Faculty Bios


Rabbi Goldie Milgram, D.Min., M.H.L., MSW, is the founder and Executive Director of Reclaiming Judaism Institute for Jewish Spiritual Education and the Maggid-Educator Training Program. Rabbi Milgram has worked at every level of Jewish education—religious school teacher, principal, day school high school co-founder, youth groups director, BJE executive, and for camps, pulpits, JCCs, campuses, as an educational consultant, Federation executive, member of university and seminary faculties, and as a seminary dean. She has also taught trauma training for student and graduate Jewish communal service professionals and emergency response staff of the City of New York.

Rabbinic graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, "Reb Goldie"  subsequently also received private smicha, ordination from her teacher Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory, as rabbi, maggid (sacred storyteller), mashpia (spiritual guide) and shaliach (emissary). Her Masters in Social Work is from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School.

A Covenant Award finalist for Jewish educational innovation and excellence, and also a widely published author, her newest works are Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Guidance and Development and Reclaiming Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a Spiritual Rite of Passage. "Reb Goldie" presently teaches Hashpa'ah--Jewish spiritual guidance and development for the Maggid-Educator and B-Mitzvah!(SM) Training Programs.

Batya Podos, Dean of Programs is an ordained Maggidah-Omanit-- educator, storyteller and guide in the Jewish tradition, earlier ordained Maggidah by Rabbi David Zaslow and Maggidah Debra Gordon Zaslow. A Reclaiming Judaism Maggid-Educator Training Program faculty member specializing in curriculum development, her career spans over thirty years as a middle school drama/language arts director, artist-in-residence, educational consultant, counselor, and youth director. Her work extends across a broad spectrum of settings, denominations, and age groups in the roles of principal, teacher, B’nei mitzvah educator, service leader and Torah teacher for Shabbat and holy days, and scholar-in-residencies for Shabbatonim. 

Batya Podos is also one of the founders of Abraham’s Tent, an interfaith summer camp for Jewish, Christian and Muslim children. Among Batya's recent publications are: Rebecca and the Talisman of Time (Portal Center Press), a novel for middle school students, and works in New Mitzvah Stories for the Whole Family (Reclaiming Judaism Press) and The Language of Life, by Milt Markewitz, an exploration of the energetic patterns of the Hebrew letters. Presently a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, she can be reached at batsongs@gmail.com.

Cherie Karo Schwartz, our Dean of Stories, has received Omanit HaSippur ordination from the Institute for Jewish Spiritual Education, she also holds an MA in Developmental Theater. She is also a storyteller, author, and educator living in Denver. She has shared stories with audiences of all ages throughout America and abroad for forty years. She shares a kaleidoscope of spirit-filled tales of wishes, wisdom, and wit drawn from worldwide Jewish folklore, sacred texts, family folklore, original stories and modern midrashim. Cherie offers storytelling performances, master classes, workshops and keynotes for conferences, organizations, museums, storytellers, schools, and libraries world-wide. She was co-founding coordinator of the international Jewish Storytelling Network of CAJE, following her heart-friend-in-story Peninnah Schram. Cherie has authored three books, numerous recordings and articles.

Judith Blackone of America’s foremost storytellers is grounded in Jewish roots, from which she retells history from new perspectives, tickles familial dysfunction, offers ironic explorations of aging, and calls people to pay attention to their planet. As a Wheelock College graduate and professional teacher, she is able to draw storytelling through the educational landscape, showing its profound uses in cognitive, emotional, and social learning. Featured on stages from the Montreal Comedy Festival to The Smithsonian Institution, the National Storytelling Festival, and over 12 CAJE conferences, she is the winner of the Oracle Award, storytelling’s most coveted laurel, and was recently given the Brother Blue and Ruth Hill Award. Judith also sings, gardens, is a Rotarian and environmental activist.

Cassandra Sagan is an ordained Maggid-Educator who has devoted her life to helping others access their creative brilliance through poetry, storytelling, movement, and Torah. For twenty years Cassandra taught as a Poet in the Classroom, pre-schoolers through high school, adults and seniors; in gifted, new immigrant, and special needs classrooms; editing and producing almost 100 volumes of student writing. An ukulele toting singer/songwriter, Cassandra performs a weave of original and traditional songs and stories, while encouraging audience participation and individual expression. She is also a mosaic artist, an InterPlay(TM) leader, and has developed InterPlay Torah study, a playful approach to personal midrash, insight, and embodied Torah. She is also a contributing author to New Mitzvah Stories for the Whole Family.

Cathy Schechter is an ordained Maggid-Educator (ordinee storytelling video)and community educator, also serves as a Jewish comunity educator, writer and researcher. After over a dozen years of Talmud study with the late Rabbi Judith Abrams, Cathy earned her Masters in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. She is also an alumna of Pardes Institute. Cathy's stories often spring from the deep well of Talmud and rabbinic literature, in the hopes that their timeless observations and lessons about Jewish life and learning will find their way into our modern landscape to offer sustenance, hope, insight, and laughter.

Mindy Shapiro, M.A, is a Jewish communal professional with 30 years of experience. She was the founding director of Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, a program of Moving Traditions. She has also worked for other Jewish organizations including Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, International Hillel and the Gershman Y. Mindy has been studying  Mussar with Rabbi Stone since 2003 and teaching since 2009. Mussar provides her with a framework for leading a more mindful life, something she helps others to do. She is also a papercut artist and teacher. Mindy serves on the editorial team for the next release from Reclaiming Judaism Press, in honor of Danny Siegel: New Mitzvah Stories for the Whole Family.

Danny Siegel is best known for bringing the discussion of Tzedakah and doing of Tikkun Olam back into Jewish communities. He is a brilliant finder of the perfect teaching sections of sacred texts and guide to their study. A well-known author, lecturer, and poet, Danny has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on personalized Tzedakah, Mitzvah heroes, and Jewish values. He is the author of numerous books, including Danny Siegel’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide For Changing the World Through Your Simcha; Heroes and Miracle Workers, a collection of essays about everyday people who are Mitzvah Heroes; Who, Me? Yes, You! — Danny Siegel’s Workbook To Help You Decide Where, When, Why, and How You Can Do Your Best Tikkun Olam; and Giving Your Money Away — How Much, How to, Why, When, and to Whom: Danny Siegel’s Practical Guide to Personalized Tzedakah. He has also published several collections of poetry and children’s stories. Danny served as the Tzedakah Resource Person on the United Synagogue Youth Israel Pilgrimage for 37 years, and is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators.  

                                     JEWISH SPIRITUAL EDUCATION
                                     2019 PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

 Learn More:  1. 
             Guiding Jewish Journeys in Challenging Times:
An Intimate Conference for Jewish Educators, Jan 24-27, 2019

 Learn More: PROGRAM 2.
              B-MITZVAH!SM (B’nei Mitzvah) Specialist Training 
              Begins February 2019. Distance Learning, 8 sessions.

 Learn More: PROGRAM 3:
             Maggid-Educator Training.
             Begins with Jan 24-27, 2019 Conference PROGRAM 1.
             and continues via Distance Learning. Certification (2 years)
             and/or Ordination (3 years)


THE INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH SPIRITUAL EDUCATION offers public and professional courses, retreats, and trainings grounded in an inclusive approach to Judaism. Our goal is to move beyond the traditional forms of Jewish education in order to inspire and guide our students on life's journey through an empowering Jewish lens on living. Programs are based upon a body of evolving work honored by the Covenant Foundation, National Jewish Book Council, and featured at the Jewish Futures Conference.