The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale – The Bayit – is an open Orthodox synagogue serving the entire Jewish community by warmly embracing all Jews, regardless of affiliation, commitment, orientation or background.  It is affectionately known as the "Bayit," which is a home; a place of love and welcome. The HIR is known nationally for bringing spirituality into the synagogue; activism; youth and teen engagement; learning programs; and work on behalf of the elderly, the homebound, and those developmentally and physically challenged. Visit their website >

SPARK Team Members

I belong to the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  Although raised in an Orthodox family, I was alienated from Jewish ritual and identity for many decades. This community and its rabbinic leadership have created opportunities for me to reconnect to my roots while accepting me as I am.  They have supported my family through many lifecycle events, as well as provided me with emotional support while raising a severely disabled son. Professionally, I am interested in using breath-body-mind practices to relieve anxiety and promote general well being.

Shira Gordon

Team Leader

Rabba Dr. Anat Sharbat is an associate Rabba at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale - the Bayit. Anat was ordained by Yeshivat Maharat, and earned both a Masters and her Ph.D. in Talmud from Bar-Ilan University. Anat was born, raised and educated in Israel and moved to the US with her family 9 years ago.

Rabba Anat Sharbat

Steven Exler serves as Senior Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale – The Bayit, a large Open/Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Bronx.  He grew up in Baltimore, MD, has a B.A. in Biology from Brandeis University and an M.A. in Bible from Bernard Revel Graduate School, and has studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion, in the Yeshiva University Beit Midrash and at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa.  His ordination is from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, where he was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. He lives in Riverdale with his wife Shira, their son Ilan and daughter Talya.

Shiran Pasternak

Ari is the Chief Program Officer at the Legacy Heritage Fund. From 2013-2017 he worked at UJA-Fed NY, most recently as a Planning Director, managing a team of grant officers. In 2002 he moved to Israel from South Africa where he served as a lone soldier in the IDF. Previously Ari has worked at the Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington D.C, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and as the Director of the Israel Research Fellowship in Jerusalem. Ari has a BA in Economics and an MA in International Relations from Hebrew University. He lives in Riverdale, NY with his wife and kids.

Ari Rudolph


The SPARK Fellowship to Ignite Innovation is an 8-month learning and practical experience for Jewish institutions seeking to cultivate a culture of innovation and experimentation, with an eye towards building for the future.