Proud of Our Solel Grads

by Larry Englander, December 22, 2019

A Chanukah Message from Rabbi Englander

During the dark days of winter, the flames of Chanukah come to illuminate our many blessings, and to enable us to give thanks for them. There is one such blessing I’d like to share with you at this festive time.

Now that I attend Bet Sefer Solel only sporadically, I marvel at how the kids I knew as toddlers and pre-schoolers are now taller than I am! I also think fondly of the “Solel Grads” who have spread their wings to make their way in the world: whether by entering their profession of choice, finding the ideal partner, raising a family or, in general, making their contribution to society and to the Jewish community.

In this article, I want to focus on the many Solel Grads who have chosen professions in which they serve the Jewish people. Seven of them are rabbis or rabbinical students, and I’d like to kvell about them:

Ellen Nemhauser (nee Wierzba) (Kallah Grad 1979) was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1993. She now heads up a Reform Movement initiative as the online manager of the Introduction to Judaism conversion programme. She has also done extensive interfaith work, which includes leading a clergy group on a tour of Israel.

Joel (Ya’akov) Beasley (Kallah Grad 1984) graduated from Yeshiva University and Mercaz Kollel in Israel, and is studying for his doctorate at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv. As Rabbi, he is the Tanach co-ordinator at Yeshivat Hesder Lev HaTorah and teacher at Yeshivat Amit Nachshon in Israel.

David Vaisberg (Kallah Grad 1999) was ordained from HUC-JIR in 2012 and recently became the Senior Rabbi of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston NJ. In his few months there, he is already beloved as a teacher, preacher, counsellor, community leader and musician.

Rachel Van Thyn (Kallah Grad 1997) was ordained from HUC-JIR in 2013 and is currently a staff chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She is also training to become a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor.

Emily Jurman (Kallah Grad 2002) was ordained from Leo Baeck College in London in 2015. She currently serves as Associate Minister (i.e. Rabbi) at Edgeware and Hendon Reform Synagogue in London.

Devon Spier (Kallah Grad 2004) is enrolled in rabbinical studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City. She has published a book of poetry and is engaged in preparing more poems for publication.

Neil Hirsch recently enrolled in rabbinical studies at Hebrew College in Boston. Previously he served as intern at the Hadar Institute in New York, an academy of adult Jewish study.

In addition to these Solel Grads, we have others who are actively engaged in Jewish professional work:

Marc Herman (Kallah Grad 1999) obtained his PhD from Pennsylvania University in the field of Jewish Studies, specializing in Judeo-Arabic and Islamic intellectual history. He is currently Research Fellow at the Abdallah S. Kamel Centre for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilizations at Yale Law School.

Laura Shefter (nee Herman) (Kallah Grad 2002) received her Doctorate in Jewish Education in 2019. Her dissertation bore the title “The Relationship Between Professional and Jewish Identity Among Experiential Jewish Educators.” At present, while on maternity leave, Laura works as the Programme and Evaluation Manager for the JPRO Network.

Debbi Locketz (nee Rothschild) (Kallah Grad 1992) is married to Rabbi David Locketz and lives in Minneapolis MN. She is a Licenced Independent Clinical Social Worker and is Director of Camper Care at the URJ Camp Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute.

Lindsay Mockler (Kalla Grad 2005) is the Simcha Co-ordinator at Holy Blossom Temple and the Assistant to Rabbi Jordan Helfman.

Not bad work for our modest congregation!!!

In addition to these people (and please forgive me if I have overlooked someone), I’m very proud of all our Solel Grads. I know that many of them have become active members of their congregations where they now live.

In her High Holiday article for the Shammas, Roz Allen mentioned how her childhood synagogue’s sense of community helped to foster her Jewish identity, and how she finds this same sense alive and well at Solel. The people mentioned above, in their emails to me, commented on the significant impact that our Solel community has had on their lives, both professionally and personally.

The true miracle of Chanukah is that the Jewish People, although a small proportion of the world’s population, will thrive for many generations as long as our spirit continues to shine. And now, under the visionary leadership of Rabbi Pollack and Arliene Botnick, Solel is already at work raising yet another generation of dedicated Jews whose lights will shine our way into the future!

Filed under: Reflections

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