Rabbi Jason Fenster
It is with immense joy and pride that we welcome Rabbi Jason Fenster as senior Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami. Rabbi Fenster’s soulful way of being, genuine spirit, and infectious enthusiasm, combined with his intelligence, open-mindedness, and forward thinking, made a deep and overwhelming impression on the Senior Rabbi Search Committee. In short, and as you will soon learn, Rabbi Fenster is a scholar and a mensch, an inspiring spiritual leader and an engaging educator, a passionate speaker and a compassionate listener. Our community undoubtedly will thrive under his leadership and care.
Rabbi Fenster is a native of Rochester, New York, where his commitment to Judaism was fostered at Temple Sinai and through summers spent at Camp Eisner. After graduating from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and a minor in Law & Legal Studies, Rabbi Fenster moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked at the Religious Action Center (the Reform Movement’s social justice center) and the Justice Policy Institute. During his rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he interned at Woodlands Community Temple and was selected to participate in the prestigious Tisch Fellows Program. Rabbi Fenster was ordained in 2017 and became Assistant Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim (BJBE), a congregation of 1000 families in Deerfield, Illinois. Since 2019 Rabbi Fenster has served as Associate Rabbi of BJBE, where he leads all aspects of worship and congregational life, including Shabbat and High Holy Day services, with substantial responsibility for relationship building, pastoral care, lifecycle events, lifelong learning, and tikkun olam.
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Since July of 2020, Daniel Mendelson has served as senior cantor of Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, NY. A graduate of the Cantors Assembly’s Cantorial Intern Program, and the son of two distinguished cantors, Daniel was introduced to Jewish music and opera from a young age. His repertoire runs the gamut from cantorial, to opera, to Broadway, to good old fashioned rock n’ roll. Before arriving at Kol Ami, Daniel served as Cantor of Congregation B’nai Sholom-Beth David in Rockville Centre, New York for 8 years, where he brought engaging musical programming and innovative worship to that community.
Daniel has performed all over the United States and in Europe. Daniel’s discography includes “Birthday of the World Part I” with Leonard Nimoy narrating, “Hazzonos” with Frank London, hailed as “… jazz album of the year” by Wired Magazine, “Further Definitions of the Days of Awe” with The Afro- Semitic Experience and “Yontef! A Celebration of the Yamim Noraim, The High Holidays”. Since 2018, Daniel has become a regularly featured national anthem performer at Citi Field for the New York Mets, as well as an anthem performer for Madison Square Garden. Over the last few years, Daniel has been exploring and composing Jewish liturgical music. His own musical setting was selected in a nationwide contest to compose a melody for the first official Jewish prayer for the United States Armed Forces. This Song of Service has been offered at congregations around the country. In February of 2022, the United Nations invited Daniel to offer the memorial prayer for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In January of 2023, Daniel made his Carnegie Hall solo debut as part of a program entitled We Are Here: Songs of the Holocaust. Daniel was honored to share the stage with Harvey Fierstein, Chita Rivera, Shoshanah Bean and other Broadway/Pop/Cantorial performers as well as religious dignitaries.
Daniel is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he received a BFA in Film/Video Directing. Even as a filmmaker, the vocal arts haven’t escaped his work. In his short film, “Rehearsing,” Daniel starred as a neurotic opera singer trying to make his way. “Rehearsing” was nominated for Best Film and Best Director at the annual Dusty Awards. Daniel’s feature-length documentary, “Voice Teacher,” about eccentric voice coach, Donald Neil Roberts z”l, premiered at the Syracuse International Film Festival and has since screened at the Louisville Film Festival and the “World Eye” Jewish Film Festival in Ashkelon, Israel.
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Rabbinic Intern Leah Sherin
Leah Sherin (She/Her) is a second year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and is so excited to be joining Congregation Kol Ami as the Rabbinic Intern this fall. Leah is originally from Wilmette, IL and graduated from Brandeis University, where she studied Sociology and Near Eastern Judaic Studies. Leah grew up at URJ Camp OSRUI and spent many summers on staff there, most recently as Director of Staff Learning. She previously worked at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA as their Songleader and Educator. Leah is passionate about helping others find joy and meaning in living Jewishly, and she especially loves to connect and lead through music! Leah will be joining us in the Fall.
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Rabbi Tom Weiner was born and raised in Boston, MA. He received his BA from Brandeis University in 1978. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College in 1984, and his Master of Science in clinical Social Work from Columbia University in 1983. From 1984 until 1997, Rabbi Weiner served as Assistant and then Associate Rabbi of Central Synagogue in Manhattan.
Here at Kol Ami, Rabbi Weiner, always encouraged original thinking, teaching extensively in our religious school, high school and adult education programs. Along with our Cantors he oversaw Kol Ami’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah program. Rabbi Weiner has led numerous adult and youth trips to Israel, as well as Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Jordan, India, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa and Eastern Europe, imbuing the tours with his interests in history and archaeology.
Rabbi Weiner has actively supported and engaged with the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. for the last 25 years, based deeply in his belief in Judaism’s core teaching that, “Our world can and should be a better place than it is, and that we Jews and all human beings have the responsibility and the capacity to make that happen.”
Through his rabbinic partnership with Rabbi Milgrom and their collaboration with our Cantors, Rabbi Weiner oversaw and directed our full and rich program of activities. Rabbi Weiner lives in White Plains with his daughter.
Rabbi Shira Milgrom reflects a generation of rabbis who passionately create extraordinary encounters with Jewish texts, rituals and traditions that merge the intimate and personal with the grand vision of the Jewish people. She served as rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami for thirty-seven years, building a community of activism, joy and spiritual courage. Distillations of her teaching can be found in the book she gifted to her congregation, “The Seven-Fold Path – a traveler’s guide to a Jewish practice.”
Rabbi Milgrom is a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and has academic training in a wide range of learning. She has been the keynote speaker in major American conferences ranging from young leadership, women and feminism to issues facing the aging and the elderly. She is also the editor of a unique Siddur (prayer book) now used in settings across the continent.
Rabbi Milgrom is married to Dr. David Elcott and they are the parents of four children and ten grandchildren.