Alexander Davis is a senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN where he previously served as an 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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Avi S. Olitzky is a senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN where he previously served as an associate rabbi. He 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. From a community engagement standpoint, Rabbi Olitzky is heavily involved in local and national politics—especially in the arena of Israel advocacy. While in Rabbinical School, Rabbi Olitzky served as a US Navy CCPO and reached the rank of Lieutenant. He currently serves as a chaplain with the Plymouth and St. Louis Park Police Departments. Stemming from a deep involvement in USY as a youth, Rabbi Olitzky continued 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 with the AHA Renegades. And when not on the ice, cooking and enjoying good food (pescatarian of course!) is where you will find him. Rabbi Olitzky is blessed with four children: Aliza, Akiva, Miryam, and Yonatan.
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Ben Tisser began his cantorial training at age six under Cantor Herschel Fox (Valley Beth Shalom, Los Angeles), serving as Fox’s synagogue organist from age 12, and earning his investiture from JTS in 2013. A noted composer and arranger, his choral arrangements are sung in synagogues around the country. In 2012 his setting of Achat Sha’alti was a finalist in the Shalshelet Music Festival in Miami. An active performer, he has performed at the Palau de la Musica Catalan in Barcelona, Jazz@Lincoln Center in New York, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and synagogues around the world – most recently in Nice, France, and Dresden, Germany. He has been privileged to teach and lecture for Jewish communities around the United States, Europe and Israel, most recently for the Masorti community Maayane Or in Nice, France; and the Judische Gemeinde of the Neue Synagoge in Dresden, Germany. Hazzan Tisser currently serves on the Executive Council of the Cantors Assembly, the largest body of Hazzanim in the world, and is President of its Midwest Region. Standing out among his greatest accomplishments are his two children, Talia and Ethan. He and his wife Robyn were married in early 2020.
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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. 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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