Inspired by her family’s Sephardic roots in Greece and Macedonia, Sarah Aroeste has spent the last 15 years bringing her contemporary style of original and traditional Ladino music to audiences around the world. Aroeste writes and sings in Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish dialect that originated by Spanish Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492.
American born and trained in classical opera at Westminster Choir College and Yale University, Aroeste became drawn to her Sephardic musical past after spending a summer in 1997 performing at the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv. Since then, Aroeste has worked tirelessly to keep Ladino music alive for a new generation.
In the last decade, Aroeste has amassed a large and loyal following across the US and abroad, and has been featured in both national and international press. Sarah Aroeste has released five recordings, Puertas (2007), Gracia (2012), Ora de Despertar (2016), the first all-original Ladino children’s album, A la Una: In the Beginning (2003), and Together/Endjuntos (2017), the first bilingual (Ladino/English) holiday album. Most recently, Aroeste has published a bilingual illustrated children’s book, Ora de Despertar (Time to Wake Up).
Aliza Craimer Elias directs the Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS), a national initiative that improves the accuracy of Jewish content in K-12 education. Her passion for Jewish history led her to Oxford University, where she earned a Masters in Modern Jewish Studies, focusing on Israel, modern Europe, and the history of Jewish-Muslim relations. In 2013, Aliza received the JPRO Young Professional Award (2013) and, under her leadership, ICS has been honored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, and Slingshot. She has written and lectured about the importance of accurate and nuanced public education around the U.S., in Canada, and in Israel.
Aliza believes strongly in klal yisrael and views the diversity of the Jewish people as a strength. She is an active member of Congregation Beth Israel, a Modern Orthodox community that is home to a rich array of people and may be one of very few orthodox shuls with Reform and Conservative rabbi members. Aliza lives with her husband and three children in Berkeley, where they enjoy hosting guests for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
Isaama Goldstein-Stoll is senior Jewish educator at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale. She was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Isaama received a BA in Religious Studies from Carleton College before pursuing an MA in Hebrew Letters and Smicha at HUC-JIR.
Isaama has been shaped by the Reform movement in many ways: from transformative experiences in NFTY and at URJ Camp Harlam to her studies at HUC-JIR. However, in recent years Isaama has served as a student rabbi and rabbinic intern not only in Reform but also in Conservative and Humanistic congregations.
Isaama brings to Slifka her commitment to liberal Judaism and her pastoral experience. Additionally, Isaama has always been motivated by a deep commitment to diversity. Through her work at Be’chol Lashon, an organization dedicated to serving Jews of Color, Isaama has served as an advocate around issues of Jewish diversity.
Sandra Lawson is a rabbi, a sociologist, personal trainer, food activist, weightlifter, vegan, writer, public speaker, and musician. She was dubbed the Snapchat Rabbi and featured in JTA as one of 10 Jews you should follow on Snapchat and The 50 Jews everyone should follow on Twitter. In June 2018, after a long journey of intensive and wonderful learning, she was ordained as a rabbi by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She currently serves as the associate chaplain for Jewish life at Elon University Hillel.
Rabbi Tsafi Lev is the Rabbis Without Boarders West Coast Coordinator. He is an accomplished speaker and educator. Ordained at JTS, Tsafi gained over a decade of pulpit experience before moving full-time into the true love of his rabbinate, teaching. Part of the founding faculty of New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, CA, Tsafi has proudly helped shape the Jewish curriculum of this innovative pluralistic school.
He brings his passion for Judaism and teaching to the upcoming generation of Jewish educators as a long time Adjunct Lecturer in Bible and Jewish Philosophy for the Fingerhut School of Education Master of Arts in Education program at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Lev is also an accomplished writer and swimmer. In 2011 he completed the Write a Novel in a Month Challenge as well as swim the San Francisco Bay, from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf, earning 14th place in a competition of “the world’s fasted open water swimmers.” To commemorate that experience he now gets automatic monthly pulls of Aquaman at his local comic book store.
Aaron Samuels is a critically-acclaimed writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. After working at Bain & Co. for three years as a strategy consultant, Aaron left his Wall Street life to pursue his passion as a writer and builder of community. Since leaving Bain, Aaron has written a book of poetry, toured the country, performed on television, and landed himself on Forbes’ coveted 30 under 30 list as a rising star in the tech and media space. Aaron Samuels is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Blavity, a digital community for Black Millennials with over 1 million website viewers per month. When he is not at Blavity, Aaron is a nationally touring poet and performer. His debut collection of poetry, Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps was released on Write Bloody Publishing in fall 2013. Aaron Samuels is Black and Jewish.
Rabbi Devin Maimon Villarreal has worked in Jewish education for over ten years as a classroom teacher in both Orthodox and Community day schools. He currently teaches as adjunct faculty at Hebrew Union College’s DeLeT program for teachers and works as an education consultant for organizations such as the Sephardic Educational Center and the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
In his most recent past position at de Toledo High School, Maimon Villarreal served as Jewish Studies department chair. He is the recipient of the Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators.
Maimon Villarreal blogs at thrivingtorah.com, where he explores the wisdom at the intersection of Judaism, education and everyday life. At the center of all of his work is his belief in Judaism’s ability to help people discover and nourish their best selves. He lives in Southeast Idaho with his wife and five children.