Leadership - Hevreh
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Clergy

Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch

Rabbi Neil P.G. Hirsch joined the Hevreh community in July 2015.

 

Originally from Houston, Texas, he originally came to the Northeast for college and stayed for the weather and the hiking. He earned his bachelor degrees in Art History and Classics from Tufts University. He was ordained from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City in 2010. Before coming to Great Barrington, Rabbi Hirsch served as one of the rabbis at Temple Shalom in Newton, Massachusetts.

 

Rabbi Hirsch is passionate about teaching Torah, whether during services on Saturday morning, in one of our adult learning courses, with our teens on a Confirmation Class trip, or over a good cup of coffee. He loves exploring the ways that our tradition speaks into an individual’s life, informing one’s spiritual development.

 

Beyond his responsibilities within the congregation, Rabbi Hirsch is a leader in our community–both here in the Berkshires and in our Reform Movement. He serves on the Board of Trustees for Construct, Inc, a local organization that provides transitional and affordable housing, along with other wrap-around services to support its clients. Rabbi Hirsch is a founder of BASIC, a network of faith-based and human services organizations who ensure access to resources for our local immigrant community. More broadly, he is a member of the Commission on Social Action of the Religious Action Center and is co-chair of the Reform Movement’s Campaign for Racial Justice. On April 3, 2018, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “From the Mountaintop” sermon, Rabbi Hirsch spoke from the same pulpit at the Mason Temple in Memphis, representing the Jewish voice at the I Am 2018 Conference. In September 2018, 1Berkshire named Rabbi Hirsch a finalist for their Trendsetter’s Awards as an Under-40 Change Maker.

 

He is married to Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch, who serves Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield, MA. They have one son, Lior.

Rabbi Jodie Gordon

Rabbi Gordon is our Rabbi and Educational Director. Originally from Rockville Centre, NY, Rabbi Gordon grew up with strong connections in the Reform movement, especially through her time at URJ Eisner Camp, which instilled in her a lifelong love for Jewish learning, and the Berkshires. She attended Brandeis University where she earned a degree in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies. Prior to attending rabbinical school, Rabbi Gordon gained invaluable community experience building, programming and teaching in a variety of Jewish communal institutions, including Hillel at the University of Wisconsin and The JCC in Manhattan, and Ma’yan: Listen for a Change. Rabbi Gordon was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2014.

 

In recognition of her academic excellence and leadership potential, Rabbi Gordon was awarded the Bonnie and Daniel Tisch Fellowship for Rabbinic Leadership during her time at HUC-JIR. Her publications include “Koach Banot (Girl Power): Talking Feminism with Jewish Teen Girls”, a chapter in the volume New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future, and an article entitled “”Emerging Rabbis: It’s Too Soon to Proclaim “Mission Accomplished!” which appeared in the Fall 2012 CCAR Journal. Rabbi Gordon is passionate her work, helping individuals and families find meaningful ways to live Jewishly on Jewish time. She also serves locally on the board of the Berkshire Baby Box, an organization providing education and resources to new parents.

 

Rabbi Gordon is married to Joshua Bloom, and they are thrilled to live in the Berkshires with their daughters Lola and Goldie.

Rabbi Deborah Zecher

On July 1, 2014, Rabbi Deborah Zecher became Rabbi Emerita of Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, after having served as Rabbi and Leader of Music from 1992-2014. Rabbi Zecher feels tremendous gratitude to the members of Hevreh for having been her partners in continuing to create a wonderful, vibrant, music-and study-filled community over the twenty-two years of her tenure at Hevreh.

 

She is a graduate of Brandeis University and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York in 1982 where she also received her Doctor of Divinity degree in 2007. Rabbi Zecher has also served congregations in Scarsdale, NY, Washington, DC and Germantown, MD in addition to working as a chaplain at American University and Williams College.

 

During Rabbi Zecher’s tenure at Hevreh, she was especially proud of the many congregants who studied and learned to chant Torah, including almost 250 teen and adult bnai mitzvah students. She created a five year post-bar/bat mitzvah program leading to Confirmation which also included annual trips to Prague, Amsterdam, the American South for a Civil Rights journey and L’Taken, a social justice advocacy program in Washington, DC. Together with Hevreh’s choir and in recognition of the important role music plays at Hevreh, Rabbi Zecher recorded two CD’s of Jewish music. Rabbi Zecher’s time at Hevreh also saw the creation and construction of two buildings, one of them the first building created specifically to be a synagogue in South Berkshire county.

 

Rabbi Zecher feels honored to have served on the national board of every organization in the Reform movement, having completed two terms on the Board of Governors of HUC-JIR and as well as serving as president of the Rabbinic Alumni Association of HUC-JIR. She served as Recording Secretary of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and was also a member of the Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism). In 2003, Rabbi Zecher was thrilled to have been chosen as one of the sh’lichei tzibor (leader of worship) for the URJ Biennial Shabbat morning service, the first time a rabbi was chosen to share musical responsibilities for this service and in 2007, she served as cantor for the CCAR convention service at the historic Plum Street Temple, a service which formally introduced Mishkan Tefillah to the members of the CCAR. She is a past national co-coordinator of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and served several terms on the board of the Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires. Rabbi Zecher is a past president of the Southern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy Association. For several years, she served as one of the moderators of Religious Roundtable, a radio program on WSBS sponsored by the South Berkshire Interfaith Clergy Association. She especially enjoyed her work as a mentor to several rabbis and rabbinic students in programs sponsored by the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Hebrew Union College.

Shani Cohen

Shani Cohen is thrilled to be joining Hevreh at the new student cantor for the 2017-2018 school year. She grew up in Sunnyvale, California, and is currently in her second year as a cantorial student at the HUC-JIR Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. This past summer, Shani got to travel to Argentina with an HUC cohort to learn about its Jewish community, as well as study with leading Reform clergy and songleaders at the Hava Nashira Jewish music convention. Last year, Shani had an amazing experience living and studying in Jerusalem as part of HUC’s Year-in-Israel program, where she led prayer services, soloed with the HUC High Holy Day choir, performed at the Debbie Friedman Memorial and Classical Reform concerts, and connected with Israeli friends and family. She was also chosen for the inaugaral JDC Fellowship for Global Jewish Leadership, through which she visited and worked with Progressive Jewish communities in Eastern Europe during the Passover holiday. She looks forward to a wonderful year of praying and growing together with the wonderful Hevreh community!

Staff

Janet Lee

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Janet is our Executive Director. She has been with Hevreh since January 2011. Before becoming Hevreh’s Temple Administrator, Janet, her husband Tim and two daughters, Alison and Ruthie joined Hevreh in 2003 after moving to the Berkshires from Madison, WI. Both daughters confirmed from Hevreh and our now pursuing college degrees in Brooklyn, NY and Amherst, MA.

 

Janet has a background in accounting, general operations and management. She is responsible for the day to day operations at Hevreh, oversees our custodial staff and handles all things Hevreh. She is a member of MATSA (the Massachusetts Association of Temple and Synagogue Administrators). When not at Hevreh, Janet can often be seen walking through Great Barrington with her lovable Sheltie, Milo.

Jodie Friedman

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Jodie is our Program Associate. Jodie joined the Hevreh team in August of 2017. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jodie graduated from the University of Arizona in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. After graduating, she worked as a nanny in England then traveled through Europe and Israel for six weeks-her greatest adventure yet.

 

Jodie loves working with congregants through her dual positioning in the Hevreh office doing administrative work as well as being part of the Education Team. When not at Hevreh she can be found drinking coffee, tea, or seltzer while deeply invested in a book.

Rebecca Wagner

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Rebecca is our Clergy Assistant. Born in Milford, Ct, Rebecca moved to the Berkshires at age 12 with her family. Recently, Rebecca graduated from Berkshire Community College, Associates in Liberal Arts. In her never ending search for knowledge she holds a paralegal certificate from University of Connecticut and just finishing up a bookkeeping certificate from New York Institute of Career Development. New to the Hevreh community as clergy assistant, she looks forward to belonging to a new community at Hevreh. After high school she traveled up and down the east coast, landing back in the Berkshires to raise her children. Rebecca is the mother of three, Danielle, Brett and Devon. When she is not at work or helping anyone in need, she can be found painting in acrylic or throwing pottery or reading.

Lay Leadership

Suzanne Sawyer

President

We have lived in various parts of Berkshire County for more than 20 years, but in South County since 2002.  We became members just before 9/11. It was an important time to have a place to come together to heal.  Our oldest children were also getting to an age where Tom and I wanted help to teach them Jewish values and traditions.  I needed a support system for creating a Jewish home, and I wanted our children to feel the same sense of Jewish identity and security in their faith that I did growing up.

 

As soon as we walked through Hevreh’s doors, as an interfaith family, we knew we had found our place to belong.  Tom is fully involved in many aspects of Hevreh life and even completed the 2014 B’Nai Mitzvah class, with our daughters chanting Haftarah in his honor.  All of our children are either in Religious School or have been Confirmed.  They stay involved after their Bat Mitzvah because they want to, as young teachers, in the youth groups, and volunteering.  We have had three B’Not Mitzvah and another soon, and our children will tell you Hevreh feels like their second home.

 

Working with our rabbinic team, part of my vision for Hevreh is to ensure for others that same sense of safety and belonging and spiritual home as we had been blessed to find so many years ago.

Alan Kaufman

Treasurer

My wife, Debby Roth, and I moved to upstate New York from New York City in 1981 and have lived full time in Chatham, New York, since 1982. We have been members of Hevreh since around 1990. Our two daughters, Sarah and Mara, attended religious school and were bat mitzvahed and confirmed at Hevreh and now live in New York City.

 

I have previously served on Hevreh’s Board, chaired the Long-Range Planning Committee, and taught in the religious school. I am pleased to join the Board again and work with such wonderful people in shaping Hevreh’s future.

Shelley Rolf

Vice President

My husband and I moved to the Berkshires from Michigan to work here.  We were young, had no children and thought that if we didn’t like it here, we’d move!  That was over 30 years and 4 children ago.

 

We joined Hevreh in 1990 when our older children were young.  Hevreh embraced our family and in turn, we embraced Hevreh.  Along the way, we have been proud to bear witness to 4 B’nai Mitzvah, 4 Confirmations and many other life cycle events.  Being part of sustaining a strong sense of community has been at the core of my Hevreh experience, being connected to committees supporting religious education, youth group programming and the Caring Community.

Mark Lefenfeld

Immediate Past President

After raising our two sons in Austin, Texas and seeing them both off to college, my wife Mimi and I moved to Great Barrington in 2004. At that time, I began a gradual retirement from a legal and consulting practice that allowed me to increase my involvement with Hevreh … committee member to committee chair to board member to Executive Committee to president.

 

I find the opportunity to be part of Hevreh’s transition to the future to be exciting and important. One of my goals is to share that excitement with as many Hevreh congregants as possible.

Michele Krieg Bauer

Vice President

In 2009 my husband and I moved to the Berkshires from Dallas. This was the “retirement” spot we had chosen after looking all over the US. It has been as wonderful as we hoped it would be and Hevreh has played a big part in this. I had been to Hevreh while visiting in past years and was instantly drawn back to it — the music, the warmth of the services led by two wonderful rabbis, the friendliness of the community — I could go on and on.

 

From joining the choir, participating in activities and the Rosh Chodesh group, to co-chairing the High Holiday Committee — I became more and more involved despite working full-time and living in Pittsfield. I have reduced my work as a psychotherapist to part-time, in order to serve as a Vice President at Hevreh, and as a regional mentor for Dining for Women. I believe that Hevreh is currently in a time of increased stability, growth and positive change, all of which make our community a more vibrant spiritual home. I am honored to be part of this amazing congregation and board.

Hinda Bodinger

I was Consecrated when I was 5, Confirmed when I was 15, and became a Bat Mitzvah when I was 50. I had always felt a positive connection to my Jewish heritage, however, once I became a parent and realized that Spiritual Development was part of my new job description, I realized that I had a lot to learn. Holidays became opportunities to celebrate our culture. We built a Sukkah and invited the neighborhood. I started compiling my own Hagaddah each year, to come up with something more engaging. (Each one is pure patchwork plagiarism, but have become our own.) Traditions have helped connect us to our history and temple membership has given us a strong community to belong to, which we value greatly. I look forward to serving on Hevreh’s Board and hope to contribute in a meaningful way.

Julie Kalt Gale

Vice President

We bought our house here in Hillsdale, NY over 30 years and came as second-home owners for 18 -years. We had been very active members of our tiny home-based synagogue in Westchester County, NY where Debbie Zecher had been a student Rabbi. Debbie had invited our congregation to come for Shabbat several years before and we felt so welcomed that even before we moved here full-time in 2006, we joined Hevreh. Our daughter immediately felt that she belonged and it was a very easy transition.

Brian Grossman

Having lived exclusively in suburban and urban areas my entire life (most recently NYC) before moving with my family to Great Barrington in 2012, the Berkshires were a shock to the system – in the best possible way. After telecommuting down to New York City every week for two years, I was finally able to live here full time in late 2014 and it has been wonderful life change. Hevreh has been such an important piece of this – a place where I was instantly welcomed from the moment I set foot in the congregation and a loving, close-knit Jewish community for my kids to grow up in. My background is in marketing where I have run brands throughout my career and I help guide Hevreh’s rebranding and marketing efforts as a member of the board.

Deborah Harris

Although born in New York City and raised on Long Island, I have always been a New Englander at heart (my mother was born and raised in Hartford and I attended college in Maine). So, when my husband, Bob, and I were married and he introduced me to Otis Wood Lands, a community where he had once owned a home, I said “Yeah, I could live here.” We bought our house in the Wood Lands in 2009 and became weekend residents. A year later when I retired from my job as medical records specialist at the Bronx Zoo we moved up here permanently. Being in need of a wider social network (the Wood Lands has fewer than 15 full time residents) we naturally began our search with Hevreh, the local temple. We fell in love almost immediately.

 

I celebrated my adult b’nai mitzva as a member of the 2014 class. I have traveled with Hevreh to both Eastern Europe and Israel. I currently serve on the membership and ritual committees and am active with the Rosh Chodesh group.

Rik Kabel

Secretary

Jan and I chose Great Barrington as a weekend home in 1997, and after spending much more than just weekends as the years passed, joined Hevreh a few years ago. We became full-time residents in 2016. We have one son, who lives in Manhattan. At our New York synagogue I was for many years involved with the homeless shelter program, and was pleased to find a progressive, involved community here. After years as a technology consultant with major computer manufacturers working with public and financial sector customers, I am pleased to be able to turn to new endeavors and contribute to Hevreh and the larger community.

Elie Katzman

My wife Marilyn and I began visiting the Berkshires together when we were in college. We have always loved the beautiful mountains, cultural events, and activities that are available here. In 1989 we became second homeowners, and in 2012, after beginning my gradual retirement as a partner in a regional accounting firm in New Jersey, we made the Berkshires our home.
We feel fortunate, because our daughter, son in law and two granddaughters had already made this their home. In addition, our son and daughter in law, who live in New York City, have a second home here.

 

While we lived in New Jersey we were affiliated with a temple. When we made the Berkshires our home we wanted to continue to be part of the local Jewish community, so it was natural for us to become involved and join Hevreh. Marilyn participated in the establishment of the Jewish Women’s Foundation and has served as the co-chair for the past two years. Even before we moved here we had experienced the warmth of Hevreh when our older granddaughter was a Bat Mitzvah at Hevreh.

 

When I affiliate with an organization, I want to be an active participant. Before moving to the Berkshires I served on the boards of a number of charitable organizations, including the Jewish News (where I was president), United Jewish Community of Metrowest, Jewish Community Housing Corporation, and the Mental Health Association of Essex County. It is for this reason that I now serve on the board of Hevreh. In this way I hope to make a difference.

John Lipkowitz

Vice President

My wife Nina and I moved to Great Barrington in 2006 following my retirement from practicing law in Manhattan. It was no accident that we chose the Berkshires as I had both gone to camp and been a counselor in Cheshire many decades ago and we had camped several weekends a summer for many years at October Mountain and Greylock State Parks. We already knew the natural and cultural advantages of the Berkshires in summer. Active in our former congregation in New York, with Hevreh just down the road from our house, the warmth of its clergy and congregation helped sustain us through the winters as well. With the passage of time the synagogue needed new clergy and I became active in the search process resulting in our current superb clergy, which involvement has now led to board membership.

Matt Mozian

My wife Sharon and I moved to the Berkshires in 2007 from New York City. In addition to its scenic beauty, we believed the Berkshires would be a wonderful place to live, work, and raise children. Our belief was confirmed shortly after arriving in the Berkshires. One of the important pieces of the rich social and family life we’ve developed is Hevreh. Our two young children are students at Hevreh’s religious school and I’m constantly impressed by the warmth and caring nature of our religious school.

 

Although we became members of Hevreh shortly after arriving in the Berkshires, we have recently become active members by serving on various committees. I am very excited to now serve as a member of Hevreh’s Board to help Hevreh grow with our exciting Rabbinic team.

Steve Pyenson

Steve currently resides in Otis, Mass with his wife Joyce. He graduated from University of Mass, Amherst in 1966 and complete 6 months of active duty in the US Coast Guard in 1967. He married Joyce the same year. For many years, Steve owned and operated the Otis Poultry Farm.

 

Joyce and Steve joined Hevreh in 2000. He studied and completed the adult B’Nai Mitzvah class in 2007. The warmth and friendship of the Hevreh community has been overwhelming. He has had the opportunity to visit Israel twice. One of these visits was with Rabbi Emerita Deborah Zecher, where he had the opportunity to read Torah at the Western wall.

 

Steve retired in 2010, joined the Board of Directors at Hevreh and became the chairman of the House Committee. He and Joyce love being active members of the Hevreh community.

Terri Sash

My family and I moved to Columbia County in 2004 from New York City. I work in Berkshire County as a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist. My path to Jewish life started in utero when my mother was taking adult Bat Mitzvah classes while pregnant with me. I attended Eisner Camp from 1978-1992 and told my mom (when I was 8) that when I grew up I would live in Great Barrington, near camp. I was part of a NFTY in Israel trip, was on NFTY/Long Island regional board for 2 years, and attended NFTY convention and several trips to the RAC. I put myself through graduate school teaching in 3 different religious schools on Long Island, including the one I grew up in. I mention these past experiences because it has shaped my commitment to youth and family programming at Hevreh. My “lens” is always focused on making Jewish experiences meaningful for families and children.

 

My family came to Hevreh in 2005 to bring my daughter to Tiny Talmidim. I started teaching the Tiny Talmidim class in 2007 and this fall began my 11th year as a Hevreh teacher. It’s an honor for me to help bring young children and families into this warm community. We also have a seriously good time!

Lisa Sloane

My husband Bob and I moved from Boston to Lee in 1998. We had vacationed in the Berkshires throughout our relationship – including our honeymoon, so we jumped at the chance to move here when Bob was offered a job. A year later, we owned a home, had a baby girl and had started to put down roots in the community. Bob is not Jewish but had agreed to raise a Jewish family. When we looked around at options for joining a synagogue, Hevreh seemed like a great fit for us. From Tiny Talmudim to our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah to confirmation class trips to Prague and Washington DC, Hevreh offered our daughter a chance to connect with other Jewish youth. We are happy to be part of a community that shares our social justice values, doesn’t require a coat and tie to attend services and holds open arms to young, old, Jewish or not.

Larry Frankel

My wife, Elisa, and I moved to Great Barrington, full-time, two years ago. Even before we closed on our home, Elisa joined Hevreh. Both of us became actively involved in synagogue life. I served on the Revenue Enhancement Committee, and I still serve on the newly formed Dues Committee. This year I was elected to the Board Of Trustees. I am committed to the well being of Hevreh, its continued growth, and in reaching out to the younger generation of our community. I am currently pursuing my artistic career as a photographer. Lisa and I share our home with our wonderful and delightful Australian Cobberdog Zoe, who is two years old.