Rabbi Rachel Timoner
Rabbi Rachel Timoner is grateful and proud to serve as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She is honored to stand with families at the moments of greatest joy and deepest sorrow in their lives, and she is delighted to be part of a flowering of creativity, community, learning, spirituality, and action at CBE.
Her initiatives in recent years include a weekly class designed to get to the heart and meaning of the prayer experience, a rabbinic conversation on antisemitism, a study series on systemic racism in America, a weekly class about peoplehood and nationalism, a sukkah about the refugee experience, a dialogue and study series on Israel, a revival of CBE’s youth group, and a Dismantling Racism Team which was part of the successful campaigns to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility and to win bail reform, speedy trial reform, and discovery reform in the State of New York. She helped to launch RAC-NY and Reform California, two statewide efforts to bring Reform Jewish values to bear on core issues of our times, such as immigration, affordable housing, and racial profiling. In November 2016, Rabbi Timoner, in cooperation with City Councilmember Brad Lander, opened CBE’s sanctuary to #GetOrganizedBK, so that thousands of Brooklyn neighbors could help to protect human rights and democracy. On any given Shabbat, you’ll find Rabbi Timoner speaking about our purpose as Jews and human beings, waking up to the spiritual aspect of our lives, the moral challenges of our times, and the ways we need each other.
From 2009 to 2015, Rabbi Timoner served as Associate Rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where she was a teacher of Torah and helped to develop the Shabbat Morning Minyan, Community of Elders, Spirituality Workshop, and Community Organizing Leadership Team that took on public transportation and economic justice.
Rachel grew up in Miami, Florida, received a B.A. from Yale University, and received her rabbinical degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2009, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow and was honored with the Lorraine Helman Rubin Memorial Prize for Scholarly Writing, the Women of Reform Judaism Centennial Prize, the Professor Stanley Gevirtz Award for Excellence in Bible, and the Louis and Minnie Raphael Memorial Prize for Outstanding Service to a Small Congregation.
Previously, Rabbi Timoner raised funds to rebuild the San Francisco Women’s Building; worked to mitigate the harm of welfare reform in California; and founded two leadership programs and a peer hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. She was a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow, received the Do Something Award for young leaders, and was honored as an Unsung Hero in San Francisco.
Rabbi Timoner serves on the board of the New York Jewish Agenda, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the New York Board of Rabbis, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the International Council of the New Israel Fund. She is a fellow in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative of the Shalom Hartman Institute, a T’ruah chavera and Human Rights Hero honoree, and is a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program and the Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training. She is the author of Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism.
Click here to view Rabbi Timoner’s past High Holy Days sermons.
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Cantor Josh Breitzer
Cantor Joshua Breitzer feels blessed to have served CBE since 2011. He leads the community through prayer and song, teaches chanting and ritual skills to students of all ages, and helps create sacred experiences for every occasion.
Cantor Breitzer performs regularly at synagogues and concert halls across America and Israel. He appears with the New York Festival of Song in the annual “A Goyishe Christmas to You” program and has enjoyed significant collaborations with Pulitzer Prize-winner Yehudi Wyner and the late composer/scholar Jack Gottlieb. He has coached young artists at NYC Opera and The Juilliard School and has taught at the Academy of Jewish Religion, the URJ Kutz Camp, and the North American Jewish Choral Festival. He has also recorded prayers for the Behrman House “Hebrew in Harmony” religious school curriculum.
A mid-Michigan native, Cantor Breitzer attended Interlochen Arts Camp and holds voice degrees from the University of Michigan and the New England Conservatory. He received his ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2011 and joined the adjunct faculty soon thereafter. In 2016, he was elected a Vice President of the American Conference of Cantors, which offers spiritual leadership and sacred music to Reform congregations throughout the world.
The Jewish Daily Forward named Cantor Breitzer one of the best new Jewish music voices in its first-ever “Soundtrack of Our Spirit” series. The PBS documentary “The Four Sons And All Their Sons: A Passover Tale,” partially filmed at CBE, features his singing throughout. He lives in Park Slope with his wife and their two sons.
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Rabbi Rebecca Epstein
Rabbi Rebecca Epstein feels extremely blessed to serve the CBE community as Associate Rabbi/Educator, a role which enables her to focus on youth and families within this vibrant synagogue community.
Rabbi Epstein is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. She studied Cognitive Science and Art History at Vassar College. Following her graduation in 2000, she moved to Brooklyn and pursued her interests in modern dance and choreography, whilst serving as a waitress at Le Marais kosher steakhouse in Times Square, and teaching religious school at two Manhattan synagogues.
She decided to become a rabbi in the aftermath of the events of September 11th. Following the tragedy, she felt called to bring grounding in Judaism to her religious school students. Rebecca gradually determined to apply her energies towards the rabbinate, integrating her interest in movement with Jewish spirituality through the study of yoga. She overcame doubts about participating in organized religion, in part through her involvement at the Park Slope Minyan, a traditional egalitarian prayer group that met in the basement of CBE. Shortly thereafter, she applied and was accepted to the Hebrew Union College; she departed for Jerusalem in 2004 to begin her studies.
Upon her ordination from the New York campus of HUC in 2009, she served Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, New Jersey. There, she pioneered a teen mentorship program, a women’s spirituality group, and an environmental certification process, in addition to directing the religious school. Rebecca and her family moved to Austin in 2012, where she served as a National Vice President for the Women’s Rabbinic Network, and then from 2014-2018 as Rabbi and Director of Education at Congregation Beth Israel, leading the religious school through a major transformation in Hebrew education. She is thrilled to have returned to Brooklyn with her husband Barak and their three daughters, Noa, Aviya, and Sonia.
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Rabbi Matthew Green
Matt Green has been at CBE since the fall of 2015 when he started here as our Rabbinic Intern, and now serves as our Assistant Rabbi. He serves as the director of Brooklyn Jews, CBE’s community of young Brooklynites looking for connection to Jewish culture, time, and ritual. Matt has also spent his time at CBE teaching b’nei mitzvah students and teaching the 9th grade community organizing class. He frequently leads Shabbat services and officiates lifecycle events.
A born and raised Michigander, Matt holds a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan. After college, he worked as a Berman Fellow at Michigan Hillel. He was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where he was a Tisch Fellow. In 2015, Matt won the Be Wise entrepreneurship competition at HUC for his project, Grindr Shabbat, now a part of Brooklyn Jews.
Matt is a fan of smoked fish, Yiddish literature, and Michigan microbrews. He lives in Park Slope.
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Rabbi Gerald I. Weider
Rabbi Gerald I. Weider was ordained in 1973 from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati Ohio. He served two congregations before coming to Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. His first congregation was Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts where he served as the Assistant Rabbi. His second pulpit was Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington D.C. where he served as the Associate Rabbi.
For 28 years Rabbi Weider served as the Senior Rabbi at CBE. He joined Rabbi Eugene J. Sack in 1978, just as the Brownstone Revival movement hit Park Slope. Under his leadership, CBE grew to become the largest and most active Reform synagogues in Brooklyn.
Upon retirement from CBE in June 2006, Rabbi Weider assumed the position of Senior Rabbinic Consultant to the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America. In this role Rabbi Weider worked on the national level with over 1,000 rabbis (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox) who were members of the Rabbinic Cabinet. Rabbi Weider retired from this position in 2016.
Rabbi Weider and his wife Rosalie are parents of two sons, Avi and Alex Weider, and they are grandparents of triplets (two boys and a girl). Rabbi Weider and Rosalie continue to reside in Brooklyn, New York.
Eliza Scheffler is the Rabbinic Intern at CBE and Brooklyn Jews this year. Her soul is bi-coastal, having grown up in Larchmont, NY and lived as a young adult in San Francisco, CA. While at Yale University, Eliza earned a B.A. in American studies. After college, she worked in charity evaluation with a focus on global health and development. Eliza is looking forward to her ordination as a Rabbi from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the anticipated date of May 2022. She loves climbing mountains, stocking shelves at the Park Slope Food Coop, and learning Torah from everyone she meets. She lives with her husband in Park Slope.
Shani grew up in Sunnyvale, California, and is currently in her fourth year as a cantorial student at the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. Over the summer of 2019, Shani had the opportunity to study the history of American Reform Judaism in Cincinnati and Charleston through an initiative from the American Jewish Archives. She is a recipient of HUC’s prestigious Star Fellowship, and was part of the inaugural cohort of JDC Fellows for Global Jewish Leadership, through which she visited and worked with Progressive Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, Argentina, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. After serving as the student cantor at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Shani is honored to be praying, learning, and growing together with CBE’s vibrant community!
Prior to joining Congregation Beth Elohim, Alan served as the Executive Director of Sutton Place Synagogue in Manhattan. At Sutton Place Synagogue, Alan quickly illustrated his ability to handle facility and security issues, manage budgets and, most importantly, build meaningful relationships within the community.
Before becoming an Executive Director, Alan spent over 25 years in the for-profit world working in various roles within the consumer product industry. Throughout his career, building relationships and developing the team around him has always been central to who he is.
As an active lay leader and a member of Central Synagogue’s Board of Trustees, Alan was involved with social justice and building community. One of his areas of focus was revamping the Breakfast Program which provides a full hot meal to over 100 people every Thursday and Friday morning. Alan helped transform the model from a group of five people who shouldered the full responsibility to an active volunteer list over 350 people strong. In addition, he helped imagine and implement the “No One is a Stranger” initiative, which remains a cornerstone of connecting and engaging people more than ten years after its inception.
A native New Yorker, Alan, his wife Miriam, and their eight year old daughter Noa live on Manhattan’s East Side. Since his very first visit, Alan felt the warm embrace of the community and knew with full conviction that CBE was where he wanted to be. The Herman family is looking forward to sharing meaningful moments together with CBE for many years to come.
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Nate Jaffe joined the CBE team in August 2018. Nate oversees and manages all CBE communications, including but not limited to our website, social media, and emails. Before coming to CBE, he graduated from Goucher College with a B.A. in Theater and Communications/Media Studies.
Throughout his life, Nate has been heavily involved in Reform Judaism. The son of a Reform rabbi, Nate went to URJ Eisner Camp for 14 consecutive summers as a camper and staff member and was active in his home synagogue’s youth group, later going on to serve on NFTY-Northeast’s Regional Board. Nate is proud and grateful to continue his journey at CBE.
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Paul Taylor serves as our Aquatics Director. He has been teaching swimming for over 30 years as an American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and American Red Cross Lifeguard/CPR/First Aid Instructor. Paul served as an Aquatics Manager at Asphalt Green from 1996 to 2007. He then went on to serve as the Aquatics Director at the Riverdale YM-YWHA from 2007 to 2012. Most recently, Paul was at the JCC Manhattan.
Paul has a deep passion for teaching swimming, water safety, and stroke development structure to those seeking guidance.
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Bobbie Finkelstein, Director of Youth Programs, has been involved in the field of school age care for 25 years. She came to CBE in 1987 as the director of the After School Center. At that time, the program was two afternoons a week. The program has grown and so has Bobbie’s position. As the Director of Youth Programs, she supervises a five-day- a-week after school program; two day camps (a division for elementary school age children and a travel camp for middle school age children) and three school vacation camps.
Prior to coming to CBE, Bobbie worked for Children’s Aid Society and Interfaith Neighbors, a youth service agency. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the State University at Buffalo and a Master of Social Work from Hunter College School of Social Work. She is on the Board of the New York State School Age Care Coalition.
Bobbie loves developing new programs and believes in the power of groups. She lives in Sunset Park with her husband and two daughters.
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Adrian Sealy is the Assistant Director of the After School program and the Director of the Travel Camp at CBE. He has worked at CBE in some form since 2001. In addition to helping the Director develop the curricula for the CBE Kids programs, Adrian is in charge of interviewing, training, and maintaining the staff across the After School programs and Summer Camp programs. He also assists with the budget, payroll, and marketing of the programs. Lastly, Adrian supports the Director in maintaining the licensing requirements for the Department of Health, including permits, personnel files, safety plans, logs and various certificates.
Adrian Sealy was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He received a Bachelors of Science from Oakwood University in 2013. He is currently working on a second B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Education, and plans to do his Masters in Education.
Danielle Estien works as an Administrative Assistant in our After School Center and Summer Day Camps. Danielle assists the department with the day-to-day routine of the youth programs. She has a B.A. in Business Administration & Management from Pace University. Danielle has previously worked at Pegasus Legal Funding as a Case Manager and at Children’s Aid Society as an Administrative Assistant. An alum of CBE’s After School Program, she is grateful to return to CBE in this position.
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Lisa Wolf is our Coordinator for Youth Programs. She supports and coordinates all of our school and camp activities for our CBE Kids since 1999. Lisa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.
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Early Childhood Center (ECC)
Jaci Israel is Director of CBE’s Early Childhood Center and has enjoyed a long relationship with CBE where she began her preschool teaching career in 1986. Since then she has coordinated Pre-K programs for several nonprofit agencies and initiated the Project Reach Youth’s Universal Pre-K Program. She has also worked extensively with elementary age students with learning disabilities as a teacher at the Mary McDowell Center and as an Orton Gillingham tutor. Jaci has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education. Her proudest achievements by far are her son and daughter.
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Caitlyn Bradley is the Department Coordinator for the Early Childhood Center. She began working at CBE in 2008 as an extended day helper in the ECC. Caitlyn then moved to the CBE KIDS Afterschool Program where she worked as a counselor and an administrative assistant. She finally came full circle and started working in the ECC again in 2016. Caitlyn was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She received a Bachelor of Arts from St. Francis College in 2013.
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Tom Pnini is our Admissions Coordinator and Art Studio Teacher. Tom runs our “Cardboard Studio”, a classroom that has been completely transformed into an interactive art studio for kids to explore their creative side without limits. Our preschool students work with Tom in the Cardboard Studio as part of their curriculum.
Outside of the ECC, Tom is a successful artist. He creates time-based works and large-scale installations. He has exhibited in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Toronto, Moscow, and Israel. He holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Hamidrasha College (2008) and an Master of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design at the New School (2010).
Judy Rubin has been the Director of Finance at CBE since 2015. In this capacity she oversees CBE’s financial systems; including payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable. Judy comes to us from the 92nd Street Y, where she served as Controller . Prior to that Judy was an Audit Manager at the NYC Comptroller’s Office.
Originally from Brooklyn NY, Judy received a B.S. in accounting from Brooklyn College in 1985. She received her Certified Public Accounting License in 1990.
Judy currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Woodbury, NY.
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Felicia Santos joined the CBE team in 2018 and works as the Administrative Assistant for Finance & Membership. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Felicia received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Management from the New York Institute of Technology. Her constant show of commitment and hard work has gained her recognition by the staff as a “jack of all trades” and a dedicated team player.
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Tehilah Eisenstadt previously served as Director of Education & Family Engagement at SAJ, a warm, vibrant, inclusive, social justice committed and creative community. Tehilah is excited to return to Brooklyn where she was Luria Academy’s Primary (preschool) Community Director. She works with multi-faith leaders on ongoing issues related to Jewish values, particularly surrounding the abducted school girls in Chibok Nigeria in 2014.
Tehilah is honored to work, pray and dream alongside colleagues and friends as a consultant at Cordoba House, a contemporary, pluralistic and spiritual American Muslim religious school. Tehilah co-created their curriculum and conducted teacher development in the first years there. Tehilah’s consulting, speaking, and writing largely focuses on Jewish education, early childhood education, parenting from a socio-emotional perspective, body-positive language, and social justice. Tehilah serves as a volunteer mikvah guide and educator for ImmerseNYC and is on the Board of Directors of the American Jewish League for Israel. Tehilah served as a curriculum consultant Netflix’s Charlie’s Colorforms City.
She received Master degrees in Jewish Education and in Midrash/Biblical Exegesis from the Jewish Theological Seminary, she has certification in Early Childhood Administration, is a graduate of HUC-JTS’s Leadership Institute, and a proud alumna of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Tehilah’s BA is from Binghamton University, of which she spent one year at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan.
Tehilah, her hus-friend Simon, and their child Adin Geshem first fell in love with CBE through Debbie Brukman’s Tot Shabbat program and CBE’s food collection during Hurricane Sandy. Tehilah’s family visits CBE regularly as minyan members of Altshul and many other CBE holiday and community events. It is with great joy that Tehilah joins the CBE family as Director of Yachad and Family Education, eager to learn with and from you while sharing her love for a Judaism that calls us to wonder, inquire, listen, celebrate,
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Kate Meltzer is the Yachad Department Coordinator, Madrichim Program Supervisor, Lower School (K-2) Coordinator, and one of the 2nd grade educators. Kate lives in Greenwood now, but she grew up in Park Slope and was very involved in the CBE community from a young age, attending the religious school and after school programs and becoming Bat Mitzvah at CBE. Kate has a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Psychology. She incorporates some sociology and psychology elements into her madrichim training curriculum. While in school, she taught at East End Temple and worked as the Administrative Assistant and Assistant to the Director of Congregational Learning, and she ran events at CBE every Shabbat.
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Since graduating from Yale with a B.A. in Philosophy, DiCo (he/him) spent twelve years teaching Latin, Speech & Debate and a handful of other subjects in NYC public schools. While teaching, he earned his Master’s in Special Education, won the Teach for America Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, and was named a Master Teacher by the Achievement First charter school network. He started attending services at CBE in 2012, and, since then, has converted to Judaism and became B’Mitzvah as a member of the CBE community. Since becoming Jewish, he has completed the two-year Context course at JTS and studied Talmud with JTS, Drisha and SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva. In 2019, he joined the Yachad team as the 7th Grade Lead Educator and took on the role of Assistant Director in the fall of 2020. When he’s not working at CBE, he can be found running free tournaments with the Brooklyn Debate League, which he established three years ago as a way to make debate more accessible to middle school students. He’s proud to be a queer, trans, Irish-Italian native New Yorker.