Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann

Rabbi and Founder

Lizzi Heydemann catalyzed the founding of Mishkan Chicago in September of 2011. Since her adolescence she has been interested in how to create religious and spiritual experiences that integrate intellect with heart, personal spiritual quest with social responsibility, and help individuals find their own unique path in the context of building a community.

She graduated with Honors from Stanford University, and was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles in 2010. Her first job out of rabbinical school was as the first Rabbinic Fellow at IKAR in Los Angeles, a model continued here at Mishkan now with the Jewish Emergent Network Fellowship.

Lizzi was a 2016-2017 Schusterman Fellow and a 2018 winner of the Lippman Kanfer Fellowship in Applied Jewish Wisdom. Rabbi Lizzi has facilitated trips for Encounter and Honeymoon Israel, and currently teaches for the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish learning. She is currently a mentor for the 92nd Street Y’s Jewish Innovation Fellowship, sits on the board of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, as well as the rabbinic cabinet of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corp. She is an alumnus of Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship and the Clergy Leadership Incubator.

Selected for the Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Award for promising early-career educators, Lizzi was an ROI Fellow, was named named one of Chicago’s 36 Under 36 by OyChicago, and one of the Top 20 Real Rabbis by myjewishlearning.org.

Rabbi Lizzi lives in Chicago with her husband Henry, and their two adorable children, Judah Lev and Adira, both under 3.

The Backstory

Lizzi grew up on the South Side of Chicago, attended K.A.M. Isaiah Israel, and went to Lab and graduated from U-High in 1999. She graduated from Stanford University with Honors in Religious Studies and Philosophy, writing her honors thesis with Professor Arnold Eisen on the post-modern mystical theology of Rabbi Arthur Green. Interested in creating spiritual experiences that integrate the spirit, body and mind, that meld music and harmony with intellectual rigor, Lizzi has studied Buddhism and every flavor of Judaism. She developed and performed music with the Nava Tehila Levites in Jerusalem, and the IKAR Davening Team in Los Angeles, has worked closely with organizations including the Jewish Farm School, the American Jewish World Service, Hazon, and Avodah, and other organizations doing work in the realms of environmental sustainability, local and global human rights.

When Lizzi returned to Chicago in Summer of 2011, she realized that Chicago lacked what Los Angeles and New York have become known for: young, dynamic spiritual communities that resonate with the next generation, as well as people who have felt on the fringes of the Jewish community: queer Jews, people in interfaith relationships, spiritual seekers, Jews of color, Jews by choice. Mishkan was born out of, and seeks to fill, this gap on Chicago’s spiritual landscape. If we’re doing our job right, you will walk out of an experience at Mishkan knowing that Judaism is alive with Spirit, connection, spiritual and intellectual challenge, and moral awakening.

Rabbi Deena Cowans

Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Deena Cowans is thrilled to return to her hometown of Chicago (technically, she grew up in Glencoe, but O’Hare is her hometown airport and the Bulls are her hometown basketball team). Deena was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2020, where she also received a Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Before coming to Mishkan, Deena served in rabbinic and chaplain roles around the country, including as the Family Programs Director at Congregation Ansche Chesed, as the Director of Education at Camp Ramah in the Rockies, and as the Slifka Rabbinic Fellow at Cornell University. She also completed two 400-hour chaplain training units, one in a hospice setting and one in a prison-reentry organization in East Harlem. Prior to enrolling at JTS, Deena received a Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA from Duke University. 

In her free time, she enjoys training for and running marathons, practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, and spending time with her fiancé Zack and their dog Ash.