Rabbi Sonya Starr is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania where she received her Ordination, as well as her MA in Hebrew Letters in 1994 and an Honorary Doctorate in 2019.
Her student pulpits included the Jewish Congregation of Fairbanks, Alaska and the Hebrew Association of the Deaf in Philadelphia. After serving as Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in Torrington, CT and Rabbi Educator at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, CT, in 2000 she came to Columbia Jewish Congregation (CJC).
Rabbi Starr is a member of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and the Board of the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center, the home of CJC. She is currently active with The Faith Network of the National Association of Mentally Ill and also ISHUT (“Identity”), which works to determine the boundaries of Reconstructionism and Judaism.
She is passionate about Jewish study believing that learning informs our actions and the meaningfulness of our lives. She focuses on a mix of spiritual practice and community activism guided by Jewish values, especially tikkun olam. Rabbi sees community work as providing a context for “thinking globally and acting locally.”
Rabbi Starr lives in Columbia with her family and enjoys working closely with CJC members and the larger community. She says, “I am proud to be a part of a dynamic, intergenerational congregation that values inclusiveness and celebrates our differences.”
Click here to view Rabbi Starr’s High Holy Day sermons.
Cantor Benjamin Kintisch is honored to serve as Cantor of Columbia Jewish Congregation. He has a background in both Jewish music (as a cantor and working with Jewish camps and educational programs) and as a music teacher in Brooklyn schools. He studied at Brown University, where he majored in Judaic Studies. He later enrolled at Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he earned a Masters in Sacred Music and Investiture as Cantor. Following J.T.S., Cantor Kintisch worked for five years in public schools in Brooklyn, NY, as music teacher and a special education teacher. During this time, he pursued additional graduate studies, earning his teacher certification in both Music and Special Education.
Cantor Kintisch worked in New Jersey at a synagogue, where he was Cantor and Principal of the Hebrew School. During that time, he began his training as a Chaplain with an internship at Center for Hope Hospice and Palliative Care, a residential hospice facility. Cantor Kintisch continues his Chaplaincy studies, serving as a Chaplain Intern at Hebrew Home in Rockville, MD, where he visits with residents once a week and attends a class in the evening.
At Columbia Jewish Congregation, Cantor Kintisch enjoys bringing new energy to the culture of singing at the synagogue, during worship services, with the choir, and with students at the Religious School. Using music, he hopes to enhance community and elevate spirituality.
Outside of his work life, Cantor Kintisch is an avid cyclist, a live theater fan, a bowler and gardener. He lives in Columbia with his wife Elana, his daughter Dalia, and their dog Rubia.
Mikey Hess Webber hails from Baltimore, MD. She is a 2007 graduate of Hood College in Frederick, Maryland where she founded and led the Jewish Student Union on campus and graduated with a BA in Classical Archaeology. She is now entering her fifth and final year of study at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College outside Philadelphia, PA. From 2011-2013, Mikey lived in Israel on Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael.where she worked in the fish ponds and then as a traveling pizza maker. It is during this time in Israel that she developed a deeply complex and nuanced relationship with the place and the people.
Since her time on the kibbutz, as the political climate has grown more polarized, she has become passionate about raising up the humanity and diverse narratives that too often get forgotten in conversations about Israel/Palestine. This passion has led to her completion, in May 2018, of a Master’s Concentration in Israel Education through the iCenter in Chicago and her completion of the 2018-2019 T’ruah Israel Fellowship. In Baltimore, she was a member of JUFJ’s inaugural Baltimore cohort of Jeremiah Fellows – an opportunity for her to explore how Jewish values and Jewish tradition can support the goals of economic and social justice for all people living in our city. She is also presently an Imagining Justice in Baltimore Fellow at the Institute for Islamic Jewish and Christian Studies.
Mikey’s career centered primarily around the mentorship of Jewish teens and young adults. She spent five years working with BBYO as a Chapter Advisor and another three as the Youth Director at Oseh Shalom Congregation in Laurel MD – where she developed the congregation’s teen leadership program called TeenConnect. Mikey also worked for two years at Whole Community Inclusion at the Jewish Learning Venture – an organization that engages people with cognitive and physical differences and their families, supporting their ability to access full and rich Jewish educational and community experiences. There she also co-led the Reta Emerson Fellowship – Jewish Learning Venture’s education initiative through which teen madrichim are trained to assist children with disabilities who are experiencing difficulty in congregational classroom settings.
In her free time, Mikey spends a lot of time in the dirt as an avid gardener. She loves going on walks in the woods and painting. Her dream is to one day write and illustrate a children’s book. She also spends a lot of time with her wonderful husband, Scott and their cats, Reuben and Ziggy.
Robin Rosenfeld joined CJC in 2012. Having grown up in Allentown, PA, she earned her Bachelors Degree from the University of Maryland. Her career took her to several Jewish organizations, including Jewish Community Centers in Rockville, MD; Fairfax, VA; Clifton, NJ; Wayne, NJ; Omaha, NE; and Rockland County, NY. Her roles escalated from Youth Director to Program Director to Director of Operations. She loved being a part of these communities and providing leadership to vibrant experiences for members.
Robin has also enjoyed being a Director of Jewish Day Camps and Director of Operations for Camp Pinemere (which she had attended as a girl!) and Camp JRF (now Camp Havaya) n the Poconos, and she speaks nostalgically of the fun of ensuring day-to-day smooth running of these special experiences for children. She also brings valuable graphic design skills.
CJC attracted her because of the opportunity she will have to manage operations, which is her strength, to be a part of a diverse and established congregational community and to support members’ simchas.
She also is happy to be near family and friends with whom she enjoys the TERPS, the Phillies and her Yorkshire terrier/poodle Simon.
Jerome Kiewe has served as the Education Director of CJCS since January, 1995. Jerry holds Masters Degrees in Social Work, Jewish Studies and Jewish Education. Simultaneously with his role as a Jewish educator, Jerry has served in executive level positions with the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), PANIM, the Baltimore Zionist District, and the JCC of Greater Baltimore and is a past President of KEHILLAH: The Association of Jewish Communal Professionals of Greater Baltimore.
He currently serves as Executive Director of Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase. He has led numerous overseas trips to the former USSR, Poland and Israel and domestic Judaic programs in the U.S. and has served as an adjunct instructor for the Baltimore Hebrew University.
Jerry resides in Pikesville with his wife, Suzanne. They have three children, Zephan, Micah and Tamar, and two cats, Priscilla and Bella.
Leilani grew up in Western New York State, graduated from Syracuse University, and was intent on becoming a social studies teacher. Although she did teach for a while, she took a leap and worked in retail management for a few years. That gave her the opportunity to move to Columbia, Maryland and continue her graduate studies at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As a Teaching Assistant and an honors scholar, she received her Master’s Degree of Policy Science in Education.
A great opportunity arose for her to join a young start-up online education company Connections Education. There, she helped to develop best practices for identifying students with additional academic challenges so that intervention programs could be tailored specifically to academic gaps and student needs. She also developed and managed the Formative Assessment program for all of the Connections Education schools. She even advanced with the company through their transition to the now expanded Online and Blended Learning division of Pearson.
Leilani continues to believe education is the cornerstone to democracy and that all children have the right to equitable and accessible learning environments. She is also working to develop online course modules to assist teachers in implementing academic interventions effectively in an online environment. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music. She also likes to practice and learn quilting when she has some spare time and is happy to call the Oakland Mills community home.
Erin is a Baltimore native, who never wants to leave the area. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelors Degree in Sociology. Erin is currently pursuing a degree in child life from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Erin has been working with youth for many years in various capacities. She started working with children as a counselor at Camp Louise and worked her way up to becoming a Unit Leader. Erin then served as the Baltimore Diller Teen Fellows Coordinator where she had the privilege of working with teens to develop their leadership skills, embrace their own Jewish Identities, and travel to Israel. Erin loves to work with youth and watch them learn and grow.
Erin loves dancing, taking barre exercise classes, hiking, and spending time at the beach. Erin lives in downtown Baltimore with her husband Greg.