Congregation Agudat Achim

Meet Our Lay Leadership

Message from our President

Welcome to our website! I hope it helps you get to know us better. We are a Conservative congregation located in New York State’s Capital Region. Whether you’re looking for opportunities to participate in meaningful ritual, learn more about the traditions and history of Judaism, get involved in improving the world around us, or become part of a vibrant, inclusive, and caring community, you’ve come to the right place. Come to our services, visit our school, or attend any of our many educational and social programs, and learn more about us. Please don’t hesitate to contact us and ask any questions you have. We welcome you to our congregational family, and we hope to meet you soon!

Steve Schmidt, President


Board of Trustees

Steve Schmidt, President

Steve Schmidt is the President of the congregation. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Kenosha, WI. He and his wife Alexandra have three children who were bar/bat mitzvahs at Agudat Achim. He has served for many years on the Programming and Holiday committees, has taught rabbinics in the Hebrew high school, and recently co-chaired the strategic planning task force. Outside of our synagogue, he is a professor of economics at Union College.

Gary Reich, Programming Vice President

Gary Reich is the programming Vice President of the congregation. He is a former 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.

Susan Sharfstein, Facilities Vice President

Susan Sharfstein is the Facilities Vice President of our congregation. She is a former 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.

Mindy Rowen Sorbo, Treasurer

Mindy Rowen Sorbo is the Treasurer of or congregation. Mindy spent her childhood at Agudat Achim and was part of the first class of young women to become a Bat Mitzvah on a Saturday morning.  Mindy returned five years ago to the synagogue. Since her return, she has been an active participant in both services and various programs.

Rosalie Fadem, Secretary

Rosalie Fadem is the Secretary of our Congregation. Rosalie and her husband Aaron Gruenberg have been members of Congregation Agudat Achim since they arrived here in 2017, from Brooklyn, where they were members of Union Temple.  Rosalie spent two years of her elementary school in Haifa, Israel.  She has an MBA in Accounting from Fordham University. She also worked for CAA as the bookkeeper for 2019-2020, and part of 2020-2021. Her hobbies include piano studies, bicycling, and canoe camping.

Board Members and Committee Chairs

Amy Posner, Adult Education

Amy is Executive Director of Hillel at the College of Staten Island and travels back and forth between Schenectady and Staten Island since moving here in 2020.  She is blessed to have a career-building community through youth-serving organizations, having held positions in USY, Young Judaea, the Girl Scouts, and the Jewish Multiracial Network. She was director of the Central Queens YMHA’s sleepaway camp, Camp Edward Isaacs. During that time, she was a Lechu Lakhem Senior Fellow of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education. She holds a BS in Recreation from the University of Maryland and a MA in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, as well as Certificates from the University of Wisconsin in Non-Profit Management and Columbia University’s Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership. Amy is blessed with a beautiful family-husband David, daughter Mara and her husband Adam who live in Montclair, New Jersey with their amazing boys Ari, Gabriel, and Cole – son Shai and his wife Miriam, who live here in Niskayuna and have two wonderful boys Gilad and Elliott, and beautiful daughter Eliana, living in Brooklyn -all of whom she is exceedingly proud of.

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.

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 and Isaac.

Neal Shapiro, Building and Grounds

Neal is honored to have served as a former treasurer of our congregation. 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 with his wife, Lynne.

Hillary Fink, Ways, and Means

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

Ken Carpenter is glad to be a past president and to move to another important role in the synagogue’s dealing with the complete Jewish life cycle. He will work with all individuals looking to plan or address immediate needs. Ken worked for the State of New York for many years. He taught and worked on behavioral science research at SUNY colleges. Ken can be a curmudgeon but is a big teddy bear.

Jackie Rowen, Personnel Chair

Jackie Rowen is the immediate past 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 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.

Allan Pearlman, Member-at-Large, Investment

Allan and his wife, Karen, came to Schenectady in 1973. He is a past Board member

as well as a past Treasurer. He has also been a Board member and Treasurer of the Schenectady Jewish Community Center. He has been active on the Endowment Committees of both organizations. Allan has been involved in many aspects of the congregation, from the kitchen to building repairs and maintenance to cemetery upkeep.

Rise’ Routenberg, Member-at-Large, 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. Before 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, Member-at-Large, Beautification

Deborah Friedson is the Beautification Chair and has served on the board since 2017. Deb was honored to work on the renovation of our sanctuary and the New Website Design Team in 2021 She continues as Website Content Chair. 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.

Kenneth J. Levine, Member-at-Large

Kenneth J. Levine is a new member of our community, he and his family moved to Niskayuna in 2021.  Originally from Cleveland, OH, Ken is a member of the faculty at U Albany and is looking forward to getting to know his new surroundings.

Sarah Sharpe, Member-at-Large

Sarah Sharpe and her husband Eric recently joined the Synagogue where their daughter, Addie, attends Hebrew School. Sarah grew up in NJ and attended college in the Capital Region, thereafter, making it her home. She is the Manager of a local Tennis and Fitness Club, and her hobbies include playing Tennis and Pickleball, making art with her family of artists, and exploring the Adirondacks. She is very excited to become involved in the CAA community.