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Shoshana Nambi (she/her), our Rabbinic Intern, grew up in Mbale, Uganda’s Abayudaya Jewish community, learning Hebrew at the nearby synagogue and teaching songs and the Torah portion to young children. Shoshana, who is interested in sharing, will undoubtedly introduce her new Rodeph Sholom community to Ugandan Jewish traditions.
After graduating from the University of Kampala in 2011, she worked three summers as camp counselor and Tefillah coordinator at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA. Having learned more about Judaism there paved the way to her dream of becoming a rabbi. After a year studying Hebrew and Jewish texts at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, she was offered admission to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and spent her first year at its Jerusalem campus.
Along with her 12-year-old daughter, Emunah, who is a student at Schechter Manhattan, we welcome Shoshana who hopes: “Most importantly, I am on my way to becoming a Jewish leader myself, just like the leaders I admired growing up.”
Cantor Shayna De Lowe (she/her) is our Senior Cantor. Shayna has dedicated her career to Congregation Rodeph Sholom, beginning her role in our community directly after being ordained from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music in 2007. Growing up in a very small, tight-knit Jewish community in the Midwest, Shayna never imagined finding her spiritual home in one of the largest congregations in the country, but she was immediately drawn in by the warmth and connection she found at CRS.
The feeling of connection was so impactful in Shayna’s life that she has focused her work in the cantorate on helping others find connection and fulfillment. Shayna is a seeker, always looking for more ways to deepen spirituality in both herself and others. She is a graduate of the Clergy Leadership Program through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which trains clergy in the study of Hasidic text, chant, meditation, silence, and yoga. This program fueled Shayna’s search for different avenues of spiritual connection at CRS and she dives into this work in various ways. Shayna helped develop a special needs B’nai Mitzvah program which opens Jewish tradition to families with all kinds of needs. She created an American Sign Language choir, combining ASL and singing to offer prayer in a medium accessible to those in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. In 2016, she and Rabbi Spratt created Minyan, a small-group initiative focused on making deep connections between members of the CRS community. This is the first initiative of its kind at Rodeph Sholom.
Shayna has also made social action and social justice a focus of her work here. As the clergy liaison to the Social Action committee, she partners with congregants as well as outside organizations to maintain CRS’s commitment to bettering the world. Actions include becoming a sponsor through the HIAS domestic refugee resettlement that resulted in CRS resettling five refugees to America, supporting and expanding the Backpack Buddies weekend food program, supporting the work of Days for Girls, and helping to run the Homeless Shelter that is at the heart of our synagogue. Shayna sees it as the job of each person to continue the work of making the world better and she strives to instill that value throughout the CRS community.
Called to the cantorate by the desire to use music to guide people as they navigate their own spiritual path and to bring people closer to one another, Shayna continues to be called by that desire and is honored to do this work at Congregation Rodeph Sholom.
Rabbi Robert N. Levine, DD, led Congregation Rodeph Sholom for three decades, its tenth Senior Rabbi from 1991 to 2021. An inspiring teacher, speaker, counselor, and frequent guest of local and national media, he has been beloved by congregants and community alike.
Rabbi Levine was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1977 and received his Doctor of Divinity Degree in March 2002. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia College.
Rabbi Levine is the author of three books. What God Can Do For You Now: For Seekers Who Want to Believe; Where Are You When I Need You? Befriending God When Life Hurts; and There Is No Messiah and You’re It: The Stunning Transformation of Judaism’s Most Provocative Idea.
Especially active in communal affairs, he is a past President of the New York Board of Rabbis, as well as having served as Vice-President and Chairman of its Interfaith Committee. He was Chair of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue with the Archdiocese of New York, the publications committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and is a member of the Commission of Religious Leaders of New York City, the American Jewish Committee, and Synergy/UJA Federation. He serves on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Advocacy Board and the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council.
Among his many awards are the New York Board of Rabbis’ Maria and Joel Finkle Prize for Rabbi of the Year; the International Humanitarian Award by the World Union for Progressive Judaism alongside Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel; the Westy Award from the West Side Spirit; the Champion of Choice from NARAL; the All Stars Project Bridge Building Award for Leadership in Community Relations; and he was inducted into the Manhattan Jewish Hall of Fame in 2020 by the Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative.
Rabbi Levine is married to Gina Stahl Levine and together they are the proud parents of Judah and daughter-in-law Emily, Ezra and daughter-in-law Katie and grandson Eli, and Maya and her partner Ben.
Rabbi Greg D. Weitzman (he/him), our Associate Rabbi, started his tenure at Congregation Rodeph Sholom as Rabbinic Intern in 2012, working closely with our youth groups. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City in May 2015 and installed as our Assistant Rabbi later that year. Rabbi Weitzman tends to the needs of his congregants who are in major transitional moments of their lives. He sees to those individuals who are interested in becoming Jewish through our Jewish Basics program and families new to the Rodeph Sholom community through our Sholom Sprouts program. Working closely with our partner, West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Rabbi Weitzman is a forceful advocate in fighting food insecurity in New York City.
His enduring passion for Jewish education began at Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, followed by three years at Central Synagogue as a full-time teacher and Youth Director. Besides meeting his future wife Ashley there, he spent many years at Eisner Camp as a camper, counselor, song leader, and Education Director. Dedicated to building community amongst young Jewish professionals, he was instrumental in the success of NextDOR NYC, a pilot initiative sponsored by Synagogue 3000 in which he was co-director, and Shabbat Unplugged where he used his musical skills as bandleader. Greg grew up in Stony Brook, NY and graduated with a BA from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2005. Ashley and Greg, who were married here at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, live in Manhattan with their daughter Eden, son Jonathan, and their Goldendoodle Chewbacca. With a warm and joyful outlook and always available for a chat and a nosh, Rabbi Weitzman is beloved by congregants and students alike.
Rabbi Juliana Schnur Karol (she/her) is our Associate Rabbi. She served for three years as CRS’s rabbinical intern and upon her ordination from HUC-JIR in 2018 she was installed as our Assistant Rabbi.
She attended New York University, earning her BA summa cum laude in Spanish Literature and Jewish History in 2008 and her MA in Jewish History in 2011. Prior to enrolling at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City (HUC-JIR), Rabbi Karol worked in international relations at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, France. She moved to Washington, DC to serve as legislative assistant and then projects coordinator at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She returned to New York City as assistant to the then president-elect of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and then became coordinator of strategic initiatives. During her tenure at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Karol served as co-coordinator of the HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen where she led a successful capital campaign to renovate the kitchen facilities. Rabbi Karol is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, the Tisch Rabbinical Fellowship, and the American Jewish World Service Global Justice Fellowship, and a Senior Fellow of Humanity in Action. She is proud to serve on the Board of American Friends of the Parents Circle — Family Forum a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization working toward peace and reconciliation. Juli grew up in Scarsdale, NY and now lives in Manhattan with her husband Adam and their two children.
Deborah Goldberg (she/her) is thrilled to be the new assistant rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. She was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, OH in May 2021. Deborah attended Washington University in St. Louis, MO, where she studied history and political science, graduating with college honors in 2013. She grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent her summers as a camper, staff member, and unit head in Wisconsin at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, the Reform Movement’s first summer camp. Deborah returned to camp for two summers during rabbinical school to serve as the summer program director. Before starting her studies at HUC-JIR, she served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC, and as the teen programs coordinator at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago, IL.
While at rabbinical school, Deborah served as the rabbinic intern at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Columbus, OH, for two years. She also served communities in Grand Forks, ND, and Sandusky, OH. Deborah spent a year as a chaplain in hospitals and senior residences around the Cincinnati area where she focused on providing pastoral care and building relationships with patients, residents of senior living facilities, and their families. Her capstone project was a curriculum titled “Exploring Emotions in the Bible: A Curriculum for Jewish Teenagers.” In her time at HUC-JIR, Deborah was selected for numerous fellowships focusing on Israel studies. She is the proud recipient of the Rabbi Morris H. Youngerman Memorial Prize for best sermon delivered during the academic year. She is passionate about building Jewish communities that are warm and inclusive, that enrich people’s lives with meaningful Jewish engagement, and that help people feel connected to Judaism and each other. When she isn’t working or reading for fun, you can find Deborah exploring museums, trying new restaurants, or walking her recently adopted beagle, Kelly.
Stefano Iacono (he/him), our new Assistant Cantor, was ordained as Cantor from HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York City in May 2021. Cantor Iacono (pronounced ya-ko-no) brings his deep sense of Jewish spirituality to the CRS community. His goal, as he puts it: “To enhance prayer and foster learning. To share in celebration and mourning. To connect with one another as we seek connection with God. To make distance feel close.”
For the past four years, Stefano served as Student Cantor of Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, NY, leading services and teaching in their religious school. An alumnus of the Weitzman-JDC-HUC-JIR Fellowship for Global Jewish Leaders, he traveled to India in 2019 where he found a centuries-long legacy of Jewish community and thought anew about global Jewish peoplehood. Cantor Iacono composes Hebrew texts to various musical genres and traditions, his way of celebrating the diversity of Jewish expression in worship and ritual. A native of San Antonio, Stefano lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Alex and their conure, Gandhi.
HHD 5782 Tech Town Hall from Congregation Rodeph Sholom on Vimeo.
Ben Spratt (he/him) is the 11th Senior Rabbi in Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s distinguished 179-year history. He previously served as our Senior Associate Rabbi and the Rabbi in Residence of Rodeph Sholom School. His Jewish journey took him from the Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Renewal worlds to becoming ordained from the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, and eventually landing him as Rabbi here, one of the country’s renowned Reform congregations.
It is with a passionate drive that he works to build and shape community beyond existent boundaries. In 2009, Ben helped found CRS’s Shireinu, an inclusion initiative for Jewish families with special needs that now serves as a spiritual model for synagogues and churches around the world. With prominently featured articles in the New York Times, The Jewish Week, Autism Speaks, Huffington Post, Jewish Journal, and Times of Israel, the Shireinu program has also received numerous national awards and grants including the Union for Reform Judaism’s Exemplar Award for Inclusion and the UJA-Federation of New York’s First Place Synagogue Inclusion Award. Ben serves as co-chair of Inclusion and Disability Awareness for the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In 2014, he co-founded Tribe, a joint initiative to engage Jewish Millennials through grassroots leadership and a community of empowerment. In 2016, Rabbi Spratt and Cantor Shayna De Lowe collaborated to reimagine the future of a large legacy congregation, planting the seeds of Minyan, a Jewish small-group-based approach to human flourishing through connection. In 2017, he was co-editor of a special symposium edition of the CCAR’s Reform Jewish Quarterly Journal on Millennial Engagement and sparked the New Day Fellowship to foster connection between Muslim and Jewish Millennials.
Emily Anabeth Hoolihan (she/her), our Cantorial intern, is currently a fourth year Cantorial student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. She spent her first year of HUC-JIR studying in Jerusalem before moving to New York City in 2019.
She is also receiving a second masters degree in Jewish Non-Profit Management from the Zelikow School of Jewish Non-Profit Management in Los Angeles. Emily will be the first cantorial student ever to graduate with these dual masters degrees. Before attending HUC-JIR, Emily was the Development Manager and an actor of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, known for its recently successful production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Originally from San Diego, California, Emily attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, minoring in Music and Jewish Studies. Passionate for artistry, innovation, and Jewish music, Emily led the Reform services at her Hillel as a song-leader and worked at Temple Keneseth Israel as a Religious School teacher during her undergraduate studies. Emily previously worked as the cantorial intern for Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, NY and Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, NY. Emily now happily lives in Hell’s Kitchen with her fiancé, Francesca, their dog Kiwi, and their two cats, Hugo and Finn.
Lyndsie joins the team at Congregation Rodeph Sholom bringing with her years of experience in the world of fundraising. Most recently, she worked at CCS, an international fundraising consulting firm that helps non-profit organizations in all sectors maximize their impact through philanthropy. At CCS, Lyndsie worked on an array of development projects with a number of organizations including Riverside Park Conservancy, The Nightingale-Bamford School, Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, and Sarasota Opera.
She has conducted development assessments, feasibility and campaign planning studies, served as campaign counsel for multi-million dollar fundraising efforts, and most recently, assumed the role of Interim Director of Development at The Gateway Schools. Prior to her time at CCS, Lyndsie was a member of the Planned Giving and Endowments team at UJA-Federation of NY. She attended the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU where she concentrated in Judaic Studies and Non-Profit Management.
Scott Hertz joined Congregation Rodeph Sholom of New York City as the Director of Engagement and Program in July 2019. Prior to this role, he spent three years as Director of Marketing and Communications for the Jewish Community Project in Lower Manhattan. Scott began his career at the Union for Reform Judaism where he spent 14 years as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Camp, NFTY and Israel programs. Scott graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. A lifelong product of the Reform Movement, Scott grew up at Congregation Emanu El in Houston and he has been a camper, staff, faculty and camp committee member at the URJ Greene Family Camp and URJ Kutz Camp.
Lisa Schiff is an experienced early childhood educator with a special expertise in programming for Jewish enrichment. She holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College and a second Masters Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Lisa creates grownup and me classes, Shabbat and holiday experiences that provide opportunities for family togetherness and connect families with young children to Jewish life at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Lisa has been with our congregation for 5 years and lives on the Upper West Side with her husband David and their children Shayna and Ari.
Our initiative for young children and their grown-ups provides a slate of offerings including Shabbat and holiday celebrations, music, classroom readiness programs, and new parent experiences. During the pandemic, we have leaned on $1m of seed funding for Sholom Sprouts established through this campaign as we offer age-appropriate virtual programs for our families with young children, who are the future of our community. We look forward to welcoming our littlest members and their grown-ups back to our new fifth floor, as well as hiring a Program Assistant to increase the capacity of Sholom Sprouts to grow. This program provides a crucial entry-point to the congregation and membership for young families.
Providing dues assistance to any family in need is a core value of our synagogue. Especially during times of crisis such as the last 18 months, no one should have to worry about being able to afford their CRS support system. The $2m Accessibility Fund created by this campaign ensures that no family will be turned away if not in a position to pay full membership dues. We incrementally draw funds out of the Accessibility Fund each year to support our operating budget and cover increases in dues assistance.
Despite the instability of the world, CRS is here to stay. Much of the reason for this is the existence of our endowment, which we will ultimately grow by roughly $8m through this campaign. To provide for our long-term financial stability, perpetuate our meaningful traditions, and allow for continual innovation to serve our ever-evolving Jewish community, a strong endowment is essential.
We completely reconfigured our fifth floor and developed a space that is modem, developmentally appropriate, competitive with other local programs, and specifically designed for our Religious School and Sholom Sprouts programs. Upon our return to the building, we look forward to the floor becoming a place where children can grow and where parents can build friendships and connections that deepen their ties to each other, our clergy, and the Rodeph Sholom community.
We transformed a portion of our third floor into a home for three of our rabbis in order to unify their work environment, provide quiet waiting and meeting spaces for congregants seeking pastoral services, and better reflect the high regard in which we hold our clergy.
Our new lobby is an open and welcoming entry point to our congregation. We also enhanced security by relocating the security desk into the vestibule between the main entrance and the lobby, and created a Community Room for informal gathering and space for onegs that includes a CRS history exhibit. If you join us in person these High Holy Days, we hope you will be delighted with the new space.
Why a light for a yahrzeit
The yahrzeit light shines with the light of their souls
The yahrzeit light glows with the love they shared with us during their lives
The yahrzeit light dances with the laughter they brought out in us
The yahrzeit light allows us to look back and remember the best of times we shared with them
The yahrzeit light reminds us that although the dawn comes up without them, they want us to go on and carry out our shared goals
They brought light into our lives and the yarzeit light reminds us that they are counting on us to leave a shared legacy to make this a better world
We must take this external light and rekindle the light in our souls
In doing so they live with us as long as we live
Through us may their light glow on
Love song to the woman who sits
alone in her house mourning her mother.
Her voice echoes off hardwood floors.
She pours a cup of tea
and lifts it, steaming, to her lips.
Love song to the steam that tingles
against her weathered cheeks.
Alone in her house mourning her mother –
she yearns to chide old dear friends
for bending over to sweep up crumbs.
Love song to the old dear friends
who filled her home when her husband died –
the buzz of their voices mingled with her laughter and sobs.
Alone in her house mourning her mother
she aches for the smell of their coffee.
Love song to the coffee percolating in the dining room
to the cakes and bagels piled on trays
to the leftovers she apportioned into Tupperware
to the pile of coats on the bed, which now is bare and she –
alone in the house mourning her mother.
Alone in the house mourning her mother
she cooks her own dinner and eats it,
washes the dishes, and puts them away.
She cradles the cup of tea in her hands –
Love song to the hands longing to be held.
When the time has come,
When we leave this physical plane,
We do not depart into blackness,
We do not disappear into nothingness.
We transition from here to there,
From life among the breathing
To a place of profound security,
Safe at the right hand of Our Creator
No longer do we dance the dance of frailty.
No longer are we confined by the limits of body.
At last we are free to allow our souls to take wing,
At last we can know the splendors of the Shechinah.
We grieve at this time, we feel heartache and loss,
Yet the departure of our loved ones is freedom for them.
The ones we love, now know the blessings of Adonai,
And they are bathed in the brilliance of G-d’s mercy.
With heart and mind, memories are sustained,
As they are forever bound to those who remember them.
The wings of Sukkat Shalom embrace them in love,
And they are granted peace and joy for all eternity.
May the One who heals, heal us all.
May those who suffered find sanctuary.
May The Giver of Life comfort us in mourning,
And may we find we are better for having known them.
The journey through grief
So vast, dark, and uncertain
Where is my compass
God, are you with me
I search, eyes closed, heart open
Oh Source of comfort
I cry out in tears
A primal ache in my soul
Help me to find you
Prayer is hard for me
How do I speak to you God
Tears flow down my cheeks
They carry in them
All the words I cannot say
Hear them God, hear them…
I ask, Ayekah?
In the still quiet moments
The wind whispers back
I listen closely
Hineni, the wind calls out
Here I am, with you
The journey is long
The gentle breeze carries me
Forward with God’s grace
Accessibility efforts of the early aughts started a larger dialogue about inclusion. How could we better serve those for whom attending a religious service was difficult? In 2010, we inaugurated first Shireinu special needs worship service at Rosh Hashanah. CRS now leads four holiday Shireinu services each year.
The way we live now175 years after our founding, Congregation Rodeph Sholom remains a steadfast beacon for Judaism and celebrating Jewish traditions. We are also a nimble and adaptable institution that strives to serve our people and community now and for generations to come.
We’re not just getting better—we’re getting older! CRS took on some major capital projects in this era. Accessibility and space upgrades ensure optimal access and worship experience for our congregants.
In 125 years, Congregation Rodeph Sholom has had four senior rabbis. Our number four , Rabbi Robert N. Levine, is celebrating 25 years along with the shul’s 175th. The 1990s also saw CRS making a bold move with new clergy.
Tikkun olam, in the form of sewing, helping the poor, and making contributions to worthy causes were part of CRS from the first day. In this era, we upped our game considerably.
Education was a top priority for Rodeph Sholom, which made some first-ever moves by a Reform congregation.
With early waves of immigration now mostly a faint memory, younger generations were interested in reclaiming their identity, through learning Hebrew and travel to Israel. The Seven Day War of 1967 proved to be a strong rallying point for support of Israel and Jewish pride.
1940s and 50s – Rodeph Sholom worked hard to support the war effort, and to be essential part serving earlier pioneering generations as they grew into their retirement years in the 1950s. The 1950s was also an era of new view of early childhood education as a foundation for a good life, and CRS stepped up.
CRS roared through the 1920s in robust health, purchasing land for what is our current building and having an architect draw up plans. The early 30’s continued a trend at CRS that is still with us to this day—welcoming clergy and staff who choose to spend their entire careers at CRS.
As Jews began to assume leadership positions in political life and in industry, Jewish identity shifted to a strong emphasis on “being American.” Those of an older generation were disinclined to pass along fluency in Yiddish to their children and grandchildren. This was also an era where Jews served in large numbers fighting for their country.
An era of prosperity paved the way to assuring the future of Judaism in America, through founding new institutions and keeping up with the congregants.
In this era CRS functioned as a shul working steadily to ensure that Jews had wide and equal access to American health care and social welfare.
As Rodeph Sholom became an established shul, leadership and congregants pursued tikkun olam and its central role in the serving the Jewish Community.
In the 1840s, the Lower East Side, new Americans flooded into the city. Many used their new freedom to practice religion to set up houses of worship that would also serve as centers of social and cultural life
1980s – Tikkun olam, in the form of sewing, helping the poor, and making contributions to worthy causes were part of CRS from the first day. In this era, we upped our game considerably.