Our Staff

Our Rabbis


 

arthur-nemitoff

 

Rabbi Arthur P. Nemitoff  email

Arthur P. Nemitoff is Senior Rabbi of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, the largest Reform congregation in the area. Having grown up in the congregation, he returned in 2003 to assume the spiritual leadership of the synagogue. With expertise in the areas of Death and Dying, Liturgy, and Synagogue Transformation, Rabbi Nemitoff has dedicated his rabbinate to helping individuals discover their own Jewish paths. Dozens of his articles, poems, creative liturgies – and three books – have been published over his 30-year career. His hobbies include photography and poetry. After graduating from Southwest High School, in Kansas City, he attended Washington University, in St. Louis, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati campus) in 1981. He has served congregations in Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; and Columbus, OH before returning home to B’nai Jehudah. He has a passion for spreading the message of liberal Judaism throughout the world, having worked with Jewish communities in Serbia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, and Israel. He is married to his beautiful life-partner, Leslie. Together, they have two children, Elana and William.

Click here for CV.

Rabbi Sarah Smiley  email x220

Rabbi Sarah Smiley comes to B’nai Jehudah as an experienced rabbi. She spent the first several years of her rabbinate serving Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, NJ as one of its rabbis. She is passionate about youth engagement and creative Jewish education for all ages. She has served on the NFTY GER clergy team, the URJ youth advisory council and has spent several summers on the faculty of URJ Camp Harlam. Rabbi Smiley looks forward to serving our congregation that shares her vision for inclusion and helping create a Jewish environment where everyone feels welcome. Prior to working at Temple Emanu-El, she was the Director of Religious Life at The Ohio State University Hillel.

Rabbi Smiley is excited to be returning to the Midwest. She is originally from Columbus, Ohio, worked many summers at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute and is a graduate of Indiana University. An early quest for Jewish knowledge eventually led Rabbi Smiley to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she was ordained in 2010. While a rabbinic student she received the Cora Kahn prize for best sermon delivery and oratory.

Rabbi Smiley looks forward to continuing her love of sharing a message and teaching through sermon delivery and service leading. Rabbi Smiley is joined by her husband, Rabbi Josh Leighton, and their daughter, Eliana, as they begin this new adventure in Kansas together.

 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


jeanne-adler

Jeanne Adler  email 913-663-2641
Executive Director

Jeanne Adler has been in the field of synagogue administration since 1996. She is a native of Kansas City and has lived in the area all her life. She is a graduate of UMKC with a BA in Spanish. Prior to her life as a synagogue professional, Jeanne owned and operated a retail furniture store. She has served two congregations as Executive Director. She served Congregation Beth Torah for twelve years, two as religious school administrator and ten years as Executive Director. She became Executive Director of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah in 2006. Jeanne earned professional certification as a Fellow in Temple Administration (FTA) in 2003. The title of her thesis was “Living a Spiritual Life While Working as a Temple Administrator.” Jeanne was elected to the board of the National Association for Temple Administration in 2005. She has chaired national conventions and recently chaired the Long-range Planning Committee for the association. Jeanne is married to Dan Adler. She has two sons, Ben (Kate) and Elliot (Elyse), a grandson, Judah and granddaughters, Maya and Shoshana. She also shares Dan’s family with children Michelle (David) and David (Allison), granddaughter Marissa and grandson Jack.

shelley-hedrick

Shelley Hedrick  email913-663-3495
Preschool Director

Shelley Hedrick has been involved in Jewish education in several capacities. It is her goal that our students and families feel comfortable and valued at B’nai Jehudah and that they continue learning in a positive environment that gives them confidence and pride to be involved Jewishly for the rest of their lives. Shelley is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of General Studies Degree with an emphasis in Psychology. She is involved with the Federation’s Teacher Education Initiative, Learning For Life Initiative, Educators Council and a member of the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE). She was actively involved in various volunteer positions throughout her children’s education in the Shawnee Mission School District. Shelley has three daughters, Leah, Erica and Tess.

 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 Sadie.

 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.

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 913-721-2955
Bookkeeper

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

 jean-osbourn

Jean Osborn 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