The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center staff is here for you. Our work brings spiritual care and healing to individuals, families, and organizations. Along with our board of directors, community partners, and beloved volunteers, we strive to transform our community’s relationship to illness, death, and loss and expand everyone’s capacity to care and be cared for.
The Bay Area Jewish Healing rabbis are the longest-serving rabbinical team in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are specially trained, beyond their graduate and seminary years, in a combination of Jewish education, Clinical Chaplaincy, and Spiritual Direction. Collectively they have contributed to the field of Jewish Healing through their daily work, publications, workshops, conference presentations, and consultations.
Rabbi Eric Weiss, President & CEO
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Rabbi Weiss has contributed extensively to the fields of Jewish Healing and Spiritual Care.
In addition to his rabbinic seminary work, Rabbi Weiss is formally trained in Jewish education, clinical pastoral care, and spiritual direction. He is a spiritual direction supervisor, and is a co-founder of “Grief & Growing™: A Healing Weekend for Individuals and Families” and “Kol Haneshama: A Jewish Hospice/End-of-life Care Volunteer Program. His writing has appeared in many publications. He has served on several boards among them the national board of the Central Conference of American rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement’s national rabbinic body. Rabbi Weiss has taught extensively throughout the Bay Area, and has been featured in local and national media.
Rabbi Weiss attended the University of California at Santa Cruz where he received a B.A. in Biology and Judaic Studies with honors. He worked in law offices in San Francisco before he entered rabbinic school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He holds a Masters degree in Hebrew Letters and was ordained in 1989.
He lives with his husband Dan in San Francisco.
- B.A. with honors in Biology/Judaic Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz
- Masters degree in Hebrew Letters, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. Ordained in 1989, New York.
- Spiritual Director and Spiritual Direction Supervisor (trained at Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA)
- Formally training in Jewish Education and Clinical Chaplaincy
- Former Paralegal
Accomplishments & Publications
- Co-founder of “Grief & Growing(TM) : A Healing Weekend for Individuals and Families” and “Kol Haneshama: End- of-Life Care/Hospice Volunteer Program.”
- Former member of the Board of Directors of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement’s national rabbinic body. CCAR Rabbinic Mentor (2006-2012).
- Author and co-editor of Mishkan R’fuah: Where Healing Resides (2014) and Mishkan R’fuah: Where Grief Resides (2019), CCAR Press
- Featured in national and local media including monthly host of local CBS’s Mosaic.
- Former Rabbinic Co-chair of Shalom Bayit Rabbinic Advisory Council and recipient of its prize.
- Consultant to Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services’ Spirituality Initiative.
- Past President of the Board of Directors, Northern California Board of Rabbis
- Contributor to Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information, Contemplation, Edited by Rabbi Dove Peretz Elkins, Jewish Lights, 2006; Yom Kippur Readings: Inspiration, Information, Contemplation, Edited by Rabbi Dove Peretz Elkins, Jewish Lights, 2005; The World is a Narrow Bridge, Edited by Diane Arieff, 2004; Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, 2009; The Mitzvah of Healing, Edited by Hara E. Person, UAHC Press, 2003.
Rabbi Natan Fenner
Rabbi Natan Fenner, BCC is a board-certified chaplain and has been involved in Jewish healing work since 1992. He has a particular interest in Jewish spirituality and meditation, which he shares through individual counseling, music, Jewish text study, and workshops on blessings and healing.
Rabbi Fenner has provided consultation on spiritual care concerns to numerous professionals and institutions, and he has provided professional support and training to rabbinical students, para-chaplains and other volunteers in the essentials of chaplaincy and visiting the sick. In addition, he coordinates the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center’s Torah Reflections series.
Prior to joining the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Rabbi Fenner served as the Director of Chaplaincy Services and oversaw religious life for the Philadelphia Geriatric Center. During that time, Rabbi Fenner took part in the American Society on Aging’s Forum on Religion, Spirituality and Aging. Before entering the rabbinate, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and as Planning and Allocations Associate for the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco. He also spent two years living in Israel.
- B.A. in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois
- Masters degree Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati
- Masters degree in Hebrew Letters from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). He was ordained at RRC in 1997.
- Four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital-based chaplaincy training) completed between 1995 and 2000.
- Member of Northern California Board of Rabbis
- Board Certified Chaplain
Accomplishments & Publications
- Currently on the board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
- Served three terms on the board and on the executive board of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains
- Member of the Senior Resource Faculty of the National Center for Jewish Healing, 2002-2006
- “Torah, Torah Study, and Torah Reflections: An Introduction” (viewable at http://huc.edu/kalsman/articles/Natan.pdf)
Rabbi Jon Sommer
Rabbi Jon Sommer served in the United States Air Force, and began his professional training and work at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Rabbi Sommer is passionately committed to the Chaplaincy as an institution through which all members of the Jewish community can be served.
Rabbi Jon Sommer served in the United States Air Force, and began his professional training and work at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and later in Washington D.C. and at Air Force Space Command. He received the distinguished Air Force Achievement Medal. He is a graduate of both Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the University of California. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a Masters degree in Hebrew Letters. Rabbi Sommer was ordained in 1998, and currently serves on the board of a Reform Movement think-tank that addresses critical and timely issues facing modern Jewish thought and practice.
Rabbi Sommer received his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at UCSF – Mt. Zion. Because of its demands, needs, and rewards he understands Chaplaincy as the part of the Rabbinical profession which uniquely exemplifies Baruch Spinoza’s observation that “all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”
- B.A. in Literature from University of California at Santa Cruz, 1989
- Masters degree in Hebrew Letters, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Ordained in 1998.
- U.S. Air Force: Captain, Rabbi, 1995 – 2011. Served at U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO), Pentagon and Bolling Air Force Base (Washington D.C.), and Air Force Space Command (Mountain View, CA).
- Training in Clinical Pastoral Education. UCSF/Mt. Zion (Unit 1), 1996
- Trained in Clinical Pastoral Education. SFTS (Unit 2), 2009
- Member of Association of Jewish Studies
- Past Board Member of The Polydox Institute
Accomplishments & Publications
- Air Force Achievement Medal and Commendation. 1996
- Rabbinical Masters Thesis: The Role and Function of Myth in Judean Identity and Nation Building. 1996
- The CARE Writing Prize/ Doug Adams Gallery at the Badè Museum: Stewardship and the Prophetic Voice of the Artist. 2010
- Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Though and Culture: A Rationalist Approach to Suffering. 2012
- Cambridge Journals: Association of Jewish Studies Review: November, 2011.
- The San Francisco Jewish Bulletin: “Rabbi Boteach Showed no Sensitivity to Mental Illness”, August 4, 2011.
Rabbi Elliot Kukla
Rabbi Elliot Kukla was ordained by Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 2006. Rabbi Kukla has an arts and organizing background, and has trained and written extensively on gender diversity, mental illness and Jewish spirituality.
Rabbi Elliot Kukla was ordained by Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 2006 and trained in chaplaincy at UCSF Medical Center in 2007. Elliot’s articles and ideas on gender diversity, chronic illness, and healing are published in numerous magazines and anthologized widely including in the New York Times, and his work as a rabbi has been featured nationally, including in the Washington Post and National Geographic. His liturgy that marks loss and transition appear in numerous prayer books and are used in synagogues across the country. He has served as adjunct faculty in pastoral care at Starr King School for the Ministry (a part of the Graduate Theological Seminary of UC Berkeley).
Before joining the Healing Center’s rabbinic team, Rabbi Kukla organized for economic justice with Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice (CLUE), and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. He has a BA in Religion and Fine Art from the University of Toronto and before attending rabbinical school he worked as an arts journalist in Toronto. He is a painter and enjoys integrating visual art into his work with clients. Elliot lives in Oakland with his wife, son, and a menagerie of animals.
- B.A. in Religion and Fine Art from the University of Toronto
- Masters degree in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion(2004). Ordained in 2006.
- Clinical Pastoral Education Level 1 and Level 2 certification from UCSF Medical Center (2007) and San Francisco Theological Seminary
- Trained in community organizing with the Jewish Funds for Justice (2006) and through Interfaith worker’s Seminary Summer (2005)
Accomplishments & Publications
- Magazine and Journal Articles appear in: “The New York Times”, “The Body is Not an Apology”, “The Jewish Daily Forward”, “The CCAR Journal”; “Zeek: A Journal of Jewish Thought and Culture”; “Sh’ma a Journal of Jewish Responsibility (co-written with Judith Plaskow)”; “Lilith Magazine”; Guest editor (with Rabbi Eric Weiss) of a special issue of Zeek “The spirituality of Healing”
- Contributing writer to a number of anthologies and prayer books including: Mishkan Refuah, ed. by Rabbi Eric Weiss et al, URJ Press, 2012; “Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding”, ed. by Nancy Weiner, URJ press, 2012; “Balancing on the Mechitza”, ed. Noach Dzumra, North Atlantic Books, 2011; “The Passionate Torah”, ed. Danya Ruttenberg, NYU Press 2010; “Torah Queeries” ed. Gregg Drinkwater et al, NYU Press, 2009; “Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice” ed. Or Rose et al., Jewish Lights 2008
- Guest adjunct faculty in pastoral care at Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Seminary of UC Berkeley, 2009
From initial client intake, to working with volunteers, to supporting advancement for the organization, there are a range of expert skills needed in order to help make all of the Healing Center's work possible. Our staff does it all (and with a humor and warmth that's hard to match).
Maxine Epstein, LCSW, Development
Maxine has been working in the area of Development for over the past 30 years. Her role at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center is to create innovative and strategic ways to advance the Center’s mission and presence within the Bay Area Jewish community and to ensure its growth and financial sustainability for years to come.
She is a fundraiser with a focus on major gifts, a strategic analyst, community builder and community organizer.
Maxine holds a Master degree and an honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in the school of Non-Profit Management and a Masters from the University of Southern California in the School of Social Work. She is also a licensed clinical social worker.
Immediately upon graduating, Maxine made Aliyah to Israel where she lived and worked for over four years. She lectured at the University of Haifa in the School of Social Work, teaching a course in Human Sexuality. Maxine was commissioned by the Shelters for Battered Women to conduct a research project on battered women in Israeli society. She is the co-author of “Shalom Bayit: A follow Up Study of Battered Women in Israel.” (Published in 1986 by Breirot).
Maxine is the President and CEO of Next Tent. She lives in Marin County with her partner of 33 years and her twin daughters who are away at college, but who insist on bringing home their laundry. Maxine thanks God every day for their boy dog.
Gail Kolthoff, Executive Assistant
Gail Kolthoff is Bay Area Jewish Healing Center’s executive assistant.
If you’ve reached out to the Healing Center for support of any kind, you’ve likely met or talked to Gail. From client-facing work, to keeping things running behind-the-scenes, Gail keeps us moving with grace and humor.
Abra Greenspan, MA, Special Programs
Abra Greenspan has worked in Jewish education since she was a teen, including teaching positions at congregations in California and Japan. She believes that feeling connected to the Jewish community is at the heart of Jewish life, and strives to cultivate opportunities that build connections and relationships.
Abra has worked in informal and alternative Jewish Education at summer camps, the Hillel Foundation at Stanford University, Berkeley-based Lehrhaus Judaica and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. Abra also taught English as a Foreign Language to students abroad and in the United States.
She holds a BA in Religious Studies, an MA in Japanese Language and Literature from Stanford University, and an MS in Jewish Education from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. She completed a course of study through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and received a Reform Jewish Educator credential from the Association of Reform Jewish Educators.
She is a 2018 winner of the Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Established in January 2001, the awards recognize and honor educators offering pre-collegiate programs in Jewish education who have made an extraordinary impact on the youth of our community.