New young leadership takes the helm at one of Nashville’s oldest synagogues

Posted on: June 29th, 2017 by tgregory

By Mosh Koch

Congregation Sherith Israel’s recently elected officers and board members reflect a new generation of leaders. They include include (top, from left) Cara Suvall, Pam Kelner, Polina Vorobeychik, Evan Rittenberg, and (bottom, from left) Jonathan Poster and Yuri Livshitz.

Congregation Sherith Israel is celebrating the ascendance of a new generation of young leaders following the election last month of a board of directors led for the most part by members in their 30s and 40s. 

“I thought about the rising number of young members in our shul and realized that the future of the shul rests with them,” said Evelyn Koch, head of the synagogue’s nominating committee. “So we nominated more young members for both officers and directors on our slate than ever in our history.”

Sherith Israel’s new officers are President Yuri Livshitz, 35; Executive Vice President Evan Rittenberg, 51, Vice President of Membership Polina Vorobeychik, 33;  Vice President of Programming Cara Suvall, 32; Secretary Pam Kelner, 48, and Treasurer Larry Sacks, who at 60 is the “elder statesman” of the group. 

New board members include Jonathan Poster, 43, Michael Woolf, 45, and Adam Horn, 50. 

“The Jewish community has been talking about continuity for decades, and has been pressured with next-generation engagement,” said Sherith Israel Rabbi Saul Strosberg. “Thankfully, as a sign of strength and good faith, our shul is actually implementing next-generation leadership in the most significant way – not for lack of options but rather for doing what’s best for today and tomorrow.”

Outgoing President Roberta Walter Goodman said she was proud “to turn over the leadership of Sherith Israel to a new generation of leaders. I am anticipating great things from Yuri, Cara, Polina, and Evan as well as our new directors. I am thrilled that we have attracted such talented people and have such an incredibly deep bench upon which to draw.”

Livshitz, the new president, said the election of a cadre of young leaders reflects the congregation’s confidence and hope for the future.

“The opportunity being given to the new officers and me is a huge vote of confidence not only in the people being elected, but also in our position as a thriving and growing community,” he said. “Our new officers are incredible people with diverse talents, and we will work hard to continue the growth and stability that has come through the previous administrations. Personally, I am totally psyched about this role, and really appreciate this tremendous opportunity. ”

Rittenberg said his job as vice president of administration is “to make sure that things run smoothly. I get to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, and I get an insider’s view about what all goes on, and how many people we actually serve—which is far beyond our membership. We are involved in many facets of Jewish life both within and beyond the walls of the shul.”

Other board members talked about their plans for the synagogue. 

“I am interested in working on growing membership through an emphasis on expanding the women’s minyan and davening engagement,” said Horn, who is from Los Angles. “I also have a vision for increasing fundraising at our annual event through the development of a greatly enhanced silent auction.”

As treasurer, Sacks said he aims to “keep the synagogue on a stable fiscal path and continue Shelly Lutz’s good stewardship of the synagogue’s finances.”

“I am excited to be joining the Sherith Israel executive board because the synagogue has been such a warm, welcoming community for me and my family,” said Suvall, who is from New Rochelle, NY. “I am hoping to continue the tradition of fun and meaningful programming at Sherith Israel, and I am looking forward to focusing on programming that continues to strengthen and deepen our connections to each other. These personal relationships are what make our shul such a wonderful community for those already connected to our community as well as those looking to connect. I am particularly excited to help plan events that will engage young families.”

Poster, who is from Toronto, said he envisions “developing a strategic plan to help grow our membership base,” and Woolf, a Nashvillian, said he wants to “help support my shul family in developing resources to allow us to continue to succeed  through communication, cooperation, and  collaboration with all our members.”  •