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Our Rabbi & Professional Leadership

Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Rabbi Hyim Shafner began as Rabbi of Kesher Israel in August 2017. Prior to coming to Kesher Israel, he served as Rabbi of Bais Abraham Congregation in Saint Louis, Missouri, for 13 years, as Campus Rabbi at the St. Louis Hillel at Washington University for eight years, and for a year as Rabbi of India under the auspices of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.  

Rabbi Shafner has Smicha (rabbinical ordination), a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW), and an MA in Jewish philosophy, from Yeshiva University in New York City. Additionally he also holds a Certificate in Advanced Psychodynamic Psychotherapy from the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute.  

Rabbi Shafner is the author of the Everything Jewish Wedding Book (2nd edition), as well as many articles in the area of Talmudic narrative, Jewish law and thought, and community building and vision.  

Contact Rabbi Shafner by email at, or by calling the Shul Office at (202) 333-2337.



Rachel Cohen
Commmunity Scholar
& Yoetzet Halacha

Rachel Cohen joined Kesher as Community Scholar & Yoetzet Halacha in 2024. 

Rachel was born in New York, but grew up in Israel. She started her career as a software engineer before transitioning to Jewish engagement and education full-time. Over the past fifteen years, Rachel has worked as a program director and Jewish educator in Israel, Canada and Australia, delivering engaging educational experiences with the versatility needed to connect with people from diverse backgrounds.

Through Nishmat's Yoetzet Halacha program, Rachel has developed both the knowledge and experience to help women navigate Taharat HaMishpachah and related areas in a practical and meaningful way. From teaching brides, to giving refresher courses to married women, to training mikvah shomrot, Rachel has built lasting relationships through the enrichment of women’s halachic observance.

Rachel lives in Chicago, with her husband, Rabbi Barak Cohen, and their three children, Eliana, Shai, and Odeyah. She spends several Shabbatot and Chagim throughout the year in DC, teaches numerous classes, and is available for questions and guidance at



Laura Kamer-Israel
Director of Operations

Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Baltimore, MD, Laura moved to the DC area shortly after receiving her MBA in finance. For 11 years, Laura worked for the local branch of Aish HaTorah, a Jewish outreach organization. Laura and Benjamin, her husband of 28 years, live in Potomac. They are proud parents of two amazing kids, Jake, a medical student at Georgetown University, and Ariella, an analyst at J.P. Morgan in NYC.  

Contact Laura by email at, or by calling the Shul Office at (202) 333-2337.


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Visit our Careers page to learn about opportunities to work at Kesher Israel.

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784