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“We learn little from spoken rules and written advice. Words can inspire us, but rarely do they transform our lives. We learn from people, from the living example of living teachers."     — Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Friedman

We want our students to feel confident in asking questions and thinking for themselves.


Rabbi Adam Chalom (Mitzvah Prep Class, B Mitzvah Tutor, All-School Holiday Celebrations, Classroom Visits) has served as Rabbi of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation since 2004. He was raised as a Humanistic Jew in suburban Detroit, holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies from the University of Michigan and was ordained by IISHJ in 2001.. Learn more about Rabbi Chalom.



Ilana Shaffer (Youth Education Director) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2012. She received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan and has held positions in marketing communications, event planning, and non-profit management.  Ilana grew up in a traditional Jewish household in Oklahoma City, OK, and Atlanta, GA, but had an “aha!” moment when she learned about Humanistic Judaism. Ilana’s daughter and son attend Kol Hadash Sunday School.  


Leah Sosewitz (B Mitzvah Coordinator) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2014. She is an alumna of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. Leah has a BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a professional artist who has been creating unique Judaica through her art studio in Highland Park for nearly three decades. She was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council grant in Folk Arts, and her work has been collected widely in the USA and beyond. Leah has three sons, the youngest of whom celebrated his B Mitzvah at Kol Hadash in 2017. Leah is an avid reader and a huge fan of Zumba!  She also enjoys singing in the Kol Hadash Choir.


Ellen Apley (Music Director) grew up as a Humanistic Jew at Congregation Beth Or in Deerfield. She started singing in the Beth Or choir in high school and has been singing at Kol Hadash services since its founding in 2001. She became music director in 2014. Ellen graduated from Washington University with a degree in Psychology, and then worked as a professional singer in the Chicago area for several years before earning a Masters degree in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University. Ellen runs Kroft Educational Therapy, teaching children with learning disabilities. Ellen and her husband Mitch have two sons, one is enrolled in Kol Hadash Sunday School and the other serves as a classroom aid for the Sunday School.

Lynn Miller (Preschool Jewish Discovery Class) was unaware of Humanistic Judasim until she and her husband Elliot spotted the sign for Kol Hadash while driving down Route 22. After attending a few services, they joined in 2015. Lynn is the chair of the Values in Action committee. She has been an educator for more than 35 years.  Her most current teaching position was having fun with music at area preschools. Presently  she is enjoying her three grandchildren. and looks forward to meeting new little friends and their parents!


Laura Burk (Kindergarten/1st/2nd Grade Class) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2004. She led Sunday School music for more than 10 years, is the guitar accompanist for family holiday programs, and is a member of the Kol Hadash choir. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in music and has an MBA in marketing. Laura's daughter completed Sunday School Confirmation and is a classroom aide.


Karen Jackson (3rd/4th/5th Grade Class) joined Kol Hadash in 2013. She has been an active member and chair of the Youth Education Committee before taking on the role of Sunday School teacher in 2018. Karen grew up in a Reform Jewish household. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from  Washington University in St. Louis, and earned an MA in Teaching — Elementary Education from National Louis University. When she is not preparing for Sunday School, she is usually surrounded by children’s books as a Team Leader and Educational Services Representative with Usborne Books & More.  Karen’s has two daughters; her older daughter completed Sunday School Confirmation, and her younger daughter is in the 6th/7th grade class this year.


Irene Chase (6th/7th Grade Class) joined Kol Hadash in 2002 after being unaffiliated her whole life. A member promised "this won't drive you crazy". Irene achieved her goal of getting her three children  B-Mitzvahed and Confirmed.  Along the way, Irene has worked in the Kol Hadash office, taught 2nd/3rd grade, retired from Sunday School to spend her Sundays with coffee and the New York Times,  and, is excited to return to teach the 6th/7th grade class.



David Hirsch (8th/9th/10th Grade Confirmation Class) is a product of a Humanistic Sunday School. His Confirmation Class teacher was Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Friedman, one of the founders of Humanistic Judaism. In addition to teaching Sunday School, David sings in the choir and has served as chair of the Steering Committee and the Development Committee. After 30 years, David recently retired as an English teacher at Deerfield High School. David and his wife Glynis have two children who completed Kol Hadash Sunday School.


Rachel Samlan (8th/9th/10th Grade Confirmation Class) grew up Reform, but she and her family found a great philosophical match when they joined Kol Hadash in 2011. She served as chair of the Youth Education Committee. Rachel's oldest child completed Sunday School confirmation and her two younger children attend Sunday School. She has a Master's degree in Teaching from the University of Chicago and has been teaching English and Reading in public schools since 1998. When she isn't planning or grading, she can be found listening to audiobooks while furiously knitting.


Mara Heichman (Hebrew & B Mitzvah tutor) (Mara is the one on the right!) has been a B Mitzvah tutor since 2000 for a variety of congregations in the Chicagoland area. She was raised in a Conservative congregation and was the first girl to have a Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah at that congregation, which helped create a more egalitarian community. 

Sat, 13 August 2022