Makom is organized by Rabbi Aaron Levy and a six-member Leadership Team (Board of Directors), working together to plan and run programs while also engaging in a strategic planning process to make Makom a more viable and sustainable community and organization. A number of other community members are involved in guiding our planning process and initiating creative programs. If you are interested in contributing to these processes, please let us know. We’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and concerns on Makom; feel free to be in touch.
Founding Director and Rabbi
Rabbi Aaron Levy is a leader in the revival of downtown Jewish life in Toronto, where he the founding director and rabbi of Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism, named one of North America’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot ’10-’11. He inspires diverse Jews and non-Jews by fusing ritual and ethical practice, by teaching in an open-minded and intellectually serious style, and by making Judaism’s joy apparent through musical, participatory prayer. Aaron also teaches percussion and is a sought-out educator on a wide variety of Jewish topics, especially ethical eating, environmentalism, spirituality, pluralism, and social justice. He brings experience living and working in a variety of cities and Jewish communities; he previously founded an independent minyan, served as campus rabbi at three Hillels, and led wilderness backpacking trips. Aaron sits on the Downtown Jewish Community Council, Toronto Board of Rabbis, and the boards of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs, and Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Originally from Rockville, Maryland, he was ordained in 2004 in the first graduating class of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah – The Open Orthodox Rabbinical School in New York City. An avid drummer, hiker, cyclist, and vegan, Aaron is married to Miriam Kramer and they live near Kensington Market with their sons Elie and Adar.
Board of Directors
Felicia Brooker, Fundraising Chair
Felicia Brooker is a screenwriter and filmmaker, currently writing for television, and recently completed her residency at the Canadian Film Centre. After living on a kibbutz, serving in the IDF and studying human rights law in Israel, Felicia returned to Canada to attend film school. Felicia has also worked as a community educator with Ve’ahavta – a humanitarian and relief organization – both in Canada and in Cuba, on a litigation team for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and as an ESL and Hebrew/Jewish Studies teacher. A mother to two young boys, Jonah (6) and Amitai (3), Felicia also maintains an active yoga practice, which helps her work at maintaining balance.
Ruth Matthews, President
Ruth Matthews is a dynamic Human Resources professional with more than twelve years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She has extensive experience in all facets of HR including employee relations, facilitation, change management, recruitment, and performance management. She holds a BA from McGill University and a Master’s in Adult Education from the University of Toronto and also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Ruth is excited to build a meaningful, inclusive, progressive downtown Jewish community.
Louise Smith, Treasurer
[Bio to follow.]
Andrea Toole, Secretary and VP Communications
Andrea Toole is a writer, blogger, and new media expert with experience in marketing, communications, grant proposal writing, strategic planning, board management and event planning. Andrea holds a BA in Mass Communications and an Arts Administration-Cultural Management Postgraduate Diploma. She has been a volunteer with Out of the Cold and MAZON Canada. Andrea comes from a family with a rich history in downtown Toronto. Her maternal grandfather, a mohel to three generations, grew up near Kensington Market. Andrea is delighted to go back to her roots and carry on her family’s legacy by building traditional and progressive Jewish life in downtown Toronto through Makom.
Sharry Aiken, Downtown Jewish Playschool Co-Coordinator
Sharry Aiken is an Associate Dean and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University, where she teaches immigration and international refugee law, law and poverty, and other public law courses. Prior to assuming her current appointment at Queen’s, she worked as a staff lawyer with South Etobicoke Community Legal Services and the Refugee Law Office in Toronto. She has appeared as counsel in a number of immigration related interventions before the Supreme Court of Canada. Her recent academic work focuses primarily on the nexus between immigration and national security issues and the nature and meaning ascribed to citizenship in ethnically divided societies. She volunteers as co-coordinator of Makom’s Downtown Jewish Playschool, in which her daughter and son are enrolled.
Avi Craimer, Neshamah: Meditation and Contemplative Jewish Practice Facilitator
Avi Craimer founded and runs Polytopos Tutoring and Academic Mentoring. He has seen over and over again how fostering a spirit of curiosity and active inquiry helps students overcome their personal barriers to success and enjoyment in academic study. Avi received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy with first-class honours from McGill University. He went on to complete an MA in philosophy at the University of British Columbia followed by a second master’s degree in philosophy and bioethics from Georgetown University. Avi has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level and tutored children and adults in a variety of subjects. His vision is to pass on his own passion for thinking and life-long learning to his students. Avi also facilitates and leads meditation sessions for Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism.
Annie Gilbert, Downtown Women’s Rosh Hodesh Circle Co-Facilitator
Annie Gilbert is a rabbinical student in the Aleph Ordination Program and an ordained Kohenet, Jewish clergy specializing in divine feminine, earth-based and experiential practices. She is known for using music to infuse Jewish liturgy with meaning, intention and soul. Annie has also led services at Makom and Holy Blossom Temple and has facilitated Jewish workshops at Makom, the Miles Nadal JCC, Fireflow Yoga, the Gladstone Hotel and Annex Shul. In her personal, spiritual and business consulting work, Annie brings compassion, empathy, attentive listening, insight and detail orientation cultivated from years of experience in project coordination and administration as well as training in spiritual and ritual facilitation to help clients understand where there are and where they are going.
Miriam Kramer, Downtown Jewish Playschool Co-Coordinator; Makom Families Co-Chair
Miriam Kramer has more than a decade of experience in research, policy analysis, media relations and community organizing. She currently lives in Toronto with her partner and two sons, and is a leader in building downtown Jewish life: she serves on the Board of Directors of Makom, the coordinating team for the first-ever Jewish Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Toronto and the Affiliations Committee of the New Israel Fund of Canada. She initiated and co-runs the first-ever downtown Toronto five-day-a-week Jewish and Hebrew Language Immersion after-school program, which one of her sons attends. She is also active in her neighbourhood school, serving as Co-Chair of the School Council and participating in the Toronto District School Board Ward 10 School Council. She is currently a Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education in the Government of Ontario.
Naomi Tessler, Downtown Women’s Rosh Hodesh Circle Co-Facilitator
Naomi Tessler believes in the use of theatre and popular education as branches toward social change, self-expression, community building and trust. She is the Artistic Director, Educational Co-Director, and Workshop Facilitator for Branch Out Theatre and has been working with communities globally for nine years, using theatre to inspire positive change. She is a graduate of the Master’s of Arts program in Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities at New York University and currently facilitates and develops Branch Out Theatre workshops and productions with organizations and groups across the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to being a dynamic workshop facilitator and educator, Naomi also works as an actor, director, playwright, poet, singer and Reiki Master. She is passionate about uniting communities through theatre to build bridges and break through barriers.