Atara Cohen is a native of Riverdale NY. She graduated from Princeton University with a BA in Religion and a certificate in Judaic Studies. Through her undergraduate studies, she focused on the impact of text on religious experience and submitted a senior thesis entitled “Heavenly Portions and Messianic Distortions: A Tale of Two Talmuds.” Outside of her academic study of religion, she engaged with the interfaith community on campus as a member of a Muslim-Jewish dialogue group, the interfaith council, and as the leader of an interfaith service group. As a part of the Jewish community on campus, she taught many shiurim on a variety of topics, was a participant in the Princeton Yeshiva Fellowship, served as education chair of the Orthodox community, and organized a Yiddish language table at Hillel. Atara has studied Torah in a variety of settings, including, among others, Midreshet Nishmat, Yeshivat Hadar, and Drisha.
Shani Gross is the Director of the Silicon Valley Beit Midrash, a new center of learning on the West Coast that empowers Jewish people of all backgrounds to study classic Jewish texts in a pluralistic, warm and intellectually challenging environment. She is passionate about exploring Jewish texts and creating communities around that pursuit. Before co-founding the Silicon Valley Beit Midrash, she studied in a number of Jewish institutions including Migdal Oz, the Drisha Institute and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Shani earned a dual degree in Jewish Studies and Marketing from Stern College at Yeshiva University. She lectures around the San Francisco Bay Area on topics relating to Tanakh and Midrash and how they speak to our modern Jewish community.
Born and raised in Israel, Michal Kohane has been a leader and educator in the Jewish Community of Northern California for over twenty five years. She has served as acting rabbi to a 120 family congregation; was a day-school educator, federation executive director and more. She is passionate about Jewish learning and building community. She has studied in Pardes as well as taught at Limmud Bay Area, and other events and venues. She holds a BA in Studies of Israel and Education, an M.S. in Jewish Studies, an MA in Clinical Psychology, and is pursuing a PsyD in organizational psychology. She is an avid writer and blogger.
Jennifer Kotzker Geretz grew up in the small Jewish community of Pensacola, Florida. Jennifer graduated cum-laude from Brandeis University with a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Jennifer's undergraduate thesis, "Perspectives on the Agunah Problem," was awarded high honors as well as Brandeis' Lester Martin award for Legal Studies. Jennifer's love of teaching and experiential education has served her well in Jewish pre-schools, community schools, and summer camps. Jennifer's interest in alternative education methodologies for Orthodox day schools led her to co-found and co-direct Yeshivat Netivot Montessori, an infant through 8th grade Orthodox Day School located in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Jennifer has written for many years on the intersection of Jewish religious thought and women's role in Judaism, and she served for two years as co-organizer for the Women’s Tefillah Group of Raritan Valley. Jennifer worked for Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as the Student Services Director and Academic Coordinator. Jennifer currently lives in West Orange, New Jersey with her children and husband Rabbi Daniel Geretz.
Gloria Nusbacher earned a B.A. from Barnard College (with a double major in psychology and political science) and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She comes to Yeshivat Maharat after a career of over 30 years in corporate law, including almost 20 years as a partner at one of the 100 largest U.S. law firms. Her professional accomplishments include being named to New York Super Lawyers and being designated as a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. Gloria has lectured and written on various topics in the fields of executive compensation, corporate governance, and securities law and has co-authored numerous submissions to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of the American Bar Association.
Gloria has taken classes at Drisha for over 20 years. She co-founded and ran her community’s women’s tefillah group and has served as a board member and officer of her shul. She intends to use her teaching experience and passion for learning Jewish texts in order to inspire members of the community in their learning and spiritual growth. She hopes to use her legal and writing skills to increase the voice of women in the halachic process.
Gloria lives in West Hempstead, NY with her husband. She is the proud mother of a daughter and a proud grandmother of two boys.
Born in Haifa and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania in a Hebrew speaking home, Yael Smooha grew up enchanted by the stories of the Torah she learned as an Jewish Day School student, eventually taking on an observant lifestyle at the time of her Bat Mitzvah. Yael’s passion for Torah learning grew as an NCSYer, and after graduating Bruriah High School, Yael spent her post-high school years in the Breuers community of Washington Heights, studying as a seminary student and devoting her creative talents to teaching Judaic Studies to her fourth graders.
Heeding an inner call to expand her sphere, Yael earned a degree in Elementary education at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a public school teacher she worked alongside with artists to engage inner city students in yoga, cooking, and art to improve their academic performance. Ultimately, the longing to teach what was closest to her heart drew her to serve as a Jewish educator first in the elementary grades at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and subsequently at the middle school level at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester.
Throughout her teaching career, Yael has reveled in the power of the arts to spark imagination and deepen her students’ thinking around their textual learning, engaging her learners in activities involving improvisation, songwriting, movement, and journal-writing. Experiencing the effect of the palpable effect of the arts on all of her students has moved Yael to consider ways in which to bring more art and spirituality into Jewish practice. As a Maharat student, Yael is excited about expanding her own understanding of spirituality and bringing these gifts to her future congregants.
Yael currently lives in Teaneck, NJ with her husband, children, and stepchildren.