Senior Rabbi Michael B. Berk
Rabbi Michael Berk joined Congregation Beth Israel as Senior Rabbi in July 2007. He brings a wealth of rabbinic experience to the congregation. From 1997 to 2007, Rabbi Berk served as Regional Director, Pacific Central West Council, for the Union for Reform Judaism. From 1991 to 1997 he served as rabbi at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura. From 1984 to 1991 he was the rabbi at Beth Sholom Temple in Santa Monica. In his first position after ordination, he served as rabbi educator, assistant rabbi, and associate rabbi at Temple Emanu El, San Jose, from 1980 to 1984.
Rabbi Berk was ordained in 1980 at Hebrew Union College and Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned a Master's Degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College in 1978. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975.
Rabbi Berk is married to Rabbi Aliza Berk (pronounced Aleeza). The Berks were ordained as rabbis on the same day in June 1980. Rabbi Aliza earned her BA from University of California, Santa Cruz, and, after she became a rabbi, she earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from University of Santa Clara. She is now a licensed family therapist and a trained spiritual director. In San Francisco, Rabbi Aliza was the rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.
The Berks' daughter Jenna, and husband Raymond Graham, reside in Fort Lee, Virginia and are the parents of Amelie Lilah. Previously Jenna taught religious school and songleading at Congregation Rodef Sholom, the Reform temple in San Rafael, Calif. Their son Jonathan, who goes by "Yoni" is an avid rock musician and plays bass guitar for a rock band. Both Yoni and Jenna have been highly involved at Camp Newman and in NFTY programs.
Rabbi Berk's brother, Rabbi William Berk, is the Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Chai in Phoenix, Ariz. Rabbi William Berk retired early to become a Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute's Center for Rabbinic Enrichment. Rabbi Berk's sister, Betty, is a high school art teacher and artist in Visalia, Calif. Contact
by email, or through his assistant Terri Fine, 858 535-1111 ext. 3110.
Rabbi/Cantor Arlene Bernstein
Rabbi/Cantor Arlene Bernstein has been with Congregation Beth Israel since 1997. In 2007, she was elected to the Executive Board of the American Conference of Cantors. A native of Washington, D.C., Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein received her Master's Degree in Sacred Music, from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, New York Campus in May of 1993 and is invested as a Cantor. Her thesis work and Master's recital focused on the composer Alberto Hemsi, and the musical tradition of Sefardic Jewry. While training for the Cantorate, Cantor Bernstein lived and studied in Jerusalem for two years.
As a recitalist, Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein has concertized in Washington, D.C., New York City, Toronto, Canada and Jerusalem, Israel. Known as a specialist in Sephardi music,she was featured guest of the renowned Israeli musicologist, Dr. Edwin Seroussi, at a lecture series given at Merkin Recital Hall in New York City.
Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with a Masters Degree in Performance and the University of Maryland with a Bachelor's of Science in Music Education. She has performed with the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra of Israel, the Ra'anana Symphony, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony.
Before entering the cantorate, she was the lead singer in the Jazz/Klezmer ensemble, Shigaon, Boston's Israeli Dance Troupe, Hamakor and served synagogues as soloist and Hebrew teacher in Concord, Mass., and Laurel, Md. As well, Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein was formerly a professional bassoonist and taught bassoon, clarinet and chamber music at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School and the All Newton Music School. She was a freelance musician in the Boston and New England areas. In San Diego, she serves as the Jewish clergy for La Jolla's Casa de Manana, elderly housing facility. Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein first served the Suburban Temple in Wantagh, N.Y., and has served Congregation Beth Israel since July 1997. She completed her studies for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute at Los Angeles and was ordained a rabbi in May of 2011.
Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein's passions are foreign films, Hebrew language, classical and jazz music, spending time at the ocean, being with kids and, the Washington Redskins! It took her quite a while to adjust to the fact that North means that the Ocean is on the left side, as well as that well-known fact that the sun sets and doesn't rise over this ocean, and with no sense of direction whatsoever, Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein is fond of accidentally exploring the greater San Diego area with its extraordinary beauty and its multi-faceted culture.
by email, or through her assistant
, 858-535-1111 ext. 3116. Listen to Rabbi/Cantor Bernstein's recordings of prayers and blessings.
Rabbi Michael Satz
My path to the rabbinate began during high school when I spent a summer studying in Israel, but it was when I was a junior in college that I decided that I had to be a rabbi. While spending my year abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to help lead Pesach seders in small towns in Ukraine with other young Jews from America and Ukraine. After helping people rediscover the beauty and meaning in their Jewish lives, I knew that I had to dedicate my life to the same task back in the U.S. I entered Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and then in Cincinnati with the goal of thinking of ways to awaken in people of all ages the quest for Jewish learning and living that animates my life.
At Beth Israel I can often be found working with our preschool and religious school students and families. I especially love teaching our tenth grade Confirmation class and taking them on a yearly trip to Washington, DC. I also am the rabbinical advisor to the Social Action Committee and concentrate on outreach to San Diego Jews in their 20s and 30s.
Before coming to Beth Israel I was the assistant rabbi at Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ. I grew up in St. Louis, MO and will always be a Cardinals fan. I graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2002. I am married to Rabbi Janice Elster and we are the happy parents of Eitan Elster-Satz.
Cantor Emeritus Sheldon Merel
He was the soloist for the Emmy Award-winning documentary film, "Homage to Chagall," which played in theatres around the world. Cantor Merel won first place among lyric tenors in the Chicago Tribune Music Competitions and was a member of the Talent Bank of the San Francisco Opera Guild. In 1987, the San Diego Jewish Community Center bestowed its "Man of the Year " award to Cantor Merel for his outstanding music programming, and in 1991, the Harmonia Mundi Record Company featured Cantor Merel as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London on the CD recording, Modern Masters III.
Cantor Emeritus Sheldon Merel served Congregation Beth Israel for 25 years as Cantor and now as Cantor Emeritus. During his long career, he presented concerts of Jewish music at Notre Dame University, the San Francisco Opera House, Purdue University, Toronto, the Stratford Music Festival in Canada, San Diego State University, Tulsa, Los Angeles, Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego, and Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla. Cantor Merel served congregations in the Midwest, Oakland, CA, and Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto before coming to San Diego.
In 1998, his own CD, Standing Ovation, produced and edited by his wife Marcie, was released with selected recordings captured "live-in-concerts" over a period of 28 years. Standing Ovation, available on CD and cassette, includes Broadway hits, opera, liturgical music, a Chanukah Lighting Ceremony, excerpts from a thrilling Passover oratorio in English, plus some delightful novelty songs.
During World War II, he graduated from the New York State Maritime Academy, and sailed as Engineering Officer in the United States Merchant Marine. After discovering his voice while completing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the City University of New York, he went on to study at the Hebrew Union College-School of Sacred Music. He was invested in 1952, and in 1998, received an Honorary Doctor of Music from his alma mater.