Rabbi Sharon Ballan
“Now when Pharoah let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land
of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, 'The people may
have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.' So God
led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.” (Ex. 13:17)
Like the Children of Israel, my path to the rabbinate was a roundabout one. I did not “pass go” and go straight to rabbinical school. When my great-grandmother died, my father realized that ‘mama’ was the only one in his family who had carried on any Jewish traditions. Troubled, he decided to seek the advice of a rabbi at a small Reform synagogue near our Long Island home. At first, he stayed in the back of the synagogue and observed, but he finally chose to learn more about Judaism, and to teach his family about it.
My family joined that synagogue, and I proudly chanted from the Torah at my Bat Mitzvah, something that most young Jewish women weren’t doing in the early ’70s. Becoming a rabbi never crossed my mind then, because there were no female rabbi role models for me.
I went on to graduate from Adelphi University Magna Cum Laude with a major in Communications and a minor in Fine Art, and worked in the advertising and marketing industry.
As a young adult, I joined a Reform synagogue on Long Island, because I felt it was important to give my daughter a Jewish education. I immediately became involved, attending services regularly, joining the choir and attending Torah study on Saturday mornings. I became a member of the Board of Directors, chaired the Adult Education Committee, and worked closely with the rabbi to develop adult continuing education programs at the synagogue. I frequently read from the Torah and led services on Shabbat mornings in the absence of the cantor. The rabbi became a mentor and a friend to me and eventually urged me to consider the rabbinate, an idea I had never considered. At first I was skeptical, but eventually the idea won out.
I fell in love with teaching when I was asked to teach in the religious school’s 5th grade. Teaching became a part of my life as I taught professionally for the next eight years at Central Synagogue of Nassau in various capacities, from 4th and 5th grade Hebrew and Judaica to the 8th Grade Post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes.
I applied to The Academy for Jewish Religion in Riverdale, NY, and received rabbinic ordination in May, 2009. I have served many Jewish communities over the years, most recently—Congregation Sons of Israel, a small liberal non-denominational congregation in Chambersburg, PA where I was the rabbi from 2005-2009. I tutored b’nei mitzvah students at Hollis Hills Jewish Center, in Queens from 2005-2009, and also taught at Little Neck Jewish Center. In the summer of 2007, I served as Rabbi and Head of Jewish Culture at Camp Pembroke, in Massachusetts.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to become a member of and to serve the Temple Beth Sholom family and look forward to the many opportunities to learn, pray, sing, and rejoice together with you!
Cantor Sandy Horowitz
I did not grow up in a religious home, or attend Hebrew School, or have a bat
mitzvah when I turned 13. So how did I end up deciding to become a Cantor?
It’s been a long and winding road.
I was raised in a secular Jewish foreign service family, living abroad for most of my childhood. When we finally landed back in this country I was just starting high school, at Sidwell Friends in Washington D.C.; it was during my time at this Quaker school that I became deeply interested in the spiritual aspects of religion, and I also discovered my love of singing. On to college – first Mount Holyoke, then Colgate where I graduated as an English major.
Soon after college I moved to New York City and began studying classical singing with an emphasis on music of the Italian Renaissance. I was fortunate enough to study not only in New York but also in Italy, taking master classes and studying privately in Urbino and Padua. In the meantime I fell into a career in information technology, where I worked in both the healthcare and financial industries. I also became licensed as a massage therapist, and am currently sole proprietor of a small practice, “Quest for Wellness”. You might say that my motto is, “life is never boring”
I first began to explore my Jewish roots shortly before my now-19-year-old daughter Sara was born. I immediately felt a connection through the music, and was also deeply moved by the sounds of the Hebrew language, even though I couldn’t yet understand most of what was being said. It wasn’t long before I was learning to become a lay leader – finally having found a way to connect my sense of spirituality with my love of music – through the lens of Judaism. I had an adult bat mitzvah in 2005 – and fell in love with Torah! In the meantime I was also serving on the board of my home congregation in Washington Heights, working on curriculum development and policy planning for the religious school, and tutoring b’nei mitzvah students.
Eventually I decided to become formally trained as a Cantor, wanting to obtain
the liturgical and historical background as well as the musical tools to
best serve a congregation. And so I began studying at the Academy for Jewish
Religion in 2008, where I am currently a cantorial student. Assuming the
role of Cantor at Temple Beth Sholom feels like a culmination of the many
roads I’ve taken along the way, and I feel grateful and excited to have
The anchors of my life are my husband Marty Morell, and daughter Sara who is currently a student at Swarthmore College. Our household is also graced with the presence of our happy dog Snoopy.
Rabbi Emeritus Bruce Goldwasser
Bruce Goldwasser became Temple Beth Sholom's third rabbi in 1978. He started
out as a construction worker and an estimator working for his father, and
still lifts weights at home. He then worked as a child welfare caseworker
in New Jersey where he met his wife Nancy who was taking over his caseload. "When we were first dating, he says in his usual humorous manner, we had sixty
children between us. So, she made an honest man of me, and we got married."
Ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Goldwasser received his degrees of Bachelor of Hebrew Literature and Master of Hebrew Literature with an academic prize in Theology. Before coming to Temple Beth Sholom, he served communities in Bluefield, West Virginia and Lombard, Illinois. His rabbinical thesis was based on a study of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). He was awarded his Doctorate of Divinity degree by HUC-JIR in 1995.
Rabbi Goldwasser retired in 2009 and was elected Rabbi Emeritus. He and Nancy have two children and two grandchildren. His definition of becoming a grandparent: "Going to heaven without having to die first."
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