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After more than two years of isolation and virtual services, our community is beginning to come back to Brith Shalom in person. Entering the synagogue, one may be greeted by new faces. These are the people who have kept the synagogue operating on a daily basis. In our Staff Spotlights, you’ll meet and get to appreciate the role our team plays in making Brith Shalom a special place.

Melissa Magenheim, Executive Director

When started at CBS: April 2018

Melissa oversees all office and administrative functions. She handles member needs and liaisons with the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees, clergy, and lay leaders. Her responsibilities include operations and building management, financial management and fundraising.

Melissa is the person you should initially contact about membership engagement, fundraising, visioning, financial matters, or if you need synagogue space for an event. Contact her by e-mail at mmagenheim@brithshalom.org or by phone at 713-667-9201.

Prior to CBS, Melissa worked as an office manager at the George R. Brown Convention Center. She majored in business management and finance in college and has created successful work teams throughout her professional career. The secrets to building a successful team at work: respect your team members as individuals and motivate with positivity.

“What makes this job special,” she says, “is Brith Shalom is the place where I raised my daughters, Talia, who is now 21, and Gabi, who is now 18. Almost every day I share the warmth of our synagogue with people who are so happy to be here. Seeing those happy faces makes all of our planning and hard work totally worth it”.

Rabbi Teller added, “Melissa is incredibly dedicated to the success of this synagogue as a place our members can be proud to call their home. She approaches every challenge with ease and grace."

Erin Lepselter, Religious School Principal

When started at CBS: August 2017

Erin oversees all matters related to the religious school, grades PreK-7th. Her responsibilities also include the involvement of our students in Kehillah High. In addition, she assists with young family programming and Junior Congregation.

Erin is your initial contact regarding all religious school questions and needs. She can be reached at elepselter@brithshalom.org or by phone at 713-667-9201 ext. 303.

Before coming to CBS, Erin lived in Tel Aviv and taught at an American private school. She was personally recruited by Cantor Mark Levine to come to CBS where she was hired as Programming Associate. She became Assistant Principal in August 2018.  This past fall, Erin assumed the role of Religious School Principal.  Please join us in celebrating Erin’s growth at Brith Shalom.

“What makes this job special,” she says, “is I’ve worked with children for many years. I grew up in a Conservative shul in Dallas. So there is a certain nostalgia coming back to Texas and reliving my positive formative experiences through my role at Brith Shalom.”

“The future lies in the hands of our young Jewish students. We have a great opportunity to impact that future thanks to the solid group of Jewish educators we have here at Brith Shalom”.

Rabbi Teller added, “It's a joy to see Erin interacting with students and parents. She has the ability, skill and desire to connect with people of all ages - from our tiniest preschoolers to our sage grandparents!”

Barbara Loeser, Programming Specialist

When started at CBS: August 2019

As the Programming Specialist, Barbara works closely with the senior staff to identify strategic goals and objectives for programs and then create programs that further those goals. She is responsible for implementing programming for a wide range of congregants and community members, and oversees each program from conception to post-event evaluation.

Barbara is the person you should initially contact for information on various programs. Contact her by e-mail at bloeser@brithshalom.org or by phone at 713-667-9201, ext. 318.

Before coming to CBS, Barbara worked at the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston for more than 20 years as the Community Engagement Director where she oversaw Yom Limmud and PJ Library. She was also cantorial soloist at Congregation Emanu El for more than 40 years until she retired in December. Barbara served as the founding director of Emanu El’s pre-school, which later became the Becker Early Childhood Center.

Barbara says she is “obsessively organized”, which helps to make her immediate world “much less of a chaotic place and probably drives the rest of the staff crazy.”

“What makes this job special,” she said, “is developing relationships with a variety of people. The staff and members of CBS are a warm, intelligent, supportive group of people. I really enjoy working with them.”

Rabbi Teller added "Barbara is the consummate professional. Her contribution to the Houston Jewish community is immeasurable. She pours her heart and soul into every project that comes her way. "

Karen Ross, Marketing Specialist

When started at CBS: October 2018

Karen oversees communications and marketing, which include the website, social media, e-blasts, press releases, advertising and the madrich.

Karen is the person you should initially contact with any questions regarding the e-bulletin or website or madrich. If there is advertising or calendaring to the public, she does that as well.

Contact her by e-mail at kross@brithshalom.org or by phone at 713-667-9201 ext. 320.

Before coming to CBS, Karen worked for 12 years at the Houston Arts Alliance managing the Artshound website. Prior to that, she worked at several advertising agencies doing media buying and planning and copywriting for 15 years.

“I answered a job posting on the Public Relations Society of America website requesting someone to do communications and marketing,” said Karen. “I was interviewed by Rabbi Teller and Melissa and immediately fell in love with them. I remember driving home thinking we had already started the process of seeing how my skills meshed with what they wanted done”.

“I’m still involved in the arts, professionally acting and singing in shows around Houston. In addition, my dog Artemus, a rescued Australian cattle dog, and I have trained together to visit schools and nursing homes that request therapy visits”.

Rabbi Teller added, "Karen is passionate about communication. She is a key player in our synagogue system. Her attention to detail and advanced planning are a perfect fit for her role. Our communication systems have expanded and improved with Karen at the helm."

Larry Bradley, Facility Coordinator


When started at CBS:  August 2018

Larry oversees maintenance and repairs of the synagogue and the Goldberg Montessori School.

His job is to ensure that CBS premises and facilities are kept in clean and hygienic operating condition. His responsibilities include set ups for services and events held at Brith Shalom.

To contact Larry, please call the synagogue office at 713-667-9201.

Larry is the person you should initially contact about any maintenance issue including heating or cooling problems and electrical and plumbing emergencies.

Before coming to CBS, Larry worked as a machine operator in a Houston piping plant.

“What makes this job special,” he said, “is how the congregants make you feel like you’re at home. Everyone has my best interests. When I come to work, the kids all say “Hi Mister Larry”. The attitude of the people is very different than those people who work in a plant.

“I’m pretty much a six or seven day man. I’m always busy”.

Rabbi Teller added, “Larry is a hard-working, dedicated professional and he's a really great guy. Larry understands the big picture, and he approaches his job with a sense of purpose.”

Lori Jacobs, Administrative Assistant

When started at CBS: August 2019

Lori oversees membership, billing, yahrzeits, kiddush lunch sponsorships, mailings, front desk volunteers and much more.

Lori is the person you should initially contact if you have billing or any office related questions.

Contact her by e-mail at ljacobs@brithshalom.org or by phone at 713-667-9201 ext. 319

Before coming to CBS, Lori ran the office of an insurance company in New York. Prior to that, she worked for many different Jewish non-profits including Houston Hillel.

Lori’s parents are Alyson and Elliot Gershenson. “I followed my dad’s footsteps by going into the Jewish non-profit field,” she said. “I like to be able to greet people when they come to Brith Shalom and make them feel welcome”.

What you may not know about Lori is she has three kids and her husband is from Manchester, England.

Rabbi Teller added, “Lori is a great asset to our Brith Shalom community. She has excellent organizational skills, and she is extremely focused on our office systems. And Lori's passion for Judaism and Jewish knowledge is a huge plus!”

Blake Kizer, Executive Assistant to the Clergy

When started at CBS: October 2021

Blake serves as the executive assistant to Rabbi Teller and Cantor Levine and as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Coordinator.  He arranges meetings for them and handles much of the communication needs for the clergy.  He helps organize and guide families for the B’nei Mitzvah experience and assists with coordinating all lifecycle needs.  Blake provides technical assistance to Rabbi Teller for his podcasts and often serves as a gazoombai for synagogue services.

Blake is your initial contact if you wish to reach Rabbi Teller or Cantor Levine, or for assistance with the B’nei Mitzvah program. He can be reached at bkizer@brithshalom.org or 713-667-9201 ext 301.

Prior to CBS, Blake worked as an executive assistant at Regus, an international office services organization.

“What makes this job special,” he says, “is seeing how in-demand the Rabbi is. He meets with, speaks with, and communicates with congregants, people in the community, other Rabbis, and people who are looking to convert to Judaism. To be the person who helps get you to the Rabbi is important to me. My door is always open”.

“Brith Shalom runs on positivity. What you’ll find here from staff to volunteers, more than anything, is friendship”.

Rabbi Teller added, “Blake is passionate and hard-working. He loves to serve and connects with our membership with genuine caring and enthusiasm. We're glad to have found Blake and enjoy watching grow in his position.”

Sat, May 28 2022 27 Iyyar 5782