Clergy & Staff

Rabbi David Ackerman ~
David Rabbi David Ackerman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, PA where he teaches Torah, plays guitar, and works with others to build up a sacred community rich in learning, spirituality and kindness. Since coming to Beth Am Israel in 2009, Rabbi Ackerman has focused on expanding Jewish learning opportunities for adults and children, on highlighting the music and contemplative practice of prayer, and on deepening the congregation’s involvement in the work of interfaith relations, social justice and activism.

Educated at Princeton University (A.B in History, 1983) and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (M.A. and Ordination, 1990), David has served as Assistant Rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, Rabbi at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell, PA, and Rabbi for National Outreach at JTS. He has studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Yeshivat Hadar in NYC, and is a graduate of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s clergy leadership program.

Rabbi Ackerman has served in many leadership roles in the wider community. Currently, he serves on the board of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia (JFCS) where he chairs the Ethics Committee, and on the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

David and his wife Nomi Shapiro are the grateful parents of Josh (25), Elijah (22) and Rosie (13).
Click here to go to Rabbi David’s blog.

Hazzan Harold Messinger ~

Hazzan Harold Messinger is now entering his tenth year as Hazzan at Beth Am Israel. In addition to leading and organizing Shabbat and Festival services, Harold teaches kids, teens and adults about Jewish Music, Israel, Torah Trope and prayer. Harold’s driving goal/passion is to empower the entire congregation to sing out, harmonize, pray with joy and intention and deepen the community’s connection to the liturgy of the Siddur, to Jewish music in general and to help each person find their own spiritual path.

Harold grew up in Havertown, PA and attended Solomon Schecter Day School and Akiba Hebrew Academy, while summering at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. He holds two master’s degrees, one in Expressive Arts Therapy (Lesley University) and a second in Cantorial Studies and Sacred Jewish Music (Gratz College). After living in Israel for seven years in the 90’s where he played in rock/folk bands and worked as youth advisor for USY, Ramah and the Nesiya Institute, Harold returned to the Main Line to work in Informal Jewish Education at Akiba Hebrew Academy, and later as a Music teacher in Austin Texas. Harold currently lives in Merion Station with his wife Kes and their three children, Cole, Jonah and Juliana. For seven summers, Harold worked as the Musician in Residence at the Brandeis Collegiate Institute in Simi Valley, California. In recent years, Harold’s obsession with puppets has led to the creation of several Youtube videos, most notably the Modeh Ani video now with more than 54,000 ‘hits’He has recorded three CD’s including co-producing a CD of sacred Jewish and Gospel music with Zion Baptist Church and Main Line Reform Temple.

Leo Fuhrman – Educational Director ~

At Beth Am Israel, the goal of our education program is to create a joyful, caring, and safe learning environment for our children and families to develop their Jewish identities. During Leo Fuhrman’s first year as Education Director at Beth Am Israel, he is focused on incorporating innovative educational approaches into the Hebrew school’s strong foundation in order to ensure our children are inspired and growing into knowledgeable, engaged Jews. Our curriculum focuses on Jewish values, Hebrew, holidays, prayer and Torah. Our Shabbat morning educational program (Beit Midrash), cultivates the importance of learning and participation as a shared family experience.

With over a decade of leadership across diverse professional settings, Leo is an experienced youth educator. Born in Argentina, Leo moved to a kibbutz in Israel at age three, affording him the ability to communicate fluently in Hebrew, Spanish, and English. Leo was a member of NOAM, the youth organization of Israel’s Masorti (Conservative) movement, serving as a Counselor, Chapter Leader, and National Program Coordinator. Additionally, Leo proudly served as a Commander in the Israeli Defense Forces and volunteered as Manager of a kibbutz dairy farm. During this time, he developed experience working with special needs children as a mentor one-on-one, and in group settings that included horse therapy and Jewish camp. As an undergraduate in the Israel, Leo earned his Bachelor’s degree in Education and English Linguistics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and spent a year as a classroom teacher. Most recently, Leo completed a dual degree program at Brandeis University earning an MBA and a Masters in Jewish Professional Leadership. Leo lives in Yardley with his wife, Vivian, and newborn daughter, Laila.

Grace Gershkoff – Executive Director ~

Grace Gershkoff
Grace and her family joined Beth Am Israel in 1989. She was president from 2001 to 2003 when our beautiful building was built. From 2004 to present, Grace has been a member of the Beth Am Israel staff, serving as our Executive Director. Grace has a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sara Chernov – Youth Engagement Associate and Beit Midrash Administrator ~

Sara Chernov
Sara Chernov is the Youth Engagement Associate and Beit Midrash Administrator at Beth Am Israel. She comes to Beth Am after many years in different Jewish organizations, including her camp alma matter Camp Havaya. Sara graduated from Goucher College in 2012 with a major in Sociology and minor in Peace Studies. She enjoys working with children and has a passion for informal Jewish education. Some of her favorite times at BAI are hanging with the students before Beit Midrash or while getting ice cream with the BAI teens. Although Sara was raised in New York, she loves living in the Mt. Airy area and exploring all that Philly has to offer.
Jessica Glickman – Program Coordinator/Administrator ~

Jessica Glickman
Jessica Glickman is the Program Coordinator/Administrator at Beth Am Israel. From scheduling a meeting with Rabbi David to bar/bat mitzvah planning, Jessica is there to answer your questions!

Jessica is a graduate of East Carolina University (B.A. Comparative Religion, 2007) and is currently pursuing her masters at the University of New Haven (M.S. Emergency Management 2018). At ECU, she was the president of Hillel and worked closely with other religious student groups to create meaningful and lasting interfaith connections, including the creation of an annual interfaith Passover Seder. Jessica also serves as a mentor for Walking the Walk, a Philadelphia-based interfaith program for high school students.

Jessica is thrilled to bring her connections and experience to Beth Am’s youth! She currently lives in Abington with her husband, Robert, and her two dogs – Sasha (Samoyed) and Meike (Siberian Husky).