Who We Are
Beth Shalom is committed to interpreting Judaism through the perspective of Progressive Judaism. We live and interpret Jewish traditions while understanding that we live in modern times where we may find new answers to old questions.
Beth Shalom is a community open to all Jews and their families, and those seeking a Jewish spiritual path. We welcome equal participation from all Jews, interfaith couples, LGBTQ people, and all who are not Jewish and wish to embrace Judaism.
The Beth Shalom community is involved in גמילות חסדים - g'milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), תיקון עולם - tikkun olam (repairing the world), and engaging in social justice work locally and globally. We are deeply committed to interfaith dialogue, understanding that all religions offer access to God and spiritual growth through their respective traditions. Recognizing the historical roots of the Israelite people in the holy land, we support the modern state of Israel. We are steadfast in our desire for a peaceful solution to the problems facing all in Israel, the Middle East, and the world.
Beth Shalom offers programs including: adult education, child/youth education, summer camps, family outings, community service opportunities and special interest affinity groups.
1982: Bozeman’s first Passover seder included two couples. During the 80s and early 90s, a small and loosely organized group of Jews, led by Stan Rosenberg who became trained by the Rabbinical Aide Camp, began meeting for Shabbat and holiday services. Some of the families journeyed to Butte, MT for High Holiday services.
1993: Congregation Beth Shalom is incorporated and affiliates with URJ. There are approximately 50 member families.
1995: Beth Shalom’s first Bar Mitzvah under traveling Rabbi Stanley. The congregation grew to over 60 families. Student Rabbis who led us during this period included Mike Commins, Robert Nosanchuck, Michael Lotker, and Emily Rosenzweig.
2001: The congregation purchased our current building and opened the doors to the first synagogue in Montana in over 50 years.
2003: Congregation hired Reconstructionist trained Rabbi Anne Jawyer as our first full-time Rabbi.
2004: The Congregation hired Rabbi Allen Secher, who brought almost 40 years of bima experience in Los Angeles and Chicago to the Bozeman community. Rabbi Secher, while living primarily in Whitefish, MT, spent 10 days each month in Bozeman for four years.
2008: The congregation hired Rabbi Ed Stafman, a former trial lawyer specializing in defending death penalty inmates, and who had been recently ordained by Aleph, the Jewish Renewal Movement. Congregation Beth Shalom grows beyond 80 member families.
2010: Membership increases to over 100 families.
2018: Rabbi Ed Stafman retired and was given the honorary title of Rabbi Emeritus. For the 2018-2019 transition year, the congregation hired Rabbi Michael Lotker to conduct services once a month in Bozeman. The congregation also hired Amber Ikeman as its full-time Director of Music and Community Engagement.
2019: The congregation hired Rabbi Mark Kula, who previously served as a Cantor and Rabbi in Miami, Florida for 30 years. Amber Ikeman was retained as Cantorial Soloist and Program Director.
Policies, Procedures & Committees
Below please find a list of our current major committees and committee chairs.
- Ritual: Richard Wolff
- Program: Brandon Brown
- Membership: Fred Leopold
- Communications: Dennis Aig
- Finance: Ed Lewis
- Building: Dana Flatow
- Personnel: Sara Schwerin
- Caring: Jim Nallick and Melissa Wolfson
- Security: Sara Schwerin
- Education Committee: Ashley Mansfield
We are thrilled to have Rabbi Mark Kula as the spiritual leader of our congregation. Rabbi Kula is eager to get to know everyone in our community, offering pastoral guidance, facilitating life cycle events, and leading spiritually uplifting services. Rabbi Kula also provides oversight for Shalom Kids, teaches our B’nei Mitzvah students and oversees Adult Education. He is also focused on engaging our membership and building community. We're excited that our Cantorial Soloist and Program Director, Amber Ikeman, will continue to create meaningful musical moments in services, co-lead Shalom Kids Hebrew School, tutor B'nei Mitzvah students, and manage Temple communications. Both Rabbi Kula and Amber are available for inquiries about the community and to meet with newcomers. Ed Stafman, upon his retirement in June 2018, was honored with the title of Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Shalom and continues some of his work in the Bozeman community.
Rabbi Mark Kula
The centrality of relationships, the love of Jewish wisdom and spirituality of Jewish music are key to Kula's Rabbinate.
As a seasoned leader, mentor, pastor and teacher, Kula conveys Jewish wisdom in a welcoming and enlightening manner that has earned him distinction in the areas of education and innovative programming as well as recognition for cultivating cultural, intellectual, and spiritual Judaic sermons.
Kula is firmly committed to the Jewish call for Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, being hands on and actively serving on non-for-profit boards. Kula holds degrees from Columbia University, The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City University, and The Rabbinical Academy of New York. He is a member the OHALA Rabbinical Association and the Cantors Assembly.
Rabbi Kula lives in Montana honored to serve as the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom in Bozeman and Campus Rabbi at the University of Montana for Hillel International. Mark is married to Dr. Coreen Duffy, Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at University of Montana and is a proud father of two children, Charlotte and Asher.
After 29 years of serving the South Florida Jewish community, first as a Cantor and then a Rabbi, placing a high priority on fostering a caring Kehilla, sacred community, truly valuing relationships, Rabbi Kula loves Montana and is honored to join the Montana Jewish community.
Cantorial Soloist/Program Director
Website: Amber Ikeman
Amber creates transcendent experiences through music, opening hearts and inviting connection to the soul. Sitting alone in Israel’s Negev desert at age 19, she experienced a deep connection to her Jewish identity for the first time, that she hadn’t felt growing up in Toronto, Ontario and Sarasota, Florida. Having been a singer, songwriter, and guitarist from a young age, Amber was inspired to explore her Judaism through music, song-leading for various synagogues, youth groups, and Hillel while pursuing her Bachelor's in Music with a minor in Judaic Studies at the University of Central Florida. She subsequently attended the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and applied her knowledge as Youth Engagement Coordinator at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee for several years. A longing to explore the West led her to a dishwashing job in Yellowstone National Park, then to Bozeman, where she has served Beth Shalom as Cantorial Soloist since 2015.
In her current role, Amber leads the congregation in musical prayer, elevates life-cycle events with song, co-directs Shalom Kids Hebrew school, guides B’nei Mitzvah students in exploring their Jewish identities, and manages temple communications, as well as outreach with newcomers and community inquiries. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Gallatin Valley Interfaith Association.
Amber has released two albums of original folk/Americana music, toured all over the U.S., and received the 2017 Vic Heyman Songwriting Award and the John O’Hara Outstanding Folk Song Award.
Lisa handles all administrative functions for the temple. She joined Congregation Beth Shalom as Administrator in 2007. She has a BA from Duke University in Psychology. Prior to joining Beth Shalom, she worked as a project manager for a regional broadband and VoIP company. Lisa enjoys teaching fitness classes, working out, and volunteering at her childrens' school. She is married and has two children.
Ed Stafman served as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom from 2008, through his retirement in 2018. He came to Bozeman following eight years of Rabbinic study and ordination in the ALEPH Rabbinic program, which is part of the Jewish Renewal movement.
Rabbi Ed is the immediate Past President of OHALAH, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, consisting of more than 200 rabbis from around the world.
Prior to becoming a rabbi, Rabbi Ed spent 27 years as a trial lawyer in Tallahassee, Florida, specializing in defending death penalty cases. In addition to a law degree and Rabbinic ordination, Rabbi Ed holds a master’s degree in Religion and has completed the coursework (but still lacks a dissertation) for a PhD in Religions of Western Antiquity, which includes early Judaism, early Christianity, and Greek & Roman religion, from Florida State University.
Rabbi Ed is married for 34 years to Beth, a calligrapher, book and graphic artist, a web designer, and a pianist. They have two children, Laura, who holds a PhD in Cancer Biology, and is a physician and 6th year resident in general surgery at University of Alabama, Birmingham; and Logan, who is in his final year at Princeton University, where he is working towards his PhD in computer science.
Although retired from Beth Shalom, Rabbi Ed remains active in interfaith and social justice work in Bozeman and Montana. He continues to appear monthly with other Bozeman clergy on the Interfaith Panel and writes a monthly religion column for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. He will occasionally perform rabbinic functions for Beth Shalom when called upon by the Board or new rabbi. He is also sometimes available for non-members for individual spiritual counseling and life cycle events.
Our Board of Directors
Jake lives in Bozeman with his wife Kama and his daughters, Quinn and Lauren. He is a Certified Financial Planner and Financial Advisor with DA Davidson and Company. After attending the University of Oregon, Jake moved to Bozeman in 2000. He has previously been the Board Chair for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Gallatin County and Congregation Beth Shalom. In addition to his current role on the Beth Shalom board, Jake sits on the board of Bridger Bowl. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, rafting and golf.
Since 1994, Ed has provided programmatic, organizational, fundraising and campaign/strategic planning consulting to the conservation community and environmental grantmakers across the country. From 1986 to 1994, Ed served as Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. From 1969 to 1986, he was an associate and partner in the Phoenix, Arizona law firm of Lewis and Roca. Ed graduated with honors from the University of Illinois with a BA in Political Science, and was a cum laude graduate of Northwestern University School of Law, where he served on the Law Review. In addition to serving on the Beth Shalom board, Ed is currently on the Board of Trustees of Earthjustice (past Chair), National Parks Conservation Association (Vice Chair), and LaSalle Adams Fund, and is a former trustee and Chair of Training Resources for the Environmental Community (TREC). Like just about everyone else in Bozeman, Ed likes to ski, fish, hike, bike and watch wildlife in Yellowstone.
Janel Cariño and her husband Richard Wolff have lived in Bozeman since 2003. Janel grew up in Southern California and has a BA from Occidental College in Los Angeles. She earned an MA (linguistics) from Columbia University Teachers College, and an MD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Yeshiva University). She also holds a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and worked as a psychiatrist until moving to Bozeman. In Bozeman, she practiced part-time as a psychiatrist for almost a decade, and now serves as a healer in the human energy field. She has two children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in Brooklyn, NY. Janel enjoys studying, gardening, and being a grandmother, and wishes that there were more hours in each day in which to pursue all the activities she likes to do.
Seth Cooper hails from Boston and moved to Bozeman in 2013. Before moving to Montana, he lived in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Bristol, UK, working as a Naval Architect and Ship Designer. He holds three engineering degrees and is never afraid to tell you if you are doing something wrong. At home in the mountains, he prefers to spend his time on the trails, slopes, and rivers that surround Bozeman. Seth lives with his wife Cassie, their son Joseph, and their dog, Pedro, across the street from Cooper Park.
Member at Large
Dennis Aig has been a filmmaker and Montana State University professor in Bozeman, Montana, since 1989. He previously served on the Congregation Beth Shalom Board during its major formative years in the 1990s. A veteran of over thirty years of professional media production, he has produced, directed, and/or production managed media in many genres including dramatic features, documentaries, music videos, commercials, podcasts, television specials, and reality television shows. His film work has received over 100 major awards and honors. He received a PhD. in English with a concentration in film from The Ohio State University in 1983. In 2007, he became the head of the Montana State University’s prestigious MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking and then served as Director of the School of Film and Photography from 2013 to 2016.
Sara Schwerin served as President of Congregation Beth Shalom from 2018-2020. She moved to Bozeman with her husband and two children in 2015. Prior to that, Sara lived in New York City, working in the banking industry for approximately 20 years, principally in Mergers & Acquisitions. She enjoys flying (instrument-rated private pilot), trail running, and skiing. Sara holds a BA from Dickinson College and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Member at Large
Ashley Mansfield was born and raised in Texas and found her way to Montana in 2012 with her husband, two children and one in the oven. She holds a master's degree in special education and a bachelor's degree in fine art. She spent 10 years developing, implementing, and assessing innovative educational programs for students with disabilities. Ashley currently works with The Bozeman Schools Foundation bringing magic to all of the teachers and students in Bozeman. She enjoys all things outdoors (except sharks) and all things creative (except cleaning up).
Member at Large
This is Fred’s “second round” as a Beth Shalom board member, having formerly served six years after he and his wife, Jane, moved to Bozeman in 2010. Locally, he has also served on the boards of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center and the Bridger Canyon Property Owners Association.
Professionally, Fred is a Senior Vice President/Investments at Stifel, a nationwide New York Stock Exchange member firm. Before moving west from New York, Fred was co-manager of a large branch office for Stifel on Long Island, New York.
Community involvement began for Fred in New York where he served nineteen years—including three years as president and one year as chairman—on the board of directors of the Peninsula Counseling Center, a mental health treatment center seeing more than five thousand people each year for all manner of emotional problems.
Travel is one of Fred’s passions which he has often combined with his love of hiking. He has trekked both the Andes and Himalayas as well as having summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Africa. Perú occupies a special place in his heart and Fred has travelled there eight times. Other pastimes include skiing, reading and just enjoying the never-ending Montana scenery. Jane and Fred have three adult children and two granddaughters.
Member at Large
Richard Wolff was president of Congregation Beth Shalom from 2013-2018. Richard also is a retired professor at Montana State University and specialized in telecommunications. He earned a PhD in physics at Columbia University and a BS in engineering physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Richard has also served as president of the Intermountain Opera, Bozeman. Richard enjoys hiking, cycling skiing and the outdoors. He is married to Janel Cariño and has two adult children and three grandchildren.
Member at Large