Rabbi Michael Birnholz Rabbi
Rabbi Michael Birnholz arrived at Temple Beth Shalom in Vero Beach in 2002 following his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Over the ten years that Rabbi Birnholz has been in Indian River County, he and his family have had a chance to grow in body, mind and spirit right along with Temple Beth Shalom. Rabbi Birnholz enthusiastically shares his ruach and koach -spirit and strength – with the many diverse generations and facets of the Jewish community. From the biblical garden to tot shabbat, from men’s club bowling night to adult learning while making challah, Rabbi Birnholz is proud to be part of vibrant and meaningful life of his congregation. Rabbi Birnholz has also enjoyed his wide variety of community opportunities to teach and preach Jewish values and wisdom, in person at various events or through his column in the Vero Beach Weekly. His hope is to build Temple Beth Shalom into a House of wholeness, completeness and peace and see these efforts spread caring, compassion and harmony to the whole Treasure Coast.
Cantor Sara Kheel Cantor
Cantor Sara Kheel hails from Los Angeles, CA. She began her involvement in the Jewish community early in life, attending Jewish day school and spending her summers at Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa. She grew up at Temple Judea in Tarzana, CA, where she also sang and led services as a young adult. It was there that she began her trajectory toward the cantorate. She received her B.A. in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Prior to enrolling at cantorial school, Cantor Kheel worked as the Programming and Engagement Director at Hillel at Pierce & Valley Colleges. She was a founding board member of Jewish young professionals’ organization Valley Ruach and the Assistant Director and President of Los Angeles-based Jewish a capella group Shir Ba’ir. She spent several summers as a camp counselor, songleader, and educational professional. Cantor Kheel was ordained from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2017. During cantorial school, she held pulpit positions in Garden City, NY; Fairbanks, AK; Annapolis, MD; and York, PA. Immediately following ordination, she spent a year as a chaplain resident at NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn. You can find Cantor Kheel around TBS singing with our children, tutoring our b’nei mitzvah students, rehearsing with our choir, the Shalom Singers, or heading up our Caring Community Group. Around town, Cantor Kheel is a member of the Indian River Cares Social Justice Working Group and the Treasure Coast Interfaith Community. Cantor Kheel is also the chaplain at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital. In her spare time, Cantor Kheel enjoys visiting Disney World, trying new recipes, and composing new music.
Mindy Lessem Pollack Education Director
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Mindy has been active in Jewish life seemingly forever. She credits strong ties with her childhood synagogue, Temple Judea in Coral Gables, her involvement with Young Judaea and Camp Judaea (Hendersonville, NC) for setting her up to be a leader in Jewish education.
Mindy attended Young Judaea Year Course in Israel, followed by Brandeis University and the University of Florida, earning a B.S. degree in Psychology and Certificate of Jewish Studies. After working for Young Judaea as the Assistant Director for Florida/Puerto Rico Region, Mindy attended graduate school at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studying Social Psychology. Now fluent in Hebrew, Mindy held positions at Yissum, the Research and Development Company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and also worked at the School Psychological Services, mentoring volunteers who worked with at-risk students in the public schools.
Five fabulous years of living in Israel later, Mindy returned to the United States to join her soon to be husband, Dan, another native Floridian. Living in Clearwater, Mindy worked as the Program Director at the JCC in Madeira Beach and also counseled children of divorce through the Family Counseling Center. In 1992 the Pollacks moved to Vero Beach and Temple Beth Shalom. Since then, Mindy and Dan have been active members of this congregation and Vero Beach community, raising three children, Elana, Aryeh and Michal, under the ark-like roof of our “little Temple in the woods.”Teaching and volunteering at TBS since January 1993, Mindy held numerous leadership positions within the synagogue, including President of the Board of Trustees. But if you ask her, she will say that the position most dear to her heart is instilling a love for Judaism in our guarantors…the children of Temple Beth Shalom.
Trudie Kriss Office Manager
After growing up in New York, I moved to South Florida in the late 1970’s with my family. Shortly after moving to Florida, I met my husband Holden. In 2000 Holden accepted a job offer from Indian River County which brought us here with our two children in 2001.
Previously I worked in insurance and was a floral designer for many years. I began working at Temple Beth Shalom a few years after joining as a member. Since I enjoy working with people, joining the staff as the office manager was a natural transition for me here at TBS.
Small town living has been a completely new experience for me, but one that I have embraced. I am glad for having the opportunity to enjoy a quieter, friendlier town with everything only a few minutes away, including a nice walk on the beach.