About IJKL

IJKL is a pre-eminent educational center based in South Florida offering multiple on ramps to meaningful Jewish and transformative adult Jewish learning and living.

We offer a warm welcoming environment to help you build a solid spiritual, theological and cultural foundation. For those seeking in-depth Jewish study IJKL is a repository of deep insights and expansive ideas. You are invited to become part of our local and international community. IJKL is a 501 c3 tax-exempt organization.

IJKL History

Meet Our Team

Kim Lerner
Executive director
View more
Kim co-founded, with Rabbi Akiva Mann, the Institute of Jewish Knowledge and Learning in 1993. She now serves as Executive Director and has played a key role in envisioning and enacting IJKL's development. Kim brings to IJKL a successful business background and joy and passion for learning and building community. Married with two daughters she is now grandmother to grandson Henry.
Leila Cohen Sabban
Administrative Director
View more
Leila is our Administrative Director. She was born in Argentina. Since her youth she was very involved in the Jewish Community of Buenos Aires, first as a youth counselor at Bet-El Synagogue and later on as a Bnai Mitzvah teacher and tutor. She is a lawyer (University of Buenos Aires) and worked in the public and private sector. She is married with Rabbi Uriel Romano and have three children: Noah, Libbi and Aaron.
Rabbi David Paskin
Educational Director
View more
David Paskin, or Rabbi David as he is known, is an accomplished spiritual leader, singer/songwriter, entertainer, Jewish futurist, social activist, award-winning Jewish educator and founding rabbi of OHEL.
Dr. Sandra Lilienthal
Curriculum Director
View more
Dr. Sandra Lilienthal has a Masters in Jewish Studies and a Doctorate in Jewish Education. In 2015, she received the prestigious Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Sandra has over 25 years of experience in Jewish Education working with all ages in both Brazil and the US
Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman
View more
Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman teaches our weekly Torah portion class. A native of Boston, he received his B.A. from Boston University and a B.H.L. from the Boston Hebrew College. Rabbi Segelman attended the Jewish Theological Seminary where he earned his M.A. rabbinic ordination. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Westchester Jewish Center and is currently on the faculty and the Director of Field Placements at the Academy for Jewish Religion.
Rabbi Amy Pessah
View more
Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis. She holds a Master's degree in Jewish Education from HUC-JIR and ordination from ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. As well, Amy is a certified Jewish Spiritual Director and published author. She has a passion for ritual, the written word, and ceramics.
Laura Lenes
View more
Laura Lenes can be seen in synagogues across South Florida, as both a Cantorial Soloist, and an educator --- connecting families, children, and congregants of all ages, to Judaism & G-d through music, Sign Language, drama, and spirituality!
Dr. Rabbi Leon Weissberg
View more
Rabbi/Dr. Weissberg holds four advanced degrees including a Doctorate in Education and a Masters in Jewish Studies. He has been the Executive of the Jewish Education Commission in Boca, as well as the head of Donna Klein Jewish Academy.

In Loving Memory of Rabbi Akiva Mann Z”L

It was 1997 and I sat in Rabbi Akiva’s office at the Hallandale Jewish Center and I shared my story of seeking God in all the wrong places.  Rabbi Akiva sat silently, listening deeply into the words that I was not saying, holding space for the longing in my heart. 

He quietly answered me, saying that I was not the first to feel this “knocking upon my heart.”  He explained that the great sages, mystics and rebbes have come before us and placed guideposts along the way for us to follow, and he said that he will share with me these “guideposts” to help me find my own way. 

I asked to study with him privately and he gently said “No” and explained that to truly learn you must learn as part of a community, otherwise you only collect encyclopedic information. I have since learned that encyclopedic information doesn’t create soul transformation nor deepen our connection to the Divine. From this conversation, the seeds of the Institute of Jewish Knowledge and Learning (IJKL) were planted and have been nurtured ever since. 

The outpouring of love following the announcement of Rabbi Akiva’s passing, has universally expressed gratitude for his wisdom and kindness, dedication to Judaism and Israel and for the sounds of his guitar and voice that were for so many of us an entrance into transcendence. 

The messages describe how he has  changed and enriched our lives and how his teachings continue to influence how we live and love.

The messages hardly touch the tip of the iceberg of his wisdom, our love for him and the impact that he has made upon us as individuals and a community. He was the embodiment of his teachings and words like tzadik, mensch, lamed vavnik and angel are used to describe him over and over again.  He of course would shrug this off as he was also the embodiment of modesty and humility.

Since its founding, IJKL has grown in faculty, size and diversity and remains true to Rabbi Akiva’s vision. We are his legacy of knowledge and learning, transforming the mundane into the holy and compassion into reality. We keep him in our hearts and in our actions every time we recognize the Holy One in the faces of our family, friends and strangers.

Since 1997, Rabbi Akiva kept his promises to show me the guideposts that answer the knocking upon my heart and to create a  community for transformational learning. He has been my teacher, my partner in bringing IJKL to life and he has been the dearest friend and gift to me, for here and beyond this world. 

I miss you but look forward to learning with you, as you have taught, in the world of thought, imagination and vision.

With Torah Blessings,

Kim Lerner (Executive Director and Co-founder of IJKL)