Congregation Agudat Achim

Meet Our Lay Leadership

Message from our President

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I’m so glad that you’ve come to our website to learn more about Congregation Agudat Achim. As you explore, you will see that we are a vibrant, inclusive, multi-generational community. We are a Conservative congregation located in New York State’s Capital Region. We have programs for everyone. And all are welcome to worship, study, celebrate life-cycle events and become a part of our warm, caring community. Come to Shabbat Services and meet our rabbi and our wonderful congregation. Feel free to call our office at 518-393-9211 with any questions or for more information. I hope to have an opportunity to meet you soon. We would love to welcome you to our congregational family.


Jackie Rowen, President

Board of Trustees

Jackie Rowen, President

Jackie Rowen is the President of our congregation. She grew up at Congregation Agudat Achim, where the virtues of congregational leadership and volunteerism were instilled in her at a young age by both her parents. She is a second-generation president, following in her father’s footsteps. She has been a member of the Board of Trustees in different capacities since 2012 and has taught in our religious school. She continues to pass on the tradition of volunteerism to her son, Eli, who has participated in youth leadership roles within the congregation.

Steve Schmidt, Programming Vice President, Holiday Co-Chair

Steve Schmidt is the Vice President of Programming for Congregation Agudat Achim. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Kenosha, WI. He has three children who had bar/bat mitzvahs at Congregation Agudat Achim. Outside of our synagogue, he is a professor of economics at Union College.

Jeff Shapiro, Youth Vice President

Neal Shapiro, Treasurer

Neal has been honored to serve as treasurer since 2016. He was educated at Congregation Agudat Achim and is a third-generation member. He has four sons who either had or will have their Bar Mitzvahs at our synagogue. Neal retired from the Hearst Corporation after 38 years and continues to manage his real estate business of 38 years while raising his 2 youngest boys (11 and 10) with his wife, Lynne.

D’vora Chana, Secretary

Dvora Chana is our secretary. She joined our Congregation in 2016 and started serving our community on our school board in 2017. Dvora Chaired the Committee for the 2020-2021 school year.

Board Members and Committee Chairs

Gary Reich, Adult Education Committee Co-Chair

Gary Reich is a co-chair of the Adult Education Committee and has served on the Board of Trustees since 2020.  He is an emeritus professor of physics at Union College in Schenectady, NY.  With his wife Margaret, he joined Congregation Agudat Achim in 2015 after an extended hiatus from active Jewish practice.  Gary and his wife grew up in the mid-West, where their son Joseph now works in the tech industry.  They take joy in the spiritual renewal they have found at Congregation Agudat Achim and the welcoming environment they found for their mixed-faith family.

Rob Fox, Adult Education Committee Co-Chair

Rob is a Past President of Agudat Achim. Originally from Long Island, Rob and his wife, Randy, have held numerous positions in the congregation. Their daughters, Sharon and Joanna, were both Bat Mitzvahed here and current Agudat Achim members. Rob is a developmental optometrist. His practice is dedicated to treating children with vision issues that affect reading and learning.

Kaitlin Spektor, Membership Committee Chair

Kaitlin Spektor is the Membership Committee Chair and has served on the Board of Trustees since 2021.  She has been a member of Congregation Agudat Achim for nearly her entire life and has been the Elementary Music Teacher for the Religious School since 2004.  Kaitlin and her husband Sasha were both Bar/Bat Mitzvahed at Agudat Achim and were later married there in 2013.  Raised in Niskayuna, Kaitlin and her husband reside in Colonie with their two young children, Aviva (6) and Isaac (2).

Hillary Fink, Ways & Means Chair

Hillary Fink was raised on Long Island, went to college in Albany, and has been here ever since. She became active on various committees at Congregation Agudat Achim almost immediately after joining in 2006. Hillary has served on the Board of Trustees for many years, first as the Women’s Network President and now as the Ways and Means Chair. However, she happily considers her involvement with the Carrot Festival to be her biggest claim to fame.

Ken Carpenter, Cemetery Chair, Personnel Chair, Past President

Howard Wohl, Building and Grounds Committee Chair

Rise’ Routenberg, Catering Representative, As You Like It Catering

Rise’ Routenberg is the current head of “As You Like It Catering.” She has been involved for over 30 years. She also sits on the board of the synagogue and teaches cooking in the religious school. In addition, she co-authored the synagogue’s award-winning cookbook, Divine Kosher Cuisine. Previous to moving to Schenectady over 40 years ago, Rise’ worked as an Occupational Therapist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Hartford, Connecticut. She lives with her husband, Larry, who was bar mitzvahed at Congregation Agudat Achim, as were their 3 children. In addition, she boasts of being a grandmother to three precious grandchildren.

Deborah Friedson, Arts & Beautification Committee Chair

Deborah Friedson is the Arts and Beautification Chair and has served on the board since 2017. She is a life-long member of our congregation, a retired art teacher, and a working artist. Deborah and her husband Arthur attended our synagogue’s Hebrew school together and were later married in our sanctuary. Deb and Art are blessed to share their Jewish traditions with their four precious grandchildren.

Joseph Shiang, Ritual Committee Chair, Holiday Co-Chair

Joseph Shiang is the Ritual Committee Chair and Holiday Co-Chair. He has lived in Niskayuna since 2000.  A lifelong learner, he is passionate about encouraging adults and youth to find their Jewish voice through ritual and traditional Jewish texts. He has been privileged to raise two children. Both were B’nai Mitzvah at Agudat Achim.

Susan Sharfstein, Youth Commissioner

Susan Sharfstein is Youth Commissioner and USY/Kadima advisor and enjoys helping our youth engage Jewishly. Susan is a Professor of Nanobioscience at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. She and her husband have been members of Agudat Achim since moving to Niskayuna in 2000. Their two children, Elan and Orit, were B’nai Mitzvah at Agudat Achim.