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Interfaith Center Staff

Staff

Abby Stamelman Hocky, Executive Director

Abby

Abby Stamelman Hocky has served as Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia since its inception in January 2004. She has a special interest in collaborative models of social change, and in the role of faith and culture in strengthening society.

Abby came to the Center after proudly working in intergroup relations and public policy for over two decades at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia. Her work as Associate Executive Director and Director of Interreligious Relations entailed striving to enhance interfaith understanding, resolve issues among religious groups, and develop numerous models for dialogue – especially among Muslims, Christians and Jews.

From 2004-2009, Abby served as a professional consultant for the Experiment in Congregational Education, working with synagogues in New York to re-imagine their models of Jewish education. In 2010-11, she served as a Technical Advisor to non-profits in the West Philadelphia Economic Recovery Coalition program. Abby received her BA from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and her MSW from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York.

Email:     ash@interfaithcenterpa.org

Marjorie Scharf, Director of Youth Initiatives

Marjorie

Marjorie Scharf joined the staff of the Interfaith Center in the spring of 2005 to create an Interfaith Youth Service Learning Initiative, later named Walking the Walk (WTW). What began as a single Walking the Walk group made up of 15 high school youth, grew to 6 groups with 450 participants over the past 7 years. While developing the Walking the Walk curriculum and leadership training program, getting more congregations and community partners on board, supervising the Group Leaders and fundraising , her favorite part of her work is getting to know the WTWers. Marjorie is very excited to be Group Leader of the new Central Philadelphia WTW Network, in addition to her other responsibilities.

Marjorie’s professional background is in public health education and nutrition. She has 25 years
of experience in designing and implementing culturally relevant health education programs
targeted to a variety of audiences: young mothers, youth, women diagnosed with breast cancer,
public school teachers, public health workers in lead poisoning prevention programs, and African
Americans and Latinos living with HIV/AIDS. She earned her Master’s degree in Public Health
from the University of California at Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from Penn State
University.

She is a long time member of Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, lives in Merion with her partner,
two dogs and three children (2 of whom are not at home but visit frequently), and spends lots of
time with friends and extended family. You can also find her gardening or biking.

Email:     mns@interfaithcenterpa.org

Rev. Nicole Diroff, Associate Executive Director

NicoleNicole Diroff is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and serves as the Director of Outreach and Innovations at the Interfaith Center. She is the lead staff person for the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia and its Zones of Peace grassroots initiative. She coordinates the Center’s expanding Interfaith Encounters Alternative Break program for college students, Walking the Walk alumni leadership initiative, and Know Thy Neighbor, Know Thy Self religious identity project. Nicole also oversees the Center’s adult learning and leadership programs, is involved in building new community partnerships, supervising interns and responding to requests for new initiatives.

Rev. Diroff has expertise in youth development, mentoring, ecumenical and interfaith relations. She serves on the United Church of Christ Council on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and represents her denomination on the National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission. She has presented and/or led workshops at the Interfaith Youth Core Conference, the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference (UCC) Clergy Convocation, the National Council of Churches / National Council of Synagogues Consultation on Pastoral Issues, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Rev. Diroff received her BA from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2002 and her M.Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2007. She is an active member at Tabernacle United Church in West Philadelphia, and lives in Queen Village with her partner Jeremy and two dogs. When she’s not leading an interfaith program, she can be found hiking in the woods, reading a new book or strolling through the local farmer’s market.

Email:     ndd@interfaithcenterpa.org

Adira Rose Knopf, Director of Development and Marketing

Adira Knopf joined the staff of the Interfaith Center in August of 2011. She has formal training in nonprofit business administration, a background in professional community leadership and fundraising, and a passion for social justice and interfaith work.

Adira recently moved to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where she received her MBA in Non-profit Business Administration from the American Jewish University. While living in LA, Adira worked for several non-profit organizations and institutions, including the American Jewish University, the Zimmer Children’s Museum, and Temple Beth Am where she served as the Assistant Director of Development. Over the years Adira has gained an expertise in the cultivation of community members and partners, annual campaign development, execution of special events, communications, and marketing.

Growing up, Adira was heavily involved in interfaith relations in her hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and feels blessed to be able to continue to be a part of this crucial work!

At the Center, Adira oversees the organization’s communications and website, as well as the Center’s fundraising portfolio. When she is not at the Center she enjoys spending time with her husband and friends, relaxing at home, and cooking.

Email:     ark@interfaithcenterpa.org

Rev. Josh Blakesley, Director of Special Projects

Josh

Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has served in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of the United Church of Christ in Warminster. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 19 years in a variety of denominations, regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, Confirmation classes, and a variety of settings. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, encouraging youth, young adults, and religious leadership in their faith development, service, and partnerships to mentor and encourage younger generations to make a positive impact in the world. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in the NW suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife Maria.

Email:     jgb@interfaithcenterpa.org

Sr. Maria Hornung, MMS, Adult Learning Consultant


Maria

Maria Hornung brings a rich background of experience and education to the Center’s interfaith mission of fostering understanding and collaboration.

Having served in her Medical Mission Sisters community’s World Wide Mission in Africa for 25 years and in its international leadership circle for 12, Maria is well acquainted with the many opportunities to build bridges across cultural, national and religious boundaries offered by today’s world. Never before has our closeness made such challenges so apparent.

Maria obtained her MEd from Temple University in 1970 and her MA in Interreligious Relations from Temple University in 2005. Her thesis work included the development of a grassroots model for introducing adults to the art of interreligious engagement. This work has been published as Encountering Other Faiths (Paulist Press, 2007) with an accompanying workbook, Workbook for Encountering Other Faiths (Interfaith Center, 2006).

She has developed a creative and enjoyable curriculum for adults with her colleagues of the Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Baha’i, Christian and other faiths.  All of these programs are available to congregations and to the public. Programs are eminently adaptable to the varying backgrounds and resources of adult learner communities.

Maria has wide experience in facilitating groups of different cultural backgrounds and religious traditions. Her programs are exceptionally user friendly and adaptable to specific communities/institutions/corporations. Maria’s facilitator training for these programs is offered throughout the year at an Interfaith Center facility. Specific groups at other sites and times can be provided upon request.

Rebecca Rivera, Office Manager

Rebecca

Rebecca is the Office Manager of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and the Arts & Spirituality Center. She has a degree in computer science and extensive working experience with prominent hispanics in the Philadelphia Latino community, as well as with the Jewish community through her years of employment at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia. Rebecca has two grown children and two grandchildren.

 

Email:     rr@interfaithcenterpa.org

Walking the Walk Group Leaders

Quaiser Abdullah, Northwest Philadelphia Network

Quaiser Abdullah is presently pursuing his PhD in Educational Psychology, with a focus on leadership, identity, communication and conflict resolution. Quaiser currently serves as the faculty/staff advisor for the MSA at Temple University and works with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia to present on topics such as Islam in the Workplace and Understanding Islam and Muslims. Professionally, Quaiser serves as the Assistant Director of IT at Temple’s College of Education. Outside of his official role(s) at Temple, Quaiser works with Human Resources’ Learning and Development department at Temple University, the Montgomery County Mediation Center, the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, The Dialogue Institute and through his independent consulting business to conduct professional training, development seminars and presentations aimed at improving an individual’s and organization’s capacity to communicate more effectively, develop holistic leadership strategies and manage conflict productively.

Margaret Ernst, West/Central Philadelphia Network

Margaret Ernst is a member of the United Church of Christ’s Young Adult Service Communities, hosted by Old First Reformed United Church of Christ at 4th and Race St and serving as an Online Organizer with the faithbased community organizing group P.O.W.E.R (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild). She also supports adult education programming at Old First. From 2011-2013, Margaret worked on projects connecting city government with grassroots volunteers as AmeriCorps VISTA with the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. Margaret attended Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in Religion and Creative Writing, and is passionate about the connections between faith, justice, and transformative learning experiences.

Ryan Greene, Suburban-West/Media Network



Ryan Greene currently works as the Program Coordinator for New Foundations Charter School in Northeast Philadelphia. He provides the high school students with afterschool programs, academic support, and career exploration. He just finished serving a one year term with AmeriCorps to fight all types of poverty in Philadelphia and has also worked as a Youth Pastor for five years where he was involved in youth focused education, service projects, and mentoring. Ryan has lived in 3 states, loves being outside in nature, eats a Vegan diet (no animal products), and has played drums for 15 years.

Judith Henzy, Wissahickon Network

Jude Henzy served as Director of Lifespan Faith Development in Unitarian Universalist churches for nearly 20 years where she led programs on religious tolerance and diversity, and organized youth service/mission programs. She has attended the Lutheran Theological School of Philadelphia and Meadville Lombard Theological School. Jude has also completed a Level I Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia. She lives in Philadelphia and has two young adult children.

Lisa Jacobs, Suburban West Network

In her second year with Walking the Walk, Lisa brings a commitment to grassroots community organizing, youth empowerment, community health, and social justice to her role as Group Leader. When she’s not Walking the Walk, Lisa manages public health research projects at the University of Pennsylvania’s Mixed Methods Research Lab. Lisa received her BA in Studio Art & Gender Studies from Scripps College of the Claremont Colleges Consortium and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. Lisa’s roots are in Portland, Oregon, but she’s called Southern California, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, PA home-sweet-home; Philadelphia’s many diverse neighborhoods, bike paths, inhabitants, and coffee shops keep her wanting more. Lisa loves trains (of the subway, trolley, Regional Rail, and cross-continental variety). Several years ago, she spent a summer in India and recalls falling asleep smiling on an overnight train that slinked its way from Kolkata to Darjeeling.

Former Walking the Walk Group Leaders

Interns and Students

Daniel Purtell, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

DanielDaniel Purtell is currently a graduate student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Temple University, working towards his Masters of Arts in Public Leadership (MAPL). As a graduate intern at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, Daniel currently is working on multiple projects including work with the Walking the Walk program, the Alternative Break program, alumni connection work, and other assorted tasks. Daniel is a graduate of Moravian College, where he earned his Bachelors of Arts in political science.

Former Interns and Students