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 Miller joined the clergy team at Beth Chayim Chadashim in 2013 as Rabbinic Fellow. As such, she leads services monthly, develops programming to integrate Ohr Chayim, BCC’s religious school, into the greater life of the congregation, and teaches all kinds of classes such as the Taste of Judaism introduction program, and Adult B’nai Mitzvah classes. Rabbi Miller also engages in outreach and education beyond the walls of BCC as a speaker on several interfaith panels around Los Angeles, and as Facilitator/Consultant to the Jewish Outreach Institute’s LGBT Interfaith Parents’ Circle. Rabbi Miller brings a passion for keruv– the Jewish concept of bringing people close to community– through education, engagement, and ultimately empowerment.
As BCC’s Membership Committee Chair, Rabbi Miller also works to coordinate the welcoming of new and prospective members in an individualized and personal way.
Rabbi Miller was born and raised in an interfaith family here in Los Angeles, CA. 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 in 2001. She received her M.A. in Hebrew Literature in 2007 and her Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2008.
Rabbi Miller and her wife, Melissa de la Rama were named two of the Liberty Hill Foundation’s 2013 Leaders to Watch where they currently serve as Advisory Board members. Rabbi Miller has recently been named a Community Funding Board member of the LGBT interest group for the foundation as well.
Ruth Geffner is proud to join the BCC community as its Executive Director. She looks forward to working with the amazing staff and congregants that make up the vibrant BCC community.
Working in the Jewish Community for close to 10 years, she was formerly the Director of Administration at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. Prior to that she served as the Communications and Special Events Director at Temple Isaiah, where she worked with BCC during the High Holy Days.
Ruth grew up in Pasadena. Attending Hebrew School through confirmation, she has been involved in the Jewish community from a young age. With a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from UC-Santa Barbara, Ruth worked at Hillel of Silicon Valley upon graduation. After Hillel, she transitioned to temple administration and has worked in temples in both Northern California and Southern California.
In her spare time, Ruth is a youth group advisor for the B’nai Brith Youth Organization. In addition, she loves traveling and baking.
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.