The Oseh Shalom staff includes our Rabbis, Cantor, School Director, Office Administrator, Bookkeeper and Administrative Assistant. Our wonderful Synagogue Administrator Andrew Maayan is your first stop for most questions about Oseh but feel free to contact any of our staff directly. Call 301-498-5151 to reach the office.
Rabbis Daria and Josh Jacobs-Velde
We enjoy working together as a rabbinic team, sharing the spiritual leadership of a community. This ranges from holding the big picture vision to leading heart-opening prayer experiences, supporting people in times of challenge and much more. Together, we bring a much greater range of strengths and skills to our work than we each would on our own. We share a passionate commitment to Judaism as a spiritual practice that can enrich and potentially transform our lives. We engage Judaism’s potential through a variety of formats, such as music, various prayer modalities, meditation, text study, bibliodrama, and connection to the natural world. Each of us has significant training in pastoral care, and we bring both a warm and compassionate presence and deep attention to the radiant uniqueness of each person’s story. We are excited about the innovative work we have done through our community in Sebastopol, CA (Zmanim), building nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community from scratch. Throughout all of our rabbinic work, our fundamental focus is always on nurturing and deepening relationships as the key to growing leadership and strengthening community.
I grew up in St. Louis, MO in an intermarried family and graduated from the University of California-Santa Cruz with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. Alienated from Judaism during my adolescent years, I re-engaged with Judaism after a spiritual search that lead me through other paths, including Zen Buddhism. Prior to rabbinical school, I worked for the Reconstructionist movement doing synagogue social justice work, studied in ulpanim and yeshivot in Jerusalem, spent time working with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and completed an MA in Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. After rabbinical school at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Daria and I served as co-rabbis at at Congregation Ohev Tzedek in Ohio. In the fall of 2014, Daria and I started Zmanim (Seasons), building nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community in Sonoma County. Since the fall of 2016, I have also served Congregation Kol HaEmek in Mendocino as their rabbi. I am a member of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association as well as Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal.
I have a wide range of interests, including conscious parenting, hiking/backpacking, qigong, playing acoustic guitar, yoga, ecological healing and sustainability, practicing and teaching meditation and contemplative Jewish prayer, Jewish-Muslim dialogue, and learning about local wild edible and medicinal plants.
Raised in Greater Boston, I grew up as “cultural Jew” who celebrated Hanukkah and Passover every year. As a Hebrew school dropout (6 months was enough for me), I found very little meaningful and accessible practices or language when I went to synagogue.
Clearly things have shifted along the way! The question that followed me and that I followed over the decades was “Why be Jewish?” That journey ultimately led me into a deep connection with Judaism. Along the way I lived in Israel and Japan, completed an Ed.M. at Harvard University, a B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis, and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. As I explored this question I gained experience in multiple avenues of learning and teaching, as well as experience with learners at many different stages of life, from elementary school to high school, and with adults from varied backgrounds.
I love opportunities to see things from new angles, and enjoy bringing new ways of exploring one’s connection to and the personal relevancy of Judaism. Some of these include bibliodrama, meditation, teaching Hebrew and teaching the transformational spiritual ethical practice of Mussar.
I also love being outdoors and walking, hiking, cycling, dancing, yoga or just sitting still- being and listening. I also deeply love singing, chanting, drumming and opening my heart- by myself and in community – through these powerful musical avenues.
Cantor Charlie Bernhardt
Our cantor, Charles Bernhardt, has been singing at Oseh Shalom since 1983. His voice and guitar add spirit and joy to our services and life cycle events. Cantor Charlie draws on many aspects of Jewish musical tradition, including classical chazzanut, chasidic, Israeli, and modern American folk music, in addition to his own compositions as a recorded artist, to create an atmosphere that is both comforting and exciting.
“I cannot remember a time when I was not singing,” Cantor Charlie said. “For thousands of years, Jews have used music in their worship of God and to express the broad range of emotional reactions to the gift of life. We have been blessed with such a variety of Jewish music that I try to use as much of it as I can in our services.”
Recently retired from his “day job,” Cantor Charlie spent nearly 40 years as a union representative for employees of the federal government. Following his leadership, Oseh Shalom takes part in the nationwide “Labor on the Bima” program each September in which the Jewish community and the labor movement celebrate their common bonds of social justice, human dignity and fair treatment in the workplace.
Cantor Charlie lives with his wife Marilyn in Marriottsville, MD. They have four grown children and two grandchildren, along with five grand-dogs and three grand-cats. To reach Charlie, call the office or e-mail: cantorcharlie@icloud.
Religious School Director Renee Richards
Renee Richards, Oseh Shalom’s Religious School Director, was born and raised in Newark, Delaware, where she was a member of the Reconstructionist synagogue, Temple Beth El. After graduating from high school, she went on to Syracuse University to pursue a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Religion. Renee later moved to Savannah, Georgia, to work as a newspaper reporter and TV News Producer. Returning to the Mid-Atlantic area, Renee continued her advancement in TV news by becoming the youngest executive producer of a top 20 morning program, The Morning Edition, with Don Scott and Marty Bass at WJZ in Baltimore.
In 2006, Renee returned to school to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an educator. She received her special education certification and has worked as a middle school teacher for 6 years in the Howard County Public School System. Renee has also been an active educator here at Oseh Shalom, teaching 6th grade and tutoring several students for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. She has worked to develop curricular standards, year-long experiential themes and electives that focus on Jewish identity and pride. Renee is currently enrolled in Towson University’s Baltimore Hebrew Institute, where she is working on advanced certification in Jewish Education. Here is a message from Renee:
There is an old African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” However, there is an even older saying that can be found right here in Judaism, “And you shall teach your child….” It is such an important saying that we find it in our Torah, Talmud, Friday Evening Service and Saturday Morning Service. Oseh Shalom Religious School’s goal goes beyond simply working with families in performing the mitzvah of teaching our children. The school also aims to create a culture of Jewish Leaders who have confidence in their Jewish identity. Working as our own ‘village’, together we shall ‘teach our children’ and know they will have the necessary foundation to lead our traditions and values for generations to come.
Renee is a long time member of Oseh Shalom. She is an avid triathlete with her husband, Brian, and two daughters, Serena and Peyton.
To reach, Renee, email Rrichards@oseh-shalom.org or call her at 301-498-7004.
Synagogue Administrator Andrew Maayan
Andrew Maayan comes to Oseh from Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., where he handled administrative duties for their large religious school. In his Oseh post, he’ll be handling that and a whole lot more. Maayan grew up “Conservative-ish,” he said, but became familiar with all types of Judaism during his many years of working at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, in Falls Village, CT, a bucolic setting in the Berkshires that plays host to many different Jewish groups.
Since graduating from Hebrew College with a degree in Jewish Education, he’s been an administrator at the JCC of Northern Virginia, a special education para-educator in the Baltimore Public Schools, and an environmental educator at the Teva Learning Center, which conducts environmental programs for Jewish Day School students.
Andrew is your first stop for membership information, room rentals, event questions and just about anything else to do with Oseh Shalom. Call 301-498-5151 or email email@example.com
Audrey Klein, Bookkeeper
Questions about dues, donations or other money issues? Talk to Audrey Klein, our outstanding bookkeeper. She’ll solve your problems quickly and efficiently. Call 301-498-5151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jovett is our friendly, efficient part-time administrative assistant. She can help you with a range of questions about our synagogue and it’s Religious School. Call 301-498-5151 or email email@example.com
Rabbi Emeritus Doug Heifetz
Rabbi Doug Heifetz became the rabbi of Oseh Shalom in 2006. He has served as the Vice President of Programming for the Washington Board of Rabbis and on the Steering Committee of Interfaith Worker Justice Maryland. Together with Oseh Shalom, Rabbi Heifetz founded the Jewish Geography Facebook app for Jewish connectivity. He has participated in selective year long professional development programs such as Rabbi Without Borders, the STAR-PEER Executive Leadership Program for Rabbis, and Tzey U’lemad.
A 2005 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Heifetz benefitted from the constant support and nurturing of the College’s students, faculty and staff. He lived in Israel for over a year during his studies at the RRC; served as bet midrash intern, assisting rabbinic students in Jewish text and Hebrew study; and was elected student representative to the RRC Board of Governors.
He received several honors and awards recognizing his scholarship and commitment to social action. As a student rabbi, he served for two years as the spiritual leader of JRF Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Rabbi Heifetz received a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown University, where he completed an internationally oriented liberal arts program, focused on Middle Eastern Regional Studies.
He also obtained a Certificate in Peace and Justice Studies. After graduation, he worked as a union organizer in Washington, D.C. and Kalispell, Montana, helping low-income working people to pursue social justice.
He lives in nearby Silver Spring with his wife, Elaine Lippmann, a public interest attorney, have two children, Dalya and Judah.
Rabbi Emeritus Gary Fink
Rabbi Emeritus Gary S. Fink, D.Min., D.D., came to Oseh Shalom in 1980 as our first full-time rabbi. Under his leadership, Oseh Shalom’s membership grew more than threefold. In 2006, Rabbi Fink retired from the full-time pulpit to focus on pastoral care and end-of-life counseling, working with individuals and families experiencing life-limiting illness and bereavement, while remaining rabbinically and personally connected to our synagogue community.
A native of Baltimore, Rabbi Fink received his Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors from the University of Maryland in social psychology. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, where he received a Master of Arts degree in Hebrew Letters and was awarded a prize for highest academic standing. While at Oseh Shalom, Rabbi Fink earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Thanatology (the study of death and dying) from Hood College, and a Doctor of Ministry degree at the Howard University School of Divinity, concentrating in pastoral care and counseling. To mark his 25th year as rabbi, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2005. Rabbi Fink and his wife Stephanie have a two grown children, a daughter Alia and a son Ari. To reach Rabbi Emeritus Fink, email firstname.lastname@example.org