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Rabbi: Neil Amswych
Rabbi Neil Amswych came to Santa Fe following 9 years as the principal rabbi of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue in England. He studied astrophysics at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland before beginning his rabbinic education at Leo Baeck College. While spending his third year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, he met his wife, Jenny, who was also a student there. They married in 2004 and have two beautiful children: a daughter, Zafra, now 5 years old, and a son, Asher, who is 2. They also have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Parker making them a global family: an American Mum, a British Dad, dual-citizen children and a Welsh dog.
Rabbi Neil’s rabbinic thesis looked at bipolar gender boundaries and transsexual surgery in a Jewish context. In 2007, he founded IDEA: Interfaith Dorset Education and Action, now the South of England’s largest interfaith environmental network. When he’s not with his family, working, cycling, or geeking out to Star Wars, he is working on his first book about a new aspect of Jewish theology.
Cantorial Soloist: Meredith Brown
A cantor, ironically named Mr. Singer, at a Hebrew Day School in Rockaway, New York, noticed that a little girl in his school could really sing. Fortunately for us, that little girl was Meredith Brown. Temple Beth Shalom is blessed to have Meredith and her beautiful and soulful voice and, while this is a big part of what Meredith shares with Temple Beth Shalom, it is by no means the only thing.
Meredith and her husband, Mick, met in Israel. In 1977, they briefly came to Santa Fe and connected with TBS. Although they spent the next 6 years between Gallup and Las Cruces, TBS was always their home for the High Holy Days. When they finally settled here for good, in 1984, Meredith became a B’nai Mitzvah tutor and she hasn’t stopped helping since. She joined the TBS choir and made herself available for Friday night services when needed. When her daughters, Michaela and Maia, got to be school-aged, Meredith became a Hebrew School teacher. In 1999, Meredith became our Cantorial Soloist. She is one of our greatest treasures.
Music Director: Aaron Wolf
Aaron was born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1949 to Izzy Wolf, who could daven but was completely tone deaf, and Delly Wolf, who had perfect pitch but didn’t know a word of Hebrew. A self-proclaimed Hebrew School genius, Aaron’s greatest early accomplishments were his ability to recite the v’ahavta backwards by heart, and play Hava Nagilah on the piano cross-handed. As punishment, his Hebrew School principal made him substitute teach the eight year olds for the first time when he was ten, launching a career that involved wearing many ill-fitting suits. Aaron began tutoring Bar/Bat Mitzvah and teaching Hebrew School at age 15, when he graduated from LA Hebrew High School. He continued to do so while attending the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. Aaron graduated from USC in 1970 and USC Law School in 1975.
Aaron moved to Santa Fe in 1978, joined Temple Beth Shalom and started teaching Hebrew School and tutoring Bar/Bat Mitzvah students in 1979. He and Carolyn were married in 1980. Twins Bekah and Sarah were born in 1981. Sarah is a Rabbi, Bekah is a Palestinian activist. The girls attended TBS Preschool and Religious School and were B’not Mitzvah in 1994, an event noted in his home as the greatest moment in the history of the Jewish people. Aaron served on the TBS board for eight years, the last two as president. He and choir sidekick Meredith Brown volunteered to temporarily serve TBS as accompanist and cantorial soloist when Mark Malachi left in late 1999. Due to an apparent oversight, Aaron has been allowed to continue to play piano and guitar for services, sing in the choir, teach music in Sunday School and lead Shabbat morning services and the Monday Morning Minyan. Occasionally his duties as a lawyer in private practice and doting in-house grandfather interfere. He likes the temple.
Rabbi Emeritus: Marvin Schwab
Known affectionately to the Temple Beth Shalom Youth Group as "Rabbi Gadget," Marvin Schwab has been called the only rabbi who can save your soul and your hard drive on the same day. He may also be the only rabbi who has been certified by General Motors in tune-ups, carburetors and alternators. His undergraduate degree was in Zoology with the equivalent of a minor in Chemistry. He was also certified as a Medical Technologist by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and the State of California. Despite this unlikely background, he was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati after attending campuses located in Jerusalem (where he lived for one year), Los Angeles, and Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and in June of 2010 was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by HUC-JIR in Los Angeles in recognition of his 25 years of service.
Rabbi Schwab came to Temple Beth Shalom on August 1, 2001, a date which is all too easy to remember because the special service organized to greet him was planned for September 11, 2001. He is a founder of the Interfaith Leadership Alliance (ILA) of Santa Fe, and has served as its President and Treasurer. He is well-known in Santa Fe as an active advocate for social justice, has served on the board of the Santa Fe Food Depot and has spoken to the New Mexico legislature in support of living wage legislation, repeal of the death penalty, the rights of domestic partners, and a woman’s right to choose.