Sign In Forgot Password

Hatan breishit & Kallat torah

During Simhat Torah services on Wednesday, September 29, it is customary for every member of the congregation to receive an Aliyah. The honors of Hatan Torah, the last aliyah of the book of Deuteronomy; and Kallat Breishit, the first aliyah in Genesis, are assigned by our Ritual committee to recognize significant contributions to the ritual life of our synagogue. Mazal tov to Michael Greene and Naomi Gerstenblith on receiving these honors this year.

michael greene, Hatan Breishit

Growing up in Greensboro, NC in the 1960’s, if you wanted to identify as being Jewish it was through the Shul. So every Shabbat morning I knew where I would be—in synagogue. Much of our social life revolved around the synagogue. My parents sent my siblings and me to Jewish summer camps to expand our Jewish experience, with Camp Ramah in the Berkshires being most impactful.  This was my first exposure to kashrut that my brother and I wanted to bring home with us, so we asked our father if we could keep a kosher home.  By this point we were living in Old Farm in Rockville.

After belonging to Adas Israel for 25 years, getting married to Lisa and having our son, Sam, we joined B’nai Israel in 2002 to be part of the Rockville community. Sam attended B’nai Israel Schilit Nursery School and when he started Talmud Torah on Sundays, I began my Morning Minyan experience.  This feeling brought me back to my youth at Camp Ramah. Helping to assure those who need to say Mourners Kaddish a minyan  is important to me. I am inspired by our clergy on Shabbat mornings and grateful after a busy and full week to have a spiritual experience.

The opportunity to blow shofar leading up to the holidays, as well as chanting the occasional Haftorah and occasionally leading the morning minyan has added closeness to our community. 

Upon joining the Men’s Club, I found a niche for my love of cooking. Working with Jeff Fredman, Alan Isenberg and Bernie Rod has afforded me the opportunity to experience laughter and service at the same time. All in all, I find my B’nai experience both rich and rewarding.

I am truly grateful for this honor.


naomi gerstenblith, Kallat torah

Thank you for this special honor. When we moved to the Rockville area in 2013 and enrolled in the Schilit Nursery School, we had no idea we’d gain the entire B’nai Israel community and synagogue. It wasn’t until after we joined that I learned my family has a long-standing connection to the congregation including my paternal grandparents, Robert and Evelyn Silberg, who were married at B’nai Israel in 1947 by Rabbi Henry Segal when the synagogue was located in Northwest D.C.  It is quite special that my grandmother, who turns 96 this year has attended her great-grandchildren’s siyyum preschool graduations here at B’nai. 

I have always enjoyed participating in services since I was a child growing up in Baltimore and particularly enjoyed learning Torah and Haftorah trope and speaking Hebrew.  I also have always loved to sing and so applied those talents and skills in synagogue as a bar/bat mitzvah tutor, regular Torah chanter and harmonizing during songs and prayers.

This love for Judaism and music has been prevalent throughout my life and even inspired me to take on the role of writing and directing the Purim Spiels at B’nai Israel for the past two years. Working with dozens of our talented young people to learn their songs, lines and dance moves and bring the productions to life. While this past year’s show, A Peter Pan Purim, was virtual and unlike anything I’d worked on in the past, the outcome was incredibly rewarding and a true inspiration of the power of our community to come together. 

The experience was so meaningful for me, that it led me to create my own business to continue doing this work.  I’m so happy I was able to help build and strengthen our B’nai Israel community and I hope to continue to do so in the future.

Tue, September 28 2021 22 Tishrei 5782