Joseph Benatov holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches Hebrew at all levels. He is originally from Bulgaria and a member of Sofia’s Jewish community. Dr. Benatov is the English translator of the contemporary Bulgarian novel Zift. He has also translated Israeli poetry, prose, and drama. His translations of plays by Hanoch Levin, Martin McDonagh, and Ethan Coen were all staged to wide acclaim in Bulgaria. Dr.Benatov has over 10 years of experience leading travelers across Bulgaria, including UNESCO representatives, 92nd Street Y visitors, JDC board members, and Anti-Defamation League officials. Dr.Benatov lectures regularly on the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria and has published on the fate of Bulgaria’s Jews during the Holocaust. His article on the topic appears in the anthology Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (University of Nebraska Press).
Yoram Bilu is a professor emeritus of anthropology and psychology at the Hebrew University. His research interests include the anthropology of religion (focusing on saint worship, messianism, and religious healing), culture and mental health, the sanctification of space in Israel, and Moroccan Jewish culture.
Professor Bilu served as the chair of the department of psychology and the head of the Authority for Doctoral Students, both at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and as the president of the Israeli Anthropological Association. He has been a visiting professor at several American Universities. In 2013, he received the Israel Prize (most prestigious award in Israel) in sociology and anthropology. In 2015 he was elected to the Israeli Academy of the Sciences. His publications include many articles in important journals and two books published in English: Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Ya’aqov Wazana, Detroit: Wayne State University Press and The Saints’ Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers, and Holy Men in Israel’s Urban Periphery.
Conor Ellard has guided several prior Jewish Museum trips to Ireland. Steeped in the land’s history, politics and people, Conor has worked with Dr. Maidenbaum for many years, guiding and helping organize many programs to Ireland. Conor is a delight to travel with and, if asked, might agree to sing a ballad or two with his beautiful baritone voice.
Iddo Katz is an archeologist and tour guide licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. Iddo is a 7th-generation born Israeli who graduated from Bar-Ilan University with degrees in Land of Israel Studies, geography and biology. A former lecturer at the Schools of Tour Guides at Bar Ilan University, Iddo has also lectured widely throughout the United States and Israel and was the area manager on archaeological excavation sites, including a well-known site at Shiloh. Iddo also leads trips, and is accompanying scholar to other countries, including Spain, Portugal and Morocco among others.
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the creator of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, he received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Rabbi Amichai is a member of the Global Justice Fellowship of the American Jewish World Service, a founding member of the Jewish Emergent Network, a consultant to the Reboot Network, a member of the URJ Faculty Team and the Advisory Council of ORAM, an LGBT focused organization for refugees, asylum and migration. He was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel (2008-2009) and serves on the advisory committee of Faith House in Manhattan. Rabbi Amichai has been hailed as “an iconoclastic mystic” by Time Out New York, a “Judaic Pied Piper” by the Denver Westword, a “maverick spiritual leader” by The Times of Israel and “one of the most interesting thinkers in the Jewish world” by the Jewish Week. In 2016 The Forward named him one of the 32 “Most Inspiring Rabbis” in America. Rabbi Amichai hails from 37 generations of Rabbis, many of them in Poland.
Sid Leiman, PhD, is professor emeritus of Jewish history and literature at Brooklyn College, and he teaches at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford, as well as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Author of Rabbinic Responses to Modernity (2007) and The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (1991), as well as hundreds of articles and numerous publications, Dr. Leiman has contributed entries to Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encyclopaedia Judaica. He frequently leads Jewish historical tours to Central and Eastern Europe.
Aryeh Maidenbaum, PhD, with a strong background in history, psychology, and Jewish studies, has more than 25 years’ experience in organizing and leading educational programs, including Jungian seminars and conferences as well as trips focusing on Jewish culture and history. Director of the New York Center for Jungian Studies, Dr. Maidenbaum earned his doctorate from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Former faculty member at N.Y.U., he is a contributing author to Current Theories of Psychoanalysis. Among his publications are The Search for Spirit in Jungian Psychology; Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians and Anti-Semitism; and Jung and the Shadow of Anti-Semitism. His most recent book, Jung and the Shadow of Anti-Semitism, is a collection of essays he edited on the subject.
Janice Meyerson (MM, New England Conservatory; BA, Washington University), mezzo-soprano, has sung as soloist with the New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro São Carlo in Lisbon, and the Spoleto Festival, among numerous other venues. During the course of our program, we will hear a live recital by Ms. Meyerson, who will perform Ladino and Hebrew examples of Sephardic music.
Raymond P. Scheindlin, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a former Guggenheim Fellow. Dr. Scheindlin’s main field of research is the encounter of Hebrew and Arabic cultures in Spain, especially as embodied in the poetry of the two traditions. His books on medieval Hebrew poetry — Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good Life, dealing with secular poetry; and The Gazelle: Medieval Hebrew Poems on God, Israel, and the Soul, reflect both the academic and the literary aspects of his career.. He is the author of a widely-used textbook, A Short History of the Jewish People and co-editor of The Literature of Al-Andalus and The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi’s Pilgrimage. His most recent book is Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol.
Chaim Seidler-Feller recently celebrated his fortieth year of working with students and faculty as the Executive Director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA. Currently Director Emeritus, Chaim also serves as Director of the Hartman Fellowship for Campus Professionals. An ordained Rabbi, he also completed a Masters in Rabbinic Literature. Chaim has been a lecturer in the Departments of Sociology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA and in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University. He is also a faculty member of the Shalom Hartman Institute, North America, and of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and was rabbinic consultant to Barbra Streisand during the making of the film Yentl. The International Hillel Center has granted Chaim the Hillel Professional Recognition Award “for blending the love of Jewish tradition with the modern intellectual approach of the university.”
Rabbi Ernesto Yattah is the Dean of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Rabbinical School at the Seminario Rabínico Lationoamericano Marshall T. Meyer. He received his BA in comparative religions at Columbia University and his master’s degree in Judaic Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, where he also received his rabbinical ordination. Rabbi Yattah was assistant and associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun of Houston, Texas, for nine years and president of the Houston Rabbinical Association from 1996 to 1997. Today, Rabbi Yattah also participates actively in the Interreligious Dialogue in the City of Buenos Aires.