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Meet our Staff and Board

Rabbi Gila Caine

Born and raised in Jerusalem Rabbi Caine graduated the Hebrew University with an M.A in Contemporary Judaism and received her rabbinic ordination at the HUC-JIR’s Israeli program in 2011. Her rabbinic thesis explored liturgical, spiritual, and ceremonial aspects of birth in Jewish tradition and contemporary practice. Stemming from that, as well as her years as volunteer at the Rape crisis center, Rabbi Caine is one of the founders of the Israeli rabbinic women’s group “B'not Dinah” – creating a female and feminist rabbinic tradition of healing after Sexual trauma.

She now serves as rabbi at Temple Beth Ora congregation in Edmonton, where is lives with her husband and children.

Yaara Shabtai 

Synagogue Coordinator


Yaara was born and raised in Israel. She holds a Lieutenant rank from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) where she served as a Chief Instructor and a Platoon Commander. Yaara earned LL.B with honours from Netanya, School of Law, and an Honours M.A, in Political Science specializing in Democracy and Human rights from the University of Haifa. Yaara also holds a Mediation certificate (Peaceful Conflict Resolution) from Neve Tzedek Mediation Institute. 

Throughout the years, Yaara volunteered and held leadership positions in nonprofit organizations in Israel and in Nigeria. In 2013, she moved to Edmonton with her family and became involved in the Jewish community in Edmonton. 


Felice  Lifshitz


Felice Lifshitz was born, raised, and educated (through her PhD) in New York City. From 1989 to 2011, she lived in Miami Beach, Florida and taught at Florida International University. She moved to Edmonton in 2011, when her husband (Joseph Patrouch) became Director of the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta. She is currently Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, and of Religious Studies, at the University of Alberta. Professional details, including of her publications, can be found at She, her husband, and their 19-year-old daughter Quinn (who has a rare chromosomal disorder, 17q12 microdeletion syndrome) became Canadian citizens in January, 2019.

Spencer Brawner

Immediate Past President

Spencer Brawner was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio in the American Midwest. From an early age, he developed a deep fascination with computers and technology. Spencer first signed up for an after-school programming class while in the fourth-grade, learning BASIC programming. In the summer following his seventh-grade year, he studied Visual Basic programming with the Black Data Processing Associates, which laid the foundation for his career in technology.

Spencer's career has led to roles in education, professional sports and aviation where he has focused on innovation and leveraging technology to enable businesses. One of the highlights of his career was managing the technical requirements of the 2010 Grey Cup game and festival as Director of IT for the Edmonton Eskimos. He currently serves as chair of Edmonton International Airport’s Innovation Team and is a technical resource for the airport’s Digital Strategy Program.

Spencer is married to Marina, they enjoy travel and have visited several countries in Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and Western Europe. As a volunteer, he is the current past president of Temple Beth Ora and has been involved in social justice causes. Spencer has a passion for food and plays keyboard as a hobby.

Leah Phillips

VP Administration

Stephanie Brown

VP Education

Born and raised in the Edmonton area, I completed both my BA and MA degrees in Social/Cultural Anthropology at the University of Alberta. After completing my degrees, I moved right into working at the University as an administrator, first in Neurology and now in Computing Science. I started coming to TBO in 2016, and joined the Board of Directors in 2019. In my spare time, you can find me reading, running, or drinking tea!

Roxanne Olsen

VP Finance


Jerome Klein


I was born and grew up in and around New York City. After completing BS and MS degrees in forestry at Syracuse, I relocated to Bryan, Texas, working 20 months in a pine breeding program. Next to University of Minnesota for a PhD in genetics and forestry before taking employment in 1966 with the Government of Canada forestry research agency. Winnipeg, with its substantial Jewish community, proved to be a fortunate work location. Headquartered in Edmonton from 1970 to 1991 with jack pine test plantations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan meant a lot of time on the road. Back to Winnipeg until 1996 when the program funding ran out. Mary Jane and I returned to Edmonton for my retirement and return to the TBO Board of Directors.

Fong Lopaschuk


Born in Hong Kong, I immigrated with my family to Calgary before coming to Edmonton to study at the University of Alberta and I haven’t left since. After completing my MSc in Occupational Therapy, I have been working for the Alberta Health Services as a Mental Health Therapist. I am kept busy by my husband, David, and our 4 year old “Young Primate” and managing our overgrown yard. We joined the TBO community in 2014. I enjoy baking, knitting, and I’m learning to sew.

Robert Kirchner


Robert was born in New York and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He
holds a BA degree (Phi Beta Kappa) from Johns Hopkins University, JD
from U. Maryland Law School, and a PhD in linguistics from UCLA. Robert
moved to Edmonton in 1999 to teach linguistics at U. Alberta, but took
early retirement in 2013. He is married to Suzanne Gross and they have
two wonderful daughters, now grown-up. Suzanne is active in the
Mennonite Church. And Robert is active with the Quakers as well as TBO.
His hobbies include bicycling, cooking, permaculture gardening, anarchist political thought, and worrying about the climate crisis.

Thu, 15 April 2021 3 Iyar 5781