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Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Toba Spitzer has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek since graduating from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1997. Rabbi Spitzer has long been active in peace and justice work both in the U.S. and in Israel/Palestine. She currently serves on the Board of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and as President of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis. She brings her love of music and her guitar-playing to CDT services, and her passion for teachings to adults and children both at CDT and throughout the greater Boston area.

You can find more information about Rabbi Toba and links to her writings here.

Earnest Vener

Director of Congregational Learning

Earnest Vener (he/him/his) is honored to be the Director of Congregational Learning and is eager to support CDT in creating inclusive, meaningful, and justice oriented Jewish learning opportunities. In addition to working at CDT, Earnest is a SVARA Teaching Kollel fellow, which equips trans and queer teachers to lead empowering Talmud learning communities. Earnest received an M.A. in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. Earnest draws on his education to create learning experiences rooted in history, storytelling, cultural arts, and social justice. Prior to moving East, Earnest ran an outdoor Jewish religious school in the Oakland Redwoods and a Jewish farming program at URJ Camp Newman. Earnest is engaged to Emma Price and they enjoy playing board games, studying Torah, spending time with their two cats, and working to build a more equitable world.

Rabbi Shahar Colt

Rabbi for Congregational Learning

Since 2015, Rabbi Shahar Colt has been serving Dorshei Tzedek as the Director of Congregational Learning. In this role, she directs the school, oversees youth and family programs, teaches adult learning classes, and interfaces with synagogue committees and events wherever education supports the life of the congregation.

Rabbi Shahar graduated from Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Newton, MA in 2016. During her time in rabbinical school, she served in a range of rabbinic capacities- including leading services, teaching, writing, organizing and providing a pastoral presence- at Hampshire College, Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation (Bethlehem, NH), Temple Shir Tikvah (Winchester, MA), Jews United for Justice (Washington, DC), Interfaith Power & Light of Greater Washington, and the Boston-Area Jewish Education Project (Waltham, MA). She also completed a unit of clinical pastoral education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and founded the Teen Beit Midrash, a supplementary education program for post b’nai mitzvah students.

Before rabbinical school, Rabbi Shahar earned her Masters in Education at Tufts University (2008), with a focus on secondary level humanities, and her Bachelors from Barnard College (2006) in American Studies, with a concentration in Education. In addition to teaching in supplementary religious schools since 2006, she has taught secular academic subjects in public and private schools, general and special education classrooms, as well as swimming, dance, cooking and woodworking in after school programs, youth group and summer camps.

Rabbi Shahar can often be seen commuting by bicycle around the Boston area, and she loves dancing, especially swing and African diaspora styles.

Melissa Colten

Executive Director

Melissa comes to Congregation Dorshei Tzedek with an extensive background in non-profit and public sectors, with expertise in community building, educational program development and management, international diplomacy, and TESOL.

Previously a life cycle coordinator and cantor’s assistant at an 1800+ member synagogue in NYC, she returns to the Jewish world after more than 5 years as the executive director for a community development nonprofit in New Jersey. In addition to her core role there, she beta-tested and honed a collaborative intergenerational teaching model that intertwined multi-disciplinary and service learning.

Raised in the Boston area, Melissa earned a BA in Russian studies and theater from Hampshire College. She spent a combined 8+ years in eastern Europe, where she worked for the consular section of the US Department of State during wartime, the International Organization for Migration combating human trafficking and aiding refugees, and teaching English as a second language. She holds a MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in public international law and international migration, and has also completed coursework in non-profit management at the Kennedy School of Harvard University.

Melissa is passionate about connecting people with ideas and with each other. She adores a good story in any medium, prefers salt water to fresh, and takes great delight in language. She is deeply committed to learning, inclusiveness and making the world a better place for all, and is thrilled to join the CDT community at such an exciting time of growth.

Amira Shulman-Kumin

Inclusion Coordinator

Amira brings a wealth of experience to the project of inclusion in the CDT Religious School. With a background as an elementary school reading specialist, Amira has worked with students of all ages and with a wide range of special needs. She has collaborated with other teachers in helping those students in inclusion classroom settings, as well as working with students individually. She has worked with parents to identify priority areas and to develop plans for their children’s success, both within her schools and as a private consultant.

Though working in a religious school context will be a new step, Dorshei Tzedek is a familiar community to Amira, as she has joined our High Holydays services for several years and was raised in a Reconstructionist synagogue. She is also an active member of the Moishe Kavod House community, a young adult Jewish community in the Boston area. At Moishe Kavod, she has been involved with their Farm to Shul team and, more recently, in their accessibility work for young adults with a variety of inclusion needs.

Amira looks forward to getting to know the CDT community, especially the young people. As a self-identified reading nerd, she is looking forward to thinking about how to best support Hebrew reading instruction, especially for students that are already challenged by reading and writing in English.

Amira lives with her partner, Nathan, and dog, Jackson, in Watertown. In addition to her teaching work, Amira enjoys researching and reading children’s literature, cooking, playing board games, and practicing American Sign Language.

Lidia Pruente

Pronouns: she/her/hers
Administrative Associate

Lidia is a graduate of Cornell College, where she majored in History and Religion. She started working in the CDT Religious School office in August 2016, and is excited to have begun working full-time in the CDT office the following winter. Before working at Dorshei Tzedek, Lidia was a baker at Petsi Pies and King Arthur Flour Bakery, as well as a Girl Scout counselor and administrator. In her free time, she can be found volunteering for the Newton Historical Society, Irish step dancing, or hiking in the White Mountains. A Newton native, Lidia is delighted to be working in the community where she grew up.

Sat, July 4 2020 12 Tammuz 5780