Marginalized Voices within our Jewish Communities: A Panel Discussion
This panel discussion will provide participants with an opportunity to hear from members of the Jewish community who hold one or more marginalized identities. We will learn about each panelist, their personal experiences in Jewish communal spaces, and the different ways they navigate these intersectionalities. The panel will begin with introductions and a few opening questions, followed by an audience Q&A session (via Zoom chat).
Cantor Shira Nafshi (she/her)Cantor, Temple Beth Jacob
Cantor Shira Nafshi grew up in Miami, FL and was highly involved in both her temple’s youth group and religious school as a song leader. She was mentored by her Cantor, Cantor Stuart Pittle (z”l). Cantor Shira attended Brandeis University (B.A. in Music), Sarah Lawrence University (M.A. in Poetry), and was ordained a Cantor from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in 2005. She served as the full-time Cantor for Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, NJ from 2005 to 2010. She began serving as the part-time Cantor of Temple Beth Jacob in 2011. She leads Shabbat services approximately once a month, leads High Holy Day services, leads the TBJ choir, and teaches music in the religious school. Cantor Shira also serves part-time as the Cantor of Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester and helps on an as-needed basis in leading worship with other synagogues in New Hampshire.
When not on the TBJ bimah, Cantor Shira can usually be found at her retail shop in Tilton, The Trainers’ Loft: Holistic Horse Supplies and Consignment, or with a horse – trimming hooves, teaching riding, or playing with her own horses. Cantor Shira is thrilled to be working with her life partner, Rabbi Robin. Together, they are the parents of Liba, born in early 2014.
Kelly Whitehead (she/they)Rabbinic Student, HUC-JIR
Kelly Whitehead (she/they) is a 3rd year rabbinical student and Jewish Nonprofit Management MA student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Rabbinic Intern at Temple Sinai in Summit, NJ. Kelly participated in the Reform Movement’s Jew V’Nation Jew of Color Fellowship, where they learned to create and facilitate Anti-Racial Bias training for Jewish Professionals. They serve on the board of T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and was selected as one of The Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for 2021.
Lexi Rolfe (she/her or they/them)Public Health Professional, Childhood Educator
Lexi (she/her or they/them) is new to both early childhood education and Reform Judaism, but she has been welcomed warmly by the ECE-RJ family. She is a queer and trans woman who received her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Texas A&M and developed a passion for health policy. She has a background in epidemiology, disease prevention, and environmental health. Lexi wants to help everyone better understand the importance of caring for the health of our natural environments as well as our own physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. She cares deeply for all living creatures on earth, from the largest blue whales to the tiniest ants, but her favorite animals are undoubtedly orangutans.
Rabbi Robin Nafshi (she/her)Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Jacob
Rabbi Robin Nafshi (also known as Rabbi Robin) was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2005. She joined Temple Beth Jacob in July of 2010. Before that, she served as the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Emeth in Teaneck, NJ and the Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ. Rabbi Robin is a graduate of both New York University and Cornell Law School. She worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as an attorney, legal editor, and legal author before attending rabbinical school.
Rabbi Robin embraces the definition of rabbi as “teacher” – in the classroom, while leading worship, during meetings, and in personal conversations and interactions. Rabbi Robin cares deeply about people and listens with an open and non-judgmental heart; pastoral counseling is another core part of her rabbinate.
Robin Robin was born and raised in northern New Jersey and remains a devoted Yankees fan. According to her family lore, her grandfather played automobile poker with Babe Ruth!
While in California, Rabbi Robin became very involved in the Jewish community. She served as chair of many different committees, board member, vice president, and president of her synagogue, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. In addition, she was on the board of several local Jewish organizations. She was also selected to participate in the Wexner Heritage Foundation’s adult learning program for Jewish community lay leaders, from 1996-1998. In 2000, Rabbi Robin changed her life’s direction and began her studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She was selected as a Wexner Graduate Fellow, a recipient of a full four-year fellowship and stipend while in rabbinical school. She was the first person in the country ever to be selected to both the Wexner Heritage Foundation lay leader program and the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program.
Rabbi Robin shares her life with her partner, Cantor Shira Nafshi, who serves as TBJ’s part-time cantor. They are the delighted parents of Liba, who joined their family in January of 2014.
Tony Westbrook Jr. (he/him/his)Assistant Director, WashU Hillel
Tony J. Westbrook, Jr. is a Jewish African-American, activist, and community leader originally from St. Louis. When he’s not working to build community on campus, he’s working to address issues of racial inequality, discrimination, diversity, and inclusion throughout the St. Louis community. He received his B.A. in Communication from Fontbonne University. He made aliyah to Israel in 2016, and studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies from 2016-2019, earning Certificates in Jewish Studies and in Jewish Experiential Education. His personal and professional mission in life is to help Jews of all ages and affiliations to make new, meaningful, and sustainable connections to their Judaism. When he’s not working, you can find him singing or in the kitchen making delicious kosher treats or on TikTok making fun videos.