We would like you to meet...

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum - Executive Director

Rachel is the Rabbi and Executive Director of the Kavana Cooperative, which she co-founded in 2006.  On any given day, you might find Rachel meeting with new partners or preparing for life-cycle events, working with our educators on curriculum, pondering next year’s budget, or trying to keep her inbox below 1000 new messages!  Rachel loves teaching Torah, in the broadest possible sense of that word – from ancient texts to contemporary interpretations.  She also enjoys leading spirited prayer services, especially if they feature great singing and harmony.  Finally, she believes fervently that Judaism has something relevant to teach us about how we can engage in the community and the world around us, working towards the principles of justice and service.

In addition to working at Kavana, Rachel has served on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Program, the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel program, and Rabbis without Borders.  She has also received a number of accolades, appearing on Newsweek Magazine's list of "America's Top 50 Influential Rabbis,” and receiving the AVI CHAI Fellowship (the Jewish "genius award"), the Joshua Venture Group Fellowship (for Jewish social entrepreneurs), and the Wexner Graduate Fellowship.  Rachel was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2004, and received her undergraduate degree from Duke University (Go Blue Devils!)  She is a native of Charleston, South Carolina.

Rachel lives in Queen Anne with her husband Noam Pianko and their children, Yona, Mia, and Elisha.

Liz Thompson - Director of Operations

Liz joined Kavana’s staff in 2010, and since then, she’s been instrumental in professionalizing Kavana’s operations.  Liz is the “first point of contact” for most people who reach out to Kavana – and her warmth and friendliness on email, the phone, or in person help to make this a welcoming community.

Liz received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from Washington State University, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Washington. Before working at Kavana, she spent five years working and volunteering on the administrative and events side of the Fremont Abbey, a local arts non-profit. She also served as an early childhood educator at the Stroum Jewish Community Center, working directly with children and their families, and creating beautiful bulletin boards. Liz has a love for local, community-driven organizations and is thrilled to have found a great professional home at Kavana. 

Liz lives in Ballard with her husband Dev (who is often off flying planes on the east coast), and their sweet little boy, Nolan.

Megan Brudney
Megan is a fourth-year Hebrew Union College rabbinical student hailing from Athens, Georgia (the home of the Georgia Bulldogs), and is a proud graduate of Duke University. She subsequently moved to Washington, DC, where she worked for three years at PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, gaining experience in youth work, grant-writing, grant management, and fundraising. A passionate supporter of Israel, in 2010 Megan moved to Jerusalem for her first year of HUC and then elected to stay an extra year in Israel before arriving at HUC’s Los Angeles campus. Megan has served as a student rabbi in Sun Valley, ID, and Castro Valley, CA, and just completed a summer rabbinic internship at Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA. In Los Angeles Megan has worked as a songleader and teen educator at the Santa Monica Synagogue. Megan also has a variety of camp-related experience, having spent summers working at URJ Camps Harlam (PA) and Coleman (GA); NFTY in Israel; and JCC Camp Kingswood (ME). Megan is the 2013-2014 recipient of HUC’s Professor Samson H. Levey Prize awarded for excellence in the study of rabbinic literature as well as embodiment of the late professor’s values. Outside of her studies, Megan has participated in a trip to El Salvador with the American Jewish World Service and been selected as one of AIPAC’s Leffell Israel Fellows. Megan is immensely excited to meet everyone and get to know the Kavana Cooperative community while serving as our rabbinic intern!
Kate Speizer - B'nai Mitzvah Coordinator
Rabbi Kate Speizer is passionate about Jewish education and engagement in both her professional and personal life. Whether leading tots and their families in Shabbat celebrations, visiting with someone in the hospital, or 'praying with her feet' through social justice action, Jewish values are the anchor within the work Kate pursues as a teacher, parent, partner, and friend. Kate earned her BA in Marketing from the University of Arizona before making her formal entry into the world of Jewish communal leadership as a volunteer in Israel on Project OTZMA from 2000-2001 and then as Program Director at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel. She went on to earn a Master of Hebrew Letters and rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 
Born and raised in Northern California, Kate came back home to the West Coast with her husband, Ilan, and their two children Yoni and Shira in the summer of 2013 after having served Cornell University as Campus Rabbi for five years. The Speizers love living in the North End of Seattle where they connect with neighbors and actively engage in the local community.