Rabbinic Vision

The primary goal of the Rabbis Rice is to promote a vibrant spiritual life for Congregation Micah. Working in partnership with lay leaders and other professionals, we respond to the needs of the congregation in an effort to retain our membership, as well as reach out to members of the community in order to build it. We are committed to being rabbinic leaders who bring holiness, respect, self-awareness, and love of Judaism into everything we do, and seek to foster creative ways for everyone to strengthen their relationship with God, their love of Torah, and their sense of belonging in Klal Yisrael (the community of Israel).

God. We seek to help others approach God through study, inspirational worship, holiday celebrations, and life cycle events. We are committed to observing the full cycle of the Jewish calendar, creating holy moments and marking sacred times in the life of the community by drawing from all the rituals and liturgy of our tradition and composing contemporary, creative rituals when appropriate. It is our hope to infuse our congregants with a sense of security and dignity in Reform Judaism, as well as help them to feel comfortable in any and all religious settings that they might encounter.

Torah. We strive to offer remarkable formal and informal learning experiences for all members, and teach in a way that empowers others to shape their own spirituality. We especially attempt to ensure that all of our youth develop a steadfast commitment to and love for Judaism. We support and guide interfaith families with opportunities to enhance their connection to the community and recognize their unique spiritual journeys. We hope that every time someone enters the synagogue, they should be able to walk out with a sense of understanding they would not previously have had about why Judaism enriches their lives, an how it does so. We are also dedicated to our own professional development and ongoing Torah study, as a model for our community.

Israel. We are committed to a rabbinate that supports and advocates on behalf of the State of Israel and celebrates its culture. We also seek to make connections to the people of Israel and other Jewish communities throughout the world.

It is our hope that as rabbis at Congregation Micah, we will model what it means to be a mensch!

Staff

Philip "Flip" Rice, Rabbi

Rabbi Flip was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Miami, Florida. A graduate of the University of Virginia (1992) with a major in History, Flip holds a Masters in Western Religious Thought and Spirituality from Florida State University (1996). He received his Masters in Hebrew Letters in 1999, and was ordained from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001.

Rabbi Flip served congregations in Southern and Central California, on the upper west side of Manhattan, and in Brooklyn, New York. He then assumed position of Assistant and then Associate Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, Washington. He is passionate about several aspects of his rabbinate, including innovative worship, and teaching how ancient texts can still speak to us today. He also enjoys practicing yoga, sailing, swimming, and spending time with his wife and three children.


Laurie Rice, Rabbi

Rabbi Laurie hails from Los Angeles, California. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at Northwestern University, as a dual major in History and Slavic Languages and Literatures. She was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001, having received her Masters in Hebrew Letters in 1999.

Prior to coming to Micah, she served congregations in Los Angeles and Visalia, California; Westchester, New York; and Woodinville, Washington. She also has experience working as a chaplain at the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles, California, and as a research assistant to Dr. Eugene Borowitz, the Reform Movement’s pre-eminent theologian.  She adores spending time with her husband and co-rabbi, Flip, and their three children. She also loves running and sipping good wine.


Lisa Silver, Music Director/Cantorial Soloist

Lisa is a multi-faceted talent who has been an in-demand Nashville studio musician/vocalist since the early 1970’s. Raised in Detroit, Michigan, Lisa combined her classical training as a violinist at the University of Michigan School of Music and her eclectic musical influences to become an award winning fiddle player and studio vocalist. Lisa has earned over 20 gold and platinum albums for her contributions to thousands of recordings by artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, and Vince Gill. Lisa has also enjoyed a long career as a respected Music City songwriter. She has had over 50 of her original songs recorded, and her #1 song, "Forty Hour Week", recorded by Alabama, earned her a Grammy nomination.

Lisa became a member of Congregation Micah in 1995, and as a volunteer, co-founded the Micah Kids Choir. Since 2002, Lisa has been Micah’s Music Director/Cantorial Soloist. She is the Music Specialist at Micah Children’s Academy Preschool, and K-2 Music Specialist at Akiva School. Many of Lisa’s original musical compositions and new settings of liturgy are used in Congregation Micah’s worship services, religious school and pre-school, as well as other congregations and schools throughout the United States and Canada.

Lisa is married to Musician’s Hall of Fame member Clayton Ivey, and has a grown daughter, Olivia. Find out more at: www.lisasilversongs.com    


Michael Hunter Ochs, Composer in Residence and Accompanist

Michael has quietly established himself as one of the more versatile songwriters in America today. His song "In Her Eyes" was recorded by international superstar Josh Groban and "On My Knees" was awarded Song Of The Year honors from both the Gospel Music Association (Dove Award) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and spent 14 weeks at #1. Michael's music is featured in numerous major motion pictures and television soundtracks; he frequently travels around the globe to write for various pop stars and international entertainers have recorded his songs.

In addition to his secular success, Ochs is universally recognized as a breakthrough composer in Hebrew/Jewish worship music. On any given Friday evening his music can be heard in synagogues around the world. Since 2001 he has been Composer in Residence at Congregation Micah.

As a founding member of the band, My Favorite Enemy, Michael writes and performs in the Middle East and Europe with a group of Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Norwegian songwriters and recording artists.

For more information, please visit: www.ochsongs.com or www.geshermusic.com.


CELIA M. LERCH, Executive Director

Celia was born and raised on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama. She attended Rhodes College in Memphis where she received a B.A. in English and Religious Studies, and is now working to complete her MS in Nonprofit Management from Johnson and Wales University.   

Before starting at Congregation Micah, Celia worked at several non-profit organizations in the Mid-South.  Beginning her career in Memphis at Temple Israel, she worked as a religious school teacher and Rosh Hodesh program leader throughout college and later as the Youth and Family Life Director.  Following that, Celia worked to help provide ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy to children with autism, specifically children of military parents, as a Regional Outreach Coordinator.  Celia returned to her roots in Jewish communal work at Congregation Micah in 2015 and is excited to continue her career as the Executive Director. 

Celia was selected as the Youth Worker of the Month for the Union of Reform Judaism in Aug. 2008, and won a Belin Outreach and Membership Award in 2009 for her work in membership engagement at Temple Israel.  Her work with the youth group also earned Rayon Tov Programming Excellence Awards (2007, 2008, 2009), NFTY-SO Programming Awards (2007, 2008, 2009), and NFTY-SO Best Youth Group Awards (2008, 2009).

In her free time, Celia enjoys volunteering for HOBY (Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership), traveling the world, cooking, and spending time with her husband Aaron and their dog Lady Hazel Nuttington.


Julie Greenberg, Education Director

Before moving to Nashville in 2000, Julie was a middle and high school English, History, and Journalism teacher in Texas. Her professional teaching background and curriculum writing experience led to her hire at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College as the Program Coordinator and Trainer of the Classroom Organization Management Program (COMP). Already an active member and Religious School teacher at Micah, Julie joined the professional staff as Education Director in 2003.

With a Masters of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt’s Divinity School, Julie brings not only expertise in Jewish studies but also extraordinary sensitivity to and familiarity with other faith traditions. As Education Director, Julie has invigorated and restructured an authentic, creative and substantive curriculum for students of all ages. In 2009, Julie was awarded the “Reform Jewish Educator” title from the URJ’s professional education department, the National Association of Temple Educators. This award recognizes distinguished academic achievement and professional service to Reform educators, cantors and rabbis.

Julie continues to enjoy developing new curricula, teaching, promoting the connection between Jewish study and tikkun olam, supporting Micah’s cadre of volunteer teachers, and learning along with her own two children in Religious School. When not at Micah, Julie enjoys reading, writing, traveling, gardening, and cooking with her husband and children.


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Brandi Belcher, ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR

Brandi is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. As a former Cal Turner Jr. Center for Church Leadership Ben Alford Scholar, Brandi co-founded the Martin Serves! Community Service and Civic Engagement Program at Martin Methodist College (MMC). Shortly after receiving her degree in Educational Ministry, she returned to MMC as an AmeriCorps VISTA, before being hired full-time in 2012, in efforts to further expand the Martin Serves! Program. Under her leadership, Martin Methodist College was named seven years in a row to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll- a national recognition program instituted by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service. In addition to organizing campus-wide service events, annual Social Justice Trips, and International Mission opportunities, Brandi served as a First Year Experience Faculty member and advised numerous student organizations ranging from the Harry Potter Alliance to MMC’s Equality Alliance.

Brandi is very passionate and dedicated to educating young adults about social concerns and advocacy. Her interests include studying history and world religions, which is how she applied to join the Congregation Micah team. Brandi is an avid reader and theater nerd; her favorite place in Nashville is TPAC. In her free time, she enjoys geeking out about upcoming fandom films and shows, hosting game nights with family and friends, visiting historical monuments and wineries across the globe, and spending time with her fur babies.


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Hannah pollok, COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR

Hannah is originally from Bourbonnais, IL, about an hour south of Chicago. She has been in Nashville for 4 years, since moving to the city to start college. A recent graduate of Trevecca Nazarene University, Hannah has served in many editorial positions. She was editor-in-chief of her college yearbook for 3 consecutive years, building the program up from the ground. While at Trevecca, Hannah worked as a student reporter for marketing and staff writer for the student newspaper, and has written for many publications, both online and print. She is a Tennessee Associated Press finalist for Best Feature Story.

 As a media arts student, in her last year Hannah traveled to Israel to make a documentary. As part of the crew, she served as behind-the-scenes producer/editor and camera operator. Video editing and graphic design are some of her favorite things to do. Hannah is excited to use her creativity and eye for design as Micah’s Communications Coordinator.

Hannah has a passion for Israel and cannot wait to go back one day. She is interested in learning more about Jewish traditions. In her free time, Hannah enjoys traveling to new cities, blogging, watching and discussing films, and attending her home church.


MINDY DRONGOWSKI, FAMILY OUTREACH COORDINATOR

A native of the Detroit metro area, Mindy has spent most of her adult life in community and family service in both Jewish and secular settings. The mother of two proudly Jewish young adult daughters, she’s served as a school volunteer and PTA president, worked for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit in their partner agency ORT, and worked for Tamarack Camps, Michigan’s children and family Jewish camping organization.

More recently here in Nashville, Mindy has been a member of the office staff at Micah for four years, acted as advisor for Micah’s National Federation of Temple Youth teen group, and served as a volunteer, host family, and trip chaperone for Nashville’s “Get Connected” teen exchange with Hadera, Israel. She is currently a “Get Connected” advisory board member.


Kenneth Kanter, Founding Rabbi

Rabbi Ken Kanter serves as Director of the Rabbinical School for the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. In June of 2005, Rabbi Kanter concluded 13 years as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Micah. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Rabbi Kanter received his B.A. degree in Jewish and American History from Harvard University in 1974 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from HUC-JIR in May 2005.

Rabbi Kanter served for 10 years as Rabbi of Chattanooga’s Mizpah Congregation. Previously he served as Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville, as Jewish Chaplain and Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University. Rabbi Kanter is a popular lecturer and author of books, journals and articles focusing on the Jewish contribution to American popular music from the 1840’s to the 1940’s. His first book, The Jews on Tin Pan Alley, was published in 1982. He contributed to several journals in the field of Jewish history and religion.


Theresa LePore, Academy Director

Theresa received her Bachelor of Science at the University of Montevallo with a degree in Hearing Impaired Education. Certified to teach K-12, she worked in the Jefferson County School system where she served children in all age groups. She worked with children in an Early Intervention program, elementary and middle schools, and even in a high school vocational program. After that experience, Theresa decided to change careers because of all the “red tape” associated with special education and enter another educational arena.

After moving to Nashville, she was the director of Woodbine Community Center’s Summer Camp and then worked for the State of TN’s Treasury Department. It was then that she discovered that she missed teaching! Now, Theresa is applying her experience and skill as the Director of the Academy where she has been on staff since the doors opened in 2010.

Theresa is married to Fred and a mother of three children. She spends her “free” time volunteering and sitting on various committees and boards at her children’s school.


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Fredi Biqiku, Maintenance Supervisor

Fredi was born in Elbasan, Albania. He lived in Athens, Greece for 15 years, where he worked several jobs and spent 9 years as a technician and manager for Decon S.A. Fredi eventually moved back to Albania and opened a business for doors and windows. In 2009, Fredi started a hiking group, where he met his wife, Laurel.  In August 2016, Fredi and Laurel moved to the United States, where she is originally from. He worked at Palm Technologies in Lavergne, TN before being hired here at Micah! Fredi enjoys hiking and biking. In the future, he would like to build his own house.

 

Fredi is happy to be a part of the team and is here to help with all of our grounds and maintenance needs.