Our Staff

Our Rabbis


 

 

 

Rabbi Stephanie Kramer  email x111

Rabbi Stephanie Kramer is the Senior Rabbi at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. In her previous role as Associate Rabbi at Congregation Shomrei Torah, a Reform congregation in Santa Rosa, California, Rabbi Kramer led the entire Sonoma County Jewish community with grace and dedication during the 2017 Northern California Wildfires, earning her the moniker the “Fire Rabbi.” Rabbi Kramer’s rabbinate is filled with counseling, pastoral outreach, liturgical creativity, and governance. She understands that one of the primary reasons members stay connected to their congregation – and to one another – is interpersonal relationships; and she is honored to work with families through their most joyous moments, hold their hands during their most difficult times, and help her community find deeper meaning along their journeys.

She is an innovator, collaborator, and natural connector who cultivates creative models for community-building and dynamic ways to integrate Judaism into our lives. Along with her daily pulpit responsibilities, Rabbi Kramer enjoys supporting the broader Jewish community through her work on local and national Boards and Committees, including her work on the Board of Trustees for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rabbi Kramer was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and holds a master’s degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Houston. She is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and is currently in the Clergy Leadership Incubator and in the inaugural cohort of an all-female fellowship, Voices for Good.

Rabbi Kramer’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, eJewish Philanthropy, and The Press Democrat. She and her husband, Adam Kramer, have two children, Micah and Noa.

Click here for more on Rabbi Kramer

Rabbi Kramer’s email address is rabbikramer@bnaijehudah.org

Rabbi Sarah Smiley  email x220

Rabbi Sarah Smiley brings great experience as a rabbi. She was ordained on the Cincinnati, Ohio campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2010. She began her rabbinic career as the campus rabbi at The Ohio State University Hillel. Before coming to The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, she spent 7 years serving at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, New Jersey. In New Jersey, she had the opportunity to be a rabbi-educator, a director of youth engagement, an associate rabbi and more. She brings a well-rounded perspective to her vocation, having gained professional experience as a leader in Jewish life both on a college campus and in congregational life.

As part of an intentional transition strategy, the congregation brought Rabbi Smiley on as a Sustaining Rabbi – a senior position on the multi-clergy team – three years before the planned retirement of the synagogue’s longstanding Senior Rabbi. She took a key leadership role in maintaining a stable community during three seismic transitions; renovation, Covid and a Senior Rabbi transition. This coming year Rabbi Smiley will help the new Senior Rabbi acclimate to the role.

Locally, Rabbi Smiley serves as the treasurer for the Rabbinical Association of Greater KC, participates in interfaith speaking engagements with Faith Always Wins and teaches in the local Jewish community. On a national level, she has served on the URJ youth engagement advisory council, participates in programs with Women’s Rabbinic Network, collaborates with Planned Parenthood of America as a member of the national Clergy Advocacy Board and is known to help her colleagues across the country. She was awarded NFTY GER lifetime membership and received the Cora Kahn prize for best sermon delivery and oratory while at HUC-JIR.

Rabbi Smiley is passionate about building relationships with people and serving as a Jewish resource so people can best figure out how they want to live their personal Jewish lives. She lives in Overland Park with her husband, Rabbi Josh Leighton, and their daughter Eliana.

Rabbi Smiley’s email address is rabbismiley@bnaijehudah.org.

Rabbi Joshua Leighton email

Rabbi Joshua Leighton is excited to have joined the full-time staff at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. For the last year Rabbi Josh has taught in our Sunday Morning and Kesher programs. Prior to moving to Kansas City with his wife, Rabbi Smiley, and their daughter, Eliana, Rabbi Leighton served for six years as the rabbi of the Jewish Congregation of Kinnelon in New Jersey where he helped build a culture of engagement that saw programming take place in congregants’ homes and out in the greater community. Rabbi Leighton also served in several other roles in various congregations and organizations in the New Jersey area including being an Assistant Rabbi at Temple Emeth in Teaneck, NJ, and teaching students of all ages at various congregations and organization. He served as faculty at URJ Camp Harlam and on the clergy team of NFTY’s Garden Empire Region. He was also active in the New Jersey Reform Rabbinic region, serving for two years as a regional officer.

Rabbi Leighton grew up in Rockland County, New York, a suburb of New York City and graduated from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and as a Take-Five Scholar. Immediately following graduation Rabbi Leighton began his studies at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, receiving his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters in 2010, and Rabbinic ordination in 2011.

At the heart of his rabbinate lies one common theme: forming personal relationships to build an authentic Jewish community. Rabbi Leighton truly cherishes the opportunity to work with our congregants of all ages, guiding them on their Jewish journeys as they develop confidence in their Jewish knowledge and identities and planting the seeds for a better future.

Rabbi Josh is excited to bring his experience and passions to the Temple as together we work to achieve our Big Holy Awesome Goal of engaging each individual in our community in their own unique ways.

Rabbi Leighton’s email address is rabbileighton@bnaijehudah.org.

 zedek

Rabbi Michael R. Zedek
Rabbi Emeritus

In July of 2016, Rabbi Michael Zedek became Rabbi Emeritus of Emanuel Congregation in Chicago Illinois. At the same time, he accepted an appointment to serve as (part-time) Senior Advisor to the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The Rabbi began his tenure as Senior Rabbi of Emanuel in July 2004. For the previous four years, Rabbi Zedek was the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

Prior to accepting that appointment, he served for 26 years as the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City, Missouri, where he also holds the title of Rabbi Emeritus. At the time of his installation in 1976, he was the youngest rabbi in the United States to head a “giant” congregation. With over 1,900 families, B’nai Jehudah is the oldest and largest congregation in Kansas City. Ordained in June of 1974, Zedek was chosen to be alumnus-in-residence at the Cincinnati and Los Angeles campuses of Hebrew Union College (HUC-JIR). Rabbi Zedek is the youngest man to receive this honor.

Rabbi Zedek was the recipient of the Danforth Graduate Fellowship for outstanding teaching, a Fulbright-Hays Grant for advanced study in the United Kingdom and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.

In addition to his professional activities, Rabbi Zedek is deeply involved in civic affairs having served on a number of national and international boards.

He has also had numerous teaching and speaking appointments around the world on a wide range of topics, especially focusing on spirituality and folklore. He has taught and lectured in South Africa, Russia, China, the former Yugoslavia, Israel and in many other venues.

Rabbi Zedek is a regular presenter at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. He also serves as the host of a radio show, Religion on the Line, which is currently under consideration for national syndication.

Rabbi Zedek is married to Karen, and they have two daughters, Susan, who is married to Joseph Freudenberg, and Betsy, married to Jeremy Viola. They are also the proud grandparents of Samuel Freudenberg, Julia Rose Freudenberg and Max Viola.

Our Staff


Jennifer Green Baer  email 913-663-2641
Executive Director

Jennifer Green Baer has been in the field of non-profit management since 2007 and a Jewish professional since 2011. Her prior career was in event planning & production and destination management. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a BA in Journalism. A Florida native, Jennifer moved to Overland Park in June of 2019 to begin her role as Executive Director of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. She is a senior member of the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA). Her door is always open, whether it is to discuss membership or to get to know you on a more personal level.

 dayna

Dayna Gershon  email913-663-3047
Director of Formal and Informal Jewish Education

Dayna originally joined our staff as the Director of Machane Jehudah. She has a wealth of experience, especially in informal Jewish youth education. Her work with Machane Jehudah has been remarkable, bringing the program from the idea-stage to fruition. Her creativity, sensitivity, and understanding of Jewish informal learning has made her a valuable part of our congregational community. Dayna is married to Danny Gershon and has two children Max and Drew.

 Emily Williams

Emily Williams  email913-378-1267
Assistant Director of Formal and Informal Jewish Education

Emily Williams has been a member of Congregation B’nai Jehudah for over 15 years. Growing up in Kansas City, she was active in NFTY, and is honored to serve the congregation as Assistant Director of Informal Education, which includes working with NFTY as an advisor. Emily graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master’s degree in Curriculum Design and Instructional Strategies, with an emphasis on secondary education. She has been a camp director, religious school teacher, and religious school director in the Kansas City area and elsewhere. She looks forward to working on continuing the excellence in education offered at her home synagogue.

Michelle Cox

Michelle Cox email ext. 229
Music Director/B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator

Michelle Cox began with the congregation as a volunteer musician, and was named as the Lead Vocalist/Cantorial Soloist for Shabbat Mornings in 2015.  She also began teaching 5th and 6th grade Hebrew in 2014, and has helped contribute to High Holidays for the last two years as the primary vocalist.  Michelle’s responsibilities not only include music, but she is also the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator.  Michelle is responsible for the date selection process, meets with families, tutors students, teaches trope to the Hebrew school classes, and conducts pulpit rehearsals with each student becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Michelle earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Music in Vocal Performance at MidAmerica Nazarene University where she graduated with honors in 2017.  She has learned to sing classical art song, opera, and has expanded her skills in piano and guitar.

Abby Magariel email

Abby Magariel is a Kansas City area native and has worked in informal, hands-on education since 2007. She graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA before completing an MA in Museum Studies at the University of Kansas. Abby spent over ten years immersed in all things Kansas, first at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, then leading the education team at the Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence. She joined The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah in July 2019 as the first Educator/Curator of the Michael Klein Collection, where she weaves objects from the collection of Judaica into life and learning at the synagogue. Abby lives in Prairie Village with her husband David and two sons, Ari and Ezra. 

Jane Blumenthal Martin email

Jane Blumenthal Martin is an experienced marketing director who has worked in Kansas City’s Jewish non-profit community for more than 10 years. Her strengths are strategic communications, digital marketing, writing, and planning. She enjoys keeping constituents informed of the many wonderful things happening in our Jewish community, and she is proud to serve our congregation in this new, part-time marketing communications role. An active member of Kansas City’s Jewish community, Jane is a lifelong member of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. She and her husband Joseph have two children, Leah and Daniel.  

maria-barton

Maria Barton emailx207
Administrative Assistant

Donations & Yahrzeit Coordinator

Maria’s responsibilities include acknowledging donations, tracking and notifying for all yahrzeits.  She also coordinates birthday and anniversary notices.  Maria is first contact for visiting groups.

Sheryl Poole email 913-378-1263
Administrative Assistant

Sheryl provides support for out education programs, including Sunday Morning Program, Hebrew, Machane Jehudah, Kesher and Youth. She also provides support for special programs such as High Holidays, Toy Drive and Mitzvah Day.

Damien Timms email 913-378-1261
Rabbinic Assistant

Damien provides comprehensive administrative support to our Rabbis, works with the B’nai Mitzvah coordinator with regards to Bar and Bat Mitzvah resourcing, and coordinates the Aliyot for the High Holidays.

tricia-ghekas

Tricia Ghekas email 913-384-4661
Finance Director

Tricia’s responsibilities include all aspects of bookkeeping including member accounts, accounts receivable, accounts payable and payroll.

 jean-osbourn

Jean Osbourn email 913-378-1262
Administrative Assistant

Assistant to Executive Director, Facility Rentals, & Cemetery

Jean’s responsibilities include supporting the Executive Director, maintaining the congregation’s calendar and database. She works with members and non-members to rent facility space for an event.

don-reece

Donald Reese
Custodian

georgina-cuisak

Georgina Cusick-Quintero
Custodian