Your Jewish Journey Starts Here.

Jewish Herald Voice

Subscribe to Jewish Herald Voice feed
The Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper is the only recognized source of Jewish news in Houston, Texas, the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, in print and online. Distinguished as being the oldest (since 1908) Jewish newspaper in the Southwest.
Updated: 1 hour 35 min ago

Emanu El member helps lead Post Oak to Little League World Series

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 3:43pm
....While most kids are preparing to go back to school, Richie Klosek is making the most of his final days of summer. Klosek, a member of Congregation Emanu El, is in Williamsport, Penn., with 12 of his closest friends, playing in the Little League World Series. Post Oak Little League won the Southwest Region Championship in Waco on Aug. 8, and are playing out their baseball dreams in front of millions of fans watching all over the world. "It has been an amazing experience so far," Richie told the JHV after landing in Williamsport. Klosek, who plays first base and pitches for Post Oak, led the entire Southwest Region Tournament with 10 runs batted in and tied for the tournament lead with two home runs. Richie's dad, John - who was an accomplished athlete himself - is the team's assistant coach. "The boys have worked really hard to get to this point, and they are enjoying every moment of it," John Klosek said. After beating Oklahoma 8-0 in the regional championship, Post Oak returned to Houston for a few days before heading to Williamsport. During the short break, the team began to see how bright their stars have shown. The highlight of their recent celebrity was a visit to Minute Maid Park, where the boys got to hang out with the Astros during pregame batting practice. Post Oak players shared handshakes and chatted with Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "It was so much fun and the players were awesome," John Klosek said. "Bregman was the first to come up to us and was so excited for us. He said he really wished he had made it to the Little League World Series when he played." Post Oaks' core group of boys - which also includes Ethan Goldstein and Andy Guy - has been playing baseball together for several years. The team won the state tournament at 10U in 2016 and went to sectionals last year at 11U. Klosek said the group prides itself on its pitching and defense, which was evident in its 8-0 shutout against Oklahoma. Post Oak will begin the LLWS against the New England region champion - Coventry, Rhode Island - on Aug. 16, at 6 p.m., on ESPN2. The other six U.S. regional champions in the LLWS are from Michigan, New York, Iowa, Idaho, Georgia and Hawaii. The tournament is double-elimination, but each team is guaranteed at least three games with the consolation bracket. ABC will broadcast the championship games Aug. 25-26. Klosek is the second baseball player from Emanu El to have played in the LLWS in the last four years. Alex Solomon, along with his dad and head coach, Andrew, was a member of Pearland Little League team that made it all the way to the LLWS championship game in 2015. For Klosek, who also is preparing for his August 2019 Bar Mitzvah at Emanu El, the experience is one his family hopes will last a lifetime. "Richie is always smiling and positive and knows what to say to make anyone laugh and relax," his mother, Tama Klosek said. "He is an incredible friend and teammate and has made both of us so proud. He is a real mensch."

Israelis caught dancing naked at former death camp

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 10:37am
....JERUSALEM (JTA) - Two Israeli students were caught on video dancing naked at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland over the weekend. Workers at the camp made the video and the students were subsequently expelled from their trip by their school, Haaretz reported. It was the latest in a series of incidents involving bad behavior by Israeli students, according to Haaretz, including a case of vandalism at Auschwitz last year and the raising of a flag calling for "death to leftists" at a mass murder site the year before. The Israeli Education Ministry told Haaretz in a statement that it viewed "with great severity any behavior that could harm the status and values represented by the trips to Poland. In the case in question, due to the students' improper and inappropriate behavior, disciplinary actions have been taken against them to the fullest." It is not the first scandal involving nudity at a concentration camp. In 2015, the Simon Wiesenthal Center protested a controversial performance art installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow that featured a video of group of unclothed men and women playing tag in what appeared to be a gas chamber. The piece was removed from the museum following a public outcry but was later reinstated. The same video has also been displayed in an Estonian art museum but was also removed.

Call for 'community cohesion" prompts UOS to stay put after flood

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 2:17pm
United Orthodox Synagogues is moving forward with plans to rebuild at its current location, some four months after its flood-damaged sanctuary and school wing were demolished. Houston's Modern Orthodox shul had flooded three times in as many years, with Hurricane Harvey last August causing irreparable damage to the historic building at 9001 Greenwillow St. near Brays Bayou. The congregation spent the summer exploring options to either relocate two-thirds of a mile south on the other side of I-610, which would have required a deed restriction change and a two-thirds majority vote by the congregation to acquire new property; or, to remain and rebuild at its current location. On Monday evening, Aug. 6, the UOS board voted in favor of the latter option. During that meeting, a motion was made to direct the UOS president to establish two committees - a Capital Campaign Committee and a Building Committee - that will work in partnership to enable the construction of a new building adjacent to UOS' Freedman Hall, which survived Hurricane Harvey. This motion was approved by a margin of 14-1 by the board, according to UOS president Rick Guttman, who will assist both committees on the project. "As we move into the High Holy Day season, we on the UOS board are keenly aware that our community needs to move forward decisively toward a brighter future," Guttman said in an email to the congregation on Aug. 7. "I am grateful that we took the step to explore the viability of a second option for our shul's new location, as I believe that this process allowed many people to become involved with planning for our community's future," he said. "The major takeaway I heard last night from the board members who spoke was to ensure community cohesion. We now are ready to move forward in this next exciting phase of our future." UOS' new building will need to be elevated above the flood plain, according to code. Guttman expressed thanks to UOS members who committed time and resources to explore the alternative "South Option," which would have moved UOS next to Willow Meadows Baptist Church and outside the proposed 100-year-flood plain. "The community members working in support of the South Option displayed amazing and inspirational energy and drive to progress this option, navigating the maze of innumerable hurdles that exist in a development project of this magnitude," Guttman said. He also praised UOS' spiritual leader, Rabbi Barry Gelman, for his efforts to keep the community united through the decision-making process to rebuild. "We have been very fortunate to have the leadership of Rabbi Gelman, who has provided inspiration and support throughout this difficult time," Guttman said. Considering the financial burden and other challenges associated with the South Option, the UOS board ultimately endorsed plans for the synagogue to stay put at its current location. "Our future rests in our ability to continue to work together to build for our future and see the successful rebirth of our wonderful community," Guttman said.

WW II liberators celebrated at luncheon before HMH exhibit

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:44pm
....World War II concentration camp liberators gathered for a luncheon with Holocaust survivors on Thursday, Aug. 2, at Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant on Post Oak Boulevard. The event aimed to promote Holocaust Museum Houston's upcoming exhibition, "The Texas Liberator: Witness to the Holocaust," opening Sept. 7.  The exhibition will tell the stories of 24 U.S. soldiers who liberated concentration camps in Europe at the end of World War II. Attending the luncheon were veterans Cpl. Bill Kongable and Pvt. Birney "Chick" Havey, both members of divisions responsible for liberating the Ohrdruf and Dachau concentration camps, respectively. They were joined by Houston Holocaust survivors Bill Orlin, Chaja Verveer and Anna Steinberger. Over a multi-course feast provided by deli maven Ziggy Gruber, the group discussed their experiences during the war and since. Kongable was part of the 89th Infantry Division that liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp. It was unoccupied when his unit arrived; the Germans had already fled with able-bodied prisoners. Those unable to travel were executed and left in a mass grave. Kongable said what he saw at Ohrdruf was unlike anything he previously had seen in combat. He estimated the number of bodies to be close to 2,000. How does one process a scene of such enormous atrocities? "We didn't really think about it until years later," said Kongable, "when people said it never happened. We had to say, 'Yes it happened. We saw it.'" Havey was a member of the 42nd Rainbow Division and 222nd Antitank Unit that spearheaded the siege and liberation of Dachau concentration camp. He was reluctant to give details of the event. But, of the aftermath, Havey said, "We'd been in combat a long time, and death didn't mean anything to us. Nothing. They had robbed us of our conscience long ago." Kongable's daughter, Tricia, and son, Richard, who also were at the luncheon, remember their father keeping his wartime experiences mostly to himself. "It's difficult to describe these things to your wife, to your children," Richard said. In the past few years, Kongable has grown more comfortable speaking publicly and volunteering at events. Havey is a public speaker, as well, and an author. "Never Left the Battlefields" is a chronicle of his time during the end of World War II. Both he and Kongable expressed the responsibility they feel to remind people what happened to them and to those they liberated. Between bites of goulash and kugel, the Holocaust survivors shared their personal stories. Orlin spent most of the war under German and Soviet occupation in Poland. He recalled being marched from his hometown of Brok to Ostro Mazowiecki, 50 miles to the northwest. "We marched all day. Those who couldn't make it were either shot or bayoneted on the road," he said. "I'm glad they ask me to speak," he continued. "I want the world to know what we went through." Verveer was too young to remember her time spent at three different concentration camps. After the war, a Dutch journalist helped her track down names of 51 other children with whom she had been imprisoned. All but one were alive. She expressed concern that the United States hadn't learned important lessons of the Holocaust. She pointed toward the Trump administration's handling of the refugee crisis. "They are people, running from fear, and we are making them out to be monsters. We are already repeating mistakes of the past, in our country and in the world," Verveer said. "Never forget" is one of the lasting exhortations of the Holocaust, and one that the "Texas Liberator" exhibition hopes to proliferate from a new perspective. The impact of the Holocaust on survivors has been well-documented, but Dr. Kelly Zúñiga, Holocaust Museum Houston CEO, feels it has been less so for liberators. "For so long, World War II liberators went largely unnoticed. It's an incredible honor to be able to showcase these brave soldiers and their important contributions to humanity," said Dr. Zúñiga. Upon returning home, both Kongable and Havey remembered life being "business as usual." They explained that there were millions of GIs who went through the same thing that they did, and that the entire country was supportive and involved in the war effort. They thought this made readjusting easier than for today's soldiers, who receive less support. Kongable's children spoke of the civic-mindedness of their father and his generation and how they were proud of him for trying to improve a damaged world. Improving a damaged world, or tikkun olam, is one of the great themes of Judaism and of the Holocaust, and one that the "Texas Liberator" exhibition aims to celebrate. In addition to the exhibition, the luncheon served to promote and kick-start National Deli Month. Throughout August, Kenny & Ziggy's (and 30 other delis across the U.S.) will raise money for charities, while honoring the place of the deli in Jewish communities and its heritage. Both Kenny & Ziggy's locations will be giving 10 percent of their August proceeds to Holocaust Museum Houston. See more photos in the JHV's photo gallery:


Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:40pm


Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:40pm


Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:40pm


Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:40pm

Houston summer camps coming to an end

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 10:45am
....Beth Yeshurun Day School camper Carlisle Cutler, 4, played a round of mini golf with assistant camp director Noah Mattiuzzi during the program's Camp Finale party on Aug. 2.


Sun, 08/05/2018 - 3:26pm
1929 - 2018 Rita Atlas passed away peacefully in her sleep at home in McAllen, Texas on August 4, 2018. She will be remembered for her elegance and beauty, fierce commitment to and love of family, generous mentorship, loyal friendship, wisdom, grace, unparalleled warm-heartedness, and indomitable spirit. Rita Willner was born in St. Charles, Missouri, on February 22, 1929. She was the youngest of four daughters. Rita graduated from St. Charles High School at the age of 16. She attended nearby Lindenwood College for one year, at her father's request, and then transferred in 1946 to the University of Texas at Austin. Rita met Morris Atlas during her first semester at UT when each was with someone else during a double date. It was love at first sight. Morris and Rita's first official date was to attend a costume party with "suppressed desire" as the theme. Morris dressed as Julius Caesar. Rita, much to his surprise, dressed as a bride. They married in 1947 and remained a loving couple and a great team for 68 years. Rita and Morris unconditionally adored, supported, and stood by each other. After Morris graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1950, at Rita's urging and with the encouragement of their close friends Myles and Sylvia Aaronson, Rita and Morris moved to McAllen. They raised four children - Scott, Debra, Lauren, and Lisa. Rita was a devoted and fully engaged mother and homemaker "par excellence." She enthusiastically organized activities for her children and encouraged and supported them in their various academic and extracurricular projects. She was a significant role model, teaching by example the value of hard work, responsibility, and respect for others. She entertained exquisitely and warmly, for family and friends' celebrations, and in connection with her children's activities and Morris's civic and professional endeavors. "Rita Atlas's Special Nachos" were a favorite at many McAllen events and drew raves far and wide. Rita also became deeply involved in the McAllen community, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and the State of Texas. Rita served in and, in many instances, led numerous community and religious organizations. Rita's community involvement and honors included: Mayoral appointments as Chair of McAllen's Bicentennial Committee, Police Relations Committee, and Civil Service Commission; Board member of the McAllen International Museum and Chair of its annual fundraising gala, "Collage"; President of the Temple Emanuel Sisterhood; President of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women; Member of the Advisory Board for the University of Texas School of Nursing; Member of Leadership Texas; and Member of the State Democratic Executive Committee. She was named Woman of the Year by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and selected as the honoree at the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Third Annual Women's Leadership Luncheon. In addition, she assisted public school teachers as a math tutor and helped others in many kinds of organizational work. With Morris, she devoted countless hours to University of Texas activities and enthusiastically supported the Longhorns at scores of football games. Rita's devotion to her family increased further with the arrival of grandchildren. She adored Ryan, David, Adam, Becca, and Nathaniel beyond words. She and Morris agreed that if they "had known how much fun having grandchildren would be, we would have skipped children altogether!" Rita also loved her extended family. She regularly included them in her nuclear family get-togethers, holiday gatherings, and other celebrations. Rita was predeceased by Morris, her parents Max and Fanny Willner, and her siblings Pearl Cohen, Rose Lerman, and Ann Reisfeld. She is survived by her four children: her son Scott Atlas and his wife Nancy, her daughter Debra Atlas, her daughter Lauren Atlas Silverblatt and her husband Alan, and her daughter Lisa Atlas Genecov and her husband Jeff. She is also survived by her grandchildren Ryan Atlas and his wife Alison, David Atlas, Nathaniel Silverblatt, Adam Genecov, and Rebecca Genecov; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. The family would like to extend sincere thanks to Drs. Michael Jelinek, Tommy Yee, Alex Georgiadis, and Phillip Blum. The family would also like to express heartfelt gratitude to Rita and Morris's caregivers, Fidel Lara, Jimmy Martinez, and George Garcia, who have become dear friends of the Atlas family and were instrumental in both Morris and Rita's comfort and happiness during the last eight years. After a private burial, there will be a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. on August 10, in the sanctuary of Temple Emanuel, 4300 North Chai (C) Street, in McAllen. Honorary pallbearers will be Ryan Atlas, Alison Atlas, David Atlas, Adam Genecov, Becca Genecov, Nathaniel Silverblatt, Hal DeBerry, Jenny DeBerry, Bailey Gurwitz, Gary Gurwitz, Cecilia Shapiro, and Bill Stocker. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Temple Emanuel, for "Atlas donation," 4300 North Chai (C) St., McAllen, TX 78504; or Stroke Research & Education Foundation, for "Atlas Fund," 4409 Water Edge, Harlingen, TX 78552. Mom, you were a force of nature - larger than life. We will truly miss you. -Kreidler Funeral Home, Inc., McAllen, Texas

bnai israel 9

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:51pm

bnai isarel 8

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:33pm

bnai israel 7

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:32pm

Bnai Israel 6

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:25pm

Bnai Isarel 5

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:25pm

Bnai Isarel 4

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:24pm

bnai israel 3

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:23pm

Bnai israel2

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:22pm

Bnai Israel 1

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:21pm

B'nai Israel 'family' celebrates 150th anniversary

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 7:28pm
....GALVESTON - Congregation B'nai Israel celebrated its 150th anniversary with a Torah parade that retraced the history of Texas' oldest Reform congregation, while, at the same time, took steps toward growing and strengthening B'nai Israel's family into the 21st century. "We will take the words of Torah and allow it to inspire us to walk those words," said B'nai Israel's new spiritual leader, Rabbi Matt Cohen, who helped lead the Torah parade on Saturday morning, July 28. The Torah parade was part of a weekend celebration. On Friday evening, July 27, B'nai Israel hosted an erev Shabbat service with Union for Reform Judaism leaders, followed by an oneg that included dinner and klezmer music. The service's d'var, delivered by Rabbi David Saperstein, paid tribute to B'nai Israel's social justice legacy. After Saturday morning's Torah parade, the congregation participated in a street renaming ceremony, in honor of B'nai Israel's rabbi emeritus, Rabbi Jimmy Kessler. On Saturday evening, the celebration was punctuated with a benefit concert by Matisyahu at Galveston's 1894 Opera House. On Friday evening, synagogue leaders announced that B'nai Israel's 150th anniversary capital campaign had raised $3 million toward a $3.6 million goal. These funds will be used to renovate the synagogue and bolster its endowment, they said. "B'nai Israel is a special place, because of its deep roots in Galveston," said Patricia Rennick, a B'nai Israel member, who brought a Texas-sized challah to the Friday night oneg. "It's also a very welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. "This is our home," she told the JHV. Rennick is B.O.I. - born on the island - and a Jew by choice, though she later discovered that she has Jewish ancestry. She participated in B'nai Israel's 150th anniversary celebration alongside her daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren, ages 3 and 6, who attend B'nai Israel's growing religious school. "I love the sense of community here," said Rennick's daughter, Sasha Clark. "A lot of young families have joined the temple over the past few years," Sasha told the JHV. "I'm looking forward to raising my kids in this community and, hopefully, I'll be able to see them raise their own families here, too." Sasha had the opportunity to carry a sefer Torah during Saturday's Torah parade. The honor also was extended to her husband, James Clark, who was baptized Lutheran, but enjoys full membership rights and privileges at B'nai Israel as part of the congregation's longstanding policy of welcoming interfaith families. "This is my community," James told the JHV. "I love the culture of the Jewish community. B'nai Israel is a great place for us to raise our kids." Historic temple The Torah parade began at B'nai Israel's former home, a Norman Gothic-style building on the corner of 22nd Street and Avenue I, whose cornerstone was laid in 1870. Parade participants had the opportunity to explore the historic building before marching and golf-carting across Broadway Avenue to the congregation's current home at Avenue O and 30th Street. Neil Nathan grew up at B'nai Israel and became a Bar Mitzvah in the temple's historic building, whose current owner invited participants of the Torah parade to come in and see the space. "This was the center of Jewish life," the 84-year-old Nathan told the JHV as he ascended the building's winding wooden staircase. Nathan noted that the temple ran a Sunday school, while its neighbor, Congregation Beth Jacob, which was Orthodox at the time, but later became Conservative, hosted the island's Hebrew school. "In those days, all the boys who got Bar Mitzvahed did so at Beth Jacob," Nathan said. "We went to Sunday school here, but we went to Hebrew school at Beth Jacob. "However, when it came time for me to get Bar Mitzvahed, my father was president of the temple and he said he wanted me to be Bar Mitzvahed here," Nathan said. "So, about six months before my Bar Mitzvah, I started studying with our rabbi, Dr. [Henry] Cohen. I would go over to his home, which was on 19th and Broadway, and then I would come here every Saturday morning." John Harris, 75, also remembers attending Sunday school at B'nai Israel's historic location. "I had old Miss Cohen - no relation to the rabbi - for third grade," Harris told the JHV. "We'd climb out the back window in the middle of class and we'd go over to the bus station and get a Coke, then climb back through the window, and she never knew we were gone." Harris said he revered Rabbi Henry Cohen. "We still honor Dr. Cohen today," he said. "I carry these notepads in my pocket everyday, but I used to write notes on my wrist. The reason why is because, when I was a little kid, I learned stories about how Dr. Cohen would write notes on the cuffs of his shirt sleeves. "We all wanted to be like Dr. Cohen," he said. 'Lighthouse of Galveston' Before the Torah parade departed, city officials presented B'nai Israel with a proclamation in honor of its 150th anniversary. "Throughout these last 150 years, Congregation B'nai Israel has been a brilliant and beaming bulb in the lighthouse of Galveston, guiding those seeking a safe harbor in this world. May it continue to shine bright," said Galveston City Council member Amy Bly, who read the proclamation as she presented it to the congregation. B'nai Israel's board president, Sandy Richbook, presented a certificate of recognition from the Texas Jewish Historical Society, which honored the 150-year-old congregation for "serving the religious needs of the Reform Jewish community of Galveston, and serving the greater Galveston community through its good deeds of social justice and moral leadership," Richbook said. Congregation B'nai Israel was established in 1868. The Temple, as B'nai Israel locally is known, became Texas' first Reform congregation and, today, is the second oldest extant Jewish congregation in the state. B'nai Israel credits its longevity, in part, to the fact that its pulpit rabbis have been relatively few in number and have been invested leaders in the community. Rabbi Henry Cohen (1863-1952) served as B'nai Israel's spiritual leader for more than 60 years, and helped make Galveston into the largest port of entry for immigrants, second only to Ellis Island. From 1907 to 1914, during the so-called Galveston Plan, some 10,000 Jewish immigrants entered the U.S. via Galveston and settled throughout Texas and the region. Rabbi Jimmy Kessler became B'nai Israel's first native-Texan rabbi in 1976. He transitioned to the role of rabbi emeritus in 2014. In honor of Rabbi Kessler's service to the temple and Galveston, the city renamed a stretch of 30th Street at Avenue O, where B'nai Israel synagogue currently is located, as "Rabbi Jimmy Kessler Drive." 'Proverbial bridge' Galveston's mayor joined B'nai Israel family members and friends, along with other civic and religious leaders on the island, as they officially unveiled the new street sign at the conclusion of Saturday's Torah parade. "Jimmy Kessler is the proverbial bridge," said Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough, who worked with Rabbi Kessler over the course of three decades, and praised the religious leader for his efforts to ease local racial and ethnic tensions and for helping to lead rebuilding efforts on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. "Every time this community needs a stalwart, we turn to Jimmy Kessler," the mayor said. Rabbi Kessler thanked his family and his wife, Shelley, in particular, for her support throughout their years together at B'nai Israel. The couple was married at B'nai Israel in 1977. "My most memorable moment, here, was when I said, 'I do,' " Shelley Kessler told the JHV. The B.O.I. said Congregation B'nai Israel has stayed together for 150 years because "it's always been a congregation at peace with itself." "Having rabbis who are truly invested in the community has also helped solidify the congregation over the generations," she added. Besides his pulpit work, Rabbi Kessler founded the Texas Jewish Historical Society and authored the history of B'nai Israel. "B'nai Israel is a statement - a statement of a commitment by Jews to the preservation of their religious heritage," Rabbi Kessler said at the conclusion of the Torah parade. "If you keep a diary or you write on Facebook, write that you were here," the rabbi said. "Write that you were part of a community that celebrated its 150th anniversary." Charismatic leadership B'nai Israel's 150th anniversary also gave congregants an opportunity to thank Rabbi Marshal Klaven, who succeeded Rabbi Kessler as B'nai Israel's spiritual leader and served the congregation for the past four years. Though Rabbi Klaven's tenure was relatively short, in B'nai Israel terms, his impact was profound, congregants and colleagues agreed. "One of the reasons I joined the temple was because of Rabbi Marshal," said Sara Salzman, B'nai Israel's current Sisterhood president. Salzman told the JHV that she had never belonged to a synagogue prior to B'nai Israel. Even though her daughter, Rene Schwartz, previously had no interest in becoming at Bat Mitzvah, meeting B'nai Israel's charismatic young rabbi years later helped changed her mind. "We came here for a Friday night service," Salzman said. "Rabbi Marshal said to my daughter, 'I need to get something from the kitchen - will you walk with me?' "They walked up the length of the corridor, then down the length of the corridor, and when they got back, my daughter said to me, 'I want to be Bat Mitzvahed,' " Salzman said. "Eight months later, on Halloween, there she was on the bimah, dressed like Robin, with our rabbi dressed like Chewbacca, and she had her Bat Mitzvah," she said. "If nothing else would make me fall in love with this place, that was it. And, the rabbi arranged for her to go on a Birthright trip to Israel. All of these things she would never have done without the rabbi and B'nai Israel." 'Strong spirit' During Rabbi Klaven's time at B'nai Israel, the congregation grew from 100 families to 170 families, Salzman noted. Rabbi Klaven, for his part, said he was attracted to B'nai Israel because "it has a strong spirit." "I was also drawn to it, because I felt G-d wanted me to help bring it into the 21st century," he told the JHV. "In a sense, to allow that spirit to be seen by all through the different ways we now engage with each other." Rabbi Klaven helped B'nai Israel digitize its entire office and created a digital database for the congregation, which now communicates more widely through email, e-blasts and social media. "But, it was more than transitioning to a digital workflow," he said. "We've moved away from a rabbi-centric model to a congregant-centric model." As part of this shift, B'nai Israel did away with traditional dues and membership and, instead, adopted a structure built upon voluntary pledges and personal commitments, the rabbi noted. "We even got off the language of 'congregation,' and focused more on 'family,' " Rabbi Klaven said. "We see ourselves as an extended family of faith. "No one wants to be told anymore that they have to belong to a Jewish organization," he said. "We have to show them why they would want to belong, and to be inspired by it - that we mean something and that we do something. "The other part of changing from a rabbi-centric model to a congregant/family-centric model was to ask: What are the passions and purposes that drive people? Then, open up our space so that their passions are driving our programs." Rabbi Matt Cohen succeeded Rabbi Klaven this summer as B'nai Israel's spiritual leader. B'nai Israel members said they are inspired by their new rabbi's youth, energy and commitment to help guide B'nai Israel forward. "You have built this," Rabbi Cohen told his new B'nai Israel family at the start of Saturday's Torah parade. "Any rabbi that has joined us realizes that it doesn't depend on the rabbi," he said. "We are in partnership with one another. "We could not be here without each other, and we will not be able to move forward for another 150 years depending on the rabbi. We depend on each other," Rabbi Cohen said.