Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna is excited to announce the appointment of Rabbi Rafi Spitzer as its new spiritual leader commencing on August 1. Rabbi Spitzer, who grew up in Sharon, MA, was ordained as a rabbi and teacher by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In addition to ordination, he earned a Masters of Arts degree in Judaic Studies and received a Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Rabbi Spitzer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Boston University.
Rabbi Spitzer comes to Agudat Achim with a wealth of experience which includes serving as a hospice chaplain with the Manhattan Jewish Health System at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights and at the Block and Zicklin Hospice residences in the Bronx. Recently, he was a student rabbi with the Fitzgerald Hebrew Congregation in Fitzgerald, GA and served as a rabbinic intern at the United Synagogue of Hoboken, NJ. Rabbi Spitzer learned Talmud and Jewish Law intensively at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Nishma Summer Beit Midrash and spent many summers at Camp Ramah in New England as a counselor and ultimately as a Rosh Edah.
During his Seminary year in Israel, Rabbi Spitzer was a fellow with Encounter, and an intern at Hod VeHadar, a Masorti synagogue in Kfar Saba. Before pursuing the rabbinate, he worked as a youth educator and community projects specialist at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA, and trained as a mikvah guide at Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, MA.
Rabbi Spitzer, his wife Rachael Besser and daughter Ellie will reside in Niskayuna. We welcome the Spitzer family into our community. A formal installation ceremony will be announced later in the fall.
Barbara S. Miller joined Congregation Agudat Achim's Administrative team in 2013. Barbara brings 30+ years experience in administration, business/fiscal management and personnel administration.
Most recently, Ms. Miller worked within the New York State Office of Mental Health as Drirector of Administrative Services at both the Creedmore Psychiatric Center in Bellerose, NY and Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY. She came to the Capital Region when she assumed the position of Director of Agency Budget at OHM in 1998.
Ms. Miller is responsible for the overall managment of the congregation and implementation of policies. She holds a Bachelor's Degree from Tulane University in Sociology and is a graduate of the George Washington University where she received a Master of Arts degree in Administration.
Director of Education and Programming
Jack Mintzer has been with Agudat Achim for sixteen years after serving for three years as the Education Director for Congregation Shaara T?fille in Saratoga Springs, where he is a life long resident. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Western New England College and is a graduate of the College of Saint Rose, where he received his Master of Science in Elementary Education. He is also NYS certified as a public school educator for grades PreK - 7 and is a member of the Jewish Educator's Assembly. His duties include the administration of all aspects of the Agudat Achim Religious School, Youth Director, Adult Education, publicity, membership recruitment, programming and webmaster. Jack is a firm believer in having an "open door policy" and prospective and current families are always welcome to meet with him and observe positive Jewish education in action. To meet with Jack please call the School office directly at 518-381-8983 or email him at Eddirector@agudatachim.org
Howard Mittleman our Ritual Coordinator was raised in Queens, NY. He is a mostly self-taught woodworker and boatbuilder. He ran a custom boatbuilding shop in Albany for 18 years. He has also worked for contractors and designers doing custom building, furniture and art woodwork. It was while working for designer Jim Lewis that he built the two torah stands that bracket the ark in the main sanctuary. More recently, Howard was the lead shipwright on the Onrust, a replica of an early 17th century Dutch ship being built in Rotterdam Junction, NY. He has a BA in Anthroplogy from SUNY Albany.
Raised in a non-observant Reform household, Howard attended a weekend Shabbaton with Rabbi Zalman Schacter 18 years ago. That experience inspired him to begin attending synagogue, learning the melodies of the various services, studying Hebrew, and in the last few years, learning Torah trope from Marv Garfinkel. Howard is a frustrated musician- he regularly doesn't play his violin, but has been getting a lot of satisfaction from singing, especially leading morning minyan and chanting Torah and haftarah.
Howard provides assistance with the religious affairs of the Congregation in the conduct of daily, Shabbat and Festival services as requested by the Ritual Committee. He maintains and keeps filled the schedule of Torah readings for Shabbat and Festival services, and Monday and Thursday morning minyans, and is responsible for ensuring proper coverage for leadership and attendance for daily minyans. In addition, Howard assigns people to read parts of the Shabbat and Festival Services.