Steve Allen, the new executive director of Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom in Kendall, could have had his pick of jobs when he decided to move to South Florida from the Northeast. But he chose to become executive director of the Kendall synagogue because of the merger that brought reform and conservative congregations together.
“When I decided I was not going to stay and we were looking for a job in Florida, there were several opportunities for executive director positions. I looked up on line about this merged synagogue. It was actually written up in the Jewish newspaper.”
Allen found the possibility to go reform or conservative with two rabbis intriguing. He followed up doing a Skype interview with the personnel committee.
“Things kind of clicked with the lay leaders,” he said. “This seemed to be the perfect place. I very highly impressed by the staff.”
He also was impressed with the volunteers and leadership.
“They have the option to follow either the reform or conservative track,” Allen said. “It’s a very unique situation. It was written up all over the country.”
Allen had an opportunity to watch how the merger worked during the high holidays and he felt things went well. Rabbi Jamie Aklepi held the reform services in the sanctuary and Rabbi David Schonblum led the conservative service in the ballroom.
Since he grew up reform, Allen said he made it a point to go to the conservative service for Rosh Hashanah.
“I have a better understanding. We’re all Jews and we’re all working together,” he said. “Whenever there is a merger, you know there are going to be issues. I’m very impressed with how it’s working. It’s not an ‘us and them,’ it’s a ‘we.’ They really are top-level professionals. The missing piece was to have the quarterback, the executive director.”
Congregation president Gary Alvo said a month out, things are going well with Allen.
“He’s going great so far,” Alvo said. “Only time will tell, but what we have seen so far is very encouraging. It’s only been a month. He struck us as the most capable candidate by far. He has the experience. He seems extremely innovative.”
Allen has no plans to shake things up. He said the synagogue has an incredible professional team, strong lay leadership and everyone is working together so well that the number of members is on the rise.
He has been made to feel welcome and he already feels at home.
“They made me feel I made the right decision,” Allen said. “I’m very enthused about the future of this facility and I’m pleased they chose me to be the final professional piece to make this place flourish.”
In a way, the move to Bet Breira Samu- El Or Olom is a return home for him on two fronts. He was born in Miami Beach but moved to New York when he was only a year old. Over the years, he had been looking to move back to Miami (to fulfill a promise to his wife) and the time was right this summer.
For more information about Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom, located at 9400 SW 87 Ave., call 305-595-1500.