Rabbi Valerie Cohen
Rabbi Cohen, or Rabbi Valerie as she prefers, is a 1999 graduate of Hebrew Union Institute-Jewish Institute of Religion and was sole rabbi at Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson Mississippi for 11 years. She previously served as an assistant/associate rabbi at Temple Israel in Memphis.
Born in Cleveland and raised in Florida, she graduated from the University of Florida in 1993 with a degree in Public Relations. She and her husband, Jonathan Cohen, have two children, Gabriel, 14, and Marisa, 10.
In 2013, Rabbi Valerie was named one of the Jewish Daily Forward’s 36 most inspiring rabbis. The congregant who nominated her stressed her ability to create a creative Jewish experience in Jackson, including both Reform and Conservative-style Shabbat services. “As the only pulpit rabbi in Jackson,” he wrote, “she sustains the community, bringing together diverse groups of Jewish and non-Jewish people, constantly teaching, learning and growing!”
At Temple Emanuel Sinai, the landslide vote in favor of her candidacy came at the end of a months-long rabbinic search process. With 13 members, six adults from each of the two former congregations as well as a youth leader, the committee worked diligently to identify the ideal spiritual leader for this critical next step. Members of Temple Emanuel Sinai believe they have found this in Rabbi Valerie Cohen.
Rachel Reef-Simpson, Cantor
Prior to joining the Temple Emanuel Sinai community, Rachel Reef-Simpson has served as Temple Beth David’s Co-Clergy/Cantorial Soloist for seven years. She worked as a clergy partner in all aspects of Temple life, including co-leading services throughout the year as well as providing pastoral support. She also served as B’nai Mitzvah coordinator, Choir Director, Friday Night Live Band Leader, Purim Shpiel director, Music and Tefillah Educator and organized and trained all lay Torah chanters throughout the year.
Rachel’s previous experience includes serving for five years as Cantorial Soloist, Music Educator, B'nai Mitzvah tutor, Choir Director and Hebrew teacher at Temple Etz Chaim in Franklin, MA. She has also worked as either Cantorial Soloist and/or Music, Judaic and Hebrew educator at Temple Sinai in Brookline, Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Congregation B’Nai Torah in Sudbury and The Nursery School at Temple Beth Am in Framingham.
Educated at Boston University and Berklee College of Music, Rachel received her Cantorial Arts Certificate at Hebrew College in June of 2007. Currently, Rachel has just completed Year 3 of her education toward investiture in the first cohort of six cantorial soloists nationwide participating in the new Cantorial Certification Program at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College in New York. She expects to receive investiture in May of 2016.