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Meet the Kehilla Strengthening & Transformation Team

Kathy Elias

Chief Kehilla Officer

Kathy Elias, USCJ’s chief kehilla officer, is leading the professional team that is building a network of relationship specialists who connect United Synagogue's affiliated kehillot (congregations), with new resources in the areas of leadership development, strategic planning, membership engagement, synagogue operations and finance.

She has been an educator and writer for 35 years, and since 1996 has developed programs and projects in Jewish education, leadership training, and strategic thinking. She has a Master's degree in Jewish Studies and is trained in clinical pastoral education.

Robert Leventhal

Leadership Specialist

Bob Leventhal served as sales and marketing executive for O-Cedar Brands and a management consultant. He taught marketing at the University of Dayton. For more than 15 years Bob was a Jewish communal lay leader in Dayton, Ohio. He was a Federation campaign and planning leader and served in leadership roles at the Jewish community center. He was the Midwest chair of the national UJA Young Leadership Cabinet. He was president of the Hillel Academy Jewish day school board. He was a member of the Temple Israel (Reform) and the Beth Abraham (Conservative) congregations.

In 2001 he chose to combine his MBA and his Masters in Jewish Education to create a unique synagogue consulting practice at the Alban Institute in Herndon, Virginia. Alban is a research, publishing and consulting organization that primarily serves mainline Protestant congregations. He has worked with 100’s of congregations and organizations such as the UJA Federation of New York, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Yeshiva University, and UJA federations in Montreal, Toronto, Houston, Northern New Jersey and Palm Beach to name a few.

In January 2012 he became the leadership specialist for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in New York. He is the author of Byachad: Synagogue Board Development and Stepping Forward: Synagogue Visioning and Planning.

He has raised three boys and was the seventh grade teacher at his synagogue religious school from 1999-2001 — so you know he loves a challenge.

Aimee Close

Transformation Specialist

Aimee Close is the Transformation Specialist for the Northeast and Southeast Seaboard districts.  Prior to this position, she served for three years as the Senior Kehilla Relationship Manager (KRM) for the Northeast District. 

Aimee has a Bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, and a Masters in Jewish Education from Hebrew College in Boston.  She has spent the last 25 years working in various leadership capacities throughout the Greater Boston Jewish community, including roles in administration and finance, membership recruitment and retention, community outreach, and Jewish education.  Aimee has served as both a synagogue professional and lay leader, and therefore understands the challenges of modern congregational life from both perspectives, and is especially sensitive to the challenges that lay leaders face in balancing their professional lives, family lives, and congregational leadership roles. 

Aimee is a lifelong Bostonian and an avid Red Sox fan.  She lives in Sharon, MA, with her teenage son, and is an active member of Temple Israel of Sharon.

Nadine Kochavi

Transformation Specialist

Prior to her role as Transformation Specialist, Nadine was the Senior Kehilla Relationship Manager for the METNY District of USCJ for three years.  In that role, she worked closely with the district lay leadership and kehillot in the Metropolitan area of New York. She led district wide conferences, Sulam Leadership workshops and managed relationships between USCJ and the affiliated kehillot in the New York area.

Nadine has extensive kehilla knowledge and professional experience as she served as the Membership Coordinator at a prominent large Reform synagogue in Manhattan that has over 1,700 families as members. She was the primary staff person responsible for working with the membership committee, to consider and implement initiatives to recruit, integrate and retain new and existing members. Nadine also has several years of volunteer leadership experience as she was a member of the Kehilat Hadar (a minyan on the Upper West Side of Manhattan) leadership team and served as a co-chair of the Hazon New York Bike Ride and Retreat in 2014.

Nadine has a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Albany and a master's in public administration from Baruch College, where she concentrated in nonprofit administration.  

Jay Weiner

Transformation Specialist

Jay Weiner is entering his 20th year with USCJ. He has served in many roles including, most recently, as Kehilla Relationship Manager for the Central District and USCJ Alim coordinator for North America, assisting in the growth of new and emerging kehillot (congregations). Before becoming a KRM he was the associate director of the Central district. Prior to that he was the executive director of United Synagogue’s Mid-Continent region; before that he held the same position in our Northern California and Pacific Northwest regions. He is also the coordinator for Alim, helping new, emerging, and evolving kehillot. Jay earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington and a master’s in educational administration and California state teaching credentials from the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University) in Los Angeles. He was director of education at two large Conservative kehillot, and for eight years he was the headmaster of the Heritage Academy, a Jewish day school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He lives in Leawood, Kansas, with his wife, Rabbi Alexandria Shuval Weiner, who holds a pulpit in Overland Park, Kansas. They have five children.

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