Rabbi Avi Weiss, Founder

Rabbi Avi Weiss, Founder, is the Senior Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a Modern and Open Orthodox congregation of 850 families and is the founder and President of Yeshivah Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School.  In 2007, Rabbi Weiss was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America, describing him as “Orthodox’s leading activist and leader of the Modern Orthodox community.”  Rabbi Weiss has authored numerous books, articles and editorials published in journals and newspapers around the world.

Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Dean


Rabba Sara Hurwitz, co-founder and Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox yeshiva to ordain women as clergy, also serves on the Rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.

Rabba Hurwitz completed Drisha’s three-year Scholars Circle Program, an advanced intensive program of study for Jewish women training to become scholars, educators and community leaders. After another five years of study under the auspices of Rabbi Avi Weiss, she was ordained by Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Daniel Sperber in 2009. 

In 2013 Rabba Hurwitz was awarded the Hadassah Foundation Bernice S. Tannenbaum prize, and the Myrtle Wreath Award from the Southern New Jersey Region of Hadassah in 2014.  In 2016 she was the Trailblazer Award Recipient at UJA Federation of New York.  She was named as one of Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36, the Forward50 most influential Jewish leaders, and Newsweek’s 50 most influential rabbis.

She and husband, Josh Abraham, are parents to Yonah, Zacharya and Davidi.

Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rosh Yeshiva

Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat, was the first graduate of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.  Upon graduation he served as the Rabbi of Kehilat Kesher: The Community Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood for seven years.  In Rabbi Fox’s tenure at Kesher, the community grew three-fold from thirty families to nearly one hundred.  During that time Rabbi Fox also taught at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as well as the Florence Melton Adult Education School in Bergen County.  He also served on the board of the Synagogue Leadership Initiative of the UJA of NNJ.  Rabbi Fox is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute.  He has also been a member of the faculty of the Drisha Institute, the Florence Melton Adult Education School in Westchester County as well as Yeshivat Hadar.

Dr. Esther Altmann, Director of Pastoral Education

Dr. Esther Altmann, Director of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Maharat, is a clinical psychologist in private practice, specializing in psychotherapy with adolescents, young adults and couples. Formerly on the teaching faculty of new York University, Adelphi University and YCT Rabbinical School, she has also been a supervising psychologist at several New York City hospitals. She has served as an eating disorders consultant at several Jewish Institutions and helped develop the treatment program at the Renfrew Center for Orthodox patients. Dr. Altmann writes and lectures in schools and communities on mental health topics.

Dr. Altmann can be contacted at esther(at)yeshivatmaharat.org

Dr. Erin Leib Smokler, Director of Spiritual Development

Dr. Erin Leib Smokler is the Director of Spiritual Development at Yeshivat Maharat, where she teaches Chassidut and Pastoral Torah. She earned her PhD and MA from the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought and her BA from Harvard University. She previously served as Assistant Literary Editor of The New Republic magazine, and her writing has appeared there as well as in The New York Times Book Review, The Jerusalem Report, and The Jewish Week. 

Yael Keller, Director of Operations

Yael Keller, Director of Operations, earned a Masters in Public Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a Masters in Jewish Professional Leadership at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University.  Upon graduation, she was the Director of Programming at Uri L’Tzedek, the Orthodox Social Justice movement.  In graduate school she was an intern at the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel, where she worked on the grant writing team, advocating for Jews at risk throughout the world and a site educator at Impact Boston, where she facilitated a teen experience focused on social action, community service and advocacy. Before graduate school, Yael spent three years in Washington, DC, working at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and Hillel’s Schusterman International Center.  She also spent a semester in Israel studying at the Pardes Institute of Judaic Studies before attending the Hornstein Program. Yael earned her B.A. in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland.  She was active in her campus Hillel, serving as a student leader and board member.

Yael can be reached at yaelkeller(at)yeshivatmaharat.org

Wendy Amsellem, Talmud and Internship Coordinator

Wendy Amsellem is the new Gemara teacher and Internship Coordinator for Yeshivat Maharat.  She also serves as the Rosh Kollel of the Drisha July College Kollel for women and is a faculty member at Drisha. She is the former Director of the Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program and an alumna of the Drisha Scholars Circle. She is pursuing a PhD in Judaic Studies at New York University and has a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University.

Rabbi Adam Mintz, Talmud

Rabbi Adam Mintz, a Modern Orthodox rabbi in New York City, believes that the greatest challenge facing twenty-first century Jewry is the creation of educated Jews who understand that the key to the Jewish future is the appreciation of the Jewish past.

Toward this goal, Rabbi Mintz teaches Jewish history and thought in a variety of venues. He has taught at Rutgers University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Queens College and is presently Adjunct Associate Professor at City College, New York. In addition, Rabbi Mintz has presented a weekly lecture in Jewish History on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the past five years. These classes are available as mp3 files and have attracted a virtual community of enthusiastic students from around the world.

Rabbi Mintz completed his rabbinical ordination at Yeshiva University and received his doctorate at New York University. The topic of his dissertation is “Halakhah in America: The History of City Eruvin, 1894-1962.” He served as a rabbi in a number of Modern Orthodox synagogues in the New York area, including Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Lincoln Square Synagogue. Rabbi Mintz is a founder of Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan.

Rabbi Mintz is married to Sharon Liberman Mintz, Curator of Jewish Art at The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Senior Consultant for Judaica at Sothebys. They have three children; Noam, Ariel and Shoshana.

Rabba Dr. Anat Sharbat, Scholar in Residence

Rabba Dr. Anat Sharbat is joining the faculty at Yeshivat Maharat as a Scholar in Residence, researching and writing scholarly articles. She also serves as part of the clergy team at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Anat feels passionate about issues of feminism and social justice, and was a T’ruah Rabbinical Fellow in Human Rights and has been attending the JOIN for Justice cross seminary organizing course. Anat completed a chaplaincy internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Sharbat graduated from Bar-Ilan University with an M.A. cum laude and a Ph.D. in Talmud. While writing her thesis for her M.A. degree, she studied at Shalom Hartman Institute’s Beit Midrash Program. Anat served as a board member at Kolech-Religious Women’s Forum.  She was born and raised in Israel and is married with four girls. 

Rabbi Yisrael Hollender

Rabbi Yisrael Hollender is the Shoel U'Meishiv at Yeshivat Maharat. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and attended the Fuchs Mizrachi School, where he was presented the Rabbis Louis Bernstein Award for excellence in the study Talmud and went on to study at Yeshivat Har Etzion. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University with BA in Philosophy. After receiving ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah's first class, he served as an Assistant Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NYC, for two years. Prior to joining Yeshivat Maharat's Beit Midrash, he was the Rabbi of the Riverdale Atria Senior Living Center for four years and a Teacher in S.A.R. High School's Talmud Department for seven years. He is also currently the Director of Y.C.T's Lishma program, an Adult learning program focused primarily on Talmud. 

Laura Shaw Frank, Director of Recruitment, Placement, and Alumnae Support

Laura Shaw Frank, Director of Recruitment, Placement and Alumnae Relations at Yeshivat Maharat, is completing her PhD in modern Jewish history at the University of Maryland. She is also a member of the history faculty and an Israel guidance counselor at SAR High School in Riverdale. Before moving to New York, Laura was the chair of the Jewish History Department and Director of Israel Guidance at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore, MD. A former commercial litigator, Laura is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School. She is a founding board member of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and currently serves on JOFA's Executive Board. She lives in Riverdale with her husband, Rabbi Aaron Frank, and their four children.