Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf

Meet our Rabbi & Board of Directors

Rabbi Deborah Goldmann

Rabbi DeborahRabbi Deborah (Graetz) Goldmann, had been a member of our congregation for several years before becoming our student Rabbi in 2006, and now serves as our official Rabbi, having been ordained by HUC with her Master of Hebrew Letters. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a BA in Classical Civilization and a minor degree in Jewish Studies.

Rabbi Deborah lives in the South Bay area of Los Angeles with her husband, Eyal, and daughter, Miriam. She grew up in South America so in addition to English, she is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, and has also been studying sign language to become fluent to better serve the Jewish Deaf community.

In addition to serving as our Rabbi, she has been teaching in the community for fourteen years. She is available to officiate weddings and a variety of life cycle ceremonies and rituals for the community including pre-marital counseling. She is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. You can visit her website at http://socalrabbi.com and read her blog at http://socalrabbi.com/blog/

"I am the kind of rabbi who is mostly interested in helping and guiding you to become the best kind of Jew that you want to be. I don’t ask questions that are none of my business; I don’t tell you what to do, but I do my best to motivate and encourage. I LOVE stories–they inspire me, so naturally story telling is my favorite tool for inspiring you, too.

I didn’t really wear my hearing aids growing up in Brazil. I had them, but the technology at that time wasn’t really advanced enough to help me. Living in a world where I couldn’t hear much, left me alone with my imagination and is the main reason I love stories. They kept me company, taught me how to behave and helped me grow.

Even if my childhood was silent, I still have memories of observing all the Jewish rituals: decorating the enormous sukkah at the temple, the crazy and wild Rosh Hashanah and Passover dinners at my aunt’s house, the smaller, more intimate family gatherings for Hanukah; everyone playing dreidle and trying to win some chocolate gelt. These memories fuelled me, taught me that I am a Jew.

As I grew older, I learned what it meant to be part of Klal Israel, meaning: the entire international Jewish community. My family: cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma are all in South America and Israel, but since 1991, I’ve been living in California. Here we built a new family for ourselves and it never ceases to amaze me that wherever I go, there is a ready-made family for me in the form of local Jewish communities.

One of the blessings of my cross-continental move was being fitted with much better hearing aids. Soon after moving to California, at the age of 13, I started wearing them full time. For the first time in my life I began to understand how much I couldn’t hear. With the new hearing aids, I was so excited at how much I could hear that I learned English super-fast—I didn’t realize that having a hearing loss was supposed to slow me down.

I spent my teenage years in the Bay Area of Northern California, learning about American Jewish life from Temple Isaiah in Lafayette (where my father is a Rabbi.) As a college student, I participated in Jewish life at Hillel and took on leadership roles with the Jewish Student Union. I even began my life as a teacher at the local synagogue in 1997. I took on more teaching and synagogue administrative work to explore what direction I wanted to steer myself professionally and in 2009, I was ordained from Hebrew Union College – Jewish institute of Religion in Los Angeles. While a student at HUC, I met, and then married, my husband Eyal, and in 2010, our family grew with the arrival of our daughter, Miriam.

During my years as a rabbinic student, I rediscovered my love for story and storytelling. I learned about my passion for working with adults with developmental disabilities and am now fortunate to work with two groups that serve this community: Jewish Family Services' Chaverim  and Shlemut Network.

I also found Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf, my new Jewish spiritual home, where I began as a congregant, then served as student Rabbi, and now their rabbi. It’s a place where I can completely be myself: Jewish, American, an immigrant and hard-of-hearing and fit right in."

Joe Slotnick~President

Joe Slotnik Joe Slotnick, joined Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in 1974 and has led TBS as its President for over 20 years. This is an obvious indication of the congregation's confidence in his leadership and their love of the man.

He was deafened at the age of three from spinal meningitis. His early schooling was at Clark School, an oral school for the deaf in Massachusetts, then back home to Houston for high school and then Harvard University where got his BA degree in Physical Science. This was in the days before any accommodations were offered for equal access like interpreters or real-time captioning. He accomplished this virtually all on his own with some help from fellow students sharing their notes.

"My Dad did some research and found out I was the fifth hearing-impaired person to attend Harvard. The late Dr. Richard E. Thompson was fourth, and a senior at Harvard when I was a freshman. The other three were guys in the early 1900's apparently. Since my time, lots of deaf students have gone to Harvard, thanks to interpreter/notetaker support, none of which I had," Joe said.

He returned to school to further his education in 1988 earning his MA degree in Educational Administration and Supervision at California State University, Northridge in the National Leadership Training Program.

Esther Slotnick, Joe's mother, trained bar mitzvah students at their synagogue, Temple Emanu El in Houston. As he saw her trainees, some of them his friends, become Bar Mitzvah, Joe decided he too wanted to become Bar Mitzvah. Their rabbi was completing his military service at the time, so their substitute rabbi and Joe's mom met to figure out exactly how they would make this happen. Esther would teach Joe to read and say the essential Hebrew prayers, while Rabbi Green would deliver the sermon. He had a "built-in" theme: The Wonder of Godthat a profoundly deaf boy could read and speak both English and Hebrew. So in August of 1945, Joe Slotnick was called to the Torah and became one of a very rare group of Jewish deaf boys in the world to have his Bar Mitzvah.

Through a very early electronic mail system, long before the Internet, Joe met Mary Robinson, a Bostonian, and through one of the very first "email romances" they got to know each other and then married in 1983.

Joe was a pioneer in the computer field staying with his company for 21 years, retiring in 1995.

"I started in June, 1959 with System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, as a Computer Programmer trainee. I was hired as such from an interview with them in Boston, Massachusetts and they moved my family and I from Massachusetts to California. In essence, I "grew up" with the computer explosion, working with (as my first programmed machine) IBM's AN/FSQ-7 vacuum-tube type monster manufactured for the US Air Force's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) radar operations system."

Joe thoroughly understands how important communication is for a deaf person and was associated with the early development of the TTY system and the formation of Teletypewriters for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) serving on its Board for a number of years. In 1966 he was the second person in the Los Angeles area to get a TTY.

Joe served as a member of the 1985 Deaf Olympic Steering Committee, using his expertise as the head of Communications and Computers. He has happily volunteered over the years for many of the deaf bowling tournaments, using his computer skills to keep track of the scoring.

After retirement, in addition to heading TBS and serving on several advisory boards and organizations, Joe and Mary have spent much of their time traveling around the world, their first love.

Elaine Aikins~Administrative Vice President

Elaine Aikins Elaine Meltzer Fromberg Aikins, a native Californian, born in Los Angeles, is a TBS Charter Member and has been one of the longest and most active members of TBS.

In 1935, Elaine’s mother contracted tuberculosis while pregnant with her. Elaine survived but was born profoundly deaf; sadly her mother passed away 15 months later. The family suffered tremendous emotional stress and instability so at the age of six, Elaine was turned over to the foster care system. It was in foster care that Elaine met another deaf girl who became her foster sister and life-long friend. Because of her deafness and unstable family life, she had relatively little schooling until the age of ten when she enrolled at the Berkeley School for the Deaf in Northern California. She spent the next 11 years catching up, graduating in 1956 and then returned to Los Angeles.

Throughout her young years, Elaine's family never told her that she was Jewish and were careful to hide this from her until she was a teenager. They felt this would help protect her against any anti-Semitism she may encounter. Growing up Elaine noticed "strange" newspapers that her family read in a language she didn’t recognize, eventually finding out it was Yiddish. As she grew older and began asking questions, her family realized it was time to tell her the truth.

She handled this new information with mixed emotions and didn't quite know where to start but she was a very motivated student, determined to understand her identity and history as a deaf Jew. Her hunger for knowledge led her first to join the Hebrew Association of the Deaf in 1957, where she served as secretary for 13 years. In 1960, she joined TBS as a founding member, and in the early 80’s joined the National Congress of Jewish Deaf. Rose Zucker, founder of the Unison Club and TBS, was instrumental in coaching and tutoring Elaine in the discovery of her Jewish roots. She encouraged Elaine to become the sign language choir director of the newly formed TBS, much to Elaine's uneasiness, telling Rose she knew nothing about Judaism or being Jewish. Rose assured her not to worry about that, she would learn as she went along and Rose would be there to answer all of her questions. That was the beginning of our treasured relationship with her as our choir director that has lasted for more than 50 years.

As did many Los Angeles deaf Jews, Elaine became a member of the Unison Club where she met the very handsome Elliott Fromberg (of blessed memory). Their first date was in a swimming pool in the summer of 1956. They dated for eight months and then married in February of 1957. They had a beautiful daughter, Francine, in 1958.

Elaine has a zeal for learning and has always kept herself very busy whether work related or volunteering. She has worked for a variety of well-known companies over her lifetime: Mobil Gas, Bank of America, Newberry Co, Kaiser, Carnation and the USPS. Due to a work-place injury in 1981 at the Postal Service, she was forced to retire, but often negatives become positive—this same year she married for the second time–Harvey Aikins Jr. who she had met at the Postal Service in Marina Del Ray in the late 70's. They had 11 and a half wonderful years together and then sadly he passed away very unexpectedly in 1992. This slowed her down while her heart mended, but Elaine is a very tough woman and has survived much in this lifetime and this was one more thing that she had to face and overcome.

She came back strong and served as the Sisterhood President for 12 years, on the TBS Board and many other positions in a wide variety of organizations, advisory boards and committees. She gives of herself and her time and lives to serve others.

Carol Trachtenberg~Vice President

Carol Trachtenberg Carol Trachtenberg joined the TBS Board of Directors in July of 2011 after serving on TBS' 50th Anniversary Committee, working in the most challenging area of "seating and reservations", bringing her experience, great ideas and wealth of skills. No sooner did the TBS 50th celebration come to a close, when Carol immediately volunteered to co-chair the Sisterhood's 50th anniversary which took place in April, 2012. Her amazing talents made this event one of the most successful in the History of the Sisterhood, earning a profit of $10,000.

Carol was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New York City. She and her younger brother, David, were both born deaf due to a genetic predisposition on her mother's side of the family. She had the typical deaf, Jewish experience growing up in a hearing home, being exposed only to holiday family gatherings for Hanukkah and Passover, but no formal religious education.

She attended P.S. 47, a deaf and hard of hearing oral day school on 23rd St. in Manhattan. After eight years, she transferred to Lexington School for the Deaf, an old school building on Lexington Avenue, between 67th and 68th Streets. Carol graduated from Gallaudet College (now University) with a BA degree in History and then received her MA degree from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in Deaf Education.

She began teaching history, geography and social studies at Virginia School for the Deaf at Hampton in 1971, leaving after one year when she was offered the exciting opportunity to teach in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. She stayed in St. Croix for three years, teaching ASL, finger spelling, and the "3 'R's", to deaf students at the upper elementary level. "This was the best and richest experience in my teaching career," she said.

Carol started working her way west following her dream of living in Los Angeles, taking a job at the brand new Whitney Young High School in Chicago, teaching U.S. History, civics and Basic Living Skills to deaf students.

She realized her California dream in 1976, lured here by the climate, outdoor activities, large deaf community and job opportunities teaching deaf minority students. She finished the requirements for her California teaching credential and began teaching summer school to a gifted 6th grade class at Taft School in Santa Ana. The Los Angeles School District then hired her and placed her as a long-term substitute teacher at Fairfax and Birmingham schools before offering her a permanent position at Marlton School for the Deaf, where she stayed for an amazing 32 years, retiring in June of 2009.

At Marlton, in addition to teaching history, government, and geography, Carol found her niche teaching English as Second Language to deaf non-speaking/signing students from other countries. "Teaching ESL, Life Skills Math, Reading and Writing, Health and Nutrition and ASL classes were my most enjoyable and favorite subjects," she said.

Carol could be found every Tuesday night for eight years, teaching ASL classes, mostly to hearing students, at the Adult Education Center at North Hollywood High School. This really showcased her natural ability to communicate in any situation.

Carol has some big goals for TBS and the Sisterhood and she knows these goals are not possible without the support of the community. One area of great interest to Carol is to form a TBS sponsored community wide Deaf Women's group, regardless of religious affiliation or age. She would like to offer social activities, field trips and lectures focusing on topics of interest from a female point of view relevant to today's world such as technology, finance, and healthcare.

Gary Jacobson~Treasurer

Gary Jacobson Gary Jacobson, a native Angelino, joined the TBS Board of Directors as our Treasurer in 2008, with big huge open arms and deep desire to help others. We are so grateful for his exceptional expertise in finance and really enjoy his happy and joking personality. He has a very strong and nostalgic connection to TBS since this is where he met the love of his life, his wife Kate.

Gary was born, with a hearing impairment, inherited from his mother’s side of the family. His hearing steadily declined during his teen years until he was profoundly deaf. He was raised in the Los Angeles area and attended Temple Ramah, (now Temple Ramat Zion) where he became a Bar Mitzvah, training with Cantor Gerald Hanig, which was a difficult task because of his deafness.

Gary attended Valley College in the 1970’s as a computer Science major but switched to accounting at San Fernando Valley State College (now CSUN). He began his career while volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, which over the years grew into a full time business.

He and Kate met for the first time in 1976 at TBS’ “Movie Night”. Then as fate would have it, they met for a second time at CSUN when Kate needed a math tutor. They married in April of 1978 in San Francisco at a Catholic church, since Kate is Catholic, officiated by both a Rabbi and a Priest.

When Gary is not busy with his accounting and tax business and life with Kate, he relaxes by collecting stamps and reading.

Maurice Richter~Treasurer & Senior Citizen Representative

Ruth Richter~Hospitality Chair & Senior Citizen Representative

Maurice RichterRuth RichterTBS Charter Members, Maurice and Ruth Richter are among the few pioneers who, in 1960, founded Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf to have a place where they could practice their religion freely and give their children a proper Jewish education. They have been among the most active members of the synagogue since that time, chairing countless committees, holding offices in the synagogue and the Sisterhood. They've received many honors the highest being: The Hersh Man and Woman of the Year. (See the full bio of Maurice and Ruth in our Member Profiles.)

Maurice currently serves as Secretary of TBS' Board of Directors and Ruth has been the Sisterhood Treasurer for over 30 years and the TBS Hospitality chair. They are both current representatives of the TBS sponsored Senior Citizen's group.

Maurice was born in Chicago and lost his hearing at the age of one from Rubella. His parents enrolled him in the Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School for the Deaf where he began his education, continuing through college, graduating from the University of Michigan, with a degree in architecture. His Jewish education took place at Temple Sholom in Chicago and with the help of his uncle's tutoring he was called to the Torah for his Bar Mitzvah in 1948.

Maurice moved to Los Angeles at the age of 22, where he discovered the Unison Club, a deaf social group, where he was able to participate in his first love—sports—in the company of other deaf sports fans. This is also where he met his wife, Ruth. They married in 1959 and raised two children, Rodney and Harriett.

Maurice enjoyed a 40-year career with Pacific Bell starting as a draftsman and working his way up to engineer.

Ruth grew up in Canada and contracted mumps as an infant, consequently losing her hearing. She grew up with a deaf sister, Rose, who also lost her hearing due to Whooping cough. She began school, at age five at a residential school in Edmonton, Alberta, which was about 200 miles from home. She stayed for one year, coming home only on the weekends but since Alberta did not have deaf schools for children past age six, she was sent to the Mackay School in Montreal, Quebec in 1944. She stayed there for eight years and then transferred to Jericho School for the Deaf in Vancouver, which was closer to home and she was able to see her family more often.

Being away from home for much of her formative years, she missed out on most of her early Jewish education and now was able to begin developing her Jewish identity by participating in family celebrations, like Passover. She graduated Jericho in 1955 and then attended business college in Calgary where she specialized in accounting, finishing her training six months later. She was hired by The Bay, formerly known as the Hudson's Bay Company, a Calgary department store, where she stayed for one year.

In 1957, Ruth followed her sister, Rose, to Los Angeles, at the urging of her parents. Since there were few Jews or deaf community in Calgary, Ruth's family wanted her to be able to have a meaningful social life with deaf Jews of her same age and find her own place in the world. She settled in with her sister in Hollywood and got a job with Pacific Bell as an accountant, staying for ten years. After marrying Maurice she quit her job to raise their children.

Maurice and Ruth now enjoy retirement and the freedom to travel and spend time with their children and grandchildren in Chicago and northern California.

Adele Podolsky~Sisterhood President

Adele Podolsky Charter Member, Adele Weisman Podolsky, became active on the TBS Board of Directors starting in 1965. She currently represents the Sisterhood on the TBS Board as their President. (2011-13) She is serving her 5th term as the Sisterhood President and has been a very active member during their 50 years of existence. She has held almost every office on the TBS Board, chaired countless celebrations, anniversaries, fundraisers and rummage sales over her 52 years of involvement. This sense of volunteerism was instilled in her at an early age by her parents, who were very active and dedicated members of their synagogue.

Adele was originally an east coast girl, born and raised in Syracuse New York. Her hearing loss was first noticed when she was four or five years old and then due to several childhood illnesses her hearing continued to deteriorate until she was 12.

She graduated from Syracuse Central High School in 1942 and just like many deaf students in those days, had no special accommodations, but despite the obstacles finished high school in only three and a half years. Her interest was in the arts, so upon graduation she enrolled in the Traphagen School of Fashion and earned her degree. She first worked for Hattie Carnegie, a well-known fashion designer on Fifth Avenue.

In 1946, Adele tasted the west coast when her parents asked her to move with them to California. She took advantage of the west coast culture of fashion taking more classes and working for a clothing manufacturer, learning the trade from the bottom up and then opened her own business in Beverly Hills in 1948, called Ledara, making custom designed blouses, filing a fashion niche that up to that time had been neglected. Actress, Marilyn Maxwell, was one of her famous clients and if you believe in the concept of "seven degrees of separation", Marilyn was connected to TBS through Charter Member of blessed memory, Jean Greenberg, who was Marilyn's son's godmother. So both Jean and Adele knew Marilyn well before they knew each other and before TBS was even an idea.

Adele suffered a devastating blow in 1950 when her parents passed within 4 days of each other. Two years later, at the urging of her brothers, and looking for a better social scene, she moved back to New York. There her interests started expanding and she got involved in acting classes while working as a bookkeeper.

Adele was a member of the Merry-Go-Rounders club, an oral, deaf social group where she put her acting talents to work in shows like "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" with Marion Schlessinger [Intrator] (TBS member of blessed memory).

Sherwin Podolsky, a Chicago native, living in Los Angeles, was visiting New York and went to the club where he met Adele. That autumn, after five months of long distance courtship-by-mail, Sherwin proposed marriage and sent her the money to relocate back to California. It seemed California kept pulling Adele back.

Adele and Sherwin were active members of The Unison Club, where TBS has its roots, so it naturally followed they would be involved in its formation along with Rose Zucker, the Richters and many others.

Adele was very busy during the next three decades raising a family and raising money for TBS. After ten years of staying home with their children, Risa Lee and Michael, she went back to work, volunteering for Community Service for the Deaf, in Van Nuys, working her way up to Director. After a couple of years she took a position at ADEPT, an employment support agency, as a peer counselor, and then in 1982, went to work for the Independent Living Center of Southern California.

In 1988, Adele retired and spent 20 wonderful years enjoying time with Sherwin, until tragically in 2008, he passed away. But Adele is a very strong and vibrant woman and even though she is in her late 80's, and still adjusting to the loss of her beloved husband, she doesn't sit still for very long. You can either find her at temple at the weekly socials and events or at the Mac Store learning everything she can about her laptop–she is on a first name basis with the tutors at the "Mac Genius Bar."

Adele was elected Sisterhood President in 2011 for the fifth time. During all of 2011, she served on the TBS Sisterhood 50th Anniversary committee, which culminated in April 2012 with the most successful event in Sisterhood history earning a profit of $10,000.00. Her current pet project is to archive the entire TBS Sisterhood history–50 years of memorabilia, photos and records, a huge undertaking.