Rabbis and Staff
Shawn Zevit, Lead Rabbi
Rabbi Shawn is a dynamic and widely-known liturgist, teacher, singer, author and consultant to Jewish communities. He is a 1998 graduate of The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and worked for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation for fourteen years as the Director of Congregational Services, Outreach and Tikkun Olam. He was most recently the visiting rabbi at Congregation T’Chiyah in Detroit, Michigan.
Rabbi Shawn has been a sought-after teacher and leader of spiritual practice programs, including co-director of the award-winning Davennen Leader’s Training Institute, where he coaches rabbis, cantors and lay leaders of all denominations. He is also a spiritual director for the ALEPH Hashpa’ah program. He has consulted to myriad congregations, organizations and social justice initiatives in the Jewish and secular world.
An accomplished singer and guitarist, Rabbi Shawn is a founding member of the popular Jewish musical group, Shabbat Unplugged. He has led Shabbaton programs, been Guest Artist and Scholar-in-Residence in more than 100 congregations and havurot. Among his many publications is his most recent book Brotherkeepers: New Explorations in Jewish Masculinity and Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in Faith Community.
Rabbi Shawn and his wife, Rabbi Simcha Zevit, now make their home in Mt. Airy. He is step-father to a grown son.
Yael Levy, Rabbi
Director, A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program
This is Rabbi Yael's 20th year at Mishkan Shalom, beginning here as a rabbinical student and then serving the congregation on a part-time basis through two decades.
In recent years, Rabbi Yael has focused particularly on Jewish Mindfulness, which grew out of her deep personal commitment to spiritual practice and a passionate belief in its potential to change not only individuals but, also, the world. Five years ago, Rabbi Yael began what has become A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program, with services, programs and retreats at Mishkan and other sites and a vibrant on-line community. In addition to special seasonal teaching series, she posts weekly kavannot ("intentions") and daily meditations on the A Way In webpage.
Rabbi Yael is the author of a popular guide to counting the Omer, Journey through the Wilderness: A Mindfulness Approach to the Ancient Jewish Practice of Counting the Omer as well as Hanukkah Lights, a translation of the Psalms of Hallel. She teaches a weekly online course for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post and ritualwell.org, among other sites.
A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Yael leads an annual Shavuot Mindfulness retreat in high desert mountains of New Mexico. She is a spiritual director to rabbinical students in the Reconstructionist and Reform movements and in private practice.
Rabbi Yael's son, Ari, who grew up at Mishkan and was educated in our Congregational School, is now grown.
Rivka Jarosh, Principal, Congregational School
Rivka has been the head of the school since 2008. She has been teaching at Mishkan since 1990. She has always loved teaching and the Jewish part of herself. Rivka started teaching religious school in 1969 while in college. Except for a few years, she has been teaching ever since. She retired from the Philadelphia Public Schools in 2008 after teaching there for 36 years. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, a Masters Degree in Counseling and a Reading Certificate. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters from Gratz College.
Rivka also coordinates Mishkan Shalom's B'nai Mitzvah Program, Tot Shabbat and our younger teen social/Tikkun Olam group for ages 8-12.
She is proud of her role as a member of Mishkan Shalom, in addition to being a valued staff member. She reads regularly from the Torah at Shabbat morning services and coordinates our Torah readers and summer service leaders. For over twenty years, Rivka has led our monthly participation in providing meals to guests of the Delaware Valley Life Center at 63rd and Market Streets in West Philadelphia.
She and her partner, Craig Cohen, live in Havertown and have two grown sons and two grandchildren. Rivka enjoys puzzles and gets involved in most political campaigns both locally and nationally.
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Youth Educator
Gabby has been an educator at Mishkan Shalom since 1998 and currently teaches the Gan/Alef class and two sections of her popular teen program, Food for Thought.
Gabby created and coordinates Celebrations!, an award-winning family education program for children with special needs and their families. Celebration! offers a monthly Shabbat program and sensory-friendly holiday programs. In addition, Mitzvah Menshes, a social and social-action program for young adults with special needs, now offers monthly Saturday evening Havdalah, potluck and program gatherings.
Gabby also serves as Program Director for Special Needs at Jewish Learning Venture and is an Adjunct Instructor at Gratz College. She is the author of two books of plays for young people including Extraordinary Jews: Their Lives on Stage. Gabby's nonfiction books include The Creative Jewish Wedding Book and The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner. Her most recent book, The Kitchen Classroom, is a cookbook for children with special needs, based on the inclusive cooking classes that she teaches. She is a popular writer and blogger about Jewish topics and special needs topics.
Gabby holds a B.F.A. in theatre and creative writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She and her husband, Fred, are the parents of Mishkan school students George and June and live happily in Elkins Park.
Julie Benioff, Rabbinic Intern
Shabbat Family Program Coordinator
Julie Benioff is a fourth-year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She holds a bachelor of science in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in Professional Communication from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Before she started her rabbinic training, Julie served as the principal of the Congregation Or HaTzafon Sunday Religious School in Fairbanks, Alaska for four years and was an active service leader and board member of the congregation for many years. Julie worked as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and owned and operated her own curriculum and assessment development business.
Julie has extensive experience as a secular and Jewish educator for all ages and as a writer and tutor. Julie has participated in the Davennen' Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) and in Storahtelling’s StorahLAB Summer Jewish Educator's Training Institute. Julie is the mother of two and enjoys reading, painting, photography, writing, cooking, being in the outdoors and spending time with family and friends.
Teen Program Coordinator
(Photo and bio coming soon!)
Maria Paranzino, Office Administrator
Maria joined Mishkan Shalom in September, 2005. She skillfully juggles the varied needs of the Mishkan office and daily interactions with our rabbis, staff, board, congregants, vendors, visitors and renters. She is a degreed professional with experience in business administration, marketing and event planning.
Maria has been married for 34 years and has two children, Christina and Benjamin. She is a life-long resident of Roxborough with strong ties to the Mishkan community and the surrounding area.