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Directory

Meet our Clergy

Robert S. Leib, Senior Rabbi

The synagogue is the primary portal to institutional Jewish life. It is also, I very much believe, the principal gateway to establishing deep connections and meaningful relationships between and among one another. Little wonder, then, that we refer to ourselves as a Beit Am the “House of the People,” for it is within the warm, comforting and familiar embrace of the Molish Sanctuary, the Temple Beth Torah Chapel, the Klein Chapel, the Rabbi Harold B. and Elise Waintrup Religious School, the Temple Beth Torah School of Early Learning, the Rovinsky Family Youth Lounge and the Strick Auditorium – the more prominent, public places on our Suzan and Allan Fox Campus – that we learn to define and refine our personal covenant with God and each other. For Judaism, ultimately, is a relational commitment. Peoplehood stands at the very center, the very heart of this glorious and magnificent enterprise that we call, “Judaism.” I invite you – whether as a congregant, visitor or potential member – to join with us as we delve as far and as deep as we can into the very nature of what we constitute as a people; to try and understand our core being, our very essence, our most essential selves. Here, at Beth Am, we admittedly indulge in rich cultural norms; we aspire to impressive educational standards for all, regardless of physical or cognitive ability; we ascribe to the fundamental tenets of a dynamic, relevant and contemporary Progressive Jewish faith; we embrace a remarkable and unique heritage that transcends biblical landscapes and rabbinic mandates, poetic inscriptions and philosophical interpretations. We are all that and yet so much more!

Stand with us at Sinai – shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and hand in hand – and dare to dream of a better and brighter tomorrow for all of God’s creatures… “Faith doesn’t mean living with certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty, knowing that God is with us on that tough but necessary journey to a world that honors life and treasures peace.” (Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks.)

You might say that it was bashert – meant to be – that I came to these blessed shores and have served as the Senior Rabbi of this congregation since 2004. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, I graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1980 and began five-year, post-graduate rabbinic studies at the Leo Baeck College in London in 1981. The academic year 1983-84 took me to New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where I met my future wife Randy (a board-certified music therapist) while teaching at Central Synagogue. We were married there on August 11,1985. Following my ordination in 1986, I returned to my home congregation and served as an Assistant Rabbi at Temple Israel, the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation until 1989. As a conscientious objector to serving in apartheid South Africa’s defense forces, I had no other alternative but to leave the country. I participated in a most unusual series of “interviews” that included faxes, long-distance phone calls and video-taped answers to questions posed by the Old York Road Temple-Beth Am search committee. It was meant to be! Together with Randy and our infant daughter, Hayley, I left South Africa and became Assistant Rabbi at Beth Am, working alongside Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup z”l. None of us could have imagined that this would be the beginning of a long relationship. These years have been full of many special events shared with my Temple family. They include the birth of two more daughters, Ilana and Aviva. I became a naturalized American citizen on January 12, 1994, though I continue to carry a strong foreign accent and can never forget my homeland. It was my honor to lead a congregational trip to South Africa in November, 2014! These 30+ years have included singing the “Star Spangled Banner” together when I became a naturalized American citizen in 1994. I was made a “Fellow” of Leo Baeck College in July 2011, marking 25 years in the rabbinate. I look forward to many more!

It is my honor to serve as a member of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia . I am a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Association of Reform Zionists of America. I am a graduate of the Rabbinic Leadership Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Current chair of the rabbinic committee of the Kehillah of Old York Road, and former chair of the Old York Road Interfaith Ministerium.

Elena Zarkh, Cantor 

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, but the Philadelphia area has been my home since 1985 and my husband, Serge Goldberg and I now live in Maple Glen. He is s a personal trainer, but like many people, even I find it tough to make the time to work out every day. But I try!

I received my secular education majoring in voice and choir conducting in St. Petersburg, where my family was instrumental in keeping the family deeply connected to our Jewish roots. One of those connections was Jewish music and Yiddish folk songs, beautifully sung by my grandmother and mother during every family gathering and holiday celebration. When my family immigrated to the United States in 1979, we re-connected with my grandfather’s side of the family that left Russia many years earlier and I found myself in Los Angeles! But the West Coast was not for me, and I ended up in New York City which turned out to be a blessing, because New York is the location of the only Reform Cantorial School in the country. So it was not by chance that just after two years, I was accepted to Hebrew Union College- School of Sacred Music, where I learned the music, history and traditions of our people. Four years later, in 1985, I was invested as Cantor and took my first full-time position in a congregation, sharing the bimah with Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup z”l. After 36 years, the School granted me an honorary Doctor of Sacred Music and that year I celebrated with the congregation and led a group to visit my homeland. Now, 29 years later, I still am energized through my work, teaching children and adults alike, spreading my love and knowledge of Jewish music. From the Shabbat experience with the pre-school children to Bar-Bat Mitzvah students, from the children’s and adult choirs, to the Klezmer and the T’fillah bands, adult education classes to Talent shows and Purim Shpiels, I work to bring the highest degree of professionalism to all that I do. I hope my love and passion for Jewish music, shows through my voice and on my face.

I am involved in many different aspects of congregational life as well as in the broader Jewish community, having served as chair of the Delaware Valley Cantor’s Council and am a member of the American Conference of Cantors and the Women Cantor’s Network. I love the opportunity to sing with my colleagues from different denominations and stay connected to my “extended family,” Philadelphia’s large Russian Jewish community.

For me the words of Peter Yarrow precisely express how I feel about Jewish music.

“When people sing together, community is created. Together we rejoice, we celebrate, we mourn and we comfort each other. Through music, we reach each other’s hearts and souls. Music allows us to find a connection.”

Steven Goldstein, Education Director

“One of our greatest tasks in Jewish education is to develop lifelong friendships among our students.   Nothing will do as much to strengthen every child’s connection to Judaism.” – Steven

“We must never forget to make our curriculum compelling to young people, and by that, I mean unabashedly fun.  That’s the way we’ll reach them.” – Steven

“Jewish education has got to reach young people and their families on their own terms rather than on unrealistic terms.  I every child to fall in love with Judaism as that child and family feels best.”

I am currently a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, prior to which he served as a rabbinic intern at a Reform synagogue in the Poconos. I have taught anti-bullying and character workshops in grade schools, high schools, &  synagogues, and social justice courses to undergraduates and law students. When I am not working I have a dog named Feivel after U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of blessed memory, for whom once I worked.  Frank’s Yiddish name was Feivel. The area that I am most interested in is bringing Judaism to people with special needs.  I have a brother, Richie. My brother Richie has autism and I often volunteer in his group home. I also co-written more than 200 civil rights laws at the local, state, and federal levels as a lawyer, advocate, and Congressional staffer. Another great thing about me is that I was a television producer for ABC, NBC, and Oprah and hold 10 Emmys.

 Sherrie Turetsky, Director of The School of Early Learning, Executive Director
 

I have been formally involved in the field of Early Childhood Education for the past 34 years. Being a teacher is something that I always wanted to do. From playing school in my parents’ basement, to always wanting to stay after school to help my teachers, and volunteering at the Temple Beth Torah summer camp, being with children and teaching was in my blood.

I was the director of Temple Beth Torah preschool for 18 years, the same school I attended as a child. In 2004, Temple Beth Torah merged with Old York Road Temple-Beth Am and this became our new home. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education as well as a Master’s Degree in Education from Beaver College, now Arcadia University. Additionally, I served as co-director and programming coordinator for the Lower Moreland Parenting Center for eight years. In this capacity, I facilitated many group discussions, workshops, and parenting classes.

I try to stay at the cutting edge of my field and attend continuing education classes bringing fresh ideas back to our school. I describe myself as a hands-on director, meaning I will do anything to escape my office and interact with the children. As a mother of three boys, now young men, I know that a child is your most precious gift, and as director, I strive to provide a safe, loving environment in which to thrive. I would be happy to answer all questions you may have related to either the synagogue or our school. Beth Am in Hebrew means “house of the people,” and for your children, our school becomes their “home away from home.” We welcome you!

Mark Daugherty, Music Director 

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Jewish music! With a Bachelor’s Degree (with distinction) from the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music, I joined Old York Temple-Beth Am in 1984 as music director. So if you do the math you can see I’ve been at this for quite a while. Since I started at Beth Am, I’ve earned a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music where I was a full scholarship student and was the recipient of the Elaine Brown Tribute Award. I have also studied at Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music and at Westminster Choir College. Although I earned a Law Degree from Temple University – BBA (before Beth Am) – I didn’t practice law for long. I’ve been fortunate to be able to make a living doing something that I love – music. For eighteen years I conducted choruses and taught music courses at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.  During that time, my select girls’ ensemble received the Grand Champion prize at the Disney All-Star Music Festival adjudication in Orlando.  Since 1985 I have been the conductor and artistic director of the Ambler Choral Society and have toured and performed numerous times with them in Europe. I also continue to serve as the concert accompanist for the Orpheus Club of Philadelphia, the oldest men’s singing organization in the US. Believing that making music is a healthy life-long pursuit, I also lead two senior choruses whose singers are residents at Foulkeways Retirement Community in Gwynedd as well as The Hill at Whitemarsh.  For over thirty years I have spent part of my summers at Camp Tecumseh, a boys’ athletic camp in New Hampshire where they have a tradition of performing a Gilbert  Sullivan operetta for over ninety years. I also do some musical direction for Young Starrs Theater Company, an after school theater program in Montgomery County for children and young adults. I served as director of music at the Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG) for thirty-eight years, having retired from that position last November. I believe that music is a force that can bring people together and enable them to learn about each other. While at USG, I collaborated with singers and musicians from other congregations and houses of worship. At Old York Road Temple-Beth Am, I work with the adult choir, always striving to help people discover their spirituality through making music. I help with the music in our Purimspiels – great fun! And I am always in awe of the talent that comes out of the woodwork for these events.  I assist Cantor Zarkh as the accompanist for the Children’s Choir as well as the T’filah Band that brings guitar, strings, brass, woodwind and percussion together. It gives me a chance to get in touch with my inner Jewish rock star. We make a joyful noise, er, sound!

Meet our Staff

Jackie Lehner
Administrative Assistant to the Clergy 

 

Yelena Korotchuk
Bookkeeper

Meryl Lewin
Assistant Director SOEL School

Monica Dzik
Administrative Assistant

Stacey Mardt
Administrative Assistant

House & Grounds

Ed Lehner
Building Superintendent

Terry Sims
Custodial Staff

Our Leadership

Old York Road Temple-Beth Am is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, which in turn is led by its Executive Officers, elected from its membership. These volunteers are elected for two-year terms to represent the congregation in decision making. The lay leadership works in partnership with the Clergy and Professional Staff.

Our Executive Committee

  • President: Bruce Sham
  • Executive Vice President: Ross Cohen
  • Treasurer: Michael Krassenstein
  • Secretary: Mark Lopatin
  • Religious Practices: Barry Tinkleman
  • Ways & Means: Richard Wright
  • House & Grounds: Steve Rigefsky
  • Temple Counsel: Sharon Glogowski
  • Membership: Cindy Garber
  • Social Action: Linda Kline & Sharon Whitney
  • Immediate Past President: Joshua Posnan

The Board of Directors is comprised of elected members who serve for three-year terms. The Board meets 8 times per year, and the meetings are open to the entire congregation.

Term Expires June 2025

  • Brad Cohen
  • Rachel Frankel
  • Shari Marder
  • Melissa Murawsky
  • Hilde Sham

Term Expires June 2026

  • Sara Bloom
  • Renee Carl
  • Matty Malis
  • Herman Palat
  • Sheldon Wolff

Term Expires June 2027

  • Craig Cheifetz
  • Gary Kimmel
  • Suzan Lopatin
  • Mollie Shapiro
  • Joy Stember

We welcome fresh ideas and perspectives from new leaders. If you like to work with others, know how to listen, and want to make a difference in the Beth Am community, please contact the Administrative Office.

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyar 5784