Rabbi Vernon Kurtz
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz is the Rabbi of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. He was born in Toronto, Canada, received his B.A. from York University (1971), his M.A. and Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary (1976) and his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1981). He also received a Doctor of Divinity degree (Honoris Causa) from the Jewish Theological Seminary (2003).
Rabbi Kurtz has recently concluded two terms as president of the American Zionist Movement. He is an associate member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, has been elected to its executive, and serves as deputy chairman of its Russian Speaking Jewry committee. He is past President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative Rabbis, and was a member for many years of the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. He served for 10 years as a member of the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Kurtz is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. He has previously served two terms on the board, including a term as Vice-Chairman. Rabbi Kurtz is a member of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute.
Rabbi Kurtz has served in leadership positions in the areas of Jewish communal and interfaith activities. He has been President of MERCAZ USA, President of MERCAZ Olami, the world-wide Zionist organization of the Conservative Movement, President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal Rabbinic Cabinet and President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. Rabbi Kurtz is the recipient of the Rabbinic Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Council of Jewish Federations (1984 and 1985); the Young Leadership Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (1985); the Rabbi Simon Greenberg Rabbinic Achievement Award, The Jewish Theological Seminary (1998); Jerusalem Covenant Award, State of Israel Bonds (1996)/Star of David Award, State of Israel Bonds (2008); the Rabbi Mordecai Simon Memorial Award, Chicago Board of Rabbis (2008); the Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (2010); and the Rabbi Mordecai Waxman Memorial Rabbinic and Community Leadership Award, Masorti Olami (2011). Rabbi Kurtz is adjunct Professor of Rabbinics at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. He is the author of Encountering Torah: Reflections on the Weekly Portion. Rabbi Kurtz has authored teshuvot for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly and published articles in periodicals and books. Currently he is a monthly Torah commentator for the Chicago Jewish News and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem.
Rabbi Kurtz and his wife, Bryna, are the parents of two daughters, Hadassa (Haim) who lives in Israel and Shira (Avi) who lives in Boston. He is the proud saba of Shmuel Binyamin, Meytal Dvora, Anael Rina, Shirel Batsheva and Samuel Ryder.
Encountering Torah, Reflections on the Weekly Torah by Rabbi Vernon Kurtz
Rabbi Michael Schwab
Rabbi Michael Schwab is completing his thirteenth year at NSS Beth El. He currently serves as a Shalom Hartman Institute Rabbinic Leadership Fellow, as a member of the Board of Directors of Solomon Schechter Day School, sits on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Board of Rabbis as well as chairs JUF's Synagogue Federation Commission. Rabbi Schwab is a past President of the Chicagoland Rabbinical Assembly, a past member of the National Council of AIPAC and is a Chicago Global Justice Fellow for American Jewish World Service. Additionally, Rabbi Schwab is featured as a scholar for Jewish Values Online, an interactive website that serves as a portal to Jewish responses to relevant ethical issues. You can see his contributions by clicking here: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/rabbi.php?id=12.
In the past Rabbi Schwab was selected to participate in Hebrew University’s Melton Center Senior Educators Program for Outstanding Diaspora Educators, was chosen as a fellow in the STAR PEER Rabbinic Leadership Program for early career rabbis who have demonstrated leadership excellence and he completed Northwestern University's Kellogg Management Education Program and is now a member of Kellogg's Jewish Leaders Circle. Rabbi Schwab is married to his lovely wife, Erica, who is a behavioral therapist and teacher of children with developmental disabilities. They have four children: Ari, Liana, Noa and Miri.
Originally, Rabbi Schwab was born in Philadelphia and received his BA from Rutgers University, where he majored in History and Jewish Studies. Rabbi Michael Schwab received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in May, 2004. In addition, Rabbi Schwab also received an MA in Jewish Education from the William Davidson Graduate School of Education. During his studies at JTS he completed the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Penn Foundation for Mental Health and served as the Jewish Life Director of the Goldsmith Student Dormitory. He also spent several years studying in Israel at the Hebrew University, Machon Schechter and the Conservative Yeshiva.
Hazzan Benjamin A. Tisser
Hazzan Benjamin Tisser has recently joined the NSS Beth El family. Cantor Tisser comes to us from B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, FL. He previously served congregations in New York and Los Angeles.
Hazzan Tisser recently completed his Masters of Sacred Music and Cantorial Ordination at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is a graduate of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles with degrees in Hebrew Literature and Middle Eastern Political Science. An active composer, Cantor Tisser’s composition “Achat Sha’alti” was selected as a finalist for the 2013 Shalshelet Jewish Music Festival in Miami. In August 2010, he released his first solo CD, "Imrei Fi", a collection of some of his High Holy Day favorites. He is currently working on a second album of original music. An active performer and lecturer, he has served as guest Cantor and Scholar in Residence at synagogues around the country, speaking on the changes in davening style and "shul music" in Conservative synagogues.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hazzan Ben Tisser began studying Hazzanut at age seven, when he began studying with, and leading services alongside, Cantor Herschel Fox at Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino, CA. From an early age he studied Cantorial accompaniment and composition under renowned composer Aminadav Aloni, z"l, and took over Mr. Aloni's position as organist at Valley Beth Shalom. He has also studied composition with Dr. Michael Isaacson, and studied Hazzanut with such Cantorial greats as Cantors Alberto Mizrahi, Jacob Ben-Zion Mendelson, Robert Kieval, and Daniel Gildar.
As a product of the Conservative movement in its many facets, Cantor Tisser takes great pride in having attended a Solomon Schechter elementary school, served on the board of directors of his USY chapter, and attended and worked at Camp Ramah in California. In addition, he has taught Judaic Music for many years in Jewish Day Schools.
Cantor Tisser and his wife Sarah are the proud parents of a daughter, Talia, and a son, Ethan.