Scholars in Residence
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz is the Chair of the Department of Talmud at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. He received ordination in 1986 from Rabbi Roth, dayan of UTA Satmer. Rabbi Katz studied in Brisk and in Yeshivat Beis Yosef, Navaradok for over ten years. A graduate of the HaSha’ar Program for Jewish Educators, Rabbi Katz has taught at the Ma’ayanot High School for Girls and SAR High School. Rabbi Katz was appointed as Rabbi of the Prospect Heights Shul in Brooklyn, NY and currently holds several positions including Director of the Lindenbaum Center for Halakhic Studies and Educational Director of Judaic Studies at Luria Academy in Brooklyn, NY.
Dr. Sharon Flatto
Dr. Sharon Flatto is a Professor of Judaic Studies and the Director of the Judaic Studies Graduate Program at Brooklyn College. She received her Ph.D. in Jewish history from Yale University, her B.A. from Barnard College, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University. Specializing in early modern Jewish history and Kabbalah, Professor Flatto has taught at a broad range of educational institutions, including Yale, Queens College and Brown, and at numerous adult education programs. She has received multiple awards and grants, and is the author of “The Kabbalistic Culture of Eighteenth-Century Prague: Ezekiel Landau (the ‘Noda Biyehudah’) and his Contemporaries” (Littman Press, 2010) and various scholarly articles.
Visiting Scholars and Ruach Leaders
Rabbi Aaron Frank
Rabbi Aaron Frank is the Assoc. Principal at SAR High School, soon becoming Head of School at the Kinneret Day School, both in Riverdale, NY. Prior to SAR, Rabbi Frank served as Elementary and then HS Principal at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore for 12 years. He served as Assoc. Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale under Rabbi Avi Weiss from 1996-2000, and received semikha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the Univ. of Michigan and an M.S. from Columbia Univ. School of Social Work. Since 2001, Rabbi Frank has served as a High Holidays rabbi at Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Maryland.
Laura Shaw Frank
Laura Shaw Frank, Director of Recruitment, Placement, and Alumnae Support at Yeshivat Maharat, is completing her PhD in modern Jewish history at the University of Maryland. She is also the Director of Israel Guidance and a member of the history faculty at SAR High School in Riverdale. Before moving to New York, Laura was the chair of the Jewish History Department and Director of Israel Guidance at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore. A former commercial litigator, Laura is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School. She is a founding board member of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and of PORAT, People for an Orthodox Renaissance and Torah.
Cantor Yehoshua Redfern, Shaliach Tzibur
Yehoshua Redfern’s special ruach reaches out and embraces enthusiastic audiences up and down the Eastern seaboard. A musical scholar in residence, composer and concert artist, Cantor Redfern’s innovative approach to Jewish music is perfected in his diverse repertoire of Cantorial, Yiddish, Chassidic, Operatic, Neo-Chassidic and Israeli melodies. Cantor Redfern received his cantorial certificate from the Belz School of Jewish Music, Yeshiva University. In July 2011 Cantor Redfern was awarded by the Cantorial Council of America with the Dr. Karl Adler Memorial Award for the Preservation and Enhancement of Jewish Musical Education at the CCA’s 51st Annual Convention. Cantor Redfern has performed to a full live sold out concert at The Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts University of Maryland, College Park. Cantor Redfern studies voice and chazzanut with Cantor Daniel Gildar of Philadelphia.
Rabbi Mat & Julie Tonti, Child & Teen Program Coordinators
Originally from Potomac, MD, Julie Tonti moved to Fairfax, VA three years ago. She teaches middle school Judaics and runs a Jewish learning program for teens. Julie also spent four years living and studying in Israel, and recently received a certificate in Jewish Philosophy and Pedagogy from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. She also holds an MA in Jewish Education from Siegal College of Judaic Studies as well as a BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, being outdoors, knitting, herbal medicine, poetry, music, studying Torah and spending time with her husband and their three children.
By day, Rabbi Matisyahu Tonti, can be found teaching young musicians and Torah scholars at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, VA. By night, he can be found dancing, drawing, and singing with his three children and wife. Rabbi Tonti has spent four years living and studying in Israel. Most recently he received a certificate in Jewish Philosophy and Pedagogy from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and Smicha from Yeshivat Sulam Ya’akov in Jerusalem. He holds an BA in Jewish Education from Siegal College of Judaic Studies. He is currently working on his first full length graphic novel about a golem made out of bread dough.
Pearlstone’s Program Staff
Laura Leventhal, Pesach Program Coordinator
After many years of running the Pesach Program and other independent retreats here, Laura Leventhal has joined the Pearlstone staff as a full-time Event Coordinator. Laura brings her 30+ years of experience planning events for companies, synagogues, non-profits and friends. Her passionate expertise and attention to details is evident to all who meet her, as she makes each guest’s comfort her top priority. One of her mottos in planning multigenerational retreats is “happy children, happy parents!” and she strives to ensure everyone has a good time.
Sallie D’Alonzo, Executive Chef
Sallie D’Alonzo’s experience in fine dining and upscale private and corporate catering spans over 35 years. She was trained in NY at the Culinary Institute of America, and participated in a formal French apprenticeship at Le Maurice in NY. As a Philadelphia based business owner for 15 years, she was one of the tri-state regions top full service catering professionals. Mediterranean and inspired vegetarian cuisine is her specialty, and she will showcase her extensive experience with traditional Jewish holiday fare throughout the holiday.
Casey Yurow, Program Director
Casey Yurow currently serves as Pearlstone Center’s year-round Program Director. He has held leadership roles in the field of Jewish outdoor, food, and environmental education for over ten years with the Teva Learning Center, Urban Adamah, and Eden Village Camp. Casey believes deeply in the power of nature connection and hands-on learning to revitalize healthy human culture and community. He earned a B.Sc in Environmental Science from the Univ. of MD and spent 2 years studying in yeshiva in Israel. When not at work, Casey can be found building mandolins, hiking, gardening, cooking, and inviting friends over for spirited, song-filled Shabbat meals.
Greg Strella, Farm Director
Greg Strella and his team spend their time stewarding the plants and animals that bring the Pearlstone Campus to life for visitors and guests. Greg has grown organic vegetables for more than a decade and has worked in leadership positions for Baltimore City Public Schools’ Great Kids Farm and Future Harvest: A Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. As someone who works with Pearlstone’s living landscape each day, he welcomes the opportunity to share it with you warmly and informally through walking, dialogue, and all of your senses.