Founding Board Members

ATARA BOARD 2009

Leah Bassett 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. Currently living in Toronto, Leah has produced two community-wide music and dance showcases for women, and is a founding member of the women's dance troupe, Koleinu.

Miriam Leah Droz studied music, dance and theater throughout high school, attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, and completed 2 years of a BFA in musical theater before becoming observant in 1997. It was not until 2006 that she began to produce events in the religious community, beginning with a women's musical in Manhattan in 2006, and the creation of ATARA in 2007. Since ATARA's first conference at Stern College, she has coordinated 5 annual weekends for women in the arts, serving a growing population of talented female artists in music, dance, theater and film, and publishes a monthly newsletter for arts events and announcements in the religious community. In 2009, she directed a women-only feature film in Brooklyn, and in 2011 began to create small open mic events to increase performance opportunities for women in the NY area. She has completed two original scripts and hopes to begin production of women-only works under the banner of Ayil Arts. She is enrolled at the Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration in pursuit of an EdD in school administration, and hopes to continue to help increase opportunities for creative expression in the religious community. She was most recently honored by the Jewish Week as one of the 2012 "36 Under 36" for her work.

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. Most recently, 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, is currently in post production. 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.

Toby Klein Greenwald is the theatrical director of the all female Raise Your Spirits Summer Stock Company that operates out of Israel, and a founding partner of Bible Arts Productions, in which capacities she has co-authored and directed the musicals Esther and the Secrets in the Kings Court, Noah! Ride the Wave! Ruth and Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem, In Search of Courage, and most recently, Devora. She is the producing director of the Dor L’Dor Interactive Theater Troupe and has worked in Playback Theater for six years, having trained under the masters in Israel and abroad. She was the first trainer of the Gush Etzion Playback troupes in Ramat Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, and lectures in Playback Theater in the Institute for Expressive Therapists in Jerusalem College for Women. She is the translator of In the Land of Prayer, the editor of The Golden Pens of Gush Etzion, a journalist and a teacher of Creative Writing and Literature. She is the recent recipient of the Yaakov Egerest Memorial Award for Jewish Culture, of the Torah Culture Department of Israel’s Ministry, for her work in educational, community and Jewish theater. www.bible-arts.com.

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. www.improvehowyoumove.com

Rivka Lomiansky Watters 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 T.V 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 a co-founder of Koleinu, a women’s dance troupe from Toronto. She is also currently running Toronto’s first musical theatre program for Torah-observant girls, called Neshama Theatre Troupe. The program has a strong focus on creativity and positive body image and culminates in a full-scale theatre production. www.neshamatheatre.com

EstherLeah (Aviva) 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 classical and contemporary 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 the manager of 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.

Henye Meyer, a writer and theatre director in Manchester, England, has two published novels and an upcoming work to appear shortly as a serial in Hamodia. She has written articles for the BBC, Jewish Observer, Jewish Tribune, and the Jewish Homemaker, as well as comedy routines and eight full length plays and musical comedies. In 2005, she and a friend founded a women’s theater group in Manchester, PACE. She has produced as well as performed in its plays, written some of the music, edited two DVD's and designed their packaging, and is responsible for business management of the company. Her work has been very warmly received by the local community. She holds a BA from Brandeis and has training in writing, speech and drama, voice, and music transcription. Henye works part-time and is a grandmother.

Yochana Chava Pollak is a third generation artist originally from New Haven, Ct. and presently living in Jerusalem. She uses various mediums: paints, collages, and ink, and often paints phrases of Jewish teaching. Her style is whimsical and conveys simchat chayim, love of life. Yochana Chava studied Fine arts at Emuna College, Illustration and Design at Pratt, Cooper Union, SVA and Parsons Art Therapy, Drama Therapy and Creative Writing in the New School for Social Research. She has close to 20 years of teaching experience, and founded and ran RLT (“The Road Less Traveled”) a creative road trip camp for girls on the US West Coast.

Yocheved Polonsky, dancer and dance educator founded the CLI institute of dance, in Cleveland, Ohio, a Judaic dance and movement arts studio, to provide a holistic Jewish enviroment 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.

Aviva Speigel facilitates creative expression and movement workshops for women. Her journey to Yiddishkeit began with her intense interest in holisitic healing, which led to several grants to research concepts of Jewish health and healing in Israel, and ultimately a thesis for University. This research project opened up the path for Aviva to delve more deeply into her Jewish roots. A passion for healing and personal transformation as well as an unwavering mission of spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus forms the central motivation for her work with groups of women. She lives with her husband and children in Tsfat, Israel.