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“A successful graduate of our Sunday School would be a critical thinker with a good grounding in Jewish culture, history, values and ethics, and who is comfortable saying, ‘This is what I believe.’”

 — Leora H., Buffalo Grove

“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 Daniel Friedman

Rabbi Adam Chalom (Rabbi & 7th Grade Mitzvah Class & B Mitzvah Tutor) is a leading voice in the Humanistic Jewish movement. He earned a B.A. cum laude in Judaic Studies from Yale University, a Master’s Degree in Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies from the University of Michigan; his rabbinic ordination from the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism (IISHJ), and his PhD from the University of Michigan.

Continue reading about Rabbi Adam Chalom.


Ilana Shaffer (Youth Education Director) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2012 and has served as the Assistant Youth Education Director, as well as chair of the Youth Education Committee.  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 and her husband, Marty, are also Sunday School parents with a 3rd grade son and 7th grade daughter.

Leah Sosewitz (B Mitzvah Coordinator) has been a been a member of Kol Hadash since 2014 and has served on the Youth Education and Membership Committees. 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 where she was confirmed by Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Friedman. She started singing in the Beth Or choir in high school and has been singing at Kol Hadash services since its founding in 2001. 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. Aside from her love of singing, Ellen runs Kroft Educational Therapy, a business she began with her mother, Roslyn Kroft, teaching children with learning disabilities. Ellen lives in Highland Park with her husband, Mitch, and their two sons, a freshman at HPHS who celebrated his B Mitzvah in June 2018 and a 7th grader.

Lynn Miller (Preschool Jewish Discovery class Lynn 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. Since then Lynn has been active as 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 grandson Evan and looks forward to meeting new little friends and their parents!

Michelle Malow (1st/2nd/3rd Grade Class) has been a member of Kol Hadash since 2016. She grew up in Long Grove in a Reform Jewish household. She earned a Bachelor degree from Arizona State University and then continued her schooling in Colorado before moving back to Illinois in 2002. She currently works with preschool children at Lake Bluff Elementary School. Michelle lives in Lake Zurich with her two sons,  Collin (age 16) and Jayden (age 10), and their dog Zeus. They love to snowboard, travel, go to Cubs games, and play and watch sports as much as they can.

Dan Polonsky (1st/2nd/3rd Grade Classhas been a member of Kol Hadash since 2012.Although Dan grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, Humanistic Judaism and Kol Hadash are a perfect philosophical fit for him and his family. Dan was raised in Hyde Park on the campus of the University of Chicago. He got his BA in Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis in 1998. He spent 12 years teaching special education in a variety of settings, and is now the Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at Springman Middle School in Glenview. Dan and his wife Ami have two children -- El is in 6th grade and Ben, who celebrated his B Mitzvah in May 2019, is in 8th grade. Dan loves to play tennis, is a Star Wars fanatic, and is so happy to be part of the Kol Hadash staff. 

Karen Jackson (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 with the 2nd/3rd Grade Class. Karen grew up in Lake Forest in a Reform Jewish household. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and earned an M.A. 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. She enjoys eating yummy, gluten-free foods and is a bit of a pop culture junkie as well.  Karen lives in Long Grove with her husband Chris, and their two daughters, a 9th grader and a 4th grader.

Mark Friedman (6th/7th/8th Grade Class) is a second-generation Humanistic Jew who completed a Humanistic Kindergarten-thru-Confirmation Sunday School education in his childhood. His father is Rabbi Emeritus Daniel Friedman. Mark taught the Kol Hadash 4th/5th grade classes from 2003 to 2018, developing two new curricula: “Jewish Immigration” and “Heroes & Choices.” In 2018, Mark moved into the role of teaching grades 6-8, implementing a curriculum focused on Israel and American Jewish History in one year, and the Holocaust in the alternate year. In professional life, Mark has worked in the educational publishing industry for more than 25 years and is the Associate Vice President for SPi Global U.S. He has been chair and vice-chair of the Kol Hadash Steering Committee, a member of the Finance Committee, chair of the Marketing Committee, and editor of the Shofar newsletter. Mark and his wife Dawn, past Youth Education Director, live in Deerfield.

David Hirsch (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. David and his wife Glynis have two children who celebrated their B Mitzvahs and were confirmed at Kol Hadash, as well as working as classroom aides. 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 more than 30 years of public school teaching, David recently retired from his long-time job as an English teacher at Deerfield High School.

Rachel Samlan (9th/10th Grade Confirmation Classgrew up in a Reform Jewish community in Skokie, but she and her family found a great philosophical match when they joined Kol Hadash in 2011. During that time she has served as both a member and chair of the Youth Education Committee. All three of Rachel's children attend Kol Hadash's Sunday School. Her oldest daughter celebrated her B Mitzvah in 2018, and the other two are currently working toward that goal. Although she is new to teaching 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 in Cincinnati and was the first female to have a Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah at that congregation to help create a more egalitarian community. Mara has a daughter who is a sophomore at Colorado State University and a son who is a junior at Stevenson High School.

Alec Ratnaswamy (Youth Group Leader) grew up in Highland Park and is a Kol Hadash Sunday School alum, having attended from 2005 to 2014. He followed up his schooling with two years as a Class Aide for the Pre-K through 1st grade class, and is now leading the Youth Group for a second year. Alec currently lives in Chicago, attending Harold Washington College.



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Fri, October 18 2019 19 Tishrei 5780