The Bride and Grooms of BJ: Introducing the Simhat Torah Kallah and Hatanei 5775

By Robert Pollack and Susan Fishman | Issue Date: Fall 2014

Every year, BJ rabbis single out deserving congregation members to bestow the honor of reading Torah during our Simhat Torah celebration. This year, the blessing of Simhat Torah hatan (groom) and kallah (bride) has been given to three wonderful members of our community.

Shira Nadich Levin will be our Kallat Torah, and will read the last chapter of the Torah on Simhat Torah morning. Ronen Schatsky and Sasha Chanko will be our Hatanei Bereshit, and will join together to read the first chapter of the Torah as we start the cycle once again.

Mazal tov to our 5775 honorees!

About our Kallat Torah, Shira Nadich Levin

As the daughter of Rabbi Judah and Martha Hadassah Ribalow NadichShira Nadich Levin of Park Avenue Synagogue, Shira has always lived a vibrant Jewish life. Fourteen years ago, Shira, her husband James Loren Levin (the chief operating officer of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel), and their sons Alex, Gideon and Ben became members of BJ. They were thrilled in 2013 when Sara and Ben were married, and Sara joined the family.

Shira is a real estate partner at Cooley LLP, and is co-chair of the Real Estate Leasing Group and chair of the Cooley Women’s Initiative. She is a member of the East Coast board of WILEF (Women in Law Empowerment Forum) and a trustee of the Alan B. Slifka Foundation.

At BJ, Shira co-chairs the Minyan committee (first with Irv Rosenthal and now with Peggy Moss), attending regularly, leading services as a shaliah tzibur (prayer leader), and working hard to improve the vibrancy and connectivity for those attending minyan. She is also a dedicated volunteer and participant, working on community building initiatives at BJ and regularly attending and hosting BJ classes.

A valuable connector in the Jewish community, Shira served as president of The Abraham Joshua Heschel School, has served on the boards of other organizations, and is actively engaged in pro-bono work with numerous Jewish organizations.

About our Hatanei Bereshit, Ronen Shatsky and Sasha Chanko

This year, the honor of Hatan Bereshit goes to two young men who, despite their young age, have given much to BJ throughout their lives. Though they are both only now beginning the arduous and tricky journey from home to college as they enter the senior classes at Trinity School and the Heschel School respectively, their lives at BJ—where they have been intertwined since infancy— have much to teach us all.

Ronen ShatskyRonen Shatsky

A senior at Trinity School, Ronen has been a member of BJ all his life. A gifted musician, Ronen is a singer, an accomplished trumpet player and a pianist.

To Ronen, the singing of Torah is not just a traditional trope; it is beautiful music. He is deeply grateful that BJ’s nusah includes many melodies from Jewish communities around the world. Ronen is both honored to be chosen as a Hatan Bereshit, and thrilled to share this aliyah with his lifelong friend, Sasha.

Sasha ChankoSasha Chanko

A senior at the Heschel School, Sasha has also been a BJ member since infancy. A dedicated Jewish scholar since his days at Chabad Preschool and Beit Rabban, Sasha also studies engineering and writing. Sasha enjoys engaging with Jewish text and practice, asking difficult questions to deepen their meaning in a modern context. He is excited to share his commitment to the community as a Hatan Bereshit, particularly since he gets to do so with Ronen.


Susan Fishman has been a member of BJ since 2004. A real estate broker with Douglas Elliman, Susan was a founding member of Tze’irim and the former co-chair of the Membership committee. She is also a gabbai at Jazz at Lincoln Center for the High Holy Days. Robert Pollack and his wife, Amy, have been members of BJ since 1994. He’s a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, as well as the director of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia. Bob also serves as assistant gabbai to Freddy Goldstein on the High Holy Days.

Susan Fishman and Robert Pollack, 2013’s Simhat Torah Kallah and Hatan, are continuing the BJ tradition of writing about the new year’s honorees.