Rabbi Avi Weiss, Co-Founder

Rabbi Avi Weiss, Co-Founder, is founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale – the Bayit, Bronx, New York, and founder of YeshivatChovevei Torah Rabbinical School.  He is also co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), an international organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis, and PORAT: People for Orthodox Renaissance And Torah. 
Rabbi Weiss served as National Chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) from 1982 to 1991 and subsequently as National President of AMCHA – the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, raising a voice of moral conscience on behalf of the Jewish people and humankind throughout the world. Rabbi Weiss has authored numerous books, articles and editorials published in journals and newspapers around the world. His new book, Journey to Open Orthodoxy, will be published later this year. 

Rabba Sara Hurwitz, President


Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Co-Founder and President 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.  In 2017 Rabba Hurwitz was chosen to be a member of the inaugural class of Wexner Foundation Field Fellows.

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

Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rosh HaYeshiva

Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rosh HaYeshiva 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 a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and has also been a member of the faculty of the Drisha Institute, the Florence Melton Adult Education School in Westchester County, and Yeshivat Hadar.

Amanda F. Shechter, Executive Director

Amanda F. Shechter, Executive Director, is a graduate of Barnard College and Columbia University School of Law.  She was a member of the inaugural class of Nishmat in Jerusalem and served on the board of American Friends of Nishmat for sixteen years.  Amanda practiced law for over twenty years, primarily in commercial litigation and real estate.  She was the Director of Admissions and Outreach at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley and served as President of the Campus for Jewish Life (formerly the YM-YWHA of Raritan Valley) for many years.  Amanda was chosen to be in the first cohort of Tanzman Fellows of the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County, a year-long leadership development program for outstanding community leaders.  She lives in East Brunswick, NJ with her husband, Judah, and their three children, Chana, Jeremy and Michal.

Dr. Esther Altmann, Director of Pastoral Education

Dr. Esther Altmann, Director of Pastoral Education 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 Yeshivat Chovevei Torah 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. 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 is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Dr. Leib Smokler 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. 

Wendy Amsellem, Talmud and Internship Coordinator

Wendy Amsellem teaches Gemara and is the 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 an Adjunct Associate Professor at City College, New York. Additionally, 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 was “Halakhah in America: The History of City Eruvin, 1894-1962.” He has 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 also a founder of Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan.

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

Laura Shaw Frank, Director of Recruitment, Placement, Internships, 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.

Jen Vegh, Director of Community Engagement

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Jen Vegh, Director of Community Engagement, is a graduate of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), where she received a master’s degree in Jewish Education, focusing on Synagogue Education. Jen attended the undergraduate joint program between JTS and Columbia University where she received two bachelor’s degrees -- in Jewish music from JTS's List College and in sociology from Columbia. She most recently served for many years as the Director of Youth & Family Engagement at Beth El Synagogue Center.  Jen was selected in 2016 for the Jewish Education Project's Young Pioneers Award, and in 2017-2018 for the UJA Ruskay Fellowship for Jewish Professionals.  She lives in New Rochelle with her husband, Jeff, and their two children, where they are active members of the Young Israel of New Rochelle.

Maya Bernstein, Leadership Faculty

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Maya Bernstein designs and teaches the leadership curriculum at Yeshivat Maharat. Maya is a co-founder of and Associate at UpStart Lab. She is a co-director and on faculty at Georgetown University's Executive Certificate in Facilitation, and teaches for the Wexner Foundation's Graduate, Heritage, and Field Fellowship programs. She is also a founding faculty member of the Jewish Agency's Adaptive Leadership Lab, a program of their Global Leadership Institute. Maya's writings on leadership and innovation have been published in a wide variety of publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Jewish Week, ejewish philanthropy, and Lilith magazine. She holds a B.A in Russian Language and Literature from Columbia University, and an M.Ed from Harvard.

Atarah Mark, Administrative Assistant

Atarah Mark is a graduated cum laude from University of Maryland, College Park where she studied Communications and Philosophy (B.A. '16). She also received a certificate in Paralegal Studies in 2014 from Montgomery College.  Atarah has previous experience working with religious and educational non-profits at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark Alumni Engineering Network and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. At both of these organizations she focused on alumni engagement, donor relations, and social media management. Atarah is excited to help Yeshivat Maharat's growth and development.