Rabbi Michael Schwab began his career at NSS Beth El in 2004 and was named Senior Rabbi in 2019. He has brought to Beth El a strong sense of community, engaging innovative programming, a deep love for Israel, an unbridled enthusiasm for serving others, a passion for our rich tradition and an uplifting sense of joy in teaching and practicing Judaism.
In addition to his work at Beth El, Rabbi Schwab is a member of the Board of Directors of Solomon Schechter Day School, on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, serves as a Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinic Leadership Fellow, and as member of the National Council of Rabbis for JNF. Rabbi Schwab has also chaired JUF’s Synagogue Federation Commission, served as vice Chair of the JCRC, as a Chicago Global Justice Fellow for American Jewish World Service, is a past President of the Chicagoland Rabbinical Assembly, a past member of the National Council of AIPAC, and was among those selected to participate in Hebrew University’s Melton Center Senior Educators Program for Outstanding Diaspora Educators. Rabbi Schwab was chosen as a fellow in the STAR PEER Rabbinic Leadership Program for early career rabbis who have demonstrated leadership excellence and he completed Northwestern University’s Kellogg Management Education Program. He is now a member of Kellogg’s Jewish Leaders Circle. Rabbi Schwab is featured as a scholar for Jewish Values Online, an interactive website that serves as a portal to Jewish responses to relevant ethical issues.
Rabbi Michael Schwab was born in Philadelphia, he received his BA from Rutgers University, where he majored in History and Jewish Studies. Rabbi Schwab received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in May, 2004 and received an MA in Jewish Education from the William Davidson Graduate School of Education.
Rabbi Schwab is married to his lovely wife, Erica, who is a behavioral therapist and teacher of children with developmental disabilities. They have four children: Ari, Liana, Noa and Miri.
*Rabbi Schwab occupies the Vernon H. Kurtz Senior Rabbinic Chair
Rabbi Freedman began serving as Associate Rabbi at Beth El in 2018. He formerly served for 5 years as the Associate Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Closter, NJ. There he created a new popular Family High Holiday Service and updated the Religious School’s curriculum, in addition to fulfilling the full range of rabbinic duties.
Originally from Cincinnati, he is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He studied at the Conservative Yeshivah in Jerusalem after college, and throughout he spent his summers at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin (including several as a Rosh Eidah). He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary where he earned the Kay and Rabbi Moshe Pomerantz Prize in Congregational Education and the David Scharps Memorial Prize in Talmud. He is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. He is married to Laura and they have three boys, Avi, Elie, and Oren.
Hazzan Jacob Sandler joined the NSS Beth El clergy team as Hazzan in July 2021. He grew up in Rockland County, New York, where he also most recently served for 3 years as the Cantorial Intern at New City Jewish Center. His path to the cantorate was molded by a deep love of education, music, Jewish identity and community.
Before receiving his M.A. in Sacred music and cantorial ordination at JTS in 2021, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in k-12 Music Education from SUNY Buffalo State. Cantor Sandler has spent every summer since 2004 at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, where he was affectionately known by the nickname “Milk.” He was a camper, counselor and longtime member of tzevet musika (music staff). Hazzan Sandler also enjoyed extensive time in Israel including a semester abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Spring 2015), staffing Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (Spring 2017), Birthright, a Bar Mitzvah Trip and Ramah Israel Seminar.
Throughout Cantorial School, Hazzan Sandler continued to teach music in a variety of settings including religious school (SAJ, Shaarei Tikvah), day school (Schechter Manhattan), camp, and USY (Rosh Tefillah at USY Tzafon). He was also fortunate to serve as the Graduate Jewish Life Director for the office of Student Life at JTS for three years, creating and executing a lot of programming for his peers across the schools of JTS.
Music is ever at the core of Hazzan Sandler’s life. He enjoys singing with various Jewish A Cappella groups, such as Kol Zimra, The Pella Singers, and The Choral Torah Collective. He also plays a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, ukulele, drums, harmonica and the occasional triangle solo. In what’s left of his spare time, he enjoys writing haikus and limericks, freestyle rapping. He is also an accomplished songwriter with over 150 original songs, which he hopes to one day put out to the world. And beyond music, Cantor Sandler can be found enjoying stand-up and improv comedy, spending time with friends and family, watching, drawing and doing funny voices for cartoons.
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz is the Rabbi Emeritus of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. He was born in Toronto, Canada, received his BA from York University (1971), his MA and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary (1976), and his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1981). He also received a Doctor of Divinity degree (Honoris Causa) from the Jewish Theological Seminary (2003).
Rabbi Kurtz recently concluded two terms as president of the American Zionist Movement. He is an associate member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was an elected member to its Executive, and currently serves as Deputy Chairman of the Russian Speaking Jewry Committee.
He is past President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the International Association of Conservative Rabbis, and was a member for many years of the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. He served for 10 years as a member of the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Kurtz is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. He previously served two terms on the board, including a term as Vice-Chairman. Rabbi Kurtz is a member of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute.
Rabbi Kurtz has served in leadership positions in the areas of Jewish communal and interfaith activities. He was President of MERCAZ USA, President of MERCAZ Olami, the world-wide Zionist organization of the Conservative Movement, President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal Rabbinic Cabinet, and President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. Rabbi Kurtz is the recipient of the Rabbinic Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Council of Jewish Federations (1984 and 1985); the Young Leadership Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (1985); the Rabbi Simon Greenberg Rabbinic Achievement Award, The Jewish Theological Seminary (1998); Jerusalem Covenant Award, State of Israel Bonds (1996)/Star of David Award, State of Israel Bonds (2008); the Rabbi Mordecai Simon Memorial Award, Chicago Board of Rabbis (2008); the Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (2010); and the Rabbi Mordecai Waxman Memorial Rabbinic and Community Leadership Award, Masorti Olami (2011).
Rabbi Kurtz is adjunct Professor of Rabbinics at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. He is the author of Encountering Torah: Reflections on the Weekly Portion. Rabbi Kurtz has authored teshuvot for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly and published articles in periodicals and books. Currently he is a monthly Torah commentator for the Chicago Jewish News and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem.
Rabbi Kurtz and his wife, Bryna, are the parents of two daughters, Hadassa (Haim) who lives in Israel and Shira (Avi) who lives in Boston. He is the proud saba of Shmuel Binyamin, Meytal Dvora, Anael Rina, Shirel Batsheva, Samuel Ryder, and Mia Faye.
Read blog entries by Rabbi Kurtz posted in the Times of Israel
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Rabbi Philip L. Lipis served North Suburban Synagogue Beth El as its spiritual leader from 1951 until his retirement in 1969.
Born in Tiraspol, Russia (today Moldavia) in 1906, Lipis came to the United States in 1913. A graduate of the City College of New York, he received a Masters of Hebrew Letters and rabbinic ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1930. He subsequently studied at the Yeshiva of Rav Kook and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and took graduate studies at Columbia University and Dropsie College.
In 1935 Lipis became the rabbi of congregation Beth El in Camden, New Jersey. In 1943 he was the first Conservative rabbi to be commissioned as a chaplain in the United States Navy and he served with distinction during WWII on Guam and the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). He remained active in the Naval Reserves for the next twenty years, attaining the rank of Commander and serving at the request of the Pentagon as the leader of numerous retreats for chaplains in the US, Japan and Europe. In 1947 he took the pulpit at Congregation Beth Abraham in Oakland, California, where he served until coming to North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.
During his tenure at Beth El, Rabbi Lipis oversaw the growth of the congregation from 250 to over 800 member families. He encouraged expansion of the synagogue’s facilities with the construction of the school building, the community auditorium, and the main sanctuary. He also developed a strong educational program in the congregation’s religious schools and introduced expanded adult studies programs. He was particularly devoted to the youth of the congregation, inspiring several to embark upon careers in the rabbinate. Lipis served as president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and was an early champion of civil rights. He received a Doctrine of Divinity degree (honoris causa) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1967. He was an eight-time contributor to Best Jewish Sermons in America and, along with Dr. Louis Katzoff, was the author of Torah for the Family.
Following his retirement from the pulpit, Rabbi Lipis and his wife Shoshanah resided in Los Angeles and Israel, teaching at the University of Judaism and at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. Sadly, in 1977 Rabbi Lipis died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in California. His funeral was held at Beth El and he was interred in the Beth El Section of Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Rabbi Lipis and Shoshanah were the parents of two daughters, Leah, who lives in California, and Rinah, a resident of Israel.