As part of our 50th Anniversary festivities on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1, Homecoming Weekend welcomes back rabbis, Jewish professionals, and educators who grew up at Temple Isaiah. You can learn more about the details of the event here.
Rabbi Deborah Cohen
Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen was born and raised in Maryland. After graduating from the Honors English program at the University of Michigan, she worked in Washington at various public interest groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She then studied at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and New York.
Since ordination in 1997, Rabbi Cohen has served Beth Shalom in Cary, N.C., Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, N.J., Har Shalom in Potomac, Md., and Ohef Sholom Congregation in Norfolk, Va.
Rabbi Cohen, who goes by Debbie, is also a noted author. She has published seven Jewish children’s books, a teen novel and two teacher manuals, with another children’s book in production. Her many literary prizes include a National Jewish Book Award. She is also the founder and owner of the Story House, a mobile bookstore for children and teens. Rabbi Cohen has been involved in numerous communal and interfaith organizations and currently serves on the Rockville Human Rights Commission.
Rabbi Cohen and her husband, David, a journalist, are joyfully raising three children — Arianna, Jesse and Ezra — in Rockville. A rather unruly Collie, named Indigo, completes the family.
Rabbi Michael Fessler
Rabbi Michael Fessler came to Temple Isaiah at age 11, after the family’s arrival in Columbia from River Falls, Wisconsin (Jewish population: 2 families). After graduating from Brown University with a biology degree in 1993, he remained in Providence, R.I. working at an electronic publishing startup while figuring out his next steps. Missing the vibrant Hillel community that had been a mainstay during college, he found himself stranded in the Jewish communal gap between college and married-with-kids-beginning-Hebrew-school. To build the kind of Jewish community he aspired to, he realized he’d need to engage with Jewish study and on a rigorous and adult level. Attracted by the Reconstructionist movement’s history of intellectual and institutional innovation, he enrolled at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1995.
While preparing for his year in Israel during rabbinical school, he learned that Eric Solomon would also be studying in Israel for the year — in a Temple Isaiah reunion, they wound up sharing a rental apartment. December of that year also saw the beginning of his relationship with the woman who he would marry, (now-Rabbi) Miriam Hyman, the sister of Michael’s college friend Dena — a romance that spanned ten timezones for the rest of the year, then continued as a long-distance relationship between Philadelphia and Berkeley until she entered RRC a year later. After graduation from rabbinical school, Michael spent a year at the Melton Senior Educators program at Hebrew University, with a focus on Jewish adult education. He then served as co-rabbi (together with Miriam) of Congregation B’nai Tikvah-Beth Israel in Sewell, New Jersey for twelve years, where they raised their growing family.
A few years ago, the family moved to the Hudson Valley, where Miriam joined the clergy team at Temple Beth-El in Poughkeepsie. Since that time, Michael has harnessed his early experience in online publishing in the service of the Reconstructionist movement — thanks to the wonders of telecommuting, he works as Associate Director of Online Content for the movement’s central organization, Reconstructing Judaism, while also leading High Holiday services and teaching adults and teens in the Hudson Valley Jewish community. Miriam and Michael have three children – Ariella (18), who is a first-year student at NYU majoring in environmental studies; Rafi (16), in 10th grade; and Tamar (13), in 8th grade.
Wendy Rapport Grinberg
Wendy Grinberg, RJE, grew up at Temple Isaiah and her bat mitzvah in June of 1985 was the last one performed by Rabbi Fuchs at our synagogue. She enjoyed participating in the “enriched” program at the Howard County Jewish Community School, working in the school as an assistant for many years, marching on Washington to free Soviet Jewry with her confirmation class, and traveling to Israel with a group with kids from several Baltimore-area synagogues.
Wendy earned a degree in Religious Studies from Indiana University and joint master’s degrees from Brandeis University in Jewish Education and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. After serving as the educator at Temple Emanu-El in Dunwoody, Georgia for five years, she served in the URJ’s department of Lifelong Jewish Learning for ten. She has formally mentored a dozen graduate students in Jewish education as a clinical faculty member of HUC-JIR, Hebrew College, and the iCenter. Following the birth of her second child, she founded her own Jewish education consulting business, helping synagogues and other Jewish organizations write curriculum and rethink their supplementary Jewish education programs.
Since 2015, Wendy has served as the Director of Education at URJ Eisner Camp. She will soon be defending her dissertation on the educational model of camp to earn a Doctor of Education degree at the William Davidson Graduate School of Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Wendy lives with her husband Misha, their two children Simon (11) and Naomi (9), and their rescue dog Rosie in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. They are active members of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge.
Rebekah Avi (Feen) Kanefsky graduated from Hammond High School and attended Howard Community College. After transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she graduated with a BA in English. Rebekah later studied at a graduate program at Villanova University; after a semester in graduate school, Rebekah was inspired by the local Jewish community to explore her roots further and signed up to participate in a Birthright Israel trip. After two weeks in Israel, Rebekah knew she could not return home yet and stayed in Israel from 2001–2003, pursuing Jewish studies. Upon returning to the US, Rebekah moved to NYC and worked at Manhattan Jewish Experience as the Executive Assistant to Rabbi Wildes, Executive Director. She met her husband Brian on JDate and relocated to his home in Philadelphia; with complete hashgacha pratit from G-d, Rebekah found herself right back in the town where she had begun her graduate program six years before. She picked up where she left off at Villanova and completed her Master’s in Counseling in 2008, initially working as a Guidance Counselor for Philadelphia Public Schools, while simultaneously starting a family. When her husband’s profession caused the family to relocate to Stamford, CT, Rebekah found her dream job at Schoke Jewish Family Service as the Director of Case Management, where she has been working for the last eight years. Fifteen years later, Rebekah is still happily married to Brian, and is a proud, loving mom to her three sweet girls, Izzy (13,) and twins Michal and Tzippy (10). She still works full-time at Schoke JFS and has launched a private practice one evening per week. While she would say that her social service work is a great passion of hers, these days, Rebekah loves nothing more than warm pajamas, a nice glass of red wine, a great book and a lazy Sunday afternoon at home with her family.
Rabbi Debra Kassoff
Rabbi Debra Kassoff has served Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville, Mississippi, since 2010. Following ordination from HUC-JIR, she worked with Jackson, Mississippi based Institute for Southern Jewish Life, as well as congregations in Massachusetts and Colorado. Raised in Columbia, Maryland, Rabbi Kassoff lives in Jackson with her husband and two daughters in a house they share with another family, a cat, and a rotating cast of visitors, family, and friends.
David Perolman is an educator with a strong Jewish and musical background. He has been actively involved in NFTY, URJ Camp Harlam, and has taught/song-led in numerous synagogues across the east coast. His family moved to Maryland in the fall of 1998 and joined TI in the beginning of his 7th Grade year.
After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, David found his part-time positions in teaching to be more fulfilling than his full-time work in sales and marketing, so he returned to graduate school. David earned a Master’s degree in Education with certification for Teaching in grades K-9 and then spent several years teaching in a secular classroom. He also worked as a Music Director at a synagogue in Maryland. David served as the Assistant Director of K-12 Education at a 1,200-family synagogue in the suburbs of Philadelphia. There he was able to craft programs that met the needs of his students, specifically in the post-B’nai Mitzvah program. Currently he is the Education Director and Musical Director/Cantorial Soloist at Temple Habonim in Barrington, RI.
In addition to his passion for education, David has a great love for music. He is a talented musician, singer, guitar player and composer. Growing up in the Reform Movement, he was active in NFTY, was a NFTY-MAR (North American Federation of Temple Youth — Mid Atlantic Region) songleader, and was exposed to much of the popular music of our movement during his years at URJ Camp Harlam. His passion for music is apparent to anyone who witnesses his energetic joyful songleading.
David is currently enrolled in the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion’s Executive Masters Program. This program has been instrumental in helping David to enhance his curriculum building and leadership skills. He is set to graduate with a Masters in Jewish Education in May, 2020. David lives in Barrington with his wife Danielle, and daughters Ariel (6) and Sydney (4).
Rabbi Karen Perolman
Rabbi Karen R. Perolman is the Senior Associate Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ, where she has served since 2010. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Jewish Studies in 2004 from the University of Maryland at College Park and later attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York where she received her Masters Degree in Hebrew Literature and Rabbinic Ordination. She is an alumna of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders Fellowship and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program, and currently serves on the CCAR’s Taskforce on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate. She has been published in several books and online publications including the forthcoming Mishkan Gaavah, a book of LGBTQ prayers, rituals, and resources.
Rabbi Perolman credits her involvement with SYTI (Temple Isaiah’s Senior Youth Group), NFTY-MAR, and URJ Camp Harlam with her desire to pursue the rabbinate, including a pivotal summer traveling with the NFTY in Israel program. These youth experiences nurtured a deep love of Reform Judaism, social justice and Zionism. She is the proud daughter of Cathie and Gary Perolman (Temple Isaiah’s incoming Board President — and yes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Karen is engaged to Liz Glazer, an LA-based writer and comedian, and they are planning an August 2020 wedding.
Terri Soifer works at the Hillel at Temple University: The Rosen Center as the Development & Marketing Director. She had spent the prior three years as the Director of Community Engagement at Temple Beth Zion – Beth Israel in Center City Philadelphia. It was through this work that Terri discovered a passion for building relationships and for the work of Development. Terri is inspired to work at Hillel, which creates the foundation and supports the growth, for future Jewish leaders. Her background is in Jewish Education and she completed her Masters in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, with a concentration in Israel Education (iFellows) from the iCenter.
Terri joined Temple Isaiah in 2001 when she moved to Maryland with her parents Susan (aka Morah Susan of Room 1) and Matthew. She is no longer a member but still enjoys returning to Temple Isaiah with her parents and seeing her former students, youth group peers, and members of the congregation. Terri currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Jake Rainwater.
Rabbi Eric Solomon
Rabbi Eric Solomon serves with his wife, Rabbi Jenny Solomon, as the spiritual leaders of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, NC. With his wife, Rabbi Jenny Solomon, they have built Beth Meyer into a center for spirituality, Torah study, interfaith dialogue, and social justice. Rabbi Solomon is a proud graduate of the University of Maryland, earned his rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, and serves on the national board of Truah: The Rabbinical Call For Human Rights.