this community. You can reach Rabbi Feldman at (707)
Reb Irwin's Erev Rosh Hashanah 2009 Drash
organized graphically through Wordle.
To read the drash itself,
"Life of All the Worlds," click