Rabbi Nathan Weiner came to Congregation Beth Tikvah first as Rabbinic Intern while serving as a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). During his five year tenure as our intern, he developed a deep love and appreciation for the Beth Tikvah community. Upon his June 2016 graduation from RRC, Nathan became the rabbi, taking the baton from Rabbi Gary Gans.
Raised in the Conservative Movement, Rabbi Nathan taught Hebrew school during college – first in a conservative synagogue, and then with a renewal community. After graduating, he went on to become the director of teen education at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, a large and highly regarded Reform congregation. It was at this point that Rabbi Nathan realized that the rabbinate is the vessel through which he could best build meaningful Jewish community. During his time at RRC, Rabbi Nathan was mindful to explore the breadth of ways in which one can be a Jewish communal leader; taking part in chaplaincy education, synagogue internships, educational leadership and campus work.
Rabbi Nathan is an accomplished author of Jewish educational materials for both Behrman House publishing and the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He brings his deep love of learning and teaching to his position as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Tikvah. Most central to Rabbi Nathan’s vision for a vibrant and dynamic Judaism is his desire to build authentic and joyous community among Jews and our fellow travelers. He envisions Beth Tikvah as THE place in South Jersey for authentic, unpretentious, and joyous community.
Originally from Brockton, Mass., Nathan attended The George Washington University in Washington, D.C to pursue a degree in human services. He graduated cum laude with departmental honors. Currently living in Collingswood, New Jersey, Rabbi Nathan is also a collector of Jewish books, an avid automobile enthusiast, and a big Boston sports fan.
CBT congregants have enjoyed the commanding presence of Joseph Lebovic, CBT’s longest-tenured and most beloved Cantor, since he arrived in 1986.
Whether singing along to familiar tunes or unwinding from the harried pace of everyday life, all age groups thoroughly enjoy the Cantor’s strikingly robust and soulful voice. He keeps the congregation on its toes by occasionally sneaking in a new rhythm. “Services need renewal every once in awhile. It’s nice to hear something new and something old,” the Cantor says, so every now and then he likes “to change things around, to learn new compositions and new tunes.”
Born in the Czech Republic to Cantor David and Mina Lebovic, CBT’s cantor is the youngest of his family’s cantorial legacy. His grandfather, Joseph, initiated the tradition, sharing his love of Judaism and music with his son, David, who in turn inspired his son, our own Cantor Joseph Lebovic.
David Lebovic, a Holocaust survivor, trained as a cantor in Budapest, Hungary and then moved his family to Israel. The family eventually moved to Buffalo, New York when young Joe was 12. He attended Yeshiva for two years to continue with his Jewish education, which began in Israel. It wasn’t long before he participated in a national bible contest in which he placed second in the mid-atlantic states. For a story about Joe and his father David, click here.
A pivotal time in the Cantor’s life occurred surreptitiously, when he asked his dad to help him purchase a car the summer he graduated from high school. Cantor David Lebovic’s stipulation: regimented study of cantorial music for a minimum of six hours per day for two months. Once completed, his dad took him to apply for a part-time cantorial position in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When the 18 year-old told his father the good news – “I got the job!” – Cantor David Lebovic told him he could now buy himself a new car.
The Cantor earned a B.S. in psychology from Temple University and concurrently studied music theory and voice development at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia while continuing to hone his craft with his father’s assistance. He toyed around with the idea of a graduate school program in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies or a pharmacy career until he decided that optometry was the field he wanted to pursue. He graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry while also obtaining a cantorial position at Beth Jacob-Beth Israel, formerly of Merchantville, NJ which he kept for 10 years, until he became CBT’s cantor.
While in college, he married Sophie Klein, who would become a popular CBT Hebrew school teacher and the office manager for the Cantor’s optometry practice. Together they raised three children: Yael, Miryam and Avi. “Life is beautiful,” the Cantor says, enjoying every minute of their growing family. The grandchildren now number at six; Nathan and Raya, Layna and Owen, Dalia and the newest addition, Jonah. “Our grandkids draw us all in and provide immense joy.”
CBT offers such a compelling “sensation of warmth and welcome from the congregants” that it has been easy to stay for 20 years – far longer than his prior associations with other synagogues – the Cantor says. “Everybody gets to know everybody else, there is a warm sense of family, and it’s a great place for your children to meet other children and form long-lasting relationships. This is where children grow up and feel there’s a real home there.”
On a personal note, Cantor Lebovic says he appreciates “a very good relationship with the Rabbi, the good friends we’ve made here, and an opportunity to do what I love to do.” He has also participated as a guest soloist for the South Jersey Chorus, a secular choir with 60 singers; for Temple Beth Sholom; for the choir of the Board of Cantors of Greater Philadelphia as well as for various cantorial Jewish choirs in South Jersey.
Gary Gans first came to Congregation Beth Tikvah as its first full time rabbi in 1981, when the synagogue was a mere ranch house surrounded by corn fields in rural Marlton, NJ. Having just completed a position as the Associate Rabbi in Center City Philadelphia, he appreciated the country atmosphere and the challenge of building the young congregation; both its population and physical plant.
No one could have imagined the deep roots he would establish as Congregation Beth Tikvah and Marlton grew and flourished. While Marlton is now a full-fledged and busy suburb, the congregation still thinks of itself as a small community consisting of “a family of families.” Many joyous years of simchas are the benefit of his long tenure as the spiritual leader of our congregation.
As of August 1, 2016, he was elevated to the post of Rabbi Emeritus, where he will support Rabbi Nathan Weiner to became the congregation rabbi.
Rabbi Gans married Rabbi Ilene Schneider while they were both students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. They are now the second longest married rabbinic couple in the world! They are blessed with two sons, Natan and Ari who were each named and became Bar Mitzvah during ceremonies at CBT. Ilene has written several Rabbinic murder mysteries, “Chanukah Guilt,” and “Unleavened Dead,” in addition to the lexicon “Talk Dirty Yiddish: Beyond Drek.” Rabbi Schneider is also the former Director of Jewish Hospice for Samaritan Hospice in Marlton, NJ.
Rabbi Gans received a B.A. from Rutgers University, holds a Master’s degree in psycho-educational processes from Temple University in addition to his rabbinic ordination. He was a graduate student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for two years and attended Gratz Hebrew College in Philadelphia to obtain certifications and licenses as a teacher and principal.
Committed to life-long study, Gans earned a doctor of ministry degree in counseling from the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (a remarkable achievement for a rabbi!). He has also been awarded an honorary doctor of divinity from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He participated in a post doctorate program in family therapy at Penn Council for Relationships at the University of Pennsylvania, and has earned two units in clinical pastoral education. Rabbi Gans is board certified as a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He is a licensed professional counselor in the state of New Jersey, specializing in family therapy, and is now serving as a chaplain with the Evesham, NJ police department.
He has served the community as president of the Tri-County Board of Rabbis, and is deeply committed to the Marlton and Medford clergy associations. Currently he is on the board of directors of the Crescent Burial / Memorial Park in Pennsauken.
Rabbi Gans has one of the least expected hobbies for a rabbi; he is an amateur radio operator (kosher HAM!) with the call sign N2EEF. He is also totally engrossed in the hobby of genealogy, and has led many seminars on this theme in the U.S. and Israel.
Elana Shaw joined the staff of Congregation Beth Tikvah as Administrator in 2016. Prior to this she worked as Program Director at Germantown Jewish Centre, a synagogue in Northwest Philadelphia, for more than a decade.
The daughter of a Rabbi, Elana grew up in a Jewishly engaged family. Attending Jewish overnight camp for many years as a camper and then on staff, had a tremendous effect on the adult that she has grown to be. Each and every job that Elana has held since her teenage years (other than a few months as a barista in high school) has been within the Jewish community. Elana graduated from Boston University in 1998 with a B.A. in Religion and received her M.A. in Jewish Professional Leadership from the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University in 2004. She is delighted to be working closely with the clergy, staff, and most importantly the dedicated volunteers that make Congregation Beth Tikvah the joyous, authentic and progressive community that it is.
Elana and her family moved from Philadelphia to South Jersey in 2015 when her husband, Brian, began work as a Cardiologist at Virtua. Their two daughters attend Kellman Brown Academy, where Elana quickly got involved volunteering with the school’s PTG (Parent Teacher Group). The Shaw family lives in Haddonfield along with their dogs Nava and Maggie.