At Midreshet Torah v’Avodah, we believe that the best students should learn with the most elite teachers in the world in a broad and integrative manner. Whether it is a Gemara shiur from Rabbi Alan Haber or Rabbanit Navit Tzadik, a Tanach shiur from Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, a Halakha shiur from Rabbi Aaron Bayer, Rabbanit Shani Taragin, or Rabbanit Nechama Goldman Barash, or a Jewish Philosophy shiur from Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Seif, our students come away with a foundation to carry them for the rest of their lives.
RABBI DR. YEHUDA SEIF
Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Seif is a scholar and community builder whose dream it has been to open an integrated yeshiva/midrasha program.
He studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion and received his ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg. He received his BA from Columbia College, his MA in Religion and Education from Columbia’s Teacher’s College, and Israeli Teacher Certification from Herzog College. He was a fellow at the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at the Cardozo School of Law, and he completed his PhD in Religious Studies at University of Pennsylvania. Rabbi Seif has extensive formal and informal educational experience teaching and leading programs for high school and college students. He served as a Senior Program Officer at the Tikvah Fund, a foundation devoted to Jewish excellence and promoting serious Jewish thought about the enduring questions of human life and the pressing challenges that confront the Jewish people. After initiating a high school scholars program at the foundation, R’ Seif taught Tikvah Scholars classes at Kohelet Yeshiva High School, focusing on the intersection between Jewish law, thought and Western Humanities. He served as the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus educator at the University of Pennsylvania from 2002-2006.
He, along with his wife Orit and their five sons currently live in Efrat.
RABBI AARON BAYER
Rabbi Aaron Bayer is an experienced and talented educator who has built exciting programs and strengthened Jewish day schools in the United States. Rabbi Bayer has a BA in Bible from Yeshiva College, an MA in educational administration from Columbia Teachers College and was ordained at RIETS/Yeshiva University. Rabbi Bayer was also Wexner Graduate Fellow. Rabbi Bayer served as the Judaic Studies Principal of the Seattle Hebrew Academy and was previously the Director of Student Life at the Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland, OH, as well as a Judaic teacher at SAR Academy in New York. Much of Rabbi Bayer’s youth was spent in Bnei Akiva and at Camp Moshava. As a professional, Rabbi Bayer has served in a variety of educational roles both at Camp Moshava IO and Camp Stone. He was also the Director of Bnei Akiva of North America’s AMI/March of the Living program. Rabbi Bayer made Aliyah in 2014 with his wife, Micol, and their three children.
RABBI SHAUL FELDMAN
Rabbi Shaul Feldman is the Executive Director of Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada and just recently served as the campaign manager for the Religious Zionist Party in the World Zionist Congress elections. He received smicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and a law degree from Bar Ilan Law School.
Today, Rabbi Feldman is a highly admired Rav both in Israel and North America and mixes a keen mind with humor and a down to earth nature. After serving as a paratrooper in the IDF, he went on to teach in the Kerem B’Yavneh overseas program, Stern College and Torah Mi’Zion Kollel. In the past six years, Rabbi Feldman built a network of Bnei Akiva Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) sent to North America, consisting of 11 families and over 20 young shlichim. He also founded the new Moshava Ba’ir day camp network that serves close to 1,000 campers in several states. Most recently, he founded Yeshivat and Midreshet Torah v’Avodah.
Rabbi Feldman is married to Libby and has 5 children.
RABBANIT SHANI TARAGIN
Shani Taragin began her B.A. studies in Stern College and completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Tanakh and Talmud from Bar-Ilan University. She is also a graduate of the Matan Scholar’s Program and of Nishmat’s Keren Ariel Program for certification as a halachic advisor (yoetzet halacha) in issues of family purity law. Shani is the educational director of Matan Eshkolot Tanakh teachers’ education program and Mizrachi-MTVA Lapidot teachers of Torah shebeal-peh. She is a Ram and Mashgicha Ruchanit at Midreshet Torah v’Avodah and directs their Taach and Tiyul Seminar. Shani has also directed, taught and continues to teach, lead tours and coordinate programs in numerous adult education programs in Israel (e.g. Matan, Hertzog College, OU, YU, the Eden Center, Women’s Beit Medrash in Gush Etzion and Ramat Bet-Shemesh) and worldwide. She serves on the advisory committee for the Mizrachi Olami Shalhevet program for shlichim and lectures on topics of Tanakh, Jewish education, Jewish law and women’s health. Together with her husband, Reuven, she serves as Educational Director for Mizrachi Olami and as Rosh Beit Midrash for the Beit Midrash Program in Machaneh Moshava Pennsylvania during the summer. Shani lives with her family in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion-Israel.
RABBANIT DR. TAMARA SPITZ
Dr. Tamara Spitz is a noted speaker, engaging audiences in English, Hebrew or Spanish. Most recently she was on shlichut to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she worked as the Jewish Studies Principal of one of the main Jewish schools in the country, and where her husband served as Chief Rabbi.
Dr. Spitz over 20 years’ experience teaching Judaic Studies in both formal and informal frameworks to all ages and backgrounds. She has taught in numerous women’s seminaries a range of Judaic topics from Talmud, Tanach, and Halacha. She was previously Assistant Director of the Midreshet Tzvia in Jerusalem. For the past 10 years, Dr. Spitz has been learning and teaching Daf Yomi to a group of women that meet daily in Alon Shvut. Dr. Spitz is a Professional Healthcare Practitioner with over 18 years experience in Women’s Health. She is also a dancer and choreographer, having preformed in and trained groups for multiple “women for women” dance shows in Israel.
RABBANIT NECHAMA GOLDMAN BARASH
Rabbanit Goldman Barash made aliyah from Philadelphia over 20 years ago after graduating from Stern College. She studied for three years in Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute and finished a master’s degree in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University. She is a graduate of Nishmat’s Yoetzet Halacha program. Currently she is studying in Matan’s new Hilchata program, which is an advanced program in the area of Jewish law. Nechama lives in Gush Etzion with her husband and four daughters.
RABBANIT MICHAL JACOB
Rabbanit Michal Jacob is a Mashgicha at TVA, where she teaches tanach and halachah classes. Previously, she taught at the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School in South Florida and at The Frisch School in New Jersey. At Frisch, she also served as Grade Dean and Israel Advisor. Michal made aliyah in 2015 and lives with her family in Modiin.
RABBANIT ATARA SEGAL
Rabbanit Atara Segal has taught Gemara, Tanakh and math at day schools in NY, Houston and Los Angeles and has recently served as the head lifeguard at Camp HASC. A graduate of YU’s SCW, (pre-Engineering), Bernard Revel Graduate School (Bible) and the Miriam Glaubach Center of Nishmat (Yoetzet Halacha), she has published articles on Jewish education and done editorial work on several books in Jewish thought. She is making Aliyah from LA to Modiin and is looking forward to working hard to acclimate to Israeli life.
RABBANIT MARGOT BOTWINICK
Margot Botwinick grew up in Teaneck, NJ, and attended Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School. She received her B.A. in Jewish Education as a Legacy Heritage Scholar at Yeshiva University and continued onto Hebrew University to complete her M.A. in Jewish Education. Margot taught Tanach, Talmud and Jewish Thought at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and has also taught at several seminaries in Israel. While becoming a Bellows Eshkolot Graduate Fellow, Margot learned and taught at Matan in Jerusalem.
During the summers, Margot has worked at Camp Stone (where she met her husband!) served as bus head for various NCSY Summer programs, coordinated winter camps in Moscow, and is the Co-Director of Jewish Experience at Sephardic Adventure Camp, along with Rav Josh. Most recently, she founded the JLIC program at IDC in Herziliya and served as the educational couple on that campus. She lives in Efrat.
Michelle Kaplansky is the Administrator of Israel Programs for Bnei Akiva of North America.
She was born and raised in Chicago and is a graduate of Bnei Akiva’s Hachshara program and Stern College. She currently splits her time between TVA, where she coordinates many of the program’s administrative and logistical needs, and Mach Hach BaAretz, where she’s been part of the administrative team for the past fifteen years. She made Aliyah with her family 20 years ago, lives in Chashmonaim, and is the proud mother of five and grandmother of three.
DINA KESSLER M.SC.
Dina Kessler, M.Sc. serves as our program’s guidance counselor. She received her masters in Clinical Sociology from the University of North Texas and works as a therapist at the Family Institute, a mental health clinic in Jerusalem. She has a B.A. from Stern College in Psychology and Judaic studies and focused on a career in education before turning to mental health. She pursued a Master’s degree in Tanach at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and taught Judaic Studies at Jewish Day Schools in N.Y. and Cleveland where she also taught as part of the MaTan Bat Mitzvah Program. Since making aliya in 2007, she has worked as a Rakezet Chinuchi at Midresht Lindenbaum, as well as both teaching and serving as a counselor. She lives in Gush Etzion with her husband and five children.
Sarina Novick earned a B.A. in Jewish Studies and Biology at Yeshiva University, and an M.A. in Biology Education from Columbia University. Sarina worked as a program coordinator on various gap year programs in Israel, is a graduate of the Bellows Eshkolot Institute for Tanakh and Jewish Studies, at Matan. She is also the coordinator for Matan’s Summer Experience and Advanced Tanakh Summer Institute. She currently serves as assistant director at TVA.
Abby was born and raised in Albany New York, and after high school, Abby made Aliyah and spent 2 years at Michlelet M’vaseret Yerushalayim (MMY).
Abby studied English literature at Bar-Ilan University and is a certified life coach.
For the past 10 years, Abby has been involved in a number of post high school seminaries. Her roles have included informal education, em-Bayit, and program coordinator.
Abby is married to Shaun and they have 4 children, Elisheva, Yehoshua, Chana, and Ami.
Yael Engelhart brings a wealth of experience and passion to her role as the Program Director. With a strong background in education and community building, she is dedicated to fostering an environment where young women can deeply engage with Torah study, build meaningful connections with Israel, and develop lasting mentoring relationships.
Before joining MTVA, Yael served as the Director of the “Here Next Year” program, During the summer months, Yael extends her educational impact as a staff member at Camp Stone, a summer camp committed to nurturing Jewish identity and values in young people. There, she designs and implements programs that are both fun and educational, creating a lasting impact on campers and staff alike.
With her dynamic approach to program development and her deep commitment to Jewish education, Yael Engelhart is helping shape the future leaders of the Jewish community, both in Israel and the diaspora.
RAV MENACHEM LEIBTAG
Rav Leibtag is one of the pioneers of Torah education via the Internet. His weekly essays on Parshat Ha’shavua, read by literally thousands of subscribers world wide, introduce a vibrant analytical approach to thematic study of the Bible and reflect over twenty years of experience as a student and teacher at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel. He was the founder of the Yeshiva’s Virtual Bet Midrash and more recently founded the Tanach Study Center, which contains a full archive of his lectures in various formats. In addition to his educational responsibilities at Har Etzion, Rav Leibtag also lectures at Yeshivat Shaalvim, Yeshivat ha’Kotel, Midreshet Lindenbaum, and Orot College for Women. He has delivered lectures and teacher workshops extensively in Israel and the Diaspora.
RAV ALAN HABER
Rabbi Alan Haber has been involved in Torah education for over twenty-five years.
He is one of the founders of Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY), where he served as Director for 16 years. Prior to that, he taught high school girls at Bat Torah Academy in Suffern, NY and was Assistant Regional Director of New Jersey NCSY. He is a licensed tour guide, and is also an editor of the new English-language Koren Talmud Bavli. He has lectured widely in Israel and around the world, and many of his shiurim and publications can be seen on his website:www.rabbihaber.net. Rabbi Haber is a graduate of Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshiva University. He lives in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion with his wife and five children.
RAV JOSH BOTWINICK
Rav Josh Botwinick grew up in Riverdale, NY, where he attended SAR High School. He spent a year learning in Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush) in Israel before returning to New York to graduate from Yeshiva University’s Honors Program, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Biology and English. He went on to pursue Smicha at Yeshiva University RIETS and received his M.A. in Jewish Philosophy at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School. He was also a Wexner Graduate Fellow / Davidson Scholar.
Rav Josh’s passion lies in experiential Jewish education. He directed Bnei Akiva of NY/NJ’s Innovative School Programming project, which brings Israel-themed educational programs into schools. He served as the Youth Director at Congregation Ohav Sholom in Merrick, Long Island, where he also gave shiurim, sermons, and led programming for the community. He also served as the Rabbinic Intern at the Roslyn Synagogue.
During the summers, Rav Josh has spent many months working at Camp Stone (where he met his wife!), serving as Rosh Mosh in 2014. He also spent several years leading the Ya’alozu Extreme wilderness program in Camp Dora Golding. Most recently, he founded the JLIC program at IDC in Herziliya and served as the educational couple on that campus. He lives in Efrat.
RABBANIT NAVIT TZADIK
Rabbanit Navit Tzadik served as the director of Nishmat’s Online Beit Midrash Program and the Alisa Flatow Post-College Program. She has taught in various institutions and communities including the Chevrutah program for medical students at Hadassah Ein Karem and The Women’s Beit Midrash of Efrat. Rabbanit Navit has studied Talmud and halacha for over fifteen years in various programs and midrashot, including Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s gemara shiur at Migdal Oz. She completed Rav Riskin’s Advanced Halacha Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum. Rabbanit Navit earned a BA and teacher’s certificate from the Open University. She has published several articles on women and halachic observance. She lives in Otniel with her husband and eleven children.
RABBANIT RONIT BOUKRIS
Rabbanit Ronit made Aliyah from Teaneck NJ with her family at the age of three. Growing up in Israel, she took part in many educational programs in numerous positions. Today she lives in Jerusalem with her husband Ilan and beautiful daughter Ori. Ronit is constantly looking to learn and grow – currently through teaching at MTVA. Ronit graduated with honors with a B.ed. in Jewish Thought and Torah Shebe’al Peh from Herzog College. She is currently studying for an M.ed. in Jewish Thought. Ronit studied in Midreshet Nishmat over the course of four years. Then continued to learn in the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for Women where she participated in the Kollel Iyun, a program for advanced Gemara studies, over the duration of two years. In MTVA Ronit is on the phenomenal team of Ramim, teaches a few other shiurim, and coordinates Chessed.