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.

Daniel Heinrich

Deputy Director

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Originally from Royal Oak, Michigan, Daniel Heinrich (he/his/him) now lives in central Maine with his wife and their two cats. After graduating from Brandeis’ Hornstein Program for Jewish Professional Leadership and the Heller School of Public Policy (MA/MBA) and serving two years as the Director of Community Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Daniel has joined the Center for Small Town Jewish Life as its first Deputy Director. With a background as a professional chef, a history of Jewish communal service in Maine, and experience in fundraising and program development for national programs with Hazon (now Adamah), he has had a passion for building sustainable and vibrant Jewish communities for over a decade. When he’s not working you can find Daniel covered in flour baking in the kitchen, tangled in yarn while knitting, or outside hiking, camping, or golfing


Rabbi Erica Asch

Senior Program Associate
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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 was installed as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in February 2023 in Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Madeline Cooper

Manager of Community Cultivation 
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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.

Cantor Sheila Nesis

Associate Director of Spiritual Music 
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Sheila Nesis is the lead educator for the Center’s Shlichei Tzibur Training Program. She has served congregations in Denver, Phoenix, and New York City, and is currently Cantor in Residence at Etz Chaim Synagogue in Portland, Maine. She is the creator and educator of the Shlichei Tzibur Training program at the Center for Small Town Jewish Life. Cantor Nesis participated in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program in 2023. Her writings appear in various Jewish publications, including The Times of Israel, Kveller, The Forward, and Ritualwell. Originally from Argentina, she lives in Cumberland Foreside, Maine, with her husband and two children.

Lauren Cohen Fisher

Director of Jewish Student Life
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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 Wexner Learning Center of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and as an editor 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.


Caralyn Soucy
Administrative Assistant 
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Caralyn Soucy is the administrative assistant for the Center for Small Town Jewish Life.