Welcome | About TBE
Meet our Clergy
TBE’s spiritual, educational, and pastoral leaders
Joel Sisenwine has been the Rabbi of Temple Beth Elohim since the year 2000, a period of great growth and energy in the life of our community. A native of Philadelphia, Rabbi Sisenwine graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. There, Rabbi Sisenwine received the prestigious Wexner Foundation Fellowship for Jewish Leadership, as well as the nationally recognized Truman Foundation Fellowship for public service.
Following studies at various institutions of higher learning, including Tel Aviv University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, he was ordained a rabbi from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1995.
Rabbi Sisenwine has distinguished himself as a leading voice in the local and national Jewish community. He is currently the rabbinic chair of the Reform movement’s Commission on Worship and Religious Living, and also serves on the President’s Rabbinic Council of the Hebrew Union College. He was also as a founding member of the region’s Reform Beit Din, and has served on several local and national leadership boards, including the Jewish Community Center, the Rashi School, and the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.
Rabbi Sisenwine is the author of various articles and publications. He can occasionally be seen on the basketball courts of the JCC, the bleachers at Fenway Park, or enjoying time with his family.
Rabbi Rachel Saphire was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio and attended Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where she graduated magna cum laude in 2004 with a degree in Family Studies and Social Work. At Miami, Rabbi Saphire became extensively involved with the Hillel Foundation and was awarded the Nicky S. Spivak Award for Community Enhancement. Following graduation, she entered rabbinical school at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. After an initial year in Jerusalem, Rabbi Saphire studied for the rabbinate at HUC-JIR’s historic Cincinnati campus. Upon her Ordination from HUC-JIR in June 2009, Rabbi Saphire was awarded the Robert L. Adler Prize for her contribution to the community and the Israel Bettan Memorial Prize for the most creative and imaginative pulpit presentation. She also received a Masters in Hebrew Letters from HUC in 2009.
Rabbi Saphire has served our congregation since she was ordained. Her accomplishments at TBE include creating a thriving community of Families with Young Children, reimagining the B’Mitzvah process, forming a diverse Israel Connection Team, initiating a community of 20s–30s, transforming family and youth worship and ritual experiences, and organizing TBE’s social justice initiatives to be a national leader in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Saphire finds time for other passions such as spending time with family, volunteering with interfaith organizations, playing sports, watching ESPN, cooking, crafting, and writing. Rabbi Saphire and her husband, Doug, live in Needham with their two children, Ella and Oren. They are grateful to be a part of the Temple Beth Elohim community.
Cantor Shanna Zell believes in creating a warm, passionate, uplifting community to all seekers and lovers of Judaism. She loves crafting intentional worship with her clergy partners, overseeing the B’Mitzvah program, and relishes every minute of singing with the youngest members of Gan Elohim. With roots as a singer/songwriter, Cantor Zell incorporates classic Americana into her worship while drawing upon the rich heritage of chazzanut and the robust canon of Jewish music.
She received her BA in both European Cultural Studies and English & American Literature from Brandeis University. Before embarking on her cantorial journey, Cantor Zell performed live shows with her pop-rock ensemble, Shanna & the Zellots. She released one full length album (Hurricane Season, 2005) and one EP (Coming Undone, 2011), both comprised of original music.
She received her ordination from the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music (HUC-JIR) in May 2017. Concurrent to her studies, Cantor Zell served as cantorial intern for Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She served as a member of the Worship Working Group and as student liaison to the Reform Movement’s Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living. She was a Be Wise Fellow, working with the institution and classmates to digitize the Sacred Music Press. From 2014-2016 Shanna served as a UJA Federation PENS fellow, meeting monthly with other fellows to explore issues facing local and global Jewish communities as well as innovating for a bright Jewish future.
Cantor Zell upholds that one can find the sacred in all things secular, loves keeping her pulse on the underground music scene…and sushi. She lives with her husband Josh and their Golden Retriever, Toby in Natick.
Assistant Rabbi, Senior Director of Adult Jewish Living
Rabbi Vanessa Harper joined the TBE team in 2021 following her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, where she also received a Masters in Hebrew Literature and numerous awards for academic achievement. During her training for the rabbinate, Rabbi Harper was recognized as a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar, a UJA-Federation Graduate Scholar, a Be Wise Jewish Entrepreneurial Fellow, and as one of the New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36.” She received her undergraduate degree in English and Jewish Studies, graduating magna cum laude from Williams College, and has served as a Jewish educator and curriculum writer for preschoolers through adults in various capacities over the last fifteen years.
Rabbi Harper brings a passion for creative, joyful, and meaningful Jewish learning and living to her roles as a rabbi and Senior Director of Adult Jewish Living at TBE, and as the Reform Rabbi-in-Residence of Gann Academy. Vanessa is also the creator behind @lechlechallah and author of a book of creative Torah commentary, Loaves of Torah: Exploring the Jewish Year through Challah.
She and her husband Cantor Josh Rosenberg live in Natick, with their cat and a considerable quantity of yarn, chocolate, and tea.
I am so deeply honored and thrilled to have been chosen to join the amazing Temple Beth Elohim team and family. For many years I have looked towards TBE as the model, the standard for what innovative and connected Jewish synagogue life can and should be. I am looking forward to learning from and with all of you as we continue to strive for excellence.
Growing up nearby in Medfield, this move is a very welcomed homecoming and an opportunity to be near family. My husband Matthew and I were actually married at TBE by Rabbi Saphire; in 2019 we stood under the chuppah in the sanctuary and this fall our son Matan will be a Gan Elohim student just down the hallway – such a special blessing in our lives! As I finish out my tenure as the Associate Rabbi at Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado, Matthew, Matan and I (and our rescue dog Rosie!) are so looking forward to our big move east and to meeting you all.
Rabbi Ben Rosen will be joining the TBE team in July of 2023, following his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, where he also received a Masters in Hebrew Literature and the Irwin Engelman Prize for Leadership. Over the course of his five-years of study at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Rosen was honored to serve multiple congregations in the Greater-Cincinnati area, as well as student pulpits in Joplin, MO and New Iberia, LA. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!), where he received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an International Relations focus.
Rabbi Rosen and his wife, Tess, share their home with two cats and an ever-growing collection of books and blu-rays. In his free time, he loves to watch (and re-watch) movies, listen to live music, and drink strong coffee.
Cantor Jodi Sufrin was raised in Toronto, Canada. Her home upbringing and early experiences as lay cantor at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto pointed her in the direction of the cantorate. For many years, Jodi sang with her older brother Kerry, z”l, specializing in the field of Israeli folk songs. She also pursued a career as a folk singer, serving as warm-up artist for Canadian songwriter and performer, Dan Hill. Fortunately, for all of us, her parents discouraged her from following this path.
Following her graduation from the University of Toronto with a dual major in French and Italian, Cantor Sufrin entered Hebrew Union College, School of Sacred Music in New York City. In 2008, Cantor Sufrin received an Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College.
Since her ordination in 1983, Cantor Jodi Sufrin has served as cantor at Temple Beth Elohim. In the mid 1980s, Cantor Sufrin participated in a group of clergy and lay leaders that laid the foundation for the Rashi School. For many years, she and her husband co-chaired cantorial concerts to benefit the school. Cantor Sufrin also served on the ritual development committee for the Mayyim Hayyim mikveh. Cantor Sufrin became Cantor Emerita in June 2020.
Cantor Sufrin is married to Cantor Roy Einhorn of Temple Israel in Boston. They have two daughters, Laura and Jessica, sons-in-law Jared and Ben, and two grandsons Kai and Jomei, and a granddaughter Poppy.