Over the past several months, lay leadership changes have occurred within a number of local synagogues.

The Cleveland Jewish News asked newly elected presidents to share their answers to a few questions as they begin their term of office.

Some presidents opted not to participate and/or submit photos.

The Jewish Secular Community of Cleveland

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President: James H. Mayer

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

Post COVID, we seek to resume past activities in person and in our familiar format.

​• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

Develop growth plans and initiate changes indicated by our 2021 Facebook activity. Reduce the average age of our membership from an unsustainable 78. Attract and phase in new leadership.

​• What do you think the strengths of your congregation are?

We provide economical secular-humanistic Jewish participation and identification that meets the needs and desires of our members to live a secular Jewish life. We draw on traditional and modern Jewish sources which affirm the ethical message of our belief. Our nine monthly Shabbat observances include a brief ritual followed by a catered/potluck meal and a talk on a current topic by a member or invited guest.

We offer educational programs in the history, culture and philosophical tenets of the Jewish people and on critical issues facing our community and world. We observe and celebrate seven major holidays and life cycle events. You can learn more about us by following us on Facebook “Jewish Secular Community of Cleveland” and on our website. jewishsecularcommunity.org.

Temple B’nai Abraham


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Co-Presidents: Sydney Brunschwig and David Steigman

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

While it was our expectation to be open for the High Holy Days, due to the current climate with the Delta variant, the new mask policy, surging infections and uncertainty about further restrictions we will continue operating online for the time being. When we can safely reopen, we will have the ability to do hybrid services.

• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

We hope to find new ways to build bridges between faith, learning and doing; to encourage actions based on our individual understandings of our common tradition.

We hope to continue welcoming new members to our congregation. Because of Zoom, we were able to connect with people who would otherwise have been unable to join us.

• What do you think the strengths of your congregation are?

Our strengths are our members and our Rabbi. We are a very welcoming small congregation where we feel like we are among family. We cherish Jews of all identities, families of all types, and individuals of all backgrounds who feel connected to the Jewish community. Rabbi Lauren Werber has been with us for 14 years, and she has been part of the glue that holds our congregation together. We are truly blessed to have her as our spiritual leader as she has so much to offer.

Learn more about the synagogue at tbaelyria.org.

Temple Israel Ner Tamid

Mayfield Heights

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President: Gary Rosenthal

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

Temple Israel Ner Tamid is completing a major renovation to the Temple and its grounds. During the COVID crisis, TINT conducted services via Facebook and YouTube. The response was overwhelming. We experienced a 500% increase of persons participating in our Shabbat service via Facebook and YouTube from locales across the country. As we rebound from the COVID crisis, TINT re-opens a new renovated facility with live services. TINT will continue access via Facebook and YouTube.

TINT’s goal is to provide a safe and spiritual environment.

• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

As I assume office, TINT is entering a new chapter in its history. The new classrooms are equipped with the best available technology. They should enhance the education of our students and broaden the delivery of instruction. I anticipate changes to our media presence as we seek to grow our membership and increase enrollment at our religious school. Our board of trustees works well together. We seek to increase involvement from our members of the board of trustees in the activities of TINT.

• What do you think the strengths of your congregation are?

Our congregation is relatively small in number but a close-knit community. We are dedicated to providing a Jewish lifestyle for our membership and a passionate commitment to tzedakah. We provide teddy bears to children in need, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we call it peanut butter and Judaism B to the inner-city, and food and personal hygiene supplies to the community.

This year TINT will conduct a health fair.

We seek to create improve access to Jewish people who cannot attend services.

We will broaden our commitment to providing a beit tefillah, beit knesset and beit midrash.

Learn more about the synagogue at tintcleveland.org.

B’nai Jeshurun Congregation Pepper Pike

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President: Rebekah Dorman

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

As we begin to gather again in person, we are very cognizant of the range of perspectives in our congregation during this transitional time, and are doing our best to accommodate those varying feelings. We are thrilled to be together again in person, for those who feel comfortable, but are doing so with many safety precautions in place. We will continue to embrace technology when appropriate and helpful. Maintaining a virtual option makes it easier for some members to attend meetings for a variety of reasons and we plan to create a “Zoom room” where classes and meetings can occur effectively in a hybrid fashion.

• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

Engaging the next generation to grow our synagogue community is crucial. We are exploring new ways to engage young people while, at the same time, continuing to effectively serve our older congregants.

Coming from a long career in nonprofit management, I recognize that our synagogue must have a strong operational infrastructure to accomplish our spiritual, educational, social and social action goals. Thus, we are initiating long term operational planning in areas such as facilities, finance, and communications.

Finally, we are in the beginning stages of a cantor search and finding the right person for that very important role is a top priority.

• What do you think the strengths of your congregation are?

Our wonderful clergy team inspires us, educates us, celebrates with us and comforts us.

We have a very high level of member engagement with active committees and affinity groups involved in nearly every aspect of synagogue operations. We have a meaningful role for you in our community if you want to get involved.

Education across the lifespan makes B’nai Jeshurun a special place for learners of all ages. From tot Shabbat, to our excellent religious school, adult b’nai mitzvah program, tikkun Leil Shavuot and our Weingold Academy and Scholar Weekend, we have a wide array of outstanding educational experiences for children and adults alike.

Learn more about the synagogue at bnaijeshurun.org.

Congregation Shaarey Tikvah Beachwood

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President: Jessi Shapiro

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

Members of the Congregation Shaarey Tikvah community have stayed connected throughout the past 18 months with virtual and outdoor programming and by gathering safely in person when it has been safe to do so. We’ll continue to maintain and build connections throughout our community with flexibility, creativity, and care for one another as we balance our preference for gathering in-person with our commitment to health and safety.

​• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

I want Shaarey Tikvah to continue to be a place where congregants of all ages can get involved in ways that are meaningful to their Jewish lives, through camaraderie, committee work and leadership, participation in worship services, study of ancient and modern texts, or increasing kindness and justice in our world. I want to celebrate our many volunteers and our fabulous clergy and staff and help make their important work easier. Our small shul and large community gives every congregant, including children, the opportunity to customize their learning and involvement while building relationships within our kehilah. I want to help more people take advantage of those opportunities.

​• What do you think are the strengths of your congregation?

We are a small shul with a large community that is flexible enough to react to changing times while remaining rooted in our history and in Jewish tradition. We are fortunate to have a dynamic spiritual leader in Rabbi Scott Roland, who has committed to our community for the next 10 years, an experienced, creative director of congregational learning in Rabbi Rachel Brown, a stellar staff who keep everything running smoothly, and congregants skilled in many areas who share their talents with us on a daily basis. We pride ourselves on how we welcome both longtime friends and newcomers, including the 25-plus new families who have joined us since June 2019. Ultimately, our strength is in our warm, caring connected community.

Learn more about the synagogue at shaareytikvah.org.

Temple Emanu El


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President: Susan Krantz

• What are your expectations for the synagogue as it starts to open up and post COVID-19?

The COVID-19 environment has not changed our expectations for Temple Emanu El. No matter the format, we continuously empower our congregants to explore their passion for Judaism, lifelong learning and social action within and beyond our walls. Our warm and inspiring worship services, robust and thought-provoking programming, and inviting educational environment are regular activities that continue to provide the much-needed warmth, spirituality and feeling of community for our congregants. We are excited to gather together but appreciate all that Temple Emanu El has to offer, wherever we may be.

• What goals do you have for the synagogue under your leadership?

Temple Emanu El is blessed to have Rabbi Steve Denker as our spiritual leader since he became our interim rabbi in 2004 and our permanent rabbi in 2006. He will retire in May 2022 and of great importance and excitement is our search for our next spiritual partner. Our rabbinic search committee has been hard at work following the thought-provoking efforts of our visioning task group. We have submitted our application to the Central Conference of American Rabbis and are currently providing the opportunity to meet with our entire congregation, through numerous focus groups, to ensure that everyone has a voice in this important decision for our temple family. Our Rabbinic search will welcome our next Rabbi who will lead the Temple Emanu El community into the future and will help shape the next chapter for our synagogue.

• What do you think the strengths of your congregation are?

Temple Emanu El’s strengths consist of loyal core members including many multi-generational families; well-respected preschool, religious school and adult education programs; unique social justice and advocacy programming and opportunities; an active and engaged youth group which has proudly developed local, regional and national leaders; a vibrant Brotherhood which provides entertaining and thought-provoking programs for our entire congregation; and a history of long tenured rabbis and long serving and skilled professional staff.

Learn more about the synagogue at teecleve.org.

– Compiled by Sammi Fremont, former Clifford and Linda Wolf Editorial Intern

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