Alexander Davis is the senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN where he previously served as the associate rabbi. He received his B.A. in German Studies from Grinnell College and in 1999 graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary with rabbinic ordination and an M.A. in Jewish Education. Since moving to the Twin Cities, Rabbi Davis has served on a variety of local boards and has participated in national conferences on Judaism and spirituality and synagogue leadership. He is passionate about learning and teaching Torah and lives to share the beauty, wisdom and meaning of Jewish living with others. In addition, he loves cooking, travel and the arts. Rabbi Davis grew up in Portland, Oregon and lived in Jerusalem and New York City before moving with his wife, Esther, to the Twin Cities. They are blessed with four boys, Yonah, Yaakov, Micah and Amichai.
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Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky graduated from the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2003 where he was awarded a BA in Sociology and a BA in Talmud and Rabbinics. Rabbi Olitzky went on to receive an MA in Midrash in October 2007 and his ordination as a rabbi in May 2008. He is particularly interested in making Jewish learning and engagement accessible to all backgrounds, levels and interests. This speaks to Rabbi Olitzky’s founding and directing MSP Kosher, a local Kashrut agency committed to providing strict Kosher supervision free-of-charge, increasing the quantity of supervised kosher establishments and providing transparency in kashrut supervision. While in Rabbinical School, Rabbi Olitzky served as a US Navy CCPO and reached the rank of Lieutenant and he serves as a chaplain with the Plymouth Police Department. Stemming from a deep involvement in USY as a youth Rabbi Olitzky continues to commit himself to youth work over the years, believing that youth groups are vital to developing a Jewish identity in young people. Rabbi Olitzky is also an avid hockey fan and you might just catch him on the ice—regardless of the season. Rabbi Olitzky is married to Sarah who holds a PhD in Bilingual School Psychology, and shares his passion for food and vegetarianism. The Olitzkys are blessed with four children, Aliza, Akiva, Miryam and Yonatan.
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Cantor Abrams, originally from Rochester, New York, has a B.M. in Music Therapy from Michigan State University and an M.A. in Music Education and Therapy from the University of Minnesota. She received her cantorial certification from Hebrew Union College in 2001. Her work with Beth El began in 1990 when she became Hazzan Sheini for the High Holy Days. At the time she was living in Connecticut with her husband, David, and flew in each year for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In 1995, she and David, with their two young daughters, Rachel and Sally, moved back to Minneapolis where she took on the job as program director at Beth El. After certification, Cantor Abrams assumed the title of Associate Cantor until Cantor Newman’s retirement in 2007. Cantor Abrams is very involved in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and believes strongly in contemplative practices elevating ones connections to their Judaism. In her spare time, Cantor Abrams enjoys walks around the lakes, bike rides with David, doing art projects and art classes, movies, traveling and the TWINS!
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Cantor Newman joined the Beth El staff in 1980 after serving congregations in Philadelphia and Syracuse. In addition to his Bachelor of Sacred Music and Cantorial Investiture from the School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he holds an M.A. in Religious Education and a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from Syracuse University. Cantor Newman supervises and teaches in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programs both for our young students as well as adults. He is advisor to the Beth El Music and Arts (BEMA) and the Lihyot B’kesher (College-Age Keep-In-Touch) committees. He served for eight years as chairman of the American Conference of Cantors Certification Committee, mentoring candidates through studies leading to cantorial certification. Cantor Newman is married to Saranee. They have five children and four grandchildren.
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Rabbi Abelson first came to Beth El in 1948, leaving in 1951 for the military and returning in 1957 as assistant rabbi to Rabbi David Aronson, Beth El’s first rabbi. He has been a devoted teacher and leader stepping down as Beth El Senior Rabbi in 1992 to become active in setting national Judaic policy. During his forty plus years as Beth El’s Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Abelson created United Synagogue Youth and an egalitarian relationship for both men and women in the study and reading of the Torah. He is also responsible for a strong TaRBuT (B’nai mitzvah training) Program and Rimonim-a post-B’nai Mitzvah class, in which teens teach future B’nai Mitzvah candidates.
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