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Rachel Safman, Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Safman joined Beth Israel Congregation as its senior rabbi in July 2023, returning to her home state to lead a community that shared her people-centered approach to Jewish life.  Together they are creating a suite of study, worship, and community-building experiences in which the diversity of Jewish experiences and the diversity of people creating and sharing these experiences is celebrated within the framework of the Jewish canon, Jewish tradition and the Jewish calendar.
A native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, where she attended and taught in the congregation now known as Kehillat Shalom, Rabbi Safman first trained for a career in academia, studying at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Cornell.  She wrote her dissertation on the AIDS epidemic in Northern Thailand and after graduation joined the faculty of the National University of Singapore.

During her years in Singapore, Rabbi Safman served as the president of the city-state's progressive Jewish community, the United Hebrew Congregation; was an active participant in the ritual life of Singapore's Baghdadi Orthodox community; and co-founded Gesher, a Jewish community forum that hosted eminent guest speakers, including Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong.   She was also tapped to participate in the Nahum Goldmann fellowship program, an initiative designed to recruit and empower young Jewish leaders from more remote Jewish communities.

The fellowship had its desired impact and in 2008 then-Professor Safman decided to make the jump from academia to the rabbinate in order to devote her energies to the Jewish community full-time.  She enrolled in the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies (American Jewish University) in Los Angeles, where she received smicha (ordination) and joined the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in 2013.  
Following ordination, Rabbi Safman assumed the pulpit of Congregation Beth El in New London, Connecticut.  During her seven-year tenure there she pioneered (in 2015) the use of streaming technologies to reach out to congregants unable of participate in worship and learning in person; expanded social and educational programming to reflect the diversity of the Jewish cultural experience; and introduced ritual and liturgical innovations that broadened the community’s appeal to younger families. As co-convenor of the Greater New London Clergy Association, she facilitated the resettlement of half-a-dozen Middle Eastern refugee families in Eastern Connecticut. 

In 2020, amidst COVID, Rabbi Safman moved with her family to Ithaca, New York, where she assumed the pulpit of Temple Beth-El and guided the congregation in the adoption of streaming technologies and other responses to the pandemic.  She also launched initiatives including Scientists in Synagogues, through which she partnered with congregants in programs comparing Jewish and secular approaches to topics including organ transplantation, abortion, and the origin of the cosmos and an Artists exchange with partners in Ithaca’s sister city, Dimona, Israel.

Rabbi Safman is a firm believer that Judaism can be both relevant and empowering in the modern world if it is rooted in continuing study of our tradition's texts, tenants and rites.  She endeavors through her teaching, conduct of ritual and involvement in life-cycle events to equip community members to take ownership of our ancient inheritance, which remain vibrant when it inspires us as we seek answers to contemporary challenges and helps us to express the full range of human experience. Her adeptness in synchronizing the thoughts of our ancient sages with the challenges of our daily realities was recognized when in 2022 Rabbi Safman was named to the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the body that guide’s the movement’s interpretation of Halacha (Jewish law).

Rabbi Safman is also passionate about community-building.  She seeks to grow congregations not just in numbers but also in the extent to which the community’s supportive embrace is felt by all individuals who gravitate to our (temporarily virtual) gates to learn, celebrate and pray.  She is determined that our houses of worship be homes, too, to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds: women and men, old and young, single and partnered, gay and straight, able-bodied and physically/emotionally/ cognitively challenged, Jewish by birth or by choice, and those who are not (or not yet) Jewish. 

Rabbi Safman is married to Daniel Robinson, an Israeli national who writes travel guides to Western Europe, Israel and Southeast Asia for Lonely Planet and other publishers.  They are parents to Yair, Sasson, and Talya.  

Benjamin Matis, Cantor, ext. 206

Cantor Benjamin Matis is thrilled to call Baltimore home once again, and especially to be part of the Beth Israel family.

Born and raised in the New York suburbs, Cantor Matis always wanted to be the Jewish Pavarotti, he says, but "apparently God had other plans for him."  
After graduating from Peabody Conservatory of Music, Cantor Matis attended the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He earned an MA in Music History at Queens College, and finally his cantorial degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.  
Cantor Matis has had an international career on and off the pulpit for nearly 25 years. He has been a soloist for the Cantors Assembly Convention concerts on a number of occasions, and was most recently Cantorial soloist with the Krakow Philharmonic in Krakow, Poland. He is an ardent advocate and interpreter of the traditional cantorial art, and a lover of the songs of Yiddish Theater. 
A respected scholar of Polish Jewish History, Cantor Matis has written three academic articles, two of which related to prayerbook reforms, and a third pertaining to the history of the Cantorate in Poland from 1923. He was also co-editor of Volume 32 of Polin on Jews and Music Making in the Polish Lands. He is also an avid collector of rare European prayerbooks. 

What Cantor Matis loves most, however, is the personal contact and connection he makes with people, whether on the pulpit or off.  He loves teaching children and adults, as well as celebrating with his congregants at a simcha, or providing them comfort at a time of sorrow or tribulation. This is what Cantor Matis feels he was truly called to do, and his voice helps him to get there.
Cantor Matis is married to Stefanie Matis and is the father of two children, Jacob and Star.

Jay R. Goldstein, Rabbi Emeritus, ext. 209

Rabbi Jay R. Goldstein was the spiritual leader of Beth Israel from 1996 to June 2022, and now serves as Rabbi Emeritus. Born and raised in Chicago, Rabbi Goldstein attended the University of Wisconsin and received his master's degree, ordination and honorary Doctor of Divinity at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Prior to coming to Baltimore, he served as Rabbi for 12 years at Temple B’nai Abraham in Meriden, Connecticut and as the community Hospital Chaplaincy chair as well.

Rabbi Goldstein is a past President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and has served on the Chancellor's cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the executive committee of the International Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Goldstein has been involved on many of the Boards in our local Jewish Community, including  Jewish Community Services (JCS), the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore (JCC), the Center for Jewish Education (CJE),  and lots of other wonderful community acronyms that keep changing.

Rabbi Goldstein has three grown children, David (Nina), Josh, and Shira, who give him only nachas, and two beautiful grandchildren, Mo and Melia. His wife Cindy is the Executive Director of The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development, a division of Na’aleh: The Hub for Leadership Learning.

Administrative and Education Staff

Leslie Wiener, Executive Director, ext. 208

Leslie is originally from Philadelphia but is truly a Terp, as she graduated with a BA in American Studies from UMD. She then attended the Masters of Arts in Jewish Communal Service at Gratz College. She brings a wealth of experience and an impressive history of leadership within the Jewish community. With over 25 years of experience in Jewish communal work, Leslie has successfully guided numerous organizations and institutions towards meaningful growth and sustainability; including synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Federations, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). Her expertise in planning, community outreach, and resource management will be invaluable in advancing Beth Israel’s mission and vision.

Leslie lives in Pikesville with her husband, Ross. They have 3 children: Sammy is graduating Drexel University, Sarah attends UMD (Go Terps!) and Leah attends Pikesville High School. They also have 3 amazing but crazy dogs! 

Becca Rosenfelt, Assistant Director, ext. 225

Becca has a bachelor of arts degree in Advertising and Marketing from Ithaca College in New York. She has served as United Synagogue Youth (USY) advisor for Beth Israel since 2010 before becoming Program Coordinator/USY Advisor. Under her guidance, Beth Israel won the Seaboard Region USY Chapter of the Year award for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years. Before coming to Beth Israel, Becca held other roles in the community, working for both the Jewish Times and the Baltimore Zionist District.

Rick Rosen, Director of Youth and Family Education and Programming, ext. 215

Rick has been an educator for over 25 years. Rick holds a degree in both Jewish Education and Jewish Studies from Touro College in Israel. He is also certified in Early Childhood Education. He started his career at the JCC of Park Heights as an educator back in 1997 as well as being the Director of the preschool camp for a couple of years.  While Rick was teaching at the JCC he worked alongside the CJE to develop a Hebrew immersion preschool program as well. Rick also provided Bar and Bat Mitzvah instruction for those needing alternative educational support for many years. He continued to teach over the years at several other Preschools and Hebrew schools in Maryland. Currently, he worked in Special Education within the Howard County Public School System. He has a true passion for teaching, and leading our young learners. He constantly strives to create a Jewish community of engaged learning in a nurturing, positive, fun environment. Rick currently lives in Reisterstown with his wife Jodi and they have four children who are 29, 28, 16 and 15 years old. 

Ann Friedman, Clergy Administrative Assistant, ext. 210

Ann is a lifelong Baltimorean with a long-time connection to Beth Israel. During the Liberty Road days, she was married at Beth Israel, and both of her children celebrated their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs here. After completing a certification course, Ann became an assistant at Beth Israel Preschool.

Ann spent some time teaching Preschool, and eventually became Assistant Director for a Child Care Center. She returned to Beth Israel in 2000 as the Administrative Assistant to the Clergy. Ann currently lives in Pikesville, and has six grandchildren.

Judy Schnidman, Administrative Coordinator, ext. 201

Esther Goldfeiz, Accounting Manager, ext. 205

Esther Goldfeiz has served as Beth Israel’s Accounting Manager since 2007. She previously served as Beth Jacob Congregation’s Accounting Manager, until their merger with Beth Tfiloh. She resides in Pikesville, and is married with four children and three grandchildren.

Sarah Eckard, Teacher and Youth Advisor

Mr. Lawrence Dorsey, Head Custodian

Shleimut (Wellness) Staff

Sarah Shapiro LCSW-C, Social Worker, ext. 263

Sarah Shapiro was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. A graduate of Park School and Yale University, she received her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Community Planning.

Since 2005, Ms. Shapiro has served as Beth Israel’s Shleimut Social Work Consultant, providing short-term counseling and information and referral services as well as educational programming to congregants and school families. Ms. Shapiro also works as the In-House Social Worker for Beth El Congregation and The Soul Center, where she provides short-term counseling services and facilitates a monthly caregiver support group that is open to the community.

From 1998 to 2017, Ms. Shapiro was employed by Jewish Community Services (JCS) to provide consultation services to a variety of local Jewish day schools during the school year and to Camp Louise (through Summer 2005) during the summer months.

Prior to joining the staff of JCS, Ms. Shapiro worked first as a Program Officer in the area of Health and Human Services for the Abell Foundation and then for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services as a School-Based Social Worker at Milbrook Elementary School. Ms. Shapiro was the founding board president of Art with a Heart and continues to be an active ex-officio board member. This non-profit organization brings visual arts classes to underserved communities in and around Baltimore.

Sheri Stern, Congregational Nurse, ext. 264

Sheri Stern has enjoyed the privilege of being a Registered Nurse for 45 years. A master’s-prepared Adult Nurse Practitioner and a Psych-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, she has taught Nursing at several universities, and facilitated small and large group workshops throughout the United States. Over the past decade, she has been drawn to Complementary Integrative Health practices for healing the mind, body and spirit. Her most humbling career position was the one she retired from several years ago: Nurse Practitioner for the VA’s Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program. Volunteering has always been an important chosen path in her life, including as a Nurse with the Maryland National Guard, the Maryland Medical Reserve Corp, and the Red Cross - both in crises as well as peacetime endeavors. Sheri looks forward to continuing that path by nurturing current Beth Israel relationships as well as forging new ones as our Shleimut Nurse.

Harry Baumohl, Shleimut Attorney,  ext. 265.

A lifelong Baltimorean, Harry is committed to the community he calls home. His legal knowledge and expertise have won Harry many accolades and awards. He has practiced law continuously since 1982. Harry is known as a passionate advocate for his clients. His compassion and common-sense advocacy have earned him the trust and integrity which he enjoys in the legal community. 

Harry is always willing to get involved. He had the privilege of serving as President of Beth Israel Congregation from 2013-2015. He is a “Designated Hitter” for the Baltimore Orioles, serving as a sales ambassador for the hometown team. He volunteers his time and expertise to CHANA, assisting victims of domestic violence and with HIAS, assisting immigrants seeking lawful status. He previously served on the Board of CHAI Lifeline, helping families cope with pediatric illness, trauma and loss.

Married to Randee Baumohl, Harry is the proud father of Ryan and Michael Baumohl.

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784