Who We Are

Our Board of Directors is a group of dedicated volunteers who meet weekly to discuss, laugh, plan, create, argue, and make decisions that guide the operations of the Institute. This work includes the selection of Learning Series topics and teachers, along with handling various things related to staffing, budget, program scheduling, and management of the website.

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Please Meet Those Who Guide the Institute

Dan Fendel

Dan Fendel is the men’s chair and co-founder of the Chevrah Kadisha in his own congregation, Temple Sinai (Reform; Oakland),

and has been a member of the Chevrah Kadisha of Beth Jacob Congregation (Orthodox; Oakland) since about 2001. He is co-author, with Rabbi Stuart Kelman, of Chesed Shel Emet: The Truest Act of Kindness — Exploring the Meaning of Taharah (Expanded Third Edition), and Nihum Aveilim: A Guide for the Comforter (the latter also with Rabbi Jason Weiner). He also did volunteer grief support work for the Shanti Project and Namaste in the San Francisco area for 20 years and has been has been doing bikur cholim work as a Spiritual Care volunteer at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland since 2015.

Holly Blue Hawkins

Holly Blue Hawkins is a Natural Deathcare advocate, educator, community organizer, cemeterian, author and poet.

In 2022 she co-created and launched two twelve-module courses on the subject of Natural Burial: in partnership with Lee Webster The Green Burial Master Class; and with David Zinner Jewish And Green: Cemetery Management For The 21st Century. As Gamliel Institute graduate and past faculty, Final Passages graduate, member of the Conservation Burial Alliance, Rosha Chevrah Kadisha (Head of Jewish Burial Society), past member of the Board of Trustees of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California and independent consultant; with over 40 years of experience in end-of-life subjects, Holly Blue provides education and training to both Jewish and secular audiences. She has visited countless natural burial sites from England to Hawai’i, presented at international conferences, trained home funeral guides, consulted with cemetery management and mortuary personnel, taught community college extension courses and is a passionate advocate for environmentally sustainable and culturally-sensitive burial practices.

Rabbi Stuart Kelman

Rabbi Stuart Kelman is the Founding Dean Emeritus of the Gamliel Institute. 

 He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and has taught at the Hebrew Union College. He has extensive experience in all parts of the Jewish community, from working at Jewish camps to helping develop The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE). As founding rabbi of Netivot Shalom (1989), a unique participatory synagogue, he was responsible for the creation of the synagogue’s Chevrah Kadisha. His PhD is in Sociology of Education and he has published five Chevrah Kadisha-related books, including Nichum Aveilim, on how to be a comforter to a mourner, and Chesed Shel Emet, delving into an extensive analysis of the taharah liturgy. 

Rick Light

Rick Light has been teaching about Jewish death practices for more than two decades,

showing how respect is woven throughout Jewish end-of-life rituals, enriching how we live. He started a Chevrah Kadisha in 1996 and led it for 18 years. Along the way he became an instructor for the Gamliel Institute and has published seven books, including a highly praised Passover Haggadah, and four books on Jewish death practices, one of which won a Nautilus Book Award. His taharah manual is widely respected and includes traditional as well as modern liturgies with chants by Rabbi Shefa Gold. Learn about his books at  https://richardalight.com. The design and implementation of this website are courtesy of his efforts.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden received rabbinic ordination from The Academy for Jewish Religion-California. 

A widely-published writer and ritualist and frequent conference presenter, Janet leads weekly Torah Study at Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, teaches and leads services for the non-denominational O’ahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu, HI), serves as Rabbi of Saint John’s Medical Center (Santa Monica, CA) provides Spiritual Direction to rabbinic students at Hebrew Union College’s Los Angeles campus and is a member of the Board of Governors of Reconstructing Judaism.

In addition to her certification in Jewish End of Life practices through the Gamliel Institute, Janet completed 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education, is certified in Jewish Spiritual Direction through Yedidya and trained in Jewish Sacred Chant through Koi Zimra. She earned the Rabbinic Certificate in Gerontology and Palliative Care from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University.

Licensed as an attorney through the Federal Maritime Commission, she received a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship and is a three-time research fellow of the National Institute for the Humanities.

Her earned doctorate was conferred by the National University of Ireland.

A dedicated hand quilter and gardener, Janet lives in Santa Monica CA with her spouse, dog, cat and flock of backyard chickens.

Edna Stewart

Edna Stewart is a Registered Nurse with 46 years of experience working in settings such as intensive care, pediatric oncology, nursing management and education, and senior housing and wellness.

She has been an educator for over 30 years both professionally and as a volunteer. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in Public Health Administration, with a focus on program and policy development. Much of her current volunteer work, in addition to regular Chevrah Kadisha activities, centers on education about Jewish practices around death and burial. A member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA, she is the former chair of the adult education committee and current co-chair of the Chevrah Kadisha. Edna holds popular “Death Cafes” and led the development of a Bay Area-wide program called “Walking in the Valley of the Shadow,” a series of classes for community education on Jewish end-of-life practices, with the entire series presented in a variety of locations.

David Zinner

David Zinner is the founder and recently retired Executive Director of Kavod v’Nichum, (Honor and Comfort),

which has worked to restore to Jewish death and bereavement practice, the traditions and values of kavod hamet (honoring the dead) and nichum avelim (comforting the bereaved) since 2000. He was also the co-founder of the Gamliel Institute, a center for leadership training and advocacy of traditional Jewish practice in the continuum of care at the end of life since 2010.

David’s newest project – PRINCE – Preservation and Restoration Initiative for Neglected Cemetery Entities matches cemeteries that need labor with prisoners eligible for work release. 

As co-Vice-President of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, David participates in developing citywide contracts with funeral homes. He is a consumer representative on the State of Maryland’s Advisory Council on Cemetery Operations. He was the Executive Director of Tifereth Israel Congregation, a conservative synagogue in Washington, DC for 10 years.