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Our Rabbi

Rabbi Eric L. Abbott believes that Judaism can change lives and better the world, and he feels incredibly honored and excited to lead BJC and the Bethesda Jewish community toward that shared vision.

Rabbi Abbott grew up at Temple Sinai in Cranston, RI and later graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Judaic Studies. In college, he led Reform services at UMass Hillel, marched in the band, worked as a Resident Assistant, performed community service through Alpha Phi Omega, and studied abroad in Israel. Between college and seminary, Rabbi Abbott worked at his home synagogue and at a rock climbing gym.

Rabbi Abbott earned his rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 2018, as well as an MA in Hebrew Literature in 2017 and an MA in Religious Education in 2016. During his studies at HUC-JIR, he participated in a variety of work and learning opportunities, including running the adventure course at URJ Eisner Camp; offering pastoral care as a chaplain intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering; fighting for social justice with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; discussing Judaism and geopolitics as an AIPAC Leffell Israel Fellow; and co-leading the HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen. He served as a rabbinical student intern at Temple Beth Am in Monessen, PA, Temple Isaiah in Lexington, MA, and Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY, in addition to working as an education intern at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York, NY. At HUC-JIR, he earned awards in homiletics, Bible, human relations, and academic excellence.

After ordination, Rabbi Abbott served as the Senior Jewish Educator at Johns Hopkins Hillel in Baltimore, Maryland. At Hopkins Hillel, Rabbi Abbott tripled the size of the Reform Jewish community, introduced the Jewish Learning Fellowship to campus, helped students found a Jews of Color affinity group, expanded the Jewish LGBTQ+ group, advised the J Street U chapter, and mentored student interns and other leaders. He taught many classes, including "Forbidden Judaism," "#MeToo and Torah," and "[Netflix's] Unorthodox Unraveled." He also increased the amount of community service and social justice programming at Hillel, including developing the Tikkun Olam Fellowship for Service, Leadership, & Justice.

In his spare time, Rabbi Abbott enjoys playing board games, reading, running, watching Marvel movies, and spending time with his inspirational wife, Rabbi Eliana Fischel, their children, and their dog, Kiwi.

Rabbi Abbott would love to get to know you! Please reach out at RabbiAbbott@bethesdajewish.org or find a time on his calendar.

Synagogue Director

Geryl Baer is the Synagogue Director for BJC. She coordinates membership services, engagement and outreach, manages the religious school, and provides organizational and financial administration for the synagogue. Geryl has worked in the Jewish community since 2004 in multiple organizations such as synagogues, Hillel, Federation, and Jewish Family and Children Services. Geryl has Masters degrees in Jewish Communal Service and in Business Administration from Baltimore Hebrew University and University of Baltimore, respectively, and a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University.

Geryl currently lives in Bethesda with her husband Louis and her children.

Program & Communications Director

Amy Kertesz  is the Program and Communications Director at BJC.  Amy's background is in marketing and communications,  having worked in the fashion industry for over 8 years, as part of the marketing teams for Etienne Aigner and Liz Claiborne, Inc.  In Miami, she served on the board of Women's March Miami as VP of Communications.  She also joined the Florida gubernatorial campaign of Andrew Gillum as a team leader, running the "Women for Gillum" social media platforms. She holds a Bachelors in Psychology from Rutgers University, where she met her husband of 24 years, Kevin, who goes by “Mo” (short for Moshe). Amy and Mo have five amazing boys, ages 19 to 9. 

Religious School Coordinator

Rebecca (Becky) Leavey is a lifelong Jewish educator, and communications professional with a background in directing strategic communication campaigns for non-profit, community, and media organizations. With a degree in communications from Boston University, she spent a decade as a television producer in both the Boston and Washington, DC markets. She then transferred her skillset to Moment Magazine, where she served as the Director of Marketing and Community Outreach for seven years.

Becky received her Master of Arts Degree in Jewish Professional Studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in May 2022. She has taught Judaics, Hebrew, and Hebrew Through Movement in religious schools in Boston, DC, and Montgomery County for three decades, and is excited to learn and grow with the BJC community! In addition to her new role at BJC, Becky is the Program and Communications Director for the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies.

She lives in Bethesda with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a sweet little shih tzu named “Lady.” 

Our Rabbi Emeritus

Rabbi Emeritus Elhanan “Sunny” Schnitzer is one of the few spiritual leaders in the country to hold a dual ordination as both Rabbi and Hazzan (cantor). Ordained as Rabbi by the Alliance for Jewish Renewal (ALEPH) and Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi in 2010 and as Hazzan in 1997 by the Academy for Jewish Religion, Rabbi Schnitzer led BJC from 2001 until June 2022. His first service with the congregation was on September 12, 2001, a memorial service for the victims of the attacks of September 11. 

BJC has long believed that a congregation must be a healing presence in the world far beyond its walls. Rabbi Schnitzer is the Executive Director of the Cuba America Jewish Mission and is a leader in rebuilding the Jewish community on the island. With his leadership, over 80 members of the congregation have journeyed with him to Cuba since 2003. Rabbi Sunny is also active in interfaith work and is active with the Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society of Montgomery County, and is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights. 

He also is the first rabbi to worship with, and address, the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly and is deeply engaged in continual dialogue with PCUSA in its approach to Israel-Palestinian relations. Rabbi Schnitzer has served congregations in Virginia, Long Island, and Baltimore, MD, mixing both traditional and contemporary forms of worship. 

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Judaic Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University, where he received awards for scholarship and biblical text study and was class valedictorian. Rabbi Sunny has also served in the chaplaincy program at Sloan Memorial Cancer Center in New York City.

To reach Rabbi Sunny, please email rabbisunny@bethesdajewish.org

Wed, April 24 2024 16 Nisan 5784