Rabbi David Edleson, D.Div.
Rabbi David Edleson sees Judaism as a vibrant, flourishing way of life that is now experiencing a renewal of creativity and interest in the U.S., as Jews, like many Vermonters, feel a need to balance individuality with connection, community, cultural roots, and spiritual tradition. Whether it is with traditional chants, new “Jewgrass” tunes, kirtan-style Hebrew chants, or interfaith dialogue, David works to balance emerging forms of Jewish expression with the riches of traditional Jewish worship to create services that are both ancient and new, like the Jewish people. David also brings his scholarship and skepticism to our study of text and tradition, looking for the connection between these texts and our modern lives.
David grew up in rural Georgia, and always felt drawn to the few Jewish traditions his assimilated family still practiced. In high school, he began studying Judaism more seriously, falling in love with the smart judicious reasoning of the rabbis as well as audacity of the Jewish reformists and organizers. After college, he and his partner Tim spent two years in Jerusalem, where David taught Jewish student leaders from around the world at the Kiryat Moriah Education Center near Jerusalem. While in Jerusalem, he began his rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College, from which he received his ordination in New York in 1990. During his years in rabbinical school, he was a founding member of TaMaR, the Reform Zionist Youth Movement, and of Hinenu, the gay rabbinical student organization that was pivotal in the successful fight for ordination of LGBT clergy in the Reform movement.
David served 25 years as the rabbi for the Hebrew Association of the Deaf in New York, learning, and then creating services and sermons in American Sign Language. He also teaches religion, ethics, and literature on the college level, and served as the first Dean of Cook Commons at Middlebury College. Edleson received his honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College in 2015, and worked as the spiritual leader at the Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation in New Hampshire from 2016 until now.
Rabbi Edleson is thrilled to serve as open, welcoming, and engaged a congregation as Temple Sinai. Having moved to Vermont 25 years ago to build a house with his partner Tim, serving a progressive congregation in Burlington is a dream come true.
Mark Leopold | Cantorial Soloist
Mark Leopold is a native of Burlington Vermont. He has been serving as cantorial soloist since the founding of Temple Sinai in 1966. He is the youngest son of charter members Jules and Gertrude Leopold, both of blessed memory. Mark has taught in the Temple Religious School and served as Chair of the Spiritual Committee and on the Board. He also tutors B’nai Mitzvah students. Mark attended Burlington schools and the University of Vermont. By day, Mark is a computer programmer working for the state of Vermont. He is the father of 5 children and has 7 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild; he resides in Burlington with his wife, Deborah Leopold.
Judy Alexander | Director of Congregational Education
Judy Alexander is orginally from Long Island, NY. Judy has her Master’s degree in Elementary Education: Curriculum and Development. Before coming to Temple Sinai in 1998, Judy taught Hebrew school at Israel Congregation in Manchester, VT. Judy has 2 children, who were confirmed here at Temple Sinai and 3 grown stepsons. She tutors students for their B’nai Mitzvot, sings in High Holiday choir, is a member of Dahg (Temple rock band), and enjoys playing Mah Jongg, reading, studying ukulele, and writing plays. Judy is married to Bruce Chalmer.
Saragail Benjamin | Director of Young Families Programs
Saragail comes to us with 30+ years working with Jewish education, arts education, music, performance, drum circle facilitation, and community building. In schools and camps nationwide, in meeting rooms of global giants like Reebok-Adidas and Deloitte, she’s brought thousands of people together with her diverse skill set. In addition to being the Director of Young Family Programming, Saragail teaches K-1 in our religious school. Saragail also worked with Manchester, Vermont residents to create interactive, community-building activities to benefit kids with serious illness. Contact her for more information. Saragail is thrilled to be part of the TS team, sharing her love of kids, families, and Jewish tradition.
Stacie Gabert | Temple Administrator
Stacie is on a return engagement as Temple Administrator, having held the job in the past. A member of Temple Sinai since 2009, and with two kids in our Religious School, Stacie knows the community well, shares our mission, and is a knowledgeable welcoming presence in the office. Stacie grew up in Merrimack NH and moved to this area in 1994. She has worked in the accounting-bookkeeping field for over 15 years. She lives in Essex Junction with her boys, Clark and Dean. While the boys keep her busy, Stacie makes time to get outside, work out, read (preferably on a beach somewhere) and attend concerts. She is also a Red Sox fan.
Wendy Valastro | Keyboard Accompanist
Wendy has been a member of Temple Sinai since first coming to Vermont in 1982. She has directed the choir (including the first choir!), played keyboard for services, served on the board, and been a Temple Sinai educator, teaching music and dance to the children in religious school. Currently an elementary school music teacher, Wendy’s 38 years of teaching encompass music education and kindergarten through third grade. In addition to her public school teaching, Wendy has been music director and cast member in shows for Lyric Theatre and Stowe Theatre Guild as well as the founder and director of a summer musical theatre camp for children called Kidshow, now in its 35th year. A graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the University of Michigan, she and her husband James are the parents of two delightful daughters, two cats, a dog, and a fish.