Temple B’nai Jeshurun Clergy and Staff:
Interim Rabbi – Arthur Nemitoff
Executive Director – David Muenchrath
Office Manager – Erin Plank
B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator – Wendy Beckerman
Facilities Manager – Charles Stanton
Cantorial Soloist – Ira Lacher
Musical Accompanist – Sam Miller
Rabbi Art Nemitoff is currently serving Temple B’nai Jeshurun as a part-time interim Rabbi for 2021-2022. He recently retired from his position as Senior Rabbi at Temple B’nai Jehudah in Overland Park, KS where served in this role for 18 years.
With expertise in the areas of death and dying, liturgy, and synagogue transformation, Rabbi Nemitoff has dedicated his rabbinate to helping individuals discover their own Jewish paths. With a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University, a Master’s degree and ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati campus), and a Doctor of Divinity degree also from HUC-JIR, Rabbi Nemitoff has spent his 38-year career nurturing Jewish meaning, connection, and continuity for those whom he has encountered.
He has served congregations in Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; Columbus, OH; and Overland Park, KS. He has a passion for spreading the message of liberal Judaism throughout the world, having worked with Jewish communities in Serbia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, and Israel with plans to visit China in the future.
Dozens of his articles, poems, creative liturgies – and three books – have been published over his 30-year career. His hobbies include photography and poetry.
He is married to his beautiful life-partner, Leslie. Together, they have two children, Elana and William and recently welcomed their first granddaughter.
Born in Guthrie Center and a resident of Des Moines since age two, prior to joining the Temple staff, David had been in the employ of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines. After much contemplation David has choose to leave the Diocese of Des Moines and pursue a different path in life. In David’s own words, “I still have a great desire to serve people.” David’s experience managing all aspects of a faith community makes him well qualified for the position of Executive Director. He is very familiar with all social media applications and has used them successfully to connect with the people that he served. Again in David’s words, “though I am not Jewish, my previous training has given me a very good understanding of the Jewish faith and its practices. I very much look forward to growing even deeper in my understanding of the communal prayer and worship of the Jewish community.”
Erin Plank grew up in Des Moines and attended college at the University of Northern Iowa, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where the winters are warm and the days are mostly sunny. She worked at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County in Boca Raton for about 3 years first as a Reservations Administrator and then as the Assistant to the Director of I/T. Being dedicated to working in the non-profit sector, she then accepted a position as Cord Blood Program Coordinator at the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. In May of 2011, she married her best friend Josh in Key West and they decided to move back home to be closer to family. After traveling to the Pacific Northwest for a month in September, they are now happy to call Des Moines home. In her free time, she enjoys running, traveling, music and spending time with her loved ones.
Mom, Educator, Worship leader, Good Friend, Baseball nut, Patient, Understanding, Humorous, Good Listener, Reasonable, Devoted, Musical and Affectionate.
Wendy moved to Des Moines in December of 1981 from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She currently lives in West Des Moines and has three wonderful children: Edye, Amy and Steven. Amy is married to Jamie. They have three children: Jayden, James and Amina months old. Wendy loves her grandchildren very much. Loves Red Heads.
Wendy had her Bat Mitzvah on May 9, 1987 along with 9 others of the Des Moines Community. She gave up her career as a Pediatric Dental Assistant after her Bat Mitzvah to continue her studies for her new career in Jewish Education.
For over 25 years Wendy has been the B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator at Temple B’nai Jeshurun. Wendy has worked with over 267 Temple Students, 108 Tifereth Israel Students (Conservative Congregation) 7 Beth El Students (Orthodox Congregation), 21 Ames Students and 52 Adults from the Temple to prepare them for their B’nai Mitzvah. Wendy is definitely community friendly.
Wendy, along with daughter Amy, are the Youth Group Advisors for the Junior and Senior Youth Groups.
Wendy also takes on the role as Assistant to the Rabbi. When Rabbi is out of town, Wendy officiates at Funerals, Shivah Minyanim, leading services on Shabbat, Hospice and Hospital Visits.
Wendy is a member of Kol B’yachad (Temple Choir), Heads up the WE DO Group at the Temple (Women of Experience Dining Out). This is a group that meets once a month for lunch and stimulating conversation. She is a member of the Worship Committee, Caring Committee, Membership Committee and Sisterhood. She is one very busy lady.
Wendy also teaches at Beit Sefer Shalom. This is our community Religious School. Wendy has taught in the school for 25 years. She helps to coordinate the Hebrew Program, lead prayer practice, teach 6th grade Torah and Haftarah Trope and helps to prepare our students for B’nai Mitzvah.
Since 2010, Ira Lacher, accompanied by accomplished guitarist Sam Miller, has led congregants in musical worship for Shabbat, High Holy Days and other festivals along with life-journey occasions.
A Temple member with his wife, Lisa, since 1991, Ira began singing at the Temple with the newly formed adult volunteer choir in 1993, and continued in choirs led by Cantor Lisa Levine and Cantorial Soloist Laura Berkson.
The Bronx, New York, native has also written, produced and directed a number of Temple Purimspiels, and can occasionally be seen performing in community theater throughout the Des Moines area.
Sam Miller has been performing professionally around central Iowa since the early 1990’s. He was a founding member of the blues-rock band The Accidental Sisters, performing and recording original material, and receiving local critical acclaim. He later founded The 2nd Avenue Jazz Band, specializing in mainstream jazz taken primarily from the great American songbook. As a solo guitar/vocalist, he performs roots blues, jazz, and ragtime in local taverns, coffee shops, and private and public receptions.
Sam has sat in the band pit of several Temple Purim Spiels, provided entertainment at various Jewish Food Fairs, and coordinated two seasons of Beit Café. In 2010 he became part of the Temple’s volunteer cantorial core serving as guitar accompanist for Shabbat services, b’nai mitzvot, holiday observances, and other Temple events. He has also served on the Temple board as chair of the music committee, and has been a long-standing regular attendee of the Temple Torah study.
To supplement his musical endeavors, Sam teaches English literature and composition at Des Moines Area Community College’s Urban Campus.