Rabbi Mona Alfi
Congregation B’nai Israel, Sacramento, California
Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award
Rabbi Mona Alfi is fueled by a passion for tikkun olam (repairing the world) and a vision for reaching out to Sacramento’s diverse Jewish community. As the spiritual leader of B’nai Israel, Rabbi Alfi hopes to foster a caring community that is engaged both in the life of the synagogue and in our broader society. “The purpose of religion is not only helping us get closer to God, but in getting closer to God, we should be motivated to become more engaged in the world and in people’s lives,” she said.
Merging religion and social action has been at the center of Rabbi Alfi’s career. Before being appointed B’nai Israel’s Senior Rabbi, she served three years as the Executive Director of the Hillel at Davis and Sacramento, worked for five years as B’nai Israel’s assistant and associate rabbi, and spent four years as the chaplain for the California State Assembly from 1998-2002. Rabbi Alfi also served as the Chaplain of the California State Senate from August 2008 to December 2015. These positions have enabled Rabbi Alfi to cultivate relationships with varied branches of the local Jewish and non-Jewish community – young and old, gay and straight, single and married, as well as members of the interfaith community of Sacramento.
Beyond her leadership at B’nai Israel, Rabbi Alfi was on the Board of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis from 2001-2003, and served as president of the Rabbis’ Association of Sacramento from July 2007 to June 2008. She currently sits on the Commission on Social Action (CSA) as a representative of the CCAR. The CSA is a joint committee of the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Religious Action Center (RAC) that recommends policy for the Reform Movement in North America. Rabbi Alfi has written prayers and Torah commentaries and published an essay about the 1999 bombing of B’nai Israel in “Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul.” She was ordained in 1998 by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York, and received a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus in 1996.
Rabbi Alfi was raised in Southern California in a family that mixed the traditions of her Ashkenazi mother and her Iranian born Jewish father. This heritage of blended traditions has informed Rabbi Alfi’s view of Judaism as a dynamic religion that changes to reflect society, and is not monolithic in its expression. “There’s not a single right way to be Jewish, but many “right” ways to be Jewish,” she said. Rabbi Alfi and her husband Glenn are delighted to be raising their sons as fourth generation members of Congregation B’nai Israel.
Rabbi Francine Green Roston
Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom, Whitefish, Montana
T’ruah Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award
Francine Roston moved to the Flathead Valley in the summer of 2014. She left a full-time congregational rabbinate in order to create a life in Montana that was more balanced. Along with her husband and two children, Francine enjoys gathering with the Jewish community as well as hiking, kayaking, fishing and volunteering in the community.
During her rabbinate, Francine served in three New Jersey congregations and learned a great deal about community-building, working with lay leadership and remaining resilient in the face of the many ups and downs of rabbinical life. In 2005, she broke the “stained glass ceiling” when she was hired by Congregation Beth El in South Orange, NJ. Francine became the first woman in the Conservative rabbinate to serve a congregation larger than 500 member units. During her tenure at Beth El, Francine helped the congregation expand its professional staff, create an innovative, experiential Hebrew school, and re-envision the Shabbat worship experience focusing on new ways to engage congregants in prayer, study, culture and spirituality.
Previously she served six years as the solo rabbi of Congregation Beth Tikvah in New Milford, New Jersey. Francine received rabbinic ordination in 1998 from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. From 2011-2013, Francine was an adjunct professor at the JTSA in practical rabbinics and mentored senior rabbinical students preparing for ordination. Originally from a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Francine graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Before she attended the Jewish Theological Seminary she worked as the Novice Men’s and Women’s Coach for the Carnegie-Mellon Crew Team in Pittsburgh, PA. During her Seminary years, Francine took a year to live in Chicago and work as a hospital chaplain at EHS Christ Hospital and Medical Center. She was a resident in their Clinical Pastoral Education program and earned full certification as a hospital chaplain. While at the Seminary in New York, she worked as the Synagogue Administrator for the Seminary’s synagogues and interned with the American Jewish Committee.
Throughout her rabbinate, Francine has been involved in the Conservative movement as well as Jewish, interfaith and humanitarian organizations. She has advocated for equality for women and marriage equality in New Jersey. She served on the JTS Rabbinical School Board of Overseers, Chancellor Eisen’s Rabbinic Cabinet, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Executive Board, the RA’s Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate, the national UJC Rabbinic Cabinet, and she was a participant in the Clergy Leadership Training Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Francine regularly volunteers for Habitat for Humanity wherever she lives. In Newark, NJ she helped to organize and build an Abraham House. In Kalispell, she organizes the Jewish community’s monthly volunteer crew. Francine also supports local interfaith, human rights group Love Lives Here and speaks out whenever hatred or violence threatens the community.
Hon. Shira Scheindlin (ret.)
United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York
Raphael Lemkin Human Rights Award
Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin (Ret.) joined JAMS New York Resolution Center after serving for 22 years as a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Judge Scheindlin previously worked as a prosecutor (Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York), commercial lawyer (General Counsel for the New York City Department of Investigation and partner at Herzfeld & Rubin), and Judge (Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of New York 1982-1986 and Special Master in the Agent Orange mass tort litigation). Judge Scheindlin is known for her intellectual acumen, and expertise in mass torts, electronic discovery, civil rights, constitutional, and complex litigation.
During her tenure as a District Court Judge, Judge Scheindlin presided over a number of high profile cases, many of which advanced important new positions in the common law. She is also known for presiding over complex and highly-publicized cases involving civil rights and public policy, including Newton v. City of New York, Floyd v. City of New York, Peoples v. Fischer, Casale v. Kelly and Brown v. Kelly, Finch v. New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and many others. Judge Scheindlin has been a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (1998-2005). She is a member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, the American Law Institute, a former Chair of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the NYSBA, a former Board Member of the New York County Lawyers Association, the former counselor of the New York Inn of Court, and a member of various committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is the author of the first e-discovery casebook (together with Professor Dan Capra and the Sedona Conference) and many articles. On the subject of electronic records management, her opinions in Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC, and Pension Committee v. Banc of America Securities, have come to be recognized as case law landmarks. She is the recipient of many awards including the Fuld Award from the New York State Bar Association, the Weinfeld Award from the New York County Lawyers, and the Brennan Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Judge Scheindlin has lectured frequently for many professional organizations, including the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, the Practicing Law Institute, the Sedona Conference, the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Bar Council, the Federal Bar Association, the Federal Judicial Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the New York State Bar Association, the New York County Lawyers Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and many law schools. Topics on which she frequently lectures include: complex civil litigation, class actions, discovery of electronic data, ADR, the Sentencing Guidelines, impact litigation, race and policing, and the War on Terrorism.
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
B’nai Jeshurun, New York, NY
José Rolando Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun’s Senior Rabbi, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was educated in Buenos Aires, Montreal, Jerusalem and New York City. After his ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1986, Rabbi Matalon came to BJ to share the pulpit—and vision—of his mentor and friend Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer. They worked together to revitalize the congregation and turn its focus to education, interfaith cooperation, and social justice.
After Rabbi Meyer’s death in 1993, Rabbi Matalon became BJ’s spiritual leader. He and Rabbis Bronstein and Sol now lead a vibrant, diverse community of 1,700 households. Rabbi Matalon’s involvement in the New York, Jewish, and Israeli communities is broad and deep; he serves on a number of boards, including the Advisory Board of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Advisory Board of Beit Tefillah Israeli-Tel Aviv, and the Leadership Council of Habitat for Humanity. He has received awards from the New York Board of Rabbis, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and the New Israel Fund. Rabbi Matalon is a founding co-director of Piyut North America, a partnership between B’nai Jeshurun and Hazmanah Le-Piyut in Israel. A member of the New York Arabic Orchestra, he plays the ‘ud (Arabic lute). Rabbi Matalon is married and has two daughters.