Lynda Erinoff grew up in Philadelphia in a Jewish neighborhood, but her family did not belong to a synagogue. They were “culinary Jewish”—consuming the appropriate foods on holidays. Because two of her cousins were teachers, from ages 9-11, she attended Hebrew school but then moved too far away to continue. She went to college and graduate school in Chicago, moved to Los Angeles for a post-doc and got her first job as a neuroscience researcher in LA. She moved to Alexandria in 1985. At the end of 2015, she retired after 30 years working in health sciences research administration with the federal government.
Her first experience with Kol Ami was attending the Second Seder in 2012 where she reports experiencing the warmth and welcoming spirit of Kol Ami. She joined Kol Ami in 2013. Since joining Kol Ami, she has been involved in a number of volunteer activities and continues to be impressed with how the Kol Ami community does so much through the active participation of its community members.
Mike is a Senior Defense and Political Science Researcher at the RAND Corporation and Director of RAND Arroyo Center’s Personnel, Training, and Health program. A retired Army Colonel, with over 30 years as an Infantry and Force Management officer, his research has focused on finding ways for the Army to function more effectively and efficiently across all of its functional areas. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA in Politics, 1983), Georgetown University (MA in National Security Studies, 1996), Catholic University (MA and PhD. Candidacy in World Politics, 2005) and the Army War College (MA in Security Studies, 2006). Mike and his wife Debbie live in Springfield, VA. He has five children, ranging in age from 19-37, and two young grandchildren. He has previously served on the steering committee at Kol Ami in several capacities and is a trustee of the Junior State of America.
Ervin Walter was born in Sweden to Romanian parents. He grew up in an Orthodox home and completed his Jewish studies at the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington. His Jewish upbringing was shaped by his parents and their many friends representing most of the East European cultures.
Ervin has been a member of Kol Ami since 2003. He was a teacher in the early years of JCEP and was given the remarkable opportunity to teach his children for their B’nai Mitzvah. He has been on the Steering Committee for many years and is currently the Treasurer.
Ervin is a CPA and a graduate of the University of Maryland where he received his MBA in finance. He is President of Federal Management Services, a software and development company providing research support technologies to the National Institutes of Health.
He is married to Laura and has four children – Elizabeth, Katherine, Melissa, and Benjamin. He enjoys running, biking, and old-time radio.
Ted Joseph joined Kol Ami in 2015 and is currently serving as Secretary. He grew up attending a Reform synagogue in Sarasota, Florida. Ted and his wife, Lorna Joseph, have lived in New York, Dallas, and Tokyo before settling in Northern Virginia. They have twin boys who are attending JCEP and getting ready for their B’nai Mitzvah.
Ted’s professional background is in finance and investing. He currently works as a portfolio manager at Strategic Investment Group in Arlington. He attended Stanford University (MBA) and the University of Pennsylvania (BS).
Jane Schulman, has been a member of the Kol Ami community since 2006. She led the participatory and inclusive Rabbinical selection process that culminated in the selection of Rabbi Gilah Langner to succeed Rabbi Leila Gal Berner as she retired from Kol Ami. She previously served as chair of the Ritual Committee for several years and remains an active member. Jane was raised in a Conservative/Orthodox home. However, like many others, Jane was alienated from her Jewish roots for most of her adult life… until she found Congregation Bet Haverim, a vibrant, growing Reconstructionist community in Atlanta, GA. When she and her husband moved to Alexandria, she was very grateful to find Kol Ami — the only Reconstructionist community in northern Virginia — and remains fully committed to supporting this progressive, inclusive, thoughtful, and caring community.
Jane’s professional training is in biostatistics and public health research (M.S. Harvard University; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley). She serves as Study Area Director for Westat, Inc. in Rockville MD where she directs an active public health and biomedical research program of more than 150 staff serving NIH, CDC, and EPA. Jane’s husband, Don Viehman, is a cloisonné enamel artist at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, Alexandria.
Rabbi Gilah has worked with nine congregations since her ordination as a rabbi in 2003, leading everything from High Holiday services to Shabbat and family services. She has served as the principal both at the Shoreshim Hebrew School and the Kehillah Chadasha Hebrew School, and as a consultant and guest teacher at Kol Ami’s Jewish Children’s Education Program. She has also led Jewish meditation at two D.C.-area congregations and has been an adjunct professor and an instructor at three D.C.-area universities. In addition, Rabbi Gilah has led numerous adult education classes and workshops, served as a visiting chaplain both at Georgetown University Hospital and at senior residences, and co-directed the Washington Jewish Healing Network. Rabbi Gilah, the founding publisher and co-editor of the journal Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism has published numerous articles and authored many prayers. She is a member of Jews United for Justice and T’ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner was Kol Ami’s founding rabbi and is now Rabbi Emerita. She helped birth us, midwifed us and stood by us as we grew from an idea into a congregation. Rabbi Leila Gal Berner was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and received private ordination from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She received a doctorate in medieval Jewish History from UCLA and her Bachelor’s Degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she lived for ten years. She is a citizen of both Israel and the United States. Rabbi Leila has taught at some of our country’s leading universities and colleges: Reed and Swarthmore colleges, Emory, George Washington and American universities. At American University, she served for over a decade as Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Rabbi Leila also serves as Dean of Students of the Aleph (Alliance for Jewish Renewal) Ordination Program where she teaches rabbinical and cantorial students how to passionately, creatively and lovingly lead the Jewish people into the future. Rabbi Leila has pioneered a new approach to integrating Torah’s wisdom through “Contemplative Torah,” which she has incorporated into a book entitled, Listening with the Ears of the Heart: A Contemplative Approach to the Book of Genesis. Rabbi Leila lives in Rockville, Maryland with her wife, Franna Ruddell. She can be reached at email@example.com
Herb was raised in an Orthodox home in Baltimore, completing the high school department of the (then) Baltimore Hebrew College, in addition to public high school. In those days, he was also active in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s Aleph Zadik Aleph program.
Through his college years, he became disconnected with the Judaism that he was raised on, but began to reconstruct Judaism to address the social change commitment he made in his life. The day he picked up The Freedom Seder by Rabbi Arthur Waskow was the day he learned that Judaism could be made relevant to his own concerns. He spent over 40 years working in affordable housing as his contribution to Tikkun Olam.
While his kids were educated in a Conservative Hebrew School, he was a member of the Fabrangen Community in DC for over 15 years. (Fabrangen is a lay-led havurah that now is over 40 years old.) In 1994, he met the love of his life Janice while on retreat at Elat Chayyim. At Elat Chayyim, he experienced the Shabbat of his life. He returned wanting to re-create that experience every Shabbat.
He’s been active in Kol Ami since December 2000. During that time, he’s led more than 150 services, been active in the Steering and Ritual Committees, and drafted the Haggadah that he uses to lead the Kol Ami Second Seder.
What he loves about Reconstructionism is its intimate connection to Judaism, its thoughtful approach to services, the sound of guitar and tambourines during davvenning, and the fresh ways Kol Ami connects to HaShem. He feels the joy of continued bonding in our growing community and meeting new people who feel like old friends. He also serves as Kol Ami’s Community Coordinator.
Jim North joined Kol Ami in 2003 as he began weaving Jewish threads of his Judeo-Christian up-bringing in a spirit and song-filled Southern Baptist home into his life’s tapestry. Drawn to Jewish values and beliefs harmonious with his spiritual development, Jim studied with Rabbi Berner for his formal conversion to Judaism in July 2004, and he most recently was called to read from the Torah as one of Kol Ami’s first bnai mitzvah in June 2005. Jim loves to cook and sing and he lends his voice to the celebration of Shabbat at home with his partner Richard, as well as at Kol Ami. He has served on the Steering Committee and enjoys supporting the community in a variety of lay leader roles. A linguist and language trainer, Jim works as associate dean for instruction at the School of Language Studies, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State.
Dr. Richard Ruth, a member of Kol Ami, is a clinical psychologist in private practice; he is also an associate professor at the George Washington University Center for Professional Psychology and on the steering committee of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry. He is trilingual (Spanish and Yiddish) and lived and worked in South America, Europe and the Caribbean before settling in Arlington. When not watching Law and Order reruns or lost in a book, he can often be found at Kol Ami services, singing heartily if not always in tune.
Erin Bueno de Mesquita is delighted to be part of the JCEP teaching team for the second year, working with the newer Hebrew learners and Jewish Studies. She was brought up in the Reform tradition. Her two children, Nate (12) and Clara (9), attend JCEP. During the work week Erin teaches English to second language learners at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. Before becoming an ESOL teacher, she lived in Mexico playing the French horn for 14 years.
The son of a sabra and the grandson of kibbutzniks, Steve grew up in New York City, where he pursued Jewish learning (or it pursued him) as far as a flop of a semester in the Jewish Theological Seminary high school program. He played the violin (still does), became a public radio producer and then a civil rights lawyer and law teacher, and has lived in Virginia and D.C. since the early 1980s. He’s been a ba’al koreh (the fancy term for a Torah reader) at Agudas Achim in Alexandria, and at Adas Israel, the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and the Hill Havurah in D.C. He and his cellist spouse Emily Toll came to Kol Ami with their son Noah in 2013, drawn to JCEP in particular. Steve taught Hebrew to a small JCEP class of “older beginners” in 2013-14, and this year will teach intermediate Hebrew and Jewish studies, always looking for fun ways to demystify our language and tradition and make them more interesting.
Having taught university students for 13 years, Zach Schrag is now trying his hand with JCEP students for the first time. Zach grew up in New York City and Washington, D.C., where he attended Tifereth Israel, a Conservative synagogue. He and his wife, Rebecca Tushnet, have two children, both enrolled in JCEP. A historian of the United States, Zach hopes to include some American Jewish history as he helps teach intermediate Jewish Studies.