Rabbi Esther Reed
Interim Executive Director
Rabbi Esther Reed grew up in East Brunswick, NJ. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she received both her master’s degree in Jewish Women’s Studies and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She is a Conservative rabbi and lives in Highland Park with her husband, Mordy Schwartz, and three sons: Isaac, Sammy and Jonah.
Rabbi Jason Cook
Reform Community Rabbi & Senior Jewish Educator
Rabbi Jason Cook strongly identifies as a wandering Jew having grown up in western New York, northern California and Lake Oswego, Oregon (just south of Portland). He went to college at American University in Washington, DC where he studied International Relations. After graduating, he moved to West Palm Beach, Florida where he worked in the Jewish non-profit world doing teen engagement. In south Florida, Rabbi Cook also met his wife Phylicia. After five years of rabbinical school (including a year studying in Jerusalem), Rabbi Cook received his rabbinic ordination at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College in May 2021. Rabbi Cook and Phylicia are excited to have found an end to their wandering with the Rutgers Hillel community and live in Metuchen, NJ with their son Micah. Rabbi Cook always has time to talk about Jewish text and history, Torah, science fiction, and his beloved Portland Trail Blazers.
Rabbi Avi Schwartz
Rav Avi Schwartz was born in Queens, but grew up in Sharon, MA, and West Orange, NJ. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva University’s Yeshiva College, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. After working for Bnei Akiva and NCSY for many years, he studied in RIETS’ Gruss Institute in Jerusalem for three years. During the week, Rav Avi is a social worker, providing mental health support for youth, adolescents, and their families.
Rav Avi lives in Teaneck, NJ with Sara and their two kids, Noam (3) and Kiki (1). They are all devout New England Patriots fans.
Sara Schwartz grew up on Long Island and currently lives in Teaneck, NJ. She holds a BA in psychology from Queens College and an MBA from Bar Ilan University.
In addition to her position as an OU-JLIC Educator, Sara also works for New Jersey NCSY. She is married to Rav Avi and they have two adorable children.
Director of Engagement
Title IX Mandated Reporter
Trent is originally from Newark, Delaware and a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in History. As an undergraduate student he served as a student leader at the University of Delaware Hillel. In the future, Trent plans on attending rabbinical school as well as traveling to as many art museums as possible.
Jewish Agency Israel Fellow
Eyal loves writing, watching sports and playing soccer.
IACT Coordinator for Birthright Israel
Sam Schnurman was born in Farmington Hills, MI, but spent most of her life in Rockaway, NJ. She is a graduate from Penn State University, with a degree in Film/Video. Sam loves the Detroit Red Wings, to watch movies, listen to music, travel, and talk about Israel. She hopes one day to visit as many places as possible.
JTS Rabbinic Intern
Alex Hamilton was raised in Oklahoma City. He has worked as a Jewish educator in a number of institutions including Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City, Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, NJ, and Camp Ramah in the Rockies. Alex graduated with honors from Rutgers University and is currently a fourth-year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is also concurrently studying for a master’s degree in Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation at JTS. Upon ordination from JTS Alex hopes to serve as a chaplain in the United States Navy, where he is currently serving as an officer the US Navy Reserve. He was recently married and lives in Washington Heights with his wife, Adeena.
Barbara Josephs Cohen
Senior Development Officer
Rachel Podhorcer grew up in Swampscott, MA and is a graduate of Brandeis University, where she received her BA in Music Performance. She is a violinist and is passionate about music education. Rachel lives in Highland Park with her husband Ari, a Rutgers Hillel alum, and their dog Gimli. Rachel loves to travel, read good books, and go to museums.