It is both an honor and a privilege to begin my term as President of Temple Beth El. I am also equally as pleased to have the opportunity to
introduce two new members of our Senior Staff, Hazzan Randall Levin and Jody Dietz, Limmud Religious School Director. Hazzan Levin comes to TBE with more than six years of experience as a lead Cantor and almost a decade of work in the Jewish community. He is a graduate of the University of Akron School of Music, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the H. L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Randall, his wife, Emily, and their two boys, Henry and Michael are a welcome addition to our TBE family and the Rochester community.
Jody assumes the role of Limmud Religious School Director with a long history of Jewish leadership and participation. She spent six months in Israel working and studying on Kibbutz Ein HaMifratz during college, served as the Executive Director of the New Jersey Region of HaShachar Young Judea for two years, and was a madricha for three American Zionist Youth Foundation Israel Summer programs. Jody earned her graduate degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. She previously worked for the Eastman Kodak Company and Hillside Family of Agencies where she held a variety of roles in Human Resources with a focus on Organizational Development and Learning. Jody also co-chaired our TBE Human Resources committee. I am excited for Jody to join the TBE leadership team and to help evolve our religious school program.
Religious Schools have long been a topic of discussion as synagogues continue to struggle with attendance and delivering meaningful, engaging content to our children. Responses to the struggle and critiques have varied over time, but the root cause of the challenge – our challenge – is one of unclear and conflicting expectations. For families, is religious school merely a place for children to associate with other Jews? Is it solely for training and preparation for B’nai Mitzvah – that milestone representing an end to Jewish education when instead it should be a springboard? Is it a mandatory “must do” part of being Jewish? For educators, is the goal to develop Jewish identity or discover ways to enjoy being Jewish? Is it to motivate children to continue their Jewish education during high school, college, and beyond? Is it to learn Hebrew, Torah, or Jewish history?
Religious school is only one element of a full Jewish education experience. It is our combined responsibility as a congregation to offer all our members a variety of learning experiences from preschool/early childhood to adolescent and family programming, adult education to camps and retreats. Fostering opportunities that enable our congregants of all ages to encounter the richness of Jewish traditions, and to instill in themselves strong Jewish identities, commitments, and practices, is an important and worthy endeavor. We will undoubtedly find success in our combined efforts, commitment to each other, and in support of our TBE staff, educators, and clergy.
I grew up at TBE – I am a product of attending religious school here and completing Midrasha. My Bar Mitzvah was here, I was married here, rejoiced in the naming and brit milah of children here and recently celebrated my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah here. Serving as President of this organization represents another chapter for me here and I am thankful for the opportunity.
I believe the future remains bright at TBE. Get involved – help us reach our highest potential.
L’Shalom – enjoy the summer!