Leadership - Center for Small Town Jewish Life
Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Executive Director

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs

Executive Director

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Rachel Isaacs was named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” (2014) by the Jewish Daily Forward. Ordained in 2011 by the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she studied as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation. She is also the inaugural holder of the Dorothy “Bibby” Levine Alfond chair in Jewish Studies, teaching courses on Hebrew, Jewish theology, and Jewish humor. In 2016, she delivered the final Hanukkah benediction of the Obama administration at the White House. She lives in Waterville with her wife, Melanie Weiss, and their daughters, Nitzan and Hadas.

Rabbi Dr. David Freidenreich

Associate Director

 

David Freidenreich is the Pulver Family Professor of Jewish Studies and chair of Colby’s Jewish Studies department. He teaches a wide range of courses on Judaism, Jewish history, and comparative religion, directs Colby’s Maine Jewish History Project, and lectures widely to community and academic audiences. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

 
Melanie Weiss

Melanie Weiss

Assistant Director
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Melanie Weiss is the director of summer and youth programs at the Center.  She also serves as director of education at Beth Israel Congregation of Waterville, Maine, Melanie is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and a Dorot Fellow. A native of New York, she loves working and living in beautiful Maine.

Rabbi Erica Asch

Senior Program Associate

 

Erica Asch is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Augusta, Maine. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2008 and then took a position as a community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation. After three years with IAF, she served at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., before moving to Augusta in June 2013. She serves on the board of the BTS (Bangor Theological Seminary) Center and is the President Elect of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rabbi Madeline Cooper

Manager of Community Cultivation

 

Madeline Cooper serves as Manager of Community Cultivation in partnership with Jewish Federations of North America.  She received her rabbinic ordination in 2022 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she studied as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. While at HUC-JIR, Madeline served communities in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York and was a member of the Center for Rabbinic Innovation’s Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs. She also holds a master’s in Jewish Nonprofit Management from the Zelikow School at HUC-JIR.

Lauren Cohen Fisher

Director of Jewish Student Life

 

Lauren Cohen Fisher serves in a joint role as Jewish Studies faculty and Colby’s Hillel advisor. She returns to Waterville after years at Hillel International’s Center for Jewish and Israel Education, where she developed Masterclass: Israel, a pedagogy fellowship for Hillel professionals across North America, and Kol Yisrael, a six-week learning cohort about Israel that is slated to reach its 1,000th student this year. Lauren received her bachelor’s degree in Government and Creative Writing from Colby and her master’s in Security/Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University. She will be teaching the Israel-related courses in the Jewish Studies department. Lauren has been recognized as a national leader in Israel education, consulting for the Foundation for Jewish Camps, BBYO, Makom, Hillel International, and Moishe House. When not on campus, Lauren can be found singing niggunim to herself, hiking, gathering community, or trying to get her friends to participate in ice breakers.

Liz Soloway Snider

Program Coordinator

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Liz Soloway Snider served as administrator and Hebrew-school teacher at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue in Rockland, Maine, for many years. Previously she worked at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and at Moment Magazine. A native of New York, she graduated from Brown University with a degree in Religious Studies. She lives with her family in Belfast, Maine.