Bet Shira Congregation selects new rabbi

Bet Shira Congregation selects new rabbi

Rabbi Mark Kula

On Feb. 28, Pinecrest’s Bet Shira Congregation overwhelmingly elected Cantor Mark Kula as the new rabbi. During the evening Kula said, “It is estimated that 20 percent of all religious institutions in the USA will either merge or disappear in the next 10 years; Bet Shira will not be one of them.”

As cantor for almost 25 years, Kula was admittedly nervous about the vote.

“About five years ago, I decided I wanted to become a rabbi, but knew I had to increase my Judaic knowledge and study to play a bigger role in the Jewish community,” he said. Clearly, the congregants felt it was his time.

At a board meeting in late April, his appointment was made official. In the coming days, Cantor Kula will officially become Rabbi Kula. Inarguably modern, he is noodling what people should call him, as he will initially continue to serve as Cantor as well. RC Kula seems to stick so far; the R is for rabbi, the C for cantor. Whatever people call him, Kula recognizes relationships are the core of his success in the community.

“I have always fostered and cultivated them and know honest relationships are imperative to being a good Jewish person,” he said.

One of Kula’s goals is to enrich and grow Bet Shira.

“I want excitement and positive energy,” he said. “I have a vision as to what our community can be and it includes our role in the Pinecrest community as well. As rabbi, I feel I’ll be able to move us in a dynamic direction, help us outreach and integrate with the community at large.” The new rabbi’s day is filled with favorite moments, but if pressed Kula will tell you his time with the children is special. “As rabbi, I don’t see a lot of change, but I know I’ll be able to interact with people even more in this sacred space. That excites me.”

Kula looks forward to more dedicated time to study Jewish knowledge and wisdom, and act as an even stronger voice in his community.

“We have the strength to endure, the integrity to flourish and the principled ideology to improve the world.”


South Florida’s pool season begins in April. That’s when Palmetto Bay’s Pinch- A-Penny store revs up to make sure their 3000-plus repeat customers have crystal clear water and expert advice all season long.

Located in the Kings Bay Shopping Center, this franchise Pinch-A-Penny is anything but ordinary. Even before you walk in, you can feel the extraordinary personal service and attention to detail.

The family-owned store is run by the Kavanaugh family. Father Larry encouraged his two sons, Chris and Kevin, to acquire the store in 1994 because he felt his sons could really thrive with the business. He was right. Within two years, store sales doubled.

The reason is simple: Customer service. After many years in the supermarket business, Larry knows how to treat customers. Chris and Kevin do as well. And, they impart that stellar knowledge onto their employees.

“We never sell customers things they don’t need and we make sure we greet them first, sometimes even before they walk in the door,” says Larry.

“We take the service outside the store,” Kevin adds. “If we have a body available, we meet the customer at the car.”

Kevin Kavanaugh does most of the hiring and training.

“We hire from the neighborhood; we take our customers’ kids and recruit from the various sports teams in the area,” he says. “We believe in the community and I think the community believes in us.”

“Each employee gets two weeks of training and they learn about everything. We don’t want our customers knowing more than our staff,” adds Larry. “This way our customers get superior service every time.”

The business is a family affair. Mother Debbie is involved, too. This year, her outdoor furniture store, Backyard Designs, was combined into the pool-store space. “Now our customers have one stop shopping for all their backyard needs,” says Larry.

“At this store, everyone gets treated fairly and we don’t judge anyone,” adds Kerry. “Of the 200- plus Pinch-A-Penny franchises in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, we feel we are one of the best and try to excel every day to win our customers’ respect and business.”


The first quarter of 2013 was the speeddating version of real estate. If you are buying or selling, don’t blink. Properties are once again getting offers on their first day and prices are rising. It would be my pleasure to list your home for you and educate you on the latest market trends.

Hal Feldman (MiamiHal) is a Realtor with RE/MAX Advance Realty. You can contact him with your story ideas or real estate questions at, or

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