2013-2015 Sinai and Synapses Fellows

2013-2015 Sinai and Synapses Fellows

The Sinai and Synapses Fellowship is a small interfaith group of clergy and scientists who are committed to elevating the discourse surrounding religion and science. By personalizing the relationship around religion and science, the Fellows are models for a productive conversation surrounding religion and science.

Below are the 2013-2015 Sinai and Synapses Fellows.

Dan AinRabbi Dan Ain is the Director of Tradition and Innovation at the 92nd St. Y. He is part preacher, part philosopher, part interviewer and provocateur. He finds holiness in honest conversation, in the spaces where people can say what they really think and allow others to do the same. For the past decade, Rabbi Dan has been creating opportunities and contexts for these interactions – hosting Friday Night Dinners with comedians and cosmologists, klezmer brunches with artists and analysts, appearing on Sunday morning TV and in private apartments with groups of close friends looking for a way to talk about God on their own terms. He encourages conversations that are sometimes funny (with Gilbert Gottfried), sometimes challenging (with Deepak Chopra), sometimes sacred and sometimes profane.

The High Holiday services he leads, with blues musician and cantorial singer Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery, are an example of how he is finding meaningful ways to worship in the 21st century – creating experiences that speak to people living in today’s world using the language, lessons and music of the past. Ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Dan received a B.A. in Philosophy from Brandeis University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. He has served as a faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion and at CLAL, and continues to lecture on the present (and future) ideological clash between our burgeoning technological beliefs and traditional Jewish faith.


Michelle FisherRabbi Michelle Fisher is the Executive Director of MIT Hillel, a job that now synthesizes her two academic courses of studies.  As an undergraduate at Princeton University, she majored in chemistry.  She then entered a PhD program in Organic Chemistry at MIT.  After telling her MIT advisor the day after she passed her oral exams, that, “Yes, you heard correctly, I just said I want to go to rabbinical school; no, not medical school, rabbinical school,” she completed her Masters thesis, and received a Wexner Fellowship to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NY, from which she received her ordination in 2002.

Before returning to MIT in her current role, Rabbi Fisher served as the Associate Rabbi of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, MD and the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, CA.  She also served as a Naval Chaplain Candidate, ministering to Jewish and non-Jewish sailors and Marines.


Anniversary Sunday at SagraJoyce Ann Konigsburg is a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA where she teaches courses on Global and Cultural Perspectives in Religion and is a research assistant. In the spring of 2017, Joyce will defend her dissertation on improving interreligious dialogue by employing relational ontology as exemplified in the Creator/creature relationship and quantum entanglement. Her academic interests include Comparative Theology and Interreligious Dialogue, Relationality, Science and Religion, Theological Anthropology, as well as Theological Methodologies. She has presented her research at a variety of conferences in Washington DC, Dallas TX, Waterloo Ontario, Heredia Costa Rica, and Melbourne Australia. Additionally, she has written several book reviews and completed four book chapters ranging in topics from God and culture, science and religion in dialogue, and the divine-human relationship.

Prior to pursuing her graduate degree, Joyce held executive level positions at several information technology companies. She earned her M.A. in Theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a B.S. in Telecommunications from the University of Florida.

Gawain de LeeuwReverend Gawain de Leeuw was raised in a multicultural, interfaith family in Rochester, New York.  He was graduated from Oberlin College, the University of Chicago,  and General Theological Seminary.  Upon winning the Luce Scholar’s award, he served in Korea for two years as the vicar of the Anglican Cathedral and lecturer in liturgical theology.    He serves on the boards of Meals on Wheels, the Housing Action Council of Westchester, and Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic.  He convenes the White Plains Religious Leaders, and helped found Westchester United, a community based power organization,  He has taught a freshman utopian and dystopian literature  and world religions at local colleges.   He is also a member of the Order of the Ascension, and a Rotarian. 


Peter Martelli, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Healthcare Administration in the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University. He holds a PhD in Health Services and Policy Analysis from the University of California – Berkeley and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the US Veterans Administration. His research focuses on how organizations use evidence to navigate ambiguous situations and to learn from (and avoid) errors. His wife is a healthcare chaplain, serving on the Board Certification Commission of the Association of Professional Chaplains, and together they have become interested in the use of research evidence in hospice and end-of-life care.


Rabbi Michael Mellen is an executive, organizational, and personal coach, trainer and speaker, and works with people in a variety of organizational and life roles. He explores the world and finds power in story, in listening, and in each of our ability to find a path that has the potential to create an even happier, more successful life and world.  Ordained in 1998, Michael served as a congregational rabbi and educator at Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, Virginia and as Director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth movement of Reform Judaism in North America. With The Jewish Education Project, he provided innovation coaching and consulting to congregations and youth programs. Michael’s current clients range from independent entrepreneurs and organizational executives to summer camp directors and synagogue boards. He works with teams and individuals in for-profit and not-for-profit settings.


Lisa OrtunoLisa Ortuno, Ph.D. (of blessed memory) held degrees in biology from the University of South Carolina.  In her graduate work she studied the mating patterns and population genetics of American alligators utilizing methods in molecular biology.  Since 2002 she had worked for three international biotechnology companies – LifeTechnologies, Illumina and now Promega Corporation, where she has provided technical support and training for life science research, government, private, DNA forensics and clinical diagnostics laboratories around the world.  Lisa was a member of the Bahá’í Faith, which has its world center in Haifa, Israel. 

Sadly, she died suddenly in December  2015. Lisa served on the Local Spiritual Assemblies for her Baha’i communities and gave numerous talks on topics related to science and religion to local and national Baha’i audiences.  Lisa had three children including two adult sons and a daughter.


Josh RatnerRabbi Joshua Ratner is the Associate Rabbi and Director of Engagement at Yale University’s Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life. Previously, he served as the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, a Conservative synagogue in Cheshire, CT.  He also directs the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New Haven.  Ordained by the Conservative Movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2012, he was a Joseph Neubauer Fellow and also earned a Master’s Degree in Midrash and a Certificate in Pastoral Care.   While in rabbinical school, he received training in congregation-based community organizing and was part of the original rabbinical student cohort of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders fellowship program.


Josh StantonRabbi Joshua Stanton is an Assistant Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. A blogger for the Huffington Post and the Times of Israel, he works to improve and reflect upon relations between different religious and ethical communities. Most recently, Josh was appointed a member of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, which liaises between the Jewish community and the Vatican, Orthodox Church, and World Council of Churches.




Connor Wood is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture, focusing on the evolutionary study of religion, computer modeling of social processes, and religion-science issues. Connor writes a popular weekly blog, Science On Religion, at Patheos.com, and occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post. Connor’s interests include the evolutionary and cognitive roles of ritual, the influence of religion on health and self-regulation, and the conservative-liberal spectrum in psychology and religion. He also studies the relationship between cognitive style and spirituality at the survey website FaithInDepth.org.

Previously, Connor earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then bummed around the world for a couple of years and had adventures, many of which turned out to be more fun to write about than they technically were to have. For example, he once was mugged in Mongolia. Today, Connor is working on a book that applies the cognitive and evolutionary sciences of religion to contemporary political quandaries. He likes climbing mountains in Colorado. Connor’s spirit animal is William James.


John ZuHone CropJohn ZuHone grew up on a farm in east central Illinois where the night sky was very dark, and early on developed a passion for astronomy. His parents indulged his interests with a small telescope and a Commodore 64 personal computer at age six. Today, John is a postdoctoral research associate in astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and uses some of the world’s fastest supercomputers to simulate collisions between clusters of galaxies, the most energetic events in the universe since the Big Bang.

John was also raised in a devout Christian family with Lutheran and Baptist influences, and as a result developed an appreciation for both the evangelical and catholic streams of Christian spirituality. He is particularly inspired by the ancient Christian emphasis on the inherent goodness of creation and the necessarily material and embodied nature of the Christian’s relationship with God, especially with respect to sacramental theology. John seeks to embody the principle that good science and serious Christian spirituality need not be at odds, as they are often seen to be in contemporary American culture.
John earned his B.S. in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his M.S. and Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Chicago, and has previously held postdoctoral research positions at Harvard University and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He lives in Quincy, Massachusetts with his wife Jessi, who is a home hospice nurse. They attend Park Street Church in Boston.


One Comment

  1. Steven Kolins

    Sad greetings,
    The Baha’i community was shocked to hear that Lisa Ortuno had passed in a traffic accident yesterday morning. While word is being passed informally at this point, she was named in a newspaper story (see http://wncn.com/2015/12/16/highway-patrol-on-scene-of-vehicle-crash-in-wake-county/ for example.) Our prayers for her young daughter and kin, friends and spiritual colleagues.

    Allah’u’Abha (a Baha’i salutation reminding us that God is superlatively glorious)

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