JEDI + JSSJ Instructors & Staff
This is a partial list of the certificate program faculty and staff housed in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice (JSSJ).
MJ Abrams (he/him)
MJ Abrams is a queer trans Jew who graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2022 with a degree in media studies and a minor in Jewish Studies and Social Justice. Originally from Portland, Oregon, MJ moved to San Francisco in 2018 to pursue his studies and has since fallen in love with the city.
During his time as the Resident Advisor of Gender Inclusive housing at USF, MJ drew on his own experience transitioning in high school to provide legal and medical support to students undergoing similar transitions. Working closely with Rabbi Angel, MJ has participated in and facilitated Breaking Bread & the Binary and the Spectrum retreat through the University Ministry. Working with both of these programs, he aims to create a safe and inclusive space where queer and religious identities can coexist harmoniously. Drawing on his expertise in technology, audiovisual production, and program management, MJ brings a unique perspective to all of his endeavors.
Camille Shira Angel (she/her)
Camille Shira Angel, an adjunct professor in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, is also an ordained rabbi from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the author of articles including "Crafting a Liturgical Mirror," in the wonderful new anthology The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality, and "Ruach Acheret-Ruach Hakodesh: Different Spirit-Sacred Spirit" in Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
Erin-Kate Escobar (they/them)
Erin-Kate Escobar navigates the world as a non-binary, queer, Latiné, white and multi-ethnic, Jewish person of color. They work as a national Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant to build more inclusive workplaces where people can thrive through developing and implementing DEI strategies that include healing and anti-racist practices. Erin-Kate has previously developed DEI initiatives for NASA and Nobel Prize-winning science projects.
Aaron J. Hahn Tapper (he/him)
Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, the Mae and Benjamin Swig Professor in Jewish Studies and the founding Director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, has been at USF since 2007. An educator for more than two decades, his primary academic interest is the intersection between identity formation, social justice, and marginalized groups.
Joy Ladin (she/her)
Joy Ladin, a Guest Scholar of our program, is an American poet and the former David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University. She was the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution. She is the author of twelve books and several writing awards. She holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from Princeton University, where she was awarded the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship as top graduate student in the Humanities, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), and a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
Chel Mandell (they/them)
Chel Mandell is a queer gender expansive Jew from the San Francisco Bay Area. They are a fourth-year rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion CA. A dedicated and soulful Jewish educator/director with 12 years of experience teaching in the Bay Area, they are deeply committed to reimaging Jewish community landscapes through creative ritual and reimaging how Judaism fits into the next decade-plus and for generations to come. Chel is also the founder and spiritual leader of the Tzimtzum Collective, a queer Jewish community that gathers in Santa Cruz on unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe.
Chel received a BA from the University of San Francisco with a major in Environmental Studies and minor in Jewish Studies and Social Justice. Chel attended Sierra Nevada University, where they received their MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts with a concentration in the intersection of art practice, activism, and community engagement. Chel also completed a year-long rabbinic internship with The Kitchen SF, learning new ways to “do Jewish” and is thrilled to integrate this knowledge into their expanding communities.
Chel is an avid surfer and ocean lover, ceramicist and sculptor, and outdoor enthusiast and social justice activist with visions of bringing all of these interests and intersections to enrich their rabbinate. They dream of a radical new Jewish world with open-ended creativity and inclusivity.
Dr. Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman (she/her/ella)
Dr. Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman, the founder and director of Imani Strategies, LLC, is a powerful, dynamic, faith-filled, compassionate, change leader for equity. She has more than 30 years of experience developing curriculum, organizing, and educating for social justice. As her name suggests, Imani/Emunah [faith], her faith drives her to co-create brave and inclusive environments for learning, growth and justice. Her work with stakeholders in religious communities, secular communities, schools and non-profit organizations has helped root their efforts for sustained change.
Ariela Ronay-Jinich (she/her/ella)
Ariela Ronay-Jinich, MA.Ed is an educational leader, cultural activist, and researcher in the Bay Area, California. She has been serving Bay Area youth and families since 2005, and has founded and directed a number of innovative Jewish educational initiatives that center community-building, language learning and nature connection (Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, Edah, Jewish Outside). Besides working with youth, she has trained over 100 educators in nature-based Jewish learning through her signature program, "Jewish Outside, " founded in 2015. Her recent work has centered her Mexican Jewish identity and has taken on an equity focus, including as Program Manager for Project Shamash, a racial justice initiative of Bend the Arc, and through her qualitative research on Latinx Jewish families. She currently serves as Founder and Executive Director of Olamim, a family engagement program for Latinx Jewish families. Ariela holds a B.A in Education Policy and History from Brown University, and an M.A. in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Early Childhood Education from Mills College. She received her training in Jewish environmental education at the Teva Learning Alliance and the Eco-Activist Beit Midrash in Israel. She is a Helen Diller Family Award recipient for Excellence in Jewish Education, and is an alumnus of several leadership institutes, including Selah, Rockwood, JECELI, and Torah Trek.
Julia Watts Belser (she/her)
Julia Watts Belser is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, as well as core faculty in Georgetown’s Disability Studies Program and a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Her research centers on gender, sexuality, and disability in rabbinic literature, as well as queer feminist Jewish ethics. She directs an initiative on Disability and Climate Change, which brings together disability activists, artists, policy makers, and academics to address how disability communities are disproportionately affected by environmental risk and climate disruption.