Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin
Internationally-renowned educator, speaker, and author, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin changed the status quo of Jewish-Christian relations in 2008 by opening the first Orthodox Jewish center to dialogue with the Christian world – the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). Through hosting tens of thousands of Christians at its headquarters in Jerusalem and sending staff lecturers to all four corners of the globe, the CJCUC is sending a message to the world that Judaism and Christianity can work together to turn a fragile and fragmented realm into a united global community committed to a G-d of love and peace. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, awarded the honor of Ambassador for Jewish-Christian Relations upon Rabbi Riskin, in recognition of his pioneering efforts in reconciliation between Jews and Christians,. In addition, Rabbi Riskin was given the Interreligious Dialogue award by Pave the Way Foundation and was bestowed the title of Rabbinical Authority to Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a Christian Zionist organization with over 1.2 million members. Rabbi Riskin is the founder and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone institutions, one of the largest private educational networks in Israel with over 3,000 students on nine campuses. In addition, in 1983 Rabbi Riskin re-established the biblical city of Efrat, mentioned in the Book of Ruth, and helped cultivate the city’s growth to its current population of over 10,000 residents. Rabbi Riskin earned his BA in Greek, Latin, and English Literature from Yeshiva University and his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. He holds a Masters Degree in Jewish History, and in 1982 he was awarded his Ph.D. from New York University’s department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature. As a weekly bible commentator and contributor to the Jerusalem Post as well as other syndicated media outlets, Rabbi Riskin’s scriptural analysis has influenced both Jews and Christians to connect with G-d’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way. In addition, he has published scores of articles and monographs on Judaism and contemporary issues, as well as on the Five Books of Moses. The Brooklyn-born Rabbi Riskin has been married to Vicky since 1963; the couple has four married children and sixteen grandchildren, all of whom live in Efrat. Back to Top ▲
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is the Chancellor of CJCUC and the President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone (OTS). Rabbi Brander was the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University (YU) and taught rabbinics at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). He focused on improving all aspects of the student life experience, personal and virtual engagement with Jewish communities around the Jewish world, upgrading the Graduate Program of Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women (GPATS), and restructuring YU’s Israel-based initiatives to empower greater impact on Israeli society.
Before becoming Vice President, Rabbi Brander served as the inaugural David Mitzner Dean of Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future. Serving as a catalyst to infuse the YU student body with a spirit of leadership and sense of commitment to the Jewish people and society, the CJF builds, cultivates and supports communities and their lay and rabbinic leaders, and creates a global movement that promotes YU’s values.
Rabbi Brander is a member of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Rabbinic Cabinet Round Table, which brings together Jewish community leaders from all denominations to discuss challenging issues affecting the Jewish community or meet with key members of the Israeli or American government.
Prior to joining Yeshiva University, Rabbi Brander served as the senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue for 14 years (1991 – 2005), overseeing its explosive growth from 60 families to more than 600 families. During that time, he also became the founding dean of The Katz Yeshiva High School – the first Jewish high school between North Miami Beach and Atlanta, Georgia – and founder and posek of the Boca Raton Community Mikvah, the first mikvah complex in Palm Beach County. Rabbi Brander also helped develop the Hahn Judaic Campus, upon which these institutions reside, co-chaired the Orthodox Rabbinical Board of Broward & Palm Beach Counties’ South Palm Beach County Vaad ha’Kashrut, which brought many kosher establishments to Palm Beach County in southern Florida, and was instrumental in the development of the Hillel Day School.
From 1990-91, Rabbi Brander was the acting rabbi of New York’s Lincoln Square Synagogue, after serving for four years as its assistant rabbi.
Rabbi Brander has published numerous articles on Jewish law and philosophy which have appeared in various scholarly journals, and served as the editor for The Yeshiva University Haggada (Ktav: New York, 1985). He delivers popular lectures in various areas of Jewish thought and jurisprudence and has lectured in communities throughout North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and Israel.
He is a 1984 alumnus of Yeshiva College and received his ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1986. During that time he served as a student assistant to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1982 – 1985). Rabbi Brander also received special ordination from the Machon Puah center of medical ethics in Israel, and from then-Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, in the field of medical ethics, reproductive technology and halakha.
Rabbi Brander holds a Ph.D. in general philosophy and comparative literature from Florida Atlantic University. He wrote his dissertation on “The Temple in Jerusalem Idealized and the Historic-Synagogue-Institution: A Study in Synagogue Purposes in an American Context.”
Rabbi Brander is married to Rachel Tambor Brander. They have five children: Tuvia (married to Miriam Apter), Yoni (married to Yehudit Goldberg), Tehilla, Yosef and Yitzchak. Back to Top ▲
The weekly Bible commentator for FrontPage Jerusalem’s Bible on the Go segment as well as a blogger for both Charisma and Times of Israel, David Nekrutman currently serves as the Executive Director for The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC) in Jerusalem, Israel. In this capacity, Mr. Nekrutman is breaking new ground in leading the first ever Orthodox Jewish institution to dialogue with Christians on a religious and theological basis. He also launched the Day to Praise in 2015, creating a global movement of Christians joining Jews on Israel’s Independence Day to recite Psalms 113-118 (Hallel). Prior to his work with CJCUC, Mr. Nekrutman served as the Director of Christian Affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in New York. He was instrumental in the successful launching of The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, The Israel Experience, The Christian Jerusalem Day Banquet, and The Watchman on the Wall program with Reverend Robert Stearns of Eagles Wings, resulting in millions of Christians praying & supporting Israel and the Jewish people. Prior to his calling in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, Mr. Nekrutman’s professional career ranged from working for the City Council of New York as a Legislative Analyst to e-marketing for a major high tech company in Israel. He received a Bachelors of Arts in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013, Mr. Nekrutman was accepted into Oral Roberts University’s Theology program, taking a Masters of Arts in Biblical Literature with a concentration in Judaic-Christian Studies. He thesis work is in the Hebraic Roots of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Nekrutman resides in Netanya with his wife and three sons. Back to Top ▲
Janet Cain is widely known for her Pro-Israel public relations. She actively coordinates trips to Washington to advocate and chaperones both Congressmen and Senators from all over the United States to share understanding of the importance of the Jewish Community and the Land of Israel. Back to Top ▲
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation (CJCUC) as well as heads its Blessing Bethlehem program, an initiative that supports and preserves the Christian community in the birthplace of Christianity by providing weekly food deliveries to Christian Arabs in need. He is completing a devotional on Psalm 113-118 (known as Hallel) entitled Cup of Salvation that will be published in Fall of 2017 as part of CJCUC’s Day to Praise prayer project, where Jews and Christians pray the Hallel together on Israel’s Independence Day. Rabbi Wolicki has been a guest lecturer in churches, Christian colleges and seminaries across the United States and Canada. His columns and commentaries on the topic of Jewish-Christian relations appear regularly in Israeli media. Appreciated for his engaging, welcoming, and interactive teaching style, Rabbi Wolicki is a regular lecturer at CJCUC’s weekly Bible study programs hosted at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Rabbi Wolicki and CJCUC’s Executive Director, David Nekrutman have just launched a new Bible podcast – Cup of Salvation – that explores Psalms 113-118, produced by Jewishcoffeehouse.com. Prior to joining CJCUC, Rabbi Wolicki served for twelve years as Dean of Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah, a post secondary academy of higher Torah learning. Previously, Rabbi Wolicki served as a communal rabbi in Fairfield, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia. He is currently writing a commentary of the Hallel Psalms which will be published in the fall of 2017. Rabbi Wolicki and his wife Kate live in Beth Shemesh with their eight children. Back to Top ▲
Rabbi Josh Ahrens
Director Central Europe
After his degree in International Management and European Studies and a first career as Sales & Marketing Manager in various multinational companies, Josh Ahrens decided to make his hobby his profession and became a rabbi. He studied at a traditional rabbinical seminary (kollel) in Israel and parallel at Bar Ilan University in Israel and the Jewish University in Hungary, where he graduated in Jewish Liturgics summa cum laude. Thereafter, Josh Ahrens studied at the famous Cambridge University from which he received a Master’s degree in The Study of Jewish-Christian Relations. During his studies he was a fellow at Cambridge’s Woolf Institute for Jewish-Christian relations. From 2010-2015 he worked as communal rabbi in Bulgaria, Switzerland and Germany, before accepting a fellowship for the prestigious research project “The 1947 Seelisberg Conference – an international founding moment of Jewish-Christian dialogue in the 20th century” from the Swiss National Science Foundation / Institute of Jewish-Christian Research – University of Lucerne, where he is also a PhD candidate. Rabbi Ahrens has always been very active in the field of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations. He is a founding member of the Bulgarian Interfaith Council, a board member of the Christian Jewish Council of Zurich and the Federal Protestant-Jewish Working Commission in Switzerland, member of the Protestant-Jewish Working Commitee in the Rhineland and Advisor on Jewish-Catholic Affairs to the Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia (UZZNO). Josh Ahrens is a renowned lecturer in Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in Germany, Switzerland and Eastern Europe and a regular contributor for Germany’s and Switzerland’s largest Jewish newspapers, as well as for various TV and radio shows. Rabbi Ahrens lives with his wife and two daughters in Duesseldorf, Germany. Back to Top ▲
Director of Operations
With a background in customer relations, Limor Riskin is in charge of CJCUC grants with Israeli governmental entities as well as logistics, specifically with groups wishing to book CJCUC staff. Prior to taking on this position, Limor Riskin was a consumer relations liaison for the Minister of Housing in Israel, and the Director of the Neve Efrat Hotel. She was also the Administrative Director for Yad L’Isha, a legal aid center specializing in helping women whose husbands have been recalcitrant in giving them a Jewish divorce.
Limor Riskin received her Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Arts and Masters in World Literature and Italian from Hebrew University. For the past twenty years Limor Riskin has resided in Efrat with her husband Hillel and four children: Eden, Yaal-David, Saar and Tahelle-Charlotte. Back to Top ▲
A lecturer in Hebrew Bible, biblical exegesis, and Jewish history, Mrs. Inbar Gabay Zada has taught young women at various prestigious Israeli institutions of higher learning, including Midreshet Lindenbaum and Midreshet Emunah v’Omanut. She initiated a Beit Midrash for Anglo women at Bar Ilan University, and has worked transcribing medieval Jewish manuscripts for Princeton University. She also worked as a certified guide at the Western Wall Tunnel tours. Inbar holds a BA in Jewish history and Bible studies from Bar Ilan University, and has written her MA thesis on the Ritual of Miriam’s Well and the Jews of Ashkenaz and Provence in the High Middle Ages. She pursued advanced Judaic studies at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim for two years, and holds a German language certificate from the Goethe-Institut in Tel Aviv. Inbar grew up in Philadelphia and currently lives with her husband and two children in Gush Etzion. Back to Top ▲
Pastor Steven Khoury
Author, renowned speaker, TV personality and religious writer for the largest Arabic newspaper in the Holy Land (Al-Quds), Pastor Steven Khoury shepherds the largest Arab Evangelical church in Israel and the Palestinian territories. His transformation from a boy involved in the first intifada with Israel turned believer is a message for all to hear. Preaching the message of Christianity to Arabs in the region has often put him in the most precarious situations, making his church a target of retaliation over the years. Even such, Pastor Steven Khoury has made it his mission to be on the forefront in reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. His educational background is in ministry with a Bachelors of Science in Pastoral Ministry and Basic Masters in Theology. He is an affiliate with the BBFI, a member of the National Christian Foundation, and a part of the Premiere Speakers Member. Back to Top ▲
Ardie Geldman was born and raised in Chicago. He immigrated to Israel in 1982. He holds degrees from Northwestern University and Brandeis University in Sociology and Community Studies. Most of his career has focused on Israel-Diaspora relations. In addition to having held several senior positions in the non-profit sector in the U.S. and Israel he teaches fundraising and grantwriting and consults for non-profit organizations. His seat on the Efrat town council led to a separate career as a public speaker. For over twenty years he has been meeting with overseas groups in Efrat who visit the area in solidarity with the Palestinians. His articles have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Times of Israel and other publications. He blogs at www.iTalkIsrael.com and is active on Facebook and Twitter. He is married to Ivonne has six children and one grandchild. Back to Top ▲
Rabbi Dr. Alan Yuter
Rabbi Dr. Yuter is Adjunct Prof. of Hebrew Lit., Baltimore Hebrew University, and Adjunct Faculty, Fairleigh Dickenson University/ Institute for Traditional Judaism. He was Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Touro College for 10 years. Rabbi Yuter served as spiritual leader of B’nai Israel of Baltimore since 2005. Rabbi Yuter taught at University of Maryland [Baltimore County], Anne Arundel Community College, and has served as an Adjunct Prof. of Hebrew Literature, Baltimore Hebrew University. He taught Bible, Jewish law, and Jewish thought at the joint program of Fairleigh Dickenson University/Institute for Traditional Judaism. His Rabbi S’micha was granted by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu, Rabbi Moses D. Tendler of Yeshiva University, and Rabbi David Halivni, who granted the Yadin Yadin ordination. He holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Literature from N.Y.U. He now teaches Jewish law at Michlelet Reva and Machon Pardes in Jerusalem. Back to Top ▲
Arik grew up in Antwerp and was a member of the local “Hamizrahi” community. During his high school Studies in the local religious Zionist school, he was active in “Bnei Akiva”, and after completing his studies- he came to Israel as part of the “Machal” Hesder program in Ma’ale Adumim. After graduating from Yeshiva – Arik completed his bachelor’s degree in Law from Bar Ilan University, simultaneously studying in “Lifshitz” College. From 2007 to 2011 he served as the rabbi of the Jewish community in Zurich. In this capacity, he worked with many youth, student and youth movements, gave lessons and organized various events. With his return, he worked as the director of the education department at “Heichal Shlomo” and coordinator of youth programs in Israel, the US, South Africa and Australia. His primary focus is on non-formal education, and he lectures and holds seminars on Judaism, Zionism, etc. in schools across the country. Arik and his wife Efrat live with their four children in Tekoa in Gush Etzion. Back to Top ▲