Tikvat Israel Congregation

A Conservative Synagogue in Rockville, MD

What Past Colleagues and Congregants Are Saying About Rabbi Israel

A sampling of comments about our new rabbi from those who’ve known him best over the past 14 years at his congregations in suburban Philadelphia and Chevy Chase, Md. The individuals were interviewed by Jay P. Goldman, editor of the Tikvat Israel Bulletin.

Randy Goldberg, president, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Wynnewood, Pa.: “Rabbi Israel is a menschy, wonderful person, who is honest, sincere and a good listener. He’s a people person. On Shabbat mornings, he walks around the room and personally greets people. …  A congregation of your size would be the perfect place for him since he is passionate about getting to know and care for everyone in the community.”

Rabbi Neil S. Cooper, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “He is perceptive, flexible and anxious to innovate. When discussing Jewish education, Rabbi Israel is rarely satisfied with ‘what we did last year.’ Each year, each program is analyzed and carefully reconsidered by asking, ‘How can we do this better? What will capture the imagination of our audience?  How can this program be transformed into something memorable?’”

Rabbi Lyle Fishman, Ohr Kodesh Congregation, Chevy Chase, Md.: “His most enduring contribution to our synagogue community is his championing the idea of an annual congregational retreat.  He saw its value to build community, to strengthen the synagogue skills of the participants and to offer significant time for Jewish study and for natural conversations. He worked tirelessly on every aspect of our retreats during his years at Ohr Kodesh. Although we now schedule the retreats about every 18 months, they continue to enhance our community’s vitality and depth.”

Lisa Richman, religious school director, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “He has a good sense of pop culture and seamlessly works it into sermons occasionally.  His mind is extremely creative.  Some of the ideas that he implemented in the Religious School are excellent. For example, the idea of having chugim (electives) to allow staff and students to go beyond the usual parameters of Religious School is one that has been extremely successful. He has also done Shabbat retreats with the synagogue’s middle schoolers.  The children return bonded and happy, having experienced Shabbat with their peers and having been immersed in experiential education at its best.”

Judith Scarani, early childhood center director, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “One particular kabbalat shabbat we were teaching the importance of doing specific things in order. Rabbi Israel came into the sanctuary with his pajamas, brushed his teeth and then ate a bagel. The kids really loved how silly he could be on occasion. I also remember an unplanned lesson where he asked all the grandparents and parents who came for their significant King or Queen to join us on the floor in small circles so that we could tell each other how much of a blessing they are to us. We came to the priestly blessing in the Torah that week. Rabbi Israel always has wonderful ideas for helping me concretize the portion for our preschool children.”

Barbara Libbin, president, Ohr Kodesh Congregation: “Perhaps the most memorable experience was the first time our children saw him leading the family service on Simchat Torah, decked out in a full- body Torah costume.  This really captured his love of Torah and ability to connect with people of all ages.”

Joshua Kohn, synagogue vice president, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “He has an amazing ability to connect with people. He gets to know people personally. This is pretty amazing in a 700-family congregation, so he’d be even better in your congregation.”

Eugene Rosner, cantor for 29 years, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “His big leave [behind] with our congregation was his menschlichkeit. He was absolutely great with his connections with our congregants. A special gift for sure. It was surely on display with his interactions with congregants after services.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Tigay, retired Biblical scholar and longtime congregant, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “Rabbi Israel gives thoughtful, well-prepared and lucid divrei Torah with messages that are meaningful for current times. What touches me most about them is his heartfelt manner of delivery; you can tell that he really feels what he is talking about.”

Sara Crimm, inclusion committee co-chair, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “His most significant contribution for me has been his ability to transform our Religious School from a setting where students with learning differences or other disabilities were not welcomed — and parents did not even ask about whether their child could attend —  to a school with an inclusion specialist, special supports, a welcome environment and a K-1 class specifically designed for students leaving our special needs preschool classroom.”

Sharon Parrott, congregant of 20 years, Ohr Kodesh Congregation: “Our daughter was a student at the religious school and was having some issues with her knees.  On a couple of occasions, Rabbi Israel waited for her at the bus stop near Ohr Kodesh to make sure she could make the short walk to religious school.” 

Larry Nathanson, men’s club co-chair, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El: “One of my favorite memories occurred during Rabbi Israel’s first year at our temple when he led our Sunday morning service outside on a beautiful summer day, so we could be surrounded by nature during our prayers.”