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Temple Beth Am's governing body, the Board of Trustees, meets monthly and (unless the Board is holding an Executive Session) the meetings are open to Temple Beth Am members to observe. Meetings are usually on the third Thursday of the month, 7:00 - 9:00 PM. If you are interested in attending a meeting, check the Calendar to verify the date of the meeting. As a courtesy, contact the Temple Beth Am President if you wish to attend.

Agendas for Board meetings are generally set within the Executive Committee and are based on committee or task force activities. When a policy issue or committee proposal is up for consideration, the Board will sometimes discuss it at one meeting and hold a vote the following month. If you have a concern or an issue that you wish the Board to consider, contact the Temple Beth Am President. Read announcements from the Board here.

If you are interested in serving on the Board, learn more about the responsibilities of being a trustee. Contact the Temple Beth Am President for more information. Per our bylaws, the nominations committee consists of:

  • two Board members who serve staggered two-year terms
  • two at-large members elected at the Annual Meeting who serve a one-year term
  • two congregational members, one of whom is a member of the Religious School Board, who serve a one-year term

Additional related policies can be found in these Temple Beth Am board resources:

Contact the Board with questions or comments about Temple Beth Am.


Betsy K. Maurer, President
Pronouns: she, her

Betsy K. MaurerBetsy and her husband, Andrew Schulman, joined Temple Beth Am in 1995. They have celebrated the birth, Bat Mitzvah, and Covenant Renewal of their daughter at Temple Beth Am as well as Andrew’s adult Bar Mitzvah. Betsy has served on a variety of temple committees as a member, co-chair, or chair and has recently rejoined the Board of Directors. When she’s not volunteering for TBA, Betsy enjoys practicing employment law, singing with the Seattle Jewish Chorale, and hanging out with her dog.



Benjamin Glatstein, 1st Vice President
Pronouns: he, him

Benjamin GlatsteinBen and his wife, Theresa, have been Temple Beth Am members since moving to Seattle in 2009. They now have three human children, two of which are in the Religious School; they are very involved in Young Families at Beth Am (YFBA) activities. Ben has served on various committees, including the Nominating Committee (chair), Rabbi Search Committee, Executive Director Search Committee, and the Board Governance Committee. Ben works in Microsoft’s legal department.



Gale Picker, 2nd Vice President
Pronouns: she, her

Gale PickerGale joined Temple Beth Am close to two decades ago because the Religious School was so good for her (then) young daughters and subsequently found out that adult education, religious services, and getting to deliver and receive healing challahs came with this wonderful package! She’s participated in Mitzvah Days as well as traveled on an American Jewish World Service (AJWS) trip with other temple members and their children to help build houses in the Yucatan Peninsula and on a teen trip to Israel (as a chaperone). She’s raised money for TBA, had a Bat Mitzvah at 60, tried to learn Hebrew, and laughed and cried with her Temple Beth Am family. In her other life, Gale is on various boards (locally, the Neighbor to Neighbor board of the Seattle Foundation), works part-time as a counselor at a small nonprofit, and volunteers in the community. In her past life, she worked in Washington D.C. on the US Senate Finance and Budget Committees as well as with C-SPAN.

Heather Camp
, Secretary

Pronouns: she, her

Heather Camp webHeather joined the Temple Beth Am community almost 10 years ago after moving to Seattle from Baltimore. She has appreciated the temple’s diversity and warmth through several groups, including the Sisters of Beth Am, ever since. Heather is a registered nurse and has worked most recently for the University of Washington Medical Center. She is married with two kiddos and two mischievous cats.



Carole Aaron, Treasurer
Pronouns: she, her

Carole AaronCarole is a 25-year member of Temple Beth Am, a long-time member of the Finance and Investment Committees, and treasurer in each decade of membership. She and her husband, Bruce Peterson, are a bi-coastal family with a daughter in New York City and two adult children and three grandchildren in Seattle. While Carole deals with finance, Bruce takes charge of their travel plans. Carole is trying to be a retired financial planner, but some clients think otherwise. Her favorite hobby is gardening, roses being her big passion.



Shelly F. Cohen, Immediate Past President
Pronouns: she, her

Shelly F. CohenShelly has been a member of Temple Beth Am for more than 20 years. She has been involved in a wide range of synagogue activities, including the Religious School Board and Welcoming Synagogues Task Force; she was also on the Rabbinic Search Committee that brought Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick to Temple Beth Am. Shelly is a member of the Commission on Social Action, an advisory body to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She and her wife, Julie Shapiro, have two children.



Steve Abramowicz
Pronouns: he, him

Steve Abramowicz webSteve lives in Wedgwood with his wife, Kara; son, Liam; daughter, Frankie; and their black lab, Caroline. Liam became Bar Mitzvah in 2016, and Frankie will become Bat Mitzvah in 2019. The Abramowicz family have been Temple Beth Am members since 2007 after moving to Seattle from Bellevue where Steve's office is still located. The senior vice president and a wealth advisor for UBS Financial, Steve also shares his time as VP on the board of Parent Trust for Washington Children, whose mission is reducing child abuse in our state. Steve is also the Seattle Major Gifts Chair of Education First, providing college scholarships to low income students. He recently joined the Temple Beth Am Finance Task Force for integrating the SJCC preschool, focusing on health care and liability insurance.

 Michael Berman
Pronouns: he, him

Michael BermanMichael and his wife, Terri Buysse, joined Temple Beth Am in 2006. They have two post-Bat Mitzvah children in the Religious School. They created a chavurah for Temple Beth Am members living in the (far) north-end and are both active volunteers in the temple. Michael chaired the Cantorial Search Committee that hired Cantor Victor Geigner and served on the Rabbinic Search Committee that brought Rabbi Zlotnick to TBA. He has served on the Board for two years, where he chairs the Board Governance Committee, and has also served on the Religious School Board. He works as a program manager for Sound Transit. In his free time, Michael likes to read, cook, listen to music, run and hike, and rabidly follow Chicago sports teams.


Gaby Charlton
Pronouns: she, her

Gaby CharltonGaby and her husband, Dan, joined Temple Beth Am in 2008. Since that time, they have had two kids, one of whom is in Beth Am’s Religious School and the other at our SEED Early Childhood School. Before joining the Board, Gaby was the chair of Young Families at Beth Am (YFBA), which she helped found in 2010. Gaby joined the Board of Directors in 2014, became secretary in 2015, and then 2nd VP in 2016. She is currently chair of the Development Committee and has chaired the Annual Beth Am Gala for the past four years. Gaby is a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County. When not lawyering, wrangling kids, or volunteering, Gaby feeds her not-so-secret desire to be the Jewish Martha Stewart by being crafty.

Seth B. Cohen
Pronouns: he, him

Seth B. Cohen

Seth and his wife, Stacey, joined Temple Beth Am in 2014, although Stacey has been a member since birth. Seth's first volunteering experience at Beth Am was as a member of the Cantor Search Committee, which brought us Cantor Victor Geigner. Since joining the Board of Directors in 2016, Seth has led the SEED/ECS Technology Disappearing Task Force and the Strategic Plan Year One Metrics Task Force. He looks forward to working with the Beth Am community on implementing many of the Strategic Plan ideas. Stacey and he welcomed a new addition, Caleb, to their family in 2017. One-year-old Caleb currently takes up much of Seth’s time outside of his full-time engineering job at the U.S.'s largest exporter and airplane builder.   

Margy Crosby
Pronouns: she, her
Margy Crosby

Margy is a past chair of the Religious School Board. She served on the Cantor Search Committee and taught in our Religious School for 10 years; she still occasionally subs there and sings in the choir. Margy; her husband, Michael Feinberg; and their two children joined Temple Beth Am in 1995, and all four of them became B’nai Mitzvah on Beth Am’s bima. Margy was part of the organizing committee and the early leadership team for the Sisters of Beth Am. Her current focus is on Audacious Hospitality - welcoming all into our community.      


Barbara Droker

Pronouns: she, her
Barbara Droker web

Barbara and her husband, Howard, joined Temple Beth Am in 1984 when their son, Daniel, was six and daughter, Abby, was two. At this time, she helped found the north-end branch of the Stroum Jewish Community Center and its early childhood education program. She has been a longtime member and former chair of Beth Am’s Religious Practices Committee and served on numerous other committees. Barbara has also served a term on the Board and Executive Committee. She was part of the first Beth Am Adult B’nai Mitzvah class and became one of the volunteer Torah readers/chanters. In her professional life, Barbara provided administrative and executive assistance to research scientists at the University of Washington and Benaroya Research Institute. Now retired, she enjoys taking care of her three grandchildren (Noah, Liam, and Juna) and regularly does yoga, Israeli dancing, mahjong, knitting, Torah and Talmud study, writing, and reading.       

Gary Goldbaum
Pronouns: he, him

Gary Goldbaum webGary and his wife, Judy Unger, joined Temple Beth Am in 1990. Both of their children, Caitlin and Shane, attended TBA’s Religious School. With fellow Temple Beth Am member Sandy Melzer, Gary co-taught fourth grade in the Religious School for three years. He and Judy are part of a Temple Beth Am chavurah and game night group, and Gary is an active member of a Temple Beth Am men’s group. Gary is a family physician who practiced in rural Vermont before devoting 33 years to public health, serving in various positions at Public Health-Seattle & King County and the past 10 years as the director and health officer for the Snohomish Health District. He is an avid hiker, skier, biker, and theater-goer. 

 Emma Kahle
Pronouns: she, her

Emma Kahle web cropEmma has been a Temple Beth Am member since she was born. From baby-naming to Bat Mitzvah to Covenant Renewal, Beth Am has been a consistent part of Emma’s life. After heading to New York for college, Emma has been back in Seattle for the past four years, exploring how to develop her own adult-version of Judaism. Back in the day, Emma contributed to Beth Am through the Madrichim program, and, more recently, she has organized informal get-togethers with fellow young adults. Having just completed the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Young Adult Leadership Development Program, Emma is excited to contribute to the work of the Board and looks forward to providing a young adult perspective. Emma is a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington where she coordinates her department’s K-12 outreach program and studies past climate change from polar ice core records. When not in Antarctica, she captains the nationally-competitive women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Seattle Underground.

Lou Kotler
Pronouns: he, him

Lou Kotler web cropLou and Phyllis Levy have been members of Temple Beth Am since circa 1995. All three of their children attended the Religious School with Joel and Claire celebrating their B'nai Mitzvah in the Beth Am Sanctuary. Lou has served on the Beth Am finance committee since October 2016. Many years ago, he also served on the Board nominating committee. For several years, he played and coached the now defunct Beth Am softball team. Lou is retired but worked for over 30 years in finance and has broad-based experience, including budgeting and planning, strategic planning, insurance, banking, cash management, SEC reporting, bankruptcy, and acquisitions & mergers. He also serves as the treasurer for the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Washington State. Lou is looking forward to helping the Board understand the financial implications and risks of their decisions, as well as adding clarity to recommendations made by the finance committee.

Andrea G. Lieberman
Pronouns: she, her

Andrea G. LiebermanAndrea has been a lifelong member of Temple Beth Am - and with her husband, Jamie, and two grown children - continues to enjoy all Temple Beth Am has to offer. Andrea joined the Board in 2016 and is actively serving on the Development Committee and the Strategic Planning Task Force. Andrea works part-time as the executive director of IndieFlix Foundation and tries very hard to keep up with her adventure-loving family members on snow, trails, and water; wherever the conditions are good.



Ronnie Shure
Pronouns: he, him
Ronnie Shure

Ronnie and his wife, Toby Harris, joined Temple Beth Am in 1986. They have three daughters who have experienced Bat Mitzvah and Covenant Renewal here, and they are very involved in the lives of their two grandchildren. Ronnie is the Chair of the Religious Practices Committee, a committed member of the team of Shamushim that volunteer to support Shabbat services, and an advocate for tikkun olam activities. Ronnie is a pharmacist who provided health care to underserved populations in the areas of substance abuse treatment, mental health, and public health. Although, he tried to retire in 2012, he was drawn into pharmacogenomics where he works with with ActX, which is a commercial venture that provides support systems for provide personalized health care.

T.J. Stutman
Pronouns: he, him

T.J. Stutman web cropT.J. and his wife, Nora, have been proud members of the Temple Beth Am community since 2013 and are devoted parents to Guri (7) and Myer (4). They are active participants in Young Families at Beth Am; T.J. serves on its Steering Committee. T.J. works in the King County Executive Office developing budgets and business plans for agencies serving the county’s two million-plus residents. He is delighted to have the opportunity to learn from and serve the community through the Beth Am Board.


Rachel Zerrell
Pronouns: they, them or she, her
Rachel Zerrell web cropRachel, who was known as Rachel Zeno until she married her partner Tim one-and-a-half years ago, has been a Temple Beth Am member for 32 years. Since moving back to Seattle in 2008, Rachel has been involved in the Welcoming Synagogue Taskforce, H2R, the Interfaith and Intercultural Initiative, as a delegate to the RAC's Consultation on Conscience, as a Torah reader, and by teaching Religious School, as well as being a part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Advanced Leadership Development program. As a Senior Program Manager for Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at Amazon, Rachel works on finding innovative ways to disrupt unconscious bias, effectively develop and retain people from underrepresented backgrounds, and build organizational capability to collaborate across many kinds of differences; you might also run into her doing anti-racist organizing in Seattle with CARW and JUIR. She's thrilled to roll up her sleeves and help Temple Beth Am actualize the Strategic Plan and move into the future in a way that lives our values.



Board of Directors Updates and Community News

From the Board - June 16, 2017

Barbara Green to Stay On as Executive Director

It is with great pleasure that we announce that the Board has voted unanimously to offer Barbara Green the position of Executive Director, and that she has accepted. We will begin immediately to negotiate a new contract.

After reviewing Green's performance over the past nine months, the Board determined that she has exceeded our expectations and has the skills necessary to lead the organization at this critical time. This will also allow leadership to focus on the important work ahead of us, without the distraction of conducting an external search.

When Green was hired in September as our Interim Executive Director, we asked her to provide us with an organizational assessment and to develop and implement a plan for integrating the SEED Early Childhood School. Over the past nine months, she has done all of that and more, improving the synagogue’s administrative functions and working collaboratively with staff and the Finance Committee to propose a balanced budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. She has also significantly increased the level of transparency about Temple Beth Am’s financial status and operations.

For the past 22 years, Green has made a career of being an interim executive director, working for numerous nonprofits and guiding them through leadership transitions. Many of them have asked her to stay on as executive director, and she has always refused – until now.

“One of the most rewarding things about being an interim ED is that I get to use both my consulting and leadership skills to help organizations successfully navigate change and increase their effectiveness,” Green says. “I see a lot of opportunity for exciting changes as we develop and implement Temple Beth Am’s three-year strategic plan. Plus, this is the first time I’ve worked in a Jewish organization, and I love working in an environment that is so values-driven.”

Synagogues of our size are most successful when there is a shared leadership structure at their center: while the Executive Director and the Senior Rabbi each have separate spheres, they must work together toward a common vision for the organization. Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick is enthusiastic about the partnership with Green, especially as we are in the midst of a strategic planning process that includes developing a new vision for Temple Beth Am’s future.

“Barbara is mission-based, collaborative, and wise,” Rabbi Zlotnick says. “It's a joy to work with her and I’m thrilled that she will be around to work on implementing the strategic plan.”

The staff are also excited that Green will be staying on, as are many Temple Beth Am members. At the Annual Meeting last month, one of the top comments on the strategic plan was “Keep Barbara Green.”

Among her many other skills, Green brings a deep knowledge of board governance and leadership development.

“I have learned so much from Barbara in the short time she’s been here,” says Shelly F. Cohen, president of Temple Beth Am’s Board of Directors. “With her ongoing direction, I look forward to further empowering the Board and growing a strong pipeline of lay leaders who will guide Temple Beth Am as we chart a course for our next 60 years.”

Board of Directors Installation

New Board Members group pic e HappsOn Friday, June 9, Temple Beth Am held an installation for the new additions to our Board of Directors for 2017-2018: Steve Abramowicz, Heather Camp, Barbara Droker, and Gary Goldbaum. During the installation, Interim Executive Director Barbara Green welcomed the new members and thanked the outgoing ones - Gail Broder, Jeremiah Isgur, Larry Katz, and Joel Magalnick - for all of their time, energy, and effort in helping build our thriving temple community. Read her speech here.

The new four new Board members took part in a Q&A with Temple Beth Am Communications Lead Rachel Román on their hopes and goals for the future of temple life at TBA. Read the Q&A.

From the Board - April 25, 2017

 Congregational Budget Meeting and Annual Meeting

Thank you to everyone who attended the congregational budget meeting on Sunday, April 16. Because many of you were not able to attend, we’re posting the PowerPoint presentation, along with notes, so you can see what was discussed.

TLDR: for the first time in several years, we are proposing a balanced budget (with a small surplus). This is primarily thanks to our planned refinance of the K’hilah Center mortgage, as well as our acquisition of the early childhood school from SJCC.

Our goal for having a separate meeting to discuss the budget was twofold: we wanted to allow time for those who are interested in a deep dive into the numbers to do so, while still having plenty of time for other business at the Annual Meeting; and we wanted to allow an opportunity for input before the Board votes to approve the budget on April 20. (In past years, congregational review of the budget has come after Board approval.)

At the Annual Meeting (mark your calendar for Sunday, May 21 at 10:00 AM) we’ll focus on the strategic plan. Members of the Strategic Planning Task Force will present a preliminary draft, so that we can get your reactions and suggestions. The strategic plan is intended to be a living document that will outline our priorities for the next several years; in turn, those priorities will be reflected in future budgets.

This is an exciting time at Temple Beth Am as we learn together what a synagogue must do to stay relevant and vibrant in the 21st century. Come to the Annual Meeting and help us plan that journey together.

From the Board - March 1, 2017

 Interim Executive Director Barbara Green Contract Extension

Last September, we welcomed Barbara Green to Temple Beth Am as our Interim Executive Director. In just these few months, we have benefited tremendously from Barbara’s 20+ years of experience as a professional interim ED. Those of you who read her columns in the Bulletin have had a glimpse into a small fraction of the work that Barbara is doing.

We had expected that Barbara’s tenure would be six to nine months, while she did an organizational assessment and then helped us to create a job description for the new executive director. Because of some other key projects in which Barbara is involved, the Board voted at our February meeting to extend Barbara’s stay with Temple Beth Am through the end of the calendar year. This will give her the opportunity to see through the current budgeting process, the acquisition of the SEED Early Childhood School, the K’hilah Center refinance, and the strategic plan. Critically, until the strategic plan is completed, we will not have a clear picture of all the attributes we are looking for in the new ED.

Our new timeframe is to post the ED job opening in the Fall and have the successful candidate on board in January 2018.

From the Board - September 14, 2016

 Welcome Interim Executive Director Barbara Green

Please welcome Barbara Green, who started work this week as our interim executive director. Barbara is an organizational development consultant who, over the past 20-plus years, has served as interim ED at about two-dozen (mostly local) nonprofit organizations, including University Heights Center, Artists Trust, and, most recently, Bellevue Botanical Garden Society. She has extensive experience in guiding organizations through leadership transition and strategic planning, skills that will be extremely helpful as we move toward final acquisition of the Early Childhood School (ECS) from the SJCC a year from now. The search committee was impressed with the scope of Barbara’s knowledge across the range of nonprofit management, including finances, HR, and organizational stewardship.

We received nearly 30 applications for the interim ED position and interviewed a total of six candidates. All were highly qualified for the position; the committee agreed unanimously that Barbara stood out as the best fit for us from among a strong field.

When we advertised for an interim ED, we anticipated that the position would last three to six months, during which time we would search for an incumbent for the regular position. One consistent theme we heard from all of the candidates that we interviewed was that we should allow six to nine – perhaps even 12 – months to fully assess our needs, especially with the addition of the ECS, develop a new job description for the executive director position, and conduct the search.

We’re very glad to have Barbara guiding us in this process. She's excited to be a part of the Temple Beth Am team and looks forward to meeting everyone! Yasher koach to the search committee!

From the Board - August 29, 2016

 Executive Director Search

As you know, Executive Director Jan Glick departed at the end of July to return to his non-profit consulting practice. This vacancy, coming at a time when we are actively working out the logistics of the Early Childhood School (ECS) acquisition, gives us an opportunity to reflect on the skills we’ll need to run the combined organization. The Board began visioning on this process at our upcoming retreat on August 28.

We are currently advertising for an interim executive director who will serve for three to six months while we develop a new job description for the ED position and conduct a search. For the interim position, we are focusing on financial management and organizational development expertise.

In the meantime, know that we are not without executive oversight. We are indebted to those congregants (including Treasurer Carole Aaron, Greg Berkman, 1st VP Margy Crosby, and Betsy Maurer) who have stepped up to assist staff by overseeing our finance and HR functions.

We will keep you updated as things progress. In the meantime, if you have any questions you can send them to president@templebetham.org.


 From the Board - May 27, 2016

 Introducing...Cantor Victor Geigner!

It is with great pleasure and anticipation we announce that Cantor Victor Geigner has agreed to be the first ordained cantor of Temple Beth Am. He will officially join us on August 1, 2016. 

Cantor Victor and his wife Shirley fell in love with Seattle in 2015 when they traveled here from Florida to officiate at the wedding of a congregant's son. Little did they know that just a year later, they would be calling Seattle home.

Cantor Victor is excited to build on Temple Beth Am's musical tradition. He brings a wealth of experience and - more importantly - ruach (spirit) to our congregation. Originally from Buenos Aires, he began his career there as a Chazzan (cantor) when he was just 16 years old. He has served congregations in Argentina, Bolivia, and Florida. The search committee was struck by his warmth and his ability to sing music from across musical genres. An Ashkenazi Jew from Argentina, he is comfortable with both Yiddish and Ladino, and his repertoire includes both Ashkenazi and Sephardic music. Those who heard his audition look forward to Cantor Victor leading us through our familiar liturgy and introducing us to new melodies. 

He is currently the Cantor at Temple Beth-El in Fort Myers, Florida. In his various posts, he has led B'nai Mitzvah programs for youth and adults, led worship from the Bima, performed life cycle events, and provided pastoral care (among many other functions and responsibilities).

We're getting to work planning an official installation for Cantor Victor in the fall, as well as other opportunties for him to meet his new congregation.

Before that happens, though, we have the opportunity to take our Hats Off to Wendy next week. Please join us to honor Wendy Marcus at Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday, June 3, and at a very special klezmer concert on Saturday, June 4. For more information and to purchase tickets for the concert, please see our event page.

Going forward, we can rest assured that the music program Wendy built here at Temple Beth Am will be handed off to someone who is as passionate about Jewish music, as eclectic in musical style, and as warm and mensch-y. The voice may be different, but that indefinable spirit of music at Temple Beth Am will remain the same. 

From the Board - May 9, 2016

 Well Wishes for Jan Glick 

With gratitude for all he has done for our community in his five years as our Executive Director, we share that Jan Glick has announced his decision to transition from Temple Beth Am effective July 31, to return to non-profit consulting.

At a time when our congregation sorely needed his skills, Jan joined us as interim Executive Director in 2011, and was asked to take the ongoing role a year later. Throughout his time with us he has been a thought leader who has strengthened our congregation, drawing on deep experience gained with non-profits in Seattle and around the country. Jan had literally “written the book” on non-profit turn-arounds and drew on its lessons to help us structure our L’Dor V’Dor program for annual support commitments and helping us manage tight budgets. Most recently, he was a key voice as we considered bringing the Early Childhood School from the SJCC to TBA. Throughout, he has been a mensch and a friend for our staff and lay leaders.

Jan and his family have been members of Temple Beth Am for over ten years and his time of service to us has been a labor of love. With our budget stabilized and the ECS transition beginning, Jan has let us know he feels ready for a new chapter.

We are fortunate that we have several months to show Jan our appreciation. During that time, we will map out a transition plan and review our office operations to ensure we are consistently providing outstanding congregant service.

Jan, thank you for all you have done for your community and will do to effect a strong transition. We look forward to continuing to welcome you and your family with titles even better than Executive Director – congregant and friend.

 From the Board - April 25, 2016

 Finding the Indefinable in Our Cantorial Search

    Amid the flurry of preparations for Passover, last week also brought intense activity of a different kind: a recommendation from the Cantorial Search Committee to extend an offer to the person who (we hope) will become Temple Beth Am’s first cantor. On Thursday, the night before Passover, the Board unanimously accepted the recommendation.

    As with the rabbinic search two years ago, we must maintain our candidate’s confidentiality just a bit longer until we can successfully negotiate contract terms. In the meantime, we can share some additional information with you about the search that brought us to this momentous occasion.

    Back in October, we filed our job description with the American Conference of Cantors (ACC), the cantorial association affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. We received several applications from ACC cantors, but none of them appeared to be our bashert. We also received a few unsolicited resumes from other candidates, but our agreement with the ACC precluded us from looking at other cantors while we were still working with that organization. In mid-March we withdrew from the ACC search after concluding we had seen all the candidates we could expect through their efforts.

    At that point, the committee was free to look at the non-ACC resumes to see whether any of them seemed promising. One in particular stood out. Following the same procedure – phone interview followed by Skype interview followed by in-person visit – and using the same basic questions we’d used with ACC candidates, the committee determined that this candidate is a worthy successor to our beloved Wendy.

    To be fair, all the candidates we engaged with were talented and accomplished cantors. As with the recent searches that brought us first Rabbi Jason Levine as our assistant (now associate) rabbi, and Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick as our senior rabbi, we were looking for more than mere talent. We were looking for that indefinable “something” that makes someone just the right fit to be a spiritual leader at TBA.

    For now, we have ahead of us the mundane work of appointing a negotiating team and ironing out contract details. We anticipate that will all go smoothly, and we hope that before Shavuot we will be able to introduce you to Temple Beth Am’s first cantor.

    In the meantime, please join us in wishing a hearty “yasher koach” to the members of the Cantorial Search Committee for their hard work and dedication to a process that will help us shape the future of Temple Beth Am.

  From the Board President- April 2016 Bulletin

With a Strong House and Mission, Time to Build Our Strong Financial Future

    With new rabbis now well-woven into our community fabric, and the exciting news of adding the Early Childhood School into our fold, I know I speak for all our leadership when I say we feel poised to take a big step forward.

    We are popular – our healthy rise in membership over the last few years is a wonderful sign of all we are doing right. We’ve seen record turn-outs for summer barbecues, Purim spiels, Simchat Torah services, University Lecture Series and Scholar-in-Residence programs, and community dinners.

    Our house parties to welcome Rabbi Zlotnick showed the power of connection beyond the walls of our buildings, and we have plans to do much, much more to take our brand of Jewish engagement into the homes of our congregants. We are excited about working with all of you to bring Jewish thought, actions, and feeling to you where you live – some of the “what if’s” I spoke of last month. What if…Temple Beth Am facilitated Shabbat dinners all around the city on a given Friday, or sponsored a group bike ride or museum outing on Sunday, deepening engagement and connection without a trip to Northeast 80th Street?

    Here are just a few things I am proud of from the last few years –

  • We have welcomed new clergy, going from strength to strength as we have wished Rabbis Beth and Jonathan well and embraced Rabbi Jason and Rabbi Ruth.
  • We have invested in congregant services, welcoming new senior staff to drive greater community engagement, plan programming for our nationally-recognized youth groups, and improve office operations for our members.
  • We will soon pilot our K’Hilah Project, creating new ways for members to connect in intentional and intimate settings to learn, have fun, rest, rejuvenate, and celebrate.
  • After careful review of the financials and thoughtful consideration of our mission, we announced last month that we will take over operation of the Early Childhood School currently run by the Stroum Jewish Community Center in our K’Hilah Center – making Temple Beth Am an even more vital link across generations in Seattle’s Jewish community.

    Thanks to all of the above, and so much more that happens throughout the year, I was not surprised we were voted “Best Synagogue” in 2015 by readers of Jewish in Seattle.

    We are a great, beating heart for the Jewish people in Seattle. We serve all generations from preschoolers through seniors. We educate. We celebrate and mourn, we mark the seasons. We serve our congregants, and also our fellow citizens – all faiths, all races, all generations, all sexual identities and orientations, all economic circumstances. We support Jewish continuity in Seattle and are a force for social justice in our state.

    Now is the time for us to put our foot on the accelerator. We are blessed with rabbis, on our pulpit and overseeing the education of our next generation, who have vision, insight, and motivation. We are about to add a smooth-operating, fully enrolled, and highly desired early childhood program. We are growing in number, and we have fully embraced the 21st-century, “relational Judaism” model of synagogue activity and congregant engagement.

We can do more to ensure our bright future...

    As you know if you have been following our finances, we used to run very large deficits. We tightened expenses and introduced our L’Dor V’Dor approach to annual support, and for the last few years we have been running smaller deficits. And our leadership team, including Board, Finance and Development Committees, staff, and clergy, is focused on balancing our full budget, operations and facilities, as soon as possible.

Now, when our spiritual health is so strong, we are building our plan. It will take all of us, and we can do it.

  • We have made great progress with our Nachshon campaign to accelerate the payoff of our K’Hilah Center. The building and its activity have meant so much to our community, and will mean even more as we reduce the share of our budget that it represents to cover principal and interest payments. Our “quiet phase” has done well and we will soon open up the conversation to our entire community, beating the drum for 100% participation as we are determined to live up to our name as the “House of the People.”
  • We were recently touched to receive a bequest from a couple that felt deeply about our community, and we will soon be launching a campaign to stimulate legacy giving.
  • From our High Holy Day Appeal to end-of-year gifts we typically receive to greater and greater crowds at our fabulous Gala, we will continue to build community and support our mission – and we want to strengthen each of these opportunities to connect to our great work and one another.

    Most importantly, in a few weeks you will receive a letter requesting your pledge of annual support. I want you to thoughtfully consider your commitment to our mission and our growing spiritual health. Please, increase your annual commitment. NOW is the time to boldly step into our bright future, and it’s going to take all of us to make deficits a thing of the past and give us the financial means to fully live up to our mission.

    If you have limited resources, think about your priorities and how you can support the sacred work we do a little more. If you make Temple Beth Am your giving priority to reach the sustaining level of dues, please reach a little deeper to join my family and me in the L’Dor V’Dor circles. And if you have been helping to support our community in the L’Dor V’Dor circles since we started our new approach to annual support, please consider all the good you’ve helped drive in the last few years and help us take the next step.

    Synagogues exist in and out of time. As I reflect on what’s important to me as I near the end of my temple presidency, I know I want community and a place to live my Jewish values, today, for me and my family and the friends I want to grow old with. I want to feel the connection to generations before me, all the way back to Sinai. And I want to make sure that this community teaches these everlasting values to generations as far into the future as Sinai is in the past.

    Your opportunity to share thoughts on how we can grow together and support our mission is easy – share with me at president@templebetham.org. Please also put Wednesday night, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. on your calendar for a special meeting to discuss Temple Beth Am finances and the Early Childhood School, ahead of our Annual Meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 15.

    Our House is strong and headed in the right direction. Our mission is true and our vision, led by our amazing clergy, is clear. We have talented and committed staff, and lay leadership that deeply loves the community we serve. I know you are ready to take the journey that will allow us to sustain ourselves, year after year and L’Dor V’Dor, to live our mission and do the sacred work we are called to do.

President Bryan Rutberg

From the Board – March 17, 2016

Gathering Candidates for Our Cantorial Post

    It’s been a while since the last update on the cantor search, but that doesn’t mean the Cantorial Search Committee has been idle. While we received fewer résumés than we expected (more on this below), we have interviewed four candidates and brought one particularly promising candidate out for an in-person visit. Each was talented and capable, but we have not yet met our bashert. So the work continues.

    One of the reasons we received a small number of résumés was that the American Conference of Cantors (ACC) pool was smaller than usual this year. As we learned more about the world of the cantorate, we realized that there are cantors serving the Reform Movement who are not – or not yet – affiliated with the ACC. So we have suspended our ACC posting and will be looking at other candidates whom we could not consider while we were in the ACC process.

    Another reason we received fewer résumés was, frankly, compensation. We heard that there were several candidates who were interested in the position but chose not to apply because of the salary level. This is just one illustration of something you’ll be hearing more about from the Board over the next few months and years: the need for each of us to support Temple Beth Am based not on how much we “use” it but on how much we are committed to the value of maintaining a vibrant and thriving center of Jewish religion, values, and culture. For many of our members, the music program is Temple Beth Am.

    Our goal is to decide by mid-April whether our bashert cantor is out there this year or whether to invoke a contingency plan for the coming year that would involve hiring both a cantorial soloist and music director. (As we mentioned in an  earlier post on August 7th, the cost for both alternatives is comparable.) The timeline is determined by our clergy’s need to start preparing (already!) for the High Holy Days. And if need be, we will renew our search next year.

    The search committee welcomes your questions and comments; you can e-mail them here.

President Bryan Rutberg & Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick

From the Board – December 4, 2015

Mazel-Tov to Rabbi Jason, and Chag Urim Sameach to All!

As we approach Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, we are reminded of the call to keep alive the flame of Jewish religion and culture so that we can pass it along to the next generation. In Temple Beth Am's family, our generations include the colleagues and leaders whom we nurture as they grow in wisdom and responsibility.

In that spirit, we are deeply pleased to announce that the Board has officially extended Rabbi Jason Levine's contract through June 2019 and promoted him to the position of Associate Rabbi. These actions are in recognition of both his development as a rabbi and his incredible work in building relationships within our congregation. He is well-loved across all generations, but especially among our youth - which is why he was given the additional responsibilities this year of overseeing the Youth Program and supervising David Lizzo, our Director of Youth Engagement.

When the Board decided to establish the roles of Senior Rabbi and Assistant/Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth Am, it was with the hope that this structure will allow us the joy and blessing of helping talented young clergy hone their skills and learn new ones as they advance in their careers. In addition to being a meaningful professional milestone for Rabbi Levine, this is also a significant moment in the growth of our congregation.

Please join us in wishing Rabbi Jason a well-deserved mazel tov! And we wish you and all your generations chag urim sameach, a happy Festival of Lights.

President Bryan Rutberg & Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick

From the Board – October 8, 2015

Laying the Groundwork for Our Cantorial Search

    The majestic services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are over, as is the raucous celebration of Simchat Torah, and now the hard work of the Cantorial Search Committee is about to begin. Hard: because reviewing résumés and interviewing applicants will require careful thought and discernment; hard: because the recommendations the committee makes will affect the life of our congregation for years to come; hard: because it means we really will be saying l’hitraot (farewell) to Wendy Marcus on our bima.

    The search committee has completed its outreach to congregants – including our choir and Religious Practices Committee – as well as our professional musicians to learn what we all want to see in our new cantor. The committee incorporated this feedback, which you can read here, as well as the Congregational Outreach and Engagement survey from 2013, into the placement application that was submitted earlier this week to the American Conference of Cantors (ACC). The search is officially live!

    As with the rabbinic search, our goal is to use this space to make the process itself as transparent as possible while respecting the candidates’ need for confidentiality. The outlines of the two search processes are very similar. After reviewing each résumé, the search committee will decide which candidates they want to interview either by phone or Skype; from there, some will progress to a second interview. The field will be further narrowed to a small number of finalists who will be invited to come to Seattle for in-person interviews.

    A very wise bit of advice we received from the ACC is that the committee should not listen to recordings of a candidate singing until after the second interview. Why? Because a cantor is so much more than a beautiful voice. Just as in the rabbinic search process, we are looking for our bashert – someone who is a good match for our congregation. We should “fall in love” with the whole person, not just the voice!

    While we received a large number of rabbinic résumés early in that search process, the timeframe for cantorial searches is quite different. It’s possible we won’t see a group of résumés until December, and the placement process continues well into the spring. We also expect to see far fewer candidates overall, as the pool of cantors is much smaller than that of rabbis. So.

    If we don’t see our bashert cantor right away, we won’t panic – but we also don’t want to be caught short without a steady hand at the helm of our music program come next July. So we will explore contingency plans to ensure interim coverage if necessary, while at the same time continuing to receive résumés and interview candidates for permanent placement.

    As we heard during the rabbinic search, Temple Beth Am is a very desirable place to be – and the amazing High Holy Days we’ve just experienced and the energetic start to another year of Religious School serve as a reminder of that. We are looking forward to a strong field of cantorial candidates. We’ll post updates here every three to four weeks, so check back periodically, and if you have any questions you can contact us by email.

From the Board - September 10, 2015

Understanding the Work Ahead in Our Cantorial Search

    The turning of the year is often the time for new endeavors, and 5776 will be no exception. Over the coming months, you’ll hear (or read) a lot about our search for our bashert cantor, the one who’s the best match for Temple Beth Am. To keep that metaphor going, what we’re doing at this stage – filling out the application to the American College of Cantors – is kind of like creating a JDate profile. It’s a time to home in on the qualities we want our new cantor to possess, and to tell the candidates what they need to know about us, so both parties can evaluate whether it’s a good match.

    First, it’s important to understand all the things a cantor does. The most obvious is what we see Wendy do, week in and week out, on the bima: leading the congregation and conducting the choir and accompanists. There is, of course, a lot of behind-the-scenes effort that entails, including searching out just enough new music to keep things fresh, and selecting the right melodies and arrangements to create a musical structure that supports the flow of the service. (In the last post we described the five roles that music plays in a service.)

    But that is only a part of a cantor’s job. A cantor:

  • is a pastoral partner with the rabbis, able to officiate at lifecycle events, as well as going on hospital visits and leading shiva minyanim. (Over the years, Wendy has taken on some of this work because of the length and strength of her relationship with many of our members.)
  • is an educator who can help teach the congregation about the liturgy and can mentor our lay minyan leaders and Torah chanters.
  • oversees the b’nai mitzvah program, helping to ensure greater consistency among tutors and a more seamless training experience for our students.
  • is a liturgical partner to the rabbis, helping to develop the vision of what our worship will look like so we can meet the needs of an urban Jewish community in the 21st Century.

    With all of these responsibilities in mind, the search committee has been working to develop a list of the qualities our bashert cantor should have, and also to compose a description of Temple Beth Am that will help potential candidates decide if we are the right place for them. Committee members have met with the choir and the Religious Practices committee, and will also meet with our professional soloists, musicians, and the staff.

    The congregational forum last week was an opportunity for all of you to weigh in. Those who attended were asked to respond to three questions:

  • What are the hallmarks of our music program that we want to continue?
  • What are the qualities we want in a cantor?
  • Aside from the music program, what else should cantorial candidates know about us?

    There were some clear themes that stood out. People value the variety of styles, voices, and languages (including Yiddish and Ladino) that have become a hallmark of our music program, and want a cantor who is haimish and engaged with the congregation, someone who works well with all age groups, who has a good voice and good musical skills.

    The committee will compile a full report of the feedback we’ve received and will share it with the congregation soon. In the meantime, if you were not able to attend the forum and would like to submit your answers to the above questions – or if you have any other input for the committee – you can contact us by email.

From the Board – August 20, 2015

The Role of Music at Our Synagogue

    As we begin to frame our search for the first ordained cantor in TBA’s almost 60-year history, we are guided by the same mantra that shaped our rabbinic search two years ago: we’re not looking for “the best;” we’re looking for the one who’s best for us – our bashert.

    There are many talented cantors out there, each with his or her own array of strengths. The search committee’s charge is to identify the candidates who are a good fit for our members and who appreciate our minhag, our way of doing things. In addition, we know that the right candidate will use their gifts to help us grow and evolve musically. We expect that they will do so in a way that embraces our congregational culture and is sensitive to the many transitions we've been through recently.

    To find the right candidate, we need to work from a deep understanding of who we are as a congregation and how we relate to music and worship. Fortunately, the Congregational Outreach and Engagement survey we did a couple years ago gives us a head start on understanding the special role that music plays in the life of our congregation.

    When we asked you to rate the importance of various aspects of our worship service, 96 percent of you said music was very important or somewhat important. Nearly the same proportion – 94 percent – rated congregational participation as very or somewhat important.

    In other words, we’re a congregation that wants really good music, and we’re going to sing along.

    To say that we’re looking for a songleader, though, is overly simplistic and not really accurate. One of the many gifts Wendy has shared with us is her wide-ranging interest in a variety of musical styles. Our familiar melodies span Classic Reform to modern composers; they encompass the wide geographic range of the Jewish people, from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean to the Middle East and beyond. The music that complements our liturgy can be joyous or solemn, wordless like a niggun or weaving together multiple voices of choir and congregation. It’s more than the background to our prayers; for many of us, the music is our prayer.

    Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller has described five roles that synagogue music plays. They are:

  • Meditative: music that allows us to turn inward
  • Majestic: music that moves us to focus on a grandeur outside ourselves
  • Meeting: music that reminds us we’re part of a larger community
  • Moving: music that facilitates transitions, whether from one part of the service to another, or from our individual to our communal selves
  • Memory: music that sparks an identification with the entire community (e.g., Kol Nidre) or the memory of an individual experience

    Over the years, Wendy taught us to appreciate all those aspects of music within a service. We expect no less of our future cantor.

    What are the most important things our future cantor should know about Temple Beth Am? How does music help you connect with prayer, and what are the things you like best about the music at TBA? The more we can paint a detailed picture of Temple Beth Am, the more likely it is that we will attract great candidates, and the more likely that one of them will be our bashert. You can help by coming to the Congregational Music Forum on Wednesday, September 2, at 7:00 PM and sharing your views with the Cantorial Search Committee.

    If you’re unable to attend, you can still share your feedback via email.

From the Board - August 7, 2015

Bringing Our Hopes to Reality With a New Cantor of Temple Beth Am Position

    Last night Temple Beth Am’s Board of Trustees voted to create the position of Cantor of Temple Beth Am and proceed with posting a call for applications. The search team will begin looking for our bashert cantor to continue building TBA’s music program on the solid foundation created by our wonderful Wendy Marcus.

    The special Board meeting was convened to allow trustees sufficient time to study the financial implications of creating the new position. With our dual responsibilities of stewarding our finances and our sacred vision, trustees took into account the following considerations:

  • We know from the 2013 Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) survey that music is more highly valued than just about anything else at TBA. Any changes that would compromise the music program in the interest of saving money could, in the long run, have the reverse effect if it means members feel less attached to our congregation.
  • In order to fill all the roles that Wendy has taken on at Temple Beth Am without hiring a cantor, we would need to hire a cantorial soloist, a choir director, and possibly a music director – at a total cost on par with or perhaps more than an ordained cantor.
  • We have been fortunate to receive financial support to help us cover the increased salary cost for at least the next two years. The trustees committed to using the coming years to create a financial model built on congregational growth and deep member engagement to sustain a vibrant music program that lifts our hearts and enhances our worship.

    We wish the newly-formed Cantorial Search Committee (CSC) yasher koach as they undertake the sacred work of finding our future musical leader. As with the rabbinic search a couple years ago, we will publish regular updates on this page so you can follow the progress of the search.

    You can give the CSC your input at anytime through email, but we also want to supplement the excellent work of the COE with some fresh and focused input in person from the congregation. To that end, there will be a congregational forum on Wednesday, September 2, 7:00 - 9:00 PM, to hear directly from you what you value most about our music program. We look forward to seeing you then!

From the Board - July 15, 2015

The Formation of Our Cantorial Search Committee

    We are pleased to announce the members of the search committee that will be working to fill the musical gap that will be left by the retirement of Wendy Marcus. While the Board completes its evaluation of the feasibility and cost of hiring a cantor versus a cantorial soloist plus music director, the committee will conduct focus groups and meet with various constituencies within the congregation – such as the choir and Religious Practices Committee – to gain a better understanding of our community’s expectations.

     We received more than two dozen statements of interest from congregants eager to share their time and expertise for this important work. We did our best to select a group as diverse as our membership, including seniors and youth; interfaith families and Jews-by-choice; singles, young couples, and empty nesters; parents of b’nai mitzvah-age kids; LGBTQ members; people who are relatively new to Temple Beth Am and those who have been around for many years. We also looked for representation from the choir, KlezKidz, and the Religious Practices Committee. Without further ado, here is the composition of the search committee:


Michael Berman and his wife, Terri Buysse, joined Temple Beth Am in 2006. They have two children in the Religious School, one of whom became bat mitzvah this year. They created a chavurah for Temple Beth Am members living in the (far) north end and are both active volunteers in the temple. Michael was on the Rabbinic Search Committee that brought Rabbi Zlotnick to TBA, has served on the Religious School Board, and is a new member of the Board of Trustees. He works as a program manager for Sound Transit. In his free time, he likes to read, listen to music, run and hike, and rabidly follow Chicago sports teams.

Byron Schenkman has been an active member of Temple Beth Am since 2009, attending services regularly, participating in Torah study, and working on the Welcoming Synagogue Program. A professional musician, Byron co-founded the Seattle Baroque Orchestra in 1994 and served as its Artistic Director for many years. He currently presents a chamber music series at Benaroya Hall and teaches music at Cornish College of the Arts and at Seattle University. He is also learning Klezmer music with Shawn Weaver. Byron and his husband Tom Lewandowski live on Capitol Hill.


Julia Bacharach is a Seattle native and grew up at TBA. She rejoined Temple Beth Am in 2001 with her spouse, Dan Cory. They have two children in Religious School, one of whom became bat mitzvah earlier this year. Julia has been treasurer and board chair of UW Hillel, has been on the audit committee at Jewish Family Service, and is a member of the Camp Kesher 2015 planning committee. Julia and Dan are active volunteers at TBA, and during Religious School on Sunday mornings they can usually be found organizing walks to Starbucks.

Gail Broder is a member of the Board of Trustees and the Religious Practices Committee. She sings with the Temple Beth Am choir and Seattle Pro Musica. Gail joined Temple Beth Am in 2003, when she moved from St. Louis to Seattle to work for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Gail served as cantonal soloist for two years at her former synagogue in St. Louis following the unexpected retirement of their cantor due to illness. She has been an active member of the Sisters of Beth Am, the Adult Education Committee, and the Welcoming Synagogue Program, and was part of the search committee for the interim and assistant rabbis.

Seth Cohen and his fiancée, Dr. Stacey Shiovitz, recently became members of Temple Beth Am as they begin a new chapter in their life together this August. Seth moved to Seattle in 2011 and is originally from New York (in fact, Rabbi Zlotnick and he were members of the same congregation in Rockland County). Currently, Seth designs airplanes for Boeing, but enjoys keeping up on his piano skills after work (and re-teaching his fiancée to play!). He also enjoys cooking, hiking, and working around the house.

Margy Crosby is chair of the Religious School Board and a member of the Board of Trustees. She sings in the choir and has taught in the Religious School for the past 10 years. Margy and her husband, Michael Feinberg, and their two children joined Temple Beth Am in 1995, and all four of them became b’nai mitzvah on our bima. Margy was part of the organizing committee and leadership team for the Sisters of Beth Am, and coordinated Temple Beth Am involvement in local WRJ events.

Zachary Gordon-Sandweiss is a rising high school junior who has been attending TBA’s Religious School since kindergarten. He plays guitar and trumpet, and is looking forward to his fourth year as a Temple Beth Am songleader. Zach is in the jazz and concert bands at his high school and is part of the All-City Marching Band.

Ross Kling joined Temple Beth Am in 1996 and has been an active and involved volunteer ever since. He formed and led the Cemetery Committee and was instrumental in the creation of TBA’s Gan Shalom cemetery. He is a past president of TBA, having served on the Board from 1999 to 2014. He currently co-chairs the Cemetery Committee and serves on the Religious School Board. He also works for the Seattle Jewish Chapel, and in that capacity has worked closely with clergy of all denominations across the Seattle Jewish community.

Diana Pritkin joined Temple Beth Am six years ago, after moving to Seattle from Norwalk, Conn., where she was a Justice of the Peace. She is a member of the Temple Beth Am choir, is a regular attendee at Torah study, and serves on the Religious Practices Committee. She has sung with the Westport Madrigal Singers and the Nutmeg’ Musical Theatre. An active member of Seattle Jewish Seniors and the Endless Opportunities Program of Jewish Family Service, Diana has two daughters and five grandchildren.

Gail Rosenberg and her husband, Morris, have been members of Temple Beth Am since 1985. They have two adult children, both of whom attended religious school and became b’nai mitzvah at TBA. Gail is a psychologist with a full-time private practice in Bellevue. She sings in the Temple Beth Am choir, has served on the auction committee, is a regular supporter of H2R, and for several years was the “pocket lady” at the Purim Carnival.

Sharon Rutberg has been a Temple Beth Am member for eleven years, first as a supportive non-Jewish parent and spouse, and then as a Jew-by-choice. She was part of the adult b’nai mitzvah class of 2012, played piano with KlezKidz for several years, and is one of TBA’s corps of Torah chanters. She volunteers frequently for Teen Feed and has also helped out with Mary’s Place when they are at TBA. Sharon recently opened her own law practice, focusing on estate planning.

Shelly F. Cohen (ex officio) is first vice-president of the Temple Beth Am Board of Trustees. She was on the Rabbinic Search Committee that brought Rabbi Ruth to TBA, and has served on the Religious School Board and the Welcoming Synagogues Task Force. As a non-voting ex officio member of the search committee, Shelly will be a liaison between the committee and Temple Beth Am leadership.

From the Board - Call for Cantorial Search Committee Applications - June 24, 2015

Introducing Our Co-Chairs and Calling for Applications to the Cantorial Search Committee

    With Wendy Marcus retiring next year from musical leadership at Temple Beth Am, we have big shoes to fill. Fortunately, we have two very capable individuals who will help guide us in that search. We are excited to announce that Michael Berman and Byron Schenkman will be co-chairs of the Cantorial Search Committee.

Michael Berman and his wife, Terri Buysse, joined Temple Beth Am in 2006. They have two children in the Religious School, one of whom became bat mitzvah this year. They created a chavurah for Temple Beth Am members living in the (far) north end and are both active volunteers in the temple. Michael was on the Rabbinic Search Committee that brought Rabbi Zlotnick to TBA, has served on the Religious School Board, and is a new member of the Board of Trustees. He works as a program manager for Sound Transit. In his free time, he likes to read, listen to music, run and hike, and rabidly follow Chicago sports teams.

Byron Schenkman has been an active member of Temple Beth Am since 2009, attending services regularly, participating in Torah study, and working on the Welcoming Synagogues program. A professional musician, Byron co-founded the Seattle Baroque Orchestra in 1994 and served as its Artistic Director for many years. He currently presents a chamber music series at Benaroya Hall and teaches music at Cornish College of the Arts and at Seattle University. He is also learning Klezmer music with Shawn Weaver. Byron and his husband Tom Lewandowski live on Capitol Hill.

    Given the size of our congregation, we believe that a cantor is the next logical stage in our evolution as a k’hilah kedoshah (sacred community). (In future posts, we’ll describe in more details the five main roles that cantors are trained to fulfill.) However, the Board also believes that before officially submitting an application to the American Conference of Cantors (ACC) asking for resumes, we need to do our due diligence and research the relative merits and costs of a cantor versus a musical director and/or cantorial soloist. Therefore, the search committee’s work will be divided into two phases.

    Last week, the Board authorized the search committee to begin the first phase of the work: conducting focus groups within the congregation to get input about our hopes and expectations for musical and clerical leadership; and to prepare for the ACC placement process (including drafting the application).

    The Board will meet again in early August to evaluate the various alternatives, and to vote on whether to create the new position of cantor at Temple Beth Am. The committee will then proceed with a search for either a cantor or other musical leadership as designated by the Board.

-- If you would like to be on the search committee, please read the job description to learn more about what it will entail. If you are comfortable with the responsibilities outlined, complete the Statement of Interest and submit it to cantorsearch at templebetham.org.
Deadline has been extended to Monday, July 6, at 5:00 PM.
Many of you have already indicated your desire to be on the committee but you must also submit a statement of interest. There are a limited number of spaces on the committee, and the final selections will be made by the co-chairs along with Rabbi Ruth and Bryan Rutberg.

-->    We will take applications through July 6, hope to name the committee members by July 13, and the committee will begin working immediately. Once the committee is constituted, we will update with more details of the process and the timeline.

From the Board - June 8, 2015

Cultivating Ahavat Yisrael at Temple Beth Am    

This Thursday, June 11 at 7:30 PM, Temple Beth Am will host the first in a series of conversations about Israel. We begin this conversation knowing that members of Temple Beth Am hold differing views regarding Israel. We intend these programs to encourage ongoing, open, and respectful dialogue, based on the Jewish belief in Ahavat Yisrael, a love for our community, our homeland, and our culture.

    This series will include controversial programs. As a board in leadership with our rabbis and staff, we recognize this controversy and affirm our commitment to the state of Israel, its people, and the brave men and women who serve in its armed forces.

While hosting these learning opportunities, we are refraining from providing sponsorship and we are not endorsing specific positions held or claims made by the organizations providing the programming or their speakers. As a synagogue affiliated with the Reform Movement, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the Religious Action Center, we are committed to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine as the surest way to guarantee the security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and we support religious pluralism and civil rights within the borders of Israel.

While some in our community have applauded the first event, an evening sponsored by the New Israel Fund who will bring in the group Breaking the Silence, others have expressed displeasure. NIF is a 35 year-old organization that works for progressive values in Israel, from supporting the Women of the Wall to opposing torture. Breaking the Silence has recently published a polarizing report on the alleged conduct of some Israeli soldiers and has been critical of rules of engagement for the Israeli Defense Forces. They are themselves controversial and polarizing, and we understand that their findings are found compelling by some in our community and appalling by others.

Others at Temple Beth Am may be alarmed by the beliefs of speakers later in the series, as we are engaged in conversation with groups who object to the NIF program about providing a venue for their own programs later this year.

Throughout this balanced and provocative series, we wish to show respect and appreciation to all in our community and for the brave men and women of Israel, the U.S., and from all over Europe, Africa, and more who make up the Israeli Defense Forces. We mean to stimulate conversation, not controversy.

Our congregation has a proud tradition of stepping up to the hard conversations of our times. Rabbi Norman Hirsh marched for civil rights with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and was an early and initially unpopular voice against the Vietnam war. Rabbis Jonathan and Beth Singer embraced the civil rights struggles of more recent times, for marriage equality and against the scourge of gun violence. With this new series of conversations we take no position other than a commitment to show our heartfelt support of the State of Israel and its people. We stand with our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel, praying for their security and welfare, because we recognize that our own destiny is bound up in theirs. We feel an educated, engaged U.S. Jewry is the best ally Israel can have, and are proud to be providing the opportunity for our community to have this conversation.

From the Board – May 13, 2015

Answers to Common Questions About Music at Temple Beth Am

We recently sent an email to the congregation that Wendy Marcus is stepping down from her role as Temple Beth Am's Music Director in July of 2016. Below are some of the questions we expect you might have. We will use this space to keep the congregation informed on the cantorial search

I love the music we have and I don’t want to learn a bunch of new melodies.
How much will things change with someone new in charge of music?

Music is an integral part of our minhag, our spiritual practice. Over the past 30 years, Wendy has introduced us to numerous new melodies and arrangements, many of which we now think of as old favorites. The person who follows Wendy (no one can “replace” her) will respect and honor Temple Beth Am’s traditions and will use that as a foundation from which to continue building.

All the ordained cantors I’ve heard sound like opera singers. I just can’t see how that fits at TBA.
That is certainly one style of cantor, but the evolution of modern Jewish music (think Craig Taubman or Debbie Friedman, both of whose melodies we use in our liturgy) has led to a diversity of cantorial styles. Thirty years ago, Temple Beth Am was on the vanguard of empowering every congregant to sing; today there are many cantors who seek a congregation as participatory and musically engaged as ours. As we did with the rabbinic search, we’ll be looking for candidates who fit with TBA, and those will be cantors who embrace and encourage participation by the congregation.

Why do we need an ordained cantor – why not find another cantorial soloist?
As Wendy points out, the role of cantor is so much more than what we see on the bima – someone who leads us and the choir in song. In addition to providing musical direction, an ordained cantor can also:

      • Be a partner to the rabbi in selecting the liturgy and ensuring liturgical coherence;
      • Provide pastoral care (life cycle events, hospital visits, shiva minyanim, etc.);
      • Oversee and ensure consistency of b’nai mitzvah training; and
      • Provide musical education including support for our lay minyan leaders and Torah readers.

What is the process for hiring a cantor?
The American Conference of Cantors (ACC) has a search process similar to the rabbinic search we did a couple years ago. Just as we did for the rabbinic search, we will appoint a committee that is broadly representative of our membership. We have the benefit of the gleanings from 25 House Parties with Rabbi Zlotnick and the Congregational Outreach and Engagement (COE) survey that was done two years ago for the rabbinic search – where we heard loud and clear what an important role participatory music plays in our worship. The committee can supplement the COE with some targeted outreach specific to the criteria for a cantor search. The committee will then draft the application to be submitted to the ACC, review the resumes, interview the applicants, and recommend the successful candidate for approval by the Board. As we did with the rabbinic search, we will be as transparent as possible about the progress of the search, while still respecting confidentiality for the candidates.

How will the search committee be selected?
Rabbi Zlotnick and Bryan Rutberg will appoint two co-chairs and will work with them to select the members of the committee. Our goal, as it was with the rabbinic search committee, is to have a diverse committee that is representative of the many facets of our congregation. Watch this space for information on how you can apply to be on the search committee.

How can I have input into the process if I’m not on the search committee?
Again, watch this space for more information as we get the process set up. We anticipate that the search committee will want to speak directly with specific groups, such as the choir and the Religious Practices Committee. We will also provide a dedicated e-mail address where anyone can submit comments.

What will we do to honor Wendy for her decades of service to Temple Beth Am?
With a year’s notice before Wendy passes the proverbial baton, there will be plenty of opportunity to honor her contributions to the spiritual life of Temple Beth Am. A “celebration team” is being formed to plan a series of community events so that everyone will have a chance to celebrate with Wendy and publicly acknowledge her numerous contributions to TBA.

What about Shawn and the choir?
The choir, Shawn Weaver, pianist Murl Allen Sanders, and the rest of our wonderful musicians will continue to provide the accompaniment for our worship services.

Will we still get to worship and sing with Wendy?
Temple Beth Am is still Wendy’s community. After she takes some time for a much-needed break, you’ll see her in the congregation rather than on the bima. We also anticipate that she will continue to lead KlezKidz and teach her very popular Yiddish classes.

From the Board – mid-March, 2015

Where does TBA’s revenue come from?

    Temple Beth Am’s dues structure is an expression of the egalitarian values on which our synagogue is based. Everyone is welcome to join our community, regardless of financial status. Rather than asking members (as some synagogues do) to provide financial information such as tax returns in order to assess dues, we ask each household to determine the level of annual financial commitment that is meaningful to them.

    In 2012 we launched the L’Dor V’Dor initiative as a way to secure our financial future. We provided a point of reference we called the “Sustaining Dues Level” knowing that some members would not be able to contribute at that level and others would be able to contribute more. Those who can give at higher levels help to ensure that Temple Beth Am membership remains open to all. As a result of L’Dor V’Dor, we have increased total annual dues revenues from $1.3 million to $1.6 million over the past three years.

    Those who can give at higher levels help to ensure that Temple Beth Am membership remains open to all. As a result of L’Dor V’Dor, we have increased total annual dues revenues from $1.3 million to $1.6 million over the past three years.

MajorRevenueSources    At more than half of our total annual budget, dues comprise TBA’s single biggest source of revenue. (We’ll talk about the other side of the budget – expenses – next month.) Even if we exceed our goal in a specific area, as we did with the gala this year – and hats off to all who helped put us way over the top – that accounts for only a small increase in total revenue. And it’s not enough to balance the budget if we miss our dues target.

    But wait – why are we talking about missing our target if dues are up by $300,000? Because we are still feeling the lingering effects of the rabbinic transition. Even though our experience was not as dramatic as what many congregations go through, our membership is still about 50 households smaller than it was in 2012. That means dues (and religious school tuition – our second largest source of revenue) are lower than we had projected for this year.

    On the positive side, we are seeing a slow but steady stream of new members – although it will likely take a few years to get our numbers up to where they had been. We have cut expenses and are running smaller deficits than in years past (again, more on this next month). We have increased the proportion of members committed to paying at the sustaining level and above.

    We hope that when you receive the annual dues request letter at the end of April you will find this information helpful in thinking about how to evaluate your commitment to Temple Beth Am.

Sustaining Dues Level

SustainingDuesChart2015-2016rev As we explained in the March Bulletin, the sustaining dues level is simply the total revenue we need to raise from dues divided by the number of member households. If we are able to bring in that amount, we have a balanced budget. If not, we run a deficit.

At right is how we arrived at the sustaining dues level for 2015-2016.


From the Board – January 27, 2015

Update on Our Announced Staff Changes

Youth Program
We will conduct a national search for a new Youth Director who can build on the energy and engagement of our current youth program. Because the program is recognized throughout NFTY and the URJ as innovative and exciting, we expect to have an outstanding pool of candidates. Realistically, it is likely that candidates of the caliber we are seeking are committed to their current jobs through the end of this school year, so that gives us some breathing room to design a search process that incorporates input from all stakeholders – including our youth.
In the meantime, we are dividing the youth program responsibilities among several people for the balance of this school year. We have already identified two of the three; both of them grew up at Temple Beth Am and are excited to be working with our youth.

      • Emuna David, a 7th grade teacher in the Religious School, will be advising BATY (Beth Am Temple Youth), the teen-led group for 9th through 12th graders.
      • Temple Beth Am member Anna Wittow will be in charge of the BAE (Beth Am Engagement) Board.

Both are excited to be working with our youth. We are currently working to make sure the Madrichim (teaching assistant) program has supervision.

Administrative Staff
We have already hired a temporary employee to fill the education and development associate position, giving us the time to be thoughtful about how to best integrate the pastoral- and education-related functions.

Rabbi Ruth and Jan Glick will coordinate with each member of our staff and with lay leadership to get their input on how our operations can run most smoothly. Once we have that information in hand, we’ll be able to draft and post descriptions for the reconfigured positions, and we hope to hire permanent staff shortly after.

We are working hard to maintain the down-to-earth warmth and responsiveness that you’ve come to expect from Temple Beth Am’s staff and leadership. Please bear with us as we work to fill the gaps.

From the Board – August 2014

Strengthening Our Flame at Temple Beth Am

If you attended our Annual Summer Shabbat BBQ on August 22, you got a glimpse of the energy and enthusiasm that Rabbi Ruth has elicited over this past month. More than 300 people –- members and prospective members -– stayed after services for a spirited evening of community, meeting old friends and making new ones.

The previous day was the annual Board retreat and Rabbi Ruth’s first opportunity to meet with the entire Board and Executive Director Jan Glick. Another first: this year the retreat included key staff members (Rabbi Jason, Rabbi Janine, Alexis Kort, and Rachel Schachter). Using the metaphor of different types of candles –- Shabbat, Chanukah, and Havdalah –- Rabbi Ruth explained the difference between a functional synagogue and a visionary synagogue. A functional synagogue is segmented; like Shabbat or Chanukah candles, the lights stand separately. In a visionary synagogue, the lights are woven together like the braid of a Havdalah candle. Our goal is to weave the lights of Temple Beth Am –- clergy, professional staff, lay leaders, and members –- even more tightly. The more involved our members become in the life of our community, the more brightly our flame will burn.

The coming year will be one of conversation and exploration with Rabbi Ruth as we get to know each other better and figure out how we can all move forward together. To facilitate that, we’ve scheduled house parties in various neighborhoods around Seattle, to the north, and on the Eastside, where small groups of congregants can discuss with Rabbi Ruth and each other where we see Temple Beth Am going in the next year and beyond. If you haven’t already signed up for one, you can do so here. (Because so many of the dates filled up quickly, we’ll be adding more in the next few days, so be sure to check back if you don’t see any available dates that work for you.)

As the Board moves forward with new initiatives, guided by Rabbi Ruth’s teaching and by what we hear from each of you at house parties and other venues, we’ll use this space to keep you informed. Check back every few weeks to see what’s new.

Take a moment to reflect on how far Temple Beth Am has come in the past twelve months. A year ago we had just posted the job opening for our senior rabbi position, and we waited with trepidation to see who would be our next spiritual leader. Thanks to so many of our congregants who took the time to participate in the Community Outreach and Engagement process, we were able to articulate a shared vision that guided us through our year in the wilderness while we searched for (and found) our bashert rabbi. As Board members, we’re excited about what’s in store for TBA, and we hope you are too. We invite you –- whether at services, a house party, for an Adult Education class, or all of the above –- to be a part of TBA’s future!

From your Board of Trustees,
L’shana tova!

From the Board - May 22, 2014

Annual Meeting Review

Thank you to all who participated in this year’s Annual Meeting this past Sunday! If you were unable to attend, here’s a quick recap:

      • Our quorum discussed and approved next year’s budget, following explanation and presentation by Executive Director Jan Glick. You can find our current-year performance and next year’s budget in your Annual Report.
      • The Seymour Kaplan Award for the Enhancement of the Religious and Educational Life of the Temple was presented to Hugh Binder.
      • The Walter Lowen Award for Outstanding Service Toward the Enrichment of Temple Life was announced, and will be presented to Ruth Berkman at the June 13 Shabbat Service that will also thank Rabbi Ilene for her interim year with us.
      • We enjoyed a special pre-recorded video message from Rabbi Ruth (now on our Facebook Page), and she's counting down the time until her arrival on Friday, August 1. (Be at Shabbat services that night for a fun welcome!) She detailed just some of the plans for our community to connect with her and each other at events at Temple and around Seattle during her first several months.
      • The congregation approved our 2014-15 Board of Trustees, and the two at-large members of the congregation who will serve on next year’s Board nominating committee.
      • New Religious School Board Chair Margy Crosby presented the self-assessment conducted by the Religious School this past year. We will post the PowerPoint presentation of the Annual Meeting, including the Religious School self-assessment slides, on our website following the Religious School Parents’ Meeting on June 8. At that meeting Rabbi Janine, Vivian Scheidt, and Margy will provide a longer and more detailed review of the Religious School’s self-assessment.

All previous posts on Temple Beth Am's Rabbinic Trasition are on our
From the Board archive page.