We're excited to invite you to see our new home
that is replacing Jewish-Funerals.org.

Click here to visit KavodvNichum.org
Home  »  Board and Staff Biographies

Biographies for Kavod v’Nichum
Board of Directors and Staff, and the Gamliel Institute Faculty


Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Gamliel Founding Dean Emeritus

Rabbi Stuart is the Founding Dean Emeritus of the Gamliel Institute.  He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and has taught at the Hebrew Union College. He has extensive experience in all parts of the Jewish community, from working at Jewish camps to helping develop CAJE. As founding rabbi of Netivot Shalom (1989), a unique participatory synagogue, he was responsible for the creation of the synagogue’s Chevrah Kadisha. His PhD is in Sociology of Education and he has published five Chevrah Kadisha-related books, including Nichum Aveilim, on how to be a comforter to a mourner, and Chesed Shel Emet, delving into an extensive analysis of the taharah liturgy.  Rabbi Kelman’s work as Dean of the Gamliel Institute included recruitment and consultation with students, overseeing course development and teaching, and overseeing administration.  Together with David Zinner, they created the curriculum for the core program of the Gamliel Institute and recruited an amazing administrative staff.
Back to Top


Rabbi Richard Address, Past Gamliel Dean

Rabbi Richard is the Founder and Director of jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism;  first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure,  served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.
Back to Top


Rabbi Joe Blair, Gamliel Dean of Administration, Gamliel Senior Faculty, Kavod Staff

Rabbi Joe is the Dean of Administration and a faculty member for the Gamliel Institute, and on the staff of Kavod v’Nichum, as well as serving on the Board. Rabbi Joe attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and was ordained and earned a Master of Hebrew Letters degree. Following graduation, Joe entered into the academic world with Hillel at Duke University, and then moved to the Hillel at the University of Virginia. After a few years, he became a full-time pulpit rabbi, serving two small congregations in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He remained with those congregations for 15 years before taking his current pulpit in Charleston WV.  He holds a B.A. from the College of Arts and Sciences at UVA, a M.C.S. from the Graduate School of Engineering at UVA, and a J.D. from Marshall-Wythe School of Law at William & Mary College (and was admitted to the Bar in Virginia and the Fourth Circuit). He was honored to be involved as the source indexer for the Stanford University publication of the Pritzker Edition of The Zohar, with translation and commentary by Daniel Matt. Joe was selected to be a Star Peer Rabbi, and has served as adjunct faculty member at multiple colleges and universities. He is a principal in the Jewish Values Online project (www.jewishvaluesonline.org), and previously served as coordinator and respondent for the online Ask A Rabbi service. He and Rena Boroditsky (also a KVN Board and Gamliel Faculty member) authored a module for the Chai Mitzvah program on Jewish Studies in Dying and Death.
Back to Top


Dan Fendel, Acting Gamliel Dean, Gamliel Senior Faculty

Dan is the men’s chair and co-founder of the Chevrah Kadisha in his own congregation, Temple Sinai (Reform; Oakland), and has been a member of the Chevrah Kadisha of Beth Jacob Congregation (Orthodox; Oakland) since about 2001. He was in the first cohort of the Gamliel Institute, joined the faculty in 2015, and has been Acting Dean of Gamliel since 2020. He is co-author, with Rabbi Stuart Kelman, of Chesed Shel Emet: The Truest Act of Kindness — Exploring the Meaning of Taharah (Expanded Third Edition), and Nichum Aveilim: A Guide for the Comforter. He also did volunteer grief support work for the Shanti Project and Namaste in the San Francisco area for 20 years and has been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland since 2015.

Outside the world of Chevrah Kadisha, Dan holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University, and was a member of the Mathematics Department at San Francisco State University from 1973 to 2006. His work at SFSU was primarily in the area of mathematics education and teacher preparation, and he was one of the authors of an award-winning four-year high school mathematics curriculum, The Interactive Mathematics Program.

Back to Top


Susan Barnes, Gamliel Faculty

Susan is the roshah and a founding member of her synagogue’s Chevrah Kadisha. She is a graduate of the Gamliel Institute, and has taught about Jewish practices around death and dying through the Gamliel Institute and at Limmud Bay Area, Kavod’s annual Chevrah Kadisha conference, the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, synagogues, and Vacaville State Prison.
Back to Top


Jean Berman, Board President

Jean is an Interfaith Minister ordained by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine, her ministry anchored in Judaism. She has her Chevrah Kadisha Certificate from the Gamliel Institute and is the board President of Kavod v’Nichum. Initially trained as part of the Fort Collins, Colorado Chevrah Kadisha, Jean is an active member of the Portland, ME Chevrah Kadisha. She currently coordinates volunteers for a young hospice in parts of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Jean leads Jewish elders and unaffiliated Jews in ceremony, is learning Zimbabwean marimba, plays with the Peaks Island, Maine Ukulele Ensemble, and has buttons on her backpack.
Back to Top


Rena Boroditsky, Gamliel Senior Faculty, Board Member

Rena is the Executive Director of Chesed Shel Emes, the community non-profit Chevrah Kadisha in Winnipeg, Canada. Since 1996, she has been both a student and a teacher of Jewish thought and practice at the end of life, and a member of her ladies Chevrah Kadisha. Rena has presented at Limmud events in the US and Canada, and has experience training new and existing Chevrah Kadisha groups. In 2018, Rena completed a Certificate in Jewish Leadership at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, IL.   Rena is a Gamliel graduate and current faculty member and serves on the Kavod v’Nichum Board of Directors.   Most recently, she co-authored and taught a 13-week course on Chevrah Kadisha for Aleph Rabbinic students with Rabbi Joe Blair. Rena is a proud recipient of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Larry Hurtig Jewish Communal Professional Award.
Back to Top


Pat Cluss, Board Member

Pat is a founding member of the New Community Chevra Kadisha of Greater Pittsburgh in 2004. She is a clinical psychologist and a retired faculty member from the Pitt Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine. There, her research interests focused on behaviors, such as smoking, eating and activity patterns, and domestic violence, which affect people’s physical health and well-being. As a part of her domestic violence interest, she acquired grant funding to start a program addressing DV as a workplace and workforce concern through which she gained experience recruiting and maintaining community advisory and funding support and in nonprofit management and mergers.
Back to Top


Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife, Board Member

Keshira serves as Oreget Kehilah (Executive Director) of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, Founding Kohenet of Kesher Pittsburgh, Program Director of the ALEPH Kesher Fellowship, and also enjoys working with Keshet and Beloved Builders. Additionally, Keshira delights in serving as a shlichat tzibbur, life spiral ceremony/ritual creatrix, teacher, facilitator, liturgist and songstress.  Her work in these realms is informed by her lived experience as a queer, bi-racial, Jewish Woman, her belief that Book, Body and Earth are equal sources of wisdom, and the quandries she encounters as a scholar of the Orphan Wisdom School.  Keshira received Kohenet smicha in 2017 and earned her BS 2000 and MS 2001 at Carnegie Mellon University. After many years of traveling and living in Australia, she and her beloved once again make their home on Osage and Haudenosaunee land, also called Pittsburgh, PA.

Back to Top


HollyBlue Hawkins, Gamliel Faculty

HollyBlue is a Natural Deathcare advocate, speaker, author, musician and poet, Roshah of The Santa Cruz Community Chevrah Kadisha (California), faculty member with Gamliel Institute and member of the Green Burial Council Speakers Bureau. Holly Blue provides training in a wide variety of end-of-life subjects in both Jewish and secular settings.
Back to Top


Rick Light, Gamliel Senior Faculty, Kavod Staff

Rick has been teaching spiritual development in various ways for more than 40 years and has been studying and practicing meditation for more than 50 years. He also teaches backpacking, rock climbing, and other outdoor skills. He is a leader in the community of those who prepare Jewish deceased for burial, has published four books related to death (of the seven he has published), including the award-winning 2016 publication, Jewish Rites of Death, Stories of Beauty and Transformation.  For 18 years Rick was the leader of a local Chevrah Kadisha he started in 1996. He is a graduate and senior instructor of the Gamliel Institute, and has led local trainings  in many communities in the US.  He continues to teach and raise awareness about Jewish death and burial practices at the local, state, and national levels. For more on Rick and his books, visit richardalight.com.
Back to Top


Charlie Rosenblum, Interim Treasurer

Bio to come soon.
Back to Top


Justin Rosen Smolen, Board Member

Justin Rosen Smolen is Director of the Jewish Emergent Network where he leads collaboration and strategy across seven pioneering communities throughout the United States to advance a bold and inspired vision for Jewish life.  Justin brings over 15 years of experience in the Jewish professional world where he launched and scaled innovative national programs with a focus on education, access, and inclusion, and built robust networks and ecosystems to support them.  Justin is a Certified Diversity Practitioner through The People Company Inclusion Institute. He holds an MPA in nonprofit management and an MA in Jewish Studies and is an alum of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Generation Now Fellowship.
Back to Top


Kara Silverman, Board Member

Kara is the Managing Director of Clarity Global’s NY office leading a team of marketing and communications scientists helping companies grow. Outside of work, Kara serves as an advisor to Lemontree Foods, Major League Hacking and Adelaide Metrics as well as being the lead curator for the TechPRjobs.com website.
Back to Top


Edna Stewart, Gamliel Senior Faculty

Edna is a Registered Nurse with 46 years of experience working in settings such as intensive care, pediatric oncology, nursing management and education, and senior housing and wellness. She has been an educator for over 30 years both professionally and as a volunteer. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in Public Health Administration, with a focus on program and policy development. Much of her current volunteer work, in addition to regular Chevrah Kadisha activities, centers on education about Jewish practices around death and burial. A member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA, she is the former chair of the adult education committee and current co-chair of the Chevrah Kadisha. Edna holds popular “Death Cafes” and led the development of a Bay Area-wide program called “Walking in the Valley of the Shadow,” a series of classes for community education on Jewish end-of-life practices, with the entire series presented in a variety of locations.
Back to Top


Sarit Wishnevski, Executive Director

Prior to joining Kavod v’Nichum, Sarit trained as an end of life doula through INELDA (International End Of Life Doula Association) and produced a podcast and a newsletter called The Be.Side Project which focused on where Judaism intersected with the end of life. Sarit has also had the privilege of working for  a number of incredible Jewish organizations that seek to bring connection to ancient Jewish rituals and values through modern connection and understanding including OneTable, Repair the World, PresenTense, DOROT, and Hillel. Sarit is a proud alumna of the Wagner School for Public Service at NYU (MPA-PNP, 2012) and the Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership (2017). Sarit lives in Maplewood, NJ and is a member of the Synagogue and Chevrah Kadisha at Congregation Beth El in South Orange, NJ.
Back to Top


David Zinner, Kavod v’Nichum and Gamliel Founder, Gamliel Senior Faculty, Kavod Staff

David is the founder and Past Executive Director of Kavod v’Nichum, which works to restore to Jewish death and bereavement practice, the traditions and values of kavod hamet and nichum avelim, and a co-founder and senior faculty of the Gamliel Institute, a center for leadership training and advocacy of traditional Jewish practice in the continuum of care at the end of life. As Vice-President of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, David participates in developing citywide contracts with funeral homes and is a member of the Cemetery Committee.  David is also the Chevrah Kadisha Chair at the Columbia Jewish Congregation, consumer representative on the Maryland State Advisory Council on Cemetery Operations, and the former Executive Director of Tifereth Israel Congregation, a conservative synagogue in Washington, DC. David teaches workshops on Jewish traditions and practices that relate to death and dying both in his own synagogue, as well as all over the United States.

Back to Top