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Northern Hills Elul Program Series
August 21-September 17, 2020

11:00 AM

Presenter Bios

Elul Program Descriptions

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Rebecca Benoff

Rebecca Benoff​ is a rising third year Rabbinical student at HUC-JIR. She is serving as the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati fellow at the Mayerson JCC this summer. She also serves as the student Rabbi for a small community in Bryan, Texas. Rebecca grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended The George Washington University in Washington, DC where she studied Psychology and Judaic Studies.

Rabbi Noah Ferro​ Rabbi Noah Ferro​ ​was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 2017. He has been the spiritual leader at Northern Hills Synagogue since 2018. He has a great interest in the liturgical traditions of various Jewish communities, both in the statutory prayers and in the poetic and prose readings included in different prayer books.
Donald Hordes Donald Hordes​ graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1969. After serving in the US Air Force JAG and 9 years with the U.S. Government, Don has been in private practice for almost 40 years. His practice has focused on employment law and constitutional law. He has lectured throughout Southwest Ohio and Kentucky. He has been a moderator for the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI) for over 25 years, where he teaches a course called "Great Legal Issues of the 21s​ t​ Century". He has given presentations in recent years to Northern Hills Synagogue on subjects ranging from religion in public schools to recent legal developments in Second Amendment law.
Justin Kirschner Justin Kirschner​ is the Associate Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati. He is a native Cincinnatian, community relations professional and active connector who has a passion for using reflective conversation, civic engagement and partnership to co-create just and vibrant communities. Justin's interests have led him to be involved with various social justice, youth mentoring and leadership development endeavors, facilitating cross-cultural exchanges, and teaching experiential education. He is a double graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Political Science, Minors in Business and Global Leadership and a Master's in Public and Nonprofit Administration. In his spare time, he serves as an Advisor for the Evanston Employment Resource Center and enjoys drumming, traveling and exploring all that Cincinnati has to offer with friends and family.
Ross Z. Levy Ross Z. Levy​ is a fifth-year rabbinical student at the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Ross earned his B.A. in Religion from The George Washington University in 2016. Since being in Cincinnati, Ross has interned at Rockdale Temple, served as a teaching assistant for the University of Cincinnati Jewish Studies Department, and recently completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at the UC Medical Center and Christ Hospital. He enjoys exploring the many sights and tastes of Cincinnati, and is excited to join the JCRC team as Jewish Foundation Fellow this upcoming academic year.
Ben Pagliaro Ben Pagliaro​ ​is a Songleader and Worship Leader who lived and worked in Cincinnati from 2016-2019. He now lives in Washington, DC and was recently married on August 2nd of this year to Rabbi Bailey Romano who was ordained in the same class as Rabbi Schapera.
Dana Podell​ Dana Podell​ ​has been teaching since 2017 and she continues to feel passionate and energized while leading a group of students. Now, Dana is a Physical Therapy graduate student and is interested in the combination of yoga with clinical practice to help individuals heal their body, mind, and spirit. Follow her on instagram: @dana_yogaflow or visit her website ​
Rabbi Bailey Romano Rabbi Bailey Romano​ received her MA in Jewish Studies from HUC-JIR in American Jewish History in 2014. She holds an MA in Jewish Education Administration from Xavier University, and she was ordained in Cincinnati in 2019. She currently serves as the Director of Education at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, VA.
  Jason Schapera ​is the digitization specialist at Hebrew Union College's Klau Library. He earned his bachelor's degree in Judaic Studies from the University of Cincinnati and his master's degree in Israeli Politics and Society from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is married to Rabbi Sam Schapera and lives in Cincinnati with her and their two daughters.
Rabbi Samantha Schapera Rabbi Sam Schapera​ is the program director at Northern Hills Synagogue. Her passion for working with the elderly began while studying for her bachelor's degrees at the University of Cincinnati in Jewish Studies and Women's Studies. After university, she worked as a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility, and then moved to Israel for her first year of HUC. During HUC, she worked as the Jewish Foundation rabbinic fellow at Cedar Village for two years and continued as a part-time rabbi the year after. She continues to live in Cincinnati with her husband and two daughters.
Abby Schwartz​ Abby Schwartz​ has served as director of the Skirball Museum on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since 2013. She is the former curator of education at the Taft Museum of Art. Abby has lectured widely on Jewish art, notably at the Melton School and the Osher Life-Long Learning Institute of the University of Cincinnati. While at the Taft, she served as general editor for the publication Artistic Expressions of Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, first place winner of the 1998 Ohio Museums Association Visual Communications Award in the book/catalogue category. Schwartz earned her bachelor's degree in history from the University of Rochester, where she graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and a master's degree in art history from the University of Cincinnati.
Sandra Spitz Sandy Spitz​ has found the study of Great Apes has become an avocation. As a teacher, lecturer, and lifelong learner, she has created and presented original programs about these amazing cousins of Man. ​Sandy hopes to enlighten groups about these gentle giants and the need to protect them.
Julie Staller-Pentelnik Julie Staller-Pentelnik, artist and calligrapher, (Ish)​ has been creating Judaic Art for more than 20 years. Julie's works include original and printed Ketubot, Judaic themed originals, limited edition prints and different items of Judaica. Julie uses bold colorfast inks and watercolor techniques to give her work a flowing feel with added depth and vibrancy. Fusing her painting and calligraphic skills, elements from nature and Judaism combine with text and quotations to create pieces of art that celebate and reflect contemporary Jewish life.​ ​ Visit her website at
Sarah Weiss Sarah Weiss​ ​is the CEO of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center. Sarah has led the work of HHC for nearly 15 years. During her tenure she has grown the reach and reputation of HHC, spearheading many innovative programs and educational initiatives. Most recently she led the transformation of HHC in the development of its new museum and home at Union Terminal. She has won numerous awards throughout the years for her work and commitment to the community. She is passionate about the field of Holocaust research, education and remembrance and serves on the board of the Association of Holocaust Organizations.
Lior Zoref Lior Zoref​, an Israeli educational leader, Jewish philosophy teacher, and a high school principal in Tel-Aviv. After his military service as a Naval officer, he graduated "Rimon"- the most famous academy of Jazz & contemporary music in Israel. He learned songwriting and composition, and he is here to share Israel's music and atmosphere with us.



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