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.
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. You
can read a Press Democrat profile about Reb Irwin by clicking
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.
More Spiritual Leadership at Ner Shalom
and guitarist Lorenzo Valensi serves as Ner Shalom's Chief Musician,
and has served on the Board of Directors for a number of years.
In addition to a long career
behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Lorenzo is a skilled
classical guitarist and
newly minted composer of Jewish liturgical music. His soulful melodies
written for Ner Shalom have captured the
hearts of this community, and are now used in synagogues around the
You can hear
many examples of Lorenzo's beautiful work by visiting Ner
Shalom's Youtube site.
Ellen "Atzilah" Solot is best known at
Ner Shalom for her beautiful and grounding presence as our Chant
Leader. She is also a performance artist,
painter and master teacher in body-mind movement arts. Atzilah was
called to the world of chant, becoming a student of Rabbi Shefa Gold and then a graduate of the Rabbi Gold's Kol Zimrah
Reb Atzilah also writes original chants for Ner Shalom. An
example can be heard online: Kechu Terumah - "Gifts of the
Heart." Atzilah frequently co-authors Ner
Shalom's Storahtelling events for the
High Holy Days.
Atzilah leads a monthly healing chant circle at Ner Shalom called
"Messengers of Peace," typically on the second Thursday of the month.
Read more about Atzilah's work on her
Ner Shalom Teacher and Guest Leader Reb
Shifrah Tobacman is a student in the Rabbinic Ordination Program of the
Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal and a lay leader at several Jewish
Renewal and Reconstructionist communities. She is a Compassionate
Listening facilitator and a trained teacher of the Feldenkrais Method
of movement awareness. By day, Reb Shifrah works in the field of public
health, asthma and housing.
Shifrah is a poet as well. She is the author and publisher of Omer/Teshuvah,
a series of
poetic meditations on the annual Omer (and "Reverse Omer") period.
2014-2015, Reb Shifrah will bring Ner Shalom an innovative
engagement with the world around us through a discussion series called
'The Spirit of the Matter." In this series, Reb Shifrah and
participants will consider and compassionately discuss challenging
social and political issues through a Jewishly informed lens, including
controversies regarding the State of Israel, social justice in the
US, and global climate change.
Shoshana Fershtman, PhD is a clinical
psychologist in private practice in Santa Rosa. She has studied
extensively with rabbis and teachers in the Jewish mystical tradition,
as well as Jungian depth psychology. She is currently a candidate at
the Jung Institute in San Francisco, and is completing a book based on
her doctoral research exploring the experience of Jews reconnecting
Read more about Shoshana's work at Four Worlds Therapy.
Pastor Judith Goleman, MFT, is a "sometimes" leader of services at Ner
Shalom and at several other synagogues. She performs wedding,
funerals, private bar and bat mitzvahs, and baby namings for Jewish
people who are not affiliated with a synagogue; she performs life cycle
rituals for people who may be intermarried, Buddhist, LGBT, spiritual
but not religious, not spiritual, or simply not affiliated with a
synagogue. Designing rituals which reflect the people involved is
a specialization of hers. Her ordination as a Rabbinic Pastor comes
through the Jewish Renewal Movement - the Aleph Rabbinic Pastor Program
founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
Reb Judith also has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and
couple counseling, in downtown Sebastopol. Her interest in
Kabbalistic/Hasidic concepts, such as the sparks of holiness that are
said to be our deepest nature, imbues her with an optimistic
relationship to the processes of healing in psychotherapy. She is
currently doing some writing about why American Jews sometimes are not
aware of the spiritual depth in Judaism - "it's similar to the grounded
spiritual optimism of Buddhism, but with better deli."
She is very happy to be connected with the vibrant, creative, spiritual
aliveness she finds at Ner Shalom.
Sally Churgel is popularly considered to
be Ner Shalom's Poet Laureate. Her deep reflections on Jewish themes
have made lasting impressions on those who have heard her words,
especially when voiced by Sally herself. Click here
for a Sally poem written for Pesach. Or click here
for a poem written for the visit of the first Women's Torah to Ner
Sally founded A Masterful
Relationship for people who yearn to receive and express love
fully. As a 20-year certified teacher of Integrated Awareness® she
engages clients on both a physical and soul level, helping to release
long-held pain and blocks to love and to live with an abundantly open
heart. Read about her practice by clicking here.
Reb Irwin's Erev Rosh Hashanah 2009 Drash
organized graphically through Wordle.
To read the drash itself,
"Life of All the Worlds," click