Clergy and Staff
Rabbi Lisa Edwards came to BCC in 1994, the year of her ordination by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Known as a Rabbi’s rabbi, Rabbi Edwards brings a profound love of study and the written word to her rabbinate. She holds a Ph.D. in literature, which may account for the references as diverse as Shakespeare, modern poetry, and New Yorker cartoons that enrich her drashes.
Known for her memorable sermons, congregants often feel that she’s speaking to their feelings and experiences. Her BCC Torah study group has met every Thursday for 12 years. She tends as carefully to our congregation’s emotional and life cycle needs as she does our educational and spiritual yearnings. Rabbi Edwards has married many couples, as well as lovingly officiated at our baby-namings, funerals, and welcomings to the covenant.
As a leader of the world’s first gay and lesbian synagogue, Rabbi Edwards is frequently profiled in the media and is a sought-after spokesperson on issues of faith and sexuality. She is known as a thoughtful and reasoned advocate for same-sex marriage, environmental protection, and social and economic justice. Rooted in Jewish teaching, Rabbi Edwards speaks eloquently to the need for individuals and communities to come together to bring into being the world we dream is possible.
Rabbi Edwards has taught on an adjunct basis at HUC in the rabbinical school, and at USC in the Jewish Studies program. Her writing appears in a half-dozen books, including Kulanu : All of Us (a URJ handbook for congregational inclusion of gay and lesbian Jews); The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions; Lesbian Rabbis: The First Generation; and Mentsh: On Being Queer and Jewish (edited by Angela Brown), where she wrote the foreword. She is a guest Torah commentator/columnist in LA’s Jewish Journal, the second-largest circulation Jewish publication in the U.S. Additionally Rabbi Edwards is a co-editor of the revised editions (1999) of the Reform Movement textbook, Introduction to Judaism: a Sourcebook, and its companion Instructor’s Guide and Curriculum. She is the “Spiritual Role Model” in the book Outspoken by Michael Thomas Ford, a book of interviews of GLBT people intended for a youth audience.
A couple since 1985, Rabbi Edwards and Tracy Moore were married under chuppah in 1995, and under California law in 2008 by Assemblymember Karen Bass and Rabbi Laura Geller. Tracy is the editor of Lesbiot: Israeli Lesbians Talk about Sexuality, Feminism, Judaism and Their Lives.
Juval Porat was born in Israel and moved to Germany with his family as a child. For high school, he returned to Israel, where he studied at the Bnai Akiva Yeshiva. Back in Germany for university, he earned a master’s degree in architecture, and worked as an architect in Berlin.
While in school, Juval served as a cantorial soloist at several congregations. The passion for singing and service leadership bred by those experiences led him to pursue cantorial studies at the newly established Institute of Cantorial Arts in Berlin, part of the Abraham Geiger College. He spent his final academic year at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, where he wrote a thesis on the development of the Friday evening liturgy in Germany, and in June 2009, was invested as the first cantor to be trained in Germany since World War II.
Cantor Porat’s career at BCC began when, while still a student, he served as BCC’s Cantor for the High Holy Days in 2008 and 2009. It felt so right, that he was hired as BCC’s Cantor the following year.
In addition to leading services, Cantor Porat works with BCC’s family education program, directs the BCC choir, teaches adult education classes, and works closely with Rabbi Edwards to meet the spiritual and musical needs of our congregation.
Wherever his wonderful voice is heard—from the bima, in his self-produced Cantors Concert and cabaret-style show, in Purim drag, on YouTube, with BCC’s choir or BCC’s children—there are always new pleasures and surprises. Cantor Porat’s talents truly help make BCC a home. In 2012, Cantor Porat produced a celebratory concert and CD in honor of BCC’s 40th Anniversary.
Cantor Porat’s blog can be found here: juval-online.com
Rabbi Heather is passionate about working with people of all ages to empower them to claim their Jewish identity in the modern world, joyfully engaging all in Jewish lifecycle events and rituals, and illuminating the ethical teachings of the tradition. Rabbi Heather Miller first was introduced to Beth Chayim Chadashim in the late 90′s when her mentor introduced her to Rabbi Lisa and Lezbtzen Tracy. She immediately respected the warmth and welcome she received from both as well as from the broader BCC community. As BCC’s Membership Committee Chair, Rabbi Heather has worked to continue the welcoming of new and prospective members in this individualized and personal way. In September 2013, Rabbi Heather was named to the position of Rabbinic Fellow, a part-time, one-year assignment which will allow for Rabbi Heather to engage with the BCC community in a deeper, more active way. She will help vision BCC’s religious school, Ohr Chayim, serve as clergy on the bimah regularly during Shabbat and holiday observances, make pastoral visits, and teach in all kinds of capacities. Rabbi Heather enthusiastically formally joins the BCC clergy and leadership team in this sacred work. Rabbi Heather was born and raised in an interfaith family here in Los Angeles, CA. She first gained a deep appreciation and respect for lifelong learning and the full array of Jewish diversity as a student at Milken Community High School, the largest pluralistic Jewish day school in the country. She attended Wellesley College and earned her B.A. in two areas: Peace and Justice Studies with a focus in Jewish History, and Africana Studies. Afterwards, she worked at Harvard Business School, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and The Liberty Hill Foundation before attending rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). During her years at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Heather augmented her studies by providing relief work after Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, serving as Chaplain at UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, serving as Student Rabbi for the Hebrew Association of the Deaf in New York City and serving as Rabbinic Intern at Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly, NJ. Following ordination in 2008, Rabbi Heather enjoyed serving as a congregational rabbi at Temple Beth El of South Orange County and emphasized building a warm, welcoming, and actively questioning community. She applied these skills and became a formal Jewish educator as Middle School Rabbi and member of the Jewish Studies faculty at her alma mater, Milken Community High School. She currently serves on the faculty of the American Jewish University teaching Liturgy in the Graduate Center for Education. Rabbi Heather and her wife, Melissa de la Rama were named two of the Liberty Hill Foundation’s 2013 Leaders to Watch. In her free time, Rabbi Heather enjoys sofrut (Jewish scribal arts), team sports, and connecting pop culture to Torah.
Felicia Park- Rogers, BCC’s first Executive Director, has been with BCC since October 2005. Passionate about repairing the world through community building, Felicia is proud to be part of this thriving community. She has worked in various capacities in the non-profit sector since 1986.
Formerly Felicia served for six years as the Executive Director of COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), a national LGBT civil rights, advocacy and support organization. During that time she received numerous awards and recognitions as a young leader in the lgbt civil rights movement as well as for her advocacy on behalf of lgbt families. She traveled the nation as a speaker and was frequently featured in media venues from the New York Times to MSNBC to In the Life.
Upon moving to Los Angeles, she completed the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s “Fundamentals of Synagogue Management” course, as well as the year-long Synagogue Leadership Institute presented by the Southern California Board of Rabbis. Felicia is a member of PATA-the Professional Association of Temple Administrators.
Felicia lives near BCC with her wife, Rabbi Rachel Timoner and their two young sons, Eitan and Benjamin.
Leah Zimmerman , Director of Education, joined BCC as the temple’s first Director of Education in August, 2007. She oversees BCC’s innovative family education program, Ohr Chayim, as well as the temple’s holiday and educational programming for children and families. Leah has worked in formal and informal Jewish contexts as a mentor, teacher, education director, and tutor, integrating Jewish learning with the arts and family and community education. Leah holds an M.S. from the Bank Street School of Education in New York City, and has been Director of Education at Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn, NY. Leah has also worked as an Elementary school teacher in the public schools in New York City and Round Rock, Texas, where she learned how meaningful learning takes place by listening givingly to her kindergarten and second grade students.
Leah also studied at The Actor’s Institute in New York City and has been featured in solo and ensemble performances in diverse theater and cabaret venues. Leah lives in Claremont, California with her two beautiful daughters, Leila and Bella, and her husband, Jeff.
Victoria has been BCC’s Office Administrator since 1998. After receiving her BA from the University of California, San Diego, she was a college recruiter for the University of California, then a bi-lingual employment interviewer for LAUSD. Victoria has always had a strong desire to help improve people’s lives by assisting them cope with everyday issues and supporting them in finding the resources to resolve those issues. The major focus of her career before coming to BCC was as an employment developer for single mothers, at risk youth, the homeless, mono-lingual and injured workers, as well as unskilled labor. She is very proud to have served as the Director of a High School Community Beautification Project in Pico Union. Victoria’s parallel career to her social service work has been as an art activist. For producing and creating art events that have shaped social change, Victoria received the Los Angeles City Council Award for Creating Public Awareness through Art and is frequently invited to speak at Universities, colleges and high schools on art as activism. Her visual work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Laguna Art Museum, the Mexican American Museum (Chicago), the California Printmaking Archive, Orange County Art Museum, and numerous private collections. Victoria was one of the artists that created BCC’s stained glass windows. Victoria’s Blog
Fran Chalin, Cantorial Soloist Emerita, was BCC’s Cantorial Soloist for 15 years as well as its Choir Director. During her shared moments with BCC, Cantorial Soloist Chalin brought music that was a transcendent power to the BCC spirit, and evoked a true emotional response and hunger for Jewish music and study. Her voice and musical direction stimulated long lasting memories and deeply felt feelings about who BCCers were, where they came from and what their community mission was. Cantorial Soloist Fran’s unique use of music and energy served to unite, uplift, inspire, and prompt BCC’s connection to tradition, especially for the children. While she retired from her position at the end of 2007, Fran continues to make occasional guest appearances at BCC and continues to be an important musical force in the community.