Creating opportunities for meaningful, purposeful and relevant Jewish exploration.


The Center for Jewish Engagement & Learning

Ongoing Gatherings & Experiences

2021 Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning In Person Gathering Guidelines

as of April 15, 2021

  1. In-person CJEL gatherings will primarily be held outdoors. 
  2. Each area of work that falls under CJEL (PJ Library, PJ Our Way/Middle School Engagement, Buffalo Jewish Teen Initiative, Nickel City Jews, Adult Engagement, and Immersive Experiences) will make decisions about when to hold in-person events indoors. Decisions will be made in consultation with constituents, volunteer leadership, and the CJEL Chair.
  3. Indoor and outdoor in-person gatherings will conform to Erie County COVID guidelines. Advance registration will be required for all large events (over 30 participants).
  4. Participants, including children over the age 2, will be asked to wear face masks for the duration of in-person gatherings, unless eating or drinking.
  5. While eating or drinking at in-person gatherings, participants will be asked to follow Erie County COVID guidelines. 
  6. Hand sanitizer will be available at each in-person gathering.

Anytime Activities

A CJEL Anytime Activity can be done with no supplies and is designed to help you:

  • carve out space to gather together with your family, while exploring a unique Jewish idea
  • explore intersections between Jewish wisdom and secular ideas
  • have a joyful family experience that both challenges and inspires

If you would like to participate in the optional activities, a minimal supply list is included in the parent guide for each activity.

Music Makes People Come Together

This SPARK is designed for children ages 13+ and an adult

Parent Guide

Lost Tribe Esports Tournaments

A safe online community for Jewish teen gamers to connect and game!

For teens ages 13+

The Hunt for Treasure in Nature

This SPARK is designed for children ages 10 and under & an adult

Parent Guide

Love in a Box

Did you pick up your box?  Here are all of the companion digital resources for the items and activities you received.  There is something for everyone!

After, Happily Ever After

This SPARK is designed for couples journeying through love and hardships

Couples Guide

Blessing for Washing Hands & Wearing Masks

This how-to video by Cantor Arlene Frank from Congregation Shir Shalom is designed to help you try out a new way to do/say a blessing for washing hands & wearing masks.

Blessing for Children & Grandchildren

This how-to video by Susan Schwartz from the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning is designed to help you try out a new way to do/say a blessing for your children & grandchildren.

Blessing for Peace

This how-to video by Zack Steinberg from the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning is designed to help you try out a new way to do/say a blessing for peace.

Origami Shofar

This how-to video by Kennedy Henry and Julia Maxick will show you how to create your own origami shofar for the holidays!

You May Say I'm a Dreamer

Learn about the concept of goal setting together!

Designed for children ages 13+ and an adult

Parent Guide

I see your True Colors

Learn about the concept of gender identity and expression.

Designed for children ages 13+ and an adult

Parent Guide


All Jews, their friends and partners of other faiths, and those exploring Judaism, have access to Jewish living and learning experiences that help them thrive.


The Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning:

1. Engages and nurtures relationships with and among families and individuals at all stages of life;

2. Creates opportunities for meaningful and relevant Jewish exploration and learning; and

3. Supports and amplifies the work of synagogues and partner organizations.

Core Values

Several core Jewish values underpin our mission and are central to activating our vision:


We are forward thinking and believe that Jewish living and learning can happen both inside of and outside of institutions. We facilitate new kinds of Jewish experiences; our work is iterative and continually improving.


We encourage anyone to ask questions, explore, and seek depth and meaning in their Jewishness.


We focus on building relationships and creating shared Jewish experiences that build and deepen connections.


We believe that everyone has something of value to contribute and everyone has a right to belong. We are inclusive of those raised inside Jewish community, those raised completely without Jewish community, individuals who are Jew-adjacent, and inclusive of all abilities, gender identities and sexual orientations.
Young Families
Young adults


CJEL Chair: Sheri Rodman
PJ Library Chair: Marni Marciano
PJ Library Vice Chair: Rebecca Freedman
PJ Our Way/Middle School Chair: Brenda Feldstein
PJ Our Way/Middle School Vice Chair: Sharon Nisengard
Teen Engagement Chair: Hadar Borden
Teen Engagement Vice Chair: Donna Levy
Nickel City Jews Chair: Shiri Kester
Nickel City Jews Vice Chair: Mark Faber
Adult Engagement/Past CJEL Chair: Ellen Weiss
Belonging Chair: Robin Raphael
Belonging Vice Chair: Kirstie Henry

Professional Team

Miriam Abramovich

Miriam Abramovich

Chief Experience Officer

Miriam and her family called New York City, Boston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh home before landing in Buffalo seven years ago. Miriam values raising her two children in this warm and tight-knit community. Her professional passion is engaging with individuals and finding ways to help them access Jewish tradition, Jewish values, and Jewish time - in powerful and transformative ways. When not in the office, you can find Miriam with her family, at the gym, baking or traveling.

Mike Steklof

Mike Steklof

Director of Jewish Experience

Mike experienced the best of Rochester, Albany, Louisville, and Cleveland before choosing Buffalo as his home. Mike loves Buffalo for its warmth, weather, and charm. He is energized by connecting those who share similar passions, creating meaningful experiences  and ensuring there is space for all to belong in Jewish Buffalo. Outside of the office, Mike can be found cooking savory vegetarian dishes, training for his next half marathon or walking the Ellicott Creek bike path.

Susan Schwartz

Susan Schwartz

Director of Jewish Experience

Susan’s Buffalo roots run deep. She has strong connections to individuals and families across multiple generations in Jewish Buffalo, and also a strong and personal connection to Israel. Susan is a master Jewish educator who finds great joy in learning about people’s personal Jewish stories, and facilitating connections with others who share similar interests. When not in the office, you can find Susan with her grandchildren, leading Shabbat services with her guitar, or on a kayak exploring the inner harbor.

Rabbi Ori Bergman

Rabbi Ori Bergman

Jewish Educator

Ori and family moved to Buffalo in 2017 with the goal of participating in the growth of the Jewish community. Ori’s passion is to actively engage with Jews of all backgrounds and using the wisdom of our Jewish heritage to inform our modern lives. He grew up in an Israeli home in nearby Toronto and loves any opportunity to talk about Israel. Ori’s pleasure is spending time with his family and you can find him out and about on his bike, meeting people for coffee or simply rolling around with his kids on the grass.

Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum

Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum

Jewish Educator

Adam was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and grew up in Denver, Colorado.  After serving congregations in Livingston, NJ, and Charleston, SC, Adam moved to Buffalo in July 2020 to become the Rabbi of Temple Beth Tzedek.  He is grateful that his professional life enables him to teach, write, and make Judaism more accessible to others.  Adam adores his three children, is an avid baseball fan, and enjoys stand-up comedy.

Ben Wolfson

Ben Wolfson

CJEL Intern

Ben has been a part of the Buffalo Jewish community since the day he was born. Growing up in this city with deep connections throughout Jewish Buffalo gave him a desire to give back to the community he loves so much. He is passionate about engaging with teens and young adults through innovative programs and insightful conversations. When he’s not in the (virtual) office, Ben is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Political Science and he loves cooking, skiing, and watching Bills games.