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Seniors-only temple welcomes new rabbi to Las Vegas

Temple Bet Knesset Bamidbar of Sun City Summerlin is getting a new spiritual leader. Rabbi Elaine Schnee is slated to give her first service July 9.

She steps into the spot vacated by Rabbi Hershel Brooks, who led BKB’s congregation for 15 years.

BKB meets at the Desert Vista Community Center, 10360 Sun City Blvd., on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. It is a traditional reform temple and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Schnee said she also was considering Florida and Arizona, but BKB’s expectations matched her needs.

“It’s a perfect fit for me,” she said.

Schnee grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and always was interested in religion. But women are not allowed to attain the position to which she aspired .

So, as an adult, she switched to a conservative synagogue and took rabbinical courses once her four children were out of grade school.

She was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1993 and simultaneously received her master’s in e ducation. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Brooklyn College in New York.

Schnee comes to Las Vegas with more than 25 years experience as a spiritual leader and teacher at five temples and schools. She was formerly at Congregation Or Atid in Richmond, Va .

She is a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. She also is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and has held regional positions of president and vice president.

Beyond her duties at the pulpit, she plans to counsel those facing illness and bereavement issues.

“I’m small in stature, but I have a big heart,” the 5 -foot-tall rabbi said.

The BKB position allows her to continue her leadership and teachings.

She said semiretirement also will allow her the freedom to do other activities — reading for enjoyment, exploring different dance styles and just having time to herself. One of her past imes is gourmet cooking.

Through visiting friends in Las Vegas in the past, she said she already appreciates that the suburbs have their own identity.

“I know there’s more to Las Vegas than just the Strip,” she said.

During Brooks’ tenure, the BKB congregation grew to more than 1,100 members. It also expanded from serving only the residents of Sun City Summerlin to accepting membership from any Las Vegas Valley resident within its age parameters, 55 or older .

Brooks actually retired from BKB in 2009. Rabbi Kenneth Segel took over, after retiring as Temple Sinai’s rabbi. Brooks stayed involved to do volunteer work and assist the Jewish community on an as-needed basis — filling in for vacationing rabbis or presiding over wedding ceremonies or funeral services.

But Segel had family obligations and had to terminate his contract. Brooks stepped back into the role last June .

“It’s like riding a bike; he hit the road running,” BKB president Shel Kolner said of the smooth transition.

Brooks said he wishes the new rabbi good luck and that he will attend services and continue to want the best for the congregation.

“Your child is always a child no matter how old,” Brooks said.

For more information on BKB, call 391-2750 or visit bkblv.org.

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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