Steven Denker, Rabbi
Steven L. Denker has been rabbi of Temple Emanu El since July 2004. Rabbi Denker loves bringing traditional texts to life in today’s world and helping students of all ages and backgrounds discover the eternal meanings in Judaism and the beauty of Jewish life. Favorite teaching topics include Biblical Hebrew, Jewish History and the Jewish Legislative Tradition.
An Adjunct Professor of Religion Studies and Jewish Studies at Kent State University, Rabbi Denker teaches courses in World Religions and in Hebrew Bible. He has served on several committees of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and was co-chair of the Rabbi/Evangelical dialogue group.
A lifelong Zionist, Rabbi Denker is an active member of AIPAC. He believes that travel to Israel is the most effective way to connect participants to the real Israel of today and build long-lasting relationships among our congregants across all age groups. His most recent trip was a very successful interfaith tour, co-lead with Rev. Shawnthea Monroe of Plymouth Church, Shaker Heights.
Born and raised in New York City, Rabbi Denker graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, holds a BA from the City University of New York, a Masters of Hebrew Letters and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, where he received several academic awards. Before entering rabbinical training, he was Director of Community Relations for the New York City Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and had served on the staff of the late Congressman Stephen J. Solarz. Following ordination at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, in 1984, Rabbi Denker served at Temple Sholom, in Chicago; congregation Beth Shalom – Northern Illinois Jewish Community Center in DeKalb, Illinois; and Congregation Kol Ami in Chicago’s Water Tower Place. He taught, part-time, at both DePaul and Loyola Universities.
Rabbi Denker is married to Lisa Arlyn Lowe, an attorney in private practice. They have adult children.
Richard Lawrence, Cantor
Cantor Rick Lawrence joined Temple Emanu El in 2014. He has been singing and playing piano since childhood and is happy to take his passion and use it to serve the Jewish community. On the bima leading services, singing with the youth choir or playing with the Chai Band, Cantor Lawrence enjoys bringing people together through music. He loves learning and engaging with students of all ages and likes exploring Jewish texts as a way to help us shape our own Judaism today. He is an eager teacher of Jewish musical history, traditional chant, and liturgical music.
Originally from Ann Arbor Michigan, Cantor Lawrence graduated from Oberlin College in 2008 with a BA in Jewish Studies. He received his Cantorial Ordination and Masters in Jewish Education from Hebrew College in 2014. He is the recipient of the Cecilia and Harry Needle Fund Award from Hebrew College. He has had the pleasure of working with such people as Cantor Jeff Klepper, Josh Jacobson, and Yehudi Weiner. He has sung with many ensembles, including the Zamir Chorale of Boston, and was the featured soloist for the Newton Choral Society’s performance of Ernest Bloch’s “Avodat HaKodesh” (Sacred Service).
Having studied how previous composers of Jewish music have taken their received musical tradition and blended it with contemporary musical styles, Cantor Lawrence has embarked on a similar musical journey. He has composed several pieces of Jewish music designed for synagogue use wherein our received musical tradition, nusach, is mixed with contemporary musical styles to help create synagogue music for today’s generation. His goal is to compile these pieces into a Friday night service, whose working title is t’filat hamakom, this place’s prayer.
Daniel Roberts, Rabbi Emeritus
Rabbi Roberts has been a leader of our congregation for over 35 years. His passion for Judaism and his leadership qualities are constantly demonstrated within the Temple family and in the greater community.
An expert in the field of bereavement, Rabbi Roberts often lectures locally, nationally and internationally on death and dying. He holds a doctorate in this area and is certified as a Fellow in Thanatology. He is currently treasurer of the national Association of Death Education and Counseling. He is currently working on a book about the mourning that some go through when they retire from the work force.
Rabbi Roberts is committed to educational programs especially for our youth. He frequently uses storytelling as a means of teaching and communicating with children and adults. Rabbi Roberts has spearheaded the production of a multi-media presentation on teenage suicide entitled “Inside, I Ache.” He served on the National Committee on Teenage Suicide Prevention was a board member on the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.
He is a past president of the Heights Interfaith Council and the Cleveland Board of Rabbis and remains active in both organizations. He served on the national Rabbinic Cabinet of the State of Israel Bonds and was Chair of the Task Force on Pre-Marital Education of the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s. He is currently on the board of the Jewish National Fund of Cleveland. He has been highly involved in Social Justice issues over the years.
In his years with Temple Emanu El, Rabbi Roberts has gained the respect and admiration not only of temple members, but also of colleagues regionally, nationally, and in the State of Israel.