A native of Oak Park, Michigan, he studied at Yeshiva University (where he received his Bachelors, Masters and Semicha), Yeshivat Shaalvim, and the Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem before coming to Los Angeles in 1990.
While a member of YOLA’s Kollel (under Rabbi Nachum Sauer), he began his illustrious teaching career at YULA Boys and Girls High Schools. In 1994, he embarked upon his much beloved tenure at the Kehilla. Through teaching several classes every week, he has touched thousands of people with his deep compassion, intellectual brilliance, and spiritual warmth. Recently, Rabbi Brander has begun publishing “Reflections” on the Parsha and life, which goes out to several thousands of people weekly – something that brings him great nachas ruach.
Since LINK’s inception in 2002, Rabbi Brander has guided the Kollel’s development; from recruiting the original team of scholars from Israel to shaping its vision and opening its doors to the LA Jewish community and beyond. Most impressively, he has created a very broad and diverse donor base that has proved to be durable and resilient, expanding to meet the burgeoning needs of the Kollel.
Mrs. Batyah Brander
A native of Queens, NY, attended local Yeshivos and studied at Machon Gold Seminary in Jerusalem before earning an Engineering Degree from Cooper Union College in NY. In LA, she has taught both secular and Torah subjects at YULA Girls High School as well as serving as Assistant Principal at Ohr HaEmet Girls High School. Currently, she is a Torah teacher at YULA whose approachability and brilliance makes her incredibly beloved by her students.
In her “spare time,” she leads the YULA Girls Choir as they are on the verge of producing a CD, designed and organized several innovative outreach learning programs for young children and their parents, created and “starred” in the very popular Shalom Time – Borders Books monthly children’s puppet shows. Mrs. Brander has won plaudits for her penetrating analysis of Tanach in her women’s classes at the Westwood Kehilla, LINK and YULA. In between all, she and her husband have raised three wonderful children.
Rabbi Eli Stern, Outreach Director
A veteran of nearly 27 years in Rabbinic and Outreach work, Rabbi Eli Stern is the senior member of the LINK team. His broad experience in many areas has allowed him to be a key resource for the other members of the team as well as for his many students. His irrepressible wit combined with an uncanny ability to connect Torah ideas to contemporary events makes his classes especially appealing. Whether to searching people with limited backgrounds or those who have been observant for many years, Rabbi Stern has a well-earned reputation in counseling and guiding Jews with keen insight and compassion. A gifted writer and speaker, he is an eloquent communicator of timeless Torah values in the contemporary idiom.
A native of Manhattan, Rabbi Stern began his Yeshiva learning after graduating with a degree in Political Science from Hunter College of CUNY. After 2 years in Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem, he studied for 7 years at the Yeshiva of Staten Island, under Rabbi Reuven Feinstein. He has held outreach and/ or pulpit positions in Buffalo, Richmond and Dayton before coming to LA in 1996 to become Ashreinu’s pioneering campus Rabbi (JAM). He laid the ground work for much of LINK’s outreach mission while serving as Outreach Director and Associate Rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla from 1997-2002. He still keeps up with many of his relationships while forging new links with interested students.
Mrs. Robin Stern, a native of Richmond, VA, has been a full partner with her husband in all of his Torah endeavors. She attended Touro College in New York and served as an advisor to NCSY for many years. She has taught formal and informal Jewish learning to students of all ages as well as English, Science and Maths in Yeshivos on both coasts. For 11 years, she had been a mainstay in the Toras Emes secular studies department. Now, she teaches math and science to junior high school girls at Bais Tzivia (the Girls Cheder) and to high school girls at Bnos Esther HS. In addition, for several years, she was the beloved “Morah Robin” at “Bubbies’ House” pre-school in Westwood. Her warmth as a tutor and as a Shabbos “hostess with the mostess” has attracted dozens of women to the path of Torah. While making this all look easy, she has found the time to raise a beautiful family of six children.
Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, Rosh Kollel
Rabbi Lebhar is returning as LINK’s Rosh Kollel after a stint in Toronto, Canada, where he served as Rosh Kollel of Kollel
Prior to LINK, He was a very popular Halacha teacher at Shapells/ Yeshiva Darche Noam and headed a night Kollel for professionals in Har Nof.
Rabbi Lebhar hails from prestigious yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel and America and has learned under some of the most prominent poskim of the generation, including Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky shlit”a, Rav Ezriel Aurebach shlit”a and more recently Rav Shlomo Miller shlit”a.
Rabbi Lebhar is well-known for his popular sefarim on Minhagim and has Daily Halacha emails which reach thousands worldwide. He is the founder of Machon Magen Avot and is currently co-authoring “Darke Avoteinu”, which also hosts a video channel with over a million and a half views. His works are currently being translated and will be published by Mosacia press in the coming year.
Rabbi Lebhar is excited to come back to the position he held at LINK from 2005-2010 and pick up where he left off.
Mrs. Lori Lebhar, raised in New Jersey, moved with her family to Israel during her junior high school years. She has a B.A. and M.A. in psychology, and recently began pursuing her interest in Play Therapy training.
For nine years, she worked in Mercaz Harmony, a mainstreamed preschool in Jerusalem. She was an early intervention teacher for children with developmental and learning disabilities, and devoted herself to helping each precious child realize their potential.
Now her aspiration is to accomplish the same with the Lebhar girls and boys!
The Lebhar family cherishes their many fond memories of their five beautiful years in L.A. and are looking forward to many more.
Rabbi Daniel Weinstock
If we had to identify the neshomah (soul) of the Kollel it would have to be Rabbi Daniel Weinstock. His passion for learning and teaching touch all areas of his life. From his heartfelt and uplifting tefillos (prayers), to his uncompromising zeal to understand and internalize the Dvar Hashem (word of G-d) – he has a profound impact on so many people. Whether directly as a teacher or through osmosis, Rabbi Weinstock has been that ideal yardstick by which others have measured their spiritual growth.
Thus it’s not by accident that it is Rabbi Weinstock who awakens the dawn each morning at 5:30 am. First with teachings of mussar and then with intellectually challenging Gemara classes. The 18 or so members of the exclusive “Gemara In Your Kup” club are literally pulled out of their slumber by the dynamo of Torah excitement called Rabbi Weinstock. That same energy is evident some 14 hours later in his advanced Talmud class each night-undiminished by a full day of intense intra-kollel learning and private tutorials.
Rabbi Weinstock is a native of Brooklyn, NY. After attending Yeshivas Torah Temimah in Brooklyn, MIR in Jerusalem and Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, he spent five intensive years at the famed Beis Medrash Gevohah in Lakewood. Along the way, he joined the Westwood Kehilla for an unforgettable SEED program in the summer of 2001. His passionate shiurim, earnest friendship and stirring guitar playing made an indelible imprint on the entire community.
During that busy summer, Rabbi Weinstock stole away a few minutes to be introduced to his future wife, Tally (nee Brenner). Mrs. Weinstock, a native Angelino, studied at the Bnos Chava Seminary in Jerusalem. She is currently working as a Speech Therapist. As a tutor and beautiful role model for women of all ages Mrs. Weinstock exudes a true warmth and accessibility. The Weinstocks are the proud parents of four wonderful children.
Rabbi Daniel Amar
Rabbi Daniel Amar brings a unique international flavor to LINK. Born in Tangiers, Morocco, he moved with his family to Malaga, Spain when he was eight. His search for a deeper understanding of Torah lead him to wilds of Monsey, NY, cutting short his Medical studies at the University of Malaga. He studied for the next eleven years at Yeshivat Lekach Tov, Yeshivat Ohr Somayach and Yeshivat Sharei Torah, pausing just long enough to marry Sarah Davoodi in 2004. He arrived at LINK in the spring of 2010, and he immediately revitalized the evening Chavrusa Learning Program at the LINK Beis Medrash. In September 2010, Rabbi Amar became the Rabbi of the Westwood Kehilla Sepharadic Minyan in addition to his LINK duties.
Sarah Amar traversed many international barriers on her way to settling in Los Angeles. Born in post-revolutionary Iran, she endured the persecution of the Islamist regime until escaping with her family at age seven to Austria, and eventually to LA (via Boro Park). Starting out in public school, she eventually graduated from YULA as her family became more observant. After receiving her BA on Sociology from UCLA , she traveled to Israel to strengthen her Torah commitment by studying in the Neve Yerushalayim Women’s Seminary. After marrying her husband, Daniel, she settled in Monsey, NY for the next five years, as he pursued his advanced Rabbinical Studies. She is delighted to return home to LA where she has already used her Persian background to reach out to many Iranian Jews through LINK and the Westwood Kehilla.
Rabbi Avi Gruen
Avi and Aliza are a “homegrown” LA couple who have been living in Baltimore for the last few years. Avi is a graduate of YULA (who occasionally came to Rabbi Brander’s shiur) before studying at Ohr Sameach Yerushalayim, Sho’or Yoshuv in New York,Chaim Berlin in New York, and Ner Israel in Baltimore. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Touro College.
Aliza is a graduate of Bais Yaakov Los Angeles and Bnos Sara Seminary in Yerushalayim, and earned a bachelor’s degree through Maalot and her R.N. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. For the past year Aliza has been working on a ventilator unit in a skilled nursing facility in Baltimore, when not taking care of their very busy toddler, Ahuva Gittel.
As an Avreich, Avi will be learning two sedarim in the Kollel, teaching in the community and organizing empowering Chaburah style learning for targeted groups. The Gruen home is a warm and gracious one and Aliza will certainly be a tremendous koach for the broad community.
As an aside – there is big nachas here for our wonderful members Jeffrey and Judy Gruen, and for Dr. Manny and Sharon Saltiel, – who are are thrilled to get their kinder back home!
Rabbi Tzvi Rubin
Rabbi Tzvi and Shana Rubin are a talented couple bringing from coast to coast a burning desire to give over their years of growth in Torah, Middos and community involvement. Rabbi Rubin is originally from Teaneck, New Jersey attended Moriah elementary school and proceeded to go on to MTA YU’s high school. It was then that he began his special journey and switched to Breur’s High School, after that he went on to attend Yeshivas Bais Yisroel in Neve Yaakov for four intense years of full and total absorption in his Torah learning. Following a brief period at the yeshiva of Rav Gershon Ribner shilta who is Rav Shneur Kotler zt”l’s son-in-law he went on to attend the famous Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood for almost seven years continuing his close relationship with Rav Gershon Ribner shlita as well as many other Torah luminaries. His wife Shana is from Monsey and attended Bais Yaakov of Ramapo and Bnos Chava seminary and is excited to meet everyone in the LINK community and share in any way she can. Even though Rabbi Rubin has traversed the great distance between Teaneck and Lakewood he retains strong ties to the Teaneck community delivering shiurim regularly as well as delivering shiurim in neighboring communities such as Cherry Hill, NJ and Manalapan, NJ. We look forward very much to have him as part of the link team.
Rabbi Aaron Becker
Ahron Becker is a native of Chicago, IL. He attended Wits High School in Milwakee prior to moving to Eretz Yisrael and learning at Yeshivas Beis Yisrael for 4 years. From there he went on to learn in the Mir Yeshiva under Rav Usher Arieli for one and a half years. Thereafter, he joined the Lakewood Yeshiva where he studied for almost 8 years.
While in Lakewood, he took advantage of all the high level of learning and the Talmedei Chachamim that Lakewood has to offer, as well as a number of the opportunities that are offered by the Yeshiva. These include Talmudav Byado- a program designed to help develop and write Chidushei Torah, and Aish Dos- a Chinuch course and Ner LAlef- a Kiruv training program.
He is married to Carli nee Sacks a native of Tarzana, CA. Carli attended Emek Hebrew Academy, Bais Yaakov High School and Meohr Bais Yaakov Seminary. She received a masters in education from Touro, and taught in both Emek and Bais Yaakov for a number of years before she married Ahron. While in Lakewood, Carli was employed by Bruriah High School for 7 years, where she taught a wide array of Kodesh subjects. Additionally she was the 9th grade Mechanenchet, and ran the 9th grade programming. She is currently the 8th grade Morah in Yavneh. They have three children, Shana, Yehuda and Yosef.
They are very excited to be joining the LINK Kollel and are looking forward to learning and growing together with the community.
Mrs. Sarah Gertel
Mrs. Sarah Gertel is the Program Director of TLC (Torah Learning for Collegiates), LINK’s college women’s learning and outreach program. In Mrs. Gertel’s tenure, she has expanded the program from the Tuesday night class structure to a comprehensive, award-winning organization that assists girls in all aspects of their development.
The program focuses on providing inspiring classes with amazing teachers in a “happening” social setting, mentoring where girls get the one-on-one guidance they need, special events both social and religious, opportunities to learn in Israel, all in a laid-back atmosphere where the girls build relationships and forge friendships.
Mrs. Gertel has been involved in the field of outreach for the past twelve years. Post high school/seminary, Mrs. Gertel did college campus kiruv and recruiting for JAM/Ashreinu in Los Angeles, CA. After which, she moved to Israel and worked for Aish Hatorah’s JEWEL program doing one-on-one mentoring, educational programming and fundraising. She then worked for Heritage House where she single-handedly produced and directed an overseas-abroad outreach program at Hebrew University Har Hatzofim, Jerusalem.
Although they greatly miss living in Eretz Yisroel, together with her husband Dr. Yehuda Gertel, clinical psychologist and darling daughter Raina, Mrs. Gertel is grateful to be living in sunny California where a bike ride along the ocean with some TLC girls is just a quick car ride away. A true lover of nature, Sarah Gertel enjoys hiking, picnicking, boating (floating 2 miles an hour down rivers and streams in her two-person blow-up boat, the S.S. Gertel, to be exact) and playing her guitar alongside just about any place with a few trees and a trickle of fresh running water.