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Meet Cohort 2

Paula Baruch serves as Cantorial Soloist at Temple Anshe Sholom, the oldest Reform Jewish Synagogue in Canada. Situated in Hamilton, Ontario she also functions as Program Director and Youth Advisor at the Temple. Paula has undergraduate degrees in Theatre and Education and a Masters Degree in Adult Education. She has been making music and teaching for over 20 years in synagogues and in the public school system. Current musical projects include Shabbat Jam Band and Choir, Yiddish Kiddish, and Jewkulele Nights. Paula is the Board Secretary for the Guild of Temple Musicians and a member of the Women’s Cantor Network. She is the proud mother to 6 amazing children and happily in love with her husband Rabbi Jordan Cohen. 


Adam Davis is a Chicago native currently living in Silver Spring, MD, and serving in the cantorial role at Temple Beth Torah of Chantilly, VA. He has previously served in this role at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, IL; Temple Beth Shalom Annapolis, MD; as well as for CJE-Seniorlife (Council for Jewish Elderly) and for several other assisted living communities in the Chicago area. Prior to that, he founded and led KFAR Jewish Arts Center.  He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has also studied at Spertus College in Chicago.



Alisa Fineman serves as Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel, CA, where she lives, nourished by the hills of coastal live oak rolling through rich farmland and the redwood groves above Monterey Bay. Growing up, Alisa spent extensive time in the Rocky Mountains and Big Sur wilderness, as well as the Sierra Nevada. The vibrant beauty and poignancy of place, along with her family’s rich musical heritage, inspired the beginnings of her career as a singer and songwriter at age ten. While completing her degree in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, Alisa grew her career as a touring folk musician and was hailed by the Monterey Arts Council for her "…extraordinary contribution to the quality of life in Monterey County through the excellence of her work and her vision, passion and dedication to our community." Alisa’s formative years were also shaped by a loving Jewish upbringing that included Hebrew-speaking summers at Camp Swig’s Solel Hebrew program, directed by passionate educators , all leaders in their fields today. Nevertheless, she was surprised to find herself called to cantorial work, first at Congregation Emeth in Gilroy and later at Temple Beth El of Salinas. In the midst of her flourishing touring and recording career as a folk artist, Alisa also took time to grow her skills and hone her Jewish spiritual sensibility through studies with a variety of teachers active in the Jewish Renewal movement of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Her explorations of Jewish chant, feminine spirituality, Hassidut, and embodied Judaism have empowered her as a sacred song leader and spiritual teacher with a celebrative spirit of Jewish identity, an ever-expanding sense of humanity, and a commitment to building bridges of understanding among diverse traditions. In addition to her involvement in HUC-JIR’s Cantorial Certification program, Alisa continues to perform and teach across the country and internationally. She has recorded a number of CD’s, including several with her gifted musical and life partner, Kimball Hurd. Her recent Closing the Distance, Poems, Prayers & Love Songs,a collection of traditional and original songs from the Jewish Diaspora, was produced by Alex de Grassi and received an enthusiastic international response, including the selection of four of its songs for inclusion in the 2010 Shalshelet Festival in NYC.


Adam Kahan serves as the Cantorial Soloist at Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, Illinois while pursuing his Cantorial Certification through the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. He has spent the last twenty years honing his craft in communal music and singing with several Chicago-area synagogues, dedicated to leaving people touched, moved, and inspired by their shared experiences.As the leader of his band, Kavanah, and as a teacher in classrooms and music programs, Adam strove to bring others to new discoveries that reinvigorated one’s experience of life. 
Having been a camper, counselor, and songleader at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, the Reform Movement camp in Wisconsin, Adam focuses on bringing the lasting messages of camp home to his community. Namely, he has a commitment that, children and adults alike, are left with a sense of belonging, connection, and excitement about what is possible from their Judaic world, and beyond.
Adam grew up as part of a loving and vibrant family in Highland Park, Illinois, and as a member of Am Shalom in Glencoe. Watching his father serve as temple president under Rabbi Harold Kudan, and learning from the Religious Educator, Sharon Morton, Adam learned that we all matter, each of us can make a difference, and it is our responsibility to actually make that difference. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Adam turned his focus to connecting with congregations, rather than audiences, engaging students in a conversation rather than a stale lecture. His contagious enthusiasm and energy invites you to jump in and be a part of the discovery.
Adam proudly considers himself a member of the Hava Nashira Songleading Community. Combining his training from the Hebrew Union College and Hava Nashira, Adam looks to share the music newly emerging in our movement, and celebrate the traditions that have enriched and established the path along which we traveled.
Adam and his wife, Michelle, live in Evanston, Illinois with their two children, Alexander and Talia.

Laurie Weinstein is Cantor Intern for Beth Sholom Temple in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has a Bachelor of Music in Music History with a Voice Concentration (2005) from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She also studied on the graduate level at Hebrew College in Newton Massachusetts. She is a member of the American Conference of Cantors and the Guild of Temple Musicians. She has also sung in the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus under Conductor James Levine. A Cincinnati native, Laurie has lived in Jerusalem, Boston, and Atlanta. Laurie has served in multiple capacities for Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Previously, she served Congregation Dor Tamid in Atlanta as Cantor Intern and as Cantorial Soloist at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati and Beth Boruk Temple in Richmond, Indiana. Laurie is most proud of her work with mentor, Cantor Hollis Schachner and Rabbi Neal Gold, while at Temple Shir Tikva, in Wayland, Massachusetts. At that time, she was afforded the privilege of serving as soloist and she prepared and coached b'nai mitzvah at their final rehearsal. When she isn't working, she is a yogi, loves to study Jewish text, and talk about BIG ideas.



Meet Cohort 1

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 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. Currently, Sheera is serving as the Interim Cantor for The Reform Temple of Forest Hills in Queens, NY. She looks forward to her final year at HUC and is excited to see where her next congregation will be.


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 has just begun serving as Cantorial Soloist and Family Engagement Coordinator at Temple Emanuel Sinai in Worcester, MA. Her prior experience includes  Temple Beth David in Westwood, MA, (2008-2015),  and 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.