Rabbi Matt Zerwekh is proud to return to Temple Emanu-El to lead the congregation he credits with forming his earliest Jewish identity. Rabbi Zerwekh earned his BA Cum Laude in Political Science at Western Michigan University, before his matriculation to Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. It was at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati where Rabbi Zerwekh earned his Masters in Hebrew Letters in 2013 in Cincinnati and was ordained in 2014. During his time at HUC, Rabbi Zerwekh devoted his thesis research to end-of-life and hospice care and, while at HUC, created a mobile resource Jewish Resource for families going through the hospice process.
Before coming to Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Zerwekh led Temple B’nai Israel in Kalamazoo. While in Kalamazoo Rabbi Zerwekh taught as adjunct faculty at Western Michigan University and served as an executive board member of ISAAC, the largest interfaith organizing group in Southwest Michigan. During his time in Kalamazoo, Rabbi Zerwekh distinguished himself in the community as a voice for positive change and cooperation in the faith community. Rabbi’s work was recognized by the Kalamazoo City Commission when he was appointed to represent the faith community on the board of directors of the Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence.
As Temple Emanu-El’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Zerwekh works to help connect the values that make Temple Emanu-El such a special place, to Judaism and to the outside world. It is in this place that Rabbi Zerwekh is most passionate: he continuously strives to make connections, to find common ground between people, communities, and communities of faith as he understands that the strength of a community is only helped through relationship and dialogue with our neighbors. Rabbi Zerwekh has delivered an opening invocation for the Michigan State Senate, serves on the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbi’s) Ethics Process Review panel and was recognized by the Detroit Jewish News as one of the 36 under 36, and is proud to represent Temple Emanu-El through his various efforts to “pray with his feet”.
Rabbi Joe KleinEmeritus
Joe Klein served as Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El from 1997 to 2013. He was born and grew up in Toledo, OH and graduated from Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) in 1969. He majored in Sociology and Anthropology; was ordained from the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion with a Master of Hebrew Letters in 1975; and then served as Assistant Rabbi at Temple Israel in St. Louis MO for three years. Before coming to Temple Emanu-El in 1997, Joe Klein was Rabbi of United Hebrew Congregation in Terre Haute, IN and Mizpah Congregation in Chattanooga, TN. While in Indiana and Tennessee, Rabbi Klein was adjunct faculty in Humanities at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, as well as Indiana State University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He taught courses on Genesis, Hebrew Scripture, First Century History, and the New Testament. For ten years he coached the Rose-Hulman Fencing Club. Rabbi Klein and his wife Barbara have two children: Ellie is married and living in Boston with their three grandchildren, and Adam is married and living in Atlanta with their two grandchildren. Rabbi Klein currently teaches in the Jewish Federation’s FedEd Adult Education program and is Adjunct Professor at both Oakland University and Rochester College.
Kelly OnickelCantorial Soloist
Kelly Onickel, cantorial soloist, converted to Judaism in 1988. In 1989 she and her husband Harry became members of Temple Emanu-El. Since then she has been active in the Shir Chadash Choir, sisterhood, membership, religious, and education committees. Prior to Kelly serving as cantorial soloist, she often lead services when Cantor Norman Rose, z”l, Chaplin Ande Teeple, music directors Steve Klaper and Judy Lewis, or Cantor Darcie Sharlien (all who preceded her in this position) were on vacation or on leave. Kelly has a BA in vocal music, and a minor in Judaic Studies from Oakland University. She is currently attending the University of Michigan – Frankel Institution for Judaic Studies, working towards her Masters in Judaic Studies. Working full time from the age of 15 in many different industries, she has developed a very strong and committed work ethic.In 2006 Kelly made the decision to go back to school in pursuit of her passions in music and religion. Although never working in the music or congregational industries prior to Temple Emanu-El, Kelly never stopped singing. She began studying voice with private lessons at the age of five at Eastern Michigan University, continuing her studies throughout her education. She has studied under such opera professionals as Candice DeLattre, and Nadine Washington, and jazz professionals Danny Jordan z”l, Tad Weed, Sean Dobbins, Dr. Miles Brown, Carl Cafagnia, and Scott Gwinell, and Conductors Michael Mitchell and Bradley Bloom. Kelly and Harry have two children; son Kein and daughter Sierra, both graduates of Temple Emanu-El’s religious school. Kelly is and always has been fully committed to the Temple Emanu-El community and looks forward with great joy to the years to come.
Abby GoldfadenInterim Executive Director
Abigail “Abby” Goldfaden has served as Temple Emanu-El’s Bookkeeper for the last 15 years. She obtained her B.A. in Psychology from Kalamazoo College and earned her MBA from Wayne State University. Abby is enjoying her tenure as Interim Executive Director, a position that has provided her the opportunity to immerse herself in the programming aspects of Temple Emanu-El events. Further, this role allows her to work closely with our lay leadership to strengthen our presence in Metro Detroit’s Jewish Community. Outside of the office, Abby enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her two adult children, Josh and Amanda.
Abi Taylor-AbtYachad Religious School Principal & Educator
Abi Taylor-Abt has been a Jewish educator her whole career. She was born in London, England and finished school in Israel. After attending college in South Africa, Abi began her career in Jewish education working as the teen director at Moshav Neve Ilan, Israel. She worked as a Judaic studies and Modern Hebrew teacher in England, and became the principal of the Religious School of Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue in London, with managerial responsibilities for programming and curriculum. More recently, she was the Kehillah Programs Director in Boise, Idaho before returning to Israel where she was the Director of Program and Curriculum Development at Alon Community School, Kiryat Anavim. Her passion for Jewish education is shown in her belief that Jewish learning is for everybody. Using music and creativity, Abi thrives on running educational programs that bring Judaism into everyone’s daily lives. Abi and her husband Gideon are excited to be in Michigan with their two youngest children, Yael and Ben.
Eileen BrandDirector of Early Childhood Community
Eileen has been Director of the Early Childhood Community since 2007 and has been part of the ECC for most of the past 25 years, as a Nursery Teacher, then as Associate Director of the program, and finally as Director of Student Services, before beng appointed as Director of the ECC. Ms. Brand graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Education, did post graduate work in Early Childhood Education at Madonna College and attended the Jewish Early Education Enrichment Project of the Federation of Metropolitan Detroit in 2002-2004.For Eileen, the memories and experiences with her Temple Emanu-El family continue to be a significant part of her life. Her own children grew up during her Temple career; she witnessed (and enabled) the growth of the pre-school from a Nursery School to an Early Childhood Community and she has seen many children grow up and return to Temple to share their memories.