Noa Kushner, Founding Rabbi
Rabbi Noa Kushner founded The Kitchen in 2011 in response to friends who were looking for an informal, transformative shabbat experience that they couldn’t find. Along the way, she crashed head first into what has now been well documented as a generational trend away from many established religious institutions. The Kitchen quickly grew from a local shabbat experiment into an active doorway for San Francisco’s Gen X and Millenials looking for serious Jewish life. Through an emphasis on first-hand experience and “doing jewish” over pedigree, The Kitchen has become an international resource, growing to serve thousands of modern families annually in seven years. In working with IDEO and by emphasizing design + communications, The Kitchen has also changed the ways religion is perceived and integrated into daily life.
After graduating with a degree in Religious Studies at Brown, Kushner was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1998. She then served as a Hillel Rabbi for both Sarah Lawrence College and Stanford University.
The Kitchen has been featured internationally in Ha’aretz, Tablet, The Forward, and Medium. Kushner has been profiled in SF Magazine’s Power Issue and the final Newsweek / Daily Beast: Rabbis to Watch list. Her written work appears in many publications including, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, and the Prayers of Awe series.
Noa is married to Michael Lezak, the Rabbi at GLIDE. Together they have three daughters: Zella, Bluma and Minna.
Elie Lauter, Interim Executive Director
From New York City but a San Franciscan at heart, Elie graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. After earning her B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Arabic, she served as the Development Associate for the New Israel Fund in San Francisco. Most recently, Elie was the Assistant Director of ContemporaryJewish Life at the American Jewish Committee. There, she managed the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, advocating for religious freedom as a means of strengthening Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. When she’s not at work, you can usually find Elie at Cheeseboard Pizza, Green Apple Books, or anywhere an avocado is sold. Elie lives in Oakland with her husband David.
Joel Abramovitz, Senior Family Educator
A long-time Kitchen member, Joel is transitioning out of his role as the Judaic Studies Principal and the Middle School Principal at the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School on the north Peninsula. Joel loves to teach and learn Bible, analyze Jewish comedy, and think about how his work as a Jew and Jewish educator intersects with social change. He is also deeply involved in the local organizing work of Bend the Arc, focusing on criminal justice reform. Joel is a graduate of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) Program at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, and received his Master’s degree in Jewish Education from HUC-LA. Despite receiving much of his education in Southern California, Joel is a proud third-generation Bay Area native and lives in Oakland. When not working, Joel can be found in his kitchen, baking or studying cookbooks as if they were sacred texts.
Tarlan Rabizadeh, JEN Rabbinic Fellow
Tarlan was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, in the Persian Jewish community affectionately known as "Tehrangeles." In 2008, she graduated from Boston University with a bachelorʼs degree in Public Policy and Education, with a minor in Hebrew. After college, Tarlan worked as an interior designer in Los Angeles. In 2010, she began her career as a Jewish professional by attending the HUC-JIR Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles, graduating with a masterʼs degree in Jewish Education in 2013. For the next year, she served as Assistant Director and then shortly after as the Interim Director of the Religious School at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, CA. During her years in rabbinical school, Tarlan has fulfilled internships for Temple Beth Am in Monessen, PA, Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, B'nai Israel Synagogue in High Point, NC, and the HUC-JIR National Office of Recruitment and Admissions. Tarlan is thrilled to contribute her artistic sensibility towards creating meaningful Jewish experiences at The Kitchen.
Elise Stewart, Events Manager
Born in Los Angeles and raised in the foothills of the Kings Canyon National Park, Elise happened on her ideal combo of city-life and wildlife when she moved to San Francisco for college 10 years ago. After earning a degree in Postcolonial Literature and Fine Art, she went on to gain extensive event experience through jobs in experiential marketing and concert promotion. In the past several years she has learned the ins and outs of event organization and execution, and is always considering new ways of integrating art, entertainment, and activism into her work. Elise’s cultural heritage, interests, and experiences make her a natural fit for the The Kitchen, and she is delighted to be working with this passionate team to provide people with a greater sense of purpose and connectedness.
Jonathan Bayer, Shaliach Tzibbur
Jon is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and Jewish educator. Jonathan Bayer has performed and taught almost everyday of the last 10 years in New York and San Francisco. He writes and performs commissioned musicals for places like the New York Historical Society (the battle for Brooklyn) and the Jewish Museum (Pharaoh's Bad day). He leads minyanim for kids and adults at Bay Area Synagogues like Temple Emanu-el and Congregation Rodef Sholom. His interactive, musical renderings of folk stories have mesmerized youth audiences from the New York Transit museum to the Contemporary Jewish museum in San Francisco. He plays guitar, banjo, marching bass drum and sings with NOLA brass group Bug Horn Rex.
Marilyn Heiss, Ritual Maven
Marilyn Heiss is a native New Yorker and has lived in San Francisco since 1986. An Emmy-award-winning editor, she has worked in the TV/Video/Film industry for over 30 years. Marilyn found her way back to Jewish practice through yoga, and has a deep appreciation for Torah study and ritual. A participant in the initial meditation practice periods at Makor Or, the meditation center founded by Rabbi Alan Lew z"l & Zoketsu Norman Fischer, she served as its program director from 2003–2005. In addition to her work with Tthe Kitchen, she trains b’nai mitzvah students all over the Bay Area and teaches Torah and Jewish studies in a variety of Jewish environments.
Josh Levine, Branding Partner
Josh Levine is the principal of Great Monday, a business consultancy helping leaders build purpose-driven organizations. He's also a co-founder of Culture Lab X, a community of professionals helping re-define company culture. He regularly speaks and writes on the intersection of brand for his clients and for publications like Fast Company, the Design Management Institute and 99u. You can usually find him going on about brand and culture on twitter.
Mimi Greisman, Camp Kitchen Educator
Mimi has been a Jewish early childhood and family educator for more than 30 years. She has enjoyed working in a wide variety of settings creating quality Jewish programs for families with young children. Mimi has a Masters degree in education and is well known throughout the Bay Area. She plays guitar, sings, and has developed three children's music CD's. Mimi has three grown children, five grandchildren and her husband is Irving Greisman, the founder of Irving's Premium Challah. Mimi is just delighted to be part of The Kitchen and to run Camp Kitchen.