Rabbi Beth Kalisch has served as Beth David's spiritual leader since 2013, when she became one of the first female senior rabbis in the area. Rabbi Kalisch came to Beth David from New York City, where she served at two of Manhattan's most historic congregations: the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, where she served as the Assistant and then Associate Rabbi, and Central Synagogue, where she served as the Adjunct Rabbi. In 2012, she was selected for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL)'s Rabbis Without Borders fellowship, designed to nurture the next generation of spiritual innovators; in 2015, she served as one of the inaugural fellows for CLAL’s LEAP Fellowship at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Rabbinic Council of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and she was recently appointed to the editorial board of the Reform Jewish Quarterly. Her original liturgy is published in the Reform Movement’s Rabbi’s Manual and in Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding.
Rabbi Kalisch was ordained by the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in 2009. In addition to receiving academic awards in homiletics, theology, and rabbinic literature, she wrote her thesis, a study of rabbinic writings on conversion and interfaith marriage, with HUC-JIR's then president, Rabbi David Ellenson. During rabbinical school, she served as the student rabbi for congregations in Wyoming, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ukraine; as an educator at a Reform Jewish summer camp; and as a chaplain intern at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A passionate social justice activist, she has marched with the NAACP in Alabama, traveled with the American Jewish World Service as a volunteer in El Salvador, volunteered with new Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, worked as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and broke a glass as the closing speaker for Philadelphia’s rally celebrating marriage equality in Pennsylvania.
She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University with distinction in Religious Studies and also sang with Yale's "first, best, and only" Jewish a cappella group, Magevet. An avid traveler, she loves exploring new neighborhoods, foods, and hiking trails, whether abroad or right here in Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Larry Levine, an environmental lawyer, live with their young daughter in the Fitler Square neighborhood of Center City Philadelphia.
Cantor Lauren Levy is thrilled to join the Beth David community and return to the Philadelphia area. She grew up in Voorhees, NJ and graduated Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelors of Arts, in Psychology, Music, and Italian Studies, from the University of Pennsylvania. She also completed her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Miami and performed in operas in Europe and New York City.
As a student at the DFSSM, she served as the Cantorial Intern at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA, Temple Beth Israel in York, PA, North Country Reform Temple in Glen Cove, NY, and Central Synagogue in New York, NY. Cantor Levy was also Co-Coordinator of the HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen, which provided warm healthy meals, toiletries, clothing, and legal services to 100 guests every Monday. She participated in the Israel T’ruah Fellowship during her Year-in-Israel and continues to work with them now – most recently with a liturgy group selecting texts to be set to music for the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. Cantor Levy grew up at Camp Harlam and worked as the Director of Jewish Life at URJ 6 Points Sports Academy, and she whole-heartedly encourages all children to get involved in Jewish camping! She also spent a summer as a chaplain intern comforting and celebrating with patients and their families at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
In her short time so far at Beth David, Cantor Levy has had the privilege to truly dive into many aspects of congregational life here. Through her joy and compassion, she has provided guidance and care during various lifecycle events for many congregants. From circle time with kindergarteners, to Torah practice with b’nai mitzvah students, to team building with madrichim, to Torah study (and coming soon trope class) with adults, Cantor Levy loves teaching all ages. She has also enhanced our music during services through her warmth and creativity and recently restarted the Beth David Choir, whose debut is today’s service.
Cantor Levy is engaged to Eric Goodman and has successfully already made him a Philadelphia Eagles fan! She also enjoys playing volleyball, kickboxing, spinning, and crocheting in her free time.
Henry Cohen was born in 1927 in Houston, Texas, into a family of Reform rabbis. After graduating from the University of Texas, he was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in 1953. He was an army chaplain and served as assistant rabbi in Great Neck, NY, where he met his wife, Edna. They moved to Champaign-Urbana where Henry served a "town and gown" congregation and received a Masters Degree in the Philosophy of Education.
Henry came to Beth David in 1964, where he remained until becoming rabbi emeritus in 1993. He initiated a bi-cultural Black-Jewish nursery school and was chairman of the Jewish Coalition for Peace. In 1974, he was part of a group of interfaith clergy who visited Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. In 1986 he and his wife visited the Soviet Union where they met with refuseniks, Soviet Jewish citizens denied permission to emigrate. Among the refuseniks they met were the parents of Beth David's cantor, Lilia Kazansky. The congregation campaigned for the release of David and Clara, who gained their freedom in 1987. Later, when Beth David moved to Gladwyne, Henry helped to form the Interfaith Hospitality of the Main Line.
He has written several books, including Why Judaism?, What's Special About Judaism? and a biography of his grandfather, Kindler of Souls: Rabbi Henry Cohen of Texas. His most recent work is Charley Braunstein and Jewish Tradition, which teaches Jewish themes using characters that are a take-off of the Charles Schultz's Charlie Brown cartoons.
Rabbi Cohen and Edna have been married for more than 50 years. They have two daughters, Shelly and Lisa, and a granddaughter, Tali.
Lilia Kazansky, Cantor Emerita zt”l
Lilia Kazansky graced Beth David Congregation with her beautiful voice starting on 1984 and she retired after 31 years in 2015. Sadly, we lost Cantor Kazansky in March of 2017.
In 1978, Lilia emigrated from the Former Soviet Union with her husband, Boris, and daughter, Miriam. In the Former Soviet Union, she received a masters degree in voice and concert piano, from the Moscow State Conservatory. In 1985 she graduated with a degree from the Hebrew Union College in New York. And, in 2010, she earned an honorary doctorate from HUC.
From her childhood, Lilia always had a special place in her heart for Jewish culture and music. As she says, "It came through the blood" from her Grandfather, who was a professional Cantor in the Ukraine. Lilia, together with her husband Boris, have performed classical repertoire, as well as folk and sacred music, in different cities of the U.S, Europe, and Russia.
Cantor Lilia is survived by husband Cantor Boris, daughters Rebecca and Miriam, and grandsons Jordan and Noah.
Zecher tzaddik livracha: The memory of a righteous person is a blessing.