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Officer Biographies

Officer Biographies

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Sam Berger was raised outside Philadelphia, where his parents were founding members of Temple Israel of Upper Darby and subsequently members of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, PA. Sam went to public school through fifth grade, graduated from Akiba Hebrew Academy (renamed the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy), received his bachelor of science degree from Drexel University, his law degree from the Temple University Law Center, and his LL.M. from Georgetown University Center. Sam was also president of the Drexel Hillel Association and a Hebrew school teacher and tutor.

Sam worked for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel in Washington, D.C., and became Counsel for Employee Benefits in the Tax Litigation division. In 1985, Sam joined Price Waterhouse’s National Tax Practice. He was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the New York City Management Consulting Practice until IBM acquired the unit in 2002 and became an IBM executive. Sam retired from IBM in 2013 and is currently an independent advisor to IBM.

Sam has been on Beth El’s Board of Trustees for many years, and served on many committees including as the Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Chair of the Nominating Committee, and Co-chair of the Dinner Dance Committee. Prior to becoming Executive Vice President, Sam served as Vice President for several years.

Sam and Tris have been members of Beth El since 1994 and reside in Scarsdale, NY with their two children Yali and Kenny that both attend the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester.

Burton Daniel smDan Burton moved to New Rochelle, ten years ago with his family, where they fell in love with the Beth El community and quickly made Beth El Synagogue Center their home away from home.

Dan has been a trustee of the synagogue for several years and has served on the Families Initiative, Youth Services, Hazzan Search, Religious School and Youth Activities Director Search, Kallah, Focus, and Havurah Service Committees. He has served for many years on Beth El’s Religious School Board and has been its chair for the past four years. Dan has also led many ruach-infused youth and family Shabbat and holiday services. He also served for several years as the chair of UJA-Federation’s New Rochelle General Campaign and as a member of its Executive Committee.

Dan’s wife, Jody, was a trustee of the synagogue for four years. She co-chaired Beth El’s Couples Club and has served on the Human Resources, Catering, Rabbi Search, and Dinner Dance Committees.

Professionally, Dan is currently an executive director in the legal department of Morgan Stanley, in Manhattan. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Boston University and his J.D. degree from The American University, Washington College of Law.

Dan was born in New York City and grew up in Waterford, Connecticut, where he attended the Solomon Schechter School. He enjoyed many summers at Camp Ramah in New England, both as a camper and counselor.

Jody and Dan are the proud parents of Adam, who will be attending Yale in the fall, and Sammy, who will be a junior at New Rochelle High School. Dan and his family are grateful for the warmth and friendship of the Beth El community, and Dan is looking forward to contributing to Beth El in his new role as a vice president.

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Geralynn Reifer, originally from Staten Island, settled in New Rochelle upon marrying her husband, David, in 1990. Geralynn and David have been members of Beth El ever since. Geralynn graduated from SUNY Albany with a B.S. in Accounting in 1986. She received her CPA soon after and became a tax manager for Raines & Fischer in midtown Manhattan where she worked for over twenty years. She is currently self employed.

The Reifers have two children, who are products of the New Rochelle and Beth El communities. Both children attended Beth El Nursery School, Religious School and Summer Camp, and one also as a counselor.

Geralynn’s work at Beth El keeps her very busy. She serves on Beth El’s Board of Trustees as well as the Executive Council, Audit and Finance Committee, and Personnel Committee. Geralynn has served as the Board’s Recording Secretary, Beth El’s treasurer from July 2003 to July 2013, as well as on the Nursery School Board, the new Rabbi Search Committee and various other committees during her time at Beth El. Geralynn and her husband, David, were also honored with the Young Leadership Award by the Jewish Theological Seminary and by Beth El more recently with the President’s Ne’emanim Award. Geralynn is honored to serve as a vice president of Beth El.

Mark Seidenfeld grew up in Kew Gardens, New York, attending the Solomon Schechter School of Queens and spending summers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. His parents, survivors of the Holocaust who married and immigrated to America after the war, infused their home with strong Zionist ties and a deep sense of pride in their Jewish heritage. Mark attended the University of Pennsylvania and spent his junior year abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While in law school at Boston University, he met his “basherte,” which is no exaggeration, since Marjorie and Mark met by chance at a concert in Central Park in 1986 and married in 1989.

After graduation, Mark and Marjorie moved to Westchester and eventually settled in New Rochelle in 1992. With the arrival of twins Michael and Talia, they joined Beth El Synagogue Center in 1996. The family welcomed son Jonah in 2002. Through Torah for Tots, Junior Congregation, the weekly Shabbat luncheons, and all their other involvements at shul, Mark and Marjorie and their children developed strong bonds of friendship with many families at Beth El, which has become their second home. All three kids attended the Solomon Schechter School, and Michael and Talia have just finished their first year at NYU and Muhlenberg, respectively.

Mark is vice president and deputy general counsel at Scholastic Inc., a publisher that specializes in children’s books and media. Mark is a member of Beth El’s Board of Trustees, co-chair of the Rabbi Search Committee, and also serves on the Human Resources Committee. He has chaired Synagogue 2000, the Focus Committee, co-chaired Ramah Shabbat, the Centennial Celebration, and the Annual Beth El Kallah. He has also served on the Assistant Rabbi Search, Nominating, Dinner Dance, and High Holiday Honors Committees. Mark looks forward to serving the Beth El community, which his family has come to love and appreciate so much.

gruenberg_sandySandra Gruenberg and her family settled in New Rochelle in 1980 when her husband Jack became the Education Director at Beth El, a position he held for 18 years. Sandy

and Jack’s four children grew up at Beth El, worked and played at the Day Camp, were all a part of the Youth Community and were regular attendees at Junior and Teen Congregations. All of the children became Bat and Bar Mitzvah at Beth El and their daughter Hana was married here as well.

Sandy grew up in Philadelphia, attended Hebrew School in a Conservative congregation and graduated with a double degree in Education and Hebrew Literature from Temple University and Gratz College. She also did graduate work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem where she met her husband the year of the Six Day War. Sandy also spent many of her summers at Camp Ramah in the Poconoes and spent a year in Israel as well.

Upon moving to Westchester County, Sandy began her career of over 30 years at the Solomon Schechter School in White Plains as both a teacher and administrator until her retirement in 2011. Never one to be idle, Sandy decided to volunteer at Beth El where she had already served many years on the Board of Directors and taught various courses for adults. She was also a long-term sub in the religious school and a counselor in the Day Camp. Sandy has been a Vice-President, serves on the Religious School Board, served on the Keruv committee, and also serves on the Membership Committee. She is a co-chair of our Chesed Committee that provides shiva meals, friendly phone calls, and holiday parties for our members. She is also a Vice-President of Programming of Sisterhood.

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Joseph Wygoda and his wife, Barbara, joined Beth El in 1975, shortly after moving to New Rochelle from Brooklyn. Joe has served on numerous committees, including the Personnel Committee, which included the Hazzan and Assistant Rabbi Search Sub-Committees; the Audit and Finance Committee; and he chaired the High Holiday Strategic Committee in 2008 and 2009, which returned the Havurah service to our own building, from an offsite location. Joe continues to chair the Endowment Committee and has steered it through the financial crisis and “yield challenged” years. Under his expert leadership, the principle continues to grow each year, even through 2008 and 2009, when many Endowment funds lost between 30-40 percent. The Endowment Fund continues to produce investment yields required to help balance the General Funds budget.

Joseph has served as an officer of Beth El for many years, including as a vice president from 2004 to 2005, 2001 to 2002, and 1993 to 1999. He served as executive vice president from 2006 to 2008. He returns to the position of treasurer, which he previously held from 1986 to 1992. A member of the Board of Trustees for twenty consecutive years, he has served in nine different presidents’ administrations and under four different executive directors. The synagogue’s management program, financial reporting system, and cash management system were implemented under his guidance.

Joe is an alumnus of the Yeshiva of Flatbush, and of Brooklyn College. He retired in 2010 after a successful IPO of an international employer for twenty-eight years. Currently, Joe is consulting, using his expertise to offer business planning to International luxury apparel brands, as well as financial planning and asset allocation.

He has served on the New York State Society of CPA’s Chief Financial Officers and Members in Industry & Commerce Committees. Joe is the treasurer and executive Board member of the Hebrew Home of Riverdale and Affiliates, a $500 million operation.

Barbara Cohen was born and raised in Saratoga Springs, a small city in upstate New York, where she and her three siblings attended the Saratoga Springs public school system. Barbara received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, followed by a Masters in Business Administration in Finance from the State University at Albany. She married her husband, Bob, in 1983 and they now have three children—Adam (31), Jessica (28), and Haley (24). They moved to Scarsdale from New York City in 1990, and immediately began looking for a shul in which their family could be comfortable participating in services and feel at home. After having researched many options in the area, they ultimately chose Beth El based on the many programs available—pre-school, camp, religious school, youth groups, etc., but most of all because the people were so friendly and welcoming! They have now been members of Beth El for twenty-six years, where both girls attended Beth El Nursery School and all three children attended Beth El Religious School.

Barbara’s professional background includes thirty years at British Airways PLC, most recently as the CFO/SVP Finance for the Americas region. After having been the leader of various finance teams dispersed across different cultures over the years, she had achieved strong analytical and strategic skills, with a reputation for delivering significant and sustainable change. When she retired from BA, she entered the next phase of her career, with the goal of giving back to the community and supporting the development of women. She now sits on the Board of three non-profit organizations, one of which is Beth El, where she has been a member of the Board of Trustees for three years. She is also a member of the Audit and Finance Committee, the Financial Arrangements Committee, Sisterhood, and has been a member of the Nominating committee multiple times, the last of which she chaired.

Barbara and her family have made so many new friends at Beth El over the years! She is so impressed by the hard-working professional staff, but even more impressed by the numerous volunteers who dedicate hours and hours of their time to make Beth El so special. 

Peister JayneJayne Susan Peister was born in Valley Stream, N.Y. (during the Colonial Days as her daughters often say…), and grew up on the South Shore of Long Island in a charming (read “small”) home in which her mother still resides. She and her two siblings attended the Valley Stream public school system. Jayne received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biology from Cornell University in 1988. After having an incredible post-college summer in Israel and Europe, she set her career in motion at Eli Lilly and Company as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She has promoted medications to various specialists over the years such as Pulmonology/Critical Care, Cardiology, Ob/Gyn, Endocrinology, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Internal Medicine doctors. Remarkably, she has remained at Lilly since then (totaling twenty-seven years this October), achieving the highest rank of “Senior Executive Sales Representative,” while switching sales divisions within the company every five years or so to keep things interesting. While her career is rewarding, family has always come first for Jayne and the flexibility of this career path has worked very well. It has enabled her to be very active in her children’s education and extracurricular activities. For example, Jayne was the PTA President of the Davis Elementary School for two consecutive years and led the parent volunteers for the Albert Leonard Middle School play for four years. Both capacities were nearly full-time jobs!

Cultural Judaism has always been an important part of Jayne’s life. This was set in motion by her parents, who took the children to services every Friday night at Temple B’nai Israel in Elmont. As a teenager, Jayne was very active in the Reform Movement’s teen youth groups. She was president of her temple’s youth group for several years and then, during her senior year in high school, she was elected president of LIFTY (Long Island Federation of Temple Youth). She attended summer camp at Camp Eisner in Great Barrington, M.A., from age six through her college years, going from camper into counselor. This left an indelible mark on Jayne’s Jewish identity.

Jayne met and married her husband, Darren (the Video Dude), in 1993. Neither of them knew much about Westchester County and they initially rented an apartment in Mamaroneck to get a feel for the suburb scene. In 1996, while riding their bicycles and house hunting in the North End of New Rochelle, they found and purchased their home from a man out walking his dog. They went shul shopping, saw the lunch spread at Beth El’s kiddush, and joined shortly after. Currently they share the burden of raising two teen-aged daughters, Emma (19) and Sophia (16), both of whom have been very involved in Beth El since kindergarten. Jayne has been an active member on the shul’s Religious School Board for ten years and chaired it for three of those years. In addition, Jayne has been a Board of Trustees member during the “Lacher, Klee, and Fleishaker dynasties” and now during the “Berger years.” She has also involved herself in several Dinner Dance committees, Youth Shabbat Committees, and helped to create the new and vibrant Religious School PTA, which is off and running on its own now! Lastly, Jayne is, for the past year, co-chair (with Lisa Patchen) of the Membership Committee.

Israel also plays significantly in the fabric of Jayne’s identity. She went there for six weeks during high school through the NFTY program, and then again several years ago with her family on a Beth El group trip. She and her family went yet again this past December to visit Emma, who was spending a gap year there through Young Judea’s Year Course program. She and Darren were also undeterred and resolute in sending and keeping Sophia there last summer during the fifty-day Gaza war, as she traveled around with a NJY Camp Teen Tour. These experiences have made both daughters staunch supporters and defenders of our beloved homeland.

Jayne and her family love that Beth El is their second home, where they can always find a friend “who knows their name.” She is really excited and humbly honored to be appointed to Recording Secretary of the Executive Board. Beth El has a very special place in her heart and she will do everything she can to help support its success for all in our community!

Sun, 23 April 2017 27 Nisan 5777