Meet Our Rabbi & Leaders

Rabbi

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Rabbi Bruce Louis Cohen serves in our synagogue as both senior clergy and as music director. A multi-lingual scholar and poly-instrumental professional musician, Rabbi Cohen’s combined skill sets and achievements in theology and the creative arts seem to make Manhattan inevitable as where he would serve.

He has long occupied “front-line” niches in both theological leadership and creative artistry: his range of experience and skills include being a yeshiva instructor of rabbis, a private school principal, teacher, and author of curriculum; an international shaliakh (official envoy for North America’s largest Messianic Jewish alliance), and more. On the artistic side, he has done front-line theatrical directing/producing, musical composition, recording, producing, performance, concert band conducting and stage-directing. He has been a contributing author and editor to many books and periodicals – even one of the world’s foremost English dictionaries. Rabbi Bruce has also long been acknowledged to be among the foremost pioneer-generation Messianic Jewish music composers, performers, and recording artists, as the Music Review in The Messianic Times emphatically affirmed when his Greatest Hits album was released in 2006.

Rabbi Bruce’s vision for “The City,” and for our synagogue community within it, embarks from his conviction that excellent education and acumen lead more naturally toward God than away from Him.

He believes Manhattan’s Jewish population can be most effectively influenced toward positive human and eternal lives in relationship with God and Messiah (John 17:3) by experiences of faith, doctrine, and community life that earn respect on their merits. In Rabbi Bruce’s view –  passionate spiritual vibrancy and academic excellence are in no way naturally mutually-exclusive.

Clicking on the following link will take you to Rabbi Cohen’s website devoted to his work arenas in writing, theater, and music beyond our synagogue.

 

Leadership Structure

Beth El has three separate layers of leadership in its structure.

1. RABBINATE:
Our rabbi serves as our community’s lead religious official and primary vision-caster, fomenting constructive exchange and development of ideas and practice in our Manhattan community. As eloquently written in “The Leadership Development Guide” for Conservative Judaism – “Authority for religious practice in each congregation resides in its rabbi. It derives from the rabbi’s training, and by the fact that the community has chosen that rabbi to be its religious guide.” Our founding and current rabbi is Bruce L. Cohen.

2. “VA’AD” (LEADERSHIP BOARD):
This is a group composed of varying combinations of gabbai’im (pulpit officiants), z’keneem (elders), and s’ganim (assistants or deacons). These are members of Beth El, raised up from within the synagogue as leaders according to the Two-Testament model (Exodus 18:21-22 and 1Timothy 3).

3. BOARD OF TRUSTEES:

The above-cited Va’ad functions at present as the Interim Board of Trustees pursuant to NY State Religious Corporations Law, Article 9, under which Beth El was incorporated in 1996.

 Accountability

Beth El of Manhattan is glad to be able to note that in our Constitution and By-Laws, all Members have the right to question policy or action by the congregation or leadership on any level; and all Members and Leaders have the exact process and dignity rights Scripture provides.

The processes of Matthew 18:15-17 and related Scriptures about due process are followed, seeking resolution – including unhindered access to mutually agreed-upon composite arbitration to assure process is unbiased in accord with the standards of Scripture (Lev. 19:15, 1Tim. 5:21). These provisions for accountability were written into our By-Laws by our Rabbi, employing at significant expense learned Manhattan legal counsel with broad experience in religious corporations law. This synagogue seeks to respect human rights and due process as seriously as every person’s human dignity and rights deserve, and Scripture requires.

Independence / Non-Affiliation

With our congregation’s rabbi and rebbetzin having been a combined nearly forty years in affiliation in the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and its parent organization, the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) from 1978 until 2001  – in 2001, Beth El of Manhattan chose to become unaffiliated, because our synagogue leadership’s encountered extremely serious and unrepented ongoing ethical violations in the two main north American associations MJAA & UMJC: habitual violations on the level of forging signatures onto association documents to allege falsely they represented unanimous non-profit board decisions, and published that false report of unanimity in corporation letters to the membership to influence corporate elections and business. The MJAA & IMJA displayed an utter lack of will or willingness to confront and deal with the lack of health it turned out many in their leadership had long been well-aware. The MJAA/UMJC crimes and breaches of ethics rise to the level that “business as usual” fellowship is not a Biblically permissible choice. (1Cor. 5:11, 2John 1:10-11) For that reason, Beth El of Manhattan chose to disaffiliate until a reasonable level of spiritual health is restored.

It is Beth El of Manhattan’s sincere hope the ethics situation in the MJAA, UMJC, and IMJA improves meaningfully, and our synagogue would welcome positive ethical changes in the alliances or unions as a path to renewed association-membership. It is important to note that the presence of corrupt leaders in the MJAA, UMJC, and IMJA does not mean the entire rank-and-file membership is the same. Beth El Members are encouraged to attend any conferences or events of any associations they wish, with the above understanding factored in.