Congregation Beth Tefillah’s first female president, Danielle Seligmann, and youngest president, Adon Solomon, are not just fulfilling their fathers’ legacies as they step into their new roles, but also their commitment to the community.
For more than a decade, Seligmann and her family have been a part of CBT. As a member of the synagogue Seligmann has worked alongside Rabbi Yossi New to increase membership, and has served as CBT’s vice president of youth and on the executive board for two years.
“Professionally and personally I love impacting people’s lives, and for me there is no greater way to do that. It’s also carrying on my father’s legacy because he set that foundation for me and my mother,” Seligmann said. She is the daughter of Felice and Martin Seligmann, who helped start several synagogues.
In addition to finding ways to build relationships, Seligmann, who works as a senior solutions architect in information technology, hopes to use her skills to help increase CBT’s membership, engage more young adults and empower women to take on more leadership roles in the community.
“While in an Orthodox community you typically think of leadership as a male-dominated role, this gives an opportunity for women who are interested in being stronger leaders to actually come forward because we really have an amazing community for that,” she said.
Rabbi New said regardless of Seligmann’s gender, she would have still been selected for the position because of her skill set and passion and commitment to CBT. “On the one hand, we say it’s the first female president we have at the shul, but on the other hand it was a natural evolution within the community as women get more involved in communal life in the Orthodox sector,” he said. “So as trailblazing as it sounds, it really was just a natural progression.”
Communal life and servitude have always been a part of Seligmann’s life. She began her career working for Beth Tefillah when she was 22 and says she is honored and humbled to be the first female president.
“It’s a huge role, but it’s also a testament to our community. Yes, I am female and it is awesome, but it’s also a skill-based opportunity.”
To help Seligmann fulfill her role, Solomon is stepping in as CBT’s youngest president. When he was young, Solomon grew up in CBT’s community and was the last bar mitzvah in the synagogue’s original building. He most recently served as CBT’s board secretary and was a member of the executive board.
Solomon is a lawyer serving different business owners and hopes to use his financial background to ensure CBT is on stable foundation. “We live in a very polarized society, but I think people are trying to [express] their values and connect, and I think Danielle and I both share that vision of just trying to get people back to their roots and put us in a good footing either financially or spiritually for the next 30 years or so,” he said.
For Solomon, being CBT’s youngest president is a very humbling and exciting experience and allows him to shape a vision of which he’ll be a part, he said. Rabbi New said of Solomon’s appointment, “On a personal level I have enjoyed a strong relationship with Adon and his family … and in a sense, he is representing his family and his father of blessed memory in this role.”
Seligmann added, “I think there is a neat emotional and intellectual combination that Adon and I bring from the male-female perspective and the way our brains work, but I also think it encourages a lot of women to step in, in ways that they may not have thought about stepping in before.”
The new co-president anticipate challenges as they try to connect people to the congregation, find new ways to refresh their programs, and help people step away from old ideologies. To help with that initiative, Seligmann says she has a number of different programs planned in partnership with the Sisterhood, including a program with the Jewish Educational Loan Fund in October. Rabbi New added that Chabad also is expecting to open another branch of Young Jewish Professionals in the area.
Rabbi New said, “Synagogues used to be a place to pray, but today they have evolved into community centers and have become the focal point for people’s religious life, but also their social life. So, one of the challenges for the synagogue is to expand the role that we play in that sense and to provide different avenues for people to find Jewish expression to connect to the synagogue.”