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.  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).

Community-building:
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.

Leadership

Board of Directors

Raphael Asher

Board Member

Raphael (Raphy) founded Congregation B’nai Tikvah, Walnut Creek in 1981, and after 33 years in the pulpit is now its rabbi emeritus. He first taught at Lehrhaus in 1980 using the Mendes Flohr & Yehuda Reinharz documentary History of Modern Judaism. Since then, Lehrhaus Judaica had co-sponsored his Introduction to Judaism classes and courses in Modern Hebrew Literature and German Jewry. He is working on a course on “American Twists of Faith” for New Lehrhaus.

Orli Bein

Board Member

Orli has led the Bay Area region of the New Israel Fund for fifteen years, and currently serves as Deputy Vice President of NIF for the Bay Area. She previously worked as Director of NIF’s Bay Area New Generations program. Prior to NIF, Orli worked as the Graduate Program Director at San Francisco Hillel and also volunteered as a Jewish-Palestinian dialogue group facilitator. She’s a former teacher of English as a foreign language and has taught in the Bay Area, New York and Morocco. She holds a Master’s degree in Folklore and Bachelor’s in Middle East Studies from UC Berkeley.  She lives in Oakland with her spouse and two sons. In her spare time, she performs in a community musical theater group.

David Biale

President of the Board

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.

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.

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.

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.

Fred Rosenbaum

Board Member

Fred the founder and director emeritus of Lehrhaus Judaica, is an award-winning educator, teacher and the author (with Eva Libitzky) of Out on a Ledge: Enduring the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, and Beyond, several other memoirs co-authored with Holocaust and as well as Cosmopolitans: A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area, among others. He is currently serving on the New Lehrhaus Board of Directors.

Judy Shanks

Board Secretary

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.

Staff

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.

Marlowe Beckman

Program Assistant

Marlowe joined New Lehrhaus in Spring 2023, serving as a program assistant to help facilitate and oversee programs and to promote New Lehrhaus in creative ways, including on social media.

He served as adult education coordinator and house manager JCCSF.  He teaches 3rd grade Hebrew school students at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. He holds two BA degrees from San Francisco State University: one in Arts and Jewish Studies and another in Comparative Literature.

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), Prof. Ariel Mayse, Rabbi Lavey Derby, and Joel Abramowitz.

Our Donors

We are grateful to our major funders

Eda Pell
Eve Bernstein and Alex Gersznowicz

Joseph & Denise Ziony

Lamed Vavniks Circle

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

Anonymous (3), Marty Aufhauser, David & Rachel Biale, Ellen Bob & David Waksberg, Howard & Geraldine Brownstein in memory of Martin Brownstein z”l, Martin & Jill Dodd, Fred Hertz, Rabbi Yoel Kahn & Dan Bellm, Hannah Kranzberg, Fred Rosenbaum & Dorothy Shipps, Rabbi Judy Shanks & Dr. James Gracer, Sinai Memorial Chapel’s Chevra Kadisha, Lisa & Howard Wenger.

* 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, Prof. Ron Hendel, Prof. Erich Gruen, Stewart Florsheim, Prof. Bruce Phillips, Prof. Steve Rosen, Prof. Naomi Seidman, Howard Simon.

Our Partners