Meet our Students

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 and the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Illinois. He also leads services for a network of residential communities via the Council for Jewish Elderly (CJE-Seniorlife). Adam is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s Musical Theatre program (CCM), did graduate level studies at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and has performed in many theatrical productions.  Adam has been a leading advocate for Jewish culture in Chicago for over a decade having produced hundreds of arts and music events through KFAR Jewish Arts Center. He has lectured and taught at congregations and conferences across the country and enjoys inspiring students of all ages on their Jewish journeys.  At Sukkat Shalom, Adam leads weekly Shabbat services, High Holidays and Festivals as well special themed concert-style Shabbatot throughout the year. He directs the congregation’s Bnai Mitzvah program, the follow up “NextMitzvah” program and is part of a cohort of URJ’s Bar Mitzvah Revolution.  Adam has been profiled in The Forward, Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Chicago Jewish News, Na’amat and B’nai Brith Magazine, which hailed him as one of five “Trailblazers” in 2005. His articles have been published in World Jewish Digest, Atlanta Jewish Monthly, Mimaamikim Journal and he currently pens the monthly Arts and Culture column for Chicago JUF News. 

 

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’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.

 

Laurie Weinstein is Cantor Intern for Congregation Dor Tamid in Johns Creek, Georgia. Her portfolio covers a variety of responsibilities from b’nai mitzvah tutor to alternative Shabbat worship leader to adult education teacher. She is 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 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 currently resides in Johns Creek, Georgia, a northern  suburb of Atlanta. Laurie has served in multiple capacities for Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, Massachusetts. She served as a Cantorial Soloist at both 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, 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.