Meet the NSCI Clergy Team
Rabbi Wendi Geffen, Senior Rabbi
Rabbi Wendi Geffen has served as one of the rabbis at North Shore Congregation Israel since her rabbinic ordination in 2002, assuming the role of senior rabbi in July 2015. A visionary, thought leader, and distinguished orator and teacher, Rabbi Geffen is passionate about Judaism, Torah, and the ways these ancient sources of wisdom add meaning to our lives and enable us to better our world today. She dedicates herself to learning and teaching with those interested in developing their own Jewish identities and Jewish journeys, no matter their age or background. She sees tikkun olam, the Jewish tenet of repairing the world, as a critical part of living a Jewish life, and works to empower to synagogue and larger Jewish community around the imperative to pursue tzedek/justice. Able to present complicated, nuanced Jewish texts and ideas in an accessible way, Rabbi Geffen is regularly sought as a teacher and speaker, and her writing has been published by The URJ, The Huffington Post, American Jewish World Service, as well as other prestigious publications.
Rabbi Geffen has served in various leadership roles within the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and is currently the chair of the 2017 CCAR Convention. She is a “Rabbis Without Borders” Fellow of Clal, as well as a 2012-2013 Writer’s Fellow of AJWS. Additionally, she recently completed an 18-month clergy leadership fellowship through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and is looking forward to being a part of their Chevraya program as part of her commitment to ongoing study and spiritual growth. Locally, Rabbi Geffen serves on the Executive Board of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the Board of JCFS’ Response Center, the Advisory Council of Glencoe Family Services, and is involved with the JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council.
Rabbi Geffen is married to Scott Duby, and they are the proud, albeit sometimes exhausted, parents of two children.
Rabbi Lisa S. Greene
My father, Rabbi Barry H. Greene (z”l), taught through example that there is a meaningful place in a synagogue community for each person who desires it. My role as a rabbi is to help people find that meaningful place, connecting people in myriad ways.
My rabbinate is about a joy of teaching, love of informal education, and fascination with ritual, old and new. I am always seeking ways to empower our people to make community and make our community their own by creating opportunities for them to learn, make a difference in our world, and create sacred moments.
Our Adult B'nei Mitzvah program, begun in 2000, is one of my proudest achievements and collaborations, bringing learning and community together. The members of each class learn from Torah and from one another's lives and create strong bonds. Women and men stand aside one another, as do Jews-by-Choice and born Jews, and adults whose ages span decades.
Chai @ NSCI, our Women's Seder and Women's Retreat are other areas that bring learning and community together. Each of these initiatives allows us to tap our members on the shoulder and ask my favorite questions: What would you like to do in our community to make it your community? How would you like to become involved here at NSCI?
I grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. After graduating from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, I worked as a securities analyst at Lazard Frères Asset Management. During rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, I served congregations in Manhattan, Anchorage, Alaska and Fort Smith, Arkansas, and served as a visiting rabbinic student in then nascent Jewish communities in Ukraine. After ordination, I moved to Chicago to serve Temple Jeremiah before coming to NSCI in 1999.
In our greater Jewish community, I have been honored to teach our youth on the faculty of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) for many summers and as Rabbinic Advisor to NFTY-CAR for a decade. As a board member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), I was privileged to try to bring Jewish values to learning and action impacting Chicago's diverse communities. Over the years I have served the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Women's Rabbinic Network and the Reform Pension Board.
My children, Noa, David and Talia, love NSCI and our community. All 3 began their Jewish education in our preschool and are the best sources for hiding places in the building and the best food at the Oneg Shabbat. Just ask them!
Rabbi Ryan E. Daniels
Ryan Daniels grew up in a committed Reform family in New York City, and attended Temple Israel of Jamaica in Queens, NY. Ryan attended URJ Eisner Camp from 1998-2012, first as a camper and then as a staff member. Ryan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University at Buffalo - SUNY with a B.A. in Political Science and Health & Human Services, which suited him well for employment following graduation as an addictions counselor.
Since returning to New York after HUC-JIR Year-In-Israel, Ryan has worked as a religious school teacher at Temple Shaaray Tefila, Pastoral Care Intern at DOROT, and Chaplain Intern at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. Ryan is a former Co-Coordinator of the HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen, and served as the Rabbinic Intern at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY.
Ryan met his wife, Carlie Weisbrod Daniels, during their first year in rabbinical school, and they were married in July 2014.
Cantor David Goldstein
In the Book of Exodus, we learn of Ohaliab and Bezalel. These two artisans are filled with the "wisdom of the heart." God has implanted within them the gift of being creative craftsmen. One path toward personal fulfillment and the realization of the mysteries of God's design is to discover the gift that each of us has implanted within; the gift reserved for the service of God. I believe that my gifts of voice and music are God given gifts to be used in God's service. My mission is to use my gifts in the effort to Create Holiness – those moments that are distinguished from the ordinary, intended for God. I believe the NSCI community values each individual's gifts; making a place for each person to share their own God given gifts.
At its best, worship is a finely woven tapestry of the fixed words of liturgy – Kevah; and, our deepest, truest intentions – Kavanah. Music, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, has the task of bringing these two, often disconnected elements, together. My approach toward bringing the liturgy to life is guided by this principle. I am a vessel through which music flows. My voice is a vehicle of expression that necessarily changes to meet the needs of the text, music and congregation. From time to time connection is made between the two (Kevah and Kavanah), a connection that assures me of God's presence. It is not something that can be manufactured or forced, rather these moments occur quite randomly, but not by accident. In partnership with the clergy team, music functions as a conduit and a catalyst in our endeavor to reach God.
Every human encounter has enormous potential to be extraordinarily meaningful, even sacred. I am exceedingly fortunate to interact with people during milestone events in their lives, infusing times of joy or sadness with a meaningful approach to Jewish law, ritual and custom. It is in these moments that the relevance of Judaism and importance of the temple community becomes apparent. Anecdotal evidence supports the notion that when deep empathetic human interactions occur, a space for God's presence has been created. When one experiences these moments, God's presence is palpable. There is neither a limit on the obligation to visit the sick, comfort the bereaved and rejoice with the bride and groom; nor, is there a limit on the reward derived from the doing (adapted from Mishna Peah).
Sacred Work of Teaching
As a teacher, I endeavor to be a significant and positive influence in each student's life. Like a newly stretched canvas, each student presents a creative challenge motivating me to explore alternative teaching techniques and approaches to ensure a fulfilling experience. As well each student possesses their own particular abilities. I endeavor to help each student understand the extraordinary value they bring to the community when they share their unique talents.
Pur Reform Movement
Blessed with many opportunities to serve, I continue to actively participate in our greater Reform Movement. I currently serve as the Chair of the American Conference of Cantors (ACC) Pension Board and as a member of the ACC Endowment Committee. I served the ACC as its President, Vice-President, Secretary, Membership Chair, Fundraising Chair and Ethics Chair. I served on the Boards of the UAHC (now the URJ) and Arza/WorldUnion of North America. As a member of the HUC-JIR-SSM curriculum committee and admissions committee, These experiences provide insight and perspective for my work here at NSCI.
In Pirkei Avot (The Sayings of the Fathers) we are told "Get yourself a teacher." Over the years this notion drove me to find great teachers. Whether as a matriculating student at a University (I hold a BA, an MA, an MFA and an MSM) or in a private setting, I am fortunate to have studied Judaica and Chazzanute with Lawrence Avery, Ben Belfer (z"l), Eugene Borowitz, Norman Cohen, Israel Goldstein, Larry Hoffman, Reuven Firestone, and Eric Werner (z"l). My voice teachers include Raquel Cortina, Elena Nicolaidi (z"l), Frank Monochino (z"l), Daniel Ferro, Eileen Harrower, Nancy Townsend and Gary Ledet. Other important teachers include David Barg (Conducting - summer of 2004) and Mary Cay Neal (violin). These teachers are some of the most talented and respected in their disciplines. The thirst for knowledge continues with studies of guitar (Bill Uhler and Carlos Benfeldt) and electric bass (Spencer Johnson). Recently I completed a Specialist Certificate Program at Berklee School of Music (Online Division). As well, HUC-JIR-DFSSM presented me with an Honorary Doctorate celebrating my dedicated service to the Jewish community as a cantor.