Here are some of the Pearlstone staff you will work with and learn from during your apprenticeship:

Sarah Rovin

Yibaneh Program Manager

Sarah is a passionate JOFEE (Jewish outdoor food farming and environmental education) Educator at the Pearlstone Center. She reconnected to Jewish life after college through two trans-formative immersive Jewish experiences, Avodah the Jewish Service Corps and the JOFEE Fellowship. Through these programs, she has delved deep into the heart of Jewish values of social justice and earth based rituals and connections. She brings this to life through her work as an educator, facilitating forest and farm experiences. When she is not getting her hands dirty in the garden, she loves to sing with her friends around the Shabbat table and ride her bike through the city.

Rabbi Psachyah Lichtenstein

Director of Education

Psachyah is a teacher, farmer, author, and artist. Psachyah graduated from the Rabbinical College of America and Pratt Institute of Design. He has served the Jewish community as a mentor and teacher of Earth-Based Torah and Jewish mysticism in both the US and Israel for over 20 years. As a rabbi and speaker, Psachyah has built trans-denominational relationships across every boundary. He walks the intersection between ecology, technology, and the human spirit. Psachyah homesteads with his family in a restored 1764 log cabin along with their sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats, border collies, plants, fungi, and bees.

Joe Murray

Wilderness Expert

Joe been teaching nature connection since 1997 and has made it his life’s work to learn from the indigenous peoples of the earth and share the old ways with as many people as possible. During that time he has mentored thousands of kids and helped design the curriculum for several wilderness schools and is a founding member of the nonprofit Ancestral Knowledge 501(c)3.

Greg Strella

Director of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

As the Director of Stewardship, Greg works with an incredible team to care for Pearlstone’s abundant 180 acres of forests, meadows, streams, agricultural fields, and beautiful facilities. Prior to joining Pearlstone in 2015, he helped lead the founding and development of Great Kids Farm – a 33-acre farm-based education campus for students of the 196 Baltimore City Public Schools. Greg has served on the boards of other pioneering organizations including the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture and Future Harvest, and Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. He studied artmaking, food, community, and the environment earning a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Miki Levran

Director of Tiyul Adventures

After launching Pearlstone’s Tiyul Adventure Camp, Miki found her place as the camp’s director. Miki grew up attending Tamarack Camps during her summer vacations, so it was inevitable for her to become a camp counselor when the time came. She has led multiple teen travel trips hiking and backpacking through the National Parks of the American East and West, Alaska and Canada. She combined her love for outdoor education and being involved with the Jewish community during the JOFEE (Jewish outdoor food farming and environmental education) fellowship where she was placed at Pearlstone. Miki finds joy in community building, playing games and frolicking through the woods during all seasons. She loves to travel, hike and wander the streets of cities eating different foods!

Shani Mink

Farm Steward

Shani Mink is farm steward and animal manager at the Pearlstone Center and a founding director of the Jewish Farmer Network. In addition to four formative years working on a production farm, she spent a semester studying at the Arava Institute, earned her permaculture design certificate at Hava V’Adam in Israel, worked as a farmer educator at Eden Village Camp, graduated from the ADAMAH Fellowship, spent time learning Torah in Jerusalem, and was part of the inaugural cohort of the JOFEE Fellowship. Shani’s love of Torah deepens her work with the land and her work with the land deepens her connection to the Jewish tradition. She is also a freelance Jewish Educator in the city of Baltimore, a yoga practitioner, a song leader and a lover of silliness. Nothing gives Shani more joy than feeding her friends and family the healthy and whole food that she grows.

Perri DeJarnette

Perennials Manager

Over the past 6 years Perri has cared for the land at Pearlstone, spending her time with vegetables, animals, and trees. She is passionate about stewarding healthy ecosystems and sharing her eclectic knowledge of the natural world with others.
When she is not farming, Perri loves to cook up something delicious and crochet.

Joan Plisko

Director of Community Sustainability

Joan is an environmental health and sustainability director, strategic planner, project manager, industrial engineer, researcher, author, and educator. As the Community Sustainability Director, Joan catalyzes operational improvements for Pearlstone and provides environmental community engagement and advocacy education for Baltimore’s Jewish community. Joan is an avid gardener, yoga enthusiast, hiker, and loves to travel. She holds a PhD in environmental systems engineering from Clemson University.

David Ben Yehuda

Israeli Shaliach

David is the current Israeli Shaliach of Pearlstone and he takes part in all of Pearlstone's educational programs, bringing his unique Jewish Israeli content, context, timing and flavor. David was born and raised in kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh, Israel. From a young age, David took part in the Beni Ha’moshavim youth movement and communal activities on his kibbutz and worked as a farmer in the almond orchard. In 2015, David finished his time in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) after four years of service as a combat soldier in a wilderness specialized force. After the army, David was an Israeli Shalich at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and was the Director of Outdoor Trips. David traveled for six month in South and North America, learning Spanish and deepening his curiosity and appreciation of the environment and anthropology. He studied for one year in AIES (Arava Institute for Environmental Studies) and learned Arabic. David plays various instruments, enjoys learning, reading, climbing, dancing, hiking and running (barefoot), and every activity involving nature, people and moving the body.

Sonja Sugerman

Director of Programs

Sonja is the Director of Programs, in charge of logistic details relating to all programs at Pearlstone. While technically a native New Yorker growing up in New York City, she also spent a good deal of her childhood in Southern Vermont on 50 acres of glorious Green Mountain land! Sonja holds a Bachelor degree from Barnard College, and Masters degrees from the University of Glasgow and The George Washington University. She has also lived and studied in Florence, Italy and London, England. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in numerous facets of the art world, refining her path as an educator and strategic thinker. Sonja is excited to bring her expertise in logistics and passion for programs to the apprentices. When not at Pearlstone, she can be found in Pikesville with her husband Ben, an astronomer and craft beer brewer, her three sons – Daniel, Ethan, and Theo, and 2 dogs – Oscar and Felix.

Sara Shalva

Assistant Director - Chief Program Officer

Sara Shalva is the Assistant Director-Chief Program Officer of the Pearlstone Center, where she focuses on strategic program management and systems. Sara graduated cum laude from Mary Washington College with a BA in Political Science, and, as a Taub Fellow, from NYU with dual masters in Nonprofit Management and Judaic Studies. Sara lived in Israel for four years where she studied at Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute, volunteered on Project Otzma and worked at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. A certified Bikram yoga instructor and student of Diane Bloomfield, the founder of Torah yoga, she is excited to contribute to the apprenticeship opportunities for embodied Jewish practice at the intersection of yoga and Jewish wisdom, the merging of the intellectual and emotional bodies. Sara lives in Pikesville with her two children, Lev and Avital and her husband Rabbi Benjamin Shalva.

Jakir Manela

Executive Director

Jakir Manela is the Executive Director of Pearlstone. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 2004, he was trained as a Teva educator at Isabella Freedman, where he also met his life partner, Nets. Nets and Jakir came to Pearlstone in 2006, and have been here ever since. Over the past 12 years, Jakir helped launch and build the farm and all of Pearlstone’s JOFEE programs. He was promoted to become Executive Director in 2012, and since then has helped grow the organization to impact over 20,000 participants each year in immersive retreats, transformative Jewish education, and hands-on sustainability—and over the past few years, Jakir has lead Pearlstone’s transformative Master Plan and Capital Campaign. He lives just up the road from Pearlstone with Nets and their four boys: Lev, Shama, Yovel, and Amani. He looks forward to connecting with Yibaneh Apprentices as neighbors, celebrating Shabbat and holidays together, and through teaching morning Qi Gong, leadership development sessions, sports, campfires, and much more.