Rabbi Joey Felsen
Rabbi Joey Felsen, Founder and Executive Director of the Jewish Study Network, hails from Toronto, Canada. He completed a B.A. in Political Science at York University before pursuing rabbinic ordination in Israel at the Mirrer Yeshiva.
As an activist in university, Rabbi Felsen held the titles of National Chairperson of the Jewish Students’ Network of Canada and the Vice-Chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students.
Rabbi Felsen and his family moved from Jerusalem to Palo Alto in 2001 to launch the Jewish Study Network. He received the 2006 Grinspoon-Steinhardt National Award for Excellence in Jewish Education for his teaching at Kehillah Jewish High School. He currently teaches in the Florence Melton School for Adult Education at the Jewish Community Centers in Palo Alto and Los Gatos, in addition to the regular classes that he conducts as independent JSN educational offerings.
Rabbi Felsen is a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Community Federation of the San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. He is also the founding Board President of Meira Academy and the proud parent of a pioneering freshman.
Rabbi Avi Lebowitz
Rabbi Avi Lebowitz received his ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore and a Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins University. He moved to Palo Alto in 2002 with his family to join the Jewish Study Network and became the Educational Director of the JSN in 2005. He served part-time as the Rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Torah in San Jose for the first two years following his arrival to the Bay Area.
An expert in the realm of Halacha (Jewish law), Rabbi Lebowitz recently published a comprehensive and scholarly work on the Mikvah (ritual bath), which includes an innovative commentary on the related Mishnaic tractate. He is also the author of “Nasiach Bechukecha”, a commentary on the Chayei Adam’s principles of the commandments. Rabbi Lebowitz is consulted worldwide on intricacies of Jewish law.
In addition to being on our board of directors, Rabbi Lebowitz teaches halacha at Meira Academy. He is an active member on the Head of School search committee of South Peninsula Hebrew Day School and is the only rabbi in the Bay Area who is qualified to write Gittin (Jewish divorce papers) that are universally accepted.
Ms. Victoria Rodrigue
Ms. Rodrigue received her Bachelors in Arts from The College of the Holy Cross in 2007 with a degree in Music and German Studies. A top student through-out her college career, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the 2007-2008 academic year.
Ms. Rodrigue spent her Fulbright year at the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria, where she studied the sketches for Hugo Wolf’s unfinished opera, Manuel Venegas. She also worked as a teaching assistant in English at two Viennese high schools and spent her spring break exploring the pyramids at Giza and Karnak. Following her year abroad, Ms. Rodrigue attended the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, where she received a Master’s Degree in Musicology. Her master’s thesis, which she later presented and published as an article, examined musical representations of sociocultural identity in Viennese Operetta.
Ms. Rodrigue moved to the Bay Area in 2010 to begin work on her PhD in musicology at Stanford. While there, she began studying Hindustani Classical Music and had the unique opportunity to take a class with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan while he was a resident artist at Stanford.
Ms. Rodrigue has experience teaching students of all ages. She taught undergraduate music history, ethnomusicology, and ethnography classes at both the University of Michigan and Stanford University as a graduate instructor. After five years in academia, Ms. Rodrigue turned her attention to younger students. She has worked with two non-profit extended learning programs in California, Moving Forward Education, which provides academic and social-emotional support for young girls in low-income schools, and Citizen Schools, where she taught math and enrichment classes to low-income middle school students who were below-grade-level in math and English. Most recently, Ms. Rodrigue helped to open BASIS Independent Silicon Valley in San Jose, where she served as Dean of Students and the Summer School Principal.
In her previous roles, Ms. Rodrigue has taught her students that in order to be successful they must take ownership of their educational experience, define their own goals, and develop the ability to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. She encourages her students to see failure as a starting point and a learning opportunity, to explore and develop their own interests, and to support and respect their fellow students. She believes passionately in the importance of nurturing the “whole student” and is excited to join the community at Meira Academy
Ms. Rodrigue loves surfing and skateboarding and can be found in the lineup at Santa Cruz at the Hook, Sharks, or 38th avenue most weekends. When not surfing, she also enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and wilderness backpacking.
Board of Directors
Barry Berkowitz has recently joined the Board of Directors of Meira Academy. Barry works for Google and has been an active member of the Jewish community. He has served on the board of directors as the Treasurer of Congregation Emek Beracha for several years and was a former Board Member of NCSY on Long Island, NY. Barry lives in Palo Alto with his wife Erica and his three adorable children.
Dr. Linda Kurz
Linda Kurz received her Ph.D. in International Politics from Stanford University. She is the former Associate Director of the Koret Institute, and she managed the Koret Jewish Book Awards. Dr. Kurz is now the Project Manager of Jewish Lives, a ten year project producing a biography series on legendary Jews published by Yale University Press.
Dr. Kurz has been active in local Jewish organizations and has served as board president of Stanford Hillel and Gideon Hausner Day School. She was a founder of New Bridges to Jewish Community and Peninsula Havurah High. Dr. Kurz served as chair of the Israel Education Initiative Advisory Board at the Jewish Community Federation and is currently on the Advisory Board of BASIS, the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Israel education project in the Bay Area day schools.
A highly active lay leader for many years at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Dr. Kurz currently serves on the Re-imagine Education Task Force at the temple. She lives on the Stanford campus with her husband Mordecai, and has two grown sons.
Dr. Aron Rosenfeld
Dr. Aron Rosenfeld is a Senior Director at Applied Materials, and the holder of close to two dozen patents. A graduate of McGill University, in his hometown of Montreal, he has a master’s degree in physics from Harvard University and a doctorate degree from Queens University in Canada. He also has extensive experience serving on the Board of Directors at Emek Beracha, in Palo Alto, where he was Treasurer and then President.
Dr. Rivka Sherman-Gold
Rivka Sherman-Gold, Ph.D. MBA, is a scientist, author, and speaker on science, business, and Jewish topics.
Dr. Sherman-Gold was born in Poland to Sho’ah survivor parents. She was raised in Israel and served in the Israeli army (IDF). She received her B.Sc. with honors in chemistry and M.Sc. in biophysics and physiology from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Haifa, Israel), and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel). She was awarded the prestigious Dr. Chaim Weizmann Postdoctoral Fellowship and performed postdoctoral research at Stanford University School of Medicine. She subsequently earned her MBA at California State University, San Jose (SJSU). Dr. Sherman-Gold has held senior positions in research, business development, and management at pharmaceutical/biotech, diagnostic, and instrumentation companies including Syntex, Axon Instruments, Athena Neuroscience, Abgenix, Alydar, and Diatos. She is currently an advisor to start up companies.
Her passion for encouraging young women to study science and technology and to pursue careers in these fields led her to found the SF Bay Area chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and to serve as its first president, an achievement for which she received the Syntex Community Service Award. Over the years, she has mentored and provided career advice to many women scientists. Dr. Sherman-Gold is a member of the Board of Directors of the North Pacific Region of the American Technion Society and has been a speaker at donor events of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In addition to her pursuits in science, she has a strong interest in various Jewish topics, particularly Biblical texts and the Hebrew language and grammar. She is the author of a book on vowel usage in Hebrew as it pertains to reading the Biblical texts, and she is a speaker and teacher on Biblical topics. Dr. Sherman-Gold and her husband Irving Gold, an electrical engineer and high-tech executive, have children and grandchildren.
Rabbi Menachem Levine
Upon graduation, Rav Levine relocated to Yerushalayim to attend the world-renowned Mir Yeshiva, where he also attended the lectures of the mussar giant, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe. At the Mir Yeshiva, his primary focus was on intense Talmudic study and in-depth learning of the classic mussar (ethical) texts.
Rav Levine returned to the United States and attended Yeshivah Sha’ar HaTorah-Grodno, where he formed a close relationship with the Rosh Yeshivah, HaRav Zelik Epstein. Rav Levine met his wife, Rachelli (Zakheim), during this time, and they moved to Lakewood, NJ, where he was a full-time member of the Beth Medrash Govoha Kollel. In Lakewood, Rav Levine began his studies for semicha (rabbinic ordination) and was a Rosh Chabura.
The Levines subsequently moved to Philadelphia, where Rav Levine attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School, while concomitantly completing his semicha. He became close with the Rosh Yeshivah of the Philadelphia Yeshivah, HaRav Shmuel Kamenetzky, and also studied daily at the Philadelphia Community Kollel. Rav Levine began to work in Jewish outreach and founded the Jewish Heritage Club at the University of Pennsylvania. The club had over 120 student members, who received a weekly e-mail, and participated in “lunch-and-learns” and other events. The Levines also hosted many Penn students as Shabbos guests. Rebbetzin Levine taught an Honors Chumash course in Torah Academy Girls’ High School and also gave a popular computer graphics course in the school.
After graduating Law School, and passing the New Jersey Bar Exam, Rav Levine chose to put aside the law degree, and instead devote himself to the community by becoming the Rabbi of Am Echad. An idealistic individual and a dynamic speaker, Rav Levine strives to help bring out the unique potential within each Jew and works to raise the level of Torah knowledge in the community through classes, one-on-one learning and weekly drashos. He also works with other local communities in strengthening the Jewish infrastructure of the Bay Area. In this regard, Rav Levine has arranged for noted rabbis and communal leaders to visit and address the community on a broad spectrum of topics.