Congregation Ner Shalom

spiritual leadership

Ner 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

Reb IrwinReb 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 comedian/actor/singer/writer/founder with the acclaimed Kinsey Sicks, known as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet."

Reb Irwin also brings a wealth of Jewish study and leadership to his work. He 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®, trained 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

Reb ShifrahNer 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 illness.

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 Ner Shalom office at (707) 664-8622.

Music at Ner Shalom: Lorenzo Valensi and Atzilah Solot

LorenzoAtzilah Ner Shalom is blessed with the rich musical gifts of Chief Musician Lorenzo Valensi and Chantleader Ellen Atzilah Solot.

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 Heart." Read more about Atzilah's work on her own website.

Additional Rabbinic Support

Ner Shalom also engages guest rabbis to teach, 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.

Rosh Hashanah DrashIf 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) 762-0340.

Graphic: Reb Irwin's Erev Rosh Hashanah 2009 Drash organized graphically through Wordle. To read the drash itself, "Life of All the Worlds," click here.


Congregation Ner Shalom
A Reconstructionist Synagogue
of Sonoma & Marin Counties

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