Rabbi Deborah Schuldenfrei is a member of Cohort II of the Created Equal Educators Fellowship of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and Head of School at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School a K-6 Solomon Schecter elementary in Encino, California. A Midwest native and day school graduate who loves that Judaism cultivates the art of asking questions. She attended Washington University in St. Louis and then spent a year in Jerusalem at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the most delicious year of her life. There, she volunteered in an Israeli absorption center with Ethiopian immigrants, and was granted the Jason Huebsch prize for leadership excellence. Schuldenfrei received a joint M.A. in Jewish Education and
Jewish Communal Service from HUC-JIR. She was ordained rabbi at HUC in Los Angeles and served as the Education Director in the inaugural year of IKAR. Her rabbinic thesis taught teens about sex and Jewish values. Following ordination, she served as Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Shir Ha’Ma-alot in Irvine. Participation in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality Cohort was the most transformative practice of her professional and personal life. Schuldenfrei is featured in Morgan Freeman’s National Geographic special “The Story of God” in the web content, “A rabbi, priest and imam”. She engaged her passion for immersive Jewish learning by leading the DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) fellowship of the Hebrew Union College as Education Director. Often, she leads high holiday services at the Sanctuary at Pico Union Project with Craig Taubman. She is a Zionist, loves California beaches, her three young feminist sons, and her rabbi husband. Yoga, Israeli poetry and radical inclusivity are also pretty cool.