Today is December 11, 2018 -
Rabbi Ari Saks comes to the Huntington Jewish Center after spending five years at Congregation Beth Mordecai in Perth Amboy, NJ. During that time, Rabbi Saks launched many innovative programs to infuse passion and energy into this 122 year old Jewish community. He is a community cheerleader, inspiring a relatable, relevant and meaningful form of Judaism that excites people of all ages to connect to their Jewish identities, and he is excited to share that passion for Judaism with the HJC Kehilla.
Rabbi Saks is also known for his outreach efforts in the local Jewish and township communities. He was nicknamed the “Mall Rabbi” for setting up office hours in a local mall. Rabbi Saks served as President of the Rabbinical Association in the Heart of New Jersey and served as a Deputy Commander of the Perth Amboy Police Chaplain Corps.
Born into a family filled with rabbis, Rabbi Saks spent his youth hoping to avoid the rabbinic profession and become a sports journalist following around one of his beloved Philadelphia sports teams. After many powerful Jewish experiences at Camp Ramah, in USY, in Israel, and at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Saks knew he wanted to devote his life to the Jewish people. However, it wasn’t until he had a particularly transformative experience that he felt “called” to be a rabbi and has embraced that “call” ever since. More than any program he’s run or been a part of, Rabbi Saks has experienced the “call” to be a rabbi in his conversations with people about their Jewish and religious identities, and in being present for important smachot and life-cycle events. He feels a profound sense of appreciation, responsibility, and humility in being allowed entry into some of the most important moments in people’s lives.
Rabbi Saks received smicha, an M.A. in Jewish Education and a B.A in Bible from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Columbia University in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures. Rabbi Saks lives in Huntington with his wife Rachel and his two beautiful children – Jonah and Lilah.
Cantor Israel Gordan has been an active part of the music scene of the independent minyans, which are drawing thousands of young adults back to synagogue and Judaism with their traditional, but captivating music. Cantor Gordan brings this music to the Huntington Jewish community, and this can be experienced at our synagogue’s Friday Night Live services, which feature instrumental music and spirited singing. “We need to sustain the traditional music of Jewish worship, but do it in a way that touches people’s souls and attracts them to synagogue – especially our teenagers and young adults, according to HJC’s Rabbi Neil Kurshan. In addition to leading services, Cantor Gordan (Izzy) teaches music in the religious and nursery schools, prepares students for Bar/Bat Mitzvah and runs adult education programs, such as adult Bar Mitzvah training. Cantor Gordan is also our Director of Synagogue Programming & Religious School Innovation. In an important component of this role, the Cantor provides internal consulting advice and substantive input to our school curriculum that is intended to help us re-imagine our educational vision. The Cantor’s expanded role will extend beyond the school and into programming for the synagogue at large as well.
Born in Seattle, WA, Izzy grew up in Massachusetts. He majored in Urban Studies at NYC’s Columbia College, and spent a semester studying at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After graduating college, Izzy moved to Los Angeles where he worked for Camp Ramah, and for Marc Platt Productions at Universal Studios. Returning to New York, Izzy worked for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2007, Izzy began his studies at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary and quickly became a student of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education as well. Cantor Gordan graduated from JTS in May of 2011 with a Masters in Jewish Education, a Masters of Sacred Music, and ordination as Hazzan. Izzy is married to Abigail Uhrman, who earned her Ph.D. in Education and Jewish Studies from NYU and is an assistant professor of Jewish education at JTS. They are the proud parents of Noa Ariel, Eli Jonah and Maya.
Ilene Brown, Director, Early Childhood Center Ilene Brown has been affiliated with the Huntington Jewish Center for sixteen years. Her children began attending the Early Childhood Center 16 years ago, and since then, it has been her “home away from home.” After she had her first child, she left a career in retail management to pursue a career in education. She received her Masters of Science Degree in Elementary Education from NYIT and is permanently certified to teach Early Childhood – Grade 6. Soon after her daughter was born, Ilene began teaching at HJC as an assistant teacher in the 4 year old program. The following year, she became the lead teacher of a 3 year old class and the librarian for the ECC. She also taught many enrichment classes during this time. Ilene taught at HJC for 11 years before happily accepting the role of the Early Childhood Director. Ilene has been married to her husband, Duncan, for 22 years. She has two children, Cameron and Lauren. She is active board member for her civic association, volunteers at a local cat shelter and does work for a local head start program. Ilene loves the outdoors, reading and music.
Maxine Fisher, Religious School Administrator
Neil Kurshan is our Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Kurshan served as the spiritual leader of the Huntington Jewish Center for 31 years. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his Doctorate in Education from Harvard. Rabbi Kurshan was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and has served Conservative congregations in Port Washington and Huntington, N.Y. He is the author of the acclaimed book, Raising Your Child to be a Mensch.
Vicki Perler became Huntington Jewish Center’s President in June, 2017.