Rabbi Craig Scheff
Rabbi Craig Scheff did not follow a traditional path to the rabbinate. Though his friends nick-named him “Rabs” in high school, and despite the many Saturday mornings he spent in synagogue at his father’s side, his formal Jewish studies did not begin until college, and even that was part of a path to law school. While attending Harvard University, Rabbi Scheff chose a concentration in Near Eastern Studies, and graduated with honors magna cum laude.
Upon graduation, he entered Boston University School of Law, where he earned several honors in oral advocacy. Upon becoming a member of the Massachusetts Bar in 1989, Rabbi Scheff practiced commercial litigation for three years. Feeling spiritually unfulfilled, Rabbi Scheff, with his wife Nancy's support, gave up his career in Law and began the long process of studying towards the rabbinate. See more.
In the fall of 1995, Rabbi Craig Scheff arrived at the Orangetown Jewish Center. Just having commenced his third year of Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Craig took the position of Cantor at the OJC. Along with Nancy, who grew up in the OJC community, and their sons Matthew and Scott (5 and 3 years old, respectively, at the time), Craig was determined to make the OJC his home. After serving the OJC for 2 years as Student Rabbi, Craig was ordained in 1998, the same year that Jason was born into the OJC family. Jared would follow in 2000.
Rabbi Scheff has cherished the opportunity to teach and learn, to guide and grow, to celebrate and even mourn with the OJC community. He continues to feel deeply connected, and has had the privilege of connecting others, to the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Scheff has been blessed to share many special moments in the lives of the OJC’s families, and he is mindful each time he enters the sanctuary of the souls of departed ones that continue to be a strong presence in his life. His strong commitments to Israel, USY, Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement and the Rockland Jewish community all stem from the influential parts each played in his own upbringing.
Rabbi Scheff has been blessed with the opportunity to pursue many other passions beyond OJC. For seventeen years he held various positions at Camp Ramah in Nyack, including assistant director and Camp Rabbi. In January 2011, Rabbi Scheff was appointed chairman of Israel Bonds' National Rabbinic Cabinet. He is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, facilitating the Rabbinical School’s Senior Seminar, serves as a mentor to JTS rabbinical students, and is a member of the Rabbinical School Council. He is also a National Council member of AIPAC. In 2012, Rabbi Scheff’s writing on Jewish law as it applies to “Synagogue Life” was published in the book The Observant Life, the Conservative movement’s guide to Jewish living. Rabbi Scheff has coached JCC football and basketball for many years, and has coached Rockland’s 14-and-under boys’ basketball teams in the Maccabi Games.
From serving the congregation to coaching basketball in the community, to sharing time with his family, Rabbi Scheff represents the Orangetown Jewish Center’s vision of Judaism, peoplehood and community in all his undertakings. At the heart of his rabbinate is the belief that every relationship presents the opportunity to experience God’s presence in the world.
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill grew up in the close-knit Jewish community of Portland, Maine. She remembers sitting importantly next to her grandfather on the bima when he was president of the synagogue. Perhaps that was the beginning of her journey toward the rabbinate
Rabbi Drill graduated with honors from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania where she developed a broad world-view and a passion for learning. In 1987 she completed a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University as well as a Masters in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rabbi Drill's social work experience includes eleven years at the Daughters of Israel Geriatric Center and at the Solomon Schechter School of Essex and Union in New Jersey. During seven summers, she served as Assistant Director at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, NY. See more.
Though Rabbi Drill found much satisfaction in her social work career, she felt a call to do more. Being present when the first female was ordained at the JTS in 1985, she was profoundly moved, and new possibilities were impressed in her heart.
At the age of 39, with the support of her husband Jonathan and their then four young children, (Noah, Sarah, Benjamin and Joshua), she returned to JTS for six years of full-time study toward the rabbinate, which she terms "a blessed sabbatical in the middle of my life". She was ordained as a rabbi in 2004 and has built her rabbinic career at the OJC ever since.
As a rabbi, she still views the world through the eyes of a social worker, but she loves the fact that she can now add what she calls "the God piece" to her interactions with people. She loves to teach and to counsel, and endeavors to be open to the wisdom of others, from the tots in our nursery school, to our teenagers, to our elders.
Rabbi Drill's commitments to the greater community include the Executive Council of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement of Judaism, Board of Trustees of Rockland Jewish Federation, leadership in Rockland Clergy for Social Justice and the Interfaith Spirituality Council of United Hospice of Rockland. Together with Rabbi Scheff, Rabbi Drill is committed to mentoring JTS rabbinical students and Davidson School of Education interns. She has taught Melton classes for our Federation for the past ten years and devotes time to children in the East Ramapo Central School District. She is committed to Domestic Violence Prevention and her work in that area earned her the New York Board of Rabbis Woman of Valor Award.
Rabbi Drill's passion is to connect each person, in his or her own way and include them in our community regardless of age, level of Jewish practice, race, or sexual identity. She is motivated by a commitment to upholding essential Jewish values, to working together to repair the world, to striving toward holiness, and to committing to community, Israel, and God.
Rabbi Ami Hersh
Rabbi Ami Hersh was raised in the warm Jewish community of Providence, Rhode Island. Through his attendance at the community Jewish day school, his family’s commitment to synagogue life, and a home that was filled with holiday celebrations and a love for Israel, he was set on a path to the rabbinate from an early age. As the Jewish Family Life Coordinator at the OJC, he is fulfilling his dream of creating vibrant, engaging and fun experiences for Jewish families. In addition to his work at the OJC, Rabbi Hersh serves as the assistant director of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and is the program director of the National Ramah Commission.
He began spending summers in Rockland County right after high school through his work as a counselor at Ramah. His first time at the OJC in fact, was when he sang as part of an a capella group at the brit milah of Jared Scheff! Perhaps the writing was on the all those many years ago.
A graduate of the University of Hartford in Connecticut, Rabbi Hersh holds degrees in Elementary Education and Judaic Studies. See more.
During his time in college he served as the President of the Student Body and President of the Hartford Hillel Foundation. Most importantly, college was where he met his future bride, Loni. Upon graduation, Rabbi Hersh taught fourth grade at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford. Through teaching on a daily basis, he honed his skills and developed his passion for education.
In 2006 Rabbi Hersh, along with his wife Loni, moved to New York City to begin rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Rabbinical school was a period of rich learning and community building. For three years he served as the rabbinic intern at Brown University Hillel and worked at various congregations around the country. In his penultimate year of school, Rabbi Hersh completed his final internship at the Orangetown Jewish Center. It was during this year that he fell in love with the community.
Rabbi Hersh was ordained at JTS in May 2012 with a concentration in Jewish non-profit management. He also completed an M.A. in experiential education from the William Davidson School of Jewish Education with a concentration in Israel education. In 2012, Rabbi Hersh was one of the winners of the Jewish Futures Competition. In addition, he is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and an iCenter Israel Education Fellow.
The entire Hersh family (Rabbi Hersh, his wife Loni, along with their four children) is excited about making the OJC and Rockland County their home. They look forward to seeing you around the OJC, at the Rockland Jewish Academy, PJ Library events, at the JCC and other various community programs.