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Rabbi Ari Hart, Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Ari Hart began his rabbinate at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue on July 1, 2017. 

He previously served as the associate rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where he focused on community outreach and creating a welcoming environment for all people within an Orthodox synagogue. His previous rabbinic work took him everywhere from Yale University Hillel to Rikers Island in New York to the shores of Lesvos, Greece responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. An activist rabbi, Rabbi Hart has led multiple efforts to increase awareness of justice issues in the orthodox community, including advocating for immigrant workers in the kosher industry and fighting for victims of sexual abuse.

As a thought leader, he has contributed to leading secular and religious publications, including the Jerusalem Post, Ha’Aretz, The Hill, Patheos, NY Daily News, The Jewish Daily Forward,and more. Rav Ari was selected by The Jewish Week as one of the 36 "forward-thinking young people who are helping to remake the Jewish community." He is also a founder of Uri L'Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice and co-founder of the Jewish Muslim Volunteer Alliance. Rabbi Hart received smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City in 2012.

Since joining Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, Rabbi Hart and the synagogue have already launched several innovative programs and initiatives, such as welcoming 7 different prayer services into the building over the High Holidays, including free, 1 hour afternoon High Holiday Services in English, a partnership with Mothers Against Senseless Killing to combat gun violence in Chicago, an anti-hate vigil in response to Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, that drew over 350 community residents, prayer concerts, and more. During Rabbi Hart's first 12 months, 69 new households joined the synagogue.

The synagogue's past president, David Rubin, says of Rabbi Hart, "We are blessed to have Rav Ari as our rabbi. He will be transformative for our community. Fundamentally, his arrival reflects our work over the past few years of revitalizing an inclusive, welcoming, and outward looking community firmly rooted in Jewish observance centered in halakha. This has been the ethos of Skokie Valley since its founding over sixty-five years ago and one which Rav Ari will help us take forward into the future.” 

Rabbanit Yael Keller, Rabbanit in Residence

Rabbanit Yael Keller serves as the Rabbanit in Residence offering classes and drashot, supporting our community through coordination of chessed and life cycle events, offering halachic guidance including a focus on guiding families in observance of hilchot niddah and planning other programming throughout the calendar year. 

Yael received ordination in June 2022 from Yeshivat Maharat. Yael served as rabbinic intern at Ohev Sholom - the National Synagogue in Washington, DC and Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue where she taught and spoke regularly.  

Prior to attending Yeshivat Maharat, Yael earned a Masters in Public Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a Masters in Jewish Professional Leadership at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University. Yael has always believed strongly in building an equitable and just society and worked at several social justice organizations including Uri L’Tzedek, the Joint Distribution Committee and Impact Boston.  Before becoming a student, Yael worked as the Director of Operations at Yeshivat Maharat, working to create opportunities for Orthodox women to receive rabbinic training and ordination.  Yael completed her first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and plans to continue to explore this important work and how to best serve those in need of spiritual care in a medical context.  

Ariel Wolgel, Director of Experiential Learning and Youth Director

Ariel Wolgel serves as Skokie Valley’s Director of Experiential Learning, and as Youth Director for Skokie Valley and Kol Sasson’s shared youth department. 

As Director of Experiential Learning, Ariel facilitates diverse pathways to explore Torah and spirituality through creative expression, movement, and nature, such as “Maker Beit Midrash,” a Forest Therapy Pesach Mindfulness Experience, and Teshuva Yoga.  As Youth Director, Ariel works in collaboration with the youth committee, parent volunteers, and madrichim to make shul a space where children feel they belong, and where they can grow in Torah, Tefila and Chesed. This vision is the foundation for youth programs, including  interest-based groups on Shabbat morning and the youth kiddush servers program. 

Ariel received her MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew College and is a graduate of the Pardes Educators Program.  Ariel previously taught Jewish studies at the Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit  where she developed her interest in the intersection of learning and creative expression.  She further developed this passion as an Atiq Maker Kollel Fellow, continues to nurture art as a spiritual practice while studying at Yeshivat Maharat.  

Rabbi Hody Nemes, Director of Solu

Rabbi Hody Nemes is the program director of Solu, an Orthodox social action initiative building bridges to the broader world through chesed. Rav Hody also serves as an assistant rabbi of Skokie Valley on a part-time basis. 

A graduate of Yale University and Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, Rav Hody previously served as the rabbinic intern at Kesher Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, and Stanton Street Shul in New York City. He received smicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 2021, and taught Tanakh and Talmud as a beit midrash fellow at S.A.R. High School. 

An environmental activist, Hody co-founded Jewish Climate Action Network NYC, a climate change advocacy group, and served as Manager of Greening for Hazon, where he launched a "Seal of Sustainability" for Jewish groups across the country. He specializes in teaching "hands-on halacha," experiential shiurim that fuse Torah with botany and history. He previously worked as a journalist for the Forward and was co-host of YCT's "Pastoral Parsha" podcast, combining Torah with psychological insight.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784