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Melton & More Faculty

Rabbi Dan Aronson

Rabbi Dan AronsonRabbi Aronson was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1999, after receiving his Bachelor Degree in Judaic Studies from Brown University, and his Master Degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University. Rabbi Aronson has been providing leadership to the American Jewish community for over 25 years as an educator, administrator and rabbi.

He currently serves Congregation Temple Beth Sholom in Salem, OR as its visiting rabbi and heads the religious school of Congregation Or Ami in Houston, TX. as its education director. “Rabbi Dan,” as some call him, lives in Houston with his wife Beth, a psychologist, their young daughter Katie, and several cats. Rabbi Aronson’s son, Jacob, is an engineering student at the University of Maryland. 

Rabbi Annie Belford

Rabbi BelfordRabbi Belford, a native of El Paso, Texas, received a BA degree in Creative Writing from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles in 1998, an MA degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2003 and rabbinic ordination from HUC-JIR in 2004. Rabbi Belford is honored to serve Temple Sinai since July, 2009, as one of the first women serving as a solo rabbi in a Houston congregation. Between student pulpits, High Holy Day pulpits, and full-time pulpits, she has previously served congregations in Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Connecticut, and Bombay, India. She also worked for the Union for Reform Judaism Press and is the author of A Teacher’s Guide to a Taste of Text.

She enjoys working with numerous interfaith and community organizations, and is passionate about k’lal yisrael, the entire community of Israel. She loves teaching people of all ages and falls in love with Torah—again—every time she studies it. She is an avid reader, enjoys travelling, and loves nothing more than spending time with her husband, Rabbi Ari Vernon, and her amazing children Lev, Eiden, and Ahava. 

Nada Chandler

Nada ChandlerNada Chandler was born in Providence, Rhode Island; she received a B.A. degree from the University of Rhode Island with majors in English and Political Science, a M.A. degree from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature, and a M.A. Degree in Jewish Studies from the Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Jewish Studies in Cleveland, Ohio.  Since arriving in Houston thirty years ago, via New York, Berkeley, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, she has been an active participant and advocate for Jewish education, having served on or as chair of Education at United Orthodox Synagogues, and Congregations Brith Shalom, and Emanu El. 

She is currently the Vice-President for Education at United Orthodox Synagogues. In the community, she has been a part of Jewish Federation Women’s Division, Yom Limmud and the Jewish Book & Arts Fair, serving on the Book Fair Program Committee and the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.

Michael Duke

Michael DukeMichael Duke is associate editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice. Born in Tehran, Iran, he grew up in Houston and belongs to the Samuels family that owns the JHV. In addition to his journalism career, Michael teaches religious school for Kehillah High and Congregation Brith Shalom. He also serves as an Israel educator for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and has helped lead teen trips to Israel with Congregation Emanu El, where he previously taught religious school for 12 years.

Michael has earned dozens of journalism awards for his news photography, reporting and editorial writing. In recent years, he has pursued street photography and documentary photography and has had work exhibited at Houston Center for Photography. Michael and his wife Rachel Mohl, a curator in Latin American & Latino art at Museum of Fine Arts Houston, belong to Congregation Brith Shalom.

Rabbi Gideon Estes

Rabbi EstesRabbi Estes was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York City. He also earned a Masters Degree from JTS in Jewish Studies with a concentration in Pastoral Care. Rabbi Estes was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated Cum Laude from UCLA in 2003 with a BA in Jewish Studies with concentration in Jewish History. He has studied at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, The Hebrew University and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

While in Rabbinical School, Rabbi Estes worked as Mashgiach, Kosher supervisor, in the JTS cafeteria under Rabbi Joel Roth, served as the Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, CT, and served as a Chaplain Intern in the UCLA Medical Center providing spiritual care to both Jewish and non-Jewish patients. He served as the coordinator of the Interseminary Dialogue, one of the oldest continuous Christian Jewish Dialogues in the country. Currently, Rabbi Estes is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Houston Rabbinical Association. He serves on the Board of Directors of Houston Hillel and the Board of Representatives of CanCare.  

Dr. Joshua Furman

Dr. Joshua FurmanDr. Furman is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program in Jewish Studies at Rice University.  He received his Ph.D. in modern Jewish history from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2015. He is a scholar of American Jewish history, with a particular interest in studying family life and education after World War II. Dr. Furman has received research fellowships from the Center for Jewish History in New York and the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. A native Texan from San Antonio, he now lives in Houston with his wife and daughter.

Gabi GelmanGabi Gelman

Gabi Gelman is presently a Bible instructor at Robert M Beren Academy and has previously taught in the Melton program. She holds a masters degree in Jewish Studies from Siegal College. 

Dr. Mina Graur

Dr. Mina GraurDr. Mina Graur got her Ph.D. at Rice University and later worked for twenty years at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv. She has published extensively on Jewish anarchism, Yiddish journalism, and the history of the Revisionist Zionist movement. Born and raised in Israel, she spoke Yiddish at home and learned to cherish all aspects of its culture. She is a member of the Yiddish Vinkel in Houston which meets every week to read, sing and discuss Yiddish literature, music, film and theater.

Rabbi Steven M. Gross

Rabbi Steven GrossRabbi Steve Gross was ordained in 1996 as a rabbi from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio where he also received a Masters of Hebrew Letters.

He has served the Houston Jewish community ever since his ordination and is currently the rabbi at Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism where he brings energy and enthusiasm to the pulpit using his guitar to shape the worship experience for young and old alike.

Imam Mohamed Ahmad Khan

Imam Mohammad Ahmad Khan was born and raised in Houston. At an early age, he began his journey for realizing the metaphysical reality of our material world. His studies focus on the Quran and the precision of its phonetical recitation; Islamic Theology with a focus on its contemporary manifestations as well as the theodicical ramifications. He has formally studied the art of recitation and precise articulation of the Qur'an for over 15 years under the tutelage of many distinguished reciters from all over the world.

In 2012, after working closely with the community in various high leadership positions for many years, Imam Mohammad Ahmad Khan enrolled in Zaytuna College--the first and only Accredited Muslim Islamic Studies College-- to further his studies in the Islamic Sciences. Zaytuna College has given him a holistic understanding of both the Islamic and Western traditions. He graduated at the top of his class--Summa Cum Laude--and is now the Director of Religious Affairs at Masjid Al-Rahmah, Mercy Islamic Center.

He aims to be a dynamic community leader and an educator of Islamic Studies who engages with both the Muslim and the greater Houston community by presenting the Islamic sciences in a manner that gives access to the laity, Muslims, traditional students of Islam and Western academics alike. Imam M. Ahmad Khan is currently a graduate candidate in the field of Clinical Mental Health at the University of St. Thomas. With this degree he plans to bridge the gap between science and spirituality in terms of mind science. The central focus of his ministry is the enfranchisement of the disenfranchised, particularly women, youth and young professionals.

Dr. Bernice Heilbrunn Potvin

Dr. Bernice Heilbrunn PotvinBernice Heilbrunn Potvin, a Harvard Law School graduate with a BA. and Masters in History from the same school,  earned a PhD at UH and started a second life teaching Jewish studies at the University of Houston. She is a popular Melton teacher and Yom Limmud instructor.

Rabbi Dr. Daniel Horwitz

Rabbi HorvitzRabbi Dr. Daniel Horwitz is currently working part-time as Chapel Rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston and teaching Judaism to adults. He earned his doctorate of Jewish studies with emphasis on mysticism through Spertus Institute of Judaica in Chicago. He has previously served pulpits in Kansas City and Galveston. Ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion in 1980 and a member of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly, he is also a graduate of Rice University and received an honorary doctorate in 2007 from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is married to Tobi Cooper and they are the parents of four children.

Aaron Howard

Aaron HowardAaron Howard has been a staff writer with the Jewish Herald-Voice for the past 19 years. He previously taught the Melton class “The Jews Of Spain”.

He has also taught at Symposium, at many community venues and at Houston Community College. He is a retired registered nurse with a background in pediatrics.

Cantor Mark Levine

Cantor Mark LevineCantor Mark Levine grew up as part of a traditional Jewish family in New Jersey. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the State University of New York and a Judaic degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he earned a masters degree as a Chazan at the Manhattan School for Cantors.

Cantor Levine served as Chazan and Youth Director for seven years at the Nanuet Hebrew Center in Nanuet, New York before moving to Dallas where, during a fourteen year period, he served Congregation Shearith Israel in a number of capacities: as Cantor, as Middle School Director and counselor for its Solomon Schechter Day school, and as Educational Director for the entire synagogue. Following seven years as Education and Executive Director at Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo, California, Cantor Levine was brought to Congregation Brith Shalom as Director of Education.

Rabbi Jill Levy 

Rabbi Jill LevyRabbi Levy grew up at the J after her family moved to Houston as a young child. She graduated from Bellaire High School in 1994 and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University. She worked two years for the Jewish Federation of Atlanta as a coordinator of post birthright Israel programming and spent a number of summers on the staff of Camp Ramah in Georgia. While in Rabbinical school, Rabbi Levy was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and served as student rabbi in several different congregations.

In addition, she completed a summer of clinical pastoral education (CPE) at St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s Hospitals in Houston.  She was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary. Levy most recently served as the Director of Congregational Learning at the Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Synagogue in Seattle, Washington. Levy and her husband, Matt, have two daughters, Nava and Miri, who both attend the Bertha Alyce Early Childhood School.

Rabbi Steven Morgen

Rabbi Steven MorgenJudaism and the Jewish people have always been deeply important to Rabbi Steven Morgen. While earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona, Rabbi Morgen became active in the campus Hillel House, and after that went to Israel to study for one year spending six months at the WUJS Institute in Arad and six months at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. He studied law at the UCLA School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1983 and he was ordained by JTS in May 1998. In July 1998 Rabbi Morgen accepted the position as a rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun where he continues to be an Associate Rabbi today.

He has served and/or is currently surving on the Boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and the Southwest Region of the ADL, the Southwest Region of the American Jewish Committee, and Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, and is a past President of the Houston Rabbinical Association. Rabbi Morgen supervises and teaches an Introduction to Judaism course primarily for non-Jews seeking to learn about Judaism with the possibility of converting. He also participates extensively in inter-faith dialog programs in the Houston area. Rabbi Morgen’s portfolio includes supervising adult Jewish education at Beth Yeshurun, as well as advisor to the Religious School, teacher in the religious school and after school high school program, and adjunct to the Beth Yeshurun Day School which is a member of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association.  

Jill Patir

Jill PatirJill Patir is a University of Arizona graduate (bear down!), former Jewish Day School teacher, mother of two, and native Houstonian who is attempting to maintain (or regain, depending on who you ask) her sanity while raising her kids. 

She'll write a book someday, but for now, she channels her thoughts and ramblings into (somewhat coherent) blog posts. She currently holds the position of Membership and Outreach Coordinator at Congregation Emanu El.

Mrs. Mindeleah Pollak

Mindeleah PollakMindeleah Pollak was born & raised in Montreal, Canada. After her High School graduation & winning first place in Montreal's Chidon HaTanach, she went to study at the Michlala, Jerusalem College for Woman in Israel for several years, receiving her first Teaching Certificate. She, then, continued on at Stern College for Women in New York City. There she attained her BA in Jewish Studies, & B. Ed. & her 2nd Teaching Certificate, while graduating Magna Cum Laude. Her last year in New York, she became Assistant Director of Admissions at Yeshiva University. She then moved to Houston, Texas where she taught at the Hebrew Academy & then at Torah Day School.

After the birth of her twin boys, she became Educational Director at the United Orthodox Synagogues, heading the school & lecturing. She also became Program Director, while taking Master courses & giving weekly Bible classes to the congregants. She is presently teaching Hebrew to Middle & High School students at the Robert M. Beren Academy. Mindeleah is married to Sam Pollak & is the proud parent of Tani & Yoni Pollak.   

Nancy Pryzant PicusNancy Pryzant Picus

Nancy Pryzant Picus graduated from Hebrew Union College in 1978 with a Masters Degree in Hebrew Education.  Since that time, she has served in many capacities as a Jewish educator in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Houston. She recently retired after twenty-nine years as the Director of Jewish Learning at The Shlenker School of Congregation Beth Israel. Nancy is a proud native Houstonian!

Rabbi Samantha Safran 

Rabbi Samantha SafranRabbi Samantha holds a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters as well as her rabbinical title from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia. Originally from Great Neck, New York, she studied classics and philosophy at Colgate University and worked in film preservation before migrating to the Jewish professional world and, eventually, to rabbinical school. During her time at RRC she served as a Jewish advisor on several college campuses, as well as a hospital chaplain, a community organizer and a congregational rabbinic intern.

In her spare time she enjoys listening to live music, reading the New Yorker magazine, watching classic movies, spending time outdoors, and discussing the merits of healthy eating with anyone who will listen. Rabbi Samantha moved to Houston in August 2012 with her husband, Sacha and their daughter, Naya.    

Rabbi David Segal 

Rabbi David Segal

Rabbi David Segal was born and raised in Houston and grew up at Congregation Emanu El. He studied Classics and Jewish Studies at Princeton, worked at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

After seven years as rabbi of the Reform synagogue in Aspen, CO, Rabbi Segal and his family moved back home to Houston in 2017, where he is involved in teaching, writing, and interfaith social justice work.

Rabbi Ranon Teller

Rabbi Ranon TellerRabbi Ranon Teller is the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Brith Shalom, in Bellaire. He was born and raised in a traditional Jewish home in Michigan. Rabbi Teller is the immediate Past-President of the Houston Rabbinical Association.

Rabbi Teller earned a master’s degree in Education from the Fingerhut School of Education in 1999 and received the Fingerhut School of Education Award for Outstanding Achievement. Upon rabbinic ordination in 2002, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Rabbi Teller has a beautiful wife, Vicki, and four beautiful children, Ariella, Maya , Jake , and Nava...and a dog named Jesse.

Rabbi Kenny Weiss

Rabbi Kenny WeissRabbi Weiss is the Rabbi and Executive Director for Houston Hillel. Rabbi Weiss is also a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Houston and Rice University. Prior to arriving in Houston in 2001, he served as a congregational rabbi in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. He earned a degree in Communication from the University of California at San Diego, a Secondary Social Studies Teaching Credential from the University of Colorado in Boulder, along with a Masters Degree in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinical Ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. (Whew, that’s a lot of school!) 

Rabbi Weiss is a past chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis Ad Hoc Committee on the Campus Rabbinate, a Past President of the Houston Rabbinical Association and the current President of the University of Houston Campus Ministers Association. Kenny is married to Rabbi Amy Weiss, Founder and Executive Director of Undies for Everyone and owner of Jewdads. Amy and Kenny enjoy spending time with their sons, Eli and Joshua. When he’s not hanging out with college students, you can find Kenny running around Rice in preparation for the Houston half-marathon, playing fetch with Lucky the dog (she’s not well trained – just hyper-focused on fetching tennis balls), biking around Houston, doing some MUni along Braes Bayou (an insane amount of fun), or listening to the Grateful Dead while building something in his garage.   

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