On our frequent visits to the Temple Gates of Prayer, there were many notable people present in the services we attended. Here are a few of the important people within Temple Gates of Prayer that we were given the opportunity to speak to:
Illy Brown is the president of the Temple Gates of Prayer. She has been the president of the Temple for almost two years now and will soon be stepping down from her position. As is customary in the Temple, a new president is chosen every two years.
Rabbi Albert Thaler
Rabbi Thaler is the current rabbi of the Temple. He is well liked by everyone in the congregation, and one member even credits him for maintaining the warm, comfortable environment in the congregation. This is especially significant because the Temple’s congregation does not always agree with the way a rabbi chooses to run things. Rabbi Thaler, however, does things in a way that the entire congregation feels comfortable with and approves of. In addition, Rabbi Thaler works to maintain a personal relationship with every member of the congregation. During services, he gives birthday wishes to members of the congregation, and also mentions those who are ill. After services, he takes time to personally talk to the members of the congregation. During the week, Rabbi Thaler also holds special classes for members where members can discuss the Bible and their views of it. During these classes, Rabbi Thaler uses his life experiences as examples, often quoting wise words from his mother. He also utilizes his knowledge of Yiddish to further convey his expertise on the meanings from the Bible, using information the congregation can relate to.
Rabbi Thaler is also one of the twenty-three people who personally traveled to Israel to donate an ambulance van. The Board of Trustees even voted to have the Rabbi’s name placed on the doors of the van.
Rabbi Thaler introduced us to the congregation, and while conversing with us, he strongly recommended visiting an orthodox synagogue. He wanted us to clearly see the differences between what the environment is like in an orthodox synagogue and a more conservative temple such as this one.
Cantor Ben Tisser
Cantor Ben leads the congregation in praying and singing during services. When the rabbi is not present at the Temple for services, Cantor Ben is left in charge of running things. For example, Cantor Ben was left in charge when Rabbi Thaler traveled to Israel to donate the ambulance van a few months ago.
During the entire course of this project, Cantor Ben has been our main source of information. He explained the history of the temple to us, he clarified the meanings of the different services, and he answered any questions that we may have had. All the while, Cantor Ben took time out of his own busy schedule to help us in our project.
Susan Smith is the current chairperson of the nominating committee of the Temple. She is also a former president. In addition, Susan is an instructor to the youth of the Temple, working from inside her own classroom in the Temple to teach children things such as the Hebrew alphabet and Jewish holidays. Right before Passover, for example, Susan held a mini-sader for her students, allowing them to understand the traditions and the importance of the holiday.
Susan was another very important resource of information for us. She gave us a tour of the temple, she showed us the classroom where she teaches, and she even taught us some Hebrew letters. In addition, Susan took time out of her schedule to create a mini-seder for us, complete with prayers, Matzo crackers, and of course, cake, so that we could experience a seder for ourselves.
Gail Budiansky is another youth educator in the Temple. She is heavily involved in the congregation, and is also one of the twenty-three people who traveled to Israel to donate an ambulance van. Gail is responsible for creating a display in the front of the Temple that records the members’ trip to Israel when they went to donate the van.
Gail was one of the latest people we met at the temple, but she also helped greatly. She offered to email us pictures taken from the trip to Israel when the ambulance van was donated. These pictures can now be seen incorporated into our slideshow on the “The Temple” page.