Welcome

Beth El is the only Conservative synagogue in Norwalk, serving all of Fairfield County. We are a multi-generational, diverse community welcoming all who want to enjoy and explore a Jewish life, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or financial means.

Meet the Rabbi

Rabbi Ita Paskind

Rabbi Ita Paskind serves the spiritual, religious, communal, pastoral, and educational needs of Congregation Beth El. She served previously as Assistant Rabbi of Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, VA. Rabbi Paskind graduated in 2004 with a BA in Psychology from Columbia University and a BA from JTS in Talmud. She received a Master’s in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary’s William Davidson School of Jewish Education and was ordained at JTS Rabbinical School in 2010.

Rabbi Paskind always seeks to connect with others and deeply values making Judaism fun and accessible to individuals of all backgrounds, educational levels, and interests. A lifelong musician, she uses her guitar to enhance Friday evening services, Saturday night Havdalah ceremonies, and she rocks out with our Preschool students every Friday for Shabbat!

Rabbi Paskind believes in the power of relationships and the joy of living in Jewish community.

A proud single Ima (mom) by choice, Rabbi Paskind loves raising her two daughters, Noa and Ayala, in the Beth El family.

Contact the Rabbi at: rabbipaskind@congbethel.org

Meet the Staff

Jody Dietch

Jody Dietch has been at Congregation Beth El since 2016, bringing her 16 years of synagogue experience here.  She has a BA from Keene State College and an MS in Public Relations from American University.  Jody brings a wealth of experience from her previous administrative positions at Congregation Or Shalom in Orange and B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, CT. Jody lives in Orange with her husband, Jeff. They have two grown sons, Howie (Katie) and Mike, and one grandson, Noah.

Executive Director
jody@congbethel.org

Amy SantaLucia

Amy SantaLucia has a BA in Psychology from Clark University and a MS in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University. She began her career teaching in the lower elementary school grades in local area public schools.  After taking a little time off to start her own family, Amy began working at Nitzan Nursery School as a classroom teacher. She quickly moved into the role of Director where she has been for more than 10 years now.

Director, Nitzan Nursery School
nitzan@congbethel.org

Hope Levensohn

Hope has a BA in Radio, TV, Film/Journalism from the University of Maryland. In Hope’s previous career, she was a Senior Media Buyer for top advertising agencies in NYC and Stamford. Hope utilizes her communication skills and experience when promoting CBE events, programs, services, and social media presence. Hope lives in Stamford with her husband Peter and has two grown sons, Jake and Ross.

Administrative Assistant
Office@congbethel.org

Lisa Gittelman-Udi

Lisa runs Kesher Beth El: Beth El Connections Jewish Learning Center. She is a dynamic and creative educator and skilled administrator with more than 20 years of experience as an educational director for various synagogues, including Greenwich Reform Synagogue and Congregation Kol Haverim in Glastonbury. She also worked as a youth director and was the teen Jewish resource specialist supervisor at Surprise Lake Camp in New York State.

Lisa is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of USC and has extensive post-graduate training in Jewish education, folklore and mythology. She and her husband, Amnon, have two grown sons, Adam and Jordan and one grandson, Levin Henry.

Director of Kesher Beth El Jewish Learning Center
lisargudi@gmail.com

David Goldstein

David is honored to be part of the team at Congregation Beth El in Norwalk. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, he was very active in his Jewish community, serving as the VP of programming for the USY chapter at Temple Aliyah. After his Bar Mitzvah, he remained engaged and involved, and was a student at LA Hebrew High School. Before joining this community, David lived in Brooklyn for 10+ years, where he built a career as a Scenic Designer for theatre. Theatre credits include:  Local: The Secret Garden and Sunset Blvd for Contemporary Theatre of CT.  Off Broadway:  Black Odyssey, Emojiland, Mr. Parker, Winnie The Pooh Show, Church and State, Stalking the Bogeyman, That Golden Girls Show, The Portal, Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, Soul Doctor. His design work has been seen in 18 states, as well as Canada, the UK, and Australia. Reach out anytime with programming ideas, questions, or just to say hello!

Director of Community Engagement
David@congbethel.org

Suzanne & Al Reisch

Alan’s father, Fred Reisch, started his office cleaning and building maintenance business in New York City some forty years ago. As an extension of that business, Suzanne and Alan established Building Maintenance of Connecticut and dedicated themselves to his Old World ethic — “Honest labor for reasonable wages.”

Suzanne and Alan pride themselves in providing hands on owner-management of a dedicated, experienced, reliable and trustworthy work force.

Maintenance Staff ​

Leadership 2023-24

Meet the Board (As of May 2024)

Officers

Keith Satter, President

David Loewenberg, 1st VP of Ritual/HR

Barrett Lester, VP of Fundraising

Danielle Ben-David, VP of Education

Michelle Fanwick, VP of Membership

Jonathan Cohen, Treasurer

Marguerite Felsenfeld, Financial Secretary

Stephanie Gordon, Secretary

 

Trustees

Win Baum
Brian Berger

Jeff Bendremer
Caryn Edelman

Paul Ginsberg
Dorothy Grimm

Josh Lander

Brian MacDonald
Gary Mozer

Mary Oster

Brett Reiner
Sylvia Schulman
Hilary Shaefitz

Dany Zaffran

Our History

Early History

It was a bold idea at the time, but one which was being implemented in other communities throughout the country where Jews, long tied to Orthodox synagogues and traditions, felt that the time had come to adapt religious practices to a changing society.

At the very outset, the founders determined that, in spite of the limited funds available, hiring a full time rabbi was essential-and Rabbi Maurice Lazowick was engaged. A very learned lay member of the Congregation, David Feldman of Westport, was convinced to serve as the temporary cantor; he remained as Baal Koray for over 40 years.

In addition to hiring a rabbi, the Congregation realized early on that a religious school was absolutely vital and, by 1938 (when the 161 members who made up the Conservative Congregation were each assessed $15 for dues), the school was established.

1940s through the 60s

In the early 1940s, Rabbi Benjamin Tumim took over the religious leadership of the Congregation which was meeting at the Norwalk Jewish Center. The young men of the community went off to war while, at home, the philosophy of the synagogue was strengthened and reorganized to conform more closely with the practices and teachings of the Conservative movement.

In the mid to late 1940s, the conservative Congregation also sought to move. A building drive began in 1947 and, after much discussion; the site on East Avenue was purchased. During that same year, Samuel Schwartz was heartily approved as our new rabbi, and we officially changed our name to Congregation Beth El.

On May 9, 1948, five days before the establishment of the State of Israel, ground was broken for the new building.

A year later, the first two wings were dedicated-classrooms for the religious school and an auditorium. Four years later, in 1952, the Sanctuary was erected behind the connecting corridor.

In 1965, women were admitted to the Board of Trustees with full voting privileges. During the ‘60s, other changes took place at Beth El as well. Land was purchased for a Congregational cemetery on Richards Avenue in West Norwalk. Zera Kodesh Congregation became affiliated with Congregation Beth El in a move that consolidated the conservative organizations in Norwalk.

1970s through the 90s

By 1973, along with voting privileges, the United Synagogue decreed that women were given full privileges. Women would now be counted as part of a minyan and could be honored with an aliyah.

In December 1980, Congregation Beth El made history when we hired Cantor Deb­orah Katchko-Zimmerman to be only the second woman cantor in the history of the Conser­vative movement. Soon after Cantor Debbie started, she instituted a new feature at Friday evening services, the once-a-month sing-alongs, regularly attracting over 200 people on a Friday evening.

In 1990, we welcomed Rabbi William Marder as our new spiritual leader. The ‘90s also saw the first woman president of Congregation Beth El, Barbara Hennes, followed by Ellen Wasserman who served three terms as President.

A New Millennium and Beyond

In 2001, Rabbi Joseph Ron Fish was welcomed to our Congregation. His installa­tion was attended by the Mayor, Congressmen, all of the area’s rabbis (representing Ortho­dox, Conservative, and Reform congregations) as well as other dignitaries. The Priestly Blessing was delivered by Rabbi’s father, Rabbi Judah Fish.

The new millennium with our young rabbi has brought a renewed vitality and vigor to our Congregation. We have welcomed many new families which include many young chil­dren. As we watch these children during services and other events, we see our future.

In 2015, Rabbi Ita Paskind became our congregation’s first woman rabbi.  Right from the start, she guided our congregation to fully lay-led high holiday services and has always championed the participation of teen leaders on Shabbat and high holidays. Rabbi Paskind worked with our congregation to stay connected throughout the pandemic and is now focused on helping the community explore this post-Covid world. (read more about Rabbi Paskind).

 

Since 1934, we have had 42 Congregation Presidents, 8 Rabbis and 7 Cantors-all most able individuals, who have contributed to our illustrious history.