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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 (B 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 completed Sunday School confirmation and is a class aide and her son is in the 6th/7th grade class this year.  


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 co-chair of the Values in Action committee, chair of the Helping Hands committee, and chair of the Connections 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!


Cara Schwartz (Kindergarten/1st/2nd Grade Class) has been a member of Kol Hadash since her family joined in 2002. Cara attended Kol Hadash Sunday School from kindergarten through Confirmation and was then a class aide. She has also been a member of the Kol Hadash choir. Every year during and after high school, she attended the SHJ’s annual HuJews Conclave. Cara recently received a BA from Lake Forest College in Sociology and Anthropology. She has been a summer camp counselor for five years and is now a nanny. Cara likes to go for walks and listen to music. Fun fact: she keeps every card she has ever gotten and every ticket; movie theater, train, museum, and airplane to name a few. 

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.


Stacey Max (6th/7th Grade Class) has been an active member since she joined Kol Hadash in 2007. During this time, she has taken on many roles — from running our Book Club and being a member of the Steering Committee, to teaching Sunday school (having taught both our 6th/7th grade class and Preschool Jewish Discovery class). Stacey has been teaching middle school since 1996 and is a 6th, 7th and 8th grade STEM teacher in Deerfield. Her two daughters (22 and 19) completed Sunday School confirmation. During her free time, Stacey loves to draw and knit.


Rachel Samlan (8th/9th 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) 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. Mara is also a Certified Professional Coach, mom to a 22 year old daughter and a 20 year old son and an avid fan of all things nature/animals!

Tue, July 16 2024 10 Tammuz 5784