Our Staff and Leadership

Welcome From Our Rabbi

B’ruchim ha-ba’im l’Bet Ha’am–Welcome to Bet Ha’am! I am so glad that you are exploring our community and hope that you find the same warmth and welcome that I have seen and experienced here.

Each person and each family comes to Bet Ha’am with different needs and different talents. I hope that we can begin to meet your needs and that we can help to reap the benefits of your talents. As you explore the many facets of our community, know that our doors are always open.

Whether you are trying out worship, dipping your toe in adult learning, participating in the Jewish education of your child, or finding some other aspect of Bet Ha’am that speaks to your soul, I hope that you will feel comfortable here.

Rabbi Jared Saks

Religious Leadership

Jared H. Saks

Rabbi

Rabbi Saks

(207) 879 - 0028 ext. 5
ravsaks @ bethaam.org

Staff

Rachel Lefkowitz

Synagogue Administrator

Rachel Lefkowitz

(207) 879 - 0028 ext. 4
admin @ bethaam.org

Chris Skidgel

Facilities Manager

Chris Skidgel

(207) 879 - 0028
chris @ bethaam.org
Sam Spinrad

Sam Spinrad

Religious School Director

Sam Spinrad

(207) 879 - 0028 ext. 3
sam @ bethaam.org
Teri Berenson

Teri Berenson

Bookkeeper

Teri Berenson

(207) 879 - 0028 ext. 2
teri @ bethaam.org
Karen Hindall

Karen Hindall

Administrative Assistant

Karen Hindall

(207) 879 - 0028 ext. 1
karen @ bethaam.org
Andrea Levinsky

Andrea Levinsky

Youth Advisor

Youth Advisor

(207) 879 - 0028
youthadvisor @ bethaam.org

Executive Committee

Lynn Urbach

Lynn Urbach

President

Lynn Urbach

(207) 846 - 6974
lynmaine @ gmail.com
View Bio
Sylvia Most

Sylvia Most

Vice President

Sylvia Most

(207) 730 - 2673
sylviamost @ gmail.com
View Bio

Tom Rosen

Treasurer

Tom Rosen

(207) 653 - 0910
camp_rosen @ hotmail.com
View Bio

Diane Newman

Secretary

Diane Newman

(207) 415 - 1334
diane @ dianenewman.com
View Bio

Nathan Szanton

Past President

Nathan Szanton

(207) 712 - 1008
president @ bethaam.org
View Bio

Board of Trustees

Stu Abramson

Board Member

Stu Abramson

(207) 781 - 8819
abramsonstuart @ gmail.com
View Bio

Samantha Johnson

Board Member

Samantha Johnson

(207) 939 - 3339
sabajo47 @ gmail.com
View Bio
Andrea Krasker Gavin

Andrea Krasker Gavin

Board Member
Donna Landau

Donna Landau

Board Member

Donna Landau

(207) 294 - 1180
dmlandau @ hotmail.com
View Bio

Martin Lodish

Board Member

Martin Lodish

(207) 879 - 6349
malodish @ gmail.com
View Bio

Gene Peters

Board Member

Gene Peters

(207) 571 - 4884
gnothi @ operamail.com
View Bio
Catherine Share

Catherine Share

Board Member

Catherine Share

(207) 205 - 4945
cashare @ maine.rr.com
View Bio

Jason Singer

Board Member

Jason Singer

(603) 860 - 6370
jasonrsinger @ gmail.com
View Bio

Mark Stone

Board Member

Mark Stone

(207) 615 - 1529
lmstone @ lmstone.com
View Bio

Lee Tabenken

Board Member

Lee Tabenken

(207) 408 - 1117
lee_tabenken @ maine.rr.com
View Bio

Bill Welch

Board Member

Bill Welch

(207) 878 - 0507
wwelch @ bernsteinshur.com
View Bio

Lynn Urbach

I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C. I went to Bryn Mawr College and did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, where I met my husband, Jerry.

For various reasons we joined Temple Beth El when we moved to Maine. There, I served on the board and executive committee.      However I have always been committed to the theology of Reform Judaism and to the movement itself; eventually, I needed to return to those roots. Fortunately, my husband is flexible (at least in that area) and we moved to Bet Ha’am. 

Our two children, David (25) and Eliana (22), were born and raised in Yarmouth and celebrated becoming b’nai mitzvah at Bet Ha’am. I believe Eliana may be the only child to have attended all three     Portland Jewish schools: Levey Day School, Temple Beth El, and Bet Ha’am. I taught Hebrew in the Bet Ha’am religious school for over a decade; taught adult Hebrew; tutored b’nai mitzvah students; served on the education committee; and co-chaired the adult education committee. 

Bet Ha’am is an incredible community with its strong commitment to Judaism and a Jewish lifestyle. We have a friendly, accepting atmosphere and encourage the participation and connection of many different people with differing opinions and ideas. I love the commitment we have to our values and to not just accepting, but appreciating, the values held by others, and our dependence on volunteers to keep the congregation alive.

I am honored to be on the Bet Ha’am board of directors, and am humbled to be in a position to be the president of the congregation. I will continue to do my best to serve our community. Please reach out to me at any time to share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions about our congregation, or talk to me in general about Judaism or Bet Ha’am, my two favorite topics (after my kids, of course!).  L’shalom (to peace, or, towards peace).

 

Sylvia Most

I have lived within a 20minute drive of Congregation Bet Ha’am since I was four years old! I was raised at Temple Beth El and was an active member there until I began attending Bet Ha’am 10-12 years ago. I have helped in the Hebrew School, chanted Torah and Haftarah at Shabbat and holiday services, baked treats for the caring committee, helped to formalize a process for incorporating Tikkun Olam initiatives into our communal and religious life, and served on our Board of Trustees. 

My husband, Alan Cardinal, and I have been married for 22 years and we have two grown sons who live locally. My current occupation is a high school math teacher at Windham High School and I also do the bookkeeping for our family’s store, Legion Square Market in South Portland. I have a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Vermont, a master’s in business administration from Northeastern, and in 2013, after failing to make it past ABD status in my quest for a PhD in public policy, I received a master’s degree in teaching and learning from the University of Southern Maine. I have enjoyed extensive leadership experience in both professional roles and in elected and volunteer offices in Greater Portland. 

I devote time to Bet Ha’am because it meets a personal need for connection to Judaism, an opportunity to help in the communityand fulfills my desire for ongoing spiritual growth. When I was younger, G-d spoke to me most directly when I was deep in the mountains. As I have grown older, the demands of home, family, and work have kept me from spending as much time as I might like in the woods. Instead I’ve found that our sanctuary, with its view of the beautiful Bet Ha’am garden, surrounded by music and thoughtful words, brings me to a welcome place of gratitude and contemplation.  

I am grateful for the spiritual center that Bet Ha’am plays in my life and am honored to have been asked to become the congregation’s vice president. 

Tom Rosen

Bio coming soon!

Diane Newman

Bet Ha’am has been my home for worship since 2016.  In this time, I have grown to realize this is not just a congregation, but a family. In times of simchah (joy), times of comfort, support and education, the members and team of Bet Ha’am have been there. I have felt welcomed from day one. 

Members of our congregation have been there for me at life changing moments. It is my desire to “pay forward” the kindness and care received. 

I offer you my experience as a teacher and corporate sales executive helping Fortune 500 companies manage risk. In 1993, I moved to Maine to start my own business, vowing to surround myself with people who share my values. Those who treat others with kindness, who practice ethical, conscious living, and who give back to our community. Here I help families manage the risks of everyday life. 

In my spare time, I am kept by two Cavalier King Charles Spanielstap dance for fun; knit mittens for children in need; love to be in and out on the water; serve meals for Wayside with the other Bet Ha’am volunteers; and am committed to social justice causes. 

It’s my honor to be Mom to two amazing adults and Mema to two grandsons. My husband, Steve, helps support my endeavors and is recruited for many of them. (He is now the official dishwashing operator for the Bet Ha’am volunteers.) 

Nathan Szanton

Bio coming soon!

Stu Abramson

Bio coming soon!

Samantha Johnson

I am a native Mainer who moved away for college and the start of my professional career and moved back 18 years ago. I currently manage trade shows and events for Vets First Choice, a Portland-based company that provides digital prescription management, specialty pharmacy, e-commerce, and data analytics for veterinarians. I grew up in Portland and currently live in Saco with my husband, Harry, our 11-year-old daughter, Ruby, and our three cats.

I’ve always felt a strong connection with Maine and was happy to move back after a ten-year stint in Boston. I began attending Bet Ha’am when services were held at Woodfords Congregational Church and joined when Ruby began Hebrew school. It’s been a pleasure being part of our congregation and being able to volunteer and serve on the board. At the heart of it, I want people to have the opportunity to lead their best lives and that’s the main reason I love Bet Ha’am. The congregation meets people where they’re at in a safe, judgement-free environment.

I am not incredibly active on the social justice or political front and I appreciate that an organization I support and am a part of has a strong voice on important issues. I am constantly amazed at the good work our congregants do and am always proud to see Bet Ha’am linked to meaningful efforts! I give my time and energy to Bet Ha’am because I feel it’s important to continue with the tradition of volunteerism that my parents taught me and their parents taught them. I want to serve as a model to my child so she continues the cycle. I enjoy having a deeper, more meaningful connection to the congregation and working with people who are dedicated and passionate.

Andrea Krasker Gavin

I have flown in a hot air balloon, fed a giraffe, helmet-dived in Bermuda, sailed in New Zealand, paraded in traditional costume through the streets of Valencia, Spain, ridden a motorcycle around Walden Pond, and chanted my Torah portion in the chapel at my Catholic high school. I own (and use) an entire cookbook devoted to different s’more recipes. I regularly win the trivia contest at my interfaith family’s holiday celebration and have the ability to quote random bits of prose, poetry, and entire scenes from the 1980s television show “Moonlighting.” In previous careers, I have won awards for journalism, edited college guide books, worked with volunteers at a hospice house, and presented star shows and touch-tank programs at two different children’s museums. I love to travel, sail, spend time with my family, and eat ice cream. I believe that birthdays should be celebrated for an entire month and that reading is as vital to life as breathing.

Donna Landau

My son Abraham first introduced me to Bet Ha’am in 1987 because he thought it would be fun to go to school on Sundays with his friend Max. It’s been a long road from baking cookies, chaperoning field trips, and being part of the Kennebunkport religious school carpool. During the interim, I slowly made a Jewish life for myself. I traveled to Israel with Rabbi Dubinsky (Goldfinger) and 40 members of the congregation in February of 2006, and by August of 2007 I was in a bet din with three rabbis about to formalize what had been in my heart all along. 

Volunteer work at Bet Ha’am has included co-chairing the library committee with Sherrie Bergman; coordinating the ushers and greeters; serving on the membership and caring committees; knitting comfort shawls for Rosie Wohl, our Jewish chaplain; and most recently, acting as assistant editor of Chadashot under the direction of Benjamin Gorelick and now, Rachel Lefkowitz. I took courses through the Florence Melton School of Adult Learning, participated in a leadership course with Rabbi Saks, and received a Bet Ha’am Volunteer of the Year Award in 2012.  

Some life accomplishments are as mother to four wonderful adult children, eight amazing grandchildren and two great grand twin boys. I have been a teacher of the deaf, owner and coach of a gymnastics school, State Chair for USA Gymnastics, and calendar editor and administrative assistant for a seasonal newspaper.  

Now that I am officially retired, I am ready to give back to Bet Ha’am, my spiritual home and community, in a different way. After years of saying “no way,” this time when Lisa Munderback, a member of the nominating committee contacted me about being on the board, I was able to say “yes.”  

Martin Lodish

I was born in Cambridge, England, but moved to the Boston area when I was still in diapers. My parents left it up to me to decide about my Jewish education–and much to their surprise, I chose to attend religious school at Temple Sinai, a reform congregation in my hometown of Brookline. I celebrated my bar mitzvah (which was covered by all the major networks in town; you will have to ask me about the rest of the story) and I continued to study until confirmation. From that point, Judaism did not play a large part in my life until I become a parent.

I went to Haverford College and majored in chemistry. I got a job teaching, coaching and being a dorm parent at a boarding school (where I met my wife, Kristin Schardt). The Hill School was founded in 1851, and when I was hired in 1990, I was the second Jewish faculty member in its history. By the time my family left Hill and moved to Maine in 2005, the school had a thriving Jewish students organization, which my wife and I founded, and many more Jewish faculty.

Since leaving Hill, I have worked for two other independent schools, Bridgton Academy and Breakwater. I now split my time between running a 108-year-old nonprofit day camp in Kennebunk (KBIA) and being the finance director at Portland Stage. I have been fortunate to have only worked at nonprofit, mission-driven organizations since I graduated college.

My wife and I have three children. As Kristin is not Jewish, we initially struggled with how Judaism would be a part of our family. We joined Bet Ha’am after moving to Maine. It was very important to us that we could both be members and be treated equally. Bet Ha’am has been a large part of our life ever since. 

I am a proud season ticket holder for the Boston Red Sox; enjoy the food scene in Portland and cooking at home; and have served on three other nonprofit boards before joining the board at Bet Ha’am.

Gene Peters

Boston was my home until college at Bates in Maine. Graduate school brought me back to the Boston area so that I could meet my wife, Alice, and earn a PhD in history and philosophy of religion.We then moved to Waterville, where Alice worked at the hospital as a therapeutic dietitian and I taught philosophy at Colby College for eight years.

We decided to relinquish tenure, gathered up our three children, and spent the next six years in the Bronx for my medical training. There we joined the Pelham Jewish Center. While I went through medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and then a pediatric residency, Alice worked full-time at the hospital. Only her manifold superpowers enabled her to carry her job (which included some metabolic research with a pediatric neurologist) and at the same time ensure that our children, each with special needs, received appropriate care and schooling. One of the boys had an irremediable developmental delay and the other congenital profound deafness. Sandwiched between the two boys, we had a gifted daughter. Few parents have the opportunity to learn so much in such a short period of time. After residency we returned to Maine, we affiliated with Beth Abraham in Augusta and practiced pediatrics in Waterville for the next thirty years.

On retirement ten years ago, we moved to Saco and searched for a synagogue. On our first visit to Beth Ha’am, the openness and welcoming environment offered both by the rabbi and several congregants who chatted with us during oneg convinced us that this would be our Jewish community. As a special bonus we also found Torah study, led by Rabbi Saks, to be both compelling and illuminating.

When I was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees, my first reaction was to recollect my previous board service while in academe and in medicine. Neither experience had been particularly rewarding. So my initial thought was, “Again?! I just want to be another congregant at Bet Ha’am.” My second thought was, “The mistake would be not to give back whatever I can to a unique synagogue and Jewish community.” Bet Ha’am has been a blessing for us. 

Catherine Share

I first came to Bet Ha’am when my former partner (who is Jewish) and I were looking for a Jewish home for our family after moving to Maine from Durham, North Carolina in 2006. We joined Bet Ha’am in about 2009. We share custody of our daughter, Maya who is 14. She was called to the Torah as a B’Notai Mitzvah in May 2018. I also have two adult children and two grandchildren.  

I was an active adult member in the Episcopal Church for many years, but left in 2004. Since coming to Bet Ha’am, I have gradually become more involved with congregational activities. But more importantly, I am now on a journey towards conversion, which has been very exciting for me. I am presently taking an online course with the URJ, studying Hebrew with Rachel Stamieszkin, and recently started a weekly Torah study with Ellie Miller. I have barely scratched the surface of my knowledge but as I learn, it only encourages me to study more. 

I am a retired physician from Southern Maine Medical Center. I had a very satisfying career as a general surgeon. But I don’t miss it at all and find myself now involved with all the avocations that I have been carrying around in my head for many years. I am a member of the Garden Committee and have completed my first year teaching the 8th-9th graders on Sunday evening. I plan to continue both commitments. I am also participating in a short lay leadership course with the Maine Center for Small Town Jewish Life. 

I would be honored to serve on the Board of Bet Ha’am. I participated extensively in various committees while working at SMHC. I think that organizational skill will serve me well. I would appreciate your support. 

Jason Singer

In 2011, my wife, Susan, and I moved to Portland, Maine, without knowing anyone. We quickly fell in
love with Bet Ha’am.

Whether serving on the strategic planning committee in 2012 and 2013, volunteering at Purim carnivals and Tikkun Olam outings, or traveling to Israel with Rabbi Saks in 2014, Bet Ha’am has provided joy,intellectual and spiritual nourishment, and has been a constant source of warmth and love in my family’s life.

These are difficult and uncomfortable times for religious organizations. Americans are opting out of religious institutions in record numbers. But in 2017, Rabbi Saks, during a sermon on the life of lobsters,spoke about how discomfort can lead to growth.

As lobsters grow and get too big for their shells, they become very confined and uncomfortable. To adjust, the lobsters shed their shells and become vulnerable to predators; but they soon grow into bigger,stronger versions of themselves, with a bigger and better fitting shell.It’s a constant cycle of discomfort, vulnerability, and growth.

The idea of joining a board seemed a little uncomfortable for me. But as with all experiences at Bet Ha’am, I expected to grow from it. In the process, I hope I can help Bet Ha’am grow as well, and help it continue to serve its members, Judaism, and the Greater Portland community in the best way possible.

Mark Stone

My wife, Deb, and I joined Bet Ha’am shortly after moving to Maine in 2003 from New York City; we came with our two children, both of whom later became b’nai mitzvah here at Bet Ha’am. I have a background in finance and technology, and founded a cloud consulting and hosting company to make the relocation work. That company was acquired in 2014 by a regional telecom company, and a recent restructuring there freed me to consider new opportunities, including starting a new technology business focused on mission-critical email. I also serve on the board of the American Friends of The London School of Economics, which raises money for scholarships.

Deb and I have tried to be active volunteers at Bet Ha’am given the constraints of jobs and raising kids. Deb served on the board before I did, and for a number of years I served (and continue to serve) on the Bet Ha’am nominating Ccmmittee whose job it is to scout talent for leadership positions within our congregation.

As part of Bet Ha’am’s strategic planning process, we learned that some 60% of our membership is composed of interfaith families. Rabbi Saks has reminded us that we are the “reform” movement; not the “reformed” movement because “we are not done yet.” So, to provide for broader board representation for interfaith members, and after much consultation with the membership, it was felt that having non-Jews on the board would be a good thing. Once the rules of the road were agreed upon (also after much consultation), two non-Jews were asked to join the board, of which I am one.

In my work on the board, I focus on areas that lean towards the secular, and what is management and administrative.  I ask questions and work to ensure that Bet Ha’am remains the incredibly vibrant and welcoming reform community that greeted us so warmly on my family’s arrival in Maine, and which continues to embrace us and imbue us with the Jewish values we strive to live by.

Lee Tabenken

Bio coming soon!

Bill Welch

I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family outside of Boston. While attending college at Tulane in New Orleans, I met a wonderful Jewish co-ed from Connecticut. Following graduation and a five-year stint as a Naval Officer, we got married, moved to Texas, and started a family. After I finished law school in 1994, Jodi and I returned to New England (first to South Portland, now Falmouth) with our growing family; we joined Bet Ha’am that same year. All three of our now-grown children went to religious school, became Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and were confirmed at Bet Ha’am.

When our children were small, Jodi volunteered to help out in the in Bet Ha’am religious school; she ended up teaching second grade Judaica for sixteen years! During that time, I was volunteering behind the scenes doing some of the legal work associated with purchasing and financing the Sawyer School building and the adjacent land on which our landmark synagogue building now sits. Shortly after Jodi’s “retirement” from teaching, I was invited to join the board and eagerly accepted the opportunity to serve in a more visible role and to bring the voice and insight of an interfaith family to synagogue discussions.

At my day job, I am a business and real estate lawyer at Bernstein Shur in Portland. In my spare time, I enjoy snowboarding with my children, playing adult ice hockey in the mornings before work, and taking long walks around Back Cove with Jodi and our two miniature labradoodles.

I’m interested!

We'll send you a weekly email with our news and events so that you can learn more about us.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Congregation Bet Ha'am, 81 Westbrook Street, South Portland, ME, 04106, http://www.bethaam.org. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact