CBI is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated group of individuals serving the congregation as clergy, senior staff, educators and lay leaders. Our clergy and staff bring unique strengths to our community, and each stands ready to respond to your questions and help make your CBI experience a positive one.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our congregation, reflected in the commitment of lay leaders to serve as members of Board of Trustees, working hand-in-hand with our professional staff to uphold the values, ideals and mission of our kehilla (sacred community).
Rabbi Ari Isenberg
In 2020, Rabbi Ari Isenberg became Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel. He is dedicated to pastoral work, community leadership, and creating meaningful, sacred moments in the lives of his congregants.
Prior to his move to Greater MetroWest NJ, Rabbi Isenberg served Temple Israel Center in Westchester, NY for five years. There, he collaborated in the development of the Hesed Circle, a network of caring and support; created Dor l’Dor, an intergenerational program in which older members interacted with preschoolers; and was known for his Torah on Tap series, a popular evening of learning at a local bar. In addition, he championed innovative models of worship to expand the options for prayer and customized ritual for lifecycle events.
From 2005-2014, Rabbi Isenberg was spiritual leader, cantor, and Senior Rabbi of Shaar Shalom Congregation in Halifax, Canada. There, he served as Associate Chaplain of Dalhousie University and Queen Elizabeth II Health Centre, and sat on the Executive Committee of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus.
Rabbi Isenberg was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. While studying at JTS, he achieved a Master’s in Sacred Music, was named Tanenbaum Fellow of Beth Tzedec (Toronto), Leffell Fellow of AIPAC, and Rabbinic Intern-in-Residence of Masorti France and the Jerusalem Open House.
Together with his wife, Gila, and their daughter, the Isenberg family loves hosting Shabbat dinners, traveling, cooking, and rooting for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.
Cantor Lorna Wallach
Lorna Wallach, a native of Brooklyn, New York and a graduate of the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, received her Diploma of Hazzan in 1991, from the Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, in the fifth class to allow women to be invested as Hazzanim.
Cantor Wallach became the Cantor of Congregation B’nai Israel in 1998, after having served for nine years as the Cantor of Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue in Manhattan. She received recognition in Glamour Magazine (July, 1992) as the first woman to serve as the Cantor of a Conservative synagogue in New York City. Cantor Wallach’s early experiences singing professionally in the Children’s Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera for eleven seasons and spending fifteen summers at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, including heading the music program there for five years, greatly influenced her decision to enter the Cantorate.
Cantor Wallach has performed locally, nationally and in Israel as a soloist with the New York Zamir Chorale and the SELAH vocal ensemble.
She and her husband Michael Kalet are the proud parents of Shira and Joshua.
Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, Director of Congregational Learning
Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald is dedicated to the idea that Jewish education should be fully accessible to all, since we are each created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.
Rabbi Julie became Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation B’nai Israel in 2019, where she is responsible for educational programming for all ages.
Having grown up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Julie has a BA from Wesleyan University in Education Policy Studies and an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University in Computing in Education. After years of teaching in public and private schools, Julie taught in the lower school of Golda Och Academy for 12 years. In 2014, she shifted careers to become a synagogue education director and received rabbinic ordination in 2019. Rabbi Julie is honored to serve on the board of the Jewish Educators Assembly and to be the Associate Director of jMorim.org.
Paul Gibilisco, Executive Director
Paul Gibilisco, a native of Old Wethersfield, Connecticut, and a graduate of Trinity College, received two masters from Stern School of Business in Marketing and Information Technology. He met his future wife, Vivian, a Jewish educator, at NYU in “Marketing 101”.
Paul is a Jew By Choice and has raised three Jewish daughters (Lauren, Wendy, and Susie) in a Jewish home. He has been an active member of his congregation and has served as a trustee for several years. Paul also served on the Greater Metro West Allocations Committee and has traveled to Israel several times with family and his chavurah.
Paul looks forward to adapting the skills he sharpened in the business world to help the CBI team meet upcoming challenges. He managed P&Ls at AT&T, Intel, and Ameritech, headed up product management and database marketing at several startups, and ran his own consulting business for the past ten years. He applies his strategic marketing and IT skills to capitalize on business opportunities and solve strategic business problems.
Paul resides in Morris Township with his wife, Vivian. He enjoys tennis and chess. On a Sunday afternoon, you can find Paul upgrading a computer or writing code with Jeopardy or Star Trek on in the background.
Rabbi Steven Bayar, Emeritus
Rabbi Bayar served as Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel for 30 years, from 1989 until his retirement in 2019. Rabbi Steven Bayar holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and an M.A. in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Biblical Studies from the University of Virginia. He was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and has served pulpits in Greenbelt, Maryland and Spring Valley, New York before coming to B’nai Israel Congregation in Millburn in 1989.
He’s the co-author of “Teens & Trust: Building Bridges in Jewish Education,” “Rachel & Misha,” and “You Shall Teach Them Diligently to Your Children: Transmitting Jewish Values from Generation to Generation.” He was the lead author of the ZIV/Giraffe Curriculum (Righteous Person’s Foundation) and as co-founder of Ikkar Publishing has written more than 40 curricula ranging from the “Philosophy of Moshe Chaim Luzzatto” to “Teaching Jewish Theology through Science Fiction and Fantasy.”
He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and Rabbis Without Borders and has trained as a hospice chaplain, a Wise Aging facilitator and served as a trainer for #GamAni (the Jewish #MeToo Movement) for creating safe workspaces. He is currently the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation B’nai Israel and proudly teaches at the Golda Och Academy in West Orange, New Jersey. Rabbi Steven Bayar is Founder and Executive Director of JSurge.
Our Board of Trustees are a dedicated group of lay leaders who support our congregation in countless ways.
Jamey Potechin, President
Henry Bloom, 1st Vice President
Elizabeth Cohen, 2nd Vice President
Dan Dovdavany, 3rd Vice President
David Sotnick, Treasurer
Robert Brauer, Financial Secretary
Jennifer Glick, Secretary
Organizational Representatives to BOT
Rachel Benjamin, BBRS Religious School Board
Laurie Kavowras, CBI Preschool Board
Susan Gordon, Religious Affairs Committee
Debbie Toplansky, Sisterhood
David Touger, Men’s Club
Designated Past Presidents
Nan Greenwald (through 2022)
Joseph Tenenbaum (through 2023)
Mariela Markelis Dybner (Immediate Past President)
Trustees through 2023
Trustees through 2022
With Deep Appreciation to our Past Presidents
Mariela Markelis Dybner