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.
Cantorial Soloist Benjamin Sokol
Benjamin R. Sokol is a bass-baritone whose repertoire spans several genres. His professional education includes a Bachelor of Music in 2022 from the Manhattan School of Music. He is currently a second-year Masters student at MSM. His private vocal studies have been in the studio of world-renowned bass-baritone, James Morris. Benjamin has also worked with many other luminaries of the opera and classical music world including Sherrill Milnes, Mignon Dunn, Joshua Greene, Mary Jane Johnson, Marlena Malas, Kenneth Merrill, Thomas Muraco, Simon
Estes and Piotr Beczala. Benjamin has been the recipient of many awards and accolades including the Alexandra Hunt Endowed Vocal Scholarship, the 2021 Milnes Opera Idol competition and was a finalist in the 2022 Opera Index competition. Benjamin has sung many operatic roles at the Manhattan School of Music and in professional opera companies including Sarastro and Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Orest in Elektra, Wagner in Faust, Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Badger/Parson in The Cunning Little Vixen, Betto Di Signa in Gianni Schicchi
and L’Arbre in L’Enfant Et Les Sortileges.
As for choral work, Benjamin was a member, chamber choir singer and soloist with HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir, performing at venues such as Temple Emanuel NYC, Central Synagogue, Jazz at Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall, Carnegie Hall, and The Metropolitan Opera House. Currently, he is a frequently featured soloist with the Zamir Chorale and Zamir Noded under the direction of Matthew Lazar.
Benjamin attended Jewish Day School from preschool through high school, and has had extensive Jewish and educational leadership roles in a variety of formal and informal settings. Benjamin has a deep appreciation for cantorial arts, and has studied nusach and cantillation throughout his life, including from his father who is a well-known cantor and educator. For the past two years Benjamin served as Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Agudas Israel in Newburgh, New York. Benjamin is delighted to join North Country Reform Temple near his hometown of Westbury, and is looking forward to sharing his love of cantorial music with his new congregation.