Synagogue’s executive director connects to congregants

Many synagogues, especially larger ones, tend to be dominated by male executive directors. In the case of Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland, a woman – Jennifer Levin-Tavares – serves as its executive director with the aim of being a good role model for the entire congregation, including children, adults and staff.

Levin-Tavares, 54, lives in Coconut Creek and is also active in the National Association for Temple Administration, a professional network of Reform Jewish synagogue executive directors where she is on the Membership Committee and co-chair of its mentoring program. She attained senior status in 2013 and became a Fellow in Temple Administration in 2014.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be serving as a leader at Congregation Kol Tikvah and in NATA and I do hope I inspire and have a positive impact on those whose lives I touch,” she said.

Levin-Tavares grew up in a small Jewish community in Knoxville, Tennessee and most recently served as executive director at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Connecticut.

“One thing I had come to realize is that growing up in a small Jewish community can really strengthen your Jewish identity and that can lead toward Jewish communal service,” she said. “For instance, I had seven people in my religious school class when I was growing up. We had a very small synagogue. There was one other girl in my class and she became a rabbi. I think there’s something about growing up in that kind of environment that draws you into wanting to be in the Jewish world.”

Levin-Tavares became Kol Tikvah’s executive director on Feb. 1, 2016. In addition to overseeing this Reform synagogue’s operations, she serves as a resource to facilitate members’ integration into congregational life as she believes strongly that a synagogue is more than a place, it’s also a community where everyone feels at home.

“I have always been drawn to smaller to mid-sized congregations because my goal is to try to really know each congregant individually,” she said. “That is a difficult enough task in a medium sized institution and practically impossible in a large one.”

Levin-Tavares believes the synagogue is a second home for most people.

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