April 19, 2021
Today, I have news to share that brings with it feelings of excitement and new beginnings.
Diane Lavin has a renowned reputation within the Cleveland Jewish community. At Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple she has served in a range of different Jewish educational roles: administrating, programming, leading students and families and being a catalyst for adult Jewish growth as a master teacher. Diane has a remarkable reputation and exemplary career, profoundly impacting both students at our synagogue, the students of Agnon (now Mandel) Jewish Day School and individual students she has tutored. For the past seven years, Diane has also been a cherished leader of our Shabbat morning Torah study group—a place of sacred study where everyone can grow and whose weekly gatherings have impacted her life and many of ours.
Diane’s current roles as Educational Team Supervisor and Shabbat morning Torah study group leader are now evolving. As her personal family expands to include grandchildren who live at a distance, she is planning to travel more regularly to be with them and, therefore, will transition her duties at Temple to act as a part-time consultant to us rather than as an educational supervisor and weekly Torah teacher. Please note Diane is not leaving Fairmount Temple. Rather, she has found a way to spend time with her family, while continuing to share her expertise and knowledge and help our teachers thrive.
When Diane came to me with the desire to step back from her current position, she and I already knew who could seamlessly, and effectively, continue to strengthen, grow and enrich the range of Fairmount Temple’s Jewish educational experience. With the support of our entire educational team, starting the new fiscal year this July, Rabbi Elle Muhlbaum, our current Lower School Director, will expand her responsibilities at Fairmount Temple with a new title as Associate Rabbi.
I am excited for you to meet Rabbi Muhlbaum and encounter her as the new Associate Rabbi at Fairmount Temple. She is both a talented rabbinical leader, and a powerful champion for lifelong learning, a critical part of our temple’s mission. Indeed, her talents were apparent as soon as her family moved to Cleveland and she began her current role as our Lower School Director. Before moving to Cleveland, Rabbi Muhlbaum was the Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, NY. There, she worked with community members of all ages creating dynamic prayer experiences, accompanying families through the fullness of their life cycles, and providing comforting, pastoral care. As many of our Lower School families and faculty can attest, Rabbi Muhlbaum loves working to foster intergenerational experiences and has led impactful family day programs for each grade in our school, even during the pandemic.
I am thrilled that Rabbi Muhlbaum will join our clergy as a “captain” to our educational team, while also helping our clergy to carry out inspiring High Holy Days this coming fall, contribute to the ritual life of temple, directly engage in our monthly Simchat Shabbat programs for preschoolers and their families, teach the weekly Shabbat morning Torah class and act as the first leader of our Tamid initiative, for which the synagogue raised funds months before the pandemic shut down many of our activities. Tamid has the goal of empowering and enabling young adults to be a more integral part of our synagogue. It will expand the sense of belonging for these individuals and in addition to Rabbi Muhlbaum’s leadership, she will help us to connect and assist them in the process of self-organizing and co-creating events, activities and services.
Diane Lavin joins me in expressing confidence that our educational endeavors will be in the best of hands. She wrote just yesterday to the Shabbat morning Torah study group and shared with them her excitement for how “Rabbi Muhlbaum’s knowledge, intellectual curiosity, warmth and compassion will enrich our studies, and I can hardly wait to see where her teaching will take us.”
Rabbi Muhlbaum’s current position is part-time, and her expanded role will also be part-time but expanded to 80%.This will prevent Fairmount Temple’s budget from the imposition of additional demands during what have been challenging economic times. We hope to grow our resources and her role as Associate Rabbi over the years ahead. Rabbi Muhlbaum has shared with us how exciting this opportunity is for her and states, “To both carry on established traditions and build upon the successes that Diane and our team have already accomplished, and to have the chance to grow with the congregation as both an educator and Associate Rabbi, while bringing study groups, students and families together in education, is a great honor.”
Friends, I know Rabbi Joshua Caruso, Cantor Laureate Sarah Sager and indeed our new Cantor Vladimir Lapin, have felt fortunate to have Rabbi Muhlbaum already part of our team and our temple. Beginning in July, she will have the opportunity to increase her presence within the congregation, share more with the community and enhance her ability to shine. This will truly be a blessing.
Rabbi Muhlbaum will continue to work with our school faculties and their leaders: Early Childhood Center Director Jane Mayers, Upper School Director Staci Cohen, dedicated educational staff such as Elizabeth Kleckner and Joey Laidman, consultants including Diane Lavin in-house and the tremendous resources currently in place and growing at the Jewish Educational Center of Cleveland. She will build on the comradery and excitement already in place, while our clergy and senior leadership teams are fueled by her energy and feel an abundant confidence for Fairmount Temple’s bright future.
L’shalom al Yisrael,
Senior Rabbi – Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple