Meet our Students

Sarene Appelbaum currently serves as cantorial soloist at Temple Beth Torah in Melville, NY. Prior to joining Temple Beth Torah, Appelbaum served congregations in Florida, Maryland and South Carolina. Appelbaum's connection to Jewish music began at a very young age with songwriting and solo performances. Her first award-winning composition, written and performed in second grade for Temple Beth Shalom of Florida, was “Mommy, Mommy, look at me, me and Judah Macabee.” Her exploration of Jewish music went on a hiatus while she pursued her interest in secular music and completed a degree in music business/vocal performance from William Paterson University in New Jersey. Sarene performed on stage in New York, New Jersey and South Carolina in many genres including classical, musical theater, and solo singer-songwriter.


Sheera Ben-David, who currently serves at Temple Israel in New York, has spent her life immersed in the Jewish community and congregations. After receiving a BFA from New York University – Tisch School of the Arts, Sheera began her cantorial career as the Soloist for Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem, NY, and went on to serve Beth Am Temple of Pearl River, NY, and Central Synagogue, NY. Over the years, she taught at many synagogues such as Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Temple Shaaray Tefila of New York City, Temple Israel of New Rochelle, Temple Beth El of Chappaqua, and Larchmont Temple. As an extension of her love and devotion to music, Sheera is an award winning cabaret singer. She has delivered multiple critically-acclaimed runs at the former Oak Room of The Algonquin Hotel, The Royal Room of The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, and other popular venues around the county.


Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz has been Cantorial Soloist/Music Director at Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan since 2004, and is a member of the Guild of Temple Musicians, Actors’ Equity Association, and the American Guild of Musical Artists, as well as an Associate member of the American Conference of Cantors. A District Winner in The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, her talents encompass many genres, including classical, jazz, and musical theatre. Her recordings include solo and choral performances for the Milken Family Foundation’s American Jewish Music Archive, and significant mentors in her liturgical music development were Dr. Samuel Adler and Cantor Jeffrey Klepper. Rachel received a Master of Music in voice performance from University of Michigan, with degrees from Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.


Neil Michaels, Cantorial Soloist at Temple Israel at West Bloomfield, MI, for the past eight years, is a Toronto native and comes from an illustrious family of musicians and cantors. Neil brings to Temple Israel his vast experience from a vibrant professional musical career, having performed leading roles in opera and musical theatre in the country’s most recognizable houses. Neil pursued his Bachelors degree at the Juilliard School, and graduate studies in Philadelphia at The Curtis Institute of Music. At Temple Israel, Neil directs the B’nai Mitzvah Program and coordinates a varied yearly program of services and concerts. One of Neil’s recent creations is the “Shir HaShabbat” service which features modern technology in the form of constantly flowing visuals combined with a fully scored service enriched by a large congregational choir. Neil has had the honor of leading services at several conventions for the American Conference of Cantors and Guild of Temple Musicians.


Lori Shapiro has been Cantorial Soloist at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton (TBE) since 1997 and a member since 1991. Leading services, directing the Shir Joy youth choir, and preparing students one-on-one for their b’nai mitzvah service are only some of her many responsibilities. In 2009, through Lori’s efforts, Temple Beth El received a Legacy Heritage Grant which enabled them to create “Shir Ruach,” a teen song leader’s group comprised of fifteen teens who perform and regularly lead services at TBE. With a BFA in music-theatre, Lori enjoyed a successful career in theatre, film, commercials, and continues to do voiceover work. She is a member of Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild, the Guild of Temple Musicians, and the Women Cantors Network.


Rachel Reef-Simpson joined Temple Beth David in Westwood, MA, in 2008 after serving for five years as Cantorial Soloist, Music Educator, B'nai Mitzvah tutor, Choir Director, and Hebrew teacher at Temple Etz Chaim in Franklin, MA. Educated at Boston University and Berklee College of Music, Rachel received her Cantorial Arts Certificate at Hebrew College in June 2007. Prior to serving at Temple Etz Chaim, Rachel worked as either Cantorial Soloist and/or Music, Judaic, and Hebrew educator at Temple Sinai in Brookline, Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Congregation B'nai Torah in Sudbury, and The Nursery School at Temple Beth Am in Framingham. Rachel's former job experience includes Music Director at Riverside Theatre Works in Hyde Park, and owner/educator of two Kindermusik Early Childhood Music Studios in Sudbury and Southboro.