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2016 Presenter Bios
PRESENTER & PERFORMER BIOS
Bracha Adrezin A native of Maine, Bracha Adrezin left at an early age for Europe, where she joined the prestigious Mozarteum, in Salzburg, Austria, the home of Mozart. She trained under world renowned maestros at the Vienna State Opera, and developed expertise in traditional Italian Bel Canto singing. She became a specialist in the music of Puccini and Verdi. As a professional opera singer in Europe, Bracha used to perform extensively as a concert soloist for grand balls in ancient castles. For many years, Bracha has combined the secret breathing techniques of the old opera masters, with her formal training in psychology and psychotherapy, to help women release stress, and become psychologically and physically healthier. Bracha sings in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, and Italian. She also composes her own music and is available for workshops and concerts nationally. Bracha believes that the physical and emotional energy generated by original Italian Bel Canto techniques can be used to release and heal deep physical/emotional blockages held in the body. Bracha received advanced training in psychology and psychotherapy from the University of Vienna. After studying many forms of body/mind healing, Bracha specializes in assisting women in releasing their inner power and joy through deep voice/breath release and movement. Bracha is sensitive to her clients' releasing and processing in a safe, honoring manner and her workshops are noted for their fun and mental/emotional/physical satisfaction.
Adena C. Blickstein MD, MPH is a physician, public health professional, and proud mother of two. She is passionate about advocating for the needs of women and children through education and family-friendly performance. She founded Professional Women's Theater in 2007 with the goal of producing of professional caliber content for women that raise awareness of pressing needs with in the women's community; such as positive parenting, work-life balance, and obesity and domestic violence prevention. In 2013 she received a prestigious fellowship opportunity through the Presentense incubator in NYC. Since 2007, PWT has hosted over fifty quality performances for over 5,000 women globally.
Yaffa Borukhova, Mezzo-Soprano Born in former Soviet Union, Yaffa moved to the United States with her family in 1991. She received her bachelor of music in vocal perfomance from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music, followed by advanced studies in vocal performance at Accademia Internazionale delle Arti in Rome, Italy. She enjoys singing different genres of music ranging from jazz to rock to classical and has performed for audiences internationally. In 2007 she released an album titled Contemporary Russian Romances.
Shoshannah Brombacher (Amsterdam, Holland) studied studied Semitic Languages, Ancient Middle Eastern Culture and Codicology at the University of Leyden (Holland) and specialized in medieval Sephardic Hebrew poetry. Her Ph.D. thesis describes the Portuguese (Marano) Jewish Community in 17th century Amsterdam. She was involved in codicological projects with manuscripts, tombstones and books in Amsterdam, Jerusalem and Germany and lectured at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. She is an author, lecturer and a maggidah (certified Jewish preacher, story teller and spiritual guide) and combines this with her art. Her main interest is Chassidism. Brombacher’s favorite medium is oil, pastel, crayons and/or ink. She makes very small miniatures as well as large panels to cover a wall. Many drawings are calligraphic. Text, letters and colors play an important role. Brombacher’s subjects are mainly Jewish (Chassidic) life and stories, classical music, and travel impressions. She illustrates books, designs book covers (e.g. for Yitzhak Buxbaums’s The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, and collects, writes and illustrates Chassidic stories. She created sets and series with some of the following themes: The Golem of Prague; The Tikkun of the Breslover Rebbe; Talmudic stories; Biblical books and stories, the 5 Megillot, Yona, Shemuel, biblical women; the parshat hashavua; midrashim, the Twelve Tribes; Goethe’s Faust; poetry (Yiddish, Sephardic, several European languages); Jewish Holidays (e.g. Ushpizin); the Haggadah; the Hebrew Aleph-Beth; classical composers, especially Beethoven; New York (especially after 9/11), Chassidic stories, ‘Dybbuk – Tzvishen Tzvay Velten’ from Anski. Brombacher creates a lot of custom art, like ketubot, verses of a name, tikkunim, blessings for the house, parnasah an many other occasions, Psalms, bar/bat mitzvah, sheva’ berakhot, (cover) illustrations for books, etc. For more information visit the website of the artist, or contact her: www.absolutearts.com/shoshannah e-mail: email@example.com
Leah Bassett has trained in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern and Musical Theatre at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Academy of Dance in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Leah has performed in a wide variety of productions throughout Western Canada and had the privilege of assisting in choreographing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games.
Miriam Leah Gamliel Originally from Pittsburgh, Miriam Leah Droz studied and performed musical theater until she became observant. In 2006 she began producing work in women-only settings, starting with "A My Name is Alice" at Ohav Tzedek (NY, NY), and working towards ATARA: The Association for Torah & the Arts. Since 2008, she has been producing events for women in music and sending monthly updates on art-related happenings in the religious community. In 2009, ML produced The House on Riverside, a feature film for women. On video she can be seen as Gutele Rothchild in Nishei Players' "Barons & Bankers," the mayor in Malky Giniger's "Changed" and as Grandmama in "Alexandra." Gamliel now lives in Montreal with her husband and baby and is a doctoral candidate at YU's Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education & Administration, and hopes to use her education to help build a Jewish girls' high school for the performing arts.
Aliza Dubin, singer-songwriter-pianist, recording artist and performer, born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in Toronto, Canada has lived in Israel, Los Angeles, Monsey, and currently resides in Passaic, NJ with her husband and children. While having taught aerobics, provided personal counseling, and worked for Aish Audio, as well as her new love as a hypnotist, and life coach, the ambition to take her piano-based music beyond the living room prompted Dubin to record her first album, Hey Little Girl. Her style of music and singing has been described as contemplative, uplifting, meditative, moving, healing, and spiritual, as she weaves and infuses her love of Judaism and life into her melodies. Her songs touch upon real life, universal themes, while relaying meaningful messages, and her unique style of singing and story-telling captures the hearts and souls of many audiences and listeners. She has performed throughout the States and hopes to continue to inspire and uplift women and help them reconnect with themselves with her original music and contemporary melodies, at benefit concerts. Her songs have been showcased on Michelle Garner’s WSIA, and on an interview by Leora Silberstein on Arutz Sheva. She has also been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Yated Ne’eman, and Yalda magazine. Her long awaited second album, I Believe was released to rave reviews. She is currently in the process of recording an unplugged version of her newest material.
Deborah Gallant is a New York City-based business coach, dynamic speaker, teacher and workshop facilitator who helps make business topics interesting and valuable. Her lively style, peppered with humor and real-life stories, wins her rave reviews and she has been described as “Carol Burnett with an MBA.” She is a frequent presenter for the Jewish Women Entrepreneurs national and local chapters. Deborah holds a BA from Brandeis University and an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Her work background is in advertising and radio and she was an early Internet pioneer and author. Since 2002, Deborah has worked with hundreds of small business owners and service professionals including doctors, attorneys, accountants, coaches and consultants, helping them create thriving, successful enterprises. Her full biography is available on her website www.boldbusinessworks.com.
Leah Gottfried started acting at an early age in various films, commercials and stage productions. She has appeared in Yamaha ATV and Time Warner Cable commercials, the TV show Distant Roads and the feature film Operation: Candlelight. Stage credits include Brighton Beach Memoirs (Nora), Lost in Yonkers (Gert) and The Government Inspector (Anna). At age 17, Leah explored a newfound interest of working behind the scenes and wrote and directed her first short film. Since then Leah has produced the feature film Operation: Candlelight and founded Dignity Entertainment, a production company dedicated to creating meaningful visual content. Leah is currently producing a new web series called "Soon By You" about 6 young Orthodox Jews living the single life in NYC-based on her short film "The Setup" which was accepted into the Washington Jewish Film Festival, among others. Leah studied film and theatre arts at Stern College, cinematography at NYU and acting at The Actors Circle in Los Angeles. www.dignity-entertainment.com
Elana Greenspan has released her two debut CD's, the funniest, funkiest Jewish music ever made: "Fully Halachic with a Beat," for women and girls, and "Kidding Around," a kids'/moms' album. Elana performs regularly at the Aishes Chayil Hotel in Monroe, NY, at women's fundraising and tzedaka events, school events, bas mitzvah and children's birthday parties. She is currently directing the 8th grade play at the Bais Yakov of Passaic. In the summer, Elana is the drama director at Camp Dina. Elana is also a playwright whose work has been produced at schools across the country. She pioneered the original Women's Open Mike Night in Jerusalem, which has spawned similar shows just for women across the world. Elana will be giving a full-length concert to officially debut her albums in Passaic, NJ on Sunday, March 18th. Elana lives in Passaic, NJ with her husband and family. Elana is honored to participate in an ATARA performance once again.
Amy Guterson is the founder and director of the new Tzohar Seminary for Chassidus and the Arts. The seminary reflects her vision to create a haven for young women who are creatively gifted, a place to study Chassidus intensively and train as artists who will use their G-d given talents to bring light to the world. Amy received her BA from Stern College, Yeshiva University with a major in Theatre and a minor in Fine Arts. She went on to earn her graduate level degree in acting from The New Actors Workshop where she studied with director Mike Nichols and improvisation specialist Paul Sills. She also studied with acclaimed actress and teacher Uta Hagen at the Berghof Studio in NY. Amy was a member of Actor’s Equity, and performed in classical, Yiddish and Jewish theatre Off- Broadway. After moving to Pittsburgh, Amy co-founded the Kol Isha Theatre group which consisted of Jewish women from across the spectrum of Judaism. As Artistic Director for the group, she taught acting and improvisation and directed play development for most of the group’s original productions and workshops (based on issues of Jewish womanhood and Jewish unity/disunity). She has also written and directed some of the group’s full length plays, trigger scenes and workshops. Mrs. Guterson wrote, directed and produced the award winning film “Becoming Rachel”, which premiered at the Pittsburgh Jewish/Israeli Film Festival and was screened at festivals across the country and Israel, where it won first prize. For sixteen years, she has been a member of Pittsburgh Playback Theatre , a therapeutic form of theatre which “plays back” its audience’s stories and feelings through improvisation. She has conceived, directed and edited many creative, narrative videos for Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, as well as taught acting and directed numerous theatrical productions for the Yeshiva Girls’ High School. She is a board member for ATARA: the Arts and Torah Association for Religious Artists, and has taught master acting and play development classes at their conferences.
Abby Harris is a ten year who composes original classical music on piano, and especially loves baroque music. A music conservatory professor who is mentoring her has put her on a strict "Bach Daf Yomi" schedule. She has been composing since she was eight, and she is both a classical and Jewish composer. She premiered three of her classical compositions in New York City on December 2015. She is also a student of music theory and recently, also partimenti (basso continuo). In 2014, she competed in the prestigious Leschetizky competition for classical pianists. She is a voice-trained singer as well, and has sung on Camp Maor's stage as well as Bais Yakov's. Her nonmusical accomplishments include being a child model for modest clothing and a published short story writer. She attends Beis Yaakov school favorite subject is math.
Penina (Paula) Jacobs is originally from Los Angeles, where she began acting at the age of six. After various roles in theater and television in the United States and Canada, she became involved in theater for young audiences in 1989 though her work as a peer educator for Project ABLE, an educational theater company for at-risk youth in runaway shelters, group homes and correctional facilities in Los Angeles. She then worked as an arts consultant for the Glendale Unified School District, teaching drama to high-risk youth in middle schools. Upon earning teacher certification in English/Theater from California State University, Northridge she taught English and Drama Production at Pacoima Middle School’s Television, Theater and Fine Arts Magnet (LAUSD). Penina was the Performing Arts Director of Oh! Manuyot at Camp Shalom, NJ for four years and is now actively teaching, coaching and consulting for educational and non-profit organizations. Penina has a B.A. in Acting/Directing from California State University, Los Angeles and an M.A. in Educational Theater from New York University. She is NJ State certified as a teacher of English, Theater and Elementary Education. To learn more please visit www.internalachievement.com
Stephanie Kurtzman Violinist Stephanie Kurtzman Barat is an active performer and teacher in the classical and Jewish music arenas. She is a graduate of Curtis Institute of Music and Carnegie Mellon University. She has soloed with many orchestras including twice with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. SHe has performed in such places as Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center , Jones Hall and Merkin Hall. She has taken part in many chamber music festivals. She also freelances and plays with many of the Jewish bands and artists. She teaches in schools and privately and also often shares music in therepeutic settings.
Talia Lakritz (singer/song writer) hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and studies English and Creative Writing at Barnard College in New York City. A singer/songwriter and digital content creator known as "nerdwithavoice" on YouTube, her outspoken videos about Orthodox Jewish feminism have been featured on BBC, NPR, Yahoo! News, The Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, The Forward, and The Times of Israel. She was an artist fellow with the Jewish Women's Talent Agency and has been a featured performer at VidCon, Jewish Queer Youth's Community Chanukah Party for LGBTQ Jews and Allies, Barnard's Take Back The Night Speakout, and In The Glow. When she’s not lugging her keyboard around on the subway on her way to an open mic, chances are she’s updating her Twitter (@nerdwithavoice), Instagram (@nerdwithavoice), and Tumblr (the orthodoxjukebox.tumblr.com).
Lori Leifer is a devoted artist, friend, sister, database programmer and community organizer. She is a proud eynikle (direct descendent) of the great Ndvorna chasidim (of Premishlan) who were known for their chesed and skills on the fiddle. Raised on a farm in upstate, NY, she is only now studying Yiddish intensively and hopes to be fluent one day. Lori has a small business using Jewish folk music to entertain elderly Jews at assisted living centers around NYC. She also sings and acts occasionally for the National Yiddish Theater Folksbeine and spent many years as both student and director of the Drisha Arts Fellowship at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education in NYC, where she learned some Talmud, and started writing an album of folk songs based on Talmudic aggadot (a project which she hopes to return to one day!). Lori spent several years singing with choir director Binyumen Schechter in the Jewish People's Philharmonic (Yiddish) Choir and for Benajmin Gruder with the Rottenberg (Hebrew) chorale. At the moment Lori is quite satisfied honing in on her skills as a vocalist, piano player and actor gigging around NYC. You can listen to and find updates about Lori on her website: www.lorileifer.com
Esther Leah Marchette is a singer, songwriter and former cantor who has been involved with music from a young age. She holds a B.A. in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music in Boston, which included studies in classical and contemporary composition, lyric writing, advanced music theory, jazz and rock arranging. Esther Leah plays piano, guitar and percussion. In high school and college, she performed in musical theatre productions, sang in choirs and ensemble groups and directed an a cappella singing group at Yale University. In her early 20s, she worked as a cantor for a number of years until making the transition to embracing a Chassidic way of life. Since that time, Esther Leah occasionally performs for women as well as leading classes and workshops in Jewish Spirituality. Currently Esther Leah works as the manager of a software company, organizes events and classes as co-director of the Boston Breslov Connection, and raises her children with her husband in Boston, MA. She is a Co-Director of ATARA.
Shayna Sharon Miller brings 40 years experience as a professional singer and performer in musical theater, New York venues and TV. She holds a Masters of Arts in Vocal performance as well as Theater and English Literature from Brooklyn Conservatory, Juilliard and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She is the creator of her patented classes throughout Westchester County, "Singing for Non-Singers," (c)2007.
Rivka Nahari has had many years of training and performing experience in both music and dance. She began her ballet training at the age of 3 and studied in the pre-professional program at the Academy of Nevada Dance Theater where she continued until her graduation from high school at age 17. While at the Academy, she performed yearly in the "Nutracker" ballet and "Cinderella" with the Nevada Dance Theater professional company and danced in numerous performances with the Academy of Nevada Dance Theater Youth Company. She then continued her dance studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). In addition to ballet, she has been trained in tap (under the legendary hoofer Henry LeTang), jazz, character, flamenco, and hip hop. Musically, Rivka has been playing the harp professionally since the age of 13. She has performed with almost every orchestra in Las Vegas and played the harp and celleste for the "Nutracker" ballet with the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra. She was a piano major at UNLV while on a full harp scholarship and a voice major at the Mannes College of Music in Manhattan. She has also studied flute and has extensive experience in choir, performing in many of the hotels in Las Vegas and singing back-up for such notable artists as Barry Manilow and Michael Jackson and the Jackson Family. She opened the Brooklyn Jewish Dance Institute in Flatbush in the fall of 2008 as a means of providing quality dance training to the frum community, and this year she opened her second location in Crown Heights. She is also the director of the Brava Ladies Choral Ensemble. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and five children.
Michelle Penn started dancing at 3 years old. At 14, she joined the Fort Lauderdale Children's Ballet Theater, under the direction of Angela Mauti. There, I was privileged to dance soloist and principal roles, including the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and the evil stepsisters in Cinderella. She attended Northwestern University in Evanston, IL as a Psychology and Dance Major, where she began exploring modern and contemporary styles, and had many opportunities to perform as well as choreograph, and interned with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a contemporary dance company. Upon graduation, Michelle studied at Neve Yerushalayim as an Abraham Scholar, and while there created the Neve Dance Company with Devon Stern, and began performing, often for 1,200 women at a time at different venues, began lecturing at different schools across Jerusalem, and co-created a show with Mrs. Lisa Marcus titled "Behind the Masks" in May 2013. In 2013, she moved Silver Spring, and opened the doors to LaZooz in January 2015, with 45 students in the first session, ages ranging from 3-18, in a variety of styles, culminating in a professional performance at the American Dance Institute, with an audience of over 100 women. We hope to expand our program in the 2015 by offering more classes in more styles, instituting a women's program, and becoming more involved in the community schools.
Reina Potaznik began dancing at a young age. She graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College with a Bachelor's Degree in both Dance and Psychology. At Barnard, Reina focused on Modern Dance technique as well as Contact, Improvisation, African, Flamenco, and Jazz, studying with teachers trained under Paul Taylor Dance Co. and Bill T. Jones. In addition, she studied theory and composition, culminating in two senior projects: a movement piece called Dance for 3, and a written thesis entitled Unusual Dance Spaces. In recent years Reina has performed at various NYC venues, taught movement composition workshops as well as Simcha Dancing to Middle School preteens. She has worked as head of the dance program at Moshava Ba'ir and for the as a judge at the Yeshiva High School Rikudiah, an annual dance competition. She chairs the Special Events Committee at the Mt. Sinai Jewish Center and is a member of Parparim, an Israeli Folk Dance Co. Reina co-created Ladies Got Talent: An all female talent show and the WaHI Dance Collective: Creating Dance Opportunities for Jewish Women in the Heights and Beyond. Reina is a certified Zumba instructor for adults and children. In May 2012 she received her Master's Degree in Dance Education at NYU and for the past year was the dance educator at PS 182 in Jamaica Queens.
Shari Rosen, Soprano, earned her Masters in Music in Voice Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1991. While attending the Peabody, Shari performed numerous operatic roles with the Opera Theater and Workshop programs, as well as soloing with the Peabody Symphony and Peabody/Hopkins Chorus and winning first prize in Peabody's Sylvia Green Voice Competition. A native of Long Island, NY, Shari returned to her home state for three summers during her college years as a recipient of a full scholarship to the School of Voice at the Chautauqua Institution. After her college years, Shari sang as a soloist and chorister for numerous area churches and synagogues, eventually landing happily in a career as a Cantorial Soloist for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Temple Beth Israel (York, PA) and Congregation Shalom Aleichem in Columbia, MD. Having made a personal, spiritual journey to Orthodox Judaism, she now sings solely for women (and her husband!). Since making teshuvah, Shari has organized and performed on a women's benefit concert for the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning in Baltimore, served on the voice faculty of Camp Tizmoret Shoshana, wrote an article about her Jewish/musical experience for the "Where, What, When" in Baltimore and just this past Shabbos presented that article in a motivational talk at Congregation Knesseth Israel in Annapolis, MD. Ms. Rosen is incredibly honored to perform this evening for the women of ATARA.
Jessica Schechter is an NYU graduate and holds a B.S. in Educational Theatre and a double minor in Dramatic Literature and Studio Art. She is a certified theatre teacher in New York State and has been teaching, directing, and running drama programs for over seven years. Trained through Stanislavsky and Hagen techniques, Jessica’s acting credits include Anne (The Diary of Anne Frank), Miss Barrett (Up the Down Staircase), Marian (The Music Man), Peggy Swift (Father of the Bride), and Eva (Kindertransport). She is also an emerging playwright having written comedy sketches, skits, monologues, and an original ten minute play For the Gold that was produced at the Provincetown Playhouse. Directing credits include A My Name is Alice, a special needs integrated production of The Little Mermaid, and original collaborative productions The Silent Letters, New Beginnings, Calling to Heaven, Through My Reflection, and I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Jessica has worked with the MCC Youth theatre as a drama associate as well as the 2nd stage theatre with their education department. She has served as the drama director and teacher on various summer programs for the last three years. Jessica is passionate about fostering the creative voices of young people through process drama and collaborative performance. She taught theatre to professional actors at the Professional Performing Arts School and is now the Theatre Department chair for the Soundview Academy for Culture and Scholarship where she is building a full theatre arts department.
Miriam Sandler never planned on becoming a professional singer but at the tender age of 18, she began touring as a background singer/dancer with numerous American and Hispanic recording artists. After receiving a Jazz Vocal Performance degree from the world renowned program at the University of Miami, she was chosen to join Jon Secada and Gloria Estefan for concert tours and TV/ video apperances. Her experience on stage was paralleled by her recording career as she accompanied James Brown and Julio Iglesias on their CD's and was consistenly demoing material for Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Toni Braxton. Miriam's fast- paced lifestyle left her hungary for depth and direction and eventually, she found her way to Neve Yerushalayim, Israel. Presently, she is promoting her debut CD, "The Solution" and performing exclusively for women who are deeply moved by her heartfelt lyrics and unforgettable journey of a life of glamour and fame to one of clarity and Holiness.
Hannah SternHannah has been singing, dancing, and acting since before she can remember. She grew up in Agoura Hills, California amidst a very musical family. Hannah attributes almost everything she knows about singing and acting to her mother - a classically trained singer and actress, who's passion for musical theatre was infused within her daughter. Hannah trained in California for 10 years in many dance styles, with a focus on ballet and modern dance. She now lives with her husband in Far Rockaway, and works as the dance director for Malky Giniger's Ratzon Program, and as a graphic artist for Binah Magazine.