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Clergy & Staff

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Rabbi Sonya Starr
Rabbi Sonya Starr is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania where she received her Ordination, as well as her MA in Hebrew Letters in 1994. Her student pulpits included the Jewish Congregation of Fairbanks, Alaska and the Hebrew Association of the Deaf in Philadelphia.

After serving as Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in Torrington, CT and Rabbi Educator at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, CT, in 2000 she came to Columbia Jewish Congregation (CJC).

Rabbi Starr is a member of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and the Board of the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, the home of CJC. She is currently active with The Faith Network of the National Association of Mentally Ill and also ISHUT ("Identity"), which works to determine the boundaries of Reconstructionism and Judaism.

She is passionate about Jewish study believing that learning informs our actions and the meaningfulness of our lives. She focuses on a mix of spiritual practice and community activism guided by Jewish values, especially tikkun olam. Rabbi sees community work as providing a context for "thinking globally and acting locally."

Rabbi Starr lives in Columbia with her family and enjoys working closely with CJC members and the larger community. She says, "I am proud to be a part of a dynamic, intergenerational congregation that values inclusiveness and celebrates our differences."

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Cantor Jan Morrison
Cantor Jan Morrison has been engaged in Judaism since early childhood. Although she grew up in the only Jewish family in a small northern Minnesota town, she traveled to the city each Sunday for Jewish learning and began teaching Hebrew School at the age of thirteen. Jan also loved singing from those early days and wanted to be a Rabbi although this career choice was not supported then.

Jan attended the Hebrew University postgraduate program in Jerusalem after college graduation, completed the Maalot program of Cantorial Training with Reb David Shneyer, and fulfilled several apprenticeships with rabbis and cantors, including Rabbi Shefa Gold, with whom she has been studying meditation and sacred chant. Jan is trained in pre-marital and marital counseling and enjoys working with couples. Cantor Morrison received investiture from Columbia Jewish Congregation in 1994.

Jan's passion is "helping people on their journey" during times of joy and being a "companion for healing" during times of sorrow. She particularly enjoys creating and leading choirs and engaging congregants through music at Shabbat, holidays and events. A joy for her is working with children as they prepare for their B'nai Mitvah and standing with them and the Rabbi as they fulfill this generation-to-generation ritual in the presence of their families and the congregation.

Cantor Morrison lives in Columbia with her husband and is a proud grandmother and avid cookbook and spy thriller reader.

Administrator, Robin Rosenfeld
Robin Rosenfeld joined CJC in 2012 as Administrator. Having grown up in Allentown, PA, she earned her BA in Journalism at the University of Maryland. Her career took her to several Jewish organizations, including Jewish Community Centers in Rockville, MD; Fairfax, VA; Clifton, NJ; Wayne, NJ; Omaha, NE; and Rockland County, NY. Her roles escaleted from Youth Director to Program Director to Director of Operations. She loved being a part of these communities and providing leadership to vibrant experiences for members.

Robin has also enjoyed being a Director of Jewish Day Camps and Director of Operations for Camp Pinemere (which she had attended as a girl!) and Camp JRF in the Poconos, and she speaks nostalgically of the fun of ensuring day-to-day smooth running of these special experiences for children. She also brings valuable graphic design skills.

CJC attracted her because of the opportunity she will have to manage operations, which is her strength, to be a part of a diverse and established congregational community and to support members' simchas.

She also is happy to be near family and friends with whom she enjoys the TERPS, the Phillies and her Yorkshire terrier/poodle Simon.

Financial Administrator, Leslie VanHasselt
Leslie VanHasselt graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Economics. Following graduation, she began her career in the Underwriting Division of Wausau Insurance Companies until her move to Brussels in 1989. In Brussels, Leslie began working in the Public Programme Division of Management Centre Europe, the International Headquarters for the American Management Association. She then moved over to in-company training in the HR/Training Division of S.W.I.F.T., The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications in LaHulpe. While in Brussels, Leslie completed her Masters in the Science of Management (MSM) at the Brussels campus of Boston University. Her husband, Marc’s, job took them to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1996 where they lived for three years. In 1999, they moved their family to Baltimore. Leslie came to Columbia Jewish Congregation following ten years as a stay-at-home parent of 3 and PTA volunteer.

Director, Kesher: Connection!, Rabbi Ilyse S. Kramer

Rabbi Ilyse is well-known for her creative educational initiatives (adult, family, inter- and multi-faith), and building relationships and connections wherever she has worked in the past 30 years! She has served as the Jewish Educator at the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore (ICJS) from 2008-2015; as well as the Jewish Chaplain at Wesleyan University from 1992-2000.

While her three boys were growing up at Columbia Jewish Congregation and in elementary school, she worked part-time in Greater Baltimore and Greater Washington, DC, teaching adult education courses and writing curricular resources: "Tales of the Talmud," "Sacred Arguing in Jewish Tradition," and "Bridges: Jewish Learning to Jewish Living" from 2000-2007. In 2007-08, Ilyse was the recipient of an educational fellowship at Hebrew University, Senior Educators Program, and lived in Baka, Jerusalem with her family.

In the Fall, 2015, Ilyse will continue to teach a number of adult education courses at CJC, St. John's Roman Catholic Church and Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Baltimore. Contact information: ilysesk@gmail.com; 410-660-9910 (cell)

Youth Director, David Toller

Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Martin Siegel


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