The Vice-Abbot and Senior Students are available for dokusan/practice discussion by phone, Skype,  or Zoom.  Contact info is included in the descriptions below.  For some in-depth reflections on the role of one-to-one encounters, please see:

Practice Discussion/Dokusan by Ryushin Andrea Thach
Meeting with a Teacher at BZC by Hozan Alan Senauke

Senior Students


Sojun Mel WeitsmanAbbot Sojun Mel Weitsman

Born in Los Angeles in 1929, Sojun’s broad life experience includes years of art study and abstract expressionist painting, work as a house painter,  boat painter, cab driver, and music instructor. Mel  lives in North Berkeley with his wife Liz; they have a son named Daniel.

In 1964, Sojun Roshi began to practice at San  Francisco Zen Center on Bush Street, and in  1969 he was ordained by Suzuki Roshi as resident priest at the Berkeley Zendo. He received Dharma Transmission from Suzuki Roshi’s son and successor, Gyugaku Hoitsu, at Rinsoin temple in Japan in 1984, and was officially installed as Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in 1985.

Along with his responsibilities in Berkeley, Sojun Roshi helps train students and teachers at several affiliated temples. From 1988 to 1997 he served as Co-Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. Sojun Roshi has given Dharma Transmission to numerous students, each of whom draws on their experience and understanding in offering Sojun and Suzuki Roshi’s teaching to others.

Vice-Abbot Hozan Alan Senauke

To arrange dokusan with Hozan Sensei, use his online calendar:  https://calendly.com/asenauke/dokusan   or contact Hannah Meara at hmeara@gmail.com.

Hozan Sensei began practicing at BZC on Dwight Way, and later
established his practice as a student of Sojun Roshi in the early 1980s. He was ordained as a Zen priest at BZC in 1989, receiving Dharma Transmission from Sojun at Tassajara in 1998. After serving as Tanto or Head of Practice at BZC since 1997, Hozan was installed as Vice Abbot in 2007. He is past president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association.

Hozan also has wide experience and a global perspective on engaged Buddhism as a force for social transformation. From 1991 he was in the leadership of Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the International Network of Engaged Buddhism. Hozan is founding director of Clear View Project, offering Buddhist-based resources and support, with a focus on Indian Dalit Buddhists, Myanmar and the Rohingyas, and prisoners in the U.S.

Hozan was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1947. He brings to our
sangha a rich life as a writer and editor, a social justice activist, and
respected folk musician. Alan has been a resident at Berkeley Zen Center for since 1985. He and his wife Laurie have two grown children, Silvie and Alex, who grew up at BZC.


Senior students at Berkeley Zen Center present public talks, lead classes and ceremonies, and offer practice discussion (formal and informal one-on-one meetings) with individual students. The following presents brief introductory information about these sangha members for those wishing to know more about the practice leadership in our community. Senior students may be contacted with information provided below, or in the membership directory, or as posted on the patio bulletin board.

Leslie Bartholic

Shinko Seiwa (Deep Lake Clear Peaceful)

Leslie began Zen practice in the early 90s with a Thich Nhat Hanh sitting group, and also participated in monthly sittings at Green Gulch Zen Center. She began her practice at Berkeley Zen Center in 1999 and received lay ordination from Sojun Roshi in 2002. She has held several practice positions at BZC, and served as Shuso in 2011. She currently co-leads a dharma group with her husband Jake. Leslie is co-teacher at Mount Diablo Zen Group in Pleasant Hill. She retired from teaching in the public schools in 2013, having worked as an inclusion specialist facilitating the education of students with severe disabilities. She volunteers at Mount Diablo State Park, and enjoys hiking Bay Area trails and exploring the wilderness areas of California. She lives in Pleasant Hill with Jake and their two cats.

read more about Leslie

Ross Blum with Sweetpea, the temple cat

Seishi Tetsudo (Pure Determination Penetrate Way)

Ross has lived in Zen temples over half his life. He began his practice in 1984 under the abbacy of Bernie Glassman at The Zen Community of New York. In 1987 he entered residency at Berkeley Zen Center and became a Lay Entrusted student of Sojun Roshi.

read more about Ross

Mary Duryee Mary Duryee

Honkyo Josu (Original home, stillness)

Mary is a retired psychologist and mediator. She grew up in the northwest, and came to the Bay Area to attend school in 1967, and has been here since. She first walked through the gate at BZC in 1993; received lay ordination from Sojun Mel Weitsman in 2004; and was head student (shuso) in 2017. She spends her time gardening, and when possible, in the wilderness, in a kayak or raft.

She is currently serving as the President of the Board of BZC.

read more about Mary

Judy Fleischman

Seicho Hoju (Essence Harmony Dharma Jewel)

Judy grew up in NYC and after years of study in
astrophysics, moved to Oregon and began Zen
practice in 1998. She continued in NYC in 2002,
feeling called to return there after 9/11, and began
to train in healthcare chaplaincy. She arrived at
BZC in 2013, where she has been practicing
along with Everyday Zen/Makor Or (guiding
teacher Norman Fischer) and Mindful
Peace building. Judy sees sangha life as
celebrating creativity, connection, and community
and this has informed her myriad adventures
ranging from rocket science (astrophysics) to
chaplaincy, community building, and arts/activism.

She received lay ordination in 2001 from Chozen
Jan Bays at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon
and priest ordination in 2005 from Enkyo O’Hara
at Village Zendo in NYC. From each of these
women, Judy learned expressions of Zen, which
include Soto and Rinzai practice, and integrate
arts, inter-religious dialogue, social justice, and
peacebuilding. Judy brings these perspectives in
appreciating koan practice (inhabiting a zen story)
and group dialogue in interplay with the heart of
our practice, zazen. Recognizing also the
importance of deep inquiry into systemic
expressions of exclusion in our psyches and
communities, she sees our practice opening new
pathways to transformation, healing, and the joy
of living in wonderment.

read more about Judy

AlexandraF Alexandra Frappier

Seishi Yusho (Clear Resolve Courageous Life)

Alexandra started formal practice in 1974 as a resident of an ashram for seven years, then joined the San Francisco Zen Center in 1987. She moved to Boulder, Colorado, practiced Tibetan Buddhism for 3 years, and returned to SFZC in 1993 as a resident. She received lay ordination in 1995, and in 1997 moved to Berkeley to practice at Berkeley Zen Center, whe shenow resides. She received priest ordination from Sojun Roshi in 2007, and was shuso in 2010. She has retired after working 30 years as a legal assistant.

read more about Alexandra

img_4048 Susan Marvin

Sen Tei Ko Kyo (Spring Garden Virtuous Presence)

Susan grew up in Vermont and came to San Francisco in 1980. A circuitous route led her to formal practice with Sojun Mel Weitsman at Berkeley Zen Center in 1991, where she immediately felt at home. She received lay ordination in 1995 . She left temple practice in 2003 for about a decade when she and her husband Victor were raising their child. She happily returned when their daughter was about to begin high school, and she was the head student (Shuso) in 2015. She was given Lay Entrustment in July 2019. She teaches English as a second language at Contra Costa College and City College of San Francisco. She studies voice and quite enjoys gardening, skiing, backpacking, and family life as well.

read more about Susan

Hannah Meara

Ki Jin Sei Sho (Resolute Compassion Clear Illumination)

Hannah began practice in the 90’s in Chicago temples and periods of work practice at Green Gulch Farm. In 2000 she retired early from a career in applied Sociology and began 6 years at San Francisco Zen Center: Tassajara, City Center and Green Gulch. She was ordained as a priest in 2006. Since then she has moved to be close to young granddaughters, first in Santa Cruz and now Berkeley. She was active in Santa Cruz Zen Center (also in Vipassina Santa Cruz) and served as Shuso. In December 2015 she moved to Berkeley and to practice at Berkeley Zen Center. Her dharma name was given last year by her teacher Hozan Alan Senauke.

read more about Hannah

Ron photo 09 Ron Nestor

So On So Do (Kind Plain Simple Ancestral Way)

Ron grew up in Berkeley and joined Berkeley Zen Center in the early 70s. He was a resident both at BZC’s first home on Dwight Way and later at Russell street. Ron was head student (shuso) in the early 90s and received lay entrustment in 2012. He lives with his wife in the Grand Lake district of Oakland,and before retirement was the massage & maintenance manager of a large yoga & massage center in San Francisco. He is currently BZC class coordinator.

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Gerry Oliva Gerry Oliva

Seisen Ikushin (Pure Spring Nourishing Heart)

Gerry began Zen practice in 1989 at Green Gulch Zen Center and has studied with Tenshin Reb Anderson. She transitioned to practice at Berkeley Zen Center in 1996 and was lay ordained by Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1997. She was Shuso at BZC in 2008. She spent several 3-month practice periods at Tassajara Mountain Zen Center. She received priest ordination from Sojun Roshi in September of 2012 and Dharma Transmission in 2017. Gerry facilitates the BZC Wednesday night drop-in group. Gerry is a retired pediatrician with a focus on community public health on the faculty of UCSF Medical School for over 20 years. She still does some part-time consulting for UCSF. She has two grown sons and one grandchild and delights in kayaking, birding, hiking and family life.

read more about Gerry

Peter Overton

Unzan Kakudo (Cloud Mountain Realize the Way)

Peter first came to Berkeley Zen Center in 1969, and practiced here, at Zen Mountain Center, and at San Francisco Zen Center until 1984, when he and his wife Susan returned to Berkeley to raise their family. He has made Berkeley Zen Center his practice home since that time. While in San Francisco, he managed the Tassajara Bakery for six years, and was ordained by Zentatsu Baker Roshi in 1978, and served as shuso at Tassajara in 1983. He received dharma transmission from Sojun Roshi in 2015. Peter has an ongoing interest in how we speak with each other, both inside and outside of sangha settings, and has held study groups at BZC on non-violent communication (NVC) and right speech.

read more about Peter

Carol Paul

Shiken Seigetsu (Intention Clear / Serene Moon)

Carol entered BZC’s gate in the Fall 2002. She was lay ordained by Darlene Cohen in 2001. Over the years, she has held a variety of practice positions at BZC including Head Chiden, Saturday Director, Sesshin Director, Head Server and Co-Zendo Manager. She spent 2 practice periods at Tassajara in 2009 and again in 2011. Carol has been on the Board serving as Vice President from 2018 and will serve through 2021. While in the workforce, Carol primarily worked in Human Resources in various positions in the Bay area. In September 2017, she received priest ordination by Sojun Mel Weitsman as Shiken Seigetsu – Intention Clear, Serene Moon and served as Shuso in Spring 2019. She currently co-leads a Monday night group in San Rafael called Marin Zen Meditation.

read more about Carol

Laurie Senauke

Kosei Nyokai (Radiant Vow Ocean of Suchness)

Laurie started formal Zen practice in 1980 at San Francisco Zen Center; she worked at Greens restaurant back in the day, and lived at Tassajara for three years. In 1989 she married Hozan Alan Senauke, moved to Berkeley Zen Center, and raised her their two children. After several years of intense focus on child-rearing, she gradually returned to more involvement in formal practice. She served as head student (shuso) at BZC in 2003 and received lay recognition in 2006. In April 2018, she received priest ordination from Daito Steven Weintraub as Kosei Nyokai – Radiant Vow, Suchness Ocean. She practices hypnotherapy and has been co-leading “Write What You Don’t Know” retreats at San Francisco Zen Center.

read more about Laurie

Karen Karen Sundheim

Nyu U Ho Sho (Gentle Rain Dharma Blossom)

Karen has practiced at the Berkeley Zen Center since 1976. In addition, from 1978 to 1993 she studied Tibetan Buddhism with Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche and Vipassana meditation with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. She received Lay Ordination at BZC in 1996, was Shuso in 2006, and received Lay Entrustment from Sojun Roshi in 2010. During her nearly 44 years at BZC she has held many practice positions, including Sesshin Director, Tenzo, and Librarian. She currently leads a dharma study group and teaches Dharma in prisons and libraries. She worked for many years at the San Francisco Public Library, where she was Program Manager of the James C. Hormel LGBT Center. She lives with her wife Nancy and and cat Bella in Oakland.

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Andrea Thach

Yakuso Ryushin (Healing Source / Dragon Heart

Andrea began formal practice in 1994 in the Vipassana tradition. In 1997 she joined a Buddhist Peace Fellowship program for socially engaged study and practice and met Kushin Maylie Scott, who became her first teacher and lay ordained her in 2000. Andrea has practiced at BZC since 1999, was ordained in 2005, was shuso in 2009 and received dharma transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman in 2015. She also has studied with Shohaku Okumura for many years. After a rewarding “post transmission fellowship” at Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham, WA, she returned in 2019 to continue practice at her home temple and medical practice in the communities she loves.
read more about Andrea

Penelope Thompson

Luminous Heart

Penelope has been a practicing Buddhist since 1987; her first teacher was Thich Nhat Hanh, with whom she studied in Plum Village, France and she attended many of his US retreats. She is a member of his Order of Interbeing. She led a sangha in Los Angeles for 10 years; at the same time, she participated in a traveling sangha for 9 years, studying with Spirit Rock teachers. In 2000, she joined the Zen Center of Los Angeles(ZCLA) and studied with Roshi Egyoku Nakao. She was a resident member for 11 years and served many positions. She was shuso in 2009 for a year. She moved to the East Bay in 2016, joined BZC, where she serves on the Membership and HEAR committees. She is a retired clinical psychologist and hospice chaplain. Currently she sings in a Threshold choir, at bedsides for terminally ill persons. She has one grown daughter, who lives in Berkeley. She is a poet and a lover of poetry.

read more about Penelope

Jake_Van_Akkeren Jake Van Akkeren

Hoshin Bokuren (Dharma Faith Unadorned/Straightforward Practice)

Jake began practicing at Berkeley Zen Center in 1998 and was lay ordained in 2001 by Sojun Roshi. He was shuso in 2013 and received lay entrustment in 2017. He currently co-leads a dharma group with his wife Leslie Bartholic. Over the years he has held a variety of practice positions at BZC and also served on the BZC board for ten years including being president. Now retired, he taught for many years in the California public school system. Jake lives in Pleasant Hill with his wife and their two cats. He enjoys his volunteer work with the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, Sierra Club and Burton Valley Elementary School. His interests include reading, hiking, backpacking, bicycling and senior softball.

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Ellen Webb

Maiko Kashin (Dancing Light, Open Heart)

Ellen was born and raised in Berkeley, CA. She has been dancer, choreographer and teacher for most of her life. Ellen now lives in Oakland where she raised two children. She began her Zen practice with Joko Beck and Diane Rizzeto at the Bay Zen Center in Oakland in 1992. In 2002 she began practicing at BZC and received lay ordination from Sojun Roshi in 2010. She was the head student (Shuso) at BZC in 2018. Ellen enjoys hiking and backpacking and helps lead the Hills and Streams sesshins.

read more about Ellen

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