We celebrate Sukkot to give thanks for the fall harvest. Meaning “booth,” a sukkah is a small outdoor hut built in our backyards, terraces, synagogues, and neighborhoods decorated with fruits and flowers. It is a place where we share our meals with family and friends. In fact, it is considered a mitzvah to enjoy this festival in the sukkah.
Torah tells us “to take the fruit of a beautiful tree” during Sukkot. The etrog is a citron, a fragrant fruit with a thick, white rind that ripens to a very bright yellow. Although bitter, it has a very strong citrus fragrance. The lulav is a combination of the date palm, willow, and myrtle held together by the woven palm branch. As we recite blessings over them, we wave the lulav in six directions (north, south, east, west, up, and down) to symbolize that God can be found everywhere.
The sukkah is also a reminder of the Israelites who lived in huts during the 40 years wandering in the desert after receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Thus, the end of Sukkot marks the beginning of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the festival of rejoicing in the Torah.
We begin this New Year, a new cycle of our Jewish lives, filled with gratitude. As we celebrate the earth’s bounty and once again begin the Book of Genesis, we are especially reminded of our abundant blessings. After all, the study of Torah leads to action. It is only appropriate that we at Rodeph Sholom, we pursuers of peace, include a social action project to celebrate Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Following the Sukkot Morning Service, we will join together to share our bounty by packing dignity kits for the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, which provides New Yorkers access to healthy food and supportive services. Please register to participate in this Mitzvah Project in person or via livestream!
Family Activities including flower chains, glitter webs, and paper lanterns to decorate your Sukkah.
Rabbi Sari Laufer teaches us how to say the blessings and shake the lulav.
BimBam’s Lego Sukkot Video
Pumpkin with Spiced Coconut Custard
Moroccan Sweet Couscous
Baked Stuffed Apples
Torah cannot be Torah without us; it needs us. Therefore, we must read it, we must study it, we must discuss it and debate it. We must carry it. We must dance among its verses, discovering ourselves in its chapters.
– Rabbi Steven Moskowitz, Congregation L’Dor V’Dor, Oyster Bay, NY
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah mark the end of the High Holy Days when we may simply acknowledge our fervent prayers and our relationship with God. The message that Simchat Torah conveys is how important Torah is in our Jewish lives, as a source of Jewish identity and the gift we received from God.
There is an enduring tradition on Simchat Torah. We take the Torah scrolls out of the ark to celebrate with much joy the completion and new beginning of the annual Torah reading cycle. In this time of celebration, we can rejoice that this CRS family is still together, still able to share our High Holy Days in impassioned prayer and reflection. May this notion serve to fortify our souls and strengthen our resolve to go from strength to strength.
PJ Library has 7 Fun Things to Do With Kids on Simchat Torah
Make Candy Torah Scrolls
Make Veggie Torah Scrolls
A Simchat Torah Prayer
Only a select few artists have the ability to convey their message to the back row, to galvanize an audience with a visceral power that connects on a universal level. David Krakauer is such an artist. Widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists on the planet with his own unique sound and approach, he has been praised internationally as a key innovator in modern klezmer as well as a major voice in classical music. In addition, his work has been recognized by major jazz publications around the world. He received a Grammy nomination as soloist with the conductorless chamber orchestra “A Far Cry”, received the Diapason D’Or in France for The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (Osvaldo Golijov and the Kronos Quartet/Nonesuch) and the album of the year award in the jazz category for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for The Twelve Tribes (Label Bleu).
Krakauer began his journey with the music of his Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage at the end of the 1980s as the Berlin Wall was falling, and culture from “behind the Iron Curtain” began to emerge in the West. Inspired by these massive cultural shifts, he began to explore klezmer music as he sought to connect with his Jewish identity in a deeper way. He very quickly became a creator in his own right; first as a member of the ground-breaking band “The Klezmatics” (that launched the second klezmer revival of the early 90s), then as an integral part of John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture movement, and ultimately as a composer, soloist, and band leader in the klezmer genre. He recently began composing and producing music for film, and 2020 saw him composing his first score with Kathleen Tagg for the full-length feture film (Minyan by Eric Steel).(nominated for best film at 2020 Berlin Film Festival & Winner of Grand Jury Prize for Best U.S. Narrative Feature at OUTFEST 2020). His second score in 2020 was for Jeremy Kagan’s animated short, Haftorahs. Haftorahs is an animated movie based on a series of drawings that are a response to each of the Haftorah portions read chronologically throughout the year.
His wide array of projects, solo appearances, and multi-genre collaborations includes ensembles, conductors, composers and individual artists such as the WDR Big Band, Abraham Inc. (co-led with Fred Wesley and Socalled), the Emerson Quartet, Marin Alsop, Wlad Mathulets, Leonard Slatkin (Orchestre de Lyon), Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Quatuor Debussy, JoAnn Falletta, George Tsontakis, Anakronic Electro Orkestra, and Kathleen Tagg (pianist and co-creator of Breath & Hammer).
Most recently Krakauer has been co-composing a number of large scale works with Kathleen Tagg including a fantasy for concert band, a clarinet concerto for the Santa Rosa Symphony with conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and the score for Minyan by filmmaker Eric Steel.
As an esteemed educator, David Krakauer is on the clarinet and chamber music faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music (New School), The Bard Conservatory and NYU.
Based in New York since 2001, South African-born pianist, composer and producer has performed on four continents in leading venues such as Carnegie Hall, had her original music performed in venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center, appeared on a host of recordings of classical, world music and multi-genre recordings and produced numerous recordings and inter-disciplinary programs from Cape Town to Los Angeles. She has created her own unique language at the piano, made up of techniques she developed and experimented with to expand the piano into a full electro – acoustic orchestra.
“Throughout their compelling duo set, Tagg joined prepared piano to electronics in increasingly brilliant applications” – Bill Milkowski, Downbeat Magazine
Her work has been released on record labels NAXOS, Ossia Records, Table Pounding Records and Gallo Africa, and she has been praised for her combining of “outstanding technique with deep musicality”. A 2014 South African Music Awards nominee for best classical or instrumental album, she has performed in concert with some of the world’s leading musicians, and the remarkable breadth of her collaborations defines her multi-faceted career.
Kathleen has performed often in venues such as Carnegie Hall, including her 2004 acclaimed solo recital debut as a winner of the Artist International auditions. Since then she has appeared frequently at cultural organizations across the USA, and has performed live on WQXR New York and WGBH Boston. In 2014 she released a recording of the songs of Jake Heggie with American soprano Regina Zona on the NAXOS label. Her album Breath & Hammer with Grammy-nominated duo partner David Krakauer was released on their own Table Pounding Records. Her project Where Worlds Collide with great South African jazz pianist Andre Petersen was praised by the London Jazz Times as being: “An open-minded mix of traditions, and the bravura technique they also share. The results are reflective and exuberant, by turns, and enormously enjoyable throughout.”
Alan Goodis is a touring Jewish musician playing over 150 events a year. Born and raised in Toronto, Alan is a proud product of URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute. Noted for his dedication to building relationships and community through music, Alan tours throughout the US to serve as an Artist-In-Residence and performer at Temples, Youth Conventions and Jewish summer camps.
For more than a decade, Alan has been a strong presence in the Reform Jewish movement to engage and empower Jewish youth and adults through music. He’s served as Musical Director for NFTY InternationalConvention and on faculty at Hava Nashira. In 2011, he developed Nashir: NFTY Teen Song leading Institute in partnership with the URJ to provide meaningful song leader training to high school students. Alan has been a featured performer and presenter at URJ Biennials and the Wexner Foundation. In 2014, Alan released his long awaited full-length studio album “This Place.” In 2016, Alan co-founded “Friday Night: A Key ShabbatCelebration” with two Chicago congregations to engage underserved young professionals. Later that year he was named to Chicago’s Jewish 36 under 36. Later this year Alan will release a new album entitled Joy.
Alan lives in Chicago with his wife Codi and their daughters Noa and Maya. To learn more about Alan visit: www.alangoodis.com.
Dan is a product of the URJ Jewish camping movement. He has toured Jewish summer camps across North America for the last 15 years. A classically trained singer, Dan received his Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance at the University of North Carolina. In 1995, realizing the potential of music to make powerful connections with Jewish youth, Dan established the Jewish rock band Eighteen. Since that time, Dan and Eighteen have released 13 albums. Songs like, L’takein, B’tzelem Elo-him, Kehillah Kedoshah, Chazak, Sweet As Honey, and Asher Yatzar have become Jewish communal anthems throughout North America.
Dan has toured over 190 days for the last 20 years, where he often serves as artist-in-residence and teacher for congregations and camp communities. He has served on the faculty of Hava Nashira since 2001. In 2009 he co-founded Shulhouse Rock, a song leading workshop for Jewish high-school students. He has performed live in Israel at the historic fortress of Masada and in the studio for the groundbreaking XM Radio presentation of Radio Hanukkah.
Dan created the Road to Eden Deep South Sukkot Tour to bring the message of Sukkot to communities in the southern United States, where he and his band played 11 shows in 10 days. Their experiences are captured in the documentary film, Road to Eden. In addition to these highlights, Dan has been featured at conferences and conventions of nearly every major Jewish movement, including the URJ Biennial, NFTY Convention, BBYO International, Limmud and the Wexner Heritage Program.
Naomi Less is an internationally celebrated singer/songwriter, ritualist and educator. Beloved for her warm smile and inviting presence, communities celebrate her imagination and innovation, tenderness and pizzazz! Her original music is sung in worship communities worldwide. Naomi serves as Co-Founder, Ritual Leader and Associate Director of Lab/Shul and is a leader in amplifying women’s voices through her work at Songleader Boot Camp and her Jewish Women Rock show on Jewish Rock Radio. Naomiadvocates for people struggling with fertility journeys as a performance artist and speaker for Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Challenges. Fun fact: Naomi and her husband wrote the song shine/Yivarech’cha, a Friday night blessing, specifically composed for URJ Crane Lake Camp, sung every Friday night in the dining hall.
Her destiny became obvious to Joanie Leeds’ parents when, at the tender age of 2, Joanie grabbed the performer’s mic at a party and belted out the entire song“Tomorrow” from Annie. Jaws dropped! No one could remember ever hearing a big voice like that coming from one so tiny and certainly no one would have thought she would one day earn a GRAMMY® Award for her original music.
As a musical theater major at Syracuse University, Joanie began composing her own songs. After graduation, she did the New York City thing, bartending at The Bitter End when not on stage performing. While making the rounds as a singer/songwriter in NewYork clubs (her favorites were Rockwood, The Bitter End, The Living Room, Arlene’sGrocery and CBGB’s), Joanie tried her hand at about ten different day gigs until a friend suggested that she get a job where she could sing with kids during the day and perhaps sleep at night. You could say that Joanie found (as in “discovered”) herself, managing one of the Manhattan Gymboree locations and singing with and for kids all day long. The nocturnal club scene was fun, but making music with children was real fun. Life clicked into place when Joanie realized that when she was with children, they transformed themselves into amazing creatures of joy, forgetting how to hold back. Seeing the kids get in touch with their true selves gave Joanie a sense of fulfillment that far surpassed playing for adults on the club circuit.
The songs that Joanie Leeds began turning out reflected this sense that life is a joyful adventure. Entertaining at birthday parties and pre- schools soon progressed into concert performances nationwide back in 2008 and has since generated material for nine full length albums: City Kid!, Challah, Challah, I’m A Rock Star, What A Zoo, Bandwagon, Good Egg, Meshugana, Brooklyn Baby and most recently, GRAMMY®Nominated All the Ladies! Joanie has also released 2 full length DVDs, City Kid Live and Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights- Live from Madison Square Park.
Over the past decade, Joanie has won 1st place in the USA Songwriting Competition, an Independent Music Award, a GOLD Parents’ Choice Award, NAPPA GOLD Award, Family Choice Award and is a John Lennon Songwriting Competition Finalist and international Songwriting Competition Finalist. She has performed at venues nationwide including Lollapalooza, Clearwater Festival, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Wolftrap and Levitt Pavilion. Her music has been featured in the New York Times, People Magazine, Parents Magazine, Billboard and The Washington Post and played on radio stations and rose to #1 on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live.
Joanie released her GRAMMY® AWARD WINNING album (All the Ladies) in April 2020 during the ongoing pandemic and spent the pandemic working on song commission work, releasing several singles and performing from home. Joanie is thrilled to be back on tour bringing songs from her 9 albums to a city near you. Her favorite job of all is mama to her 6 year old daughter.
A composer, multi-instrumentalist, and prayer leader, Elana Arian is one of the leading voices in contemporary Jewish music. Elana’s music is part of Jewish life across the globe, and her compositions are sung in spiritual communities, summer camps, and synagogues from Louisville to London, from Chicago to the CzechRepublic, and everywhere in between. Elana just released her fourth album of original music, The Other Side of Fear, and her compositions have been published in countless Transcontinental Music collections. Elana serves proudly on the faculty of Hava Nashira (Oconomowoc, WI), the Wexner Heritage Foundation (Aspen, CO), Shirei Chagiga (London, England), and as an instructor at the Hebrew Union College in New York, where she teaches in the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. Elana has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, and perhaps most memorably, five separate appearances at the (Obama) White House. She lives in New York with her wife, Julia, and their two daughters, Maya and Acadia.
There is a reason why Time Magazine has listed Michelle in their Top Ten list of Jewish rock stars.
Best known as a pioneer in creating holiday viral videos on Youtube that have garnered millions of views and leading soulful worship services, Michelle enjoys “taking what’s old and making it new” to help people connect to the rich tradition, culture and wisdom of Judaism.
Michelle’s music is celebrated in Jewish communities around the world, on radio and on television and her knack for songwriting and composition has led to a variety of accolades such as ranking as one of Billboard Music’s top Songwriters, A VH1 Song of the Year Finalist, and is proud to have been considered one of Jewish Week’s “Next Wave of Jewish Innovators.”
Kol B’Seder has been composing and performing contemporary Jewish music since the early1970s. Rabbi Dan Freelander and Cantor Jeff Klepper met as college students; over the past 50years they have released numerous CDs and songbooks. With Debbie Friedman (z”l) and others, they forged a new musical sound for American Jewish camps, schools and synagogues. Their songs, such as “Shalom Rav,” “Modeh Ani,” and “Lo Alecha,” have become traditionalJewish melodies around the world. They are delighted to be inaugurating their fiftieth anniversary celebration by appearing in support of URJ camps, where they first composed and incubated many of their early songs.
Rabbi Mira Weller (she/her) received her ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles in May 2022. She studied Culture and Politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and received her Master’s in Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR. She is the proud recipient of awards for her studies in rabbinic literature, her work in Jewish education, and she was granted the Myrtle Lorch Pfaelzer-Monroe Pfaelzer Award for an Outstanding Female Rabbinical School Student (2022). Rabbi Mira speaks Hebrew and Spanish (so please practice with her!). She has a passion for uncovering new possibilities in the great wealth of our tradition and for making music inspired by Judaism’s many cultures. Her guilty pleasures include cupcakes, classical music, and philosophy.
Rabbi Juliana Schnur Karol (she/her) is our Associate Rabbi. She first served here as rabbinical intern then Assistant Rabbi, and prior to that at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC and the Union for Reform Judaism in New York City. 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.
With a passion for building community here among her congregants, Rabbi Karol launched CRS Outings as a way for them to experience fun and adventure in New York City and beyond while creating connections with each other. She also convenes the LGBTQIA+ Working Group, launched in 2021, which strives toward full inclusion and belonging for LGBTQIA+ members of our community. This group has instituted annual observances of National Coming Out Day, Trans Day of Visibility, and worked to grow Rodeph Sholom’s Pride Month celebrations, as well as auditing our programming, systems, and culture to ensure all genders, sexual orientations, and gender expressions are recognized and honored.
Rabbi Karol is privileged 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.
New York bassist Roger Wagner enjoys a long and diverse career. As soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral bassist, Mr. Wagner has appeared on many of the world’s great concert stages.
Born in Honolulu Hawaii, he played the violin before switching to the double bass at the age of 13 and later went on to study at the Juilliard School with famed teachers Homer Mensch and David Walter.
In 1985, Wagner was appointed Solo Bassist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble with which he toured throughout Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
Wagner is associated with the venerable choral ensembles Musica Sacra of New York, The Oratorio Society of New York, The Choirs of St. Ignatius Loyola, and The Cathedral of St. John the Divine and has performed extensively with acclaimed choral conductor Kent Tritle.
Wagner appears regularly with The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, The New York City Ballet, and The American Ballet Theater among many other ensembles in the tri-state region.
He has played on many classical recordings with Philharmonia Virtuosi and The Munich Chamber Orchestra. In addition, he has recorded numerous television and motion picture soundtracks.
Oboist Setsuko Otake, a founding member of the Broadway Chamber Players, enjoys a diverse career as chamber musician, orchestral performer, and teacher.
Throughout the U.S. and Japan, she has presented numerous chamber music recitals with various woodwind quintet and trio groups-including the 2002 recital debut at the Carnegie Weil Recital Hall. She currently holds the second oboe/ English Horn position with the Riverside Symphonia in Lambertville, New Jersey. And as a freelance oboist, regularly appeared with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and Queens Symphony.
On Broadway, frequently appeared as a substitute member including Miss Saigon, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, On the Town, Les Miserables, Porgy and Bess, and Mary Poppins to name few. Most recently she was the oboist for the Grammy nominated The Public Theater production of Soft Power.
She received her bachelor’s degree from the Toho Gakuen School of Music, and her master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with former New York Philharmonic oboist Joseph Robinson. During the summer, she is an oboe and chamber music coach at the Summerkeys, adult music camp in Lubec, Maine. Ms. Otake is also the oboe teacher at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn,Rodeph Sholom School, and from 2021 at The Dalton School in Manhattan.
The guitarist Oren Fader played Brilliantly.” — The New York Times.
“His scholarship, technique, and intelligent musicianship are plainly evident and the beauty of his tone is consistently compelling.”— Guitar Review
Classical and electric guitarist Oren Fader (www.orenfader.com) has performed in Asia, Europe, and throughout the United States. Concerto performances include the Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” with the New Jersey and the Omaha Symphonies.
Mr. Fader has performed hundreds of concerts with a wide range of classical and new music groups, including the Met Chamber Ensemble, Cygnus Ensemble, Bowers Fader Duo, New York Philharmonic, Talea Ensemble, ICE, Mark Morris Dance Group, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
He has premiered over 250 solo and chamber works with guitar, and can be heard on over 50 commercial recordings and film.
Mr. Fader received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Purchase and his Master of Music degree from Florida State University. His major teachers include David Starobin and Bruce Holzman. Since 1994 Mr. Fader has been on the guitar and chamber music faculty of the Manhattan School of Music. He also directs the classical guitar programs at Montclair State University and SUNY Purchase.
Todd Groves is a New York City based performer and composer, performing and recording on saxophones, flutes, clarinets, recorders, and world flutes. His performances range from Broadway pit orchestras to jazz ensembles, commercial ensembles, classical orchestras, solo appearances, and more. Todd plays Reed 1 for Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway; has been an orchestra member for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and NY City Center’s Encores since 2009; has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera (receiving a Grammy for being a part of the 2019 recording of Porgy and Bess), Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Pops, NYC Ballet, the Knights, American Symphony; and is a member of both the New York and New Jersey Saxophone Quartets. Other recent Broadway: Sunday In The Park With George, Motown, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Follies, Catch Me If You Can. He has performed with Seth Macfarlane, Audra McDonald, Michael Feinstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Randy Newman, Johnny Mathis, Boyz II Men, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and many others. Todd is adjunct professor of saxophone and jazz at the University of Delaware, saxophone at Brooklyn College, and woodwind doubling at New Jersey City University. He also teaches at the Summer Music in Tuscany chamber music festival. As a composer, Todd focuses on writing chamber music for woodwinds and music for jazz ensembles of various sizes. Check out his videos where he performs all of the parts for many of his compositions at his website, toddgrovesmusic.com.
Lyndsie joined the CRS team in 2015. In her tenure at Rodeph Sholom she has managed all aspects of annual fundraising and the largest capital campaign in the synagogue’s history – $21m to invest in the community’s endowment, physical plant, and programming. Lyndsie is currently managing the synagogue’s first Strategic Planning process in its 180-year history and helps to incubate new projects. Prior to her work at Rodeph Sholom, Lyndsie was a consultant at CCS Fundraising where she advised organizations on multi-million-dollar capital campaigns, conducted feasibility studies and development assessments, and served as interim Development Director. Lyndsie began her career in the Planned Giving and Endowments department of UJA-Federation and graduated from NYU with a degree in Judaic Studies and Non-Profit Management. Lyndsie grew up on Long Island and now resides on the Upper West Side with her rescue pup, Bebe.
Daniel Bailen is a bassist, guitarist, singer and award-winning songwriter born and raised in New York City. His performing experience began at the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s Chorus where he appeared in over 10 operas and was a featured soloist in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, singing alongside the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Rene Fleming and Placido Domingo.
Daniel’s band, BAILEN, with his twin brother and sister, have toured internationally. Their debut record, Thrilled to Be Here, was released on Fantasy Records and produced by Grammy winning producer, John Congleton. Rolling Stone Magazine titled their review “Bailen conjure CS&N, Fleetwood Mac and TLC on an impressive debut”. Their song “I Was Wrong” reached the top 10 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative
Chart and their album garnered praise from artists of all generations including David Crosby to Hozier, who took them as his opening act on his 2019 U.S tour. NPR voted their song “Something Tells Me” #5 on the Best Songs of 2019, and Spotify included it on their list of best alternative songs of the past decade. Bailen has also toured and worked with Amos Lee, Grace Potter, Joseph, Local Natives, The Lone Bellow, Head and The Heart, Lucius, and X Ambassadors. They have performed their music on CBS this Morning, The Today Show, and Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio2 produced music for Hulu’s “Looking For Alaska” and FX’s “Son’s of Anarchy.”
Daniel has also performed extensively as an actor-musician. He has starred in the hit Off-Broadway show, What’s it All About; Bacharach Reimagined directed by Steven Hoggett at New York Theatre Workshop and The Menier Chocolate Factory in London. The show was renamed Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined when it transferred to London’s West End, which Daniel also starred in. He was featured on Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Cello, Guitars and Vocals.
As a bassist Daniel has also toured extensively with Grammy nominated Jazz virtuoso, Raul Midon, and appears on records, or has performed with, Burt Bacharach, Bill Withers, Jonathan Batiste, Dianne Reeves, Liz Wright and the New York Pops.
Dear volunteers and HIAS staff!
I hope everyone doing great. I hope you guys know that all your volunteer work does not go unnoticed. The Volunteers give the world the greatest gift of care. I know that volunteers don’t ask for rewards, but I hope that my sincerest appreciation can be a reward for all of your help, support and love, You’ve done the impossible, and I will never forget it. The way HIAS staff and Volunteers inspire everyone with their great and valuable work proves that they are a complete natural. Thank you for the energy and passion you put into the cause. You all are remarkable human beings with a big kind hearts for others. You guys have done so much for me, I don’t know where to start, I want you all to know that I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Stay blessed, Stay healthy & Stay warm
I am doing well and I hope all of you are doing well too. My name is Mujtaba Hussain and I am 28 years old. I was born and raised in the Village of Borki in Pakistan. It is very close to Afghanistan. I was studying pre-med back home but I did not complete my studies because there was always fighting, bombing, target killing and suicide attacks. I was so tired always of taking risks and staying low that I then decided to escape from there in July 2013. I got to Christmas Island, Australia in August 2013 where I asked for asylum. I was in Christmas Island for one month when they transferred me to the detention center in Hell Hole Nauru. I used the word Hell Hole because I suffered there, along with my cousin and friends.
In that tiny island, I lost a part of myself there which I’ll never get it back. It’s a long story that is still hard for me to talk about. I was in Nauru for 58 months and 6 days when I heard that some of us will go to America and we’ll have interviews with the DHS. I was so excited and happy because I had new hope at last. I had interviews with DHS and I waited for a few months to get the results. One day I got positive news and was happy to come to America.
My real life started on July 7th, 2018 when I landed on LA airport. The next day, I arrived in the world’s one and only one beautiful City of New York. GOD BLESS NYC.
Some people from HIAS and CRS volunteers were waiting for us at JFK to welcome me. They took me to an apartment in Manhattan which had been rented for us. Next day I met my case manager from HIAS: I also received some cash $$ and a mobile phone to communicate with them and my family back home. I was so excited and grateful.
The next few weeks I meet many nice volunteers from CRS and they took me, my cousin and another refugee from Nauru to a lot of different places in the city and they bought us a lot of clothes, shoes and even stuff for our home. I appreciated and thanked them. I just want to let those volunteers know that you people are not forgotten, never. They found us jobs and they helped us pay our monthly rent for a year. They were trying their very best in every possible way to support us.
HIAS is a nice organization and the volunteers from CRS are very wonderful people. They did a lot for us. I appreciate the people who helped me very much.
I want to say that today I am a trucker. Do you guys want to know why I chose to be a trucker? I was always thinking that America brought me from Hell Hole Nauru and it’s a huge favor. I knew that I should become something to return this favor to HIAS, CRS and to all Americans. I studied for a CDL license and I have it now. I am driving a truck since September 2020.
While you guys are sleeping at night, I am driving on the highway returning the favor to you all. It’s nice being here in America. I am a permanent resident now and currently live in Dallas, TX.
Thank you all very much for listening. (GOD BLESS AMERICA)
Margaret Kampmeier, piano, enjoys a varied career as soloist, collaborative artist and educator. She is equally fluent in classical and contemporary repertoire. She has concertized and recorded extensively and premiered hundreds of works. She is a founding member of the Naumburg award-winning New Millennium Ensemble, and performs regularly with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s. She has appeared with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic Ensembles, Metropolitan Opera Chamber Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Mirror Visions Ensemble. As a recording artist, Ms. Kampmeier can be heard on the Albany, Centaur, CRI, Koch, Nonesuch, Bridge and Deutsche Gramophon labels. A dedicated educator, Ms. Kampmeier teaches piano at Princeton University and is Chair and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music. She has given lecture recitals on a wide range of topics including preludes and fugues through the ages, contemporary techniques, and the music of women composers.
Praised by the New York Times as “irresistible in both music and performance.” flutist, Susan Rotholz continues to be in demand as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician and teacher. Winner of Young Concert Artists with Hexagon Piano and Winds and of Concert Artists Guild as soloist, Susan is Principal Flute of the Greenwich Symphony, The New York Pops and The New York Chamber Ensemble and is a member of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the Little Orchestra Society. She has performed as soloist and toured nationally and internationally with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Susan Rotholz is co-founder of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble presenting multi-genre chamber music concerts, she also appears each season with the Cape May Music Festival, Greenwich Chamber Players the Sebago Long Lake Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music at Rodeph Sholom and the Saratoga Chamber Players. Susan attended the Yale School of Music in 1979-81 and the Marlboro Music Festival in 1980 and 1981 and through the Marlboro Festival, became the principal flutist with the New England Bach Festival for the following 25 years. Her recordings of the complete Bach Flute Sonatas and the Solo Partita with the late forte–pianist, Kenneth Cooper and the more recently released American Tapestry, Duos for Flute and Piano with pianist, Margaret Kampmeier have continually been received with acclaim. Susan is Professor at Vassar College, Columbia University, ACSM at Queens College and Manhattan School of Music Pre–college.
Leonard Bernstein described Paul Woodiel as “a first-class performer who combines spirituality with intellect.” A busy New York-based purveyor of violin and fiddle music, his broad stylistic compass includes the dance fiddle traditions of America and the British Isles, ragtime and jazz, and the music of Charles Ives. Mr. Woodiel has presented recitals at the 92nd St. Y, Wesleyan University, Caramoor, Miller Theater, Yale University, and the New York Festival of Song at Carnegie Hall, and has appeared as soloist at festivals from Bard College to Moab, Utah. A veteran of dozens of Broadway orchestras, Mr. Woodiel has dozens of productions to his credit, including Ragtime, Sunset Boulevard, West Side Story, and Sting’s The Last Ship. A three-time New England Fiddle Contest champion in his hometown, Hartford, CT, Mr. Woodiel is a widely respected exponent of the fiddle traditions of New England. In this vein, he performs across the US and abroad with the Scottish dance band Local Hero. His many film credits include Woody Allen films and Carter Burwell scores, and he is heard on recordings for Tony Bennett, Sting, Fall Out Boy, and over 20 Broadway cast albums. Other engagements have included performances and recordings with Steve Reich, piano wizards Dick Hyman and Neely Bruce, Marin Alsop’s Concordia, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, American Composers Orchestra and the Grammy Awards Orchestra. Mr. Woodiel’s proudest achievements to date are his son Carter and daughter Tennessee.
Sarah Adams has appeared as viola soloist with the Riverside and Jupiter Symphonies in Alice Tully Hall, Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Caramoor, Berkshire Bach Ensemble, Washington Square Music Festival, Philharmonia Virtuosi, and Adelphi Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Adams appeared as recitalist for the Hong Kong Chamber Series, Houston Chamber Music Society, Parnassus, New York Viola Society, Long Island Composer’s Alliance, Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Off the Wall series and at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. Ms. Adams is a long-time member of Sherman Chamber Ensemble and the New York Chamber Ensemble, and former violist of the Cassatt, Tahoe, and Roerich Quartets. She performed and recorded with Smithsonian Chamber Players, Windham Chamber Orchestra and Parnassus, and appeared as guest artist with the Amernet Quartet, Haverford College Music Series, Bard Summerscape, Friends of Mozart, Claring Chamber Series, New Jersey Chamber Music Society, Speculum Musicae, Si-Yo Chamber Concerts, and the Metropolitan Museum Chamber Series. Ms. Adams is principal violist of the Riverside Symphony, a member of American Ballet Theatre, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Little Orchestra Society and New York City Opera, and performs frequently with New York City Ballet. She was formerly principal violist of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, associate principal violist of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, guest principal violist of American Symphony Orchestra, and appeared frequently with Orpheus, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. Summer festivals include NYC Ballet at SPAC, Festival Napa Valley, Classical Tahoe, Cape May Music Festival, Windham Music Festival, Seal Bay American Chamber Music Festival, Music Mountain, and Bargemusic. Sarah’s Broadway credits include Jerome Robbin’s Broadway, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Candide, Aida, La Boheme and Swan Lake. She has recorded for the Atlantic, Dorian, Koch, New World, Nimbus, Nonesuch and Virgin labels, and performs on a Hiroshi Iizuka viola, circa 1982. Ms. Adams has been a Music Associate at Columbia University since 1993, where she teaches viola and chamber music, and is director of Viola Hour. Sarah and her family live in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y, where she is an amateur gardener, bread baker, mandolinist, and chief dog walker.
Michael Roth, violin and viola, a native of Scarsdale, NY, received his early musical training with Frances Magnes at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School. He attended Oberlin College and Conservatory and continued his studies with Marilyn McDonald. While at Oberlin, he won the Kaufman Prize for violin and First Prize in the Ohio String Teacher’s Association Competition. Michael Roth completed his Master of Music degree at the University of Massachusetts where he worked with the distinguished American violinist and pedagogue Charles Treger and was a recipient of the Julian Olevsky Award. He is currently associate concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and has appeared in chamber music and as a soloist with the company, most recently in the debut of Slice Too Sharp, a ballet of Biber and Vivaldi violin concerti, and After the Rain, violin music of ArvoPärt. In addition, Mr. Roth is a member of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Principal 2nd violin of the Westchester Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra and the New York Pops. He has served as concertmaster of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and was concertmaster of the Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra for many years and often appeared as soloist there, as well as at the Caramoor and Bard Music Festivals. He has played and toured internationally with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the New York Chamber Soloists. As a chamber musician, Mr. Roth has collaborated on violin and viola with artists such as Eugene Drucker, Menahem Pressler, James Buswell, Steven Doane, Hamao Fujiwara and members of the Brentano, Manhattan and Ying Quartets. He regularly participates in the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival and the Windham Chamber Music Festival and recently presented a recital of contemporary Cuban solo violin and chamber music in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall under the auspices of the American Composers Orchestra. He has recorded for the Sony, Angel, Telarc, Decca, BMG, Point Music, ESSA.Y. and Arbors Music labels with Orpheus, the Eos Orchestra, Philharmonia Virtuosi, The New York Pops, The American Composers Orchestra and others.
Eliot Bailen has an active career as an artistic director, cellist, composer and teacher. Strings Magazine writes, “At Merkin Hall ‘cellist Eliot Bailen displayed a warm focused tone, concentrated expressiveness and admirable technical command always at the service of the music.” Founder and Artistic Director of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble, now celebrating its 40th year, whose performances the New York Times has described as “the Platonic ideal of a chamber music concert,” Mr. Bailen is also Founder and Artistic Director of Chamber Music at Rodeph Sholom in New York and Artistic Director of the New York Chamber Ensemble. Principal cello of the New Jersey Festival Orchestra, New York Chamber Ensemble, Orchestra New England, Teatro Grattacielo and the New Choral Society (The Michael B. Packer Chair),Mr. Bailen has performed regularly with the Saratoga Chamber Players, Cape May Music Festival, Sebago-Long Lake Chamber Music Festival as well as with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York City Opera and Ballet, Oratorio Society, American Symphony, Stamford Symphony, New Jersey Symphony and is heard frequently in numerous Broadway shows. Among Mr. Bailen’s commissions are an Octet, a Double Concerto for Flute and Cello, Perhaps a Butterfly, Saratoga Sextet, The Tiny Mustache (a musical) and recently a Dectet (“Inclusion”) commissioned by the New Choral Society. Mr. Bailen is recipient of over forty commissions for his “Song to Symphony” for schools (subject of a NY Times feature article Sept. 2006 and winner of a Yale Alumni Grant). In 2002 he received the Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking. Mr. Bailen received his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) from Yale Universityand an M.B.A. from NYU. He is on the cello and chamber music faculty at Columbia University and Teachers College.
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.”
Yafit Shafer-Sull is the Operations and Streetscape Manager at Fifth Avenue Association, a business improvement district for the most iconic street in the world. She received her Masters Degree of Urban Planning at Hunter College. As the pandemic brought a collective appreciation of open space, Yafit brought her passion and expertise to connecting people and their urban space. To encourage people to enjoy Fifth Avenue as a destination, she works on art installations, events, technology, and walkability, collaborating with architects, traffic engineers, and other experts to make the strip more pedestrian- and public transit-friendly. Since 2020, Shafer-Sull has managed the Fifth Avenue holiday displays project, collecting decor proposals, working with creative teams, tracking project spending, and consulting on concept and thematic development to create a more exciting and engaging experience. Her background in research and development relating to environmental science, as well as her sustainable urban development and community-based planning efforts earned her an honor in the Commercial Observer’s 2021 List of Young Professionals. Her parents, Dr. Jacalyn Shafer and Catherine Sull are longtime active members of CRS since 1997. Yafit is a Bat Mitzvah and Confirmand of CRS. She and her brother Ben Ami are both Rodeph Sholom School graduates and Ben Ami is also a Bar Mitzvah of CRS.
Rachel Schragis, an artist and cultural organizer who works in support of protest movements for collective liberation, she is the co-founder of Look Loud Studio, partnering with social movement groups to bring the power of visual strategy to the streets. Her climate justice work has included coordinating art for the 2014 and 2017 People’s Climate March, developing a national arts-activist training program for Sunrise Movement, and most recently leading art strategy for #Faiths4Climate, an international day of interfaith climate action with GreenFaith. Her “mind map” illustrations of social movements have been featured in many museums and publications, and her poster illustrating the Occupy Wall Street movement is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rachel is a recipient of the 2014 Rauchenberg Artist as Activist award, the 2014 Earth Day New York Advocate of the Year, and a 2011 Grace Paley Organizing Fellow with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). Her most recent poster, Unravelling Antisemitism, was released this year in partnership with JFREJ. Rachel is a Bat Mitzvah and Confirmand of CRS and her parents, Donna and Steven Schragis, are longtime active members.
Andrea Kretchmer is a Founding Principal of Xenolith Partners LLC, a developer of affordable and supportive housing and mixed-use projects in New York and Connecticut. Since 2006, Andrea has developed more than 700 affordable apartments and has more than 200 currently under construction. Xenolith’s projects include joint ventures with for-profit and non-profit partners such as JASA, the Women’s Prison Association, the LGBT Network, Community Preservation Corporation, and the YWCA of Northeastern NY. Community facilities and supportive services are an important part of Andrea’s work and include a full-service YMCA, housing and services for formerly incarcerated women and their families, housing and services for seniors to age with purpose and dignity, and a recording studio and after-school programming for young people. Andrea’s projects feature purpose-driven architecture and sustainable design. She developed one of the first residential Passive House projects in Connecticut and her firm was recently awarded a Buildings of Excellence grant from New York State to augment the Passive House, urban agriculture and electrification of a project in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Andrea graduated from Colgate University and earned her Master’s Degree in Geology from UCLA. She serves on the board of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and is a Fellow at the Urban Design Forum. Andrea and her family joined Congregation Rodeph Sholom in 1991. Her son Charles Lutvak attended RSS and Charles, Spencer, and Penelope Lutvak are B’nai Mitzvah, Confirmands, and High School graduates of CRS.
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.
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.
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.