Leadership & Staff
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For a complete list of staff emails and extentions, please click here.
Andy Bachman - Senior Rabbi
Rabbi Andy Bachman lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Rachel Altstein, and their three daughters, Audrey, Lois and Minna. Andy and Rachel have lived in Brooklyn since 1990.
Born in 1963, Rabbi Bachman was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Educated in public schools in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee, he studied history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in college he developed a deep interest in pursuing Jewish scholarship and service due to the influence of two teachers: the European cultural historian George L. Mosse, and Irv Saposnik, who directed the UW Hillel.
During those university years, Rabbi Bachman spent a year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In addition to coursework, he was privately tutored in rabbinic literature by Rabbi Hank Skirball, director of NFTY in Israel. It was Rabbi Skirball who first formally suggested Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where Rabbi Bachman was ordained in 1996.
As a rabbinical student, Rabbi Bachman served as Educator at Congregation Beth Elohim, overseeing the religious school and adult education, and working as a student rabbi. After his ordination in 1996, he served as Rabbi Educator until 1998, when he became Executive Director of the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life: Hillel at New York University.
In 2003, Rabbi Bachman and Rachel Altstein, along with several friends, founded Brooklyn Jews, an innovative outreach program for the many unaffiliated Jews who have made Brooklyn their home in the past decade. Based on the principles of openness and creativity, Brooklyn Jews quickly gained a national reputation for being a fun new way to engage young Jews "where they’re at." Brooklyn Jews is now CBE’s premier outreach program for young Jews.
Rabbi Bachman was on the Newsweek and Forward 50 list. He blogs daily at www.andybachman.com.
Marc Katz – Associate Rabbi
Joshua Breitzer - Cantor
Josh Breitzer feels blessed to be cantor and music director of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, where he designs ritual, convenes worship and spirituality, and administers the AURAL TORAH educational concert series.
The 2011-2012 season saw Cantor Breitzer debut with both the Boston Jewish Music Festival in "Yiddish Art Songs of Lazar Weiner" and the New York Festival of Song in "A Goyishe Christmas to You: Yuletide Classics by Jewish Songwriters." In addition to performing in important venues throughout America and Israel, he has coached young artists at NYC Opera, The Juilliard School, and Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. The Zamir Choral Foundation recently invited him to teach at the North American Jewish Choral Festival and to form and conduct a new Brooklyn chapter of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir.
A native of mid-Michigan, Cantor Breitzer attended Interlochen Arts Camp for five summers and earned voice degrees from the University of Michigan and the New England Conservatory. He joined the adjunct faculty of the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music shortly after being invested there in May 2011. As a student, Cantor Breitzer interned at Temple Beth Shalom, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, and Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. He also enjoyed collaborations with Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Pulitzer Prize-winner Yehudi Wyner, and the late Dr. Jack Gottlieb, whose synagogue repertoire was the focus of Cantor Breitzer's graduate thesis.
Cantor Breitzer is a Storahtelling-trained "maven," an inaugural participant in Piyut North America, and an active member of the American Conference of Cantors for whom he serves on multiple committees. He consults for the Central Conference of American Rabbis Press and is a regular contributor to the URJ Ten Minutes of Torah online learning module. Together with his wife Donna, a mezzo-soprano and executive director of the Five Boroughs Music Festival, Cantor Breitzer is pleased to call Park Slope home to their infant son, Jonah.
Gerald I. Weider - Rabbi Emeritus
Gerald I. Weider served 28 years as the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim. He joined Rabbi Eugene J. Sack in 1978, just as the Brownstone Revival movement hit the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Rabbi Weider sparked the revitalization of Congregation Beth Elohim through innovative programming and services which met the needs of urban Jewish families. Under his leadership, Congregation Beth Elohim grew to become the largest and most active Reform synagogue in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Weider is a native of the Bronx. While growing up in the Bronx he attended Yeshiva Zichron Moshe.
During his teen age years, while living in Fort Lee New Jersey, Rabbi Weider became an active participant in Young Judaea, the Zionist Youth Movement sponsored by Hadassah. It was this involvement that ultimately lead Rabbi Weider to the Rabbinate. While in Young Judaea, Rabbi Weider lead local clubs, regional programs and attended numerous national camps and institutes. In college, at Rutgers University, Rabbi Weider continued to work for Young Judaea, becoming the President of their college age program and eventually representing Young Judaea at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.
While at Rutgers, Rabbi Weider met Rosalie Daumann one morning in Jewish History class. (She sat in front of him!) After graduating from Rutgers University with a B.A. in History, Rabbi Weider attended the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati to study for the Rabbinate. During his first year at HUC, he married Rosalie, and settled down in the Queen City. The Weider’s first son, Avi, was born in Cincinnati.
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. His first congregation was Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline Mass. 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. While in Washington, the Weider’s second son, Alex was born.
During his first sabbatical, Rabbi Weider was granted a prestigious Merril Fellowship at Harvard Divinity School. He was in residence at Harvard Divinity for the spring semester of 1998, along with the other four Merril Fellows from all over the United States. After completing his Merril Fellowship, Rabbi Weider was granted a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in the spring of 1998. Rabbi Weider’s second sabbatical in 2006 was spent studying rabbinic literature and the Hebrew language in Jerusalem at the Hebrew Union College. In addition, he studied Islam at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Weider’s hobbies include skiing, bicycling, and travel. Rabbi and Rosalie Weider are also part time residents of Park City Utah. They have been going there since 1984 and have been involved with the creation of a synagogue in Park City, Temple Har Shalom, a synagogue that now has grown big enough to have a full time rabbi and a vibrant Jewish life.
Upon retirement from Congregation Beth Elohim, Rabbi Weider assumed the position of Senior Rabbinic Consultant to the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Communities (UJC). In this role Rabbi Weider will work on the national level with over nine hundred rabbis (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox) in planning conferences, missions to Israel, and educational programs that explain the work of UJC and UJA to rabbinical students.
Shelley Klein - Executive Director
Shelley received a B.A. from Brandeis and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her multi-faceted career began as an attorney. After Shelly left the practice of law, she held various leadership roles at Columbia University Law School, Columbia University and Hadassah. Most recently Shelley was the Associate Director of Columbia University's Law School's Center for Institutional and Social Change, managing the administration of the Center. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University. At Hadassah, Shelley was the National Director for Programs, and was responsible for all national education and advocacy initiatives.
Jacqueline Israel - Director of Early Childhood Center
Jacqueline Israel has enjoyed a long relationship with the Early Childhood Center where she began her teaching career in 1986. Since then she has coordinated pre-k programs for several non- profit 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 Luke and daughter Bridget.
Bobbie Finkelstein - Director of Youth Programs
Bobbie Finkelstein has been involved in the field of school age care for the past twenty years. She came to Congregation Beth Elohim 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. Currently, 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 Congregation Beth Elohim, 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. She loves developing new programs and believes in the power of groups.
Bobbie lives in Sunset Park with her family, husband Fred and daughters, Sylvie and Molly.
Ilana Friedman - Associate Director of the Early Childhood Center
Ilana Friedman is thrilled to be joining the staff at Beth Elohim’s Early Childhood Center. No stranger to the Park Slope area, Ilana has been teaching, coaching and developing curriculum for the past 15 years at PS 321. In addition, she spent several summers as the theater director at Piper Theater Camp’s, Puck’s Playground,introducing Park Slope’s youngest thespians to the works of Shakespeare. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Ilana received her Bachelors from Brooklyn College, and her Masters in Education from New York University. She has a passion for project-based learning in addition to creating and implementing rich, original, inspiring educational activities. She is equally excited to share her knowledge with the staff, as well as learn from both the faculty and students. Ilana currently resides in Windsor Terrace with her husband Dave and her son Noah, who will be joining her next year at the best pre-school she can imagine!
Shuli Zilberfarb Sela - Yachad Director
Shuli is excited to start her second year at Congregation Beth Elohim, coming back as the director of Yachad. Last year she had been the Yachad Fourth Grade Core Teacher, K-1 Keshet Teacher and was among those who led CBE’s pilot dual language camp. Shuli carries a diverse cache of educating experiences. As a the Commanding Officer of an army company in the education corps in the Israeli Defense Force, Shuli directed and managed staffing, training, evaluation, program, logistics, and crisis management for over 30 staff members and 100 recruits in an educational program for those with social, emotional, behavioral and academic special needs. Prior to moving to the states Shuli served as a Policy Analyst at the Israel Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and as the Chief Editor of Jama'a, a Hebrew interdisciplinary journal for the study of the Middle East, published by Ben-Gurion University. Shuli has also served as a teacher for at-risk children and teens with disabilities in Be’er Sheva, volunteered with ELEM (helping youth in distress) and mentored students in Mitspe Ramon. She was also the Head of Personnel Training for her Israeli Scouts Tribe. Shuli, a former basketball player in the Israeli National League, also enjoys coaching basketball.