Miryam Kabakov is a national leader who has worked for more than three decades on the inclusion of LGTBQ+ individuals in the Orthodox world. Miryam is Executive Director and co-founder of Eshel, a national organization that supports LGBTQ+ Orthodox individuals and their families. Prior to being a leader at Eshel, Miryam 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 received her MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She also received a certificate in fundraising from the University of St. Thomas and a certificate in program evaluation from the University of Washington, and has a background in informal Jewish education from 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 LBT Orthodox Jews and winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Rabbi Steven Greenberg is an Orthodox ordained educator, writer, and speaker who has led the call for LGBTQ inclusion in the Orthodox world. He appeared in the groundbreaking film, Trembling Before G-d, in 2001 and accompanied filmmaker, Sandi Simcha DuBowski, all over the world in over 500 post-screening dialogues. He is the author of the award-winning book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, (University of Wisconsin Press) for which he won the Koret Jewish Book Award for Philosophy and Thought in 2005. Rabbi Greenberg is also a founder of the Jerusalem Open House, Jerusalem’s first gay and lesbian community center, and currently a faculty member of the Hartman Institute of North America. He is the Founding Director of Eshel, Orthodox LGBTQ+ community support, education, and advocacy organization, and lives with his partner, Steven Goldstein, and daughter, Amalia, in Boston. You may write Steve at Steve@eshelonline.org.
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 and critical issues that confront us in our times. Within that work, Sunnie has always been an advocate for the inclusion of all members of our Jewish community, including our LGBTQ+ members, and she has taught extensively, as well as written and published about that inclusion from a Jewish text-informed perspective and religious orientation. 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 in June 2015.
Grants and Office Manager
Meira has worked with Jewish nonprofits for the last four years and joined Eshel in the summer of 2019. She has experience in community-building, grants management, program design, and project management. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and pet roomba.
Monica Sass (she/her) is Eshel’s Master’s in Social Work Intern and can be found facilitating groups for LGBTQ+ individuals and parents, connecting with folks through the Warmline, and collaborating with staff on other projects. Monica is pursuing her MSW as well as a law degree from NYU and is part of the vibrant and quirky downtown NYC Jewish community. She is passionate about trauma-informed care, building traditional Jewish queer community, and nondairy ice cream.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Sara Singer joined the Eshel team in 2022 as Director of Marketing and Communications. She has previously worked with Eshel on the launch of the High School Pledge and as a leader of the Chicago LGBTQ support group. Sara graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and an MAT in secondary education with a concentration in Tanakh. She lives in Chicago with her wife, Isabel, and their bunny, Timothy. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Jamie Lebovics joined the Eshel team in 2022 as a Marketing Associate. Jamie graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in computer science and linguistics, where they facilitated peer-led LGBTQ support groups and served on the board for Hamsa, the university’s LGBTQ Jewish student group. Jamie lives in New York City. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Work Intern
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.
Peninah Gershman has worked as a speech-language pathologist and a Medicare policy maker. She became involved in Eshel when her teenage son came out. She has planned and run the Annual Eshel Parent Retreat for over five years. She loves mentoring other Orthodox Parents of LGBTQ people and she has learned so much from all of them throughout the years. She is passionate about making the Orthodox world a more welcoming place for our LGBTQ young adults. She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband and they are the parents of three young adult children.
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. 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.
Suzi Fuld has been an early childhood educator, special needs advocate, and communal volunteer for four decades. She believes that each of us, whether LGBT or straight, can help shape and propel Eshel’s mission forward. To that end, Suzi has been instrumental in initiating parent programs such as the monthly phone support group, the parent-to-parent mentor program, and the annual parent retreat. Suzi was honored to be invited to join the Eshel Board as the first straight member. In that capacity she hopes to help affect change. “I want to stand up for what’s right so that our children and grandchildren, whether they are straight or gay, will know they have a place in the Orthodox community.”
Simon S. Kaminetsky currently serves as the Director of Philanthropic Initiatives at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. His career in Jewish Communal Service spans four decades of inspiring leadership. Simon received his B.A. in Journalism and Speech Communication from the University of Pittsburgh and his M.S.W. from Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Active in many local and national organizations, Simon focuses his volunteer activities and philanthropic giving in the arena of special needs programming.