Our Leadership

Rabbi Shir Yaakov Feit

Founder and Spiritual Director

Renee Finkelstein

Lead Musician and Director of Programming

Rabbi Shir Yaakov Feit gives voice to powerful transformative experiences through the synergy of ancient Jewish texts, timeless songs, and heart-centered encounters. 

As one of this generation’s most prolific and creative Jewish composers, whose countless compositions are sung around the world, Shir strives to create a musical legacy in the lineage of his teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.

Shir is the spiritual director of the Kol Hai community he founded in 2014, offering Shabbat and holiday events, meditation retreats, and life-cycle rituals.

Shir has been part of the international and multifaith leadership on the Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau for the past five years and is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Program.  Shir lives with his partner Emily and their three kiddos on the traditional land of the Lenape and Mohican first peoples in Esopus, NY.

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. 

 

Board of Directors

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.

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, traveling, 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.  

Tamy Cohen Jacobs has recently returned from living and studying at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Israel for the past 2 1/2 years. She’s currently living in the Chicago land area near her two sons, Ethan and Max. Tamy has a background in nonprofit work with an emphasis on development and programming for all ages. She joined Kol Hai in the early days and is so happy to be back with us again. She has worked and participated in Jewish renewal for over 20 years. Most days you’ll find her studying Jewish text, listening to primarily Jewish music and prayer. In her free time, she likes to be out in nature or sitting reading a book.

Jessica Stirberg is an assistant director and early childhood educator at the Children’s Center of New Paltz. She and her partner Janet and their young adult daughters, Emma and Sydney, live in the glorious Hudson Valley. When she is not singing along at Shabbat services, she is also a member of the community chorus, Bloom. Jessica affirms that at Kol Hai we are all welcome to come as we are, allowing us to receive the nourishment we need to grow and support our ability to help others.