Rabbi Michael S. Churgel, RJE, comes to NCRT with over 20 years of congregational experience, having served synagogue communities as Rabbi and/or Education Director from Southern California, to the Gulf Coast of Florida, though he has spent most of his career within the greater NY Metropolitan area (Brooklyn, Long Island, Rockland County).
Following his undergraduate education at UCLA, Rabbi Churgel received Rabbinic S’micah from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 2001, in addition to his Master of Arts in Jewish Education. Rabbi Churgel earned the title “Reform Jewish Educator” (RJE) from the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE), for his teaching and administrative experience, and he also served as a part of its national board. Rabbi Churgel is a “graduate” of the first cohort of the Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals, a two-year professional development program for Jewish Educators throughout the Greater New York area.
Rabbi Churgel’s involvement in the Jewish community at large extends to his participation in many local rabbinic, educational, and interfaith groups in every community in which he has served. With a strong connection to Jewish camping and Israel, Rabbi Churgel has served as staff and/or faculty at close to a dozen Jewish camps and Israel summer programs. He most recently served as a Rabbinic Faculty member at URJ 6-Points Creative Arts Academy, where each of his three children has attended as campers. Rabbi Churgel was a charter/founding member of Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, an interfaith clergy group established to stand up for the rights of students in the East Ramapo School District, and battle the injustices being rendered to them by the local school board and the state legislature. Rabbi Churgel served on the executive committee, and he lobbied on its behalf at the State Capitol in Albany multiple times.
When not serving the community, Rabbi Churgel’s interests include quality time with his wife, Shara, and their three children, Daphne, Zoe, and Jason, traveling, swimming, concerts, theatre, movies, reading, eating sushi, or rooting on one of his UCLA Bruins sports teams.
Cantor Leslie Friedlander
Cantor Leslie Friedlander grew up in an artistic family in Evanston, IL, where her mother was a celebrated painter and her father was a respected radiologist. Classical music was always heard in the home and her father, although not a professional musician, had a glorious baritone voice and could always beat anyone at “Name That Tune,” classical version. Between Cantor Friedlander and her three siblings, someone was almost always practicing one of six musical instruments.
A summa cum laude graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and biology, Cantor Friedlander then earned a Masters in Voice from The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She was ordained as cantor from The Academy for Jewish Religion in New York, and also received certification and ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She completed a three-year leadership development fellowship with the Leadership Institute, a joint initiative of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. Cantor Friedlander has served URJ congregations as cantor and Jewish educator at Temple Emanuel (now Temple Tikvah) in New Hyde Park, Riverdale Temple in the Bronx, and Temple Isaiah in Great Neck.
Among her awards, Cantor Friedlander received a Commendation from the City of New York Office of the Comptroller for distinguished leadership in the community and a Citation of Merit from the Bronx Borough President in recognition of her service and contributions as an educator. She also received a Proclamation for special recognition of service to the community from the Assembly of the State of New York and the New York City Council.
Cantor Friedlander has sung professionally in this country, England, Wales, Germany and Israel, performing with such companies as the Goldovsky Opera Company, Varna Music Festival of Bulgaria, The Brooklyn Philharmonic, Center for Contemporary Opera, Caramoor Festival, Musica Sacra, Gregg Smith Singers, National Arts Chorale, and the Aspen Music Festival.
Cantor Friedlander lives in Mount Vernon, NY with her husband, Steven, who is a retired UJA/Federation CEO. Between them they have three grown children, Gabriel, Shaina, and Julie, and two loveable granddaughters.