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2008 Conference Presenters, Performers & Staff
Presenters, Performers & Staff
Phyllis Blackman comes from a musical family and has always been in chorales and musical groups, receiving honors for her vocal performances. She has been part of the recording groups Blue Spectra and Dubie Duke and the Duchess. Phyllis composes and sings her own music and has been hailed as the “Jewish Judy Collins" for her folk style and meaningful words. She has recently released a spiritual CD called Coming Home. Phyllis works as a matchmaker for Rebbetzin Jungreis at Hineni.
Leah Chwaiewsky has trained in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern and Musical Theatre at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Academy of Dance in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Leah has performed in a wide variety of productions throughout Western Canada and had the privilege of assisting in choreographing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games.
Miriam Leah Droz performed many roles during high school and college as a musical theatre BFA. After becoming observant, Miriam Leah began producing shows for women only, including a benefit concert for her seminary, the musical “A My Name is Alice” for Ohav Tzedek congregation, and a benefit concert for Professional Women’s Theatre. Currently, she is part of the development committee of ATARA and an Arts Fellow at Drisha Institute for Jewish Education.
Aliza Dubin, is a songwriter and composer born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Toronto, and currently residing in Passaic, NJ with her husband and six children. Her first album, Hey Little Girl, was released in 2000. Her style of music has been described as contemplative, meditative, moving and spiritual. She is thrilled to have recently completed her long awaited second album. She has performed throughout the States and hopes to continue to inspire women with her music and singing at benefit concerts.
Chanale Fellig is a singer, songwriter, recording artist and performer whose melodic and moving songs open the hearts and touch the spirits of women in communities everywhere. Her powerful performances excite and inspire all-female crowds in places as far as China, South America, Alaska and Israel, in schools such as Bais Yakov, Bais Rivka, and TAG. Her career began in 1999 when she was invited to sing for “Women in Song,” a concert that featured performances from talented female musicians from all over the country. Chanale debuted the song "Esa Aini" to a sold-out crowd and, more importantly, discovered her passion for musical entertainment. Her music reflects her strong Jewish heritage and embraces her contemporary musical taste. A powerful performer, Chanale charms her audience with her charisma, upbeat attitude and warm smile, creating a unique bond with listeners. She has been hailed as the fastest rising Jewish female singing sensation in the last decade and she is here to stay. www.chanalesings.com
Robin Garbose began her directing career in the theater. In New York and Los Angeles, Robin directed some 35 plays at theaters including: Ensemble Studio Theater, Jewish Repertory Theater, Manhattan Punch Line, Juilliard Theater Center and the Odyssey Theatre. She has directed such noted actors as Laura Linney, Jon Tenney, Peter Riegert, Helen Slater, Ricki Lake, Jason Alexander, Judd Nelson and Bruno Kirby. Her television credits include Head of the Class and America’s Most Wanted, where she directed numerous film reenactments, helping to apprehend fugitives. Robin co-wrote the screenplay, The Spark, about a Jewish girl's search for faith which was selected to participate in the Sundance Institute Writers Lab. For the Jewish community, Robin directed the acclaimed documentary Inspired, produced by Aish HaTorah, Roots, a musical play based on the Memoirs of the Frierdiker Rebbe, Camp Bnos Yisrael, a new musical DVD series for girls, as well as numerous productions for Kol Neshama Performing Arts Conservatory where she is Artistic Director. Robin’s feature film directorial debut, A Light for Greytowers, has been touring communities worldwide during 2007-08. Robin is a graduate of Brown University and a member of the Director’s Guild of America. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and producing/writing partner, Levi Yitzhaq and their children.
Ariella Goldberg is a singer-songwriter originally from Beverly Hills, California. She tours communities in Canada and the US performing a dramatic musical program From 90210 to 613, a musical rendition of her odyssey from secular Beverly Hills to life as a Chassidic woman. As she accompanies herself on the guitar, she weaves together Yiddish lullabies, Chassidic tunes, contemporary melodies and original compositions in a delightful and meaningful performance ideal for women's gatherings and special occasions. Mrs. Goldberg has appeared with Israeli superstar Ruthi Navon and on CBS Radio and CKY-TV in Winnipeg, Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and children.
Amy (Gordon) Guterson has her BA from Stern College, Yeshiva University, where she was the school’s first theatre major. She studied acting with Uta Hagen, and Mike Nichols, and has trained intensively in improvisation with Paul Sills. Amy is a graduate of The New Actors Workshop, a graduate level program in acting. A member of Actor’s Equity, Amy performed Off- Broadway before returning to observance. Now living in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and four children (ages 3-15), Amy has found new ways to express her creativity and skills. Twelve years ago she co-founded the Kol Isha Theatre group which consists of Jewish women from across the spectrum of Judaism. As Artistic Director for the group, Amy has taught acting and improvisation and directed play development for most of the group’s original productions and workshops (based on issues of Jewish womanhood and Jewish unity / disunity). She also has written and directed some of the groups full length plays, trigger scenes and workshops. Amy wrote, directed and produced the film Becoming Rachel, which premiered at the Pittsburgh Jewish/Israeli Film Festival and has been screened at festivals across the country (and currently in Israel). She also performs with Pittsburgh Playback Theatre, which “plays back” its audience’s stories and feelings through improvisation. Amy can be seen on screen as Agent Emes’ mother in the Agent Emes video series.
Kari Isaacson has performed and trained in modern dance and contact improvisation across Canada. She has danced since childhood, studying a variety of contemporary styles as well as musical theatre, tap, jazz, ballet, stilt walking and acting. Kari has also worked as a stage manager and in theatre publicity, production, and administration for companies both large and small in Toronto, including Livent Inc. Kari is a founding member of the Toronto dance and performance collective Koleinu, creating weekly dance classes for Jewish women, and an annual performance fundraiser. Kari is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, having studied under a number of Moshe Feldenkrais’ original students. She currently practices Feldenkrais in Toronto, teaching people of all abilities how to improve the quality of their lives by improving the quality of their movement.
Marilyn Lechtman began ballet training at Les Grand Ballet Canadienne in Montreal and continued studies in jazz and modern dance. She taught and performed for a number of years before turning her artistic expression to clothing and costume design. In 2005 she debuted her one-woman show "Letters of Appreciation" which she performs as a charity project for Synagogue groups, schools and other organizations. Professionally, she is a real estate agent and considers all her challenges opportunities for creativity. Marilyn lives in Toronto with her husband of 34 years. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. She is proud to be a co-founder of Koleinu and would like to express her heartfelt appreciation to be blessed with the support of family and friends to participate in this wonderful production.
Rivka Lomiansky has been a professional performer for over 15 years and has a tremendous amount of training in acting, dance and voice. She has studied at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, as well as at the Toronto-based comedic workshop Second City and with top coaches in Los Angeles. Rivka began singing classically at a young age, and has taken a wide range of dance lessons since the age of three, from jazz, ballet and tap to hip hop. Rivka has appeared in feature films, played leading and supporting roles in TV series, and has been seen in many commercials. She has performed song and dance in concert all over Canada and the United States, also making many T.V and radio appearances debuting those talents. Rivka is currently running Toronto’s first musical theatre program for Torah-observant girls, called Neshama Theatre Troupe. She provides an after school program and a summer camp, with a strong focus on creativity and positive body image. Both programs culminate in a full-scale theatre production. www.neshamatheatre.com
Esther Leah Marchette is a singer, songwriter and former cantor who has been involved with music from a young age. She holds a B.A. in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music in Boston, which included studies in composition, lyric writing, advanced music theory, jazz and rock arranging. Esther Leah plays piano, guitar and percussion. In high school and college, she performed in musical theatre productions, sang in choirs and ensemble groups and directed an a cappella singing group at Yale University. In her early 20s, she worked as a cantor for a number of years until making the transition to embracing a Chassidic way of life. Since that time, Esther Leah occasionally performs for women as well as leading classes and workshops in Jewish Spirituality. Currently Esther Leah works as a manager in a software company, organizes events and classes as co-director of the Boston Breslov Connection, and raises her children with her husband in Boston, MA.
Ashira Morgenstern composed/released the first recording of original music by and for Jewish women in 1983 under the guidance of Rav Sheinberg of Torah Ohr and Rav Nachman Bulman. A close student of Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Freifeld, a"h, she was the founding director of Tapeynu, a girl's yeshiva initiated by Rav Shlomo Freifeld z"l in 1978 (now the Beis Yaakov of Far Rockaway). In 1982, after immigrating to Israel, Ashira and her husband founded the Jerusalem Media Workshop, where they co-authored Lights, a network broadcast animation about Chanukah with the voice talents of Leonard Nimoy and Judd Hirsch. Awarded "Best Educational Film of the Year" by Israel's Film Board, Lights was one of a number of live action dramas and documentaries produced at the Workshop. Ashira is presently the CEO of an educational media company, Green Field Productions, where she is developing a multi-media project for teens, sponsored by a former executive at the Disney Network.
Yocheved Polonsky is a dancer, dance educator, and founder of the Creative Learning Institute of Dance in Cleveland, OH, a Judaic dance and movement arts studio to provide a holistic Jewish environment for the study of dance. The creation of CLI was inspired by her sincere desire to integrate the beauty of movement with the lofty spiritual messages and values of Torah, which was lacking in the local dance community. Her studio provides fun, dynamic classes in creative movement, ballet, Jazz, Pilates and Aleph Beis movement meditation, for women only. She travels worldwide to share her inspiration and vision through her workshops and performances: her belief that every person can utilize their natural talents and gifts to praise and connect with Hashem.
Leslie Ruder spent ten years stage managing, casting, and producing plays off-Broadway and in regional theatres, followed by ten years of an acting career, with training from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the Walnut Street Theatre School and the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, and with private coaches in Los Angeles. Leslie now teaches acting to women of all ages and backgrounds in private classes, as well as at seminaries and Israeli girls' high schools. She is a published playwright, and continues to work on a one-woman show. Favorite roles include Ariel in The Tempest, and Genendel in Isaac Bashevis Singer's Teibele and Her Demon. A "specialist" in improvisational interactive theatre, she originated the roles of the Bar Mitzvah boy's mother in Bernie's Bar Mitzvah, and the mother of the kallah in A Match Made in Manhattan.
Esther Rachel Russell MA, is a screenwriter, performer, producer, laughter therapist and the creator of the Comedy Improvisation Workshop: To Break Through Barriers. Most recently, she performed in the acclaimed off-Broadway comedy, A Match Made in Manhattan - The Interactive Jewish Wedding Experience where she played the role of Rivky Lowenstein, mother of the bride. Her improv comedy career began at the famous Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles where she wrote and performed in numerous comedy sketches. Esther Rachel is the writer/producer of the internationally acclaimed one-man show Gathering the Sparks starring her husband, actor/comedian Reuven Russell and has recently written and directed the cutting-edge documentary Shame, Shanda & Silence. Currently Esther Rachel is teaching Screenwriting at Stern College in New York City. In her previous incarnation, she worked on various television sets in Hollywood as a producer of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Benson and Wheel of Fortune. She received her Master's degree in Theater at NYU.
Keri Saltzman has over 20 years of experience in the dance world, has taught throughout Toronto, competed and performed internationally, and has extensive training in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop, and flamenco. Keri’s energetic approach to teaching fosters a safe, fun and challenging environment for her students to develop as dancers and as individuals. She is also proud to be a part of the Neshama Theatre Troupe staff and the Founder of “Keri’s Dancin’ Kids – Energized Entertainment,” specializing in Birthday Parties and Special Events for Children (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rachel Vernon has been training and performing in modern dance since the age of four, and over the past 20 years has had the privilege of working with many of Toronto's leading modern dancers and choreographers. Rachel has performed in various Canadian cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Rachel is currently part of the program implementation team for an employee motivation company. Rachel is particularly thrilled to be able to connect with so many inspiring Torah-focused artists and would like to express gratitude to the organizers of ATARA for making this conference possible.
Judy Winegard was classically trained in the performing arts at Ithaca College having been awarded her BFA in Drama. She has performed in musical theater for over 25 years having performed in such productions as Jekyll and Hyde, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and many others. Since becoming observant 15 years ago, Judy has performed exclusively for female audiences. In addition to her acting career, her primary talents are singing and comedy. She has performed concerts for Jewish organizations all over the country. In the spring of 2005, Judy released her first solo album of Jewish and spiritual music, The Journey. Other recordings include music for the Disney Channel, as well as several albums released by artists such as Peter Himmelman and Sam Glaser, including the newly released album, Voices for Israel, a fundraiser to support those in need living in Israel. Since 1999 she has been on the staff of Kol Neshama, a performing arts conservatory summer program for Jewish girls based in Los Angeles. She has been a master acting teacher and coach in improvisation, scene study, voice and movement and singing. Judy will be starring in Kol Neshama’s soon-to-be-released full-length musical movie, A Light For Greytowers. It will be the first full feature musical film produced for Jewish women and girls. She also taught and performed lead roles in the two video companion-set, Together as One, and Inner Nature Hike. For the past three years, Judy was the writer, master teacher and director of Baila’s Dance and A Time For Dance. She wrote and revised a total of four plays, The Big Move, Aidel Weiss, The Queen’s Dream and Channie.
Ayelet HaShachar, featuring Lisa Aronson Friedman, Shalomis Koffler Weinreb, and Stephanie Rabinowitz, performs original Jewish music by women for women. The group is known for its soul-stirring themes, tight three-part vocal harmonies and melodic guitar and piano arrangements. The trio draws on a lifetime’s worth of experience and musical backgrounds that include classical, jazz, folk, musical theatre and Jewish music. Before becoming Torah observant, the women each developed expertise in their creative fields and now draw on their extensive backgrounds to reach Jewish women around the world. Lisa, on keyboards and vocals, is a classically trained pianist and as a student at Oberlin College, sung with the Oberlin College Chorus. Shalomis, on vocals and guitar, has been a professional musician most of her adult life, including producing and recording her own CDs, as well as touring nationally and internationally. Stephanie, on vocals and guitar, studied voice, theatre, and movement at New York’s Circle-in-the-Square Studio, and worked in theatre in New York City and Baltimore. Ayelet HaShachar has performed in numerous venues, including the Chol Hamoed Sukkos Women's Concert at Brooklyn College, as well as in Philadelphia, Silver Spring, Baltimore and Eretz Yisrael. Ayelet HaShachar’s songs have been known to bring light, strength, joy and comfort to many listeners. Their music is a dynamic, uplifting expression of eternal Jewish themes, resonating with meaning for our times. Ayelet HaShachar's debut CD, Ohr Chadash, was released in February 2005. Since then, the group has composed many more original compositions, and is currently working on a second CD. To learn more about Ayelet HaShachar and hear clips from Ohr Chadash, visit www.ayeletmusic.org.