Meet the Nafshenu Team
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz: Founder/Rabbi
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz founded Nafshenu with the understanding that Judaism must be reimagined to remain relevant and meaningful in today’s world. With this in mind, along with friends Risa and David Podolnick, Rabbi Sernovitz set out to create a model of Judaism and Jewish life in Southern New Jersey that was bold, courageous, and transformative. Assembling a core team of families who also believed in this vision, Nafshenu was created with a foundation that Jewish life first and foremost is about people, about their hopes and dreams.
Rabbi Sernovitz has been focused on areas in his rabbinate that include education, interfaith matters, prayer and spirituality, and social justice. He is involved with Faith in New Jersey and serves as a Chaplain for the Cherry Hill Police Department. In April of 2016, Rabbi Sernovitz received the Ambassador Award from the New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma. Prior to coming to Cherry Hill, he served Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Abington, Pennsylvania, where he was honored to serve as Vice-Chair of the Montgomery County Advisory Council of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and received its Trailblazer Award in 2013 at the annual Civil Rights Luncheon. Rabbi Sernovitz is also passionate about Jewish Genetic Disease Awareness and has spoken around the country, advocating for testing among those of child bearing age.
Rabbi Sernovitz received his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and his Masters in Elementary Education from Temple University. While at HUC-JIR, he was the proud recipient of the Rabbi Edwin N. Soslow Prize in Jewish History. Prior to rabbinical school he taught fourth grade in the Cheltenham School District, which is located in the Northern Suburbs of Philadelphia.
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz is happily married to Rebecca and is the proud father of Sam, Daniella and Eden.
Ami Yares - Music and Social Justice Director
Ami Yares joins Nafshenu as director of music and co-directs the Tzedek Initiative with Rabbi Larry. For his entire professional life, Ami has been dedicated to using music as tool for education, empowerment and social action as much as entertaining audiences at home and abroad.
Ami graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Jewish Studies and Music. After a brief foray into special education, Ami moved to Israel and worked with Heartbeat, an Israeli and Palestinian youth program; created FocUS Music with the US Embassy and US Consulate General while performing and lecturing across the country.
Ami works regularly with music programs for underserved, at risk youth and youth in conflict as well as international peace-building initiatives. His own music emulates the sounds and rhythms of his American upbringing merging into Middle Eastern culture in a yet-to-be-named fusion of styles. Ami has been described as “a cross between Randy Newman and David Broza.” He has toured in over twenty countries teaching and performing music in the name of social action, Jewish identity, & peacebuilding.
Prior projects include the first Hebrew language tribute to the Grateful Dead spearheaded by the “godfather of Israeli hip hop,” Sagol 59 as well “We Make the Road by Walking,” an album of international music made possible by Seeds of Peace. Ami can also be found collaborating with brother Gavri Tov in the roots fusion duo, The Brothers Yares.
He most recently completed his MS in Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nafshenu provides Ami a place to combine his passion of social justice, music with his Jewish heritage. Ami couldn't be happier to have the privilege to harvest hope and action though music.
David and Risa Podolnick
David and Risa are a driving force behind the formation of Nafshenu. They have been residents of Cherry Hill for over 19 years. Upon their arrival, they were excited about the vibrancy of the Jewish the community and the diversity of synagogue life. Risa serves as Nafshenu's Community Coordinator.
While raising their children, Noah and Ari, Judaism has always been a very strong part of their family life, but over the years it had been become challenging. They had become disillusioned by organized religion and how the “traditional” synagogues work on a day to day business.
The Podolnick family first became involved with Rabbi Larry’s vision through the way he influenced their sons. He brought Judaism back into the family. Both boys are very active in NFTY, with Noah being the PAR Regional President. The Podolnick family is excited to move the mission and vision of Nafshenu forward.
Eric and Shera Goldstein
Eric and Shera Goldstein are proud to be founding members of Nafshenu.
Eric is Nafshenu's photographer. A lifelong resident of the area and active member of a local synagogue in his youth, Eric is proud to be working alongside other families to make Nafshenu into the type of Jewish community that he and his family can call home. Being a part of this process holds a special place to Eric, as both his maternal and paternal grandparents were founding members of their synagogues in their respective hometowns on Long Island, New York.
Shera is the chair of the Core Team and will be leading Nafshenu’s Hadracha (Education) program for children in Pre-K through 12th grade. She holds a Master’s degree in Education (Reading) and is a certified Reading Specialist. She taught second grade for eight years and currently works as a literacy instructional coach. Shera is excited to be a part of the Nafshenu family along with Eric and their daughter, Lila.
Lauren and Steve Thompson
Lauren and Steve Thompson currently reside in Cherry Hill with their two sons, Paul (11) and Jason (8). After graduating Cherry Hill High School East in 1991, Lauren went on to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Rutgers College – School of Business and became a CPA. Stephen was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. This is where his passion for drawing began, and he has drawn or painted something every day of his life since then! Stephen earned a BA in illustration from Felician College, and an MBA in business management from Montclair State University.
As an interfaith family, Lauren and Stephen decided to provide their children with the foundation of Judaism. However, not having grown up connected with the Jewish community through a synagogue or religious education, Lauren had been searching for her place in the Jewish Community for many years. Finally feeling inspired by Rabbi Larry, Lauren became a Bat Mitzvah in 2015.
Both Lauren and Stephen are extremely excited to be one of the founding members of Nafshenu, and is confident that its presence will be able to connect many people who are also searching for their place in the Jewish Community, one where everyone will feel like they belong. Lauren currently serves as Nafshenu's treasurer.
GARY GOLDBERG Chair, Social Justice Vaad (Group)
Gary Goldberg is a life long member of the Jewish Community in South Jersey. Gary received his BA in Psychology from Rutgers and an MSW from Yeshiva University Gary has extensive experience in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy He is excited to be a member of the Core Team of Nafshenu. Gary loves Nafshenu's spirituality and is looking forward to enhancing his Jewish life and identity.
Gary is the proud father of two sons: Steven (32) who is a software engineer; and David (28) who is a third year emergency medical resident at Duke University Medical Center.
Jonathan & Ronita Simon
Jonathan and Ronita are both Cherry Hill natives. They have been married for 10 years and have two beautiful boys, Judah and Jace. Jonathan has a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University and is a wholesale Account Executive for an eyewear manufacturer, Silhouette International. Ronita has BS in Fashion Apparel Management from Philadelphia University and has been a Visual Merchandise Coordinator in the fashion industry for over 12 years.
Ronita is first generation Asian American of Indian decent. Her parents came here from Kolkata, India in the early 1970s to advance her father's education at the University of Pennsylvania as an electrical engineer. Ronita is one of 4 children, all who live in Cherry Hill. Her roots and cultural background come from a strong community of Bengali Indians within the South Jersey region. She spent numerous Sunday mornings learning about the Hindu religion, writing, music, art, poetry, and classical dance at Bengali school. Ronita and her family remain active members of the BCS community. Jonathan and Ronita continue to educate their children to be strong and confident with their multicultural backgrounds. Ronita currently serves as a vice-chair of the Core Team and Jonathan is a co-chair of the Fundraising Vaad (group).
Jonathan, along with his parents and brother, Jeffrey, were members of a conservative congregation in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. Both Jonathan and Ronita's backgrounds make for a wealth of culture in Judah and Jace's upbringing.
Jeffrey H. Simon, MD
Jeffrey Hayden Simon, MD was born and raised in Cherry Hill by his loving parents Les and Lynne Simon.
His grandparents, William and Lillian Simon were one of the original founding members of the Beth El Synagogue in Camden. Jeffrey’s parents joined Temple Beth Shalom in Haddon Heights, where he and his brother Jonathan received their formal Hebrew education and became B’nai Mitzvah.
Jeffrey is trained in and practices Addiction Medicine, along with Child and Adolescent and General Psychiatry both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is a leader in the fight against the rising epidemic of addiction that is rampant in the United States.
Jeffrey exemplifies a lifelong commitment to helping others through his medical practice. It is with this same passion that Dr. Simon would like to help strengthen the bond among Jewish people and work toward creating a community where Jewish people from all backgrounds and circumstances are embraced rather than stigmatized.
It is with great honor, passion, and enthusiasm that through Nafshenu, he welcomes the opportunity to help create such an environment of acceptance and propagation of Jewish life, culture and religious experience that will hopefully grow beyond an immediate local scale, but one that will be impactful and far reaching.
Ron and Joan Adelman
Ron and Joan Adelman are happily married and are the parents of three adult children, Stacy, Julie and Brad. Ron is a physician in the Philadelphia area with a specialty in operative radiology. Joan has a BS in elementary education. She did post graduate work in advertising and earned a Master's degree in counseling psychology.
They raised their children in the conservative Jewish movement, though they all attended the Jewish Day School in Allentown, PA.
The Adelman’s introduction to "Rabbi Larry" occurred as a result of them seeking a Rabbi for their daughter Julie's marriage to her husband Alex. They were extremely impressed by Rabbi Larry's attention to detail, his personal counseling and the Jewish ritual content in his preparatory sessions and ultimately the very moving marriage ceremony. They developed a personal rapport with Rabbi Larry as a result of Julie and Alex's wedding and subsequently requested that he officiate at Joan's Dad's funeral. He kindly agreed and spent a great deal of time familiarizing himself with Joan's father's life through the eyes of the extended family and delivered a very sensitive and beautiful graveside memorial. Since then, they once again called upon "their Rabbi" to welcome their future daughter-in-law, Bianca into Judaism and ultimately to be wed to their son Brad, under the chuppah.
The entire Adelman family enthusiastically supports the Nafshenu community through Rabbi Larry’s vision and mission to form a new type of "Jewish Community" in our area.
They seek a "family shul" and a Jewish experience amongst likeminded Jews who wish to provide mutual enrichment through engagement in all aspects of Jewish life; ritual, cultural and zionist, under the guidance of a proactive, progressive Rabbi. I believe we have found that in Rabbi Sernovitz, whose commitment extends beyond our fellow Jews to all mankind. We are excited to be a part of the journey about to begin!
Drs. Amy and Glenn Articolo
Biography to come
Tracey Diamond is of counsel with Pepper Hamilton LLP, where she practices in the areas of employment law, human resources counseling and employment litigation. She also is a New Jersey Superior Court Rule 1:40 qualified mediator and an adjunct professor at Drexel University Kline School of Law. Tracey is regularly called on to speak and write about employment law issues and is the editor of the HiringtoFiring.law, a legal blog.
Tracey previously served as director of human resources and operations for Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. The mom of three amazing kids, Tracey got to know Rabbi Larry while working with him on her daughter, Chloe’s bat mitzvah. She is thrilled to be a part of forming this vibrant and meaningful community.
Becky Sernovitz is proud that her family is creating something new and innovative in South Jersey. She has been impressed with the Jewish community since moving to Cherry Hill, and now can’t imagine not living in walking distance from the JCC and having friends connected to all the wonderful worship opportunities that exist in Cherry Hill. She is a proud board member of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey.
Becky works at Accenture as the Operations lead for the Advanced Degree Campus Recruiting team, and has been at Accenture, on the same team, since moving back to the Philadelphia area ten years ago. She grew up in Plymouth Meeting, PA, and if she and Larry had to leave her true home, New York City, she was thankful that it was to move back home to the Philadelphia suburbs.
Becky and Larry have three children, Sam, Daniella and Eden, who look forward to enjoying all that Nafshenu has to offer them and to interrupting their father during services whenever possible.