RABBI AARON KAGAN, ROSH KOLLEL/DEAN, AND REBBETZIN EFRAT KAGAN
A native born Englishman, the current Rosh Kollel’s formative years were spent in Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver, where he also developed his penchant for skiing. Rabbi Kagan studied for four years in Jerusalem and then at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, where he married his wife and received an advanced Masters in Talmudic Law and Rabbinics. Rabbi Kagan received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Malkiel Kotler.
After his father’s passing, Rabbi Kagan took the reins at the Kollel where in addition to both learning and teaching a number of weekly classes, he is the Dean and CEO of the organization. He is especially proud of his eclectic seforim collection, fond of contemporary mussar writers, Jewish philosophy and the writings of Rav Tzaddok HaCohen of Lublin. A permanent resident of his office, Rabbi Kagan enjoys visiting his family and taking them on the rare vacation, and is angling for an invitation to a ski trip.
Raised in the windy city of Chicago, Rebbetzin Efrat Kagan would prefer a warmer climate and dreams of moving to Israel. After graduating high school she studied in Israel at Michlala Jewish Women’s College. Rebbetzin Kagan then pursued a degree in Business at Northeastern University. She currently teaches Kallah classes and laws of family purity, and is involved in a number of community activities. Her chocolate babke is reputed to be unmatched this side of the Allegheny Mountains.
RABBI LEVI LANGER, ROSH KOLLEL/DEAN OF TORAH STUDIES, AND REBBETZIN ELKY LANGER
A native New Yorker, although he doesn’t drive like one, Rabbi Langer attended Ner Israel Rabbinical College, received a Bachelor of Talmudic Studies, a Master of Rabbinic and Talmudic Studies, and two rabbinical ordinations–Rav Umanhig and Yoreh Yoreh–in Lakewood, NJ. In addition to his in-depth studies with the community scholars, he delivers a daily class in Daf Yomi, a weekly class on concepts in halacha/Jewish law, and other topical lectures. With all of Rabbi Langer’s credentials, it is no surprise that he can speak extemporaneously on any subject in Midrash, Tanach, Talmud, Halacha– pretty much any Jewish text. An aficionado of arcane kabbalistic texts, Rabbi Langer runs the longest day of anyone at the Kollel, and in his free time likes to catch up on his studies that he doesn’t get to in the other 20 hours of the day..
Rabbi Langer’s wife Elky–a veritable jill-of-all-trades–was educated in Detroit and in Gateshead, England. Mrs. Langer is a writer, editor, teacher, computer programmer, and published author, not to mention wife and mother. In 1999 Targum Press published her novel “Shades of Grey” to great acclaim. She currently is assistant principal of Hillel Girls High School. She has taught classes for the Kollel. She has consistently resisted all attempts by the Kollel to hire her full time and likes her independence.
RABBI SHLOMO AND MRS. CHAYA BERELOWITZ
Rabbi Shlomo Berelowitz hails from Brooklyn. He has studied in Mir-Jerusalem and at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, where he received a Bachelor of Talmudic Studies and Smicha/Rabbinic ordination. Rabbi Berelowitz also attended the Ner L’elef program, a two-year course which trains educators in communicating key Torah concepts to a wider audience. He joined the Kollel six years ago, and his popularity continues to grow. This can be partly accredited to his friendly smile and his care and concern for all of his students. He is the former Bible teacher for the Kollel Institute and has taught the popular Breakneck Through the Bible series for the Kollel.
Mrs. Chaya Berelowitz, originally from Atlanta, brings teaching expertise in the form of a Master’s degree in Special Education from the College of Staten Island. She is a fourth grade teacher at Hillel Academy and is known for her professionally-decorated cakes. For his part, Rabbi Berelowitz enjoys eating his wife’s cakes and then enjoys the exercise from walking the half a block from his home to the Kollel. The Berelowitzes are appreciative of all the family-friendly parks and attractions Pittsburgh has to offer.
RABBI AVROHOM YESHAYE AND MRS. CHAYA GITTY MORGAN
Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaye Morgan, a transplant from sunny Los Angeles, still has difficulty adjusting to the local climate. Fortunately, his natural warmth and exuberance warms everyone in his presence. He has a Masters of Talmudic Studies and Smicha/Rabbinic ordination, and puts in intensive work on understanding Rabbi Langer’s masters lectures/chaburos. Rabbi Morgan runs the Father and Son learning program and teaches a Tuesday night Mishnah Berurah class at the Kollel, where members of the community can benefit from his wide-ranging Torah knowledge mixed with West Coast cool. He enjoys ribbing Rabbi Kagan and looking for occasions to avoid wearing his tie–it’s an LA thing. .
Mrs. Chaya Gitty Morgan grew up in Monsey, New York. She attended Bais Yaakov Intensive Seminary, where she received her teaching certificate,and taught third grade at Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Monsey. Her women’s klatch … er, class on Tuesday night is most popular, and she also teaches Chumash and Navi at Hillel Academy. She claims to get great joy out of being a mother and wife.
RABBI YOSEF AND MRS. YOCHEVED BERKOWITZ
Rabbi Berkowitz is a laid-back guy who is serious about learning. He hails from Toronto where he grew up in a family of 14. In his formative years, Rabbi Berkowitz attended the Yeshiva Gedola of Toronto, studying under Rabbi Brodsky, and then Yeshiva Gedola of Cliffwood under the tutelage of Rabbi Alster. Soon Rabbi Berkowitz found himself in the Yeshiva of Brisk in Jerusalem for several years before returning to Cliffwood.
In addition to being a hockey fan, Rabbi Berkowitz enjoys good music and the scenic views of Pittsburgh (though hiking up the hills to get to the views is another story). At the Kollel, Rabbi Berkowitz looks forward to learning with people from all walks of life and introducing Kollel newcomers to an open environment where they can learn, grow, and meet others.
Yocheved Berkowitz comes from Brooklyn, New York where she attended the Yeshiva of Brooklyn High School. She and Rabbi Berkowitz were married in Lakewood, which is where they lived before moving to Pittsburgh in August of 2012. Of Pittsburgh, Mrs. Berkowitz says she feels close to her neighbors and appreciates the friendly spirit, especially after first moving here to find their apartment wasn’t quite ready. Mrs. Berkowitz credits their having gotten through those first days to the generosity of their new local neighbors.
RABBI CHAIM AND MRS. CHANA LEIBOWITZ
Rabbi Leibowitz hails from Toronto, Canada and enjoys playing ice hockey. Rabbi Leibowitz attended Ner Yisroel High School in Toronto and proceeded to Yeshivas Toras Moshe in the heart of Yerushalyim. While studying there he also received his B.S. in liberal studies. Upon his return from Israel he studied in Yeshivas Nesivos Hatorah located in Staten Island, New York. He furthered his studies in Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey in his pursuit of smicha. Of late, he specializes in halacha, practical Jewish law, and its applications in daily life. Rabbi Leibowitz is impressed with the kind Squirrel Hill community and enjoys the sense of neighborhood connection rather than being “one in a million”.
Chana Gitty Leibowitz is a native of Queens, New York. She attended Shevach High School in Queens and then Touro College, where she received her undergraduate degree and an M.S. in Speech –Language Pathology. Currently, she is employed by Lifecare Hospitals and Crossroads Speech and Hearing. Mrs. Leibowitz is a mother of three young boys and enjoys cooking up a storm. She is glad to be part of the Pittsburgh community which “has been so welcoming”.
RABBI SHRAGA AND MRS. LAYA SENFT
Rabbi Shragi Senft grew up in Queens, New York, where he attended Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe as a child. In high school and afterwards, he learned in Yeshiva Sha’ar HaTorah, also in Queens. He then moved on to the Givat Shaul neighborhood in Jerusalem, famous home of Angel’s Bakery, to study in the Ner Moshe yeshiva. Rabbi Senft then returned to America, where he married his wife. They settled in Lakewood where they began building their family as Rabbi Senft continued his studies in Beth Medrash Govoha.
Rabbi and Laya Senft moved to Pittsburgh in July of 2012, where they have welcomed a new baby and made many new friends. The Senfts feel privileged to have joined the close-knit yet open and welcoming Pittsburgh community. At the Kollel, Rabbi Senft enjoys the lively Torah debates which take place among the scholars. He looks forward to showing the members of the community that Torah is more than just textual study by giving them the opportunity to observe and experience how fulfilling, enriching, and enjoyable a Torah-true life can be.
Laya Senft, who hails from Brooklyn, New York, earned her diploma from Bais Yaakov High School in Boro Park, one of the first – and the largest – Jewish girls’ high school in America. Mrs. Senft then spent a wonderful year in seminary at Beth Jacob of Jerusalem. Upon returning to America, she went on to earn her Masters’ degree in teaching literacy from the Sara Scheneirer Institute for Special Education. Here in Pittsburgh, Mrs. Senft teaches at Hillel Academy, where she combines her literacy expertise with her passion for Torah in her position as a Judaic Studies resource room teacher. When she isn’t busy teaching, Mrs. Senft enjoys writing, meeting new people, and – most of all – caring for her three delightful daughters.
RABBI AVROHOM AND MRS. CHANA RODKIN
Rabbi Avrohom Rodkin grew up in Far Rockaway, NY, and received Smicha/Rabbinical ordination in Yoreh Yoreh under Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva South Fallsburg, New York. Rabbi Rodkin joined the Pittsburgh Kollel in 2002, and has recently stepped into the position of part time Director of Adult Jewish Education. He continues to give his dynamic weekly classes, and his new responsibilities include spearheading the Kollel Institute, which continues to attract a loyal following; run our holiday programs; and coordination of learning programs offered at the Kollel. In addition, Rabbi Rodkin has taken on the leadership of a new Sunday morning Lay Leaders Advanced Scholars program, which provides an in-depth study experience for advanced students who are ready to take the next step in their Torah learning and development. Rabbi Rodkin is an accomplished scholar who can always be counted on to share a ‘nosh’ from his library of Torah literature. He has published a sefer/book in Hebrew, analyzing various Talmudic themes. He is currently working on finalizing a second sefer on the theme of Torah study.
Mrs. Chani Rodkin, a native of Brooklyn, NY, has a B.A. in Psychology and was awarded New York State teacher’s certification in elementary education. She is also a graduate of Bais Yaakov Intensive Teacher’s Seminary, where she received teacher’s certification. Mrs. Rodkin has an avid interest in art and enjoys baking cookies with her children. She taught special education for several years and, until recently, taught part time at Hillel Academy. She is now working full time at home, taking care of her seven children!
RABBI MORDECHAI ROSENBERG
Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg has a Master’s Degree in Rabbinic and Talmudic Studies. He joined the Pittsburgh Kollel in 1988 and received Rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Shaul Kagan, zt”l. As a Community Scholar of the Kollel, he teaches a skill-building Talmud class and has lectured in the popular Being a Mensch series. He enjoys the Mussar works of Rabbi Wolbe, and has taught a variety of subjects in Jewish scholarship at Hillel Academy over the years. Rabbi Rosenberg serves the southwestern Pennsylvania community as a mohel.
RABBI AHARON SHMUEL BRODIE
A full time teacher at Hillel Academy for over 40 years, Rabbi Brodie has volunteered to be part of the Kollel’s learning session for 25 years, and it is hard to imagine Pittsburgh without him. This diligent scholar and beloved teacher started out in Hartford, CT and attended the Rabbinical College of Telshe in Cleveland, Ohio, where he received his Smicha/Rabbinical ordination. Currently teaching Judaics to second, third, and fourth graders, Rabbi Brodie has taught at every single class level at Hillel Academy other than first grade. Rabbi Brodie remembers a slogan in particular from his youth in which DuPont proclaimed, “Progress is our only product” – a phrase which, he says, applies very well to the Kollel Jewish Learning Center, where a person must progress as his mind matures. Rabbi Brodie’s intense commitment to using every moment keeps the scholars on their toes. In his free time he currently focuses on the ethical and halachic works of the Chofetz Chaim.
RABBI AKIVA GROSSBERG
Rabbi Akiva Grossberg holds the distinction of having the most study partners at the Kollel as well as no known hobbies. He studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn and Talmudic Studies as well as his Smicha/Rabbinical ordination from Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood. After participating in a special Kollel program for academically challenged youth, he joined the Kollel Jewish Learning Center in July of 2002. Rabbi Grossberg gives a host of classes at the Kollel, including the Downtowners’ Lunch-n-Learn, a Talmud class and a class on Ethics. Although a serious scholar and reserved by nature, his aidelkiet has won him legions of devoted students; in fact, the Grossbergs invested in a larger dining room table to be able to accommodate their growing fans for Shabbos meals.
RABBI AVI APFEL
Avi Apfel grew up in West Hempstead, New York. His family davens in the Young Israel of West Hempstead under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Kelemer. He attended Rambam Mesivta, in Lawrence, for High School before going to Eretz Yisroel to spend 2 years learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh. Avi then continued to learn in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore for 6 years where he received a Masters in Talmudic Law, before arriving in Pittsburgh.
While Avi learns in the Kollel, he is also currently enrolled in a PhD program for Biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also doing research for a neuro-imaging group at the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on aging and dementia. Avi is very grateful to the Kollel for providing a true Makom Torah to settle in while he works towards his degree. Although Avi enjoys all his time learning in the Kollel, he is most appreciative of the opportunity to learn Morning Seder with Rabbi Shimon Silver, “a tremendous Zechus to learn B’Chavrusa with such a Talmud Chacham one can only find in a city like Pittsburgh”. Avi lives with his wife, Rifky, and their three children, Elazar, Elkie and Yehudis. He enjoys solving math problems in his spare time.