Our Leaders

Rabbi Tami Crystal   
     In the Jewish system of gematria, where every letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, we prize the number 18 because it stands for the letters of the "hai", which means "life."
    That symbol of hai also has a special meaning for Rabbi Crystal who is in the 18th year of her rabbinate. She began, while still in seminary, as Rabbi of The Jewish Home and Hospital in New York where she created innovative programs for connecting cognitively impaired seniors to Jewish ritual and culture. After a year of study in Israel, including creating a weekly two hour Kabbalat service for the "challenged" residents of Magein, a unique group home in Jerusalem, she returned and began a specialized career, working with "congregations in transition" in New York, Boston and Milwaukee to help them heal and regroup.
     "The nature of synagogue life is changing," she notes. "Our lives have changed. Our social life no longer revolves around the synagogue. And, in many cases, new demands in work and family life have shifted our priorities, no matter how much we wish it differently."
     "If there is a thread to what I do as a rabbi it is that I go where the need is," she notes. This includes being the rabbi of Dayenu, an innovative ritual and learning program in New York City for recovering Jewish alcoholics whose first cohort will have their Bat Torah this coming Sukkot. She continues her work with Dayenu in addition to being spiritual leader of B'nai Israel.
     "Coming to B'nai Israel was a very unexpected choice for me, " she notes. "I came to help at a time of crisis last year and stayed because I found the people so wonderful."
     Rabbi Crystal is a board-eligible chaplain, specializing in palliative care, having taught chaplaincy in Israel as well as having served hospices and hospitals wherever she was. She is also a singer who teaches all forms of trope and has worked as the High Holiday Cantor for synagogues in New York, Jerusalem and Zichron Ya'akov in Israel.
   Rabbi Crystal particularly likes working with Bar and Bat Mitzvah age children and with teens. "I enjoy kids in general but from 12 through high school you can really make a difference. I especially enjoy our discussions about ethics and the interaction of Jewish tradition with contemporary life. And in terms of discussion - the livelier it gets, the more I like it!"
    Rabbi Crystal is a graduate of Brooklyn College, CUNY. She was ordained from The Academy for Jewish Religion in New York after a planned course of study which included the Jewish Theological Seminary and Drisha in New York, and Machon Schecter, The Conservative Yeshiva and The Ratisbonne Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem. Prior to coming to the rabbinate she was a lay hazzan for many years as well as an executive director in Jewish organizations including JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others) and National Director of Public Relations for Hadassah. She was also a dance professional who worked with Broadway directors and choreographers, taught in NY and made over a hundred television commercials.
     A practicing yogi, she certified as a Vinyasa instructor in 2012 and has hopes of teaching Torah yoga in the area.
     Rabbi Crystal has dedicated her rabbinate to the living memory of her teacher, Debbie Friedman, who brought joy and meaning to Judaism through her music and her life. 
 Cantor Stacey Sokol  
       Cantor for over 15 years, the majority of this time in Long Island. She is a graduate of The H.L.Miller Cantorial School of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America where she received a Master's of Sacred Music and was invested as a Hazzan. She is a member of the American Conferance of Cantors, The Cantors Assembly and The Women Conference Network. Cantor has been freelancing at Congretation B'nai Israel since the Summer of 2011. She is very excited to be more involved in Congregational life at Congregation B'nai Israel. Cantor Stacy will be completing her ordination as a Rabbi in the Summer of 2014. She has two children named David and Zamira.