RABBI MARK WILDES
Founder & Director
Rabbi Mark Wildes was ordained from Yeshiva University, but before becoming a rabbi, he received a JD from the Cardozo School of Law and a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University. Since founding MJE 20 years ago, Rabbi Wildes has become one of America’s most inspirational and dynamic Jewish educators. He lives with his wife Jill and their children Yosef, Ezra, Judah and Avigayil on the Upper West Side where they maintain a warm and welcoming home for all. He is a hard core Beatles and John Lennon fan, and enjoys rocking out on the drums whenever possible.
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Hailing from Great Neck, Long Island, Jill started to become more involved in her Judaism after finishing college at the University of Wisconsin where she studied International Relations. Shortly after graduating from Rabbi Buchwald’s Beginner Services at Lincoln Square Synagogue, she went on to study at the Shearim and Nishmat seminaries in Israel and the Drisha Institute back in NY. Jill completed her Masters in Social Work at Yeshiva University and went on to co-found MJE with Rabbi Mark (who she met in MJE’s “blue room”) three years after they married. She is the proud mother of Yosef, Ezra, Yehuda and Avigayil and is best know for her warmth and hospitality, having cooked for and hosted over 10,000 MJEers at her expanding Shabbat table.
RABBI EZRA COHEN
Chief Operating Office & Downtown Director
Hailing from Atlanta, Rabbi Cohen received a BA in Speech & Marketing from Yeshiva University, an MA in Education from the Azreili School of Jewish Education, and his Rabbinic Ordination from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Cohen served as Educational Director and Rabbi at the Hillel of Rutgers and also worked at the Beth Din of America. Ezra also worked as a licensed Real Estate salesperson with Douglas Elliman. He is a frequent speaker and enjoys tennis, playing the guitar, and snowboarding. Rabbi Ezra, his wife Stephanie and son Shayne Isaac live in Chelsea where they host Shabbat meals, holiday events and classes.
RABBI PINNY ROSENTHAL
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Rabbi Pinny Rosenthal received a BS in Finance from Touro College, an MA in Education Administration from Columbia University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva B’nei Torah in Far Rockaway, NY. Over 750 of his classes are available on YUTorah.org. He also was the lead guitarist for Shlock Rock for many years. He currently enjoys teaching the MJE Lamm Fellowship, which has provided a year of intense Jewish education for MJE’ers who were denied Jewish education in their youth. Rabbi Pinny lives in West Hempstead with his wife Marie and their six children.
RABBI AVI HELLER
East Side Director
Rabbi Avi Heller is the Orthodox Union’s Regional Director for Synagogues in New Jersey and Rockland County. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Rabbi Heller has been the Director of Education for the Manhattan Jewish Experience. He received his BA from Boston University, semicha from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and also completed his MA in Tanach from the Bernard Revel School of Graduate Studies. He, his wife Shira, and their three children, live in Teaneck, NJ. He enjoys word play, the Denver Broncos, good coffee and running while listening to hard rock.
Chani studied for two years at Midreshet Moriah in Jerusalem, and then completed her B.A. in Judaic Studies from Stern College. She earned a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Azrieli Graduate School and is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish Education and Administration from Yeshiva University. Chani taught in the local Jewish Day School system for the past 10 years.Chani now lives in Bergenfield, NJ with her husband Alan, and their five children Donny, Margalit, Akiva, Rivka and Eli.
Program & Marketing
West Side Coordinator
Kellie is a New Jersey native and a graduate of Ithaca College with a BFA in Film, Photography and Visual Arts and a minor in Art History. She studied abroad in France during her collegiate years and continued working abroad, interning for a nonprofit in Thailand, as well as working for a year in Dublin, Ireland as a Market Executive. Throughout these experiences, Kellie has come to enjoy learning from other cultures, fostering her love of learning languages, sketching, and being holed up in the corner of a bookstore reading for hours on end. After adventuring on an inspiring Birthright Israel, she is incredibly excited to be joining the MJE team and looks forward to meeting others in the Jewish community!
RABBI KEVIN WOLF
Community Engagement & Educator
Kevin is originally from Bergenfield, NJ and left an indelible mark on his community after delivering a legendary bar mitzvah speech. From there, he continued to give over Divrei Torah, but truly made strides in his Torah knowledge when he spent two years learning at Yeshivat Orayta. Afterwards, he made the natural progression to study Computer Science at the University of Michigan, where he was able to garner a following of dedicated spiritual seekers who attended his weekly Shiur with Beer. After graduating, he married Allison and they moved to Israel where he studied at Yeshivat Torah V’Avodah and received rabbinic ordination. When Kevin is not teaching, he works as Product Manager for an Israeli real estate tech company, Cherre. Lastly, Kevin is also a passionate snowboarder, avid Citi biker, relentless audiobook listener, and competitive ping-pong player (challengers welcome).
Community Engagement & Educator
Allison, originally from Queens, graduated as salutatorian from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College. Her passion for Torah study grew during her time abroad in Israel, learning at Midreshet Harova, Hebrew University, and the OU/JLIC program at Yeshivat Orayta. Allison was also a fellow on The Nachshon Project, a Jewish leadership program that focuses on creating and strengthening Jewish communities in North America. Together at MJE, Allison, along with her husband Rabbi Kevin Wolf, enjoy teaching classes, learning with community members, helping out every other Shabbos at Friday Night Lights and AM services, and welcoming guests to their shabbos table! When Allison is not grabbing a cup of coffee with a community member, she can be found playing tennis with Kevin or shouting out the answers to Jeopardy!
Controller & Special Projects
After a 10 year absence, Josh was delighted to return to MJE in 2010. After serving as MJE’s original Administrator, Josh left to join Birthright Israel. Later on Josh served as CFO (acting) at the FJMC and Director of Budget and Finance at CUNY’s MacCauley Honors College Josh is delighted to see the growth that has occurred at MJE and is delighted to be able to help MJE – and its participants – continue to grow and thrive. A life-long East Sider, Josh is the father of three young children.
RACHEL LEONA BENLISA SOLOVYOV
East Side Coordinator
Rachel graduated from The George Washington University where she double majored in Marketing and International Business. Professionally, she is a fast-paced, detail-oriented, creative problem solver with a knack for customer service and building client relations. With sales and marketing background in corporate, Rachel joined MJE because she was looking for a more meaningful career. Never forget to smile and remember a positive attitude goes a long way!
Assistant to Rabbi Wildes
Born and raised in the Bronx, Deborah has worked with an administrative background for many years and is skilled in Event/Party Planning. Deborah has worked for Rabbi Wildes for over 14 years and is proud to be his assistant and part of the MJE Team. When she is not busy keeping Rabbi Wildes organized and on the go, coordinating room rentals or planning parties, she enjoys spending quality time with her beautiful daughter, JoAnna, a graduate of FIT who is now working for a hedge fund company.
DR. ADENA BERKOWITZ
Dr. Adena Berkowitz is an honors graduate of Barnard College, JTS, Cardozo Law School
& the Washington Square Institute of Psychotherapy and Mental Health. She loves teaching and interconnecting her background in Jewish Studies, Law & Psychotherapy. Dr. Adena is the author of the best selling The Jewish Journey Haggadah and co-authored Shaarei Simcha-Gates of Joy. A practicing therapist, she lives on the UWS where, she and her husband, Rabbi Zev Brenner, their children and dog Babka, love hosting guests for Shabbat and Holidays.
Fellowship Coordinator & Educator
Zahava Schwartz, a Queens native, recently graduated from Yeshiva University’s GPATS, with a Masters in Biblical and Talmudic Education. She is also currently completing her Master’s in Modern Jewish History from Revel. As the former Education Staff for New England NCSY, she has spent countless hours preparing classes for NCSY teens across the country. She also taught at Route613, a comprehensive conversion preparation program geared for students interested in halakhic conversion to Judaism. When she’s not in New York, she can be found in Israel (probably at Aroma, with a Diet Iced Coffee in hand) while staffing Birthright trips.
RABBI SHMULI ZEMA
Shmuli was born and raised in Monsey, New York in a traditional Jewish home. He received his Master’s in Business Administration from Baruch College, while receiving his rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University. Shmuli has traveled to Australia and Poland leading informal educational journeys and has worked as an Assistant Rabbi at The Hampton Synagogue for 4 years. He currently volunteers as a scholar-in-residence in Manhattan Beach, and spearheads a non-profit focused on granting STEM educational opportunities to underrepresented Jewish minorities, while building the defense industry of Israel. Shmuli enjoys short walks during COVID with his wife, while learning anything related to Jewish growth.
Program & Marketing Coordinator
Kira was born and raised in San Diego, California, but has moved around quite a bit before landing here in New York City. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2019 with a BA in Psychology, she entered the professional world of Jewish non-profit. Kira excelled in student engagement, event planning, and digital marketing at Arizona State University’s Hillel before accepting the position of East Side Program and Marketing Coordinator at MJE. When not at work, Kira is probably out exploring her new city or jetting off for a quick weekend trip.
Adam Weinstein, President
Lewis Barbanel, Chairman
Elaine Gold z”l
Mayer Offman z”l
Jason Demby, Chair
J. D. Papa