Every summer, Jewish congregations throughout Connecticut welcome new clergy to several congregations. The Ledger welcomes this year’s group of rabbis and cantors.
Rabbi Andi Fliegel comes to Congregation Beth Israel from the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, where she served as rabbinic intern during her last two years at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-IR) in New York. She succeeds Associate Rabbi Dena Shaffer.
Fliegel grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, as a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. She graduated in 2009 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in Psychology and a Jewish Studies certificate. She then participated in Project OTZMA, a 10-month volunteer program in Israel. From 2012-13, Fliegel served as a Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Fellow at Jewish Family Service Cincinnati. While in Cincinnati, she also taught at Rockdale Temple religious school and served student congregations in Bay City and Trenton, Michigan.
From 2013-14, Fliegel worked at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan as third and fourth grade level coordinator.
Fliegel was ordained in May from HUC-JIR, where she also earned a master’s in Religious Education and Hebrew Letters. She worked as director of Jewish Life at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy during its inaugural summer in 2014. In 2015, she completed her second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education after a yearlong internship on the Palliative Care Unit of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In 2014-15, she, served as a Global Justice Fellow with American Jewish World Service. In summer 2015, she worked as an intern at Woodlands Community Temple in White Plains, New York. Last August, she married Daniel Fliegel, a fellow HUC-JIR student.
Reflecting on her educational experience at HUC-JIR, Fliegel says, “I embarked on a journey that would enable me to explore my passions as an educator, pastor, and pursuer of social justice through various internships and fellowships in congregations, camps, hospitals, and campus Hillel work. These opportunities have broadened my sense of spirit, sense of self, and my sense of the rabbinate.”
A native of western Pennsylvania, Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg grew up in South Florida as part of a Conservative family oriented around synagogue life. “Early on, I really wanted to continue being part of a synagogue community,” he says. “As a teenager, I was trying to figure out what kind of work I could do that would give me the time to be able to go to shul. And then I thought, ‘Why not work for the synagogue? But I never thought that somebody from a small town in South Florida could grow up to be a rabbi, but the more I got into it, the more I realized I could do it.”
Konigsburg earned a BA in Social Psychology from Florida Atlantic University and a BA in Literature from the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) in Los Angeles. In 1983, he received a master’s degree and ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity honoris causa in 2010. JTS also awarded him the Simon Greenberg Award for Rabbinic Excellence.
Konigsburg comes to BSBI from Temple Beth-El in Birmingham, Alabama, and has served congregations in Hollywood and Delray Beach, Florida, and in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has certificates in pastoral crisis counseling, kashrut supervision, and substance abuse pastoral care, and has completed a residency in pastoral cancer care. He is also a certified fundraising executive and is certified in institutional management through the Rabbinical Assembly and JTS. He is a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
In South Florida, Konigsburg served as president of the Southeast Region of the Rabbinical Assembly and of the Broward Board of Rabbis, and vice president of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis.
“As a rabbi, I am first and foremost a teacher and pastor; I have taken the time to learn about the special concerns of Judaism today and how study, prayer, music, and social action contribute to attracting Jews back to a spiritual life,” says Konigsburg. “I have worked hard in the area of community action because I believe in the power of faith to make our communities better. I am passionate about engaging Jews of all ages, teaching them to understand how our faith and our commitment to acts of kindness can bring meaning into their busy lives.”
Konigsburg is a member of the national board of MERCAZ USA, the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. He has been on staff at Camp Ramah in Georgia and in Palmer, Massachusetts, and has led teens on the March of the Living. He is a recipient of the Israel Bonds Golden Shofar Award.
While in Florida, Konigsburg served as president of the Delray Beach Interfaith Clergy Association and the Inter-Faith Council of Greater Hollywood, where he was awarded the David Keating Award for his interfaith work in South Broward County. In Birmingham, he is a member of the Southside Interfaith Council and a member of the Greater Birmingham Ministries.
Konigsburg is married to Michelle, a Jewish educator. The couple has three grown and married children: (Rabbi) Ashira, Eitan, and Hillel.
Cantor Sabrina Lipton comes to Temple Sinai from Greenwich Reform Synagogue, where she has served since 2009. She succeeds Cantor Donna Gordon, who retired from Temple Sinai at the end of 2015.
A native of Katonah, New York, Lipton was influenced by two pianists in her family: her father, who played jazz during college, and her grandmother, who taught her piano. Early on, she gravitated to opera and began her vocal studies at age 12. She studied voice at the Tanglewood Young Artists Vocal Program and, while in high school, attended a pre-college program at the Juilliard School. Lipton entered Carnegie-Mellon University and went on to earn a Bachelor of Music from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase 1988. She studied classical music at a summer program of the Conservatoire National à Rayonnement Régional in Nice, France. Soon after her graduation from SUNY, Cantor Lipton sang for acclaimed soprano Dame Joan Sutherland in England at the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies in a master class, accompanied by Richard Bonynge, the Australian conductor and pianist. She later studed for two years in the Academy of Jewish Religion cantorial program.
Lipton began her cantorial career with Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, New York, where she served from 1991 to 2005. Subsequently, she worked at synagogues in Scarsdale, New York, and Tenafly, New Jersey, before joining Greenwich Reform Synagogue.
At Temple Sinai, Lipton will serve part-time during the summer and begin her full-time position in September. In addition to leading the musical aspects of Temple Sinai’s services, Lipton will assist Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett with lifecycle events, teach music in the religious school, and conduct other educational activities for children and adults.
“My love of music is diverse,” Lipton says. “I have always had a passion for singing and performing a variety of musical styles. I also find teaching b’nai mitzvah and voice students tremendously rewarding. My biggest spiritual fulfillment however, comes from the marriage of prayer and song. I consider it to be an extreme privilege to be a part of people’s lifecycle events.”
Newly ordained from Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., where she also earned a master’s in Jewish Education, “Rabbi Bekah” succeeds Rabbi Howard Herman, who retired last month after a 36-year tenure.
Raised in a small Reform Jewish community in Carlyss, Louisiana, Mag earned a BA in 2007 from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she focused on philosophy and Jewish studies and founded the LSU Hillel. She also worked at one of the local synagogues. After graduating, she worked at the New Orleans JCC as the children’s and camp director. She then spent a year in Tel Aviv, studying at the Bina Secular Yeshiva and working in several social justice programs. When Mag entered Hebrew College in 2010, she was the school’s first-ever rabbinic candidate from southwest Louisiana.
Mag has extensive experience working with children and teens in religious schools and Jewish camps. She has written and implemented curricula designed to engage young teens and spent eight summers leading programming at several Jewish camps. While in rabbinical school, Mag served as rabbi of Congregation Betenu in Amherst, New Hampshire and as rabbinic intern at Wheaton College, Emerson College, Temple Shalom Emeth (Burlington, Massachusetts), Temple Beth Israel (Winsted), and at her home congregation, Temple Sinai (Lake Charles, Louisiana). She also taught at the religious schools of Temple Sinai in Brookline, Mass. and Temple Beth Elohim in Newton, Mass. As a member of an extended interfaith family, Mag developed an early professional focus on working with interfaith families in a synagogue community.
Mag comes to Simsbury with her husband, Saul (son of Kathi and Eliot Mag), who grew up as a congregant of FVJC.
“Saul and I are so excited to raise our family and build our home in FVJC’s warm, welcoming, holy community,” she says. “I look forward to working with the fantastic team of leadership at FVJC and in partnership with all area clergy to help strengthen our religious communities together.” The couple has an infant daughter, Isabela.
Lauren Phillips, a native of Great Neck, N.Y., earned a BA in Music with a minor in Communications and Media Studies from Tufts University and a Masters in Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory. She was invested as cantor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in May 2013.
While in New York, she served as student cantor for Union Temple in Brooklyn.
At Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan, Phillips taught her b’nai mitzvah students to serve in the role of shaliach tzibur (prayer leader). In summer 2011, she completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. During this time, she served as chaplain intern in the Breast Cancer and Gynecology Unit. In summer 2012, she served as lead prayer educator for a National Federation for Temple Youth (NFTY) trip to Israel, Poland, and the Czech Republic. With NFTY in Israel, Phillips mentored a unit of 160 teenagers from around North America in service leadership.
Phillips has worked as a Jewish educator and a publicist at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. During the 2009-10 academic year, she served as student cantor for Port Jewish Center, located just a few miles from her hometown of Great Neck, N.Y. She has also appeared as a cantorial guest at her home synagogue, Temple Israel of Great Neck, and at numerous other congregations in North America and Israel.
An alumna of Hazamir: The National Jewish High School Choir, Phillips is a member of the Hazamir Alumni Council. She has performed with Shir Chadash: The Brooklyn Jewish Community Chorus, and participated in a service and gala concert celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of the beloved synagogue composer, Max Janowski, at KAM-Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago. As an interpreter of opera and musical theater repertoire, Phillips has performed around the U.S., Italy, and Israel in productions of Die Fledermaus, Ariadne auf Naxos, Oklahoma!, and 1776.
Phillips currently serves as the cantor at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she founded an award-winning “Sinai in the City” program for young professionals and developed “Itsy Bitsy Sinai” for preschoolers and their families.
Stephen Wylen grew up outside Philadelphia, where he and his family attended weekly Friday-night services at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood. During high school, he was active in youth group and religious school. At age 16, he changed his career goal from biologist to rabbi. He earned a BA at the University of Pennsylvania with a major in English and went on to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Jerusalem and New York.
After ordination in 1980, Wylen served as assistant rabbi at Temple DeHirsch Sinai in Seattle, where he met his future wife, Cheryl.
Wylen took his first senior-rabbi position in 1982 at B’nai Sholom Congregation in Huntington, West Virginia. After six years there, he moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he served as spiritual leader of Temple Hesed and taught at University of Scranton. In 1995, he started a 20-year tenure at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, New Jersey, retiring in 2015. Since then, he has served as an interim rabbi, currently in Jackson, Mississippi.
He combines his love of writing with his love of sharing Jewish teachings by writing books about Judaism. His first published book, Settings of Silver, has been for many years the most popular college introduction to Judaism. It is also used in many conversion and adult-education classes. Wylen also wrote The Book of the Jewish Year, the textbook on Jewish holidays for the Reform movement. His other works include The Jews in the Time of Jesus, The Seventy Faces of Torah, and Gossip: The Power of the Word. It is Wylen’s belief that the teachings of Judaism are so beautiful and such a powerful guide to living that they should have a wide audience.
Wylen enjoys bicycling, playing golf and baking bread, including challah for Shabbat. He loves a good Torah discussion and believes that the synagogue is the central and most necessary institution to transmit the spirit of Judaism. He believes that Jews will choose Judaism when they experience the positive difference that living as a Jew can make in one’s life. He takes seriously the dictum of Hillel that one must learn something new every day, because we are always moving either forwards or backwards. In accepting the position at Kol Haverim, Wylen says, “I will be wherever God wants me to be.”
The Wylens have four children and a growing number of grandchildren. Jeremy lives in Seattle, Elisheva and Shoshana live in Israel, and Golda lives in New Jersey.
Riverdale, New York native Rabbi Oran Zweiter is a graduate of Yeshiva University, where he received his rabbinic ordination and master’s in Talmud from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He teaches Judaic studies to middle-school students at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and is currently fulfilling prerequisites toward a PhD in American Jewish history. Zweiter served the previous three years at the Riverdale Jewish Center in New York as an intern and rabbinic associate and has spent summers participating in various teaching programs across North America. He also completed a healthcare chaplaincy internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
“After working for a number of years in various communal settings, I realized that I wanted the opportunity to help people in different aspects of their lives,” Zweiter says. “I enjoyed teaching as well as general opportunities to be there for people and help guide them through various stages of their lives.”
Zweiter accepted the assistant rabbi position at Agudath Sholom because he and his fiancee, Chani Kovacs, were given such a warm welcome while visiting during the search process.
“What struck us most about the community is the diversity of its members in terms of age, place in life, and Jewish background,” he says. “It is exactly the type of community that we were looking for, one in which people can be in different places, but come together in cohesive, non-judgmental manner.”
In his new role, Zweiter hopes to bring his motivation for teaching and reaching out to people, and helping them to grow “no matter where they are and where they are coming from,” he says. “I think I have the opportunity to gain an enormous amount from the people of Agudath Sholom and Stamford in general. We’ve already begun to forge relationships with some of the members and look forward to deepening those and connecting to others. I also feel like Rabbi [Daniel] Cohen will be an excellent rabbi to learn from. I can already see how active and committed he is, and look forward to furthering our relationship both professionally and personally.”
In his free time, Zweiter enjoys reading, cycling, and following his New York Mets and Giants.