Teachers & Other Leaders

Senior Teaching Community *:  Edward Oberholtzer, Jeff Seul, Julie Nelson, Fran Ludwig
Assistant Teachers: Rebecca Behizadeh, Mike Behizadeh, Pierce Butler, Jill Gaulding, Karen McCormackJames Peregrino, Brian Rarey
Practice Leaders: Rebecca Doverspike, Hussein Elgridly, Harry Gordon,  Jim Lopata, Nick Patterson
Other Community Leaders: Vincent Cho, Libby Fay, Cheryl Morrow
Retired Teachers
Note on Teaching Roles
*Note on Former Spiritual Director
To contact a member of the leadership, please email [email protected].

Senior Teaching Community

Edward Sanshin Oberholtzer, Sensei

Edward Sanshin Oberholtzer is a Soto Zen priest, ordained by James Myoun Ford, Roshi in 2007 and given Denbo transmission in June of 2021. Edward was practice leader of the Spring Hill Zen Sangha back in the days when it sat in a dank basement in Davis Square, Somerville and long before it became one of the sanghas that gave birth to Greater Boston Zen Center. He currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where he serves as the resident priest and teacher of the Joseph Priestley Zen Sangha and is an affiliate community minister with the local Unitarian Universalist church. He is also a teacher with the Empty Moon Sangha in Long Beach, California. Edward is deeply grateful for the wonders of video conferencing, but looks forward to us all being together.

Jeff Kōgen Seul, Sensei

Jeff Kōgen Seul is a Zen teacher and preceptor in the White Plum Asanga (the lineage of Taizan Maezumi, Roshi).  He received Denbo transmission from Kevin Jiun Hunt, Roshi, in 2018.  Tibetan monks taught Jeff to meditate in the late 1980s.  Raised a Roman Catholic, Jeff then practiced Centering Prayer under the direction of Thomas Keating for a few years while also sitting zazen and studying Kyudo (Zen archery) with Kanjuro Shibata XX, Sensei, the Imperial Bowmaker of Japan.  Jeff became part of GBZC’s predecessor sangha after moving to Cambridge many years ago to attend Harvard Divinity School.  A practicing lawyer, Jeff is engaged in conflict resolution and peacebuilding work through the Peace Appeal, an international NGO, and he teaches at HDS as Lecturer on the Practice of Peace.  Jeff lives in Boston with his wife, Esther Whitfield, and their two children.

Julie Seido Nelson, Dharma Holder

Julie Nelson is the Interim Spiritual Director of GBZC. She has practiced Zen since about 2003. She is a professor of economics (emeritus) at UMass Boston; a writer on gender, ethics, economics, ecology, and Zen; the mother of two grown children. She received Denkai transmission from Kate Hartland in May 2021. Julie leads the Tuesday evening sits at  GBZC (Cambridge) and organizes the teaching for Saturday mornings (Cambridge). Some of her writings on Zen are available on her blog. She has taken on the gold rakusu and ISD position on the understanding that the sangha will help her (in the words of another Zen teacher) be honest, try her best, follow the precepts, and not pretend to be anyone.

Fran Kainyo Ludwig, Senior Assistant Teacher

Fran Ludwig began her Zen practice in 2007. She’s been practicing with this community since 2019. She coleads, along with Brian Rarey, Mustard Seed Sangha, the GBZC affiliate practice group in Middletown, CT. She is active in the mental health community and serves on the board of a large mental health nonprofit in Connecticut. Fran has an interest in the work of Byron Katie, Ken Wilber, and Gerry Shishin Wick and the integration of western psychology into Zen practice.

Assistant Teachers

Rebecca Behizadeh

Rebecca Behizadeh began her practice of Buddhism in Nepal and India in 2011, and lived for a year at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and worked for a number of years for Life Together, a leadership development program of the Episcopal Diocese of MA. She has served as GBZC’s coordinator for Racial and Social Justice, and currently serves as the president of GBZC’s board of directors.

Mike Koshin Behizadeh

Mike Behizadeh has been practicing with this community since 2008. He works in the technology sector, and has an abiding love for the outdoors, especially hiking the White Mountains, as well as a deep commitment to caring for the earth. He regularly organizes Sangha hikes through the Middlesex Fells, and serves as the Facilities Manager for GBZC—and he’s also a haiku poet.

Pierce Shinki Butler

Pierce Butler is an emeritus professor of English at Bentley College where he taught English literature and writing for 32 years, including a signature course entitled Literature of the Spiritual Journey. He's been a student of Zen for more than 20 years, he has practiced with this community since 2013, and is an Assistant Teacher at GBZC. He studied the work of G. I. Gurdjieff for many years in a 4th Way community in Massachusetts, and he is the author of A Child of the Sun, a historical novel about Katherine Mansfield's sojourn at the Gurdjieff Institute. He also leads prison sanghas at Northeast Correctional Center and MCI Concord.

Jill Shishin Gaulding

Jill Gaulding is an Assistant Teacher, a Practice Leader on Saturday mornings, a member of the GBZC board of directors, lead for the Programming Working Group, and a participant in Watering the Seeds and the LGBTQIA+ Group. A former attorney and co-founder of the advocacy group Gender Justice, she's currently a chaplain and executive director for Chaplains on the Way in Waltham.

Karen Kyoko McCormack

Karen McCormack is a founding practice leader of GBZC’s LGBTQIA+ sitting group and has been practicing with this community since 2007. She’s also a transition and employment specialist at Perkins School for the Blind who, along with her partner, is the loving parent of two dogs. Karen occasionally co-teaches GBZC’s Introduction to Zen Series.

James Musoku Peregrino

James Peregrino has been practicing with this community since 2006. He currently serves as practice leader on Tuesday nights and co-practice leader for GBZC's POC sitting group. He has been working in IT at Harvard since before the dawn of the Internet and dancing Mexican baile folklorico all his adult life.

Brian Kenkan Rarey

Brian Rarey’s practice began approximately 14 years ago, and he has been practicing with GBZC for 7 years. He is currently co-practice leader at Mustard Seed Sangha. He loves this practice of one continuous mistake.

Practice Leaders

Rebecca Doverspike

Rebecca Doverspike works as an Interfaith hospital chaplain, drawing from Zen practice.  She loves the ways poetry and Zen speak to one another (you can read her chapbook Every Present Thing a Ghost from Slapering Hol Press), and co-leads an Arts as Spiritual Practice group at GBZC. Rebecca is a Practice Leader on Saturday mornings, is also involved in the Communications and Development Working Groups, and serves as a Clerk on the board. She loves the forest, swimming in lakes or sea, and making art for friends. She has found the GBZC community deepens her practice on this path.

Hussein Elgridly

Hussein has been sitting with GBZC since 2015, and is a Practice Leader on Tuesday evenings. He wants you to know that there is nothing you need to be, or do, or know, to come here. When not practising not-thinking, he likes to cook, climb, and sail.

Harry Gordon

You’ll generally find Harry Gordon at GBZC on Saturday mornings, where he gratefully serves as a practice leader during our regular sit. If there's a Sesshin being offered, he's there. In his daily life he’s a freelance copywriter, comedian, and commercial actor.

Jim Lopata

Jim Lopata is a Practice Leader at GBZC. He loves the challenge of employing skillful means to slip Buddhist principles into his work as an executive coach. He holds a master degree from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied Buddhism. He’s fascinated by the concept and reality of Boston Common, where you may see him wandering around aimlessly, or with great intent.

Nick Patterson

Nick Patterson has been practicing Buddhism for 30 years, mostly in the Zen tradition. You will find him regularly on Tuesday evenings at GBZC. A long time ago he was a master-strength chess player. He is a geneticist who is retired from the Broad Institute, but still working actively at Harvard to understand human genetic history.

Other Community Leaders

Vincent Togen Cho

Vincent Cho co-organizes the Persons of Color Sitting Group at GBZC with James Peregrino. He is an associate professor at Boston College in the field of educational leadership. He has two children and one dog. Although he has been scared off of Zen on more than one occasion in life, he has always come back. 

Libby Fay

Elizabeth (Libby) Fay is a Member at Large on the GBZC Board, and has been a GBZC sangha member since 2017. She is a professor of English at UMass Boston where she teaches British Romantic literature, is currently finishing her tenth scholarly book, and is also a series editor for UMass Press. She and her husband live in Cambridge, and are the proud parents of a daughter and an elderly miniature dachshund.

Cheryl Kinzen Morrow

Cheryl Morrow serves on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer of GBZC and is the head of the Finance Committee. She has been practicing with this community since 2011. For over 20 years she has run her own business as an engineering consultant with clients all over the world. She is now semi-retired and loves gardening and long walks with her dog in the woods. 

About Teaching Roles

Teaching roles at the Greater Boston Zen Center are designated by the following titles:  Sensei means “teacher” and indicates a teacher with full Dharma Transmission. A teacher who has been given only the first of two stages of Dharma Transmission is called a Dharma Holder. A Senior Assistant Teacher has not received transmission, but is authorized to give both Dharma talks and dokusan under supervision. Because of the extra ethical responsibilities that come with giving individualized spiritual guidance in dokusan, our Senior Teaching Community includes teachers with all of the above titles.  Assistant Teachers are senior students who may give talks under supervision. Practice Leaders are senior students who are knowledgeable about the forms of Zen practice and who may offer basic practice instruction to newcomers. Zen practitioners who ordain as priests, making a vow of service, may use the title Reverend.

*Note on Former Spiritual Director

Josh Bartok, former teacher and Spiritual Director, is no longer with GBZC. In December 2020 the GBZC board placed him on disciplinary suspension as a result of sexual misconduct and other abuses of power. Soon after that he resigned from all of his roles at GBZC.