Who We Are
High Holiday Service Leaders
Rabbi Judith Hauptman, Service Leader, Manhattan
Josh Gorfinkle, Cantorial Soloist, Manhattan
Stan Alpert, Hazzan Sheni, Manhattan
Rabbi Moishe Steigmann, Service Leader, Brooklyn
Richard Claman, Hazzan Sheni, Brooklyn
Rabbi Elianna Yolkut, Service Leader, Queens
Mandy Richman, Coordinator (2013 to present)
Rabbi Judith Hauptman
High Holiday Service Leader
Rabbi Judith Hauptman grew up in Brooklyn, NY, attended a Conservative synagogue, became Orthodox in her teen years at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, but returned to Conservative Judaism in college. She is the first woman ever to receive a PhD in Talmud. Since 1974, she has been teaching Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary and training future rabbis. Today she serves as the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture. In 2003, she followed in her students’ footsteps and was herself ordained as a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion. She currently serves as volunteer rabbi for the Jewish residents of a Catholic nursing home in Lower Manhattan. She lived in Israel for four years. Rabbi Hauptman visited the FSU in 1970 for a week and returned to the FSU in 2010, spending the month of May in Moscow while teaching Talmud at the Russian State University for the Humanities.
Rabbi Judith Hauptman has also been a pioneer in the area of equality of opportunity for women in Jewish life. She was a member of Ezrat Nashim, the group of women that issued in 1972 the first feminist critique of Judaism. Since then she has lectured widely on the subject and written many articles. Her most influential one is entitled, “Women and Prayer: An Attempt to Dispel Some Fallacies,” (JUDAISM, Winter 1993). In it she argues that women have always had an obligation to pray and for that reason can count in the quorum (the minyan) and even lead it in prayer. Her book, Rereading the Rabbis, A Woman’s Voice, has been called one of the founding works of the new Jewish feminism. In this volume she shows that the rabbis of the Talmud, some 1500 years ago, modified many legal institutions, such as marriage, to improve women’s legal and social status. As a result, by the end of the Talmudic period, women were no longer viewed as chattel but as second class citizens(!), a considerable accomplishment. Her other two books trace the evolution of the text of the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Gemara. In March 2014, Rabbi Hauptman taught a Talmud class at the Knesset in Israel.
Rabbi Hauptman has also written for The Jewish Week and other publications. A recent article talks about the challenges facing the Conservative movement. To read Rabbi Hauptman’s article on her experiences teaching Talmud in Moscow in 2010 click here.
You can also read her comments on the Bible portion Va’ethanan at http://jewess.canonist.com/?p=503.
Cantorial Soloist & Torah Reader (2007 – present)
A graduate of Brown University, the Ramaz Upper School and the Westchester Day School, Josh Gorfinkle has been serving as Ohel Ayalah’s main cantor since 2007. In his spare time, he loves to play and watch tennis. He attends the US Open every year and even made a pilgrimage to Wimbledon several years ago. He loves the results he gets from working out. Occasionally, he spends a day at the racetrack. He has been to Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga and Gulfstream Park. Josh has been leading services frequently, since even before he became a bar mitzvah in 1984. For the past two High Holy Days, he has led services at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. In prior years, he led High Holiday services at Brown University, Queensboro Hill Jewish Center, Westchester Jewish Center, Cong. Anshe Sholom, and the United Hebrew Geriatric Center in New Rochelle. He also is an avid reader, especially of biographies. The next book on his reading agenda is about Nixon and Kissinger. He worked as a library clerk for three years at the Jewish Theological Seminary, essentially serving as the library’s receptionist while working at the circulation and reserve desk. He also worked at the Ramaz Upper School Library for two years.
Hazzan Sheni (2004 – present)
Stanley N. Alpert is singing in honor of his father, who was a cantor in Brooklyn with a sweet tenor voice his son’s can never match. For day work, Stan is an environmental lawyer who was Chief of Environmental Litigation at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and now runs The Alpert Firm, a New York City environmental, real estate and commercial litigation, and qui tam false claims practice. He sues companies that have polluted the environment for injuring people personally, or injuring their property, or for contaminating municipal drinking water systems across the United States. Stan also is the author of The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival, released by Putnam (Penguin Group) in January 2007. All details at: www.stanleyalpert.com.
Rabbi Moishe Steigmann
Service Leader, Brooklyn (2013 – present)
Rabbi Moishe Steigmann joined the Milwaukee Jewish Day School in the summer of 2012 as the School Rabbi and Director of Jewish Life and Learning. He had been the Associate Rabbi of the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck, NY for six years and, prior to that, received his rabbinic ordination and a master’s in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in New York. He is also a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Rabbi Steigmann has taught formally and informally in various educational settings, has designed curricula, and has co-authored a published work on Judaism and education. He is committed to living a vibrant Jewish traditional life in our contemporary world, maintaining Jewish principles and laws, and engaging in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hasidim (acts of kindness). In addition, Rabbi Steigmann is a big sports fan, especially of the Green Bay Packers, and also loves games and puzzles. He is the father of Matan and Yael.
Hazzan Sheni, Brooklyn (2014)
Richard Claman is the partner in charge of business litigation at a boutique Manhattan law firm representing commercial developers. He is a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law, and has lectured and written on professional subjects. During the past 15 years he published six papers in Conservative Judaism and two papers in the Journal of the Academy for Jewish Religion (available on-line), and delivered papers at the past three sessions of the World Congress for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem on various issues in modern Jewish philosophy. These papers emerged from adult-ed and teen classes over many years at Town & Village Synagogue. He served for 32 years as hazzan sheni, Torah reader and shofar blower at the 92nd Street Y (see livestreams for the past two years). His current writings on prayer seek to understand how meanings emerge from the architectural interplay of different images in different text-units.
Rabbi Elianna Yolkut
Service Leader, Queens (2011 – Present)
Rabbi Elianna Yolkut received her rabbinic ordination from the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2006 and holds a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology from Brandeis University. Following rabbinical school Elianna served as the Assistant Rabbi and Religious School Director of Adat Ari El, a Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles, CA, and as an adjunct faculty member at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and the Fingerhut School of Education at the American Jewish University. Upon moving to New York in 2010 she worked as the Director of the Center for Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Project Downtown. Currently Elianna is a fellow of Rabbis Without Borders and serves the Jewish community as a freelance rabbi (www.keepingkavannah.blogspot.com) through a portfolio of teaching, speaking and writing as well as guiding individuals and families through lifecycle events.