North Shore Synagogue, a Jewish haven that has been an integral part of the greater Syosset community for roughly 65 years, has recently welcomed its newest additions, Rabbi Rachel Maimin and Cantor Kyle Cotler. Their installations in January were filled with support and overall positivity from hundreds of congregants, a testament to the family-like relationships that have been fostered within the synagogue for generations.
“We just had installations for our new associate rabbi and cantor,” said Senior Rabbi Jamiee Shalhevet, a current Plainview resident. “An installation is when you make a covenant with new clergy member saying we support you and you support us. You’re part of our greater family now.”
Maimin, who hails from Lenox, MA, joins North Shore Synagogue with a wealth of experience and an unfaltering dedication to the Jewish faith. She has previously served as an assistant rabbi at the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, OH, a faculty member at the URJ Kutz Camp in the Berkshires and a teaching assistant to the late Dr. Eugene Borowitz, a renowned leading Reform Jewish rabbi and professor of Jewish theology, philosophy and ethics. While an intern for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, she served as a chaplaincy intern at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Cotler, a California native, comes from a line of liturgical singers, making him a fourth-generation cantor, as well as a first-generation rabbi. He has composed a number of original Hebrew songs and prayers, and introduced his music to most of America’s Reform congregations when he performed at the Center for Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) convention in Vermont in 2008, and then as a featured performer at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial in 2009. From 2010 to 2012 he served as the Cantorial Soloist at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, CA, and from 2012 to 2016 he was the cantorial intern and rabbinic intern at Stephen Wise Temple in Bel Air, CA.
Shalhevet is confident that both Maimin and Cotler will prove to be excellent components to the already devoted staff.
“We’re not just a congregation, we’re a family, so welcoming Rabbi Maimin and Cantor Cotler into the family is just wonderful,” said Shalhevet. “They both have so much to offer in very unique and different ways.”
Harvey Wiesenberg, president of the congregation, echoed these sentiments saying, “You can tell we have a young, dynamic clergy team. There’s certainly no shortage of energy, and that’s the attraction. The members come for the clergy to learn and build relationships, and the rest of the community just evolves together.”
The gathering of congregants of all kinds for the two installations was representative of the greater message the synagogue aims to convey, which is the necessity of inclusion and equality in a world that can sometimes prove overwhelmingly divisive and oppressive.
North Shore Synagogue, a Reform Judaic center, aims above all else to serve as a center where all can feel as though they have a place to turn in the face of doubt, uncertainty
“This building is here so that there’s a centralized location and so that there is a safe haven, which I think is so important. This is a place where everyone is welcome,” said Shalhevet. “We have interracial families, interfaith families and same-sex families here. Everyone is welcome because this is an open and welcoming place, and we don’t just say that. When you walk in you feel it. You feel embraced.”
Such lessons instilled in the synagogue’s congregants begins with the youth. This is why great importance is placed on classes and programs for the synagogue’s youngest worshipers in its nursery school, in which Shelhevet’s own children are enrolled. It is during these formative years that North Shore Synagogue aims to preach the ideals of friendship, acceptance of diverse cultures and a moral obligation for the betterment of tomorrow.
This emphasis on civic responsibility resonates at every level of the synagogue, as charitable events are ongoing and amass a large body of participation. Recent projects have included a book drive, encouraging all to donate new and gently used books for those in need, as well as an ongoing food collection aiming to fight hunger and poverty at a local level.
On Sunday, March 12, there will be a special Purim celebration known as “Purim in the Chocolate Factory,” in which students will act, sing and dance the story of Purim to well-know tunes from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The event will also feature a costume party, carnival games, a photo booth, raffles and more. All proceeds will benefit the North Shore Synagogue Youth Scholarship fund.
All synagogue services and events are executed with one goal in mind, which is to maintain the strength and integrity of the bonds between all who walk through the synagogue’s doors.
“Judaism isn’t just in a building, you live it, but this building is here for you as well,” said Shalhevet. “In a world that is so uncertain right now, people need a home base, a place they know they can always come back to.”
For more information about North Shore Synagogue and its upcoming events and programs, visit www.northshoresynagogue.org.