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Welcome | About TBE

Clergy

Meet our Clergy

Schedule time with the clergy:
Susan Karon
Comfort, Care & Connection Specialist
781.997.4243

TBE’s spiritual, educational, and pastoral leaders

Contact Rabbi Sisenwine

781.235.8419 x201

Joel Sisenwine

Senior Rabbi

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 shares life with his wife Heidi, a teacher at the Rashi School, and his three daughters. He can occasionally be seen on the basketball courts of the JCC, the bleachers at Fenway Park, or enjoying time with his family.

Sermons

Contact Rabbi Saphire

781.235.8419 x203

Rachel Saphire

Associate Rabbi

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 Bar/Bat 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.

Sermons

Contact Rabbi Sherman
781.235.8419 x208

Philip Sherman

Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Philip Sherman came to Temple Beth Elohim in 2013. He holds a B.A. from Indiana University, and also studied at Charles University in Prague. He was ordained in June 2013 at Hebrew College in Newton, Ma., where he also received a Masters in Jewish Education.

Rabbi Sherman grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From a young age, he enjoyed being active in the Jewish community. He was president of Emtza Region USY, and he spent 15 summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin as a camper, counselor, and Rosh Eidah. While a student at Hebrew College, he held various positions in several Boston-area synagogues as well as MIT Hillel, and served as student rabbi for the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe in Stowe, Vt. He also spent a summer as a chaplain at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

At TBE Rabbi Sherman enjoys engaging the adult community in Jewish living and learning, teaching classes, finding meaningful prayer opportunities, singing and leading prayer with our Yaldeinu (families with young children) community, and exploring different spiritual practices our tradition has to offer.

He and his wife, Leah, live in Natick with their children. They consider themselves blessed to be part of the TBE community. True to his roots, he is still an avid Minnesota and Indiana University sports fan.

Sermons

Contact Cantor Zell
781.235.8419 x225

Shanna Zell

Cantor

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.

Contact Rabbi Harper
781.235.8419 x212

Vanessa Harper

Rabbi-Educator

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 in 2012, 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 dual role as Rabbi-Educator of TBE–working with our youth and our day school population as well as provide teaching and support to our adult learners–and as Reform Rabbi-in-Residence of Gann Academy, where she serves on the Jewish Studies Faculty. Vanessa is also the creator behind @lechlechallah, an online education project that uses challah as an artistic medium for interpreting and teaching Torah and the Jewish calendar, which is soon to be published as a book by the CCAR Press.
 
She and her husband Josh Rosenberg live in Newton, where they spend much of their time drinking tea, cooking, reading, being bossed around by their cat, and discussing the theological narratives in Disney movies.

Ryan Leszner

Rabbinic Intern

Ryan is a third-year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College. Previously, Ryan served as the Life-Long Learning Intern at Temple Ohabei Shalom, and as the Educator for the Riverway Project, a twenties and thirties group at Temple Israel in Boston. Before moving to Boston, Ryan served as the Director of Youth Engagement for Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA. One of his passions is providing educational musical experiences that help connect to Jewish concepts and traditions. He was born in Toronto, Canada, and spent most of his formative years at URJ Camp George and NFTY-NEL, the Reform movements youth group. Ryan also loves watching hockey, playing sports, travelling, hiking, listening to music, making music, and going to live shows.

Zac Gondelman

High School Student Intern

Along with being a senior at Thayer Academy, Zac Gondelman serves as the TBE Student Intern. Thirteen years ago, Zac began training at the New England Conservatory of Music. Zac is classically-trained in violin and voice. He was a member of the Chamber Choir and the Youth Chorale Program. Zac is a musician and songleader and was named one of 20 Jewish Stars in North America by Jewish Rock Radio. Studying under the Clergy, he is deeply involved in all aspects of Jewish community life. Zac believes in creating welcoming, uplifting, and youthful space for prayer and discussion. He is passionate about diversity and active in Kabbalat Hakol (the TBE LGBTQ+ education and support initiative) and many of our tikkun olam initiatives. He is active in TBE’s learning programs and loves keeping his finger on the pulse of the music scene, exploring new places, baking French desserts, playing with his dog, and making music.

Jodi Sufrin

Cantor Emerita

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.