Rabbi Denker has served as rabbi of Temple Emanu El since July 2004 and focuses on serving Temple Emanu El and its members, Rabbi Denker loves bringing traditional texts to life in today’s world and helping students of all ages discover the eternal meaning of Judaism. Additional favorite teaching topics include Biblical Hebrew, Jewish History and the Jewish Legislative Tradition. He enjoys engaging with younger students – from participating in Preschool services to leading t’filah for the religious school.
As a member of the Overseas Connections Committee of the Federation, he helps members build person-to-person connections between Cleveland and our sister community in Israel, Beit Shean and Valley of the Springs. He is a member of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America and is an active member of AIPAC. Rabbi Denker loves leading trips to Israel, which he says is the most effective way to connect our members to the real Israel of today. It also builds long-lasting relationships among our congregants across all ages.
Born and raised in New York City, Rabbi Denker holds a BA from the City University of New York. Before entering rabbinical school he was Director of Community Relations for the New York Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and had served on the staff of former 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 holds several academic awards from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
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).
In 2013, Cantor Lawrence began work on a series of compositions for Shabbat evening called “t’filat hamakom” (this place’s prayer.) He believes that, just as our liturgy has changed to suit the times, so too should our music. Cantor Lawrence sees this project, which is deeply influenced by nusach, as furthering the old Jewish musical custom of taking the old and blending it with the new.
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.