spiritual leader:  REB IRWIN

Irwin Keller ner shalom cotati ca

Reb Irwin Keller is Ner Shalom's Spiritual Leader since 2008. Reb Irwin brings a lifetime of study, song and spirit to his 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, passed into law in 1989 and still in force; he later served as staff attorney and executive director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014 he retired from show biz after 21 years as a comedian-actor-singer-writer with the acclaimed Kinsey Sicks, America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet. Reb Irwin 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 and cantorial soloist at synagogues in Illinois, California and Washington, DC. Reb Irwin is a Storahtelling Maven®, trained in the ritual art of bringing Torah off the page.

Reb Irwin is a founder and convenor of "Of One Soul," an initiative of the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County, working to defend the rights and dignity of the Muslim community and others who are under threat. He is also founder of the Taproot Gathering, a week-long experience of Jewish text study and embodiment practice for activists, organizers and artists. Reb Irwin is currently continuing his studies through the Aleph Ordination Program.

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

* LORENZO VALENSI, Chief Musician
* SALLY CHURGEL, Ner Shalom's Poet Laureate
* JUDITH GOLEMAN, Rabbinic Pastor


irwin-keller lorenzo valensi ner shalom cotati ca

Composer 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 country. 

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. She is dedicated to gently and playfully guiding others into their bodies to cultivate deep presence, creativity, satisfaction and joy.

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 chantleading program. Atzilah writes original chants for Ner Shalom. An example can be heard online: Kechu Terumah - "Gifts of the Heart." Atzilah also co-authors Ner Shalom's Storahtelling events for the High Holy Days.

You can join Atzilah for her monthly healing chant circle at Ner Shalom, called "Messengers of Peace," typically on the second Friday of the month.     Read more about Atzilah's work on her own website.



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 with Judaism.

Read more about Shoshana's work at Four Worlds Therapy.



Sally Churgel is Ner Shalom’s poet laureate, Yom Kippur yizkor leader, and a past president. She founded Call to Joy for those who yearn to live life fully and in a continuum of joy as the base note rather than a rare and random experience. Sally’s toolbox for teaching others how to access joy moments when in overwhelm, stress and imbalance includes: 20 years as a certified teacher of Integrated Awareness® (energy/body work); advanced classes in Internal Family Systems, Emotional Brain Training, Positive Neuropsychology, as well as Heartmath, Soul Collage creation, art therapy, numerous Jewish meditation retreats and the wisdom of cats and trees.



Rabbinic 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.

As a marriage and family therapist, Reb Judith has a private practice 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.