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Meet the Rabbi

Rabbi Scott Hoffman

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Rabbi Scott Hoffman was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. He grew up in Shaare Tefila Congregation, where his passion for Judaism was nurtured by many people, most notably Rabbi Martin Halpern z”l and Cantor Gershon Levin z”l. He was a participant in the International Bible Contest in Israel in 1979, one of eight high school students representing the United States. Rabbi Hoffman earned a BA in the Biological Basis of Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985, an MHL and ordination from Jewish Theological Seminary in 1991 (where he was the recipient of the Hackenburg Prize as outstanding student in the field of midrash) and more recently a Ph.D. in Talmud and rabbinics from New York University. His primary academic interest is the analysis of Biblical and rabbinic texts, often in ways that are “outside the box.”

Rabbi Hoffman’s first pulpit after his ordination was at Chevra Thilim Synagogue in New Orleans, where he served as Rabbi from July 1991- June 1993. He was really our Rabbi because of the later consolidation of Chevra Thilim and Tikvat Shalom into Shir Chadash. Most of Rabbi Hoffman’s career after leaving Chevra Thilim was spent serving two congregations in Long Island, the Lake Success Jewish Center (1995-2007) and Temple Israel of South Merrick (2007- 2018).

Rabbi Hoffman has a very distinguished career. A recipient of several awards and honors and author of scholarly articles and publications, he is a past president of the Rabbinical Assembly of Nassau/Suffolk/Queens and has served on the boards of the RA Executive Council, the Hillel Institute for Conversion, the Long Island Board of Rabbis, the Great Neck Interfaith Clergy Association and the Black/Jewish Coalition for Justice. He has also served as a nursing home and hospice chaplain in Long Island and as an instructor of Talmud and rabbinics at List College/JTS.

Rabbi Hoffman has been married since 1989 to Phyllis Golden Hoffman, an opera singer with degrees from the Hartt School of Music (BA) and the Manhattan School of Music (MA). Phyllis has been for the last several years a teacher at PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, located in Coney Island. Rabbi and Phyllis are the proud parents of three adult children, David (29), Reuven (27) and Ethan (25). Besides his work and family, Rabbi Hoffman’s passion is running, a sport he has loved since his mother bought him Nike Waffle Trainers in 1976.

Meet Our Staff

Ricardo Totah, 
Executive Director

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Ricardo comes to us from Mexico but is originally from Argentina. He holds dual degrees in Business Management and Industrial Engineering from Buenos Aires National University. He has since worked in industry, primarily in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Throughout his career, he has held different roles in business, sales, and operations management.

Ricardo also has many years of experience in Jewish community leadership. For over twenty years, he has served on the Executive Board of Comunidad Bet-El. Bet-El is the main Conservative synagogue in Mexico City, serving over 1100 families.  During that time, Ricardo held numerous roles, including a term as President, eight years as Treasurer, and most recently as an Advisor. He also oversaw a major capital campaign and building project.

Ricardo has a long and successful record of strategic planning, cost reduction, and collaborative work across different industries. Additionally, Ricardo brings extensive experience in synagogue administration and financial matters. He is a tremendous asset to our congregation and to the wider Jewish community.

Chaviva Sands, 
Director of Education & Programming

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I am Chaviva Sands and I am thrilled to be your new Director of Education and Programming. I am a native of New Orleans and many of y’all watched me grow up at Shir Chadash. In addition to participating in Sunday School and youth programming here, I also attended the Jewish Community Day School (previously the New Orleans Jewish Day School), went to Camp Ramah Darom for 7 years as a camper and worked 3 years on staff, and was involved in our local and regional USY and Young Judaea chapters.

Between 2012 and 2021, I worked to complete my two undergraduate degrees from List College while working at numerous synagogues in New York City in a variety of roles. I learned a great deal about Jewish educational programming for youth and adults, as well as engaging new and old members of a congregation to build a strong and unified community. I am pleased to have this opportunity to apply what I have learned and utilize the skills I have acquired to create and expand upon the current youth and adult programming offered at Shir Chadash. My mission statement is as follows:

  • Encourage Jewish education through play, Jewish social justice, middot (values), and critical thinking of Jewish literature/scripture to develop and shape the Jewish identity of each person in the community.
  • Engage people of all ages in programming to create a strong community founded in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
  • Make education the engine that drives membership and inspires leadership and involvement in Jewish life in New Orleans and the world at large.
  • Make Shir Chadash’s educational program one that provides premier learning that encompasses ritual, culture, practice, and social justice through the lens of Conservative Judaism.

I look forward to working with our congregants and all the wonderful volunteers at Shir Chadash as I give back to the community that contributed to the shaping of my Jewish identity and who I am today. We are going to have a fantastic time together!

Sarah Lustig, 
Office Manager

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Thu, April 25 2024 17 Nisan 5784