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Clergy Bios

Rabbi Janet Marder
Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Janet Marder, a Los Angeles native, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz and was ordained in 1979 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Following ordination, she pursued graduate studies in the Department of Comparative Literature at UCLA, specializing in Modern Hebrew and Yiddish.

In 1983, she became the first ordained rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim, a Los Angeles synagogue with special outreach to lesbian and gay Jews. During her five years with that congregation, she founded NECHAMA, a Federation-funded program of AIDS education for the Jewish community. From 1988 to 1999, Rabbi Marder served the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the URJ), providing leadership and guidance to Reform synagogues in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas.

In August 1999, she became Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Am. In her Vision for the Congregation, presented in April 2009, she said, “I want us to be a congregation that is Jewishly dynamic, focused on moving every member forward from where they are right now. Imagine a synagogue in which you’re always looking for ways to climb up to the next step; progressing towards deeper learning, richer faith and spiritual development, greater commitment and practice. In this place, we’re ambitious for our own growth; we’ve tasted something delicious and we’re always hungry for the next bite. Our Judaism is not fueled by habit, guilt or fear of anti-Semitism; we’re drawn forward by love and joy, motivated by curiosity and the search for meaning. We know that new discoveries will unfold every year of our life; we’re excited about making this lifelong journey with good companions who will be with us all the way.”

Rabbi Janet Marder's articles have appeared in Reform Judaism Magazine, The Reconstructionist, Sh'ma and several anthologies. She has served as President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, the first woman and the first non-congregational rabbi to be elected to that office. In April 2003 Rabbi Marder was elected the first woman president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. She is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Rabbi Marder and her husband, Rabbi Sheldon Marder, served as co-editors, translators, writers and commentators for two liturgical projects published by the Reform Movement: Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe, and Mishkan HaLev: Prayers for S'lichot and the Month of Elul (CCAR, 2015 and 2017). The Marders have two daughters, Betsy and Rachel, and three grandchildren, Maisie Frances, Judah Gabriel and Oze Baldwin Rafael.

Cantor Jaime Shpall

Originally from Southern California, Cantor Jaime Shpall joined Beth Am after 16 years of serving congregations, first in Austin, Texas and then in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her beautiful voice and warm personality made her beloved in both congregations.

At Beth Am, Cantor Shpall leads our B’nei Mitzvah program and has been implementing innovations that help build feelings of community and love for Judaism among kids and families alike. Through her work with the URJ’s Communities of Practice – B’nei Mitzvah Revolution, Cantor Shpall has introduced our annual 6th Grade Family Retreat, for upcoming B’nei Mitzvah and their families as well as our 7th grade Beit Midrash class.

Cantor Shpall received Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz, during which time she worked on the staff of Camp Swig and taught religious school in our area (even substitute teaching at Beth Am on occasion!). She was ordained in 1997 by the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, and she recently participated in the Clergy Leadership Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Cantor Shpall and her husband, Marcel Bergmann, are the proud parents of twins, Samuel and Ella, who are members of the Zimriyah, Beth Am’s fabulous Jr. Choir.

Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit
Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit was born on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He earned his bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in New York City. As a Rabbinical student, he has worked in East Liverpool, Ohio; Melbourne Australia; and at Temple Micah in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Jonathan has also interned at Westchester Reform Temple where he worked on their Next Dor project, creating dynamic programs geared toward New York's unaffiliated 20/30-year-olds. Prior to Rabbinical School, Rabbi Jonathan worked as a Community Liaison for a New York State Senator and as an ESL teacher in Santiago, Chile.

Rabbi Jonathan joined the Beth Am team in the summer of 2011. At Beth Am, Rabbi Jonathan works with middle and high school students, the Beth Am Men's group (BAM) and with the Beth Am's social justice and social action networks. He likes to be outdoors and loves to play golf, tennis and basketball. Rabbi Jonathan is married to Erin Gleeson, who is a photographer. They have two sons, Ezra and Max!

Rabbi Heath Watenmaker
Associate Rabbi

After his ordination in 2011 from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Heath served as Reform Outreach Initiative Rabbi at Rutgers Hillel in New Jersey (the first initiative of its kind). In addition to his rabbinical degree, Rabbi Heath holds a Masters in Social Work from USC (where he also earned a BA in English) and a Masters in Jewish Communal Service from HUC.

In his Associate Rabbi role at Beth Am, Rabbi Heath has a full range of worship, pastoral and lifecycle responsibilities, with a special emphasis on member engagement. His work involves implementing innovative ways of engaging members of all ages, developing Beth Am’s Small Groups initiative, as well as enhancing Shabbat worship and teaching courses, especially on “big questions” in Judaism. He also has a passion for advocacy and social justice.

Originally from Southern California, Rabbi Heath and and his wife, Amy, are proud parents of a son, Ilan, and daughter, Cayla.

Rabbi Sarah Weissman
Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Sarah Weissman has been at Congregation Beth Am since 2008. In addition to her pastoral and pulpit duties, Rabbi Sarah oversees the adult education program, and teaches a popular Talmud class and the Adult B'nai Mitzvah class. She also serves as the staff person on the Interfaith Outreach Committee.

Rabbi Sarah was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She grew up in the warm embrace of Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe, where she volunteered in the administrative office and grew to love the day-to-day workings of the synagogue. She attended Amherst College in Massachusetts and graduated summa cum laude in 2003 with a degree in religion.

In 2008, Rabbi Sarah was ordained at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. During her tenure at HUC, Rabbi Sarah served several small congregations in the South. She also worked as a teaching and research assistant to Dr. Eugene Borowitz, one of the leading theologians of the Reform movement.

Rabbi Sarah and her husband, Eric Weissman, are proud parents of a son, Maverick.

Wed, February 19 2020 24 Sh'vat 5780