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Clergy and Staff


We are fortunate to have two co-rabbis serving our congregation. Both Rabbis Moffic and Serotta are actively involved in Jewish education teaching weekly Torah study, adult education classes, downtown lunch and learn programs and they work closely with the confirmation class.

Rabbi Isaac Serotta

Rabbi ‘Ike’ Serotta is committed in both word and deed to social justice. He is a strong advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, voter’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant and refugee rights. He is also active in interfaith dialogue, with service as past president of the Southeast Lake County Clergy Association and similar roles with the Greater Milwaukee Interfaith Council as well as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He teaches regularly in interfaith study groups.

Rabbi Serotta is easily approachable to both adults and children. He is passionate about sports, music and movies. Congregants consider him to be scholarly, highly personable and uncommonly kind and caring.

Rabbi Serotta is married to Ceilanne Libber and has three children.

Rabbi Evan Moffic

Respected as a Jewish thought leader both in the Chicago area and nationally, Rabbi Moffic is the author of four best-selling books. He is regularly featured as part of the Religion Panel on Fox and Friends and on CNN, and his articles appear in Huffington Post.

The Chicago Tribune described our Rabbi Moffic as “a brilliant antidote to all that divides us. He constructs bridges where others drive wedges” and “the Rabbi we’d love to call our own. Humble, wise and good beyond words.”

Rabbi Moffic graduated Stanford University and ordained by Hebrew Union College in 2006. After serving 3 years as at Chicago Sinai Congregation, he joined Congregation Solel in 2009. He is married to Rabbi Arielle Poster Moffic, founder of CoHere Chicago. They have two children.

Rabbi Taylor

emeritus Rabbi at Makom Solel Lakeside

Coming to us from Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts, Dov Taylor became Congregation Solel’s third rabbi, serving for a quarter of a century from 1984 to 2009. Ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1968, he went on to do postgraduate work in Modern Hebrew literature at Brandeis University. He has taught at Brandeis, New England College and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, and has been a Visiting Scholar at Oxford and the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellow at Harvard.

In 1965 Rabbi Taylor founded Torah Corps—an intensive summer experience in Jewish living and learning for teenagers from the United States and Canada—and directed it for twenty years. Many participants in the program have gone on to become rabbis, cantors, academics, educators and Jewish leaders.

In 1997, his translation of Joseph Perl’s Revealer of Secrets: The First Hebrew Novel was published to critical acclaim, and he was invited to present a paper on his work at the Fifth Annual International Conference on the Haskalah, held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in December 2013.

In addition to writing, teaching and lecturing, Rabbi Taylor has been a strong supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, affordable housing initiatives and separation of church and state. Dov and Judith now make their home in Woodstock, Vermont, where he is the spiritual leader of Chavurat Ki-tov.

Cantor Jay O’Brien

Whether you are hungry for music with an uptempo beat or something mellow to stir your soul, Cantor Jay O’Brien delivers it all.

With a fine tenor voice equally suited to singing opera or show tunes, Cantor O’Brien appeals to Jews of many different demographics and denominations through his fusion of traditional, contemporary, folk, and classical musical genres in Jewish worship and communal life.

His interfaith background and observant Jewish upbringing makes him an inspiring and compelling musical leader.

Educational Staff

Ashley Plotnick, Director of Congregational Learning

Ashley believes Jewish education must address children’s social, emotional, and spiritual needs, while engaging them in and out of the classroom. She is passionate about involving adults in Jewish learning, and loves teaching Mussar (character development based on Jewish values) to all ages.

Ashley holds a Masters in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, as well as Master’s degrees in Education and Social Work from Widener University

Vanessa M. Ehrlich, RJE, Director of Lifelong Learning

Vanessa believes that a Jewish education is a lifetime journey and, for that reason, manages a vibrant Adult Education program, enriched significantly by her deep knowledge of contemporary issues in faith and religion. In addition to being integrally involved in the identification of quality speakers to support adult learning, Vanessa teaches classes, conducts book groups, and takes an active role in our Adult B’nai Mitzvah classes.

Vanessa holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a Masters of Jewish Education from Spertus College.

Simcha Ackerman, B’nai Miztvah Educator

Simcha joined our staff as a Religious School teacher in 1995. In 2003 she became the B’nai Mitzvah Educator and began tutoring b’nai mitzvah students.

Simcha is the person who assigns b’nai mitzvah dates, currently tutors all b’nai mitzvah students and helps with coordinating the b’nai mitzvah service by meeting with families. She attends all b’nai mitzvah services.

Simcha also teaches hevruta, a small group b’nai mitzvah preparatory course. Hevruta meets on Tuesdays and Sundays before religious school, and Simcha also works with students needing additional Hebrew help during Religious School hours.

Sloane Jolcover, Youth Education & Engagement Coordinator

We are excited to welcome Sloane Jolcover to our team! Sloane will be working with our madrichim, our teen program, and all of our youth groups to create fun, engaging programs for the year. Sloane graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University and has spent the past few years working with children who have emotional, behavioral and developmental disabilities.

We can't wait for you to meet Sloane in the Lev Learning office.

Professional Staff

Alan Litwack, Co-Executive Director

Allan Litwack joined our congregation in 2010. Prior to joining us, he served as executive director at three other congregations in Illinois: Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville, Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, and Northwest Suburban Jewish Congregation in Morton Grove. He possesses strong financial planning skills, along with facility, operations, and people management experience. Allan received his Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education/History from Bradley University and his Master’s of Management degree from DePaul University.

Allan is married to Karen Litwack, previous Director of the Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders, now retired. He loves spending time with his adult children and 8 grandchildren.

Rick Schuster, Co-Executive Director

Rick brings a unique blend of senior management experience and sustained passion for Makom Solel Lakeside Congregation to his role as Co-Executive Director. Rick plays a crucial role in many of the vital operations governing our congregation including overseeing administrative and support staff, strategic planning, budgeting, technology, facilities, maintenance, and implementation of new policies and procedures. Starting out with a MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, he has followed a diversified career path with ownership and executive level positions focusing primarily on the sales, marketing and strategic planning aspects of closely-held enterprise.

Rick served on the Board of Directors for nearly 12 years – including a term as president – and then remained active on several committee assignments after leaving formal board appointment. He was very instrumental in establishing the popular Sunday morning Adult Enrichment program.

Rick and his wife Mary live in Deerfield. They have been members for over 25 years and their two grown children, Ann and Ben, are confirmands of the religious school program.

Margaux Friend, Associate Executive Director

Margaux works with Makom Solel Lakeside’s Executive Directors to oversee the day-to-day operations of the synagogue and ensure that clergy, staff and lay leadership have the support to function effectively in meeting congregants’ religious, social and community needs. In addition to handling the daily management of the congregation’s fiscal and administrative affairs, communications, and safety of congregants, Margaux seeks to engage community members to become active participants in their own Jewish lives, build deep relationships, and connect to others through social, learning and spiritual practices of substance and meaning.

Margaux has over a decade of experience working with congregations, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), and social service organizations. She has a Bachelor’s degree in history form Northland College, is a proud OSRUI alum, and participates as a member of the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA) and the Chicago Association for Synagogue Administration (CASA). She is both a member and sustainer of Jewish Women International and JWI's Young Women's Leadership Network, focusing on educating the public on how to prevent and end gender-based violence. Last year Margaux took part in the Northwestern University and Spertus Institute Certificate in Jewish Leadership program, learning with Jewish leaders from all around the world. She is currently a member of NATA's Journal Editorial Board and was just named as one of Chicago's 36 Under 36!

Margaux lives nearby with her husband Ron, their three children and house full of laughter and love.

Amy Blechman, Clergy Executive Coordinator

Amy joined our congregation in 2017 and has broad responsibilities including handling the calendars of the Clergy by scheduling life cycle events and visits with all congregants. Amy also helps families with the b’nai mitzvah process. In addition to this, she works with both member and non-member donations to Makom Solel Lakeside and produces the weekly Yahrzeit list. Amy is enthusiastic about the opportunities she has to help people in the community. She comes to us after years of experience in the financial field.

Amy earned her bachelor’s degree at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and her MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Amy and her children, Gerri and Benjie, live in Deerfield and enjoy attending just about any sporting event!

Kathy Montenegro, Communications & Events Coordinator

With a passion for marketing and a history of brand promotion, it was with excitement that we welcomed Kathy to the Makom Solel Lakeside community this last summer. Kathy earned her Bachelor of Science in Public Relations degree from Illinois State University. It was there she was able to discover her knack of event planning, working on giant events for local nonprofits.

Rikki Carl-Goldberg, Graphic Designer

Rikki joined our community in 2016, has a Fine Arts degree focused on graphic design, and is a freelance designer when not working at Makom Solel Lakeside. Having grown up on the North Shore, she has a great connection to the Jewish community and has a background in Jewish studies. Rikki is devoted to helping others and bringing a creative and fun environment to our congregation!

Wed, October 23 2019 24 Tishrei 5780