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Community You Can Believe In


Meet our Clergy... Officers... Board of Trustees... and Committee Chairpersons.


Rabbi Jim Rosen

Rabbi Jim Rosen

Rabbi Jim Rosen, a native of Minnesota, has been the Rabbi of Beth El since 1992. He has a brought to Beth El Temple a broad array of programs and learning opportunities designed to reach families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds. He has provided the vision to create a caring Jewish community of excellence that is inviting and warm to all.

Rabbi Rosen received his rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and an M.S. in Social Work from Columbia University. Prior to arriving in West Hartford, he served for nine years as the Associate Rabbi of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. His wife Nancy and children Dani, Ariella and Adina are the gems of his life.

In the field of communal service, Rabbi Rosen has served on a number of national and local committees including the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, as well as the Chancellor's Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is a past President of the Connecticut Valley Region of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Rabbi Rosen has been sought-after as a speaker and written extensively in the areas of Disability and Judaism, Conversion, and contemporary interpretation of Classic texts. His interests include the ethical Mussar tradition in Jewish life, psychology, modern day Israel and the development of alternative models to Jewish growth.

Approachable and eager to meet and learn from all, he is also an avid runner who hopes his knees will last far into the future.

Contact Information:
(860) 233-9696, ext. 103

Cantor Joseph Ness

Cantor Joseph Ness is the composer, orchestrator, and arranger of hundreds of pieces of music spanning both the liturgical and concert genres. He has been commissioned by major musical figures such as Lukas Foss and Fred Sherry, and continues to compose and arrange for the leading hazzanim of our time. Many orchestras and ensembles have also commissioned him, including the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, Manchester Orchestra (England), American Symphony Orchestra, Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir, The Group for Contemporary Music, and the Washington Festival Orchestra. Ness has conducted many choral-orchestral masterpieces such as “The German Requiem” (Brahms), “The Symphony of Psalms” (Stravinsky), “Choral Fantasy” (Beethoven), and “Elijah” (Mendelssohn), in addition to a wide variety of orchestral and chamber instrumental music.

Because of Cantor Ness’ creative programming and noteworthy performances, Beth El Temple is a three-time winner of the National Solomon Schechter Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts. As part of a series of musical interpretations of biblical stories, he composed “Jacob’s Ladder”. “The Akedah” was performed in 2005, and “Sarah & Hagar” was premiered at the University of Hartford in 2006. In 2008, Cantor Ness arranged and conducted "Shining Through Broken Glass: An Ecumenical Concert Of Memory And Hope, 70 Years After Kristallnacht". The program, which took place in Providence, Rhode Island, featured the Rhode Island Philharmonic, an ecumenical 200-voice adult and youth choir, cantorial soloists and narration by Leonard Nemoy.

In 2010, Cantor Ness appeared in the national film, "100 Voices-A Journey Home". This documentary, based on an historic mission to Poland in 2009 by members of the Cantors Assembly, chronicles a performance by the National Polish Opera Orchestra and Choirs and cantorial colleagues of pre-Holocaust music arranged and conducted by Cantor Ness.

Recently, Cantor Ness composed liturgical Friday evening services for women’s choir which was performed at the annual meeting of the Cantors Assembly in Toronto, Canada in 2011.

Contact Information:
(860) 233-9696, ext. 107


Rabbi Howard Sowalsky

Ritual and Executive Director

Rabbi Howard Sowalsky is the full-time Ritual and Executive Director of Beth El Temple. He has been employed at Beth El since January 2000. Rabbi Sowalsky grew up at Beth El, having been President of Beth El's Jr. USY, President of Beth El's USY, Vice-President of Atid and Senior Affairs for Connecticut Region USY.

Rabbi Sowalsky graduated in 1976 from Union College in Schenectady, New York, having majored in Political Science with a minor in Judaic Studies. Rabbi Sowalsky spent a summer in Israel in 1970, a semester living on Kibbutz K'far Etzion in 1974, and has made other numerous trips to Israel. Rabbi Sowalsky has studied at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, has participated in the National Chevra Kadisha conference, spent three years in intensive Mussar study and continues to study it daily.

Rabbi Sowalsky received his ordination from the Vaad HaRabanim Of America in the Summer of 2006, under the supervision of Rabbi Mordechai Yitzchak Friedman.

Contact Information:
(860) 233-9696, ext. 102

Michelle Konigsburg

Education Director

Michelle has served as director of synagogue religious school programs and administrator of day schools in her decades-long career as a Jewish educator. Most recently Michelle served as educator in our own SULAM Beth El. Her passion is building relationships, honoring diversity, and working to help humanity to be kinder, more caring and compassionate. Michelle holds an MS in Educational Leadership and a BA in Education. She completed coursework towards an MA in Jewish Studies and Rabbinic Literature.

Contact Information:
(860) 233-9696


Limor Shefer

Hebrew Learning Coordinator

Limor’s focus is on Hebrew as both the language of our past and the language of our present. A popular teacher at Solomon Schechter Day School and at previous synagogue schools, Limor is designing a Hebrew curriculum that will integrate Jewish values, holidays, and prayers. She will regularly assess our children’s progress and supervise our educators in the implementation of this curriculum.

Contact Information:
(860) 233-9696


Judith Rosenthal, President
Steve Rabb, 1st Vice President
Sandra Stanfield, 2nd Vice President
Ellen Sanders-Nirenstein, Secretary
Stuart Wachtel, Treasurer
Jerry Leshem, Assistant Treasurer
Meryl Danitz, Financial Secretary
Marshall Shakun, Assistant Financial Secretary

Board of Trustees

Jonathan Alter (Past President)
Ron Apter
Sam Borden
Ann Brandwein (Past President)
Meryl Danitz
Sheila Diamond
Sharon Efron
Len Eisenfeld
Marsha Fisher
Shera Golder
Jeremy Kempner
Lois Koteen (Past President)
Justin Kudler
Jerry Leshem
Diane Lieberfarb (Past President)
Janel MacDermott
Sharon Neiberg
Elliott Pollack
Steve Rabb
Judy Resnick
Judy Rosenthal
Ellen Sanders-Nirenstein
Michael Schenker (Past President)
Marshall Shakun
Sandra Stanfield
Gary Starr (Past President)
Gayle Temkin
Alan Tuvin
Stuart Wachtel
Melissa Weinstock

Auxiliary Representatives 

Tom Falik, Men's Club Co-President
Susan Wachtel, Chai Society Co-President
Michelle Kunzman, Women's Network Chairwoman

Committee Chairpersons

Our committees work together to create a warm and inviting environment for our entire membership to enjoy. (To view our committee leadership, members must first log in.)

Sat, May 8 2021 26 Iyyar 5781