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STAFF

Rabbah Arlene Berger

Rabbah Arlene Berger believes there are almost as many paths to being Jewish as there are Jewish people. Raised in a cultural Zionist home, she attended services at a Conservative synagogue and learned at an Orthodox Day School. Today, she bridges the movements of
Judaism and enjoys helping people figure out their core spiritual needs and grow from there.

Rabbah Arlene graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College with an award in aging. Over the years, she has served as chaplain, Jewish educator, and service leader for people of all ages. The rabbinate is a second career for Rabbah  Arlene. Earlier, she earned an MSW, an MBA and a certificate in gerontology from Boston College. She went on to work for 15 years in the field of aging, specializing in the Americans with Disabilities Act and senior mobility management.

Rabbah Arlene has built her rabbinate around two convictions. First, each person must take responsibility for all those on our planet. Second, Judaism has a wonderful blueprint for how to do this. Our heritage provides us with the wisdom for knowing ourselves, for living in community with respect and forbearance, and finding a sense of humor even in hard times. Rabbah Arlene’s passion is to nurture each person’s inner spark so that he or she finds a true
home within the Jewish people.

Currently, Rabbah Arlene chairs the Spiritual Life Committee as well as serving as chaplain at the Charles E Smith Life Communities. She is also a community chaplain through the Jewish Social Service Agency and rabbi of Hevrat  Shalom in Rockville. She is also a community rabbi working those desiring life cycle events but are not connected to the organized Jewish
community.

Rabbah Arlene loves everything Jane Austen, science fiction and fantasy novels and movies, and hanging out with her two children and two amazing grandchildren. She lives in Rockville with her husband Warren.

Rabbi Rachel Gartner

Rabbi Rachel Gartner was our spiritual leader from July of 2022 to July of 2023.

Rabbi Gartner believes in the power of vibrant, soulful Judaism to strengthen our spirits, engage our minds, inspire our communities, and improve our world. 

She advances a dynamic, equitable, and inclusive Judaism that empowers us to embrace joy and endure pain, and to access compassion and act with courage towards  greater justice and wholeness among us all.

Rabbi Gartner looks forward to accompanying Shirat Hanefesh members in finding fulfillment, offering their gifts, and singing the song of their souls at every stage of life.

Inspired by Jewish music of every kind, and by the varied paths to Jewish expression, Rabbi Gartner has led a broad range of Jewish communities.  Immediately before joining us at  Shirat HaNefesh, Rabbi Gartner served 11 years as Director for Jewish Life and faculty lecturer at Georgetown University.  Rabbi Gartner remains at Georgetown as the  Senior Advisor for Spiritual Care,  School of Continuing Studies.  She also remains on the leadership team of In Your Shoes, a project in Performance and Dialogue, of Georgetown’s The Lab for Global Performance and Politics.  

Rabbi Gartner’s prior positions include: Director of Hillel at Miami University, Campus Rabbi at Earlham College, and Associate Rabbi at Reconstructionist Synagogue Bnai Keshet, of Montclair, NJ. She is an active alumna of the  Marshall T. Meyer Rabbinic Fellowship of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, NYC, and the Cooperberg Rittmaster Rabbinic Fellowship of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah,  NYCs first synagogue founded to serve the LGBTQI+ Jewish community.  She has served on the national board of The Reconstructionist Rabbinic Association and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

An original co-author of Moving Tradition’s nationally acclaimed sourcebook, Rosh Hodesh: It’s A Girl Thing!  Rabbi Gartner  has also written opinion pieces for the Huffington Post, The Hill, and a range of national Jewish media. Television and radio appearances include CNN and NPR’s 1A.

Rabbi Gartner graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2002 with awards in Spiritually Motivated Social Action and in Practical Rabbinics. She has certificates in mediation and dialogue facilitation from the Conflict Resolution Center, Richmond, IN, the Institute for Sustained Dialogue, Washington, DC, and Resetting the Table, NYC. 

Rabbi Gartner (“Rabbi Rachel”) loves dark chocolate, strong coffee, and contemporary art.  She lives in the District with her family. 

Contact her on email via rabbirachel@shirathanefesh.org.  

Janet Braun, CMP, CVEP

COORDINATOR

Janet Braun stepped into the role of coordinator in 2019.  She handles the weekly newsletter, room reservations at the Church, the kiddush/oneg calendar, the membership directory, and numerous other tasks.  Please send her items for the newsletter, and contact her directly with questions at info@shirathanefesh.org.

founding clergy

Rabbi Gerry Serotta

After six years as the founding rabbi of Shirat HaNefesh, Rabbi Gerry Serotta served as Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington from 2014 through 2020, where he continued his work as a leading voice for interfaith cooperation, religious freedom, and human rights. Rabbi Serotta has served as Executive Director of the interreligious organization Clergy Beyond Borders, Associate Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, and director of the Hillel Foundation at George Washington University. He was the founder and chair of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America, and he chaired the Board of Chaplains of George Washington University.

Rabbi Serotta has received many awards for his communal work. He was named a Public Policy Conflict Resolution fellow by the University of Maryland School of Law and served as a senior rabbinic scholar in residence at the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Serotta received a master’s degree in Hebrew Literature from Hebrew Union College, a Master of Sacred Theology from New York Theological Seminary, and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College. He is married to Dr. Cynthia J. Arnson. We’re delighted that Rabbi Gerry and Cindy remain members of the congregation.

Hazzan Dr. Ramón Tasat 

Born in Buenos Aires, Hazzan Ramón Tasat served as founding cantor for the congregation’s first 15 years. He learned Ladino, the language of the Sephardic people, at his grandmother’s knee. Trained in five different countries, he received a doctorate in voice performance from the University of Texas at Austin. Hazzan Tasat toured Europe with the world-renowned Dr. Robert Shaw and has sung at international festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. He has also appeared in operas from “Le Nozze di Figaro” to “La Traviata.”

Hazzan Tasat has served as director of the Cantorial School at the Academy for Jewish Religion, musical advisor of the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Music Festival, board member of the American Friends of Neot Kedumim and the president of Shalshelet: The Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music. He also leads the Kolot HaLev Community Choir. His numerous recordings range from Fiesta Sefarad to Teshuva, Kantikas di amor i vida, with the late Sephardic singer Flory Jagoda, and Yom SheKulo Shabbat. He has also published several books on Jewish music.

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784