Miryam Kabakov is a founding full-time Executive Director of Eshel with a background in organizational development, social research, program evaluation, and a passion for community building. Miryam is the editor of Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires (North Atlantic Books, May 2010) a collection of writings about the challenges and joys of LGBT Orthodox Jews. Previously, she was NY Program Director and then the first National Program Director of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Coordinator of LGBT programming at the JCC Manhattan, she was also the first social worker at Footsteps. Miryam attended the Ramaz Upper School, Stern College for Women and received her Master’s Degree from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Contact Miryam at Miryam@eshelonline.org
Rabbi Steven Greenberg works part-time as Eshel’s co-director and part-time faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He is the author of the groundbreaking book, Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), which won the Koret Book Award for Philosophy and Thought. He lives with his partner Steven Goldstein and his daughter Amalia in Boston. Contact Steve at Steve@eshelonline.org
Chavie Weisberger grew up in a Chassidic community in Monsey, NY. She is a queer single mother of 3 delightful children. A member of the Eshel community since 2012, Chavie runs groups and assists with special projects. She concurrently serves as Community Engagement Associate at Footsteps – a non-profit where she works towards building a network of those who have made the transition out of ultra-Orthodoxy and are looking to be connected with the other like-minded individuals. Contact Chavie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Work Intern
Gabriela Tilevitz grew up in New York within the modern orthodox Jewish community. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at NYU and has joined the Eshel team for her second year field placement. Gabriela has been a personal advocate to the LGBT community for many years and hopes to further her advocacy professionally through Eshel. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, reading, and gardening. Contact her at email@example.com
Social Work Intern
Sam Tamir, from Brooklyn, NY, is currently finishing his final year in Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School for Social Work. He comes with organizational experience working with people from various populations and backgrounds. His passion for, and interest in the helping field has guided him towards Eshel’s mission for the Orthodox LGBTQ population.
Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein
Welcoming Shuls Project Director
Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein (Sunnie) is a well known Jewish educator who has worked in many venues and around many topics of Jewish Learning as well as education in general. Within that work, Sunnie has always been an advocate for inclusion of all members of our Jewish community, including our LGBT members, and has taught extensively about that inclusion from a Jewish text informed perspective. Sunnie and her husband Ken are also the parents of four amazing children, two of whom happen to be gay. Sunnie worked with her daughter Rachie and her “Rav Steve” Greenberg to help create a beautiful ceremony to join Rachie and Liz together as life partners this past June.
Educational Outreach Specialist
Leana Jelen, Eshel’s new Educational Outreach Specialist, has been involved with Eshel since the very first national shabbaton six years ago. When she is not reaching out educationally, Leana serves as Pardes Institute’s Engagement Coordinator, and works as a freelance American Sign Language interpreter specializing in Judaic content. Leana is an alumna of Moishe House Montgomery County where she worked to build traditionally rooted queer-inclusive and Deaf-inclusive Jewish community. Currently Leana lives in Washington Heights with roommates and her dog, Nemmy.
Dana Friedman comes to the Eshel board with a great deal of not-for-profit volunteer experience. Dana has been a leader in Business Network International, was Vice President of New York CyberQueers—a business networking group for New York area LGBT technology professionals— and was Vice President of the New York City chapter of the ICCA—Independent Computer Consultants Association. She served as a chapter advisor in Junior and Senior NCSY (Etz Chaim/NJ Region), as well as in Heritage of Pride—organizers of New York City’s Gay Pride March. With 20-plus years of technology consulting and web implementation experience, Dana assists Eshel by addressing a wide variety of technology, web, and social media challenges. Contact Dana at Dana@eshelonline.org
Elaine Chapnik has been involved with organizing LGBT Orthodox communities since 1995 as a founding member of the New York City Orthodykes support group for Orthodox and previously Orthodox, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender women. Elaine sat on the LGBT Committee of the Jewish National Fund. Recently, she was on a national book tour with Miryam Kabakov as the author of the chapter on Jewish law and lesbianism in Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she received a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctorate. A member of the New York State Bar, she began her association with Eshel as a pro-bono lawyer giving advice on various legal issues before becoming a Board member. For the last two decades, she has worked in public health, and is currently working for New York City’s municipal hospital system, providing legal expertise on procurement and information technology contracts and managed care reimbursement.
Shlomo Ashkinazy, LCSW has been recognized as a leader in the LGBT rights movement for more than 40 years. He was a founding member of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and a founding Board Member of the LGBT Community Center in NYC. The first openly gay MSW student in the country, he became a founder of The Hetrick Martin Institute, providing services for LGBTQ youth and their families. As its first Clinical Director he created the Harvey Milk School, a high school serving LGBT youth and served as its first Principal. He currently sits on the LGBT Advisory Panel to NYC Police Commissioner William Barton. Since becoming a Ba’al Tshuva (a returnee to Judaism) in 1979, he has worked to help Orthodox LGBT people reconcile their religious identities with their sexual orientation, and has also been active in educating the Orthodox community about this issue. He has been running a monthly discussion group for Orthodox Gay men since 1983.
Steve Kay Kupietzky received his law degree from Boston University, and now is president of an international tourism consulting business. Steve worked with his family’s kosher catering business, Kay Caterers, for 30 years. Steve is one of the original members of GLYDSA, attended Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Yeshiva University’s High School in Manhattan (MTA), and studied at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem. Steve has been involved with Limmud NY since its inception and has sat on the Board of Directors for several years. Steve brings with him a talent for organization building as well as legal expertise in the non-profit world. Steve was also the first professional rollerblader to appear in a Broadway Show.
Yitz Pries is director of GLYDSA, The Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association. GLYDSA’s purpose is to provide a safe space for people of all ages to integrate their Jewish and gay identities, in a self-affirming, positive manner, through discussion, socializing, and other activities. Yitz has been involved with organizing for the LGBT Orthodox community for almost twenty years. Contact Yitz at Yitz@eshelonline.org