Machar


Staff and Leadership

Machar’s Rabbi

Rabbi Nehama Benmosche began serving as Machar’s rabbi in April 2014. LEARN MORE

Rabbi Nehama has served the Jewish community across many movements for over 20 years.  She served as a congregational rabbi at Am Haskalah in Bethlehem, PA and as a student rabbi at Kol HaNeshama in Sarasota, FL, West End Synagogue in New York, NY and Beth Israel in Woodbury, NJ. Prior to her graduation from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical college in 2010, she was a day school and synagogue school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia where she earned a bachelors and masters degree from Emory University.  She is completing a doctorate in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary with a focus on educating staff and campers of a Jewish summer camp about differences in sex, gender and sexuality.  She serves as an educator, consultant and board member of the Interfaith Community, an organization for Jewish/Christian families supporting two faith households.  She serves on the board of Keshet, an organization working for the full inclusion and equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life. Her life of service to progressive Jewish life holds a close second place to being the mother of her two adopted, Ethiopian sons: Eliyashu and Sima. 

Machar’s Madrikhim

Michael Prival studied at the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism to become a Madrikh (leader) in our movement, and is currently a member of the Board of Governors of the Institute. LEARN MORE

Michael and his wife, Joan, joined Machar around 1982. Michael soon found himself teaching in our Sunday school, which, at that time, had a total of three students, two of whom were his children. Raised as a secular Jew, teaching at our school was his first serious encounter with the Bible, and led to his writing of a book to help nonreligious people teach the Bible to children. He has officiated at numerous weddings, funerals, and other life cycle events; given many talks at our High Holiday services; served as chair of our Social Action Committee; and enjoyed being a part of Machar as it grew and promoted positive human values. Now blissfully retired from his paying career as a microbiologist at the FDA and from most of his Machar responsibilities, Michael looks forward to leading some adult education activities each year. He currently serves as chair of the Liturgy and Rabbi Committees, mentor of the Evening Study Group, and e-mail List Manager.

Deb Godden completed her studies and fieldwork with the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, to become a Madrikha (the feminine form of Madrikh) in 2003. LEARN MORE

She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and is a former application software trainer, former manager of community, social service, and early childhood programs, a former English teacher in both America and England, and a former hitchhiker. Her retirement in 1996 liberated her to do all the things she always wanted to do for love, not money, and involvement with Secular Humanistic Judaism became a priority along with considerable travel with husband David Godden and being a granny. In 2009, she moved to Charlottesville, VA, where she continues to provide loving support to Machar in a number of ways, primarily by email and Skype. She also throws pots and tutors refugees in English as a volunteer with the International Rescue Committee. In 2013 Deb retired from her many years serving as secretary of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and co-chairing SHJ’s Education Committee.

Staff

Jane Christenson began working as Machar’s Congregational Administrator in September 2015.

Michele “Shel” Lyons has been the Director of Machar’s Jewish Cultural School (JCS) since June 2016. LEARN MORE

Shel is a lawyer by training from Harvard Law School, but at home, she is secretly an oil painter and aspiring youth novelist.  She has four children and spent last year homeschooling them around the world, including in Africa and then took them all over the United States, visiting 20 different national parks.  Her children are now happily back in school at two DC public charters schools — Creative Minds International and Sela, which specilaizes in Hebrew immersion curriculum.  She loves yoga and good conversation.  Shel has visited Israel one time for a month-long study program in Jerusalem.  One of her favorite quotes is “Two Jews, three opinions” for the amazing discourse Jewish culture offers.

Teachers

Heather Gale is the Tots teacher

Alece Rockler is the Pre K/Kindergarten teacher

Kat Zamore is the First/Second grade teacher  LEARN MORE

Kat Zamore works in DC Public Schools as a school psychologist and is excited to the Machar team this fall. She completed undergraduate studies in Psychology and Spanish, as well as a masters degree in Human Development and Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology and has lived abroad in Morocco, Spain and the Galapagos Islands.  Kat loves pottery and is training for her first full marathon this winter and can’t wait to meet all the Machar members and her new first & second grade students!

Eliana Jacobson is the Third Grade teacher  LEARN MORE

Eliana is new to D.C., moving here after graduating from Cornell University. She grew up in a modern orthodox community but found herself turning to science and reason, leading her to align with the values of secular humanistic judaism. She is currently researching at the National Institutes of Health before heading to Medical school. Eliana has led discussions for “Ask Big Questions” an organization devoted to creating conversation among diverse groups along cultural, religious, and racial divides.  She enjoys art, and learning new things and can’t wait for the school year to begin!

Ziv Kaufman  is the Fourth Grade teacher

Noa Banayan is the Fifth Grade teacher.

Jessica Freilich is the Sixth Grade teacher.  LEARN MORE

Debby Brennan is the B’Nei Mitzvah class teacher LEARN MORE

After retiring as the Director of Machar’s Jewish Cultural School in 2016, Debby looks forward to continuing her role within Machar’s secular humanistic Jewish community.  She has spent many years as a Jewish educator. She taught Sunday school to elementary and middle school children, and participated in building a high school curriculum that included Bible, Yiddish literature, and Holocaust classes. Debby lived on Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi as part of an Ulpan program, and spent several summers at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA. Debby attended Skidmore College, where she received a B.A. in Government, and John Marshall Law School, where she received a J.D. After practicing law in Chicago, IL, Debby taught English at several inner city high schools in Washington, DC. Debby is currently the chair of the English Department at Washington Math Science Technology, a public charter high school.

Scott Lyons is the music director. LEARN MORE

With a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and graduate degrees in both Law and International Affairs, Scott is an adjunct professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where he teaches about corruption issues in international health services.  His passions are in photography, tennis, and hiking, and once hiked over 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  His favorite sports teams are the L.A. Dodgers baseball team and the University of Michigan football team.  He has taught Hebrew school, Sunday school, and Jewish high school (Midrasha), and has visited Israel on four different ocassions, including living there for a year.

Teen Group Coordinator 

Harry Appelman, a jazz musician who plays in the Washington, DC–Baltimore area as well as on the occasional tour abroad, provides music for us on some Sundays following Jewish Cultural School/Adult Ed, at our holiday observances, and at other Machar events. LEARN MORE

He can often be heard at Blues Alley, the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center, Twins, and other popular jazz venues. He teaches jazz piano at Montgomery College, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and privately. Harry is a member of the Latin jazz groups Duende Quartet and Afro Bop Alliance. Harry and his wife, Mimi Brody, and their children, Kira and Talia, have been Machar members since 2002. His web site is www.harryappelman.com.

Board of Directors

The Machar Board is elected generally in April for a 1-year term that runs from July 1 to June 30. Many Board members serve for more than one term, providing good continuity to the congregation.

Officers

Rahel Hanadari is Machar’s President.

Darlene Basch is Machar’s Past President. LEARN MORE

Darlene joined Machar in 2005, and has served as chair of the Book Club for several years and is an active member of WiTs. She has worked for the Federal Government for almost 30 years and currently is a foreign affairs analyst for the Department of State with a focus on Russia. A Los Angeles native, she has a B.A. in political science from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in international affairs from The American University. Darlene loves to travel and explore local crafts. She inherited her father’s love for photography and enjoys taking loads of pictures of her journeys. Darlene lives in Silver Spring with her cats Tolstoy and Anna.

Holly Campbell-Rosen is Machar’s Secretary

Ester Rozenblum is currently Machar’s Treasurer, having returned to the board after a hiatus of several years.

At Large Board Members

Marlene Cohen is serving a term as an at-large Board Member  LEARN MORE

Marlene serves on the SHJ Education Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. She is excited about the strategic plan’s focus on increased technology communication. She is a former Jewish Cultural School Director and Vice President of Machar. Currently, she co-chairs Machar’s Adult Education Committee, chairs the New Members Committee, and works on special projects. She’s in her 30th year as a professor of communication at Prince George’s Community College and for 6 years has been its coordinator of the International Education Center, which gives one-on-one support to immigrant and visa students. Husband Michael Kidwell was raised Methodist but is a secularist who enjoys Machar; he just won’t eat the gefilte fish. Son Alex Kidwell lives in Baltimore. He was schooled and Bar Mitzvahed in Machar; his religious beliefs mirror those of Bill Maher’s in Religulous.

Myrna Frank  is serving her first term as an at-large Board Member

Norm Hall is serving his third term as an at-large Board Member. LEARN MORE

He has been a Machar member since his wife, Sue Popkin, suggested they join in 1997. Norm has become involved in many ways, starting with a stint as a volunteer coordinator that happened after observing board meetings, and then taking on roles as diverse as maintaining the Machar database to education. He has served as a teacher, B’nai Mitzvah Teacher/Coordinator, and Education Committee Member, even after both his son Zach and daughter Rachel completed their Mitzvah years.

Norm draws upon careers in public transportation and education when offering suggestions on planning field trips. He enjoys catching Adult Ed topics and regularly listens to podcasts of the religious texts sessions he is unable to attend.

Norm works both as a tutor for children of all ages who need help with Executive Function (ADD/ADHD) and as a homebound teacher for secondary students attending Fairfax County Public Schools. He is also an advocate/supporter for students and families with Dysautonomia, including POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome).

Jack Schwartz is serving his second term as an at-large Board member.  LEARN MORE

Jack and his wife Michal joined Machar in 2012. They were previously members of Adat Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation in Bethesda. Jack’s career was as a government lawyer, mainly with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. He currently teaches part-time in the Health Law Program at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law in Baltimore. Pursuing an interest in bioethics, he is a member of two hospital ethics committees and a research ethics board. Jack and Michal have two children in their mid-20’s, Ana and Ari.

Joyce Rosenthal is an at-large Board member who has served several terms.  LEARN MORE

Joyce previously served as board secretary and also helps with Machar’s public relations effort. She and her husband Greg Rosenthal, joined Machar in 1998; their children, Ellen and Mitchell, both attended Machar’s Jewish Cultural School and went through the b’nei mitzvah program. Joyce especially enjoys attending Machar’s Adult Education sessions. When she is not participating in Machar, Joyce works as a writer and editor at a medical news website.

Board Liaisons

Norm Hall serves as the B’Nei Mitzvah Liaison 

Joy Markowitz serves as the Rabbinic Liaison.

Dan TobocmanTrained Spokesperson

Machar’s Representatives to the Society for Humanistic Judaism

Marlene Cohen, who has been a member of Machar since 1987, has been Machar’s representative to the Society for Humanistic Judaism Board since January 2007, a job she is honored to perform. LEARN MORE

Marlene serves on the SHJ Education Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. She is excited about the strategic plan’s focus on increased technology communication. She is a former Jewish Cultural School Director and Vice President of Machar. Currently, she co-chairs Machar’s Adult Education Committee, chairs the New Members Committee, and works on special projects. She’s in her 30th year as a professor of communication at Prince George’s Community College and for 6 years has been its coordinator of the International Education Center, which gives one-on-one support to immigrant and visa students. Husband Michael Kidwell was raised Methodist but is a secularist who enjoys Machar; he just won’t eat the gefilte fish. Son Alex Kidwell lives in Baltimore. He was schooled and Bar Mitzvahed in Machar; his religious beliefs mirror those of Bill Maher’s in Religulous.

Larry Lawrence is President of the Society for Humanistic Judaism’s Board of Directors. LEARN MORE

Larry is Machar’s Education Committee chair and served as a Machar Board member and Machar’s Treasurer for several years. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Larry lives in Cleveland Park, DC, with his wife, Amy Kotkin. Recently retired, he developed information systems to provide the public with information about municipal bonds. Larry’s daughter was a Bat Mitzvah in the JCS class of 1998 and remains involved with secular humanistic Judaism and social action.

Rick Gold is a Machar at-large Representative to SHJ. LEARN MORE

Rick joined Machar in 1999, and also serves as Prior Past President, a member of the Adult Education Committee, and chair of the Social Action Committee. He assists organizations that implement rule of law and human rights programs for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other international donors. He retired from USAID in 2008 after 29 years, having served in Senegal, Morocco, Mali, the Philippines, and Egypt. Rick comes from Pikesville, MD, where he was confirmed by Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (Reform). He visits Jewish communities during his travels and has written articles and lectured about the Jews of Morocco, Egypt, and Timbuktu. Rick is married to a Moroccan Muslim, Bouchra Chati. They were married in Gibraltar and own a house in Morocco. Their children, Sarah and Adam, attended Machar’s Jewish Cultural School.

Committee, Clubs, and Havurot Chairs and Group Coordinators

Machar is lucky to have a large supply of “go-to” people, members who say, “I can do this,” when there’s a call for a new project or activity. LEARN MORE