Synagogues Take Advantage of the Summer by Making Changes


While some people use the warm weather as an excuse to relax or go down the shore, many synagogues in Greater Philadelphia were hard at work.

From maintenance projects to new hires to the implementation of new programs, synagogues have been busy. Those coming back from vacation will have much to look forward to as the holiday season approaches. Here’s a rundown of a few of the changes at local shuls.

Beth Am Israel

The Penn Valley congregation launched Mercaz HaLev: Heart-Centered Judaism at BAI for the mind, body and soul, according to Sarah Lefkowitz, the synagogue’s education program administrator and communications coordinator.

Starting in September, the initiative will bring people together for the study of ancient and contemporary Jewish text, music, prayer, yoga, meditation and Tikkun Middot learning. The program’s first event will take place the weekend of Sept. 20. Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, scholar-in-residence at the LGBTQ shul Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, will be in attendance for Shabbat and a ‘pre-Slichot’ program.

In other Beth Am Israel news, Lori Dafilou began work as executive director in July. Previously, she had worked at Society Hill Synagogue, Adath Israel and Congregation Or Ami.

Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel
Windows dating to 1957 at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel were replaced with the modern equivalent. (Courtesy of Brian Rissinger)

Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel

Two major projects were completed at the Elkins Park synagogue. Windows dating to 1957 on the side of the building facing Old York Road were replaced with more modern equivalents. In addition, an egress window was incorporated as part of the design in order to allow for another potential exit.

“That was a major undertaking,” Executive Director Brian Rissinger said. He said the new windows will improve safety, comfort and save money on heating. Another project was the construction of a playground for infants. All of this, Rissinger said, was made possible due to the contributions of congregation members.

Or Hadash, A Reconstructionist Congregation

On Aug. 5, the Fort Washington congregation welcomed Rabbi Alanna Sklover as the new senior rabbi. Previously, Sklover worked as director of lifelong learning at the Germantown Jewish Centre. Sklover will replace Joshua Waxman, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, who served Or Hadash for 15 years.

“I’m excited to be joining the really wonderful community at Or Hadash,” Sklover said. “I’ve been struck by how warm and welcoming this community is and how every member, whether they’ve been a part of Or Hadash for 35, 36 years since its founding or just a couple of years, seems to reflect that what keeps them there is a sense of feeling at home, and that’s something my family and I have experienced since we joined the community.”

Sklover attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where she received her rabbinic ordination with a specialization in the congregational rabbinate. Her educational background includes a bachelor of arts in theater and religion from Goucher College, as well as study at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Conservative Yeshiva.

The synagogue also introduced new assisted listening devices to make services more accessible.

Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El

In August, the synagogue brought on Hallie Chandler to serve as the new director of community engagement, according to Executive Director Ken Krivitzky. Work also began on replacing an old air conditioning unit in the sanctuary. That project is expected to be completed by September.

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