Our Staff

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Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz

Rabbi

Welcome to our community!

Have you ever dreamed of living in a vibrant, bustling college town with every amenity at one’s disposal and only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful cornfields of Iowa? The Iowa City/Coralville area has provided a welcoming community with a high quality of life for our Jewish community for over a century. A hidden gem of the Midwest, our area is culturally diverse, is known for excellent schools and hospitals, and balances the charms of a university town with the opportunities for outdoors escapes.

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Our Staff
 
Rabbi Jeff Portman

Rabbi Emeritus

Rabbi Portman was named rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation and Hillel director in 1974. He left Hillel and became full time rabbi of the congregation in 1994 and retired in 2015. During his tenure he was active in the community chairing the Iowa City Human Rights Commission and serving on the Board of Fellows of the UI Religious Studies Department. He helped the congregation transition into a new building in 2013, after about 50 years in its downtown location. In retirement, Rabbi Portman continues to serve the Agudas Achim Congregation community including teaching and occasionally leading services. Rabbi Portman was born in South Bend, Indiana, and graduated from Indiana University. He received his rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 1973. Jeff and his wife Gail reside in Iowa City.  

Wertz John
 
John Wertz

Administrator

John has lived in Iowa City his whole life and spent a lot of time at Agudas Achim growing up. He’s the nephew of Rabbi Emeritus Jeff Portman. He has bachelor’s degrees from the University of Iowa in double bass performance and French. He started out as secretary and transitioned to the administrator role.

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Sonja Spear

Religious School Principal

Sonja loved history and comparative mythology as a child, a passion that led her to earn a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Indiana University. After living the glamorous life of an itinerant academic, she settled in Iowa City, where she is Religious School Principal at Agudas Achim Congregation. On any given day, she might be hiring a petting zoo, trying to get a shy thirteen-year-old to sing, training college students to teach, or holding a workshop on making Hamantaschen. Sonja’s first book, Cats and Honey Cake won the Sydney Taylor Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2021. Sonja and her husband have one daughter.

 
Hannah Sandler

Secretary

Officers (Executive Committee)

Lubaroff David
 
David Lubaroff

President

David is professor emeritus from the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer, where he taught classes in immunology and investigated the use of vaccine immunotherapy for prostate cancer. He also was the director of a summer cancer research training program for underrepresented college students. Both research and training continue. David and Martha, along with Saul, Scott, and Matthew, moved to Iowa City in 1973 from Philadelphia. He is blessed with a wonderful wife, three sons and daughters-in law, five grandsons and one granddaughter. David has been involved with Agudas Achim in various roles for most of his life in Iowa City.  He enjoys exercising, reading, cooking, gardening, and, most of all, his family.

 
Lori McMann

President Elect

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Janice Weiner

Past President

Janice is a retired U.S. diplomat, who worked for the U.S. Department of State for 26 years, mostly abroad. Born and raised in the Iowa City area, she is a West High graduate, has her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and law degree from Stanford Law School. She has two daughters, Naomi and Lia, and is raising her granddaughter, Alaska. She has served on other non-profit boards, was elected to Iowa City City Council at large in 2019 and to the Iowa State Senate in 2022.

 
Jayne Sandler

Vice President

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Mindy Russell

Treasurer

Originally from a small town in southwest Virginia, Mindy and her husband Gary have lived in a number of cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Nashville, and Toronto. They moved to Iowa City in 1996 with their two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca. Mindy has worked at a variety of jobs as a CPA and is currently doing accounting for a local jewelry store. She was active in the Sisterhood for many years, serving as its treasurer and as co-president. She has been serving as the treasurer of the Agudas Achim congregation since 2017. In her free time, Mindy enjoys reading, playing bridge, going for walks and spending as much time as possible with her two daughters who live in Los Angeles and Indianapolis.

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Chuck Friedman

Board Secretary

Chuck and his family moved to Iowa City in 1992. Now retired, he was a psychometrician at ACT, assisting organizations in the development of national certification and licensure examinations. Prior to moving to Iowa City, he taught applied linguistics and was director of Camp Young Judaea in Texas. Chuck grew up in central New Jersey, studied and lived in Israel for about 18 months, and has lived in Bloomington, Indiana, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio, Texas. He is a former president of Agudas Achim. Chuck has one daughter living in Iowa City and four sons and their families who live in Seattle, Austin, and Minneapolis.

Chairs of Standing Committees

 
Lisa Heineman

Adult Education & Religious School

 
Karen Lipman

Membership

Miller Bernie
 
Bernie Miller
Ritual Co-chair
 
Born in Los Angeles, raised, educated, and having begun his career in Des Moines (over 30 years), and now living with his wife Sonja in the Twin Cities, Bernie is thrilled to be a part of the Agudas Achim family and is an active participant in services and events whenever he is in Eastern Iowa visiting family. An information technology professional by trade, Bernie gets much satisfaction from helping others with their computer questions and even builds PCs from scratch! When not immersed in the computer world, Bernie has a real passion for singing, acting, and was even in a production of “Die Fledermaus” for the University of Minnesota in 2023.
 
 
Corvin Greene
Ritual Co-chair
 
Corvin Greene is a writer and English professor at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. They grew up in northeast Iowa, and returned to the area after completing their PhD. In their rare spare time, they enjoy crafting, reading, and spending time with their many pets.
 
 
Lori McMann

Social Co-Chair

 
Ariel Levin

Social Co-Chair

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Mallory Hellman

Tikkun Olam

Mallory Hellman was born into the tiny but mighty Jewish community of New Orleans, where she developed a taste for jazz and funk music and a hearty appetite for spicy cuisine. She did most of her growing up in South Florida, then went to Harvard to study English and American Literature and Language. After a brief and harrowing stint in the New York publishing industry, she moved to Iowa City in 2012 to get her MFA in fiction from the Writers’ Workshop. Since 2015, she has served as the director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project. When she’s not directing troops of undergrads or perusing junior high students’ novel excerpts, Mallory enjoys yoga, cooking, grassroots activism, outdoor sports that involve mountains (a slight geographic pity), and spending time with her partner Charlotte. Most of all, Mallory loves teaching, which is why she is thrilled to teach at Agudas Achim Sunday school in addition to her role as Tikkun Olam chair.

 
Hannah Sandler

Youth

 

At Large

Weinberg Sue
 
Sue Weinberg

Sue grew up in Ottumwa Iowa, and is one of many people who came to Iowa City as a student who ended up staying. She did spend 5 years in California but still thought of Iowa City as home so she moved back, accompanied by her now husband Robert Armstrong and her first two cats, Justa Cat and Jasper.

Her degree is a Bachelor of General Studies with emphasis in computer science, book arts, and physical education. Prior to her retirement in 2021, she spent most of her career working the UIHC business office, although when she lived in California her career took a different path; she drove a horse carriage in a tourist area, and exercised harness horses as a side gig.

She is passionate about animals, residing with two cats as well as fostering kittens for the animal shelter. (Talk to me if you want to adopt a cat or kitten!)

She enjoys reading, candy making, traveling, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. She has been active at Agudas Achim since 2006, participating in an adult B’nai Mitzvah, serving on the Sisterhood board, organizing a Synagogue Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and attending services and synagogue events. She served two terms as Tikun Olam chair, and served as President in 2019-2021. She is currently an at-large member of the board as well as a member of the Social and Tikun Olam committees.

 
Naomi Greyser
 
Marcus Nashelsky
 
Marcus is a pathologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He and Joan have been in Iowa City since 2003 and are fairly recent returnees to synagogue life thanks to the warm community of Agudas Achim. Although Marcus’s roots are in Colorado, western Nebraska, and Wyoming, Iowa City has become home – he and Joan are staying for good. 

 

Appointed Committee Chairs

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Alan Weinstein

Art

A former president and frequent board member at our synagogue, Alan moved back to town in 1980 with Nina and their family. The painter and print maker (BA, Princeton, MFA, University of Iowa) designed our Aron Kodesh and was part of the building committee for our new Agudas Achim Congregation building.

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Teresa Weiner

Library

Teresa moved to Iowa City in 1989 with her husband and three young children and has enjoyed Agudas Achim’s many volunteer opportunities including serving as board president. She has lived in West Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania but now considers Iowa City home. She is fortunate to have a son and daughter and their families right here in Iowa City and to travel often to visit a son and his family in Idaho. In an earlier life, she was a PhD biochemist but has been thrilled with her second life as a wife, mother, grandmother, and volunteer.

 
Rich Haendel

Cemetery

 
David Berman

Facilities

Wallace Bob
 
Bob Wallace
Regathering Co-chair
 
Bob and his family came to Iowa City in the 1970s, and was a member of the Board previously, in the 1990s. He is an Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology and Internal Medicine. He is currently working part time on public health projects such as control of COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths, as well as his long-term interest in the chronic disabling conditions of older persons.
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Jane Zukin
Regathering Co-chair
 
Jane is a retired marketing and communications professional who spent more than 50 years in the field, and 14 years as the manager of internal communications at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Jane has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and a master’s degree in Teaching Writing at the College Level. She has taught Composition, Argumentation, Management, and Leadership at the college level for more than 25 years throughout her professional career. The Zukin family moved from Detroit to Iowa City in 1985. In 1992, she was appointed as the first administrator for the synagogue and served as president from 2001-2004. She is a certified master gardener and enjoys Sunday dinners with her children and grandchildren.