Interim Rabbi James L. Simon
After earning a law degree from Hasting School of Law, Rabbi Simon attended Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1983. He spent over 20 years as a pulpit rabbi, primarily in Massachusetts and Florida. He also spent six years as the Regional Director of the UAHC (now URJ) Midwest Council. In 2009, Rabbi Simon became one of the first Rabbis to be trained as an Interim Rabbi by the Interim Ministry Network and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He did additional work to earn the Advanced Certification of Professional Transition Specialist. Rabbi Simon is also a trained mediator, which has helped him greatly, first as a pulpit Rabbi and now as an Interim Rabbi, because it taught him to be a better listener. Like a good mediator, he doesn’t see himself as telling people what they have to do, but as a facilitator guiding individuals and congregations to find solutions to their problems. Prior to coming to Beth Shir Shalom, he had served as an Interim Rabbi in Florida, New Jersey, Utah, Oklahoma, New York and California.
Rabbi Simon’s wife maintains their home base in Florida. They have 3 adult children (including a son who lives in Los Angeles) and two grandchildren. The Rabbi’s favorite scripture verse is from the Book of Isaiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” It reminds him that a synagogue needs to be a very inclusive and welcoming place.
Rabbi Alex Kress
Rabbi Alex Kress (he/his) is the incoming rabbi of Beth Shir Shalom. His vision for Jewish community centers on the pursuit of justice, inclusion, and good synagogue coffee. He works to incorporate avant-garde ideas that revitalize spirituality and community. With projects like Hip Hop High Holidays, he attempts to bridge ancient wisdom with contemporary culture to make our tradition relevant and accessible.
Rabbi Alex grew up in Philadelphia, a product of URJ Camp Harlam and NFTY PAR. After graduating from Temple University with a degree in Jewish Studies, he was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. On his way to Beth Shir Shalom, Rabbi Alex served Temple Sinai of Roslyn and Hillel at UCLA.
Rabbi Alex loves good coffee, shabbos ball, and reading an actual, physical newspaper. He and his wife Michal have two children, Aria & Caleb. They love hosting family and friends for home-cooked Shabbat meals, good wine, and lots of laughter.
Rabbi Emeritus Neil Comess-Daniels
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels brings his passionate expression of Judaism and his strong sense of social justice to the pulpit. He helps us create our Jewish community, facilitates our discovery of our spiritual selves and works with us towards Tikkun Olam – healing the world.
Rabbi Neil’s accessibility makes him responsive to our congregants. He uses his singing and musical talents to communicate the riches of our Jewish tradition. Through his contemporary interpretation of ancient and modern texts he enables us to personalize and apply them to our daily lives.Beth Shir Shalom supports the Rabbi’s personal commitment to organizations that deal with interracial and interfaith relations and homelessness issues. He has chaired the Martin Luther King, Jr. Westside Coalition and the Interfaith Holocaust Service and also serves on the boards of the Western Region of the Jewish Federation Council and the Westside Interfaith Council.A graduate of UCLA, Rabbi Comess-Daniels was ordained in 1979 at the Hebrew Union College and is often asked to mentor young rabbinic students. He was the founding rabbi of Temple Shir Shalom, one of the two temples that have come together to become Beth Shir Shalom. He is married and has two children.
Cantor Rebekah Mirsky
Cantor Rebekah Mirsky is a 2010 ordinee of the Academy of Jewish Religion. She is the founding Cantor of Beit T’shuvah, a residential treatment facility and synagogue, for 8 years, where she helped to create a Music In Recovery program. Cantor Rebekah also served as a spiritual advisor, using Mussar and other Jewish traditions to counsel those in need.
Cantor Rebekah’s special loves are B’nai Mitvah tutoring and officiating ceremonies. She has done many b’nai mitzvah, encouraging the student’s individual and unique gifts to shine through the ceremony where an emphasis is placed on inspiring a love of Judaism in each child. She is an interpreter of Jewish Liturgy, an active composer and a fellow of the Helfman Institute for New Jewish Music. Her compositions are beautiful, contemporary commentaries that enliven the ancient beauty of the liturgy.