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Our People

Meet the Clergy, Staff, and community Leadership that make US.

Clergy

Our rabbis and cantors are committed to instilling our synagogue with their passion, love of Torah, and Jewish knowledge as they lead our congregation and inspire our members.

Deeply concerned about the health and welfare of our congregants, they provide personal pastoral care and are there for all when the need arises. From life cycle events and services to classes and community building - this is an extraordinary team of gifted spiritual leaders.

To contact members of our clergy please click here to email or call 310-472-1255.

Senior Clergy

Interim Rabbi Barry Lutz  is a passionate and enthusiastic teacher and spiritual leader. He seeks to create personal and meaningful connections to Jewish tradition by striving to create a community where each individual is valued and feels at home. An experienced educator and sensitive pastoral counselor Barry brings his full heart and soul to each encounter, whether it be offering Torah's wisdom to a group of teens or sharing a personal chat over a cup of coffee at a favorite coffee house.

Barry was ordained by the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, from which he also received his MA and honorary doctorate in Jewish education. (He also holds an MS in Educational Psychology and Technology from USC - although he is, at heart, a Bruin.)

Barry loves running, basketball, playing the guitar, the Dodgers and Broncos (his hometown team).

He and his wife Debbie are the proud parents of Rabbi Adam/Cantor Emma, Jeremy, and Emily.

Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro has been with University Synagogue since 2014. She received her cantorial ordination and masters of sacred music from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in 2003.

Cantor Shapiro’s was the first female voice to be heard at the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York City. She has also appeared in concert at Town Hall and Symphony Space in New York City; Beit Daniel, Tel Aviv, Israel; The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in Rome, Italy; and at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cantor Shapiro has also been a leader in interfaith dialogue through Saint Joseph's University Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations and Sacred Heart University's Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding. She has been a guest lecturer at the Hebrew Union College (New York & LA campuses), New York University's Ireland House and Trinity College in Dublin.

Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, she graduated with a B.A. in English from Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota, and then pursued further study at the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Cantor Shapiro served on the board of the American Conference of Cantors from 2006-2018, as a trustee and as vice president of member relations and external partnerships. She currently is the cantorial liaison to the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Women in the Rabbinate. Cantor Shapiro has a personal meditation practice and is pursuing training as a Jewish Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

She is married to Dr. Scott Spencer, an academic trained in ethnomusicology, whose work focuses on intersections of oral tradition and digital technology. They live in the Pacific Palisades with their two children, Zev and Frances.

Associated Clergy

Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds serves as one of our affiliated clergy on a part-time basis. Rabbi Simonds served as out rabbinic intern from 2007-2009, upon his ordination he served as the associate Rabbi for our synagogue from 2009-2017. In 2017 Rabbi Simonds became the founding executive director of the Jewish Center for Justice, where he envisioned the need for a Jewish justice organization to reach the unaffiliated and expand the breadth and scope of the wider Jewish community. Rabbi Simonds also serves as Rabbi of the Synagogue for the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. He is married to Attorney Ariella Thal Simonds and they are the proud parents of their two sons.

Cantorial Intern Ze'evi Berman is a third year cantorial student at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. Ze'evi grew up in Newton, Massachusetts at Temple Shalom of Newton and attended URJ Eisner Camp as a camper, counselor, and head songleader. At Bennington College, Ze'evi earned at BA in Vocal Performance, was a member of Interfaith at Bennington, and co-founded Bennington's first Jewish student organization, Kulanu. While studying at Bennington, Ze'evi held internships at the Boston Jewish Music Festival, Keshet, and Romemu. Before beginning cantorial school, Ze'evi served as music educator and tefilah leader at five New York City congregations, developing and leading engaging curricula for toddlers to adults and every age in between. During their first two years at HUC-JIR DFSSM, Ze'evi served as Student Cantor for Kehillat HaShachar, in Even Yehuda, Israel, and Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, in Manhattan. Following their second year of cantorial school, Ze’evi was selected for the T'ruah Rabbinical and Cantorial Student Summer Fellowship for Human Rights and worked with Faith in New York, organizing around the 2020 Census. Ze'evi is excited to join University Synagogue as Student Cantor and continue their cantorial studies in Los Angeles. In their free time, Ze'evi practices circus partner acrobatics.

Emeritus Clergy

Rabbi Emeritus Morley T. Feinstein grew up on the Westside of Los Angeles and attended Beverly Hills High School. He attended the University of California, Berkeley where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with highest honors.

 

Ordained in 1981 at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Rabbi Feinstein served as the assistant and first associate rabbi of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, Texas. From 1987 to 2002, he served as senior rabbi of Temple Beth-El in South Bend, Indiana. During his tenure there, he received Indiana’s highest citizen honor - The Sagamore of the Wabash - from its governor for his efforts in promoting peace and justice. Named a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, Rabbi Feinstein brings his deep commitment and passion for Torah, filled with energy, a zest for learning, and his love of music to his sacred work. He has devoted time for thirty four summers teaching at the camps of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Feinstein serves on the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, was the Treasurer of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and is a past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

He is married to Dr. Margarete Myers Feinstein, a historian and professor at Loyola Marymount University. They are blessed with two sons, Aaron, a physician; Ari, a Jewish Educator; twin daughters, Eliana and Renata, juniors at Pali High; and two grandchildren.

Rabbi Emeritus Allen I. Freehling, for 30 years beginning in 1972, served as the senior rabbi at University Synagogue. During that period, the synagogue emerged as a dynamic proponent of Reform Judaism – providing an assortment of worship experiences, religious education offerings and cultural and social opportunities for hundreds of adults and children. The synagogue family grew from nearly two hundred households to more than a thousand and became a “House of Prayer for All Peoples,” where multiple interfaith activities welcomed individual Jews and non-Jews. Rabbi Freehling became known as a pioneering communal leader, and a champion of human rights – not only in Southern California but throughout the world.

When he was designated as University Synagogue’s first rabbi emeritus in 2002, Mayor James K. Hahn and his successor Antonio Villaraigosa, appointed Rabbi Freehling to serve as the executive director of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. He was the first Jewish clergy member to be invited to manage a municipal department. Then City Council Member Tony Cardenas, now a member of Congress, later asked the rabbi to serve as his deputy chief of staff. Rabbi Freehling and his wife Lori, now reside in New Orleans. He has two children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Cantor Emeritus Jay Frailich became University Synagogue’s first cantor emeritus when he retired in June 2014 after actively serving the congregation for 40 years. He was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion School of Sacred Music in New York where he later received a Doctor of Music degree.

Cantor Frailich served as President of the American Conference of Cantors in 1982-84. He is best known internationally for commissioning more than 30 major liturgical works and dozens of single pieces during his tenure.

He is a gifted teacher who brings his unique blend of knowledge, humor and vision to both children and adults. He continues to teach future rabbis and cantors as professor of liturgical studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California.

Cantor Jay and his wife Sandy, have two married daughters Cantor Lonee Frailich (Michael Gantman) and Reena Frailich, Esq. (Robert Stone), and four grandchildren.

Leadership

Officers

Fern Topas Salka & Jennifer Haarmann,
Co-Presidents

Seth Weisberg, Executive VP

Brian Lazarus, VP Development

Liana Schwarz, VP Education

Lisa Cohen, VP Membership/Engagement

Steven Goldsobel, VP Tikkun Olam

Bill Sanders, VP Administration 

Jennifer Haarmann, Treasurer

Susan Weiss, Secretary

Allan Golad, Immediate Past President

Affiliate Presidents

Resa Davids, Sisterhood President

Eliana Feinstein, UNITY President

Trustees

Julie Bank

Jonathan Carson

Ann Cheslaw

Jeffrey H. Cohen

Harvey Fein

Stephen Gingold

Lauren Gwartz

Abbi Hertz

Michelle Horvitz

Yasemin Khodadadi

Effie Katz

CJ Laffer

Behnaz Naeim

Gary Schoenfeld

Steve Sebolsky

Susan Weider

Past Presidents (listed in order of service)

Samuel A. Rosenthal

Ralph B. Herzog

Leonard D. Rosin

Jack N. Rogers

Samuel F. Barbas

Reginald Robbins

Bert I. Klein

George L. Marinoff

Ernest M. Lever

David Seigel

Kermit J. Baumoel

Major R. Mindel

A. Paul  Goldman

Henry S. Rose

William D. Spector

William M. Gray

Deborah L. Raboy

Judith E. Robins

Howard S. Banchik

Robert A. Mirisch

Frank L. Wolf

Jerry Werlin

Steven J. Miller

James Banks

Geoffrey Gee

Buddy Jolton

Fern Topas Salka

Alan S. Goldman

Roy Weinstein

Harold P. Reichwald

Jeffrey Melvoin & Steve Mindel

Michael L. Tuchin

Howard J. Weg

Jocelyn Silverman

Donna Shapiro

Allan Golad

Staff

Administrative 

Toby L. Berkow, Executive Director TBerkow@unisyn.org

Hang Ho, Controller HHo@unisyn.org

Bonnie Kebre, Facilities Coordinator BKebre@unisyn.org

Lauren Kaplan, Communication & Engagement Manager LKaplan@unisyn.org

Rebecca Auza Owens, Executive Assistant to the Clergy ClergyAdmin@unisyn.org

Ruth A. Featherstone, Reception Reception@unisyn.org

School Administration

April Schafer, Director of Early Childhood Learning Center ASchafer@unisyn.org

Alana Levitt, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Learning Center ALevitt@unisyn.org

Marianne Crawford, Religious School Administrator unisynadmin@unisyn.org

Music Program

Susan Rosenstein, Music Director SRosenstein@unisyn.org

Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779