Updates on

CBB’s Rabbinic Transition

From the Rabbinic Transition Committee
May 20, 2024

First and foremost, the members of the transition team want to extend our sincere thanks to so many of you who provided us with your input on the priorities and qualities you’d like to see in our next senior rabbi.

Since the formation of the committee back in February, and through small-group home parlor meetings, phone calls, letters, texts and town hall sessions, we have heard from well over 250 of you and are pleased to report that the positive energy and the valuable input that we’ve received have been truly outstanding.

We have also received guidance from the Rabbinic transition experts at the Union of Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis and have garnered information from three congregations who found themselves in a similar situation to ours – that being the retirement of a long-standing senior rabbi, and the presence of an associate rabbi who was interested in serving as the successor.

We have had in depth individual conversations with each of our clergy, and with our Director of Jewish Learning Programs, and have compiled, discussed and analyzed all of the various sources of input that we have received.

With all that we have learned, and after careful and thoughtful discussion, we now find ourselves ready to prepare a formal recommendation to the Board of Trustees on how best to move forward with the hiring process. That recommendation will be made to the Board later this month, and if approved, the congregation will be fully informed at our annual meeting on June 20th.

With gratitude,

Aaron Ettenberg, Chair, Rabbinic Transition Committee
Janet Wolf, Vice Chair
Aaron Edelheit
Elizabeth Gaynes,
Executive Director          
David Landecker
Alan Levy
Joni Meisel
Deborah Naish
Nancy Sheldon
, Co-President       
Marcy Wimbish,

A Message from Rabbi Cohen — March 4, 2024

Read the Full Text of Rabbi Cohen’s
Retirement Announcement

Dear CBB Family,

With a grateful heart, overflowing with memories of shared moments of joy, of grief, of love and of meaning, I have informed the CBB Board of Trustees of my intention to retire from my position as Senior Rabbi of the Congregation, approximately 16 months from now, effective July 1, 2025.

At that time, I will be 68 years old, and will have served in this position for 21 years and in Santa Barbara for 40 years. I could never have imagined, when I was young, that I would end up spending my entire adult life as a rabbi in Santa Barbara California. Now, looking back, I don’t know how I got so lucky. It has been an incredible privilege to serve this vibrant, creative, and loving Jewish community and I look forward eagerly to my new role as Rabbi Emeritus.

I have thought long and hard about this decision and I do have some trepidation about leaving this position which has become so central to my sense of self. But those feelings are far outweighed by the happy anticipation of time with the four generations of my family, of days of hiking and camping in our magnificent back country, of travel with Marian, and of unbroken hours immersed in my beloved books.

The timing of my retirement will allow me to continue to lead our congregation (together with my partners in the Project Leadership) through the remainder of our Building Dreams campaign and the final phases of construction, which we anticipate completing in early 2025. I cannot imagine a more satisfying culmination and conclusion to my long tenure as Senior Rabbi than a celebratory return to our renewed and re-imagined CBB home up on San Antonio Creek Road.

The specifics of my role as Rabbi Emeritus remain to be worked out. Marian and I are staying right here in this community that we love. I look forward to continuing to learn and to pray with all of you, to teaching and telling stories to our children, to celebrating Shabbat and to hanging out together in our beautiful new Jewish Center. But after July 1, 2025, I will assume a low profile, and will enjoy my new freedom, and the opportunity to visit new cities, to explore new mountains, and to meet new people, the world over.

I am announcing this now, sixteen months before I actually become Rabbi Emeritus, in order to give the Temple Board of Trustees plenty of time for this transition. With Executive Director Elizabeth Gaynes and co-Presidents Nancy Sheldon and Marcy Wimbish at the helm, we are in strong and capable hands. I’m looking forward to the next sixteen months, together on the pulpit with my friends Cantor Mark Childs and Rabbi Daniel Brenner, to celebrating everything that we have accomplished together, and to dreaming and planning for the future.

With immense gratitude and affection,

Rabbi Steve Cohen

Read the Letter from
CBB’s Co-Presidents

Dear CBB Community,

Our hearts are full but heavy with the announcement of Rabbi Cohen’s retirement in 2025. He leaves enormous shoes to fill, and also leaves our temple in the strongest position of its 97-year history.

Our community is thriving in large part due to Rabbi Cohen’s leadership, vision, and compassion. During his tenure, we have grown from 400 to over 800 families, with outstanding educational programs and vibrant events nearly every day of the week for every demographic we serve. CBB has strong ties with our Jewish and non-Jewish community partners and has forged tender connections with our dear friends in Rwanda, with GHIS, and our new sisters from K’far Azza Kibbutz in Israel.

CBB continues to flourish despite temporarily being away from our San Antonio Creek home. Soon, we will be back in our spectacularly renovated campus, primed to begin our next chapter. Rabbi Cohen will lead us into the building he helped envision with the “Building Dreams” project, and our next Rabbi will lead us as we live out these dreams. Rabbi Cohen will continue to remain involved as our first Rabbi Emeritus, and we are lucky to have his continued participation, albeit in a more limited role.

Please join us on Friday, March 8th at Shabbat services for a special sermon as Rabbi Cohen will share some thoughts about his retirement. 

Between now and Rabbi Cohen’s retirement on July 1, 2025, we have much to accomplish. And we are ready. CBB’s Board of Trustees formed a strong Transition Committee that has already begun its work. This committee is led by former Board President Aaron Ettenberg, with current Executive VP Janet Wolf as Vice Chair. Other members include Aaron Edelheit, David Landecker, Alan Levy, Joni Meisel, Deborah Naish, Elizabeth Gaynes, Executive Director, and your Co-Presidents.

This committee will

  • develop and recommend a timeline for activities related to Rabbi Cohen’s retirement and the hiring of a new Senior Rabbi;
  • research and incorporate best practices from other synagogues;
  • thoughtfully incorporate our beloved clergy in this process;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive process for gathering feedback from our members. This is a critical step and one of the most important. This decision is collective – guided by our members, not by one person or by one committee; 
  • help identify and coordinate a search committee; and
  • prepare updates, to be shared regularly with the Board and congregation.

 As much as we would like to have all of the answers today, please trust this process. As always, feel free to reach out to us with your questions or concerns. You may also reach out directly to the members of the Transition Committee.

Just as Rabbi Cohen prepares for his next chapter, so too will our congregation embrace a new chapter filled with possibility, promise, and the profound strength of our community.

With full hearts and gratitude,

Nancy Sheldon and Marcy Wimbish, Co-Presidents
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of Congregation B’nai B’rith

Transition Committee

Aaron Ettenberg and his wife, Ina, moved to Santa Barbara and became CBB members in 1982. Over the years, Aaron has had the honor of serving on the boards of the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation, Congregation B’nai B’rith (where he served for 26 years in a variety of roles, including President and is now an honorary member of the board), the Tri-County Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the board of Santa Barbara Hillel (where he has also served as  President). Professionally, Aaron earned a Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal and, after 40 years as a faculty member, department Chair, Dean and Provost at UCSB, he retired and now holds the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience & Behavior in the department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.

Janet was born and raised in Playa del Rey, a small beachside community in Los Angeles.  She met her husband, Harvey, in junior high school and they both went on to attend the same high school and UCSB.  She received a BS degree from UCSB, a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, and a teaching credential from UCLA.   After completing her studies at UCLA, Harvey and Janet married in 1977 and moved to San Francisco where Harvey attended law school. Janet taught PE and English at a junior high school in Pacifica and in 1981, after their first daughter Jessica was a year old, they moved back to Santa Barbara. They immediately joined CBB and have called CBB their spiritual and social home ever since.   Harvey served on the CBB Board for many years and their daughters Jessica, Stephanie, and Kimberly participated in CBB education programs from BHY preschool through Confirmation.

Janet worked as a vocational rehabilitation consultant with a Los Angeles based company for three years and in 1987, she opened her own rehabilitation consulting business with offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. She continued to work in this rewarding field for over 20 years.

Janet’s career in public service began in 1993 when she was elected to the Goleta School Board where she served for twelve years.  In 2006, she was elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014.  She retired from the Board of Supervisors in January 2019.

Janet and Harvey have been married for 45 years and are blessed with a beautiful family.  Jessica, Howard and their children Micah, Avi, and Sophie live in Agoura Hills; Stephanie, Blake and their daughter, Talya, live in Seattle; and Kimberly, Bjorn and their daughter, Frida, live in Oslo, Norway. Janet’s family brings her an abundance of love, joy and happiness.

Aaron M. Edelheit is the CEO and Founder of Mindset Capital, a private investment firm. He is a published author, having written The Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle. The book makes the case for taking one day off from work, email and smartphones for a more productive, healthier and more creative life. Aaron served on the board of and is still actively involved with Dignity Moves, which builds cost effective housing for those experiencing homelessness. He has also served on the boards of non-profits such as the Moishe House Foundation, Dignity Moves and Global Village Project. And he is also a member of Social Impact Network in Santa Barbara, California.

J.D. Georgetown University, Former President, Treasurer, Social Action Trustee and Parliamentarian of CBB Board of Directors, Practiced Law,  President and Owner Menda Scientific Products, Executive Director S.B. Neighborhood Clinics, E.D. Environmental Defense Center, Political activist and former member of SB City Council, Chair of Democratic Central Committee, Past member of Board of SB Jewish Federation,  Fund for Santa Barbara, Jewish-Latino Roundtable, Leadership Santa Barbara, among many other local organizations.

Alan grew up in Goleta and became a Bar Mitzvah at CBB, and he, along with his wife, Lisa, have been members of CBB for over 25 years. Alan was CBB Caring Community Committee Chair from 2002 through 2018 and served as Caring Community Trustee from 2003 until 2012.  Alan currently serves on the Board of Trustees as CBB Parliamentarian, and he has been addressing Bylaws and Rules of Order since 2012. Alan also serves on the Melton School Advisory Committee and can often be found at the Shabbat morning minyan chanting from the Torah. Alan completed a Ph.D. in Physics at UCSB in early 2006 and has been working as a Systems Engineer at Raytheon Vision Systems in Goleta since then.

Joni and her family have been part of CBB for over 50 years. She  raised her children in the temple community and now her grandchildren. Joanie has served on many committees, and as Co-President on the Board, assisting with clergy searches, and her “delight” in calling Mark to offer him the cantorial position. Joanie is also the creator of the Irving and Marlyn Bernstein Leadership Institute program which she ran for decades; also leading that program was Aaron Ettenberg and Deborah Naish. Joni’s professional work also included consulting with a local church assisting them in their process of hiring their new clergy.

Deborah Naish has been thrilled to be actively involved with CBB since 2003 when she was on our previous Transition Committee and then the Rabbi Search committee. She was honored to be President of the Board when Rabbi Cohen started at CBB from 2004 – 2006 and Executive Director 2007 – 2015. She also led or co-led many of our Leadership Institute classes since 2006. Deborah was also on the boards of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA).

Deborah is as an executive coach and business consultant working with leaders in start-ups to Fortune 100 companies and dynamic nonprofits (including several synagogues and other Jewish organizations). Before 1997 when she started Naish Partners, she had been the CEO of a licensing and publishing company, EVP of Marketing at a start-up children’s toy company, and held product marketing positions at The Walt Disney Company and The Clorox Company.  Deborah and her husband Howard Babus are proud parents of Isaac, who grew up at CBB and is now on the board of Hillel at Lewis & Clark.

Elizabeth Gaynes, Executive Director since 2015, first joined the professional Senior Leadership Team at CBB in 2012 as Membership and Program Director.  She spent the previous decade working as a Personal Development Coach and Project Consultant, while balancing volunteer leadership roles including serving on CBB’s Board as Preschool Trustee and Social Action Trustee, and as the Chair of Mitzvah Day, CBB’s Groove Gala, and The Year of Living Torah Programs.

Elizabeth grew up in Los Angeles, is a UCSB Film Studies graduate, and had a thirteen year first career as a Publicist and International Marketing Executive for Universal Pictures. She and her husband David (and children Sophia and Max) returned to Santa Barbara in 2001 to start their next adventure and have immersed themselves in the Santa Barbara Jewish community ever since.

Nancy worked in banking for 13 years with UBS in New York before moving to Santa Barbara with her husband, Mike, in 2001. They have four children, who have grown up at CBB. All are graduates of BHY and are B’nai Mitzvah. Nancy has spent over 20 years in the non-profit world. She was on the executive board of MOXI for over 10 years and chaired the capital campaign for the building. She was also on the Board of Crane School and chaired their Development committee for several years. Nancy has chaired the Foodbank Gala for several years alongside Diane Zipperstein. Nancy has served as the head of the Beit HaYeladim Parent Association, and as the Preschool Trustee and At-Large Trustee on the Board of Congregation B’nai B’rith. Before becoming Co-President, Nancy co-chaired the Building Dreams capital campaign. Nancy has a B.S. from Indiana University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Marcy’s family was considering a move to Santa Barbara from the New York City area in 2007. After attending services in the outdoor chapel and meeting Rabbi Steve and Cantor Mark, they were hooked and moved out west two months later. Marcy worked on Wall Street in New York City on a Bond Trading floor, after earning an MBA from the Stern School of Business and an MS from Columbia University School of Engineering.  She attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts for undergraduate studies. After retiring from the finance industry, she raised two children with her husband Jon.  Their daughter Tally just completed her third year at USC, and her son Jimmy studies at the University of Oregon.  They both attended religious school at CBB and went all the way through until Confirmation.  Marcy enjoys playing tennis, and was very involved in the public schools while my children attended them in Santa Barbara. She looks forward to serving as CBB Board President.