Clergy

ASHER KNIGHT

Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Asher Knight is Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina. He joined Temple Beth El in July of 2016. Prior to coming to Temple Beth El, he served for nine years as Associate Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, in Dallas Texas and as the rabbinic intern for Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rabbi Knight grew up in Denver, Colorado. He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Denver cum laude in 2001, with a major in International Studies and a concentration in Middle East security. Rabbi Knight attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its Jerusalem and Cincinnati campuses, receiving his M.A. in Hebrew Letters in 2006 and rabbinical ordination in 2007.

Rabbi Knight recently served as the Board Chair of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a non-profit organization that annually provides over $6 million dollars of pro-bono legal and social services to asylum seekers and refugees who have suffered human rights abuses. He has spoken at national conventions and conferences about refugee resettlement. Rabbi Knight has held leadership positions in the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He is on the National Core-Team of the Union for Reform Judaism and Religious Action Center’s Just Congregations. He served on the Faith Based Advisory Council of the George W. Bush Library and was the Vice-President of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas. Rabbi Knight participates in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Chevraya Program, as a part of his ongoing commitments to Jewish learning and spiritual growth.

Rabbi Knight works with leaders and staff to nurture and sustain a sacred community that builds meaningful relationships, draws learning from Jewish tradition, inspires spiritual growth, and acts powerfully for social justice.

He is married to Rabbi Ana Bonnheim. They have two children, Micah and Jonas. In his spare time, he likes to take walks with his family, travel, cook delicious meals, and read good books.

MARY REBECCA THOMAS

Cantor

Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas was ordained in 2011 from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. She has served Temple Beth El in Charlotte, NC since ordination.

While at HUC-JIR, Mary was awarded academic prizes in Jewish religious thought, composition, creative worship leadership, and significant contributions to the school community. She served as Cantorial Intern at Union Temple of Brooklyn and Temple Israel of New Rochelle. Mary completed her Cantorial Thesis, “Inward, Outward, and Upward: The Postmodern Shaliach Tzibbur,” in which she applies the theology of Rabbi Eugene Borowitz to prayer leadership. She completed her undergraduate work in History and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, graduating with honors.

Mary was instrumental in establishing The Porch, Temple Beth El’s Young Adults and Families with Young Children Community. She is the co-author of a chapter in The Sacred Calling: 40 Years of Women in the Rabbinate. She has served on the Board of MeckMIN, a local interfaith network, and is fulfilling her second term on the American Conference of Cantors Executive Board, and her sixth year as co-chair the ACC’s professional development committee. She is passionate about Jewish history, music, worship, and helping to build the community within which people can lead meaningful fulfilling lives, engaged in Jewish tradition.

Mary is spouse to Matthew and mother to Johannah and Ezra.

DUSTY KLASS

Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Dusty Klass was born and raised in Seattle WA. She completed her undergraduate work at University of California, Santa Barbara and spent her junior year abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Before entering rabbinic school, Rabbi Klass spent two years as NFTY-SoCAL Regional Advisor, supporting and guiding teen leaders of the Reform Jewish youth movement. She was ordained from the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion with masters degrees in Hebrew Letters and Jewish Educational Leadership. Rabbi Klass is passionate about youth work, social justice, and meeting people where they’re at.

BETH NICHOLS

Director of Lifelong Jewish Learning

Rabbi Beth Nichols sees the rabbinate as an opportunity to help people form meaningful relationships with Judaism, God and the Jewish people. She strives to make Judaism feel accessible, relevant and applicable by developing and supporting a diversity of ways for people to connect and find meaning.

JUDITH SCHINDLER

Rabbi Emerita

Rabbi Judith Schindler served as Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El from 2003-2016 and as Associate Rabbi from 1998-2003. She is currently Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte. Prior to coming to Charlotte, she was an Associate Rabbi at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in 1988 (magna cum laude), her Master’s from the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 1993, and her rabbinic ordination at the Hebrew Union College in New York in 1995.

Rabbi Schindler serves on the Executive Committee of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, is co-chair of the Clergy Council of MeckMin (Charlotte’s interfaith organization), is co-chair of the Rabbinic Council of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and is a Trustee of the Reform Pension Board. She is past Co-Chair of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and served on the Board of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Coalition for Housing.

On behalf of Temple Beth El, Rabbi Schindler envisioned and led the creation of four social justice documentaries being utilized across the country. “Souls of Our Students: Appreciating Differences” and “Souls of our Students: A Transgender Focus” address diversity in schools. “Souls of Our Teachers” addresses urban education and “Souls of our Neighbors” explores the value of creating affordable housing. Three of the documentaries earned Telly Awards. Rabbi Schindler has contributed chapters and articles to more than ten books and is currently researching and co-authoring a book on recharging congregations through civic engagement and moving the religious community from volunteerism to advocacy.

Among the many awards she has received, Rabbi Schindler was named Charlotte Woman of the Year in 2011. She received the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice, the 2008 Mecklenburg Ministries Interfaith Clergy Award and was selected as one of Charlotte’s USA 20: Celebrating Dynamic Women in 2010.

Rabbi Schindler is married to Chip Wallach, who works for Bank of America. They have two sons, Maxwell and Alec. She is the daughter of the late Rabbi Alexander Schindler who was president of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1973-1995.

ANDREW BERNARD

Cantor Emeritus

Andrew Bernard served as cantor at Temple Beth El in Charlotte, NC from 1999 to 2017. Under his leadership, the synagogue launched a number of nationally-recognized initiatives including the b’nei mitzvah peer tutoring program, the teen band and teen vocal ensemble, and a comprehensive human sexuality program known as STAR (Sex, Torah, and Relationships). While engaged in many aspects of congregational life, Cantor Bernard’s focus was creating innovative, engaging, and meaningful worship, and working with youth. As the congregation’s longest-serving clergyperson, Cantor Bernard was a teacher and mentor to students in grades 3–12 and beyond for 18 years. Upon his retirement, the congregation recognized Cantor Bernard’s work by renaming the youth engagement fund in his honor.

Cantor Bernard earned undergraduate degrees in piano performance and pre-med from Oberlin College and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and his masters and doctorate in choral conducting from the University of Washington where he was a student of Abraham Kaplan. His doctoral research on Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony earned him national recognition. He was ordained as a cantor and awarded the Master of Sacred Music degree from the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR in 1998.

Cantor Bernard trained as a hospital chaplain at New York Hospital, NYU Medical Center, and was a resident in clinical pastoral education at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served as Chaplain Specialist at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte from 2005 to 2017. A member of Carolinas HealthCare system’s pastoral care advisory group from 2001 to 2017, Cantor Bernard was the voice for Jewish religious and cultural values in the department of spiritual care and education.

Before entering seminary in 1994, Andrew was a professional musician in Seattle holding various positions as music director, conductor and soloist in congregations and community organizations including Temple De Hirsch Sinai, First United Methodist Church and the Community Sing-Along Messiah. He was Artistic Director and Conductor of the Seattle Pro Musica Singers and Chamber Orchestra from 1980-1985. He has been an active participant in many professional, community and charitable organizations.

Cantor Bernard is the author of The Sound of Sacred Time: A basic textbook to teach the Synagogue modes. The textbook, available from the author, has been distributed worldwide and used in at seminaries in the U.S. and Europe. His Spring 2007 interview on the Kaddish in Reform Judaism Magazine initiated that publication’s series on music and liturgy.

Cantor Bernard contributed to, among others, the synagogue music curriculum Divrei Shir, Worship Music: a concise dictionary, and the URJ website supporting Mishkan T’filah. His liturgical compositions have been published by Transcontinental Music and Synagogue 2000. Cantor Bernard has been a member of the Reform movement’s Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living since 1995, serving as a vice-chair from 2005-2014. He was conductor of the 2005 URJ Biennial Choir and guest conductor of the Atlanta Jewish Choral Festival in 2002 and 2005. In 2010, Cantor Bernard traveled to Brazil under the auspices of the World Union for Progressive Judaism where he served as clinician at Lashir Benefesh in Porto Alegre and traveled throughout the country leading workshops, concerts, and worship services. He also served on the faculty of the North American Jewish Choral Festival and Mifgash Musicale, and was adjunct faculty at Hebrew Union College, teaching in the cantorial certification program. Cantor Bernard is a member of the American Conference of Cantors, which honored him with its inaugural President’s Award for Volunteerism in 2008.

Having returned to his beloved Seattle, Cantor Bernard is pursuing his twin passions of swimming and coffee.