Meet Our Rabbis

Rabbi S. Robert Morais, Senior Rabbi

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* Rabbi Morais will be with us until July 6.


Rabbi Morais

Rabbi Morais was born in Toronto and attended York University where he earned an Honours degree in History and Judaic Studies. He received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati Ohio in 1997.

After ordination, Rabbi Morais served Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY for 7 years as the associate rabbi. In 2004 he became the Executive Director for Hillel of the Rochester Area Colleges and the congregational rabbi for Rochester’s Temple Beth Am.

Since its opening summer in 1999, Rabbi Morais has been a member of URJ Camp George’s faculty and is currently on the camp’s steering committee.

In 2001 he was selected by Brandeis University as an inaugural fellow of the Institute for Informal Jewish Education.

In 2006 Rabbi Morais moved to Metro Detroit to become the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning for Temple Israel of West Bloomfield MI. Temple Israel is the largest Reform synagogue in world with a school of 1300 students. At Temple Israel, Rabbi Morais oversaw the educational aspects of the congregation, as well as teaching a variety of classes for children and adults. He was also faculty member of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School of Metro Detroit.

In the summer of 2011 Rabbi Morais became the director of Shalom Street Museum, a hands on Jewish children’s museum that specializes in creating experiential Jewish programs for children and youth. Also in 2011 Rabbi Morais became the rabbi for Temple Beth Israel in Jackson MI.

May 2019 – Pesach is over. Spring is in the air. The snow has finally melted, and with it my time here at Temple Israel is coming to a close. Spring is a time of new growth, a time to forge new pathways. In a few weeks I will be transitioning to my new role as the rabbi for Temple Anshe Hesed in Erie PA. 

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on my four years here in Ottawa. My time has been filled with programs, life cycle events, community gatherings, helping temple articulate its core vision, helping the world to heal through acts of Tikkun Olam and wonderful Shabbat and Holiday celebrations.  I want to thank our amazing corps of Lay Cantors who lend their talents and spiritually as they lead the music of our services. Having multiple music leaders provides the congregation with the opportunity to hear both different musical styles, and a variety of compositions for the various prayers. If you are interested in training to become one of our Lay Cantors, please contact Sue Potechin, who not only is a regular Lay Cantor herself, but also coordinates the training and scheduling of our Lay Cantors. 

I have had the pleasure of working with an incredible staff. Heather Cohen, Sue Potechin, Cathy Loves and Steve Elliot. All are incredibly dedicated to Temple and to making the synagogue a wonderful place for people to come and celebrate their Judaism. 

It has been wonderful to share the bima with my friend and colleague Rabbi Steve Garten. Together we have officiated at life cycle events, sharing in both the happiness and joy of our congregation. We have had the pleasure of leading High Holiday services together, an opportunity for temple to hear different rabbinic voices and messages. When I have been away Rabbi Garten has graciously led services and made sure that the congregation has had rabbinic coverage for emergency pastoral needs. I deeply appreciated his sage advice and support over the years. 

As I wrap up my time here in Ottawa, I am most appreciative of you, the members of Temple Israel. You have been willing partners in helping to create the wonderful community that is Temple Israel. As with every hello, there must be a goodbye… I am sure that over the years our paths will cross, and we will have the opportunity to share more wonderful moments.  For now, I wish you all a wonderful summer, and continued success as Temple Israel welcomes Rabbi Mikelberg. If you are ever travelling to Erie, please stop by and say hello! 

Shalom, L’hitraot…

Rabbi S. Robert Morais

Welcome Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg

* Rabbi Mikelberg will join us beginning August 1.

Message from our President Stephen Asherman
Temple Israel is delighted to welcome Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg to our Temple Israel family as our next Rabbi, beginning in August, 2019. We are excited to welcome this successful leader who has shown exemplary skills, experience, leadership qualities and character.

Meeting Rabbi Mikelberg, May 13, 2019

Meeting Rabbi Mikelberg, May 13, 2019

Strengthening Temple for our children and grandchildren: It seems b’shert, meant to be, that Rabbi Mikelberg, a rabbi with tremendous success in Toronto in engaging young families, should also be seeking a home for his young family in our congregation. We want to welcome Rabbi Mikelberg, his husband Zachary Paul, a high school teacher and their young son Jacob.
A mensch: Those who know Rabbi Mikelberg best speak of his personal warmth, his strong pastoral and interpersonal skills, his kindness and compassion, his spiritual leadership, learning and passion for the rabbinate. Throughout the search process, Rabbi Mikelberg has demonstrated integrity, collaborative spirit and humility.
“As soon he got into the car, I felt an immediate connection and ease speaking with him,” said Tamara Taub, co-chair of the Rabbi Search Committee. “I was struck by his sincerity and authenticity which was confirmed again and again throughout the process.”
It was clear from the feedback received after Rabbi Mikelberg’s visit that his experience, warmth and authenticity shone through during his various interactions with congregants. “Rabbi Mikelberg clearly demonstrates his commitment to Jewish living and a deep sense of spirituality,” said one. “He is committed to building an inclusive community, and supports welcoming of everyone who wishes to learn, study and participate in Jewish life, both personally, and in community. He made the worship experience positive, inclusive, and joyful, and recognized the need for personal space and prayer.”
Respect:  One of the things that became evident early in the process was how well respected Rabbi Mikelberg is. One reference joked, “he’s a joy; if he moves to Ottawa I may consider moving there.”
Rabbi Mikelberg has served a number of Canadian congregations including Temple Sholom in Vancouver, BC and most recently Temple Sinai in Toronto. Just a few of the highlights of Rabbi Mikelberg’s experience have been building a highly successful program for young professionals called “Temple Sinai Next Generation”; organizing Early Bird Shabbats and holiday meals for homebound seniors; embarking on a yearlong exploration of tot programming to better meet the needs of young families, and establishing Sinai Connections, a new process of small groupings of congregants, promoting a culture of building genuine relationships.
He also managed pastoral relationships to support congregants facing health struggles, including hospital visits and overseeing pairings of volunteers with congregants in need, and designed special Shabbat experiences called “Shabbat Shirim” (interactive musical services) and “Shabbat Itanu” (multigenerational services with a focus on a stirring topic).
The congregation played a key role in selecting our new Rabbi, and your feedback and survey responses have been essential throughout the process.
In its search, the committee put in place a rigorous evaluation and assessment process, evaluating seven candidates. After the interview stage, two candidates were invited to meet the congregation and lead services. One withdrew their application prior to the interview.
 Rabbi Mikelberg, the overwhelming favorite of the committee, was invited to Temple Israel in December 2018 to meet the congregation and lead services. Based on the very positive feedback from the congregation from Rabbi Mikelberg’s visit, the committee proceeded to the next stage and completed five reference checks with the Senior Rabbi, co-workers, board members and with an external organization in which he leads a volunteer program.
All of the reference checks yielded extremely positive feedback, and we knew that we had before us a very strong candidate who embodies the values and essence of what Temple Israel is, and the future we want it to be.
The search committee’s recommendation was approved by the Board of Directors. We truly believe Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg is the right fit for our congregation, and we are honored to have him join our family.

Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg

New Beginnings Await

Rabbi MikelbergAs I prepare these words, I can safely say that winter has passed. In both of our fine cities of Ottawa and Toronto, it will be invigorating to move on from the snow and cold. Soon the blossoms and tulips will emerge, and spring will begin in earnest. We have many new beginnings to look forward to in this glorious new Canadian season. My husband Zach and I and our youngster Jacob are eager to set down roots alongside the Temple Israel family. Thank you for all your kind welcoming words that we have already received.

I have received many enquiries as to who I am and what my rabbinic vision represents. I believe we will find that we share much in common.  We have plenty of time ahead to get to know one another as my family settles in Ottawa in August. However, I thought it would be helpful to share some initial thoughts about myself and my priorities.

I am a product of the Canadian Reform movement, growing up at Temple Sholom in Vancouver, BC. I had the fortuitous opportunity to return to my home congregation as an Assistant Rabbi. Since then, for the past 8 years I have been a Senior Associate Rabbi at Temple Sinai in Toronto. 

I share a deep-rooted investment in inclusivity of all kinds. We are at our best when we celebrate our precious light that we carry within and we explore the means to collaborate as one. It is extraordinary to note that there is no “normal” in our Temple Israel family. We have interfaith families, interracial families, LGBTQ2 families, single members, Jews by Choice, and members with various special needs. This is wonderful! Together we can explore the best pathway to affirm each and every voice. As a young dad myself, I am eager to create new programming for young families – I am bringing along a wealth of experience in this area. 

As Jews and world citizens, we share a responsibility to tikkun olam. As we gather to learn, to pray and to act, we lend ourselves to lifting up the other. Three areas that I have dedicated energies to in recent years include alleviating poverty, building connections with our Indigenous neighbours and assisting with the plight of Syrian refugees. The work of tikkun olam demands recognizing the pressing needs of the day and being prepared to act with a hands-on approach. I look forward to planning and mobilizing with you and to taking on this holy work in the nation’s capital!

As a committed Reform Jew, I cherish our means to blend tradition and innovation. I take pride in our place in the Union for Reform Judaism while I also recognize that our Canadian voice is unique. I am well versed as a crazy Canuck, proud of our multicultural fabric, our commitment to community, and of course hockey. 

I cannot wait to share this vision with you and partner as new friends with a united mission. As the summer arrives, we have lots to look forward to!

Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg

Rabbi Steven H. Garten, Rabbi Emeritus

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Rabbi Garten has been overseeing the direction and curriculum of the Religious school since 2007. The expansion of the Temples commitment to Tzedakah projects, interreligious dialogue, programming which strengthens the relationship between Temple members and the State of Israel bring him great joy. In addition the ongoing commitment of members to Jewish study, either through traditional Jewish texts or modern Jewish literature is a source of great Nachas.This sacred community is one which has helped the Rabbi continue his journey to greater belief and understanding of the Divine experience in our lives. All the members of Temple have helped along this path. Rabbi Garten teaches widely in the community and is active in Ottawa’s interfaith dialogues. He has led many congregational trips to Israel and travels to Eretz Yisrael as often as possible. Rabbi Garten was born in New York City but has lived in canada for over thirty years. He is married and is the father of two University graduates, both of whom celebrated B’nai Mitzvah at Temple Israel and served as president of FROSTY. He is an avid player of the game of golf hoping one day to become a golfer.

Rabbi Steven Garten, Temple Israel’s longest serving spiritual leader, has requested and been granted by the Temple Board retirement one year early, effective 30 June 2014.

Rabbi Steven Garten retires after more than 19 years at Temple Israel, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, January 2014

Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Ottawa and Mohamad Jebara, Chief Imam, Cordova Spiritual Education Center were honoured with the Wallenberg Citation

Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Ottawa and Mohamad Jebara, Chief Imam, Cordova Spiritual Education Center were honoured with the Wallenberg Citation, June 2017.