Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback
Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from Princeton University in 1991 and was ordained as a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in 1998. He trained as a Jewish Educator at HUC’s Los Angeles campus, where he received a M.A. in Jewish Education.
He served Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California, as Rabbi and educator for eleven years, until moving to Israel with his family in 2009 to become the Director of HUC’s Year-in-Israel program. In addition to overall management of the graduate level program, he served as an instructor in Jewish Liturgy.
Rabbi Zweiback is a lecturer at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is also the volunteer Executive Director and Founder of Kavod, a non-profit tzedakah collective which is dedicated to protecting human dignity.
Rabbi Zweiback is also an author, musician and composer. His publications include the teacher’s guide to Shalom Ivrit II; Day of Days; and Days of Wonder, Nights of Peace: Family Prayers in Song for Morning and Bedtime. As part of Mah Tovu, he has released three albums, published two books, and performed across the United States.
He is married to Jacqueline Hantgan and, together, they are the proud parents of three daughters.
Cantor Nathan Lam
Nathan Lam was born in Los Angeles California from a family of immigrants from Poland and Bessarabia. The Yiddish language, Jewish tradition, and culture were an important part of his early life. He has been the cantor of one the largest and most active synagogues in the world—Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles—for 40 years and is acclaimed for his vocal artistry, mastery of the cantorial art form, and scholarship in many areas of Jewish studies. He is a Past President of the Cantors assembly, and is currently President of the Cantors Assembly Foundation and Director of International Missions. He is the Dean of the Cantorial School of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and has proudly inspired many to follow in his footsteps. He is well known in Hollywood as a record producer, documentary film producer (“100 Voices-a Journey Home”), recording artist (11 record albums), an actor, and as the “voice teacher to the stars.” He has appeared and featured in, the Lifetime reality show, “Kosher Soul”, Amazon’s, “Transparent”, ABC’s “Castle” and many other movies and television shows. He and his wife, Donna Lam, are proud parents of their two children, Michael and Jenna, and their respective spouses, Alexis and Joseph, and grandparents of 5 grandchildren.
Rabbi David Woznica
David Woznica began his rabbinate at the 92nd Street Y in New York and was named Founding Director of the 92nd St. Y Bronfman Center for Jewish Life. Under his direction for over a decade, the center grew exponentially and received international recognition. He is credited for creating and overseeing what is widely regarded as one of the most lively and distinguished hubs of Jewish life in the United States.
Rabbi Woznica joined the Clergy of Stephen Wise Temple in 2004. He created the Center for Jewish Life at the temple. The Center’s lecture and dialogue series has attracted some of the most highly sought-after and provocative thinkers and leaders from America and Israel and is attended by thousands of congregants and members of the community each year. The mini courses and learning in your neighborhood courses regularly engage hundreds of congregants in study. And the Melton School for Adult Education is among the largest of any synagogue in the country.
Rabbi Woznica is on the National Jewish Federations of North America Lecture Bureau, the Young President’s Organization (YPO) Lecture Bureau and has been on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Foundation. The YPO features him as “The Best of the Best of YPO” a listing of their highest rated speakers.
He has served as scholar in residence and guest speaker in synagogues throughout the United States, Canada and South America and given addresses to virtually every national Jewish Organization.
In 1992, Rabbi Woznica initiated the Forum on Critical Values. The intent was to have dialogues with public figures who influence social, political or religious life in America and discuss the underlying values that drive their lives. Among those with whom he had engaged in dialogue are Elie Wiesel (seven times), Alan Dershowitz (four times), Minister Natan Sharansky, Governor Mario Cuomo, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Wendy Wasserstein, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dennis Prager, President Chaim Herzog, Pastor John Hagee, Cynthia Ozick, Police Chief William Bratton, David Brooks and dozens of others. The series continues through this day.
His greatest joy comes from his passion that fellow congregants, their families and others in the community see beauty and meaning in leading committed Jewish lives, engage in ongoing study that elevates their intellectual and spiritual growth, celebrate love of Israel, and work to bring the values of Judaism to their fellow Jews and to our world.
Rabbi Woznica shares his life with his wife Beverly Woznica who is the managing director of major gifts for the Jewish Federations of North America and their two sons.
Rabbi Ron Stern
Rabbi Ron Stern is originally from Morristown, New Jersey. He graduated cum laude from the University of Rochester and was ordained in 1990 at Hebrew Union College in New York. He also attended HUC in Los Angeles. Rabbi Stern joined the clergy staff at Stephen Wise Temple in 1998 after serving as Associate Rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge.
As the founding rabbi of the Wise Center for Tikkun OIam, Rabbi Stern continues to expand the impact of the Wise community beyond episodic social action into highly-developed Tikkun Olam initiatives that increase member participation in impactful justice projects. At Wise, examples of our involvement include: support for welfare organizations in Israel, support for Homeless Veterans, advocacy for solutions to LA’s homelessness, mentoring for at-risk college bound high school students with the Fulfillment Fund, pro-bono legal advocacy for constituents of Bet Tzedek, support for Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters, political advocacy in Sacramento as well as a range of other projects. Working with Andrea Sonnenberg, Rabbi Stern has continued to build Wise Readers to Leaders. The only synagogue coordinated and sponsored summer literacy enrichment program in the nation. The Wise program serves over 400 children from Title 1 schools through our six week reading advocacy summer camp on five campuses: Wise, AJU, Milken Community High School, Leo Baeck and Wilshire Boulevard temples. In addition, over 150 Wise temple members of all ages volunteer each summer to supplement the program. Our Junior Literacy Leader Program provides in-depth service learning to Jewish High School students throughout the city as they volunteer at WRTL in a program recognized as a model for Jewish youth engagement as a recipient of LA Jewish Federation Teen Accelerator funds.
By establishing Wise as a Temple that has at its core the expansive realization of the Jewish vision for Tikkun Olam Rabbi Stern leads the effort at Wise to provide meaningful service to our world and engage our members in the transformative spiritual realization of the Jewish mission to improve our world.
Rabbi Stern is a founding member of Reform CA – a project of rabbis and congregants throughout California to raise our voice for justice in our state through political action. He is also a past co-chair and continuing member of theLA/Voice Clergy Council—a steering committee for our local affiliate of the national PICO network for community organizing and social change. He has been a member of the Religious Action Center’s Commission on Social Justice.
Rabbi Stern and his wife, Becky Sobelman-Stern, have two children, Noah and Eliana. Both children have benefited from the excellent Stephen Wise Temple School system. Noah graduated UC Berkeley and is pursuing a double masters at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Business School. Ellie is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and is receiving a masters of social work from Columbia University. Becky is the Executive Vice President – Chief Program Officer of the Los Angeles Federation.
Rabbi Josh Knobel
Born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Rabbi Josh Knobel received a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a commission as a second lieutenant from the United States Military Academy in 2001. He served for seven years as a telecommunications officer on active duty, including deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan, where he learned firsthand the profound impact that Judaism can have upon our identities and the ways in which we meet the opportunities and challenges that await us in all walks of life.
After completing his Active Duty service in 2008, Joshua began his studies at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles. It was at HUC-JIR that he met and married his beloved wife, Lisa, who currently serves as a rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple.
After becoming a rabbi in 2014, he joined the Stephen Wise Temple community and Wise School as a rabbi and Dean of Student and Family Life.
Rabbi Sari Laufer
Rabbi Sari Laufer was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles in May 2006. On the way to HUC, Rabbi Laufer graduated cum laude from Northwestern University (Go ‘Cats), and served as an Eisdendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. During her time at HUC in Los Angeles, Rabbi Laufer was awarded several academic prizes in Talmud and rabbinic literature, as well as HUC-LA’s Outstanding Female Student Award. In addition to her classroom studies, Rabbi Laufer learned from her student pulpits (in Bainbridge Island, WA; South Lake Tahoe, CA; and Temple Judea in Tarzana, CA), from her time as an educator at Camp Hess-Kramer in Malibu, CA, and from her summer serving as a chaplain at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. For the past 11 years, she has been an assistant and associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City.
A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Rabbi Laufer was later selected for the PEER program through Synagogue Transformation and Renewal, for the inaugural year of the Rabbinic Fellowship for Visionary Leadership through UJA-Federation of New York, and was a member of the second cohort of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship.
At Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Rabbi Laufer has worn many hats, but above all she has been a teacher of those young and young-at-heart, bringing her passion for rabbinic texts, social justice, and Judaism’s wisdom and relevance in the 21st century into the lives of those with whom she is privileged to learn and to share.
Sometimes—those students are under the age of 5; Rabbi Laufer is proud of the work she has done with young families in NYC, from Kabbalat Shabbat at RSS to building the early engagement experience from Tot Shabbat to a comprehensive program of holiday, Shabbat, and family celebrations, all centered around her relationships with kids and their parents. Sometimes—those students are teens; Rabbi Laufer has taught 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades in the Religious School, served as faculty for conclaves and teen trips, and built lasting one-on-one relationships with students, lasting through college and beyond. And sometimes—those students are adults; Rabbi Laufer is proud of the work she and her lay partners did on rebooting Sisterhood, building a dynamic and intergenerational conversation for the women of Rodeph Sholom. Rabbi Laufer was a popular teacher in the Shabbat Morning Service, and also loved teaching parents and children together in preparation for b’nai mitzvah.
Rabbi Laufer is a sporadic blogger (torahblahnik.blogspot.com), prolific Tweeter (@rabbilaufer), wannabe runner, and aspiring epicure. She is joining the Wise Family along with her husband (and native Angeleno) Ben Cutter, son Jacob (Kobi), born in October 2013, and daughter Orli, who joined the family in October 2016.
Cantor Emma Lutz
Cantor Emma Lutz was born and raised in Walnut Creek, California where her family and community instilled in her a deep love of Judaism and music. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Davis with degrees in Religious Studies and Music. Cantor Lutz received her Master of Sacred Music in 2015 and was ordained in 2016 by the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, NY.
Before attending HUC-JIR, Cantor Lutz worked as a soloist, youth group advisor, and Hebrew School teacher at synagogues throughout the Bay Area. She also worked as an actress and soloist for numerous theatre companies, including Center REPertory Company, Diablo Theatre Company, and the Napa Valley Opera House. In addition, after college Cantor Lutz spent time volunteering for the Israel Defense Forces through Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel.
During her first year of cantorial school at HUC-JIR, she worked as cantorial intern for Kehillat Tzur Hadassah, a young, vibrant Reform synagogue just outside of Jerusalem. While studying at the New York campus, Emma enjoyed internships at Congregation Oheb Sholom and Union Temple of Brooklyn, and she also served as a chaplain for Mount Sinai-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.
Cantor Emma is extremely passionate about Israel, social justice and women’s issues, as well as meaningful Jewish learning and prayer. She is a lifetime member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and was an active t’fillah and program leader for Women of Reform Judaism Northeast. She also led youth group seminars with the L’taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, D.C. One of the highlights of her time at HUC-JIR was her involvement with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She is the recipient of the Rabbi Rick Jacobs Award in Innovative Worship (2015) and the Rhonda and Jerome Malino Prize in Bible Studies (2013).
Emma is married to Rabbi Adam Lutz, a Los Angeles native, whom she met during her Year-In-Israel studies at HUC-JIR.
Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin (Z”L) – Founding Rabbi
Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin (1920 – 2018) was born and educated in New York City and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brooklyn College. While in college, he was president of the student Zionist society and was instrumental in introducing Hebrew and Jewish studies into the school’s curriculum. He received his Masters and Rabbinic degrees from Cincinnati School of the Hebrew Union College, and at graduation was awarded the Lazarus prize for being the academically outstanding student in the graduating class. Upon graduation, Rabbi Zeldin became the assistant rabbi of the largest Reform congregation in New Jersey, Temple B’nai Jeshurun, now in Short Hills.
For the next five years Rabbi Zeldin was in academic life, serving as Assistant Dean of the New York branch of the Hebrew Union College. He also served as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom in Bayside, Long Island. In 1953, Rabbi Zeldin came to California to serve in the dual capacity of Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Western Region, and Dean of the Los Angeles College of Jewish Studies. One year later he became Founding Dean of the Los Angeles branch of the Hebrew Union College.
From 1958-1963 Rabbi Zeldin was spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. In early 1964, he founded the Stephen Wise Temple, which has become among the largest Jewish congregations in the world. Stephen Wise Temple is a complex of twelve buildings on a 21-acre mountaintop property that serves more than 3000 families. In excess of 2000 children are educated in its various Schools and programs, from Nursery and Elementary School, through middle and high school.
Rabbi Zeldin was Past President of the San Fernando Valley Synagogue Council, the American Zionist Federation of Southern California, the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis and the American Zionist Council. He sat on many national and local Boards, including the UCLA medical Ethics committee, and the Zionist Organization of America. He was a frequent contributor of articles on contemporary issues to newspapers and journals. His beloved wife, Florence (z”l), was the author of many children’s books, including What’s The Big Idea, The Importance of One, and a series of Nursery School booklets for the Jewish child, including the recently re-published A Mouse in a Jewish House.
Y’hi zichro baruch, may his memory be for a blessing.
Rabbi Eli Herscher – Senior Rabbi Emeritus
In 1935, Joseph Herscher and Lucy Strauss fled their native Germany for what was then Palestine. Most of their family members were not allowed to leave and perished at the hands of the Nazis. Over the course of the next nineteen years, the Herschers created a new home for themselves in Israel. It was there that they were married and gave birth to two sons, Uri and Eli. Eli was born just a few months before the establishment of the State and the outbreak of the War of Independence. The personal history of his family has always been, and remains, an integral part of his identity as a Jew, as well as an important source of inspiration in his life’s work.<
In 1954, the Herscher family moved to the United States, settling in San Jose, California. Upon graduating high school, Eli attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his undergraduate degree in English. In 1970, he entered the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion to begin his rabbinic education, studying for a year in Jerusalem, and concluding his studies in Los Angeles and Cincinnati. He was ordained a rabbi in 1975.
In June of that year, founding Rabbi, Isaiah Zeldin, invited Rabbi Herscher to Stephen Wise Temple to serve as his associate. He has served as Senior Rabbi of the congregation since 1990. During his years with the Synagogue, Stephen Wise has more than doubled its membership. Its growth, however, has not only been in numbers, but in its richness of religious and educational programming. Rabbi Herscher has been instrumental in creating much of that programming. He was responsible for beginning its Scholar-in-Residence program, bringing the finest scholars from all over the country, as well as Israel, to the Temple. He created and guided the Temple’s Outreach Program to Intermarried Couples, with the goal of helping facilitate a warm and welcoming connection of these couples to the Jewish community. He also created the Temple’s Family Support Center.
In an effort to create a deeper sense of community in the context of a large congregation, for many years Rabbi Herscher oversaw the synagogue’s Havurah program, bringing together small groups of families and providing them with their program needs, and more than doubling the number of members involved in Havurah programs.
Perhaps most important to Rabbi Herscher’s work has been his commitment to the quality of education in the Temple’s Schools. During his years with the congregation, and under his continued guidance, the Stephen Wise community has created supplementary and full-time school programs that begin with families and their children at age three months, and continue with programs through Nursery, Elementary and High School age. Rabbi Herscher’s and Bonnie’s children, Dawn, Adam and Sara, have all grown up in those Schools.
Rabbi Herscher’s vision for the future includes making Lifelong Learning one of the core values of the Temple. Jewish learning inspires and challenges, nurtures and uplifts him. He believes deeply that it can and should do that for the adult community of his Temple. He continues his own learning at the Hartman Institute’s Center for Rabbinic Enrichment in Jerusalem.
The deepest priority of Rabbi Herscher’s rabbinate remains in his commitment to the spiritual growth of the members of his community. Over the years, his congregants have come to know that he is fully present for them as leader, spiritual guide, source of strength, teacher, and friend.