Mission Statement

The mission of New Lehrhaus is to bring students and teachers together in dialogue to explore Jewish sources, traditions, and arts, sustaining and enriching the vibrant spirit of Jewish civilization.  New Lehrhaus is the Bay Area’s non-denominational lifelong Jewish learning institution dedicated to academic excellence, open inquiry, contemporary relevance, and cultural and religious pluralism.

Our Guiding Values

Depth & Breadth in teaching:
Encompassing both topics and modes of teaching/learning, such as text study, lectures, experiential learning through art, nature hikes, study tours, and more.

Stellar Faculty:
Including academic scholars, clergy, professional Jewish educators, and artists.

Diversity and Inclusion:
Teachers, leadership, and students reflect the diversity of our community, with emphasis on accessibility to diverse student populations.

Progressive Pedagogy:
Student-centered pedagogy utilizing creative learning modalities, including visual arts and crafts, music, body and nature-centered learning, and hevruta (learning in pairs).

Collaboration and Synergy:
Our programs will be offered in collaboration with a wide array of Bay Area Jewish institutions including JCCs, synagogues  and other free-standing Jewish organizations (e.g. Urban Adamah, Jewish Community Library, The Kitchen, Wilderness Torah, Jewish Studio Project, the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival, the JFCS Holocaust Center, and more).

Programs designed to facilitate personal connections and community-building among students and connect students to other Jewish institutions that may meet their interests and needs.

Bay Area Focus:
New Lehrhaus will highlight and nurture its place as one of the jewels of the Bay Area Jewish community, even as online learning will allow engaging both teachers and students from beyond the Bay Area and outside the United States.

Our Story – in Brief

New Lehrhaus was established in August 2021 to continue the mission and sustain the legacy of Lehrhaus Judaica, following the closure of Lehrhaus Judaica/HaMaqom.

Inspired by Franz Rosenzweig’s “Free Jewish Lehrhaus,” which was established in Frankfurt in 1920, Lehrhaus Judaica, established in Berkeley in 1974, was one of the crown jewels of the Bay Area community and was unique in North America. New Lehrhaus will continue the work and re-imagine new directions and initiatives for the future.


Board of Directors

David Biale

Board Co-President

David is Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. He was educated at UC Berkeley, the Hebrew University and UCLA. His most recent books are Hasidism: A New History (with seven co-authors), Gershom Scholem: Master of the Kabbalah and Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought. Earlier books are Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-HistoryPower and Powerlessness in Jewish History, Eros and the Jews and Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol Between Jews and Christians. He is also the editor of Cultures of the Jews: A New History and the Norton Anthology of World Religions: Judaism. His books have been translated into eight languages and have won the National Jewish Book Award three times.

Rabbi Julie Bressler

Board Member

Julie recently returned to her roots in the Bay Area to serve as the Associate Rabbi and Educator at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Previously, she served at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA upon ordination from HUC-JIR in 2019. Prior to rabbinical school, she worked in Jewish youth and teen programming including roles at the East Bay Jewish Teen Foundation and Berkeley Hillel. She is passionate about gender equity, reproductive health access, and helping individuals find their unique connections and pathways within Judaism.

David De Nola

Board Member

David joined the New Lehrhaus board after initial volunteer work during the reconstitution of Lehrhaus Judaica. David’s involvement in the Jewish community dates back to his days as a co-founder of the Radical Jewish Union at UC Berkeley and editor of the Jewish Student Press Service in New York. He spent 25 years in Israel, including 18 years of kibbutz life. His professional career in biotechnology spanned 30 years in Israeli start-ups and in the U.S. He served six years as executive director for a disability rights non-profit in the Bay Area.

Maxine Epstein

Board Member

Maxine Epstein, LCSW, recently assumed the role of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest Director of major gifts for American Friends of Magen David Adom. Maxine has worked in nonprofit management for more than 35 years with a focus on financial resource development, major gifts, strategic analysis, leadership, and helping individuals reach their philanthropic goals.

Maxine is a lifelong learner, collaborator, and fundraiser for strengthening Jewish education in our communities. She has a passion for Jewish education, culture, and learning which has fueled her desire to build and strengthen our Jewish community.

Maxine is soon to be married to her lifelong partner, Geraldine Barr whom she met at a Jewish summer camp over 50 plus years ago. They have lived together in the Bay Area and raised twin daughters Adina and Ma’ayan

Sue Fishkoff

Board Secretary

Sue Fishkoff is the former editor of J. The Jewish News of Northern California, serving in that position from 2011 to 2022. She has been a journalist for 35 years, most of that time writing and editing for the Jewish media, notably The Jerusalem Post, JTA and J. A native of New Jersey, she received her BA in history from Cornell in 1979, and her MA in Soviet politics from Columbia in 1982. She lived on kibbutzim for a total of 2 years, and lived in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for 5 years in the 1990s as a reporter for The Jerusalem Post. Sue is the author of two books, The Rebbe’s Army (Schocken, 2003) and Kosher Nation (Schocken, 2010), and is a dual Israeli-American citizen. At last achieving the magical age of 65, she is enjoying Medicare, Social Security and senior discounts at Landmark Theatres, Market Hall at Rockridge, and anywhere else she can snag them. She lives in Oakland with her cats and books.

Rachel B. Gross

Board Member

Rachel B. Gross is Associate Professor and John and Marcia Goldman Chair in American Jewish Studies in the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. She is a religious studies scholar who studies twentieth- and twenty-first-century American Jews. Her research, teaching, and public scholarship focus on how American Jews make and sustain meaning in their lives through supposedly secular or non-Jewish activities and organizations. Her book, Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice, was a 2021 National Jewish Book Award finalist in American Jewish Studies. She is currently working on a religious biography of the twentieth-century Jewish writer Mary Antin.

Rabbi Yoel Kahn, Ph.D.

Board Member

Yoel is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth El of Berkeley. Ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1985, he received his Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. His book on the history of Jewish liturgy, The Three Blessings: Boundaries, Censorship, and Identity in Jewish Liturgy, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Katherine Haynes

Board Member

Katherine is a senior program officer at California Health Care Foundation’s where she leads grantmaking to advance health equity for Black Californians. The Foundation works to ensure that Californians — particularly those enrolled in Medi-Cal — receive responsive, comprehensive, and coordinated care that supports their health and well-being. She has served as Executive Director of Diversity and Equitable Care at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Director of the Technology and Information Exchange Core at UCSF”s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. She served as the President of the Board at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley and then at JFCS-East Bay. She now serves on the board of American Jewish World Service.

Eitan Lev Kensky

Board Member

Eitan Lev Kensky is the Reinhard Family Curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections, Humanities Resource Group. Three years as the Director of Collections Initiatives at the Yiddish Book Center, where he worked on a wide range of digital collections projects. He also managed the Book Center’s translation fellowship program, edited the annual translation issue of the Center’s magazine, and worked on an upcoming exhibition about Yiddish in the United States. Eitan taught Yiddish and Jewish Studies at Harvard and co-founded In Geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, a digital, open access journal. He holds a PhD in Jewish Studies from Harvard, and his own research focuses on twentieth-century American Jewish Culture. He also has a particular interest in Jewish film and media.

Janis Plotkin

Board Member

Janis was part of the founding of the groundbreaking San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. After 21 years she departed to the Mill Valley Film Festival and taught college-level film classes at Stanford, SF State University, and UC Davis.

In 2016 she produced her first film, a 74-minute documentary about an iconoclastic artist, PLASTIC MAN: the artful life of Jerry Ross Barrish (plasticmanbarrish.com) that screened in film festivals across the US and in Germany.  It was broadcast on public television’s KQED –TV Channel 9 in 2017 and Israel TV in 2016.
She received a double Masters in Social Work and Jewish Community Studies from the University of Southern California and the Hebrew Union College (MA, MSW, 1976) and an Honorary Doctorate from the Hebrew Union College in 2001.

Judy Shanks

Board Co-President

Judy earned her Master’s Degree and was ordained as Rabbi in 1984. From 1984 – 1991 she served Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond, then taught Jewish Studies at the University of San Francisco and joined Temple Isaiah in Lafayette in 1992, serving the congregation until 2018. She has a special interest in the study and teaching of Mussar, Jewish feminist studies, the development of new rituals for life cycle events, liturgical poetry and modern Hebrew literature.

Eleanor Shapiro

Board Member

Eleanor (Ellie) received her doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, in 2018, with a dissertation focused on Jewish culture festivals in Polish small towns.  For thirteen years prior to that, she directed the Bay Area-based Jewish Music Festival. Currently an independent scholar, she has recently taught courses on Jewish music, Polish-Jewish relations, and Israel/Palestine (where she worked as an educator and journalist from 1982-1990).

David Waksberg

Board Member

David was the CEO of Jewish LearningWorks from 2007 until he retired in 2020. Previously he played a leading role in the international movement to rescue Jews in the USSR. David serves on the Board of Directors of New Lehrhaus.


Rachel Biale

Executive Director

Rachel has been member of the team that resurrected Lehrhaus Judaica as New Lehrhaus. She had taught for Lehrhaus Judaica in its first decade and organized day-long events for a decade starting with “Bible by the Bay” and expanding to “Lehrhaus 360.” She worked int the Bay Area Jewish community in various capacities for three decades. She is the author of Women and Jewish Law, Growing Up Below Sea Level: A Kibbutz Childhood, a memoir, Lost and Found, a historical novel, and jointly with her husband, David Biale, Aerograms Across the Ocean: A Love Story in Letters.

Jim Mavrikios

Program Manager

Jim moved to the Bay Area in 1995 and has been active in the Jewish community since his arrival. In 2001 he founded Pacific Arabic, a language school in downtown San Francisco. He served as executive director there until 2020, while also teaching Standard and Moroccan Arabic. He’s also taught Arabic and Comparative Semitics at several Jewish organizations. He spent four years in the Puerto Rico Jewish community and founded Language Satellite there, where he designed and led professional development seminars in business and legal communications. He also served as caller for San Juan Squares, the only square dance club in Puerto Rico.

Elle Aviv

Media and Growth Manager

Elle Aviv is a digital strategist and non-profit director. From 2020-2023 she worked with Kehilla as Director of Communications & Membership. She is a 2022 ALEPH Kesher fellow. A graduate of Mills College, she studied ancient history at UCLA. She is cofounder of a 501(c)3 non-profit literary organization in San Francisco. She is a part-time digital and program strategist for New Lehrhaus.

Volunteer Leadership:

In addition to the Board of Directors, community members help run New Lehrhaus, including veteran Lehrhaus Judaica educators Dr. Jehon Grist and Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan. They are joined by Riva Gambert (former Board Member), and Prof. Ariel Mayse.

Our Donors

We are grateful to our major funders

Fred Isaac logo (1) copy

Eda Pell

Eve Bernstein and Alex Gersznowicz

Joseph & Denise Ziony

Sanford & Linda Gallanter Foundation

The Michael H. Baker Family Foundation

The Milton & Sophie Meyer Fund

Lamed Vavniks Circle

The Lamed Vavniks* Circle includes donors of $1,000 and up:

Anonymous (1), Rich & Chris Aptaker, Marty Aufhauser, David & Rachel Biale, Ellen Bob & David Waksberg, Stephan J. Cohen, Martin & Jill Dodd, Katherine Haynes, Fred Hertz, Richard Hill & Susan Levine, Rabbi Yoel Kahn & Dan Bellm, Eitan Lev Kensky, Hannah Kranzberg, Richard Hill & Susan Levine, Harold Lindenthal, Norman Reid, Fred Rosenbaum & Dorothy Shipps, Rabbi Judy Shanks & Dr. James Gracer, Howard Simon & Vivien Igra, Sinai Memorial Chapel’s Chevra Kadisha, Beverly Voloshin, Lisa & Howard Wenger, Peter & Deborah Wexler.

* Jewish tradition holds that in every generation there are 36 (Lamed vav in Gimatriya: Hebrew numerology) hidden righteous people who sustain the world through its trials and tribulations.


Our Lamed Vavnik Teachers support New Lehrhaus through pro bono teaching equivalent to $1,000 and up:

Prof. Robert Alter, Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi Steve Chester, Susie Coliver, Prof. Ron Hendel, Prof. Erich Gruen, Stewart Florsheim, Rabbi Shelly Lewis, Prof. Bruce Phillips, Prof. Steve Rosen, Prof. Naomi Seidman, Howard Simon.

Our Partners

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