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Rabbi Elyssa Austerklein

“I am like an olive tree in the house of God, trusting in God's faithful love forever.  I will praise You always for what You have done.  I will proclaim before the faithful that Your name is good.”   Psalms 52:10-11

I come to love God’s way and God’s people because I have been afforded the awesome gift of tremendous love.  The rabbinate is an opportunity to share and spread that love through Judaism.  Living in a place like Akron, allows us to interact with all kinds of people and teach them about the wisdom Judaism has to offer.


Before returning home to the state of Ohio, Rabbi Elyssa was Director of Jewish Life at the JCC of Greater Washington, Interim Rabbi for B'er Chayim in Cumberland, MD, and served for 4 years as the rabbi of SRQ Jews Without Borders in Sarasota, Florida. Immediately following ordination in 2011, Rabbi Elyssa was the sole clergy for Temple Judea, where she was a USCJ two-time grant winner for Young Adult programming. While still in school, she held the pulpit of Or HaTzafon in Fairbanks, Alaska, among others. 

She has worked with and at congregations across the denominational spectrum and feels joy in being able to relate to all Jews.  She is a graduate of Brandeis University and received a Masters in Theology from Boston University School of Theology, where she had the amazing opportunity to study with Professor Elie Wiesel z"l.  Rabbi Elyssa was ordained and received a Masters of Jewish Education from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, a pluralistic institution.

Rabbi Elyssa has published in The Forward, in eJewish Philanthropy, in the Journal Kerem, has two pre-published children’s books, and has contributed multiple times to the “Ask the Rabbis” section in Moment Magazine.

Rabbi Elyssa is a trained mikveh guide, has led Hallel with Women of the Wall in Jerusalem, and was a “rabbi on the road” for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Rabbi Elyssa is a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow and was named one of America’s 33 most inspiring rabbis of 2015 by The Forward. She is an artist, tallit maker, certified yoga teacher and devoted wife to Hazzan Matt and loving mother to Georgie.

Hazzan Matthew Austerklein

Hazzan Matthew Austerklein, baritone, is Beth El's seventh cantor, He received a Master of Sacred Music degree and cantorial investiture from JTS in 2011. As a student he concentrated in pastoral care, spending one summer as a hospital chaplain at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, and another with the Jewish Board as a chaplain for adults with chronic mental illness. Hazzan Matt is also a proud alum of the College of William and Mary, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2006.

Hazzan Matt enjoys bringing Torah, music, and spirituality into people's lives through many pathways -- leading prayer, teaching classes, building singing community, and pastoral outreach to our members. He is a seasoned performer in Jewish and secular ensemble alike, and is also a founding member of the cantorial band, "The Wizards of Ashkenaz." 

Hazzan Matt is an up-and-coming leader and innovator among American cantors. He recently served on the Cantors Assembly's Executive Council, and served as its representative to the Committee on Jewish Law & Standards from 2013-2015. He has lectured at several universities, and mentored cantorial students across the non-orthodox world, including at JTS, HUC-JIR, Hebrew College, and in the Aleph Cantorial program. Most recently, Hazzan Matt co-founded Ilu Finu, a nationwide contest for Jewish a cappella groups to write synagogue music.

Hazzan Klein is blessed to be the husband of Rabbi Elyssa, and father to their son, George.

Rabbi Stephen Grundfast, EMERITUS

Rabbi Grundfast received his undergraduate degree in Marketing with a minor in Social Work from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. He was ordained as a Rabbi in June of 1979 from The Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City.

While in rabbinical school he served as the student rabbi for the Wyckoff -Franklin Lakes Synagogue in Wyckoff, New Jersey. In addition, he also held the position of assistant to the director of Hillel at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ. He has taken graduate courses in Jewish Studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ and at Gratz College in Philadelphia, PA.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.  In December, 2007 the Jewish Theological Seminary awarded him a Doctor of Divinity degree, Honoris Causa.

Rabbi Grundfast’s first full time pulpit was as the associate rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, Texas, for nine years. While in Houston he served as the secretary of the Houston Board of Rabbis. He helped found and later served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly, Southwest Region. He also served as president of the Kallah of Texas Rabbis, the oldest on-going interdenominational rabbinical retreat program in the nation. He was also very active in the Soviet Jewry movement, having visited the Soviet Union to meet with Refusniks in October 1984.

In 1988 he and his family moved to Savannah, Georgia where he assumed the pulpit of Congregation Agudath Achim and served there for four years.  Rabbi Grundfast became the rabbi of Congregation Ohev Shalom in Wallingford, PA in 1992 and served until June of 2001. While in Wallingford, he helped found The Main Line Muslim-Jewish Dialogue group in Philadelphia. Rabbi Grundfast was an active member of the Swarthmore-Wallingford Interfaith Ministerium where he served as President during the 1998-1999 year. He also served as secretary of the Rabbinical Assembly of Greater Philadelphia.  Rabbi Grundfast served as rabbi at The Jacksonville Jewish Center for three years from 2001-2004.

Rabbi Grundfast assumed the pulpit of Beth El Congregation in Akron in August of 2004. He is a past-president of the Ohio, Western PA and KY region of the Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Grundfast became Rabbi Emeritus of Beth El upon his retirement in summer of 2017.

Rabbi Grundfast is married to his wife Judy and they have two children, Rachel (Dr. Justin) and Joseph (Deana). Off the pulpit he loves to spend time with his family, read, and play golf.  His passion is to spend as much time as possible with his grandsons, Gavi and Elliot and granddaughter, Shoshana. 

Hazzan Stephen Stein, emeritus

 Hazzan Stephen J. Stein was the Cantor of Beth El Congregation from 1980-2015, making him the longest serving professional in the synagogue's history. During his tenure, he was especially proud of the Torah Reader's Society, which he created, the accomplishments of the synagogue's choirs, the annual concerts that he produced, and his collaborations with the music department at Kent State University and WKSU , which culminated in two recordings of Jewish music (These Lights of Hanukkah and Music for Passover) that were broadcast on public radio stations throughout the country. 

Hazzan Stein has been the executive vice president of the Cantors Assembly since 1998. During this period he has served on the boards of multiple affiliates of the Conservative movement. A past president of the CA, he is only the third person in the organization’s seventy (70) year history to hold this highest-ranking post.  He is a graduate of both the Cantorial School at JTS and Duquesne University.  Hazzan Stein has lectured extensively throughout the country on changing trends in synagogue music and congregational dynamics.

Sun, June 20 2021 10 Tammuz 5781