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Professional Leadership

Clergy                   Youth                   Administrative Staff


Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Over the last 20 years, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky has built B’nai David-Judea into a leading center of Modern Orthodoxy. Rabbi Kanefsky’s embrace of creative innovation, devotion to the dignity of all people, and commitment to intellectual inquiry and ethical striving, all within the framework of traditional Halacha, have established Bnai David-Judea as one of the most dynamic, warm and respected Modern Orthodox shuls in the country.

Rav Yosef is driven by a firm belief that Jewish tradition can provide a blueprint for modern ethical living for everything from business dealings, to relationships, to communal standards to our interactions as global citizens.

He helped to introduce changes in synagogue ritual and leadership to enhance the role of women, and most recently guided the congregation through hiring its first female clergy member. He has devoted himself to establishing meaningful relationships with Jewish leaders of all denominations, engages in interfaith dialogue, and is respected throughout the broader Los Angeles community. He believes ongoing Jewish education is the foundation to meaningful practice, and he teaches weekly Talmud, Midrash and halacha courses, as well as special courses on a variety of contemporary topics.

Most importantly to his congregants and friends, Rav Yosef is known as a true mensch — his empathy, honesty and desire to give are central to all his endeavors.

He is deeply committed to programs that engage the congregation in caring for the poor and homeless, as well as people who are mentally ill, disabled, or frail. He oversaw a renovation to make the sanctuary accessible to people with disabilities. He has nurtured an atmosphere of warmth and inclusivity among the membership and newcomers.

Rabbi Kanefsky was ordained in 1989 at Yeshiva University, where he also received a master’s degree in Jewish History. He began his rabbinic career in 1990 as the associate rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York, where he worked under the tutelage of spiritual activist Rabbi Avi Weiss. He came to B’nai David-Judea Congregation in the summer of 1996.

He is a past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, which he helped found. He is a teaching fellow for the Wexner Heritage Foundation.

Rabbi Kanefsky is married to Sari Abrams, who is the director of parent and child education at the Pressman Academy, and an active leader within the congregation. He likes to hike, bike and visit Israel. They have 3 wonderful sons, two incredible daughter-in-laws and 1 adorable grandchild.

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Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn, BCC

Rabbanit Alissa is a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat. In her final year of studies, she served as the Kehilla Intern at B’nai David-Judea and enjoyed building relationships both within our community and within the broader Los Angeles community. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Classical Studies Archaeology and Ancient History.

Rabbanit Alissa believes in and is informed by the power of our textual tradition to transform our present and ultimately draw us closer to each other and God. She believes in the Divine instruction for us to walk in God’s ways, most especially the imperative to be close to the brokenhearted and all who cry out for support.

Rabbanit Alissa teaches a weekly parsha class as well as courses on a variety of special topics including Bikkur Cholim and Taharat HaMishpacha. In her teaching, she uncovers how our rich, timeless tradition resonates with and deeply enhances our modern daily lives.

Rabbanit Alissa is also a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) through Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. She has specialities in Palliative Care, End of Life Care, and Psychiatric Care. She has worked as a chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, and Bellevue Hospital. She was also a writer for the Center for Jewish End of Life Care at Metropolitan Jewish Health System.

Rabbanit Alissa has integrated her pastoral passions and skills into much of her work at B’nai David-Judea, leading programs on topics spanning from End of Life Care to Mental Health Awareness to Post Partum Depression.

Rabbanit Alissa was a fellow both at Clal: The National Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership and at the UJA-Federation of New York Wiener Educational Center. She has been a Scholar-in-Residence at various universities and shuls around the country.

Her heart, soul, and body stand with Israel.

A native Los Angelena, Rabbanit Alissa is married to Akiva Newborn and has one daughter, Ella. She is thrilled to be serving as a spiritual leader for the B’nai David-Judea family!

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Note: Rechov Yeladim includes children 6 months old to 6th grade, and Teens includes 7th to 12th grade.

Claire Hurwitz, Youth Director

Claire Hurwitz currently oversees both the administration and content of all of B'nai David-Judea's youth activities, including Rechov Yeladim, Minyan 4 Minons, Tween Minyan, Cocoa Club and Holiday programming. She also serves as an S.T.E.M. Coordinator and Teacher at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in the department of Early Childhood, where she ensures that young children are engaged and having fun in their learning. In 2019, Claire earned her Master's degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew University in Jerusalem with a focus on curriculum design. Claire and her husband, Zev, joined B'nai David-Judea one week after they got married in 2017 and they have one child, Dov, together. Contact |

Binyamin Smith, Teen Minyan Director

B'nai David-Judea holds a special place in Benny's heart. He grew up at BDJ where his parents have been long-time leaders after coming over with many members of the Upstairs Minyan a few years before Benny was born.  Benny attended Maimonides Academy and YULA Boys High School, and spent many of his teen years participating in Teen Minyan under the tutelage of Alex Fax and Yechiel Hoffman, and serving as a counselor in Rechov Yeladim. Following high school, Benny learned at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah for two years, and then went on to Yeshiva University, and after his graduation from there, worked in New York for several years. After spending eight years outside of LA, Benny returned six years ago to the young, vibrant YP community at BDJ. Benny and his wife, Deb, became members on their own in 2015, and their daughter, Atara, started in Rechov Yeladim as soon as she was old enough. When he's not working at BDJ, Benny helps his clients with their life and disability insurance needs. Benny is excited to be back working with our teens. If you don't know Benny, please introduce yourself! Contact |

Miriam Well, Teen Girls' Leader

Miriam has held various leadership positions in the past, including Editor-in-Chief of her high school's literary magazine and Captain of its drama society; she worked closely with the members of those clubs to create lasting bonds between the teens. Miriam recently earned her GED and now attends Santa Monica College as a freshman. She is passionate about contributing to her community and achieving spiritual growth. Miriam is excited to take on her role as Teen Girls' Leader! Contact |

Administrative Staff

Adynna Swarz, Executive Director

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Jose Cruz, Facilities Manager

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Jennifer LeeVan, Chevra Coordinator & Fundraising Manager

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Ronni Lima, Bookkeeper

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Andrea Millette, Administrative Assistant

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If you are not sure who to contact, please email us at or call (310) 276-9269.  We look forward to connecting!

Thu, January 27 2022 25 Shevat 5782