An Introduction to the Clergy Staff
Rabbi Amy Wallk, Ph.D.
Since her move in 2008 from Kansas City to Springfield to serve as rabbi of the newly merged Temple Beth El and Congregation B’nai Jacob, Rabbi Amy Wallk has been an inspiring rabbi, a brilliant educator, and a strong and authentic leader in every way. Her stamp has been indelible on every aspect of life in the synagogue and beyond – through her beautiful and engaging religious services and pastoral care, through her skills as a sought-after teacher in a variety of settings, through the guidance she provides to our community and its organizations, and through her widely respected contributions on the national Jewish level.
Rabbi Amy Wallk served on the editorial committee for Siddur Lev Shalem, the latest Conservative Movement prayer book, and has been a teacher for the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning for over 25 years. She participates in the Rabbinic Leadership Programs at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, as well as other exceptional programs of professional development. Rabbi Wallk was honored by the prestigious Forward newspaper as one of the 33 most inspiring rabbis in America.
Rabbi Wallk received rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her post-secondary education includes a Bachelor's degree in Jewish Studies from Barnard College, a Master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, a Master's degree in Jewish Education from the University of Judaism, and a Doctorate in Education from Michigan State University. Rabbi Wallk has three children: Tamar, Gabriel, and Nina. She is married to Rabbi Mark Cohn.
Cantor Elise Barber
Cantor Elise Barber has served Temple Beth El since 2011. She received her cantorial ordination and M.A. in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College in Newton Centre, MA and received her B.A. in Theatre from American University in Washington, D.C. Elise also attended a summer intensive program at the Manhattan School of Music. She enjoyed a professional acting and singing career as a child and well into her twenties performing in the first national Broadway tour of the musical Titanic as well as West Side Story Suite with the New York City Ballet. Favorite roles include Louisa in The Fantasticks, Bella in Rags, Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music, and Anne Frank. In 2012, Elise was featured in Frauenstimmen: Women’s Voices from Ravensbruck at the Fenway Center in Boston. In 2006, Ms. Barber performed a solo concert of Jewish music in Cuenca, Spain. Elise has served as a service leader and/ or teacher at several synagogues including Congregation B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, CT; Congregation Beth Israel in Worcester; Congregation Beth Jacob in Plymouth; Temple Hillel B’nai Torah in West Roxbury; Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody; Temple Aliyah in Needham; Temple Israel in Hull; Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in Newton; and Temple Beth Zion in Brookline. She has also performed in concerts at many of these synagogues as well as at Sinai Temple in Springfield and the Jewish Fellowship of Hemlock Farms in the Poconos. In 2021, Cantor Barber was a featured performer on a nationally broadcast Mr. G (Latin Grammy winner) Hanukkah concert. Elise performed as a soloist with the Springfield Symphony in 2019 and 2020. She is a proud alumna of The Zamir Chorale of Boston where she was also a featured soloist. Elise has been working on education and community outreach with PJ Library both through the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and the Springfield JCC. Elise is a passionate teacher, helping students connect to their tradition and to each other building a stronger community. She draws great joy from forming close relationships with people and is excited about the opportunity to listen carefully to the needs and interests of individuals, families and organizations. Elise lives in Deerfield with her husband Rabbi Ben Weiner, son Efraim, and daughter Batya.
Reverend David Aminia
Reverend David Aminia was born in Iran and moved to Israel in the mid-1960s. While there, he studied in ulpan for eight months. Rev. Aminia then emigrated to the United States and completed high school in Bolton Landing, a small town in upstate New York. He studied mathematics and computer applications at the Florida Institute of Technology.
In 1989, Rev. Aminia came to Temple Beth El to serve the congregation as Ritual Director. He studied Haftarah trope with Rabbi David Rosenfeld and Torah trope with Professor Hayim Cohen of Beer Sheva University. After serving the congregation with distinction for many years, he was honored with the title of Reverend.
Rev. Aminia is involved in all aspects of ritual life at the synagogue. He oversees the daily minyan, reads Torah, tutors B’nai mitzvah students, supervises kashrut, helps coordinate cemetery activities and tracks over 2,500 yahrzeits. His presence has been essential to ritual life at Temple Beth El for decades.
David and Sharon Aminia have been married over 40 years and have a daughter, Rachel.
Rabbi Emeritus Herbert Schwartz
Rabbi Herbert N. Schwartz was born in Chicago in 1943, received his B.A from University of Michigan (1964), his M.Ed. from Kent State University (1973), Master of Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary (1968) and was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1970. Subsequently, he received an Honorary Doctorate from that institution in 1995. Rabbi Schwartz married Sharon Karp in 1965 and together they have three children - Rachel, Doniel and Alisa.
Rabbi Schwartz has served three congregations: Ohev Tzedek of Youngstown, Ohio, B’nai Jeshurun, of Cleveland, Ohio, and our own Temple Beth El in Springfield, MA (1983-2008). He regarded himself first and foremost as a pastor and he helped steward his communities through the tumult of the the Vietnam war (Youngstown),through the transitions from urban to suburban Jewish life (Cleveland), and through a quarter of a century of rethinking modern American Judaism (Springfield).
He was ever dedicated to civil rights and interfaith relations and represented the Jewish community to Springfield’s general community. He served on Baystate Medical Center’s Pastoral committee and the Committee on Community Health for the City of Springfield. He championed Health Centers in the Springfield School System and worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in such areas as needle exchange, smoking cessation, and violence prevention. Rabbi Schwartz’s inclusive view of the congregation encouraged expanding education to all ages, and was pivotal in the creation of the Sandi Kupperman Learning Center, reaching beyond the boundaries of the classroom to include all that Jews experience. Under Rabbi Schwartz’s leadership, the Katz Family Library was revitalized with the intention to strengthen the Jewish home. Finally, a spiritual dimension was added as Beth El welcomed instrumental music, meditation and healing services to the temple’s more traditional offerings, with the goal of allowing all the generations to interact with one another.
Rabbi and Sharon retired in 2008, following the example of his beloved friend and partner Cantor Morton Shames and his dear Presidents who have all maintained an abiding interest in one another as well as the welfare of Temple Beth El and its members until this time.
Sonia’s life passion is to build stronger and deeper relationships in her community and to support others along their life’s journey. It is for these reasons that she was excited about the opportunity to join the staff of Temple Beth El as your Executive Director.
With over a decade of professional experience in the Jewish community, Sonia has a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of working with diverse groups of people. Through her community organizing and leadership skills, she has been part of guiding groups toward a shared vision for several years.
With a post-graduate certificate in Experiential Jewish Education from Yeshiva University, Sonia focuses on the whole-person experience. Sonia has a genuine eagerness to connect with others, creative mind, passionate heart, and a wide range of nonprofit experience. Sonia was born and raised in Clearwater, FL and currently lives in Easthampton, MA with her dog, Murphy.
Director of Communal Life and Learning
Caryn Resnick received her degree in Education from Boston University, and has done graduate work in education at American International College, Springfield College, and Hebrew College. Caryn has been the Director of the Sandi Kupperman Learning Center at Temple Beth El since 1995. She is a graduate of the Sulamot Family Education Initiative, and is a certified Jewish Family Educator.
Caryn has worked as a teacher in the Enfield public schools, Heritage Academy, and Wilbraham public schools, and as an instructor at Springfield College. She was a recipient of the Teacher of Excellence Award from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and has won four Solomon Schechter Awards for her outstanding synagogue education programs. Her innovative programs have included Shabbatonim retreats, resource space for children with special learning styles, mentor-in-training programs, and teen trips to Israel.
Caryn was raised in Western Massachusetts, where she and her parents were very active in the Conservative Jewish community. This was the foundation for her passion for Jewish education, which she demonstrates daily at Temple Beth El through her creative and interactive programs and dynamic teaching style. Caryn has two sons – David (of blessed memory) and Jason. She greatly enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, Michael, Cameron, and Stella.