Rabbi Shir Yaakov engages Jewish, multi-faith, and non-affiliated people around the world, building spiritual communities, facilitating and inspiring communal music, and helping people connect with their inner wisdom and truth. He works in formal and informal educational settings as a spiritual leader, teacher, and musician.
Shir Yaakov, his partner Emily, and their three daughters live in New York’s Hudson Valley, where they are helping to weave the Kol Hai community. Kol Hai’s Shabbat and Holiday gatherings draw upon Shir Yaakov’s extensive experience as a musician and reflect his unique ability to blend ancient and emerging wisdom to create a spiritual cultural Judaism that is contemporary, alive, and innovative. The music-filled, joyful experiences are held in and around New Paltz, NY and are open to all.
Shir Yaakov has recorded and released four albums of original music and co-founded and performs with The Darshan Project. His song “Broken-hearted” recently won the Jewish Daily Forward’s 2016 Soundtrack of Our Spirit songwriting contest.
Professionally, Shir Yaakov has served as Creative and Music Director for Romemu, New York City’s largest Renewal synagogue; Director of Engagement at ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal; ritual consultant for Eden Village Camp; and visiting faculty at Hebrew College and the Academy for Jewish Religion-NY.
He was ordained in the Rabbinic and Spiritual Direction tracks of the ALEPH Ordination Program, a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and serves as a Spirit Holder on the Zen Peacemakers’ Bearing Witness Retreats in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
To learn more about Shir Yaakov and sample his music, visit shiryaakov.com.
Renee Finkelstein (a.k.a. Radharani) is a multi-disciplinary artist who weaves music, ritual, spiritual teachings, and practices to help people stay connected to their hearts and innate wisdom.
As a vocalist and producer, she has performed with many well-known musicians in the realm of sacred music. These artists include Kirtan Rabbi, Wah!, Sirgun Kaur, and many others. She has produced two original albums, the latest of which, “Time to Wake Up”, topped billboard New Age charts
Renee is a Hebrew Priestess in training at the Kohenet Institute. She has a BA cum laude from Cornell University. Renee spent more than four years in India studying with great yogis and saints and traveling to some of the most remote pilgrimage places in the world.
Dave Nidorf is an emergency room physician practicing at Northern Dutchess Hospital. He has lived in New Paltz for 10 years having moved here from California. He lives with his wife Rebecca and his 2 sons, Sam and Jonah, and 2 step-daughters Emilia and Phoebe. In his free time he plays basketball, does yoga, and has been involved with Jewish Renewal at various levels for 25 years.
Jerilyn Brownstein is a therapist. For the past 22 years she has worked exclusively supporting the inner life of mothers in the Hudson Valley and NYC. Jerilyn and her partner, David, have been living in New Paltz for 21 years. They have three suns Kole, Jeremy and Asher. In her free time she devours solitude often by taking long walks. Jerilyn is drawn to kol hai because it is relevant and repairing. It works to reimagine and remember the deepest threads that hold soul, community and the earth as equal.
Aaron Warshavsky moved to the Hudson Valley 24 years ago, and has found his home in the New Paltz area and his spiritual community here at Kol Hai. He lives here with his wife , Mary, his daughter Lola who was a recent Bat Mitzvah, and was joined by his mother, Adele 2 years ago. His son, who often joins our services, is currently living in Pittsburgh. Kol Hai has reinvigorated the family interest in Jewish spirituality and, of course, the music!!
Ken Ross is an award winning filmmaker who first got to know the Hudson Valley some time ago when he taught film at Bard and Vassar. He is, as well, a healing practitioner and holistic life coach. He facilitates Men's Healing Groups in NYC and New Paltz and officiates weddings. Ken moved here four years ago because of his love for the area and his deep interest in Jewish spiritual community. He loves long walks and great music, and he loves to chant.
Elise Gold is finding a balance in her semi-retirement between work and play. She works as a therapist, an adjunct instructor, and the Co-founder of the Maya Gold Foundation. You may find Elise on the floors of African dance classes, hiking, travelling, batiking, gardening and writing. New Paltz has been Elise’s home since 1975, where she lives with her husband Mathew and their son, Adin. Elise became Bat Mitzvah recently. Why Kol Hai? “It feeds my spirit while connecting me to others in the community, my ancestors and to nature.”
Nigel “Shim” Austin moved to the Hudson Valley eight years ago to connect with nature. As a founding board member and board chair at Romemu, the largest Jewish renewal community in North America, and a former board member of Eden Village Camp, an environmentally conscious earth-based kids’ summer camp, he is well versed in the development and growth of Jewish spiritual communities. He is a life-long seeker of esoteric wisdom and practices with a passion for community building, spiritual music and earth-based Judaism. His professional training is as a corporate attorney and is a practitioner of Argentine tango and yoga.
Michael Lafemina is a father, husband, son, brother, and resident of New Paltz. He loves Kol Hai for its special ability to touch his heart and connect him and his family to a beautiful community of kindred spirits. He spends his days working as a Licensed Acupuncturist and meditation teacher, cooking, playing music, and sharing meals and walks with family and friends. Michael brings to the board his love for Kol Hai and his experience as a strategist, programming director, and educator.
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