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New Zealand once had a vibrant Jewish presence, but the community had shrunk considerably when Ben Adams was growing up there. In Christchurch, where his family lived, there was a single synagogue with only fifty families.
Throughout his childhood, Ben was active in Habonim Dror, a Progressive Labor Zionist Youth movement, and in 1983 he made aliya. He lived on a kibbutz, where he met and married Gail Korostoff, who had also grown up in the Habonim Dror movement here in Philadelphia. While in Israel, Ben was the production manager for the kibbutz industry (they manufactured adhesives) and Gail worked as a welder. From 1986 to 1987, Ben served in the IDF as a member of the Nahal Brigade. They returned to the U.S. when their first child was born.
Initially members of Or Hadash in Fort Washington, Ben and Gail wanted to join a shul closer to home. They were especially interested in finding a spiritual home with a progressive commitment to Israel. They were drawn to Kol Ami not only because of its proximity and its relationship with Israel, but also because they already knew so many members of the congregation. They joined Kol Ami in 2005 and knew they had made the right choice.
As a member of the Board, Ben is eager help with the transition to the next phase of the synagogue’s life. He brings years of experience serving on the boards of a number of regional and national non-profit organizations. His most recent community volunteer experience was as a board member of CreekSide Co-op.
Ben earned his BS degree at the University of Canterbury and worked on energy efficiency for the New Zealand Ministry of Energy before making aliya. After returning to the U.S., he earned an MBA at Drexel and is now a partner at MaGrann Associates, a regional engineering company focused on green building consulting for residential construction.
Ben and Gail’s two grown children carry on their parents’ commitment to Judaism and Israel. Jonah teaches Hebrew school on Sundays at Society Hill synagogue; Sarah is a full time educator in Dror Yisrael in Israel.
When he is not working or volunteering, Ben likes to bike and travel.
Ben and Gail reside in Cheltenham.
“Kol Ami has proven to be the best choice my wife and I have ever made in joining a synagogue – an intimate place where new members are welcomed and encouraged to participate, where a real community of friends in worship and song is formed and sustained by leadership that cares about everyone and constantly demonstrates it through their kindnesses.”
When Gary and his wife Cheryl were searching for a reform synagogue, they knew they wanted to be part of a congregation that was friendly and welcoming—one that was led by a rabbi who set the tone by being inclusive and supportive of new members. In Kol Ami, they found a community that offered all those things in a beautiful setting, with meaningful worship services. Gary and Cheryl have been members since 2015.
Gary serves on the Membership and Worship Enhancement Committees, but his desire to do even more to help Kol Ami grow and thrive motivated him to join the board of trustees in 2018. As a board member, he hopes to assist the leadership in expanding the religious school and adult education programs.
Gary practiced law for twenty years, but in his heart he knew all along what he really wanted do: teach. So he left his law practice, got a Master’s degree, and spent the next fifteen year teaching social studies at the middle school in the North Penn School District. Now retired, Gary volunteers as a tour guide at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. He is also active in the retired division of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Gary studied piano at the Settlement Music School. He still takes piano lessons and plays chamber music with friends. In 2018, Gary became an adult B’nai Mitzvah.
Kol Ami membership is a family affair—Gary’s father, Al Turetsky is also a member of the congregation. Their daughter lives in Washington state.
Gary and Cheryl live in Elkins Park.
“Kol Ami…they listen, they learn, they grow with their congregants and, more importantly, they work hard to make being a congregant work for you.”
A native New Yorker living outside of Philadelphia, Morgan Selkirk has worked in equal rights for over 20 years as an activist and a Queer Equity Educator. Morgan’s concentration has been transgender justice for about fifteen of those 20+ years. As a DEI Educator focused on LGBTQ+ understanding and equity, she has facilitated trainings and conferences for multiple organizations and companies. After becoming a Fellow under the Union For Reform Judaism’s Jew’V’Nation Fellowship, in the North American LGBTQ+ Leadership cohort, she began focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Reform Jewish movement and has travelled throughout the United States training synagogues, Jewish camps and other Jewish spaces. She enjoys helping to shape policies and procedures within the spaces she works and lives within.
Morgan serves on the Board of Directors at Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park, Pa and co-chairs their LGBTQ+ Inclusion Initiative, which won a 2017 Belin Award for an area conference the committee created on Transgender Inclusion in synagogues as a follow up to their first successful conference on the broader topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Morgan currently works as the Chief-of-Staff to a Legislator in the PA House of Representatives where she brings her activist roots to help generate equal rights priorities within state government.
Morgan’s motivation to create change are her children and the future she wants to see for them. She currently lives in Huntingdon Valley, PA with her spouse, two children and three dogs. In her spare time she enjoys the beach, creating art (both edible and not), and baseball. When asked to describe herself, she said “I’m a queer Jewish mom living my life in the ‘burbs of Philly, helping out when I can.”
Ben Long maintains a personal philosophy that emphasizes the importance of learning and growing from the challenging times and difficult decisions in life. He tries to see the positive potential in otherwise adverse situations, an outlook that is always constructive, but perhaps especially so at this moment in history.
Ben has been a member of Kol Ami practically since its inception, having attended the first High Holy Day services held at Abington Friends and joining shortly thereafter. Over the years he has been deeply committed to Kol Ami, serving as Vice President from 2000-2003 and President from 2003-2005. Ben has now formally re-joined the Board in order to be more involved once again at a critical time in the Kol Ami life cycle, a reflection of his deep and ongoing dedication to the congregation. Over the years Ben has been involved in our capital campaigns, our building search committee, numerous golf outings, our Adult Choir as a tenor and was a perennially stellar outfielder on the Kol Ami softball team.
Ben is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a partner in a specialized real estate firm located in Conshohocken, noting that he fell in love with the telecom tower space in the late 1990s and never left. His career has spanned the realms of banking, accounting, finance, and running rapidly growing businesses before settling on investment real estate.
Ben lives in Blue Bell with his wife Beth, teenage son Ryan, and their dog Theo. They recently moved from their home in Narberth. Daughters Emma and Zoe – Kol Ami alums themselves — are young adults who Ben quips have “flown the coop, so to speak.” Beth, who grew up near Scranton, is a Senior Vice-President at Firstrust Bank, and she is on the Board of the Risk Management Association as well as a Philadelphia charter school. Ben notes that Beth loves the Kol Ami vibe and the friends they have there. Ryan is a sophomore at Penn Charter, and their dog Theo is a three year-old bernadoodle who loves to swim and play and “runs the house.” Daughter Emma was trained as a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and had been working at Zahav prior to the interruption caused by the pandemic. Zoe will be starting nursing school at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.
Ben is a very active, energetic person. He loves to be outdoors, playing tennis, golfing, biking, swimming, and sharing these activities with his family and friends. He is also a volunteer at MANNA, both delivering meals and working the kitchen. Overall, Ben brings valuable experience, know-how, talent, optimism, and a spirit of giving to the Board.
This is the personal motto offered by Nigel Blower installed on Congregation Kol Ami’s Board. Nigel lives in Elkins Park, literally within sight of the synagogue, with his wife Julie Cohen and their 15 year-old son Aaron, who is currently in Kol Ami’s confirmation academy. Nigel has been a member of Congregation Kol Ami since 2003, having been introduced to the congregation by friends Bill Hyman and Janine Pratt, and having felt at home in the family services that were then held at the Gratz campus. Nigel cites a sense of community, shared values and ethics, and inclusiveness as being qualities central to Congregation Kol Ami and reasons for his strong connection. Previous to joining the Board, Nigel has been on Kol Ami’s finance committee, as well being past co-chair (with wife Julie) of the Interfaith Relationship Dialogue Group.
Nigel was born and raised in England, and earned his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Bradford University. He has had an active and successful career in the field of Information Technology as a consultant, expert, and executive. His current IT business focuses on strategy and project management. Nigel is vice-president of Cheltenham Sports, an Eagles season ticket holder, and a valued veteran of the Kol Ami softball team. It is safe to say that Nigel has embraced North American football and learned the ins and outs of the sport of baseball way better than most of us native locals could ever have mastered the sport of cricket.
Over the years, Nigel and Julie have hosted more Kol Ami events at their house than can readily be counted. Their home inherently has a warm, welcoming, and nurturing feel that reflects the heart and soul of the family who lives there, and that acts as a natural extension of the best of what Congregation Kol Ami represents.
Barry Boise has been a member of Congregation Kol Ami since 1997, and previously served on the Board of Trustees from 2008-2014, and served as the Vice President of the Board for much of that time. Barry also previously co-chaired the Interfaith Relationship Dialogue Group, and currently co-chairs the Inclusion Committee – Special Needs.
Barry and his wife, Allison, were initially drawn to Congregation Kol Ami because it is a welcoming place for interfaith families with a Rabbi committed to inclusion. And for the last 20 years it has been a place where our entire family and extended family could share in our children’s Jewish education, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and Confirmations.
Now, with adult children, Barry and Allison are able to connect with the Kol Ami community through participation in religious and social programming.
Barry is an attorney at the law offices of Pepper Hamilton, and spends his spare time on all things family and Philadelphia sports.
The Boise family lives in Cheltenham Township.
“When we met to create a synagogue, we envisioned an intimate community that was connected in multiple ways, one that encouraged people to support each other and that provided an infinite spiritual core. It’s gratifying to see that vision fulfilled.”
In 1994, a small group of people got together with Rabbi Holin to discuss their vision of an ideal spiritual community. The result of those discussions was the birth of Congregation Kol Ami. Ruben Honik was one of those founding members.
As a member of the first Board of Trustees, Ruben helped write the bylaws and define the mission and objectives that shaped the congregation. “I’m proud of the work we did in those early stages,” he says. “Those were exciting days, defining the community we wanted to have.” Ruben also helped launch the congregations search for a spiritual home by co-chairing the first capital campaign.
After an absence from the congregation, he “returned home” and once again became active, co-chairing the 2016 fundraiser at the Cairnwood Estate. When Shelley Chamberlain and Jeff Cohen reached out to him to rejoin the Board, he was excited to have the opportunity to continue serving the community he helped to create.
Ruben moved to the United States from Havana, Cuba in 1960. As a five-year-old who spoke no English, he felt like an outsider when he attended public school in the Bronx. But when his parents sent him to Hebrew school, he no longer felt different. “I was like everyone else. I belonged. And when I became Bar Mitzvah, I felt truly connected.”
Ruben was the first member of his family to attend college. He graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in religion and philosophy, and received his law degree from the Rutgers University School of Law. Ruben is a partner in Golomb & Honik, P.C., a law firm specializing in commercial and consumer litigation, class action litigation, personal injury law, and environmental law. He was elected president of both the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association and the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (now the Pennsylvania Association for Justice).
In 1995, Ruben had the opportunity to revisit his childhood home with other members of Kol Ami on a congregational trip to Cuba. He was amazed to see so much of what he remembered still intact, including his apartment in Havana. He visited the grave of his maternal grandmother, and was thrilled to participate in the dedication of a synagogue in Camaguey, our sister city, and the place where his grandparents had lived before immigrating to the US.
Ruben has two daughters: Sophie, a psychotherapist and part-time yoga instructor; and Grace, a physician at Abington Hospital. He was an avid runner, completing six marathons, two of them with his daughter Sophie. His discipline was such that he drove to Washington D.C. every weekend to train with her. He now runs recreationally, and loves biking, hiking, golf, and tennis.
Ruben lives in West Mt. Airy.
Former Congregation Kol Ami President David Hyman has every right to take pride in the congregation’s progress in the years since Rabbi Holin first approached him to help build a new synagogue. A founding board member of the congregation, David has been an integral part of Kol Ami’s growth, serving on the first of Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2000, and as one of the first co-chairs of the Worship Enhancement Committee. He rejoined the Board in 2010, and served as President the following two years.
As President, David prioritized increasing engagement by helping members find added meaning in living Jewishly.
For many years, David acted as Rabbi Holin’s stand-in when the Rabbi was on vacation. He chanted from the Torah at Kol Ami to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah, was a member of the synagogue’s first adult trope class, and is currently studying Hebrew online with a teacher in Israel.
David is a managing partner of the law firm, Kleinbard LLC. He served as Chief of Staff for Philadelphia City Councilman George Burrell. Philadelphia Mayors Nutter and Kenney have appointed David to the Board of the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development. David also travelled with Mayor Nutter to Israel n a 2013 Trade Mission.
In addition to Kol Ami, David has chaired a number of non-profit boards, including the Philadelphia Gas Works, Operation Understanding (our Tikun Olam Award winner in 1995), the Philadelphia/S. Jersey Region of the American Jewish Committee and the Association for Independent Growth. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and acted as the Mayor’s Representative to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation Board. David also currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Board of Directors of the Building Industry Association.
David has received Eisenhower Exchange and Wexner Heritage Fellowships and the Judge Learned Hand Award. The Economy League has selected David each year since 2009 to participate in the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange.
David is married to Farah Jimenez, a Cuban-American, who is the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund. During a trip to Cuba with Farah’s family, David conducted the first Rosh Hashanah service at our sister congregation in Camaguey, Cuba – in Hebrew and Spanish.
David and Farah reside in Chestnut Hill.
“Ever the problem-solver and perpetual learner, Kol Ami Board member Justin Krik’s mottos are, ‘There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.’ and ‘My only enemy is someone from whom I can learning nothing’.”
Justin, previously from Fox Chase, lives in Huntingdon Valley with his wife Julia and their daughters Sophia and Rebecca. They have been members of Kol Ami since 2015.
Justin is an attorney specializing in real estate transactions and litigation, small business consulting, and general contract matters. His clientele are typically private real estate investors and small business owners. Justin obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Widener University School of Law in 2006 after having earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Penn State in 2002.
Justin is a new member of the Board who is currently on the Membership Relief Committee, though he plans to be affiliated with several committees in the future.
Outside of work, Justin enjoys spending time with his family, drumming and playing music with friends, doing home improvement projects, relaxing at the shore, camping, going to Phillies games, and getting into “all things science”.
Justin and his family volunteer with and participate in several charitable organizations and events, most of which raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, specifically for the cardiac unit, research and treatment of genetic disorder trisomy 21, and dealing with infant loss in memory of their daughter Nora.
Justin brings a diverse set of interests and skill sets to our Board, as well as a personal tradition of community service. Kol Ami is fortunate to have him in a leadership role.
This quote gets to the heart of Laurie Jubelirer Langman’s approach to life, and to her life’s work as an attorney. Laurie’s independently owned law firm (Jubelirer Law, LLC) specializes in criminal defense and civil rights cases, and her clientele is comprised of underprivileged persons who otherwise might not have the benefit of expert representation to seek justice and redress in a complicated and customarily costly criminal justice system. Laurie feels that there is nothing more satisfying than advocating for her clients and bringing positive changes to their lives, particularly when they have suffered civil rights violations at the hands of police or by prison and medical personnel during their incarceration. Laurie has practiced law for 32 years, and prior to founding her own practice she was a Deputy Attorney General in the Philadelphia Office of Attorney General for 16 years, and an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for 8 years. Laurie currently serves on the board of directors of Women Owned Law, a local and national organization that connects and supports female legal entrepreneurs, and she was recently spotlighted in their organizational publication. In that feature, Laurie was quoted as saying that she endeavors “to work towards reforming our criminal justice system into a vehicle for treating, educating and supporting people as opposed to punishing them via incarceration and long periods of parole and probation.”
Laurie grew up in Altoona, PA and moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1984. She then attended Temple University Beasley School of Law and earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1987. With an eye toward the future and pursuing the work that best exemplifies her personal values, Laurie took on additional graduate studies, earning an LLM (Masters) in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 1995.
Laurie lives in Ambler with her spouse of almost 32 years, Chuck Langman, who is a doctor of podiatric medicine with Rothman Orthopedics (as well as being a talented chef and biking enthusiast). They have three children – Sam, Becca, and Andy. Sam will be a senior at Penn State University, majoring in Finance. Becca will be a junior at Tulane University, majoring in Psychology, and Andy will be a junior at Wissahickon High School in Ambler. Andy is an accomplished gymnast who already has medaled in serious competitions for many years. The family also has two adopted rescue dogs. Zip is a mixed breed and Leelu is a mini australian shepherd.
Laurie and Chuck have been members of Kol Ami since its founding in 1994, before their kids were born. Laurie notes that they were looking for an intimate community where they could have a personal relationship with the rabbi. It was important to them to form meaningful friendships with other members of the congregation and to be part of a community where they could celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and life-cycle events. Laurie has been active in Kol Ami’s Social Action Committee, in which for one week each year she leads a program via the Interfaith Housing Alliance to support homeless families staying in local religious institutions. In 2019, Laurie organized and moderated a panel presentation at Kol Ami on the phenomenon and problems of Mass Incarceration in our society, an issue that more than ever is crying out for change. Laurie has also participated in the Religious School and Worship Enhancement Committees.
Outside of her professional work and societal commitments, Laurie enjoys tennis, yoga, hiking, and biking. She has greatly valued her travels with her family. Some of her favorite destinations have included a tour of Israel in 2013 to celebrate Becca’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah, and a trip to Alaska in 2019.
Board member Orly Maravankin, who (along with her husband Gaby) has been a member of Kol Ami since its founding in 1994, embraces the following quote by Albert Einstein – “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Orly and Gaby’s pathway to Kol Ami would seem to embody this credo. Orly was born in Israel, in a suburb of Tel Aviv (Ramat Chen). She grew up in Israel, and later served in the IDF in the Intelligence unit providing support to air force commanders for special operations. Afterward, Orly studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and consequently came to the U.S. where she earned her Ph.D. in psychology. While she was studying at Hebrew University, Orly met Gaby, who himself had come to Israel after growing up in Argentina. They got married in Jerusalem at a beautiful place overseeing the old city (one can almost picture the golden hue for a golden day). Less than a year later they moved to the States to begin their respective graduate studies.
Orly’s sons Micah (now age 33) and Danny (now age 30) were young children when the family became charter members of Kol Ami, and the boys attended our Religious School when it opened. Today, Micah and Danny live with their girlfriends in Brooklyn and Chicago, respectively. Orly views Kol Ami with great affection as a unique community with many interesting, talented, and warm-hearted members. She greatly appreciates Kol Ami’s focus on tikkun olam and she is committed to helping our community continue to thrive. Prior to her joining the Board, Orly had been on Kol Ami’s Marketing Committee and Nomination Committee, and (as a certified meditation instructor) she has taught a mindfulness meditation course at the congregation.
Orly’s professional life centers on being an Executive Coach (President of Edge Consulting), including affiliations with Forbes Coaches Council, WBECS (World Business & Executive Coaching Summit), BEACON/GPSEG (Greater Philadelphia Senior Executive Group), and Chopra Center University. Over the course of her career Orly has done global consulting to Fortune 100 on brand and innovation, and she has also been involved in global business development, corporate strategy and innovation, and general management. In the community, in addition to being a Coach Mentor, Orly has invested her time and energies in the Ethical Coach Project, helping non-governmental organizations build capacity and effectiveness. She has also been teaching meditation and supporting TYP (Transformation Yoga Project for prison inmates) and Hadassah (the Women’s Zionist Organization of America).
In addition to her meditation teaching, Orly loves to unwind via reading (on the quiet side) and Israeli and Latin dancing (on the active side). She has always enjoyed traveling.
Alluding to Orly’s quote from Einstein, we can say that all of her efforts and accomplishments that have brought her (and her family) to this place and time are no miracle, in that they have been mindful and chosen. On the other hand, the fact that we at Kol Ami – of all the possible landing spots — became Orly’s and her family’s congregational destination is very much a miracle.
“Kol Ami is more than a synagogue. It’s a community center. It’s a place where we have met many of our greatest friends. It’s a place where people of all faiths can feel welcome and comfortable. It’s a place with people who share our values. It’s a welcoming environment where our family is happy to be.”
Growing up, Robin Shane belonged to a reform synagogue founded by her parents and 12 other families. Her husband, Jonathan Shandell, attended a secular Jewish synagogue. When the two of them moved from New York to Elkins Park in 2008, they wanted to join a congregation that would resonate with both of their religious backgrounds. Robin contacted a couple of synagogues, and Kol Ami was the only one that called her back! But after visiting, they knew they needed to look no further—Kol Ami was the perfect fit for them: intimate, warm, and supportive.
Robin grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. She majored in theater and psychology at Wesleyan University, where she intended to become be a theater performer, but after taking a technical theater class in her freshman year, she changed course. Having learned to sew at the age of seven, she gravitated to costume design. She attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design for Theater and Film. After graduating, she worked for many years as a freelance costume designer for theaters in New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. Her most high-profile gig was “Brundibar,” a children’s opera that ran off-Broadway, with production design by Maurice Sendak and a libretto by Tony Kushner. She was less successful designing Halloween costumes for her children; when she made a Max (“Where the Wild Things Are”) costume, her then two-year-old daughter refused to wear it!
Robin brings a unique combination of artistic, educational, and organizational skills to the board of trustees and to Kol Ami. In addition to her work as a costume designer, Robin has served on non-profit boards for much of her adult life, recently finishing a six-year term on the board of Yes!And Collaborative Arts, an organization that works with young people to build self-confidence by working collaboratively with peers and professional artists. She was also an adjunct professor at Arcadia, Temple, and Rider Universities and has recently begun a new phase of her career as a full-time tenure-track professor of theatre and dance at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ.
Robin was nominated to the board in 2018. She is excited to be working with the new rabbi and being part of the next phase of the synagogue’s life. She is particularly interested in working with the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Committee, which she currently co-chairs, and the Disability Committee. In the past she served on the Rare Events and the PTO Committees.
Robin and Jonathan have two daughters, Cecily, 15 and Miranda, 11, both of whom have attended the religious school since kindergarten. Their older daughter became a bat mitzvah in 2016 and is now in the Confirmation Academy; their younger daughter is currently in sixth grade, and her bat mitzvah is scheduled for March 2020.
In addition to her many professional and volunteer activities, Robin somehow finds time to knit, do crafts, run, and tap dance.
The family resides in Elkins Park.
This concise, direct motto is at the top of new Kol Ami Board member Emily Stein’s list of personal sayings, and she has lived up to this credo. At the age of 32, only three short years after joining Kol Ami along with her husband Josh and their daughter Leah, (a student in Kol Ami’s Religious School), Emily has politely, steadfastly earned the respect of more senior, long-standing members to ascend to the Board. Emily is co-chair of the Religious School committee (along with Tamara Sniad), and she recently joined the HR committee. Emily also was co-chair of the Search Committee for the Educational Director. Emily, Josh, and Leah have lived in Cheltenham since 2015 after having resided previously in Levittown. They now also have two young cats and a German shepherd puppy. Emily wryly notes that, “Poor Josh is outnumbered by ladies, 5:1.
Growing up in West Chester and Coatesville in an interfaith family, with scarce chances to have a religious education, Emily often felt judged by others as being “too Jewish,” or “not Jewish enough,” depending on the context. Even then, Emily knew that she wanted to promote Jewish traditions in the next generation, and she is happy to say that her daughter Leah has a strong Jewish identity, nurtured greatly by Kol Ami. Emily views Kol Ami as “the place for anyone who wants to participate in Jewish life, but is concerned they don’t fit neatly in a box,” and she feels grateful that Kol Ami views her unique pathway to Jewish life as an asset. Emily feels valued by Kol Ami, and it motivates her even more to want to give back.
Emily has been a self-starter her entire life, creating opportunities for personal growth, for connectedness to a Jewish community, and for tikun olam. Dissatisfied with her educational environment growing up, Emily sought a home-schooling program (loosely managed by the private school Upattinas that is now sadly disbanded) about which she was diligent. She graduated early and began working immediately as a Kindergarten assistant at a charter school. Shortly thereafter, Emily competed in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant, demonstrating remarkable range and a willingness to go way outside a comfort zone. Emily met Josh in 2005, and they married in 2007. As an outgrowth of her interest in housing, design, sociology, and economics, Emily founded a non-profit organization in her early 20’s. Her goal was to use seed loans to invest in youth small business development, helping to lift teens out of disadvantaged domestic environments. With similar altruistic intent, Emily became a board member of Foyer of Philadelphia, a non-profit that facilitates LGBTQ young adults’ transition from foster care or homelessness to self-sufficiency. She also created and ran a workshop to help teach youth about small business development. Additionally, Emily led seminars for first-time homebuyers, and helped to rejuvenate a public school in Philadelphia. Emily was a member of the Philadelphia chapter of Architecture for Humanity and she was on the Housing and Finance committee of the Women’s Community Revitalization program. Further still, Emily was the co-founder of the campaign that initiated a recycling program at the largest mall in Philadelphia. During this time, Emily made good on her pledge to herself to become a competition-level ballroom dancer. Partly in jest, and partly with justifiable pride, Emily calls herself, “The Seabiscuit of the competitive ballroom scene.”
Currently, Emily is an interior designer who is freelancing and assisting established designers while she builds her own business, Design Librarian. Emily’s side goals are to become a member of the Junior League of Philadelphia, and to donate her time at the public library. This is in addition to being on Kol Ami’s Board, where she is already making valued contributions.
Dr. Ronit Sugar shared two of her favorite quotes. The first, by Amit Ray, “Strengthen your heart muscles by removing the sufferings of others,” illustrates her natural instincts as a healer. The second, by Amelia Earhart, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees,” highlights her ethic of making contributions to the world that multiply.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Ronit was born in Israel. When she was five years old Ronit’s family moved to Philadelphia while her father completed a pediatric neurology fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They moved back to Israel for a couple of years and later returned to the US following the 6-Day War, settling in Springfield, Delaware County. Ronit did her pre-med undergraduate years at Muhlenberg College, and later graduated from Hahnemann University Medical School.
Ronit has lived in Elkins Park for the past 32 years with her husband Bert (Robert) Schiowitz. He is a general surgeon at Einstein Montgomery in East Norriton. Ronit and Bert met when they did their surgical residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and subsequently Ronit and Bert were in practice together as surgeons for 25 years. A few years ago Ronit accepted a position as a breast surgeon at then Aria Hospital, now part of the Jefferson system. She is now the Director of the Breast Program, and a Cancer Program liaison physician. Taking tikun olam nearly as far as possible, Ronit and Bert have traveled to the Philippines on a medical/surgical mission for the past 5 years. They hope to be able to continue this work in the future when it becomes possible to travel and convene more safely again.
Ronit and Bert have 3 children: Amy Schiowitz, a therapist, who is married to Geoff Millner; Adam Schiowitz, an industrial engineer at Virtua Hospitals, who lives with his girlfriend Colleen Gallagher (“hopefully my future daughter-in-law,” Ronit writes); and Julie Schiowitz, who just graduated Nursing School. All of them live in South Philly, and Ronit is thrilled that her young adult children live close by!
Ronit and her family have been members of Kol Ami for 23 years. They joined for the religious school, and Ronit adds that they loved the warmth and intimacy of such a close-knit congregation, as well as the activism. Their connection to Kol Ami was amplified by their high regard and affection for Rabbi Holin. Ronit was previously on the Board many years ago and was very involved when her kids were in school. She served on several committees, including Social Action (serving as Chair for several years), Membership, Operations, Caring Congregants, and the Religious School. Perennially, Ronit has been a central participant during High Holy Days services, as she is an accomplished reader of Torah.
Ronit has a busy career, but she makes time for her hobbies, which include gardening, traveling, knitting, eating, and drinking good wine! Ronit emphasizes that she now wants to get re-involved and engaged in the congregation at this crucial time. Ronit’s commitment and dedication to Kol Ami make us stronger, and we are blessed to have her on the Board once again.