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APJ 2019 Presenters



Rabbi Dr. Ruth Abusch-Magder              Atlanta, Georgia, USA


Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder Ph.D., Be'chol Lashon's Rabbi-in-Residence and Director of Education, has been involved in Jewish education and leadership for over thirty years. A graduate of Barnard College, she received her doctorate from Yale University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College. In 2006 she was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, where she developed the pilot curriculum for the JCCA's adult learning Journeys initiative. A CLAL Rabbi Without Borders fellow, she is a frequent writer and teacher. She edits Jewish&, Be'chol Lashon's blog on, and loves spending time at Camp Be'chol Lashon.


Rabbi Nathan Alfred                                UHC, Singapore


Rabbi Nathan Alfred received his rabbinical ordination in 2008, following studies in London and Jerusalem. He has worked for Jewish communities across Europe and Asia, including in Belgium and Luxembourg, and now in Singapore. He is a member of the Executive Board of WUPJ and current Vice-Chair of the UPJ Moetzah (Council of Rabbis of Asia, Australia and New Zealand).


Nathan has created and supported several smaller Jewish communities across Southeast Asia. He is always looking to bring new groups together, however unlikely the location. A keen chess player, he recently became a husband (to Shelly) and a father (to Noam).


Ben Barth                                        Kehilat Shanghai, China


Ben is an Associate Director at Grok Global Services, an alumni of Moishe House Beijing, a board member of Kehilat Shanghai and co-founder of the Jewish Young Professionals Network of Shanghai. Born and raised in Toronto, Ben moved to Beijing in 2011 to serve as a Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy, and later moved to Guangzhou where he served as Acting Vice Consul at the Canadian Consulate. In 2014 Ben joined Grok Global Services, a firm that helps educational institutions design and execute international engagement strategies targeting China, India, and Southeast Asia. He currently oversees the company's Shanghai operations.


Ayal Ben Or                                              UJC, Hong Kong


Ayal Ben Or grew up in the Israeli Reform movement. His family are long-time members of Kehilat Kol Haneshama and he was active in the Noar Telem Youth Movement as a member and as a camp counsellor. Ayal is a graduate of the Jerusalem Music School where he studied voice and saxophone. At Kol Haneshama he led Shabbat and High Holydays services and tutored B'nai Mitzvah. Ayal has worked as a Tevel b’Tzedek Fellow in rural Nepal and at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia, USA. He is a certified Israeli Sign Language translator and has worked with special needs children.




Rabbi Martha Bergadine                         UJC, Hong Kong


Rabbi Martha Bergadine is the Education and Programming Director of The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong since 2009. She has an extensive background in Youth and Adult Education as the Director of Formal Teen Programs for the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Francisco, as the Rabbi-Educator at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge.

Rabbi Bergadine has been deeply involved in the development of Asia Progressive Judaism and the APJ Teen programming and is excited to see the growth of Progressive communities throughout the region.


Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black                   Leo Baeck Centre for Judaism, Melbourne


Jonathan grew up in the Progressive movement, and after ordination in 1988, he worked in London for 15 years before moving to Melbourne 16 years ago with his wife Sue and their two children.  Interests include the sociological development of religions, interfaith, gender equality, and the environment. Based at the Leo Baeck Centre for Judaism, Victoria, he also looks after our New Zealand communities. Jonathan led the Editorial Team for the Mishkan T’filah Shabbat and Weekday prayer book and, with Rabbi Dr John Levi, has just completed the new High Holy Day Machzor Mishkan T’shuvah, due to be introduced in 2019.


Rabbi Professor Jeffrey Cohen                Sydney, Australia


Jeffrey Cohen is currently Associate Professor (Adjunct) in the School of Medicine, Notre Dame University Australia. His areas of research include the Ethical, Spiritual and Cultural issues at End of Life as well as Spirituality and Health.


Rabbi Cohen is a graduate of Leo Baeck College, London where he studied under Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs. He spent 5 years as the CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum. A Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, he is Board certified in Hospital Chaplaincy and in Mental Health Chaplaincy, and has worked across several organisations in the US and Australia.


Dr. James M. Dorsey                               RSIS, Singapore


James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow focused on the Middle East and North Africa who publishes widely in peer-reviewed journals as well as non-academic publications. A veteran, award-winning foreign correspondent for four decades in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the US for publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Financial Times, James has met a multitude of the region’s leaders. As a journalist, James covered primarily ethnic and religious conflict, including some of recent history’s most dramatic events. James writes a widely acclaimed blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.




Leon Fenster                                            Kehillat Beijing, China


Leon Fenster is an Asia based artist from London and a board member of Kehillat Beijing, his second home. His art re-imagines and reinvents the familiar, taking the viewer on whimsical journeys through cities around the world, alternative architectural worlds and midrashic Jewish stories. This powerful form of visual storytelling emerged from a combination of his long-term study of Jewish aesthetics, his architectural draughtsmanship and his time in Beijing. Current projects include a haggadah, a series of artworks telling the stories of individual family’s lives in Beijing and other cities, and depictions of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.


Jonathan Gerstl                              Camps Airy & Louise


Jonathan Gerstl has served as the executive director of Camps Airy & Louise for ten years, and has a distinguished career in Jewish communal service.  A graduate of Temple University, his early roles included being camp director of the New Haven JCC, assistant director of the Sarasota Florida JCC, and director of Camp Young Judaea Texas. Jonathan moved to Israel for five years working as an entrepreneur in global travel network technology, before serving as the executive director of Jewish life at Duke University. Jonathan is also a founding member of the Association for Independent Jewish Camps (AIJC).


Dr. Joshua Greene                                   Singapore Management University


Dr. Joshua Greene is a visiting professor and Interim Director of the Applied Economics Track in Singapore Management University’s Master of Science in Economics Program. Dr. Greene was previously active in the UHC (2004-2010) while Deputy Director of the IMF-Singapore Regional Training Institute. He was UHC secretary and vice-president for ritual and education, whilst also serving on the Singapore Jewish Welfare Board. Dr. Greene has a Ph.D. in economics and a law degree from the University of Michigan. The author of two books in economics, his research has been widely published. Dr. Greene is married and has two adult children.


Simona Halperin                             Israeli Ambassador, Singapore


Simona Halperin serves as Israel's Ambassador to Singapore & East Timor. Born in Riga, Latvia, she lived in Leningrad before repatriating to Israel in 1976. Simona completed her military service, earnt a BA in Economics & Business Administration and a Masters’ degree in Law and Public Administration from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Simona was Deputy Ambassador in Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea, counsellor to the European Parliament at the Israeli Mission to the EU, and directed the International Organizations and Human Rights Department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Simona headed the Israel Economics and Cultural Office in Taipei from 2010 to 2015.




Vered Harel                                             Etz Chayim, Melbourne, Australia


Vered was born in Israel and moved to Melbourne 9 years ago with her family. She has a Bachelor of Music and Master of Science in Professional Communication. She was a soloist in “Hadlakat Hamesuot”in Jerusalem, in TV shows and as a member of the vocal group “Carmel A-Cappella. Vered was a marketing manager in a music school and worked as the Community Manager of Kedem, Melbourne, where she was also a cantorial soloist. Today she sings at Etz Chayim, Melbourne. Vered established the Australian Friends of Rambam for whom she is the Executive Director.


Rabbi Jordan Helfman                   Holy Blossom, Toronto, Canada


Rabbi Jordan Helfman is an associate rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada, and a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Executive Board. He is a former youth worker for Liberal Judaism in the United Kingdom, and enjoys visiting WUPJ congregations, when he can, with his wife and four children. As a university student he participated in two study abroad programs, one to Beijing and the other to Thailand and Laos to study International Development. Rabbi Helfman edited the current WUPJ prayer book which includes 14 different languages used around our international movement in weekly worship.


Andrew Keene                                WUPJ, Youth & Young Adults


Andrew Keene lives in Washington, DC and is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he was active in the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, NFTY. Andrew served as North American President of NFTY and helped develop the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement. Andrew currently serves as a member of the executive board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism where his portfolio includes youth and young adult engagement strategy. Andrew holds a degree in management and entrepreneurship from Drexel University. Andrew works in the consulting practice of Publicis Groupe focusing on organizational change management for digital business transformation.


Professor Josh Keller                               NTU, Singapore


  1. Keller is Associate Professor of Strategy, Management and Organizations at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is a globally recognized scholar on Asian approaches to management, most exemplified by his work on Chinese approaches to competition. He is currently studying the impact of Jewish stereotypes in China on Chinese managerial practices. Josh was born in the US, but has lived in Asia for over 15 years, including in Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China. He, his wife Joy (also a professor with a multicultural background) and his two children have been active members of UHC Singapore since 2009.




Dan Kohane                                             Kehilat B’nei Hof, Bali, Indonesia


Dan Kohane is a U.S.-born musician based in Ubud, Bali. Raised attending the Reform synagogue Temple Emeth in New Jersey, he is now an active member and de-facto chazzan in Bali’s Congregation B’nei Hof. Dan is the music director of Paradiso Ubud, a major cultural center and all-vegan cinema. He comes from a family of musicians, and holds a Masters’ degree in classical composition from the Eastman School of Music. Bali’s traditional music, gamelan, is what first drew him there in September of 2016. He is passionate about community music-making, as a song-leader, conductor, and teacher for all ages.


Rabbi David Kunin                                   JCJ, Tokyo, Japan


David Kunin is the Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan, and is the current Chair of the UPJ Moetzah (Council of Rabbis from Asia, Australia and New Zealand). He has also served communities in Scotland, the United States and Canada. With Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, David has been working for the past four years with the vibrant Jewish communities of Indonesia. In 2015 David published a book, “Beyond the Golden Rule: A Jewish Perspective on Dialogue and Diversity”.


Rabbi Professor Seth Kunin                     Curtin University, Perth, Australia


Professor Seth Kunin has been the Deputy Vice Chancellor, International at Curtin University since 2016. Previously he was Vice Principal at Aberdeen University and Pro Vice Chancellor at Durham University. Professor Kunin received his BA in Anthropology from Columbia University and his PhD from Cambridge University. He also has an MA from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Rabbinical Ordination from Leo Baeck College, London.


His work has focused on anthropological theory and the application of anthropological methods to various aspects of Judaism. He has written extensively about Biblical and rabbinic myth, as well as Jewish uses of sacred space. His recent work has focused on crypto-Judaism, particularly in the American Southwest. He is the author of eight books and numerous academic articles.


Frank Lavin                                              Former US Ambassador to Singapore







Rabbi Anson Laytner                               Sino-Judaic Institute


Anson Laytner is a retired rabbi, living in Seattle, whose career in non-profit and academic settings focused on fostering positive interfaith and interethnic relations for the betterment of the community. He is the current president of the Sino-Judaic Institute and editor of its journal Points East. A graduate of York University (Toronto), Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati) and Seattle University, Laytner is the author of Arguing with God (1990), co-author of The Animals’ Lawsuit Against Humanity (2005), co-editor of The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng (2017), and author of the forthcoming Surviving Tragedy, Choosing Life.


Charlotte Leong                              UJC, Hong Kong


Charlotte Leong is 15 years old. She was born and raised in Hong Kong where she attends the German Swiss International School. A life-long member of the UJC, Charlotte currently serves as a madricha/teaching assistant in Shorashim, the UJC Religious School, helps tutor local teens in English as part of the UJC NETTs program, and is an enthusiastic participant in APJ Teen Programs. Charlotte says, “Being a part of the UJC has always been a massive pillar in my life as it has introduced me to a set of morals, ethics, and learning that I’m sure to retain for life.”


David Li Wei                                             Kaifeng, China


David Li Wei is from the Jewish community in Kaifeng. Born in 1974, he has been active in community work since 2003. At Passover he organized a celebration that was reported by the New York Times. Along with Yeyilun, he serves for the Torah Heritage – the Spring Compass – which is devoted to helping and organizing the Jews in Kaifeng to inherit and continue Jewish beliefs.


Rabbi Benjamin Meijer                           United Indonesian Jewish Community


Rabbi Benjamin Meijer is the spiritual leader and chairman of the United Indonesian Jewish Community (UIJC), which he founded in 2010. He has degrees from Lampung State University, Bandar Lampung University (MM) and Tiranus Bible College, Bandung (MA), in 2015 he received rabbinical ordination from the Rabbinical Seminary International in New York. A coffee trader by profession, he spends much time travelling between the different communities across Indonesia. Rabbi Ben is the Indonesian representative for the Union of Progressive Judaism and has been the power house behind the phenomenal growth of Jewish communities in that country this past decade.


Philip Rosenfeld                             Jewish Community of Japan, Tokyo


Philip Rosenfeld has lived in Japan since 1998. After working in the property management business in the United States and Japan for approximately twenty years, in 2010, Philip started JapanQuest Journeys, a boutique firm based in Washington DC and Tokyo that specializes in luxury travel to Japan. Philip has served as the President of the Jewish Community of Japan for the past eight years and is a board member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).


Rabbi Rachel Safman                              Congregation Beth El, Connecticut










Sammy Samuels                             Myanmar Jewish Community


Graduate of Yeshiva University, Sy Syms School of Business, Sammy Samuels is the leader of the Jewish Community of Myanmar.  As leader of the smallest religious minority in Myanmar, he has advocated for a better understanding between different faiths and advanced religious freedom and tolerance.


With more than ten years of experience in the Travel industry as Managing Director of Myanmar Shalom Travels, Sammy is bringing more tourists to his amazing country. Sammy’s unique role in the Jewish community of Myanmar has been chronicled in articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, and other newspapers.


Barry Satz                                       TPJC, Bangkok, Thailand


Barry Satz moved to Bangkok six years ago from Ann Arbor, Michigan, after retiring from a career in corporate finance. Now Barry does some financial consulting and training, but mostly edits academic papers written by Thais and the odd “Bangkok-genre” novel. Barry enjoys living in Bangkok very much – every day is an adventure!


Five years ago Barry founded Thailand Progressive Jewish Community (TPJC) as an alternative to the existing Orthodox communities in Bangkok. TPJC holds holiday and Shabbat services and occasional cultural events. Visiting rabbis – with the support of WUPJ – have led High Holiday services for the past five years.


Liat Solomon                                            Kehilat B’nei Hof, Bali, Indonesia


Liat Solomon is the founder, director and owner of Down to Earth, Paradiso Ubud and the Bali Vegan Festival Ubud & Canggu. A Jerusalemite, Liat developed an interest in health and food, nutrition, diet and vegetarianism, training as a macrobiotic chef and counsellor under the direct tutelage of Michio Kushi. She opened her first restaurant aged 19 and has worked with numerous celebrities seeking healing through whole foods. Liat moved to Bali in 1997 and has opened her home for Shabbat each Friday night to residents and tourists alike. She is the heart of Kehilat B’nei Hof, founded in 2016.




Souksavat “Souks” Soukhaseum            Free Synagogue, Flushing NY, USA


Souks Soukhaseum was born in Laos and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He began professionally serving the Jewish community in 2014. He serves as the Director of Community Affairs at the Free Synagogue of Flushing- the oldest Reform/Progressive synagogue in Queens, New York. He also serves as the synagogue’s historian and archivist. Recently he has become a contributor to, detailing his story about converting to Judaism and how it plays a vital role in helping him serve many communities around the world.


Carole Sterling                                Chair, World Union for Progressive Judaism


Carole is Chair of the World Union of Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). She has held many communal leadership positions, including President of the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism, President of Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto, Chair of UJA of Greater Toronto Women’s Campaign, and Chair of the URJ Biennial in 2011. Carole serves on many boards including Holy Blossom Temple, URJ, HUC-JIR and ARZA Canada.

Carole earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma in Secondary Education from McGill University and is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program. Carole and Jay, her husband, live in Toronto, Canada.


Professor Gabriel Szulanski                    INSEAD, Singapore


Gabriel Szulanski is a Professor of Strategy and the Chair of the Strategy Area at INSEAD. He earned his PhD in Strategy from INSEAD, and spent several years on the faculty of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on knowledge transfer and the making of strategy.
Gabriel helps companies transfer best practice and make strategy, and is interested to apply this to the growth and development of Jewish communities.  A long-time member of the UHC Singapore, in recent years he has also coordinated their music programme. 


Rabbi Lennard R. Thal                    New York, USA


Rabbi Lennard R. Thal is the Senior Vice President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism retiring as Senior V.P. in 2008. He served as the Interim Director of Rabbinic Placement for the Reform Movement 2009-2011. Previously he served as the Union’s Regional Director in Los Angeles, 1982-1996 and as the Associate Dean of Hebrew Union College (L.A.) 1973-1982. Now the Rabbi Emeritus, he loved serving as Visiting Rabbi of the UHC in Singapore from 1993 to 2013. Rabbi Thal earned an A.B. from Princeton, a J.D. from Stanford and was ordained by HUC in 1973.




Anna Toombs                                           Hakehilla, Seoul, Korea


Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA), Anna grew up in an interfaith family with a strong sense of Jewish identity passed down from her mother. She left the US for Korea shortly after graduating from college in 2009. She now has lived in South Korea for 8+ years, with no plans to leave. She is an MA student in Korean literature, married to a Korean man, and is a cat mom of two. Anna is among the founders and the core executive leader of Hakehillah, the only progressive Jewish community in Seoul.


Richard Kazn Young                                 Mumbai, India


Richard is a film-maker, writer, cinematographer and editor from Mumbai, India. In 2002 he started a non-profit company called “Young’s Dream Work’s International”, producing documentary films and educational presentations focused mainly on Jewish related issues. A practising musician and student of ethnomusicology, Richard’s interests include Sephardi and Mizrachi music originating in Persia, Baghdad and Andalusia.


Jewish from his father’s side but raised as a Christian, Richard has reconnected with the local Jewish community in Mumbai and is a member of the JCC. He has assisted the local JDC with many projects, including helping them organise programmes for memorializing the Shoah.


Rabbi Stanton Zamek                              UJC, Hong Kong


Rabbi Stanton Zamek has been the spiritual leader of The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong since 2008. He was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1996, serving US congregations in Baton Rouge and San Francisco. Rabbi Zamek also has a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and practiced law in Chicago, Illinois.


Rabbi Zamek sees the development of Progressive Judaism in Asia as a key part of his rabbinate. One of the primary conveners of the first summit of regional Progressive Jewish leaders in 2013, he has since taken an active role in regional youth, leadership, and clergy gatherings.

Thu, 22 August 2019 21 Av 5779