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Clergy Biographies

Rabbinical Staff

Rabbi David Schuck Rabbi David Schuck joined the Beth El team in 2015 after serving as the spiritual leader of the Pelham Jewish Center for 11 years. He is an adjunct lecturer in the Professional and Pastoral Skills Department of the Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary and a former faculty member in the rabbinical school of the Academy for Jewish Religion where he taught Professional Skills.

Rabbi Schuck grew up in Mt. Laurel, NJ, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Middle East History from Rutgers University. Rabbi Schuck was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2004 where he was awarded the Lillian M. Lowenfeld Prize in Practical Theology and the Israel H. Levinthal Prize in Homiletics.

Rabbi Schuck was privileged to visit Russia on a rabbinic mission with the UJA Federation of NY, as well as participate in the Young Rabbis Delegation service-learning trip to Ghana with the American Jewish World Service. He has served on the UJA Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal for the Former Soviet Union as well as the boards of the Westchester Jewish Council, Pelham Guidance Council, the Westchester Inter-Religious Clergy Network, and the Mount Vernon Soup Kitchen.

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David Schuck 
(914) 235-2700, Ext. 230

Rabbi Zachary Sitkin joined the Beth El clergy team in 2016 on a part-time basis, and recently became its full-time assistant rabbi. Rabbi Sitkin had served as Rabbi at Congregation Eitz Chaim in Monroe, NY, and participared in a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Rabbi Sitkin’s love for Judaism was sparked by his participation in his local and regional USY chapters in high school, and was further cultivated when he left for Israel on the Nativ gap-year program, where he studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and worked on a Kibbutz in the South.  Rabbi Sitkin attended the University of Pittsburgh and received dual Bachelors degrees in both Psychology and Religious Studies.  While at Pitt, Rabbi Sitkin co-founded a Beit Midrash, led the conservative minyan on Shabbat, and beat-boxed in Hillel’s a cappella group, the VoKols, where he met his wife, Lisa.  

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Zachary Sitkin 
Assistant Rabbi 
(914) 235-2700, Ext. 338

Rabbi Melvin N. Sirner was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He pursued undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts in political science and psychology, whereupon he began his formal rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. While at the Seminary, Rabbi Sirner was the recipient of the Lamport prize in Talmud, and the Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal Award in Homiletics, and was awarded the degree of Master of Hebrew Literature. One year of academic training was spent in Jerusalem, where Rabbi Sirner studied at the Israel branch of the Seminary, along with the Graduate Department of Judaica of the Hebrew University. In 1972 he received his Rabbinic ordination.

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Melvin Sirner
Rabbi Emeritus
(914) 235-2700, Ext. 229

Cantorial Staff

Cantor Uri Aqua has been affiliated with Beth El Synagogue Center since 1987. A native of Rehovot, Israel, Cantor Aqua earned a Certificate of Teaching from Lifshitz Teachers Academy in Jerusalem, studied at Hebrew University and obtained both a B.A. degree and a M.A. degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

Cantor Aqua’s musical career began in elementary school when he was selected as a soloist in his school choir. In high school, he performed the role of Chazzan for Shabbat and High Holiday prayers with the guidance of established Chazzanim from Jerusalem. Cantor Aqua continued to perform as a Chazzan even as he served in a combat unit in the Israeli Army.

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Uri Aqua
Associate Cantor
(914) 235-2700, Ext. 222

Hazzan Farid Dardashti is Hazzan Emeritus since July 2011. He joined Beth El Synagogue in the summer of 1997. He is descended from a long line of classical Iranian vocal artists and hazzanim. As a teenager in his native Teheran, he was the featured artist on a weekly TV show. Later, he studied at the Mannes College of Music in New York City and graduated from the H.L. Miller Cantorial School (Cantors’ Institute) of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

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Farid Dardashti
Hazzan Emeritus
(914) 235-2700 Ext.: 228

Prayer Team

Jack Klebanow, Music Director, is excited to be part of Beth El’s prayer team, helping to build community and to create deep, aesthetic and spiritually moving experiences.  Jack is a multi-instrumentalist with a broad musical background, including composing and arranging as well as performance in classical, pop and Jewish repertoires. Important music teachers have included Laurence Honan, Luise Vosgerchian, and Al Goltzer. 

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Jack Klebanow
Music Director

Jessica Fisher, Rabbinic Fellow, is entering her fifth year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary and is thrilled to be joining the clergy team at Beth El. She is looking forward to being part of the Beth El community as it works to realize its new vision and to help leverage the potential of family engagement and education in the life of the congregation.

Over the past several years, Jessica has worked in a number of Conservative synagogues in the New York area and Chicago. She has also worked at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, completed a unit of clinical pastoral education through JTS, and had a fellowship in interfaith and community relations with the Jewish Community Relations Council in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before starting rabbinical school, she ran the Chicago Diller Teen Fellows program at the Jewish Federation. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Jessica first moved to New York to attend the joint program between Columbia University and JTS, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in the History of Social Inequality in the Americas and Midrash. Jessica is a certified natural foods chef and loves experimenting with new bread recipes.

Jessica Fisher

Rabbinic Fellow

Becca Weintraub, Rabbinic Fellow, is a lifelong spiritual seeker, self-diagnosed travel junkie, and Shabbat host extraordinaire. Her dedication to creating a more compassionate world made her fall in love with Torah and ultimately lead her to study at Hebrew College Rabbinical School. A native of Westchester, she is thrilled to come back to her home county to join the Beth El community once a month as a rabbinic intern. She is a proud mikveh guide at Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh, a passionate alumni coordinator for the Hadar Institute, loyal member of the community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, and returning rabbinic intern at Temple Emunah in Lexington, MA. She currently lives in Somerville, MA with her travel buddy and husband Jeremy. She is looking forward to a year of davening, learning, schmoozing, and asking big questions with you!

Rebecca Weintraub

Rabbinic Fellow

Sun, April 5 2020 11 Nisan 5780