Rabbi A. Brian Stoller joined Temple Israel as Senior Rabbi in 2017. He is a friendly, patient, and welcoming presence known for greeting people warmly, remembering our names, and just being himself. He is also an energetic, knowledgable, and passionate teacher who challenges us intellectually and guides us in mining Judaism’s sacred texts for insights that will help us navigate the unique circumstances of our own lives. As a prayer leader, he strives to pray not on behalf of his congregants, but with us, so that together we can rise toward the heavens. Most importantly, he is a caring and devoted relationship-builder who genuinely enjoys people and wants to be our friend. As Rabbi Stoller has said, “I just go out there and try to be myself because I believe that, in the end, all of us are seeking the same thing: to feel loved, to find meaning and purpose in life, and to be embraced by people who genuinely care. In my view, a synagogue’s mission is to create this kind of community for its members. All the rest, as they say, is commentary.”
Following the dictum that “the teacher of Torah must be a student of Torah throughout his life,” Rabbi Stoller is currently pursuing a doctorate in halakhah (Jewish law) and has published a number of essays on Jewish law, practice, and theology. He is an active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), serving on the Responsa Committee, the annual convention planning team, and the editorial board of the CCAR Journal. Rabbi Stoller received his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Cincinnati campus in 2008, and served as Associate Rabbi of Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, IL from 2008-2017. He grew up in Houston, TX (Congregation Emanu El), and earned a degree in Honors Business and Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996.
Before entering rabbinic school, Rabbi Stoller spent seven years in professional politics, working on campaigns in Texas, Colorado, and Illinois, and serving as Press Secretary to then-U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (IL) in Washington, DC from 1999-2003. After seeing the Pentagon burn from his office window on September 11, 2001 and learning of a childhood friend’s death from brain cancer a year later, Brian knew the time had come to follow his deeply-held desire to become a rabbi. “It was then that I finally understood: life is fragile; we do not know how long we are going to be here,” he has said. “For several years, I had been too fearful, too anxious about change to pursue what I knew in my heart I wanted to do with my life, but now I was ready to go for it. Aside from marrying Karen and starting a family, it was the best decision I have ever made.”
Rabbi Stoller is proud to be part of Temple Israel, which he describes as “a warm, friendly, welcoming, close-knit congregation, with the vision and the courage to change our community and our world for the better.” He lives in Omaha with his wife Karen and his two children, Lindsay and Zachary. In his free time, Rabbi Stoller enjoys reading classical Jewish texts (yes, really!), cycling, and re-watching episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. For the past two years, she has served as the Rabbi Educator at Central Reform Congregation, a vibrant congregation of 780 households in the city of St. Louis. Rabbi Berezin attended HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. She earned a Master of Arts in Jewish Education and was ordained in May of 2014. In addition to student pulpits at Temple Beth Torah, Temple Beth Shalom, Beth Knesset Bamidbar, and at the China Lake Naval Air and Weapons Station, Rabbi Berezin served as the Harold M. Schulweis Rabbinic Intern at Jewish World Watch, an organization that promotes education, advocacy and action around issues of genocide and mass atrocities. She had a second rabbinic internship at Our House Grief Support Center, providing pastoral care to both children and adults. Prior to her enrollment in rabbinic school, Rabbi Berezin attended Indiana University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies and a double minor in Hebrew and Psychology. Rabbi Berezin married Jared Berezin in 2016.
Cantor Wendy Shermet has been part of the clergy team at Temple Israel since 2001. She has a Master of Music Degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, and ordination and a Master of Sacred Music from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.