Miryam Kabakov is the Executive Director and a founding board member of Eshel, an organization that supports and advocates for LGBTQ Orthodox individuals and their families. Prior to being a leader at Eshel, Kabakov was the New York and National Program Director of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Director of LGBT programming at the JCC Manhattan, Social Worker at West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, and was the first social worker at Footsteps. Miryam attended the Ramaz Upper School, Stern College for Women, received her Master’s Degree in social work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She also received certification in fundraising program from the University of St. Thomas, in program evaluation at the University of Washington, and from the Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University. She founded the New York Orthodykes, a support group for lesbian, bisexual and transgender Orthodox women, and 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 and winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Rabbi Steven Greenberg is the founding director of Eshel and works on special projects and development. He is also a 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 email@example.com.
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.
Social Work Itern
Jacques Esses is a strong advocate of LGBT rights for Jews living in Orthodox communities. He is currently an active member within his local Sephardic community in New York City and has seen the unique challenges and struggles of LGBT individuals firsthand. Jacques has been added to the Eshel team to assist with current projects and new program development, both within the New York area as well as nationally. He concurrently works as a mental health advocate with OCD New Jersey and the International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF). Jacques is currently pursuing his MSW degree at Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
Adina Poupko is the Program Officer at The Natan Fund, a giving circle that supports innovative work in the Jewish community and in Israel. Prior to Natan, Adina was Director of Recruitment at Masa Israel Journey, overseeing national recruitment strategies and national partnerships. Before joining Masa, Adina was Associate Director of Student Life at Yeshiva University for three years, creating leadership development programs for students. Adina was born in Montreal and raised in both Montreal and Cincinnati. After receiving a B.A. in Political Science at Yeshiva University, she received an M.A. in Non-Profit Management and Public Policy at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and a certificate in Experiential Jewish Education from Yeshiva University. Adina is a current fellow in the Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership at UJA Federation of NY.
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
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.
Kenny Wagner has over 30 years of experience in management as a professional problem solver. He is a former executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb where he was engaged in a wide range of organizational change efforts around the world. Kenny is currently an independent consultant working with everything from top 10 global pharmaceutical companies, billion dollar plus companies in telecom, food service, and pharmaceutical research to start-ups in technology, finance, and fashion. He also works with local, national, and global not-for-profit organizations in the field of education, religion, inter-faith relations, and social service. Kenny brings a wealth of knowledge in building and scaling operations, and in fundraising. He recently joined the Eshel board and will be serving as head of its development team to help make sure Eshel has the resources it needs to fulfill our mission. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University, earned an MBA from Yale School of Management, a JD from Rutgers University School of Law, in addition to advanced study at MIT.
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.