Who We Are

Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, Founder and Director

Rabbi Gil Steinlauf is a nationally recognized spiritual leader who innovatively combines bold vision and grounded wisdom to steward and evolve communities, organizations, and future leaders.

Rabbi Steinlauf is the rabbi of Kol Shalom in Rockville, Maryland, and the founding Director of the Hineni Fellowship for LGBTQ Jewish Leadership in Washington DC.

Rabbi Steinlauf is widely respected for his success in re-envisioning the nature of Adas Israel, the largest and oldest Conservative synagogue in Washington, DC, where he served as senior rabbi for ten years. While there, Steinlauf pioneered a national paradigm shift that lifts up innovative modes of study and exploration of meaning as central in synagogue and organizational life.

Rabbi Steinlauf is the first senior rabbi of a large, historic, conservative congregation to come out as openly gay, and through his honesty, has sought to create an atmosphere of constructive dialogue on the issues facing modern culture and Judaism.

In 2018, Steinlauf founded the Hineni Fellowship for LGBTQ Jewish Leadership in response to the need for more leadership in the Jewish community from LGBTQ Jews, in order to help steward the Jewish community to greater inclusion, diversity, and creativity.

Rabbi Steinlauf had previously been the rabbi of Temple Israel in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, studied at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, earned an MHL from the University of Judaism, and received rabbinic ordination and an MA at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Additionally, Steinlauf is a graduate of the Georgetown University Certificate Executive Program in Nonprofit Management. Currently, Rabbi Steinlauf is on the boards of the Washington Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, A Wider Bridge, and ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal. He also sits on the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion Council, and on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee of JTS. He is an alumnus of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a member of the Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership’s Rabbis Without Borders program, and the GLEAN cohort of spiritual entrepreneurs.


Emma Fensterheim, Assistant Director

Emma Fensterheim joined JTLI as the Assistant Director in June 2021. Previously, Emma was a high school English teacher at Baltimore City College High School in Baltimore, Maryland, and a preschool teacher in the Melvin Gelman religious school at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC. While teaching in Baltimore, Emma sponsored a Jewish Student Union for 9th-12th grade students and demonstrated how literature can be a source of inspiration and knowledge on the path to real-world leadership. In addition to JTLI, Emma is currently an Undergraduate Academic Advisor at The George Washington University.

Emma has a Master’s in secondary education from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park. While at the University of Maryland, Emma was the president of UMD’s only all-female Jewish a cappella group, Mezumenet.