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 President and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Ohr Torah Stone network of 27 educational institutions, leadership development initiatives, outreach endeavors, women’s empowerment programs, and social action projects.
A noted educational innovator and community cultivator with critical experience in creating, developing and maintaining religious institutions of learning and leadership, Rabbi Brander joined OTS in 2018. Prior to that, Rabbi Brander had served as Vice President for University and Community Life, as well as the inaugural David Mitzner Dean of The Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) at Yeshiva University (YU), where he also taught rabbinic courses at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). In his capacity as Vice President and as Dean, Rabbi Brander focused on improving all aspects of the student life experience, in particular global service learning and Israel advocacy, personal and virtual engagement with Jewish communities and their lay and rabbinic leadership around the world, in addition to restructuring the Graduate Program of Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women (GPATS).
Rabbi Brander came to YU after 14 years of serving as the senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (1991 – 2005), overseeing its explosive growth from 60 families to more than 600 families. As one of the fastest growing modern Orthodox communities in the United States, he also is credited with building key institutions to support Jewish life in the region. He became the founding dean of The Katz Yeshiva High School – the first Jewish high school between North Miami Beach and Atlanta, Georgia, was instrumental in the development of the Hillel Day School, and established the Hahn Judaic Campus, upon which many institutions of Jewish learning are based.
Until moving to Israel in the summer of 2018, Rabbi Brander was also 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.
Rabbi Brander has published numerous articles on Jewish law and philosophy which have appeared in various scholarly journals, served as the editor for The Yeshiva University Haggada (Ktav: New York, 1985), and has been interviewed in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post and in multiple media outlets throughout the world. 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 (1982 – 1985). he served as a student assistant to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. (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 and his wife, Rachel Tambor Brander, have five children: Tuvia (married to Miriam Apter), Yoni (married to Yehudit Goldberg), Tehilla, Yosef and Yitzchak. They made Aliya in the summer of 2018 and reside in Jerusalem.
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Rabbi Pesach Wolicki
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is an Orthodox Rabbi and a leading voice in the world of Jewish-Christian relations. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation. He is also a lecturer and Academic Consultant for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. He has been a speaker at events for Christians United For Israel and numerous other pro Israel organizations. From June 2015 to July 2019 he served as the Associate Director for CJCUC. He has been a guest lecturer in churches, Christian colleges and seminaries across the United States and Canada.
He has appeared on numerous national Christian radio programs. He is a regular contributor to American Family Radio’s Middle East Report. His columns and commentaries on the topic of Jewish Christian relations appear regularly in Israeli and Christian media, including Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Charisma News, Times of Israel, and BreakingIsraelNews.com.
His first book, Cup of Salvation, is a devotional commentary on Psalms 113 through 118.
Prior to entering the world of Jewish-Christian relations, Rabbi Wolicki served for twelve years as Dean of Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah, a post secondary academy of higher Torah learning just outside of Jerusalem. He is widely respected in the world of Jewish education as an innovator. He is known and appreciated for his engaging, welcoming, and interactive teaching style.
Previously, Rabbi Wolicki served as a communal rabbi in Fairfield, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia.
Rabbi Wolicki and his wife Kate live in Beth Shemesh, Israel with their eight children
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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 ▲