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Professional Leadership



Mussar Institute Leadership

Photo of Jeffrey Agron
Jeffrey Agron
Director of Operations

Jeffrey Agron is the Director of Operations for The Mussar Institute. He has been studying and practicing Mussar since he first met Alan Morinis 15 years ago. He was an original member of the Board of Directors of TMI. Jeff is a trained Mussar facilitator, having graduated from TMI’s Manchim program, and having completed all of TMI’s courses. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Miami Law School. In 2001, Jeff was certified as a Jewish meditation teacher from Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley, Calif., and in 2003 as a Jewish Spiritual Director from the Yedidya Center for Spiritual Direction.

Photo of Rabbi Avi Fertig
Rabbi Avi Fertig
Associate Dean

Rabbi Avi Fertig is the author of Bridging the Gap (Feldheim 2007), a comprehensive guide to important Mussar concepts and Mussar lessons from the Talmud as well as the classical works of the modern Mussar movement. The book is based on talks given by Rabbi Reuvain Leuchter, a foremost student of Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe. Rabbi Fertig was born in the United States and for the past 16 years has resided in Israel. He studied at the Ner Yisrael Yeshiva in Baltimore and has also learned and taught at Yeshiva Neve Zion and the Mir Yeshiva of Jerusalem. He is currently a rebbe and teacher at Yeshivat Reishit, in Beit Shemesh, Israel and Associate Dean of the Mussar Institute, where he has been guiding courses and programs since 2010.

Photo of Steven Kraus
Steven Kraus
Executive Director

Steve comes to TMI with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Jewish community, including 12 years leading change in Jewish education at JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America). Earlier in his career, Steve served as Director of Education at two synagogues, one in Miami and the other in Elkins Park, Pa. Most recently, Steve served as Executive Director of the Alliance for Continuing Rabbinic Education (ACRE), a multi-denominational coalition of rabbis.
Steve has an M.A. in Jewish History and Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Jewish Studies from the University of Toronto. Steve resides in Melrose Park, Pa., is happily married to wife Bonni, and has four children and four grandchildren.

Photo of Alan Morinis
Alan Morinis
Founder and Dean

Alan Morinis is the founder and Dean of The Mussar Institute and an active interpreter of the teachings and practices of the Mussar tradition, about which he regularly gives lectures and workshops. Born and raised in a culturally Jewish but non-observant home, he studied anthropology at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. For the past sixteen years, the nearly-lost Jewish spiritual discipline of Mussar has been his passion, a journey recorded in the book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder (Broadway 2002). His guide to Mussar practice, entitled Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar, was published in May 2007. His newest book on Mussar, With Heart in Mind, was published in August 2014.

Photo of Ruth Schapira
Ruth Schapira
Director of Leadership and Training

Ruth has held positions in Jewish and nonprofit organizations ranging from academic institutions and government agencies to synagogues, volunteer organizations and camps. She has been a teacher, consultant, counselor, writer, business owner and artist. In addition, she is a blogger and writes posts about Judaism, leadership and outreach strategies. Ruth has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from New York University and undergraduate degrees in Fine Arts and Psychology from American University. She is currently a student in the doctoral program for Jewish Education at Gratz College. Ruth serves on the Philadelphia Board of Hadassah as the Vice-President of Strategic Planning, and on the Advisory Council of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia. Ruth and her husband, Jerry, reside in Bucks County, Pa., and their two married children (along with three grandchildren) live in New York City.

Photo of Judith Zaruches
Judith Zaruches
Director of Community Engagement

Judith Zaruches has been studying and practicing Mussar since she joined her first va’ad (aka Mussar Mamas) in Scottsdale, Ariz. in 2004. After completing the Manchim leader training program in 2009 she led TMI courses, and as Manchim Coordinator she trained new TMI leaders. Judith is currently the Director of Community Engagement, providing support and guidance for integrating Mussar into congregational and local Jewish life. She oversees TMI’s community-based programs, including Seeking Everyday Holiness, Path of the Mensch, Jewish Values for Everyday Living: Mussar for Children, Inner Ladder, Lead with Jewish Values and Afternoon of Mussar.


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