While the High Holy Days are often a time to bask in the comfortable and familiar, in an unusually high number of cases, congregants will need a scorecard to tell who the players are.
Some congregations have new full-time rabbis, such as Rabbi Stephen Slater at Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El, Rabbi David Gerber at Gates of Prayer in Metairie, Rabbi Eric Berk at Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville and Rabbi Scott Looper at Temple Beth Or in Montgomery.
Anniston’s Temple Beth-El welcomed Rabbi Lauren Cohn of Atlanta as their new visiting rabbi, and Cantor Kevin Margolius started at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans this summer.
Many other congregations are gearing up for rabbinic searches, with a need to bring in someone for the holidays.
At Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Daniel Roberts will lead High Holy Day services, with Emanu-El Cantor Jessica Roskin. Roberts was chaplain in the U.S. Navy before becoming rabbi at Temple Emanu El in University Heights, Ohio, where he served from 1972 to 2002 and is now rabbi emeritus.
Roberts was crowned Cleveland’s Funniest Rabbi in 2011 and 2015, in a competition that benefits the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.
The largest synagogue in Alabama, Emanu-El also announced that it is not having two services on the morning of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A traditional service will be at 10:30 a.m., and there will be a new Family Service at 9 a.m. instead of Junior Congregation. In previous years, there were two traditional services, at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Last year, Emanu-El had an interim rabbi. This year, Roskin is coordinating congregants to fill in as the congregation searches for its new rabbi.
Cantorial soloist Janet Pape will be the veteran this year at Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile. This is her second year in that role for the congregation, and she will be working with Music Director Christopher Powell and Charmein Moser. Guo-Sheng Huang, professor of cello at the University of Mobile, will be the cellist for Kol Nidre.
The visiting rabbi at Springhill Avenue will be Rabbi Howard Kosovske, who started his rabbinic career serving the U.S. military in Germany, then took pulpits in Massachusetts, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Kosovske is one of only two members of his Hebrew Union College class still serving as a pulpit rabbi. The other is Rabbi Gordon Geller, who served Springhill Avenue from 1984 to 1987. He will lead Shabbat services on Sept. 7 and stay in Mobile through Yom Kippur.
In the New Orleans area, the Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville welcomes a Southshore veteran, Rabbi Alexis Pinsky, for the High Holy Days. An Atlanta native, Pinsky graduated from Tulane before attending Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. After ordination, she was assistant rabbi at Gates of Prayer in Metairie, and last year was associate rabbi and musical liturgical clergy in residence at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans.
This coming year, Rabbi Eugene Levy of Little Rock will be Northshore’s visiting rabbi once a month. Levy was rabbi of B’nai Israel in Little Rock from 1987 to 2011, and is regarded as Bill Clinton’s rabbi.
In 2016, he officiated the closing of two Arkansas congregations, in Pine Bluff and McGehee.
B’nai Israel in Panama City will be led by Rabbi Marla Joy Subeck Spanjer, who has 20 years of experience as a full-time congregational rabbi. She was Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Congregation Kol Ami in Chicago and Congregation Achduth Vesholom in Fort Wayne, Ind.
She has also been on faculty for eight summers at URJ camps, and has created her own children’s machzor for High Holy Day services.
Daniel Sternlicht, a member of B’nai Israel, will serve as cantor. Services are open to members and non-members.
Hazzan G. Michael Horwitz, staff chaplain at the University of Alabama at Birmingham medical center, will lead High Holy Day services for Beth Israel in Gulfport. A St. Louis native, Horwitz has been at UAB since 2013, and has served congregations, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, summer camps, colleges and various agencies.