Our Founders

Encounter was founded in 2005 by two visionary rabbinical students — now Rabbis Melissa Weintraub and Miriam Margles — who foresaw the need for Jewish communal leadership to have access to both a diversity of Palestinian voices and fellow Jewish voices to be effective leaders on this issue upon their return to the United States. Rabbi Melissa Weintraub was awarded the Grinnell Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize for her work at Encounter and has gone on to create and direct Resetting the Table, an initiative focused on opening up the oft-divisive conversation around Israel in the American Jewish community. Rabbi Miriam Margles serves as the Rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle in Toronto, Canada.

Rabbi Miriam Margles

Rabbi Miriam Margles is an educator, artist and activist. She facilitates workshops integrating Jewish text learning, community building, spiritual practice and creative exploration, particularly addressing issues of conflict, systemic oppression and transformation, spiritual mindfulness, and individual and communal healing. She has been serving as the rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle in Toronto since 2010 and teaches in a range of contexts in the US and Canada. Her original compositions of Jewish music for prayer are sung by communities throughout North American, Israel and Europe. She is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and the Jerusalem Fellows at the Mandel Leadership Institute. Miriam earned a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in creative writing from York University in Toronto.

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub is the founding Co-Executive Director of Resetting the Table, an organization dedicated to building meaningful dialogue and deliberation across political divides in American Jewish life. Melissa is a veteran facilitator and noted educator who trains leaders and builds programs at the intersections of Israel, Jewish thought and conflict resolution. Melissa was awarded the Grinnell Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, which honors demonstrated leadership and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. An alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program, Melissa has lectured and taught in hundreds of Jewish communal institutions, universities, and forums on four continents and has served as a faculty member for Wexner and the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Melissa was ordained as a Conservative Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary and graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude.

The value [of the program] is massive. The exposure to different points of view and its very organized well thought out meaningful way is very powerful and life-changing. Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman Associate Rabbi, Temple Beth El, Boca Raton
I understand so much more. Even the basic history, the dates, the wars, the treaties… Eric Robbins President/CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
Encounter's value is being one of a kind in creating a thoughtful, safe space [and a] responsible and diverse cohort of inspiring colleagues who can support each other in engaging the conflict in our communities. It offers Jewish leaders access to the voices we want to be talking to and with and about from the other side of the messiest, most personal global conflict we are in some way all a part of. It softens our ears and hearts even while dogmatically resisting specific political solutions or pat answers. Rabbi Steven Exler Senior Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
It's a powerful and necessary experience. Lindsey B. Mintz Executive Director, Indianapolis JCRC
I feel more engaged [after the Encounter program]. When I read news stories or hear personal narratives about the conflict, I feel like I have the tools to respond. I'm more sensitive to the challenges that Palestinians face, though I retain skepticism for any simplistic solutions to the conflict. Rabbi Joshua Heller Senior Rabbi, B'nai Torah, Sandy Springs, Georgia