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About Our Faculty

Avriel Adler
Judy Belsky
Danya Boksenboim
Varda Branfman
Rena Cohen
Esther Susan Heller
Shifra Devorah Witt
Leah Kotkes
Shoshana Lepon
Esther Rubenstein
Sarah Shapiro
Esther Chana Stromberg
Lisa Klug
Rachel Gurevich

Avriel Adler

is the author of four mystery novels: Speak No Evil, Breach of Faith, Who Shall Live/Who Shall Die, and her most recent work, Who By Water/Who By Fire. They all take place in Israel.

She has also written a craft book for children, I Spy a Mitzvah: One Hundred and Fifty Projects for the Jewish Preschooler.

She has a PhD in Biblical Archaeology from the Hebrew University. She works as an editor of technical publications for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

She has led a workshop on publishing at the Tsfat Writers' Conference and wrote a two part series on Finding An Agent for Soferet.

She lives in the North of Israel.

Judy Belsky, PhD.

is author of a memoir, Thread of Blue. Her poetry manuscript, Abraham and Sultana won the 1998 Rachel Castalete Prize for Sephardic Literature. She has published poems in Jewish Action, Jewish Women's Literary Annual, Yated Ne'eman, Rhino and Hadassah Magazine.

She recently completed a novel for children entitled The Adventures of Annie White (Fish). She has published several books for children including the Tova and Esty series.

She is currently working on a memoir about her Sephardic childhood and a book on the process of Jewish Creative Writing. She edits Weaving Words Weaving Worlds, an anthology of new student writing now in its fourth volume.

She is an instructor of Creative Writing at Ateres Bnos Yerushalayim. And a teacher at the Pri Hadash Women Writers' Workshop in Jerusalem.

She is also a clinical psychologist in private practice in Jerusalem. She has researched the use of imagery as a healing force in psychotherapy and physical illnesses. She facilitates the Jerusalem MASK support group for parents of kids at risk. She is the author of many varied articles on psychotherapy.

Danya Boksenboim

was born to write humor. She began by writing and performing humorous songs in a cabaret type setting. Then she found Torah and came to Israel. Her name changed, as did her general approach, but not her style of writing. She wrote plays that were performed on stage by very talented women in Emanuel.

The plays included: The Rage - About a Woman's fashion magazine. The Chanuka Story-a modern day story.

She also published a series of humor articles about a character she created called Rebbitzen Palukavitch who wrote for lonely hearts. An article, Bad Housekeeping was published in Bat Kol magazine. She won second prize in a writing competition for the A.A.C.I. magazine. A short story, It's Not Easy To Be Famous was published in Sand Lines. She will also be published in an upcoming edition of Heartbeats.

Since she moved to Tsfat she has written and directed the following plays: Rosalie, about a girl who is really an undercover agent and saves the Jewish people on Purim.
Peace In The Middle East, about seven women who are kidnapped at a wedding, sent to Syria, and end up saving Israel.
Kina , Geiva , and Teiva, (jealousy, arrogance and desire) a Jewish version of Pride and Prejudice.

She is originally from Montreal, Canada.

Varda Branfman

is the author of I Remembered In The Night Your Name (Carob Tree Press), and The Hidden World; The Challenge, Adventure, And Pleasure Of Giving (Kest-Lebovitz Foundation).

Most of her writing centers around memoir as she attempts to understand her past and excavate its layers.

She teaches at the Pri Hadash Women Writers' Workshop in Jerusalem. She taught writing at the College of the Atlantic many years ago and now teaches writing to young women learning to be English teachers at the Bais Yaacov Seminary. She has an M.A. Degree in English from the University of New Hampshire. Before making aliya 19 years ago, she wrote on the coast of Maine, next to a wood-burning stove.

She is from Passaic, New Jersey.

Rena Cohen

has been writing grants and raising funds for the past ten years at the following non-profit organizations: Center for the Advancement of the Blind, Tzel Koratainu, Galilee Fund, Bedouin Women's Council, Sharei Bina, Chaya Mushka Assoc., Lev U'Neshama, Ascent and Kids for Kids.

She worked for two years editing documentation materials in a hi-tech environment and is familiar with the demands that foundations and individuals have for well-written and well-documented materials. She enjoys the challenge of making an organization present itself well on paper.

She has thirty years experience in the field of Jewish fund raising and was the contributing editor of The Jewish Star, of Calgary Canada for four years. She studied technical writing at the Yeda School of Business and Technology, and has a degree in Library Arts from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

She is from Calgary, Canada, and made aliya 12 years ago.

Esther Susan Heller

is director of the Jewish Writing Institute. She is fiction editor for Binah Magazine. She is editor of Stepping Stones, A Jewish Woman's Journal which is published by Sharei Bina. She founded Soferet, the Association of Orthodox Women Writers and publishes their quarterly newsletter. She organizes the Tsfat Women Writers' Conferences.
She has taught creative writing technique and Jewish self expression classes for ten years at Sharei Bina and Chaya Mushka seminaries, as well as via email at The Jewish Writing Institute.
She has published short stories and articles in Binah, Mishpacha- Jewish Family Weekly, Hadassah Magazine, Hamodia, Horizons, Yated Ne'eman, and Fiction (Targum Press). A children's book will be published by KarBen in Chanukah, 2008.
She has a master's degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a BA degree in Psychology with Honors from the University of Michigan. Her thesis explored the relationship between creativity and ego development.
She made aliya from Chicago 16 years ago & lives in Tsfat with her family.

Articles by Esther Susan Heller

The Golden Years (Mishpacha Issue 44)
The Rehearsal (Mishpacha Issue 35)
Rescuing the Dance (Mishpacha Issue 27)
The Springtime of Life (Mishpacha Issue 48)
Walks of Life (Mishpacha Issue 73)
Home-work: Mothers Who Work at Home Part 1
(Mishpacha Issue 78)

Home-work: Mothers Who Work at Home Part 2
(Mishpacha Issue 80)

Viewing Antartica: Journey Into The Unknown
(Mishpacha Issue 93)
Full text with pictures is available as a PDF file »
which will open in a separate browser window.
Will It Sell In New York?
(Mishpacha Issue 95)
Full text with pictures is available as a PDF file »
which will open in a separate browser window.


Shifra Devorah Witt

has M.A. and M.F.A. She has been a guest lecturer in the Poetry Center Workshop and a teaching assistant in both fiction and poetry. She pioneered two new programs for writers through the John F..Kennedy Library. The programs have been very successful and have accrued acclaim in both print and radio news. She has worked as a writing coach for individual clients for five years.

She is co-founder of the Stars Writers' Group, a collaborative for experienced writers. She has recently completed her second chapbook and is at work on a collection of short stories and her first play. She founded Kisslev Press, a press devoted exclusively to publishing Jewish women writers. Her favorite topics to write about include the heart, medicine, and the complexities of interpersonal relationships.

Her work has appeared in: Hot Chocolate For The Mystical Lover, (Plume press) illustrating the beauty of dating in the Jewish tradition of shiduchim; The Suisun Valley Review, Reflections Magazine, The Jewish Voice, Kol Chevra, The Vallejo Times Herald; Shoshanim Magazine, The Jewish Women's Literary Annual, Magical Souvenirs, and Joining the Sisterhood.

Her Poetry Collections: The Heart Beats Again, (Kisslev Press) and Catching My Breath, (Kisslev Press).

She has won the following awards: Browning Society's Dramatic Monolouge Competition, 2003, First Place. The Ina Poetry Prize 2001. 1st place. Dyane Lyn Bogart Fiction Competition, 2001. Pamela Maus Contest in Creative Writing, 2000. 1st place. Hakerot Ha Tov Award: For Outstanding work in the community, Davis C.A.

She lives in Jerusalem, Israel.


Leah Kotkes

is the features editor of Binah Magazine. She teaches writing and mentors writers. She is the founder and coordinator of The Writer's Journey Seminars-offering writing instruction and inspiration to Jewish women writers. She publishes annually "The Writers' Journal" a showcase for Jewish women writers.

Leah studied at business school and art school before beginning a career in international public relations and marketing in London. Her professional writing expertise includes press releases, media and marketing campaigns, fund raising proposals and scriptwriting for media interviews. After seven years in this field she transferred her skills to the field of journalism and publishing where she worked for two internationally recognized companies.

She became a baalat teshuva and moved to Jerusalem where she lives with her family. Her first column-an interview series- ran in Hamodia Magazine for two years. The series Pillars of Strength, included interviews with well known Torah personalities such as the Herman sisters, (Rebbetzin Bessie Scheinberg and Rebbetzin Ruchoma Shain) Rebbetzin Sara Meisels, (daughter of the late Bobover Rebbe zy"a) and Rebbetzin Feige Twerski. Her series Divine Gifts: Exploring the Gift of Writing also appeared in Hamodia. (see articles on Jewish Writing page) She joined the launch team of Mishpacha-Jewish Family Weekly in 2004 and created the Daughters of the King column-in-depth interviews with Jewish women the world over. She also wrote features on topics of community importance for Mishpacha, such as a series on Anorexia.


Shoshana Lepon

has published three anthologies: No Greater Treasure--Stories of Extraordinary Women Drawn from the Talmud and Midrash, Heartbeats--Jewish Writers at Their Best and Heartbeats II--Jewish Writers at Their Best.

She is an editor & translator, and a teacher of Judaic Studies for women in Jerusalem. She is always collecting for her next anthologies: Heartbeats on Women's Health & Personal Issues, Heartbeats III-Jewish Writers at Their Best and a new anthology for the general public: Lunch Break: Slices of Life o Nourish the Spirit.

She has published 8 children's books: The Ten Tests of Abraham, The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Joseph The Dreamer, Noah and the Rainbow, Torah Rhymes and Riddles, Holiday Rhymes and Riddles, Hillel Builds a House, and The Chanukah Carousel.

Originally from Philadelphia and Boston, Shoshana made aliya in 1970. She lives in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, where she runs the Mount Zion Daycare Center.

Esther Rubenstein

has published short stories in Hamodia, Horizons, Yeted Ne'eman, Stepping Stones and Five Towns Jewish Times. Her story "Reunion" appeared in Fiction (Targum Press). Other stories are due to be published in upcoming Hearbeats editions.

She has been leading writing workshops for the past ten years, including the Tsfat Writers Group, Sharei Bina and the Tsfat's Women Writers' Conference.

She has worked as editor and ghost writer. She is currently working on creating an exploratory drama workshop to assist in the development of creative expression.

Originally from New York, she made aliya thirty years ago.

Sarah Shapiro

is the author of A Gift Passed Along: A Woman Looks at the World Around Her, Growing With My Children: A Jewish Mother's Diary; and Don't You Know It's a Perfect World.

She is the editor of the Artscroll Judaiscope Anthology, Of Home and Heart, and also the two volume anthology of Jewish women's writing, Our Lives and More of Our Lives.

Her essays have appeared in The Jewish Observer, Jewish Action, The Jerusalem Post, Jewish Week, The LA Times, The International Herald Tribune, Hadassah, Wellsprings, and other publications. Her column in Mishpacha- Jewish Family Weekly is entitled "Missing Pieces."

She is currently at work on an anthology of Jewish women's writing on the subject of mothers.

She has taught writing privately and in workshops over the past 12 years.

She made aliyah in 1976 and lives in Jerusalem.

Esther Chana Stromberg

has been a writer and artist since age 7.

She wrote commercials for television and radio at the Ogilvy and Mather Advertising ad agency for nearly 10 years until she woke up one morning and decided to learn Jewish Studies at Stern College for two years. She wrote a column, From My Journal for the magazine Bat Kol and has been a contributor to Jewish publications over the years.

Born in Montreal and raised in New York City, she made aliya 14 years ago and lives in Jerusalem.

Lisa Alcalay Klug

is a widely published journalist, photographer, editor and writing coach. An alumna of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, Lisa is a former staff writer for the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes.com, Shape, Self, Hadassah, Forward, Moment, JTA and JewishFamily.com and many other publications.

She writes on a wide variety of topics, including business, technology, travel and culture. She is the recipient of multiple Simon Rockower Memorial Awards from the American Jewish Press Association, the Ruach HaMidbar Writer's Grant and a fellowship from the Virginia Creative Center for the Arts. She is the author of "Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe" (Andrews McMeel, Spring 2008).


Rachel Gurevich

Rachel Gurevich's writing has appeared in numerous secular and Jewish publications, including LowCarb Energy, Pregnancy Magazine, The Writing Parent Newsletter, ePregnancy Magazine, Northwest Baby and Child, The Jewish Homemaker, Horizons: The Jewish Family Journal, The Hadassah Jewish Family Book of Health and Wellness (Jossey-Bass, 2006). and many others.

Author of two books and editor of another, her book The Doula Advantage (Prima Publishing, 2003) Besides freelance writing for consumer magazines, Rachel works as a freelance business copywriter for clients in the big US cities.

Ms. Gurevich has also worked on the editorial end of the spectrum, including a stint as a developmental editor for a book publisher, where she had the opportunity to work on more than 20 books.

A prize-winning poet and short story writer, you can read more about Rachel at her website: RachelGurevich.com



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