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Congregation Etz Chaim first opened our doors in Miami in 1974, so that gay and lesbian Jews could find a safe and nurturing place of worship and community. Now located in Wilton Manors, Etz Chaim has been the spiritual home for generations of people in the decades since our founding. We continue to be a community that proudly welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual singles, couples, and families.

Marcia Weinstein,  Spiritual Leader

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Our current spiritual leader, Marcia Weinstein, grew up in Plantation, Florida from the age of three and was very active at Ramat Shalom, the Reconstructionist synagogue her parents helped start when she was nine years old. Spending years in BBYO and Young Judea, Judaism was a big part of her family’s life.  Marcia is a Cantorial Soloist, Shlichat Tzibur (service leader), Jewish Educator, and songleader, who has spent over a decade leading Shabbat, Festival and High Holiday services, and teaching Hebrew School, while incorporating Jewish music every step of the way. Marcia chants Torah and Haftarah, has taught trope, tefilah (prayer), and B'nai Mitzvah students from ages 11 to 80, in both Reform and Conservative congregations, and is comfortable with liturgy across the spectrum of Jewish prayer. And as of February 2023, Marcia is studying for her Rabbinical Ordination at the Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary. She is a regular at the Songleader Boot Camp Jewish music and leadership, and the NewCAJE Jewish Education conferences. Marcia’s passion is building community and bringing Joyful Judaism into all of the sacred spaces she helps create. Her belief in “audacious hospitality” and “radical welcoming” is evident in her engaging musical services, and desire to create a Kehilah Kedoshah, holy community, wherever she is. Marcia’s greatest joy is her husband, Seth, and three grown sons, Zachary, Evan and Samuel, and she is honored to be a part of the Etz Chaim family!

Marcia can be reached at MarciaW@EtzChaimFlorida.org   or    Marcia@MarciaWeinstein.com

2023 - 2024 Board of Directors

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President

Louis Levin

I am so pleased to be starting my second year as the president of Congregation Etz Chaim, and I am excited with our progress this year. I love Etz Chaim and I encourage you to visit us regularly to experience our warm and welcoming community. When I am not busy with the synagogue, I invest in real estate and travel. Please come up and say hi to me at services, ask me questions and let me introduce you to our inviting spiritual home. We are filled with music, joy and laughter, and we encourage everyone to visit and experience this beautiful community we are, after nearly 50 years, continuing to create and grow. I look forward to welcoming you into our family and congregation.

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Vice President

Don Squire

I was raised in Albany, NY, but found my way to South Florida 25 years ago. Before retiring, I worked in the telecommunications and purchasing industries, and my passion was enjoying the theatre as an actor and director. I have been a member of Congregation Etz Chaim for 14 years and on the Board of Directors for three, first as a member-at-large, and now as the Vice President. Etz Chaim is a wonderful place to find your spiritual and social home, and I love being a part of the continued future of our Congregation. My partner and I live in Pompano Beach, and we would love to welcome you to our congregational family.

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Treasurer

Samuel Piccioto

Born in Guatemala in the  mid Fifties, with few Jews in my country,  the Jewish Communities were very close  knit.  When I was a teenager I was very active in a Jewish Zionist Youth Movement, Macabbi Hatzair and it molded me as a strong, ethical, Zionist Jew and as an entrepreneur.   I lived in Israel for one year, 1974, and two other Summers and they were the best times of my life.  I eventually moved to  California, where I became a psychologist and came out as a Gay person.  For many years my Gay identity required most of my attention, and the Jewish part became less important.  I eventually abandoned psychology to go into business with my mother in Guatemala.  This turned out to be a wonderful and successful adventure.  Eventually, after selling our business I permanently moved back to the USA, where I now live.  I eventually landed in Wilton Manors and here I found Etz Chaim, finally a place where my Jewish and my Gay identity could flourish together.  I am now a proud Board Member  and I have to say that both the Spirit and the joy in my life have increased exponentially since I joined this wonderful community.

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Secretary

Daniel Smits

I am originally from Buffalo, NY, and moved to Florida in 1976. After meeting my future spouse on the gay beach in Ft. Lauderdale, we realized that one of the many things we had in common was the desire to observe Shabbat. My spouse had been attending services at Etz Chaim when it was still located in North Miami Beach, and decided to go together. It was such a warm, friendly and welcoming place and the service was lay led for many years. We have been members ever since. Since we retired, we have made attending Friday nigh Services a priority. And when there was a Board position available, I decided to step up and honor Hillel's words, "If not now, when?" I am proud to serve as the board secretary.

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Vice President: Membership

Adam Perlman

Briefly introduce yourself and share something interesting with website visitors. Double click to edit the text.

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Vice President Membership

Adam Perlman

I was born and raised in the Coral Spring area, and attended conservative synagogues during my childhood. I am an Optometric Physician working in Broward County, and I have been a member of Etz Chaim since 2017. Etz Chaim is a perfect fit for me as I can identify with our community of professional, intellectual, LGBTQ individuals and supporters in a warm, comfortable setting. I am active in the Broward Federation, study Kabbalah and I'm involved in many Jewish South Florida groups. I have also been known to deliver a D'var Torah when our service leader is out, and it has been such a great experience! Please come find me at Shabbat services and get to know our amazing community! 

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At Large

Howard Cheiken

I was born in Brooklyn. I went to PS 153, JHS 234, Brooklyn College, Middlebury College, NYU, and BCP. I taught at Pittman School in Tel Aviv, Yeshiva University Stern College and NYU. I moved to Fort Lauderdale to help with my aging parents. I met the love of my life on Fort Lauderdale Beach and we have been together since then. We’ve been members of Congregation Etz Chaim since the 1980’s, and we are now both members of the Congregation’s Board of Directors. 

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At Large

Larry Ousley

I was raised and spent most of my life in Indiana, until I retired in 2005. After graduating from Vincennes University, I worked for General Motors for 32 years. My retirement relocated me to Florida 12 years ago, and I have been a member of Congregation Etz chaim ever since. As a member at large, I keep everyone informed by sending out our weekly newsletter, The Schmooze, and by creating our weekly service bulletin and Yizkor booklet. I am looking forward to a great and prosperous year!

High Holiday Service Leadership

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High Holiday Cantorial Soloist

Harley Greene

Harley Greene, a retired pharmacist and business owner, grew up in Columbus, OH, was a Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Agudas Achim for more than 50 years and trained with several different cators throughout the years. He was the first in his class to graduate from The Columbus Torah Academy, a Hebrew day school, and his voice ws discovered during a second grade play. A member of Congregation Etz chaim for 20 years, Harley has lent his cantorial skills and lyric baritone voice to services numerous times throughout the years, and he is a regular leader at our High Holiday services. Harley feels his voice is meant to open people's hearts to prayer, through traditional melodies invoking treasured memories of bygone days of our shared religious culture.

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