Rabbi Emily Cohen
Rabbi Emily Cohen is the spiritual leader of West End Synagogue. She seeks to create inclusive and expansive opportunities for people to meet themselves, community, and the sacred.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Rabbi Emily experienced a California-accented Southern-Jewish upbringing. She is part of the growing population of American Jews raised by one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent. Her interfaith roots lead her to look always to the edges of the Jewish community and to center the voices that are least heard.
Prior to becoming rabbi of West End Synagogue in 2020, Rabbi Emily served for two years as Lab/Shul’s Jewish Emergent Network Rabbinic Resident. At Lab/Shul she developed study salons about the ancient and modern treatment of marginalized groups within the Jewish community, trained as a Storahtelling Maven, and took part in social justice initiatives around NYC. In 2021, Rabbi Emily was honored as one of the New York Jewish Week's “36 Under 36.”
An artist from an early age, Rabbi Emily’s “side projects” have included Passover parodies (“The Hamilton Haggadah”), a podcast (“Jew Too? Tales of the Mixed Multitude”), and a great deal of Jewish music. She writes regularly for Alma and sings with a secular chamber choir in SoHo.
Rabbi Emily’s professional experience ranges from baking challah with preschoolers to herding teenagers on wilderness treks to developing curricula for adult education classes on Judaism and social justice. During her studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, she worked with the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, Bryn Mawr College and Temple University Hillels, HIAS Pennsylvania, and multiple Hebrew schools. She also completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Stanford University Hospital. Prior to pursuing the rabbinate, Rabbi Emily worked with an NGO in rural Yunnan, China, and with AmeriCorps in Minneapolis.
At Macalester College, where she completed her B.A. in history, alongside robust studies in music and Mandarin, Rabbi Emily was a founding member of the Multifaith Council. Her engagement in religious life in college informs her approach to the rabbinate: connecting each individual to something or someone that deepens their experience of existence.
Rabbi Emily lives in Brooklyn and is delighted to share that it feels like home.
Cantor Melissa Berman
Cantor Melissa is passionate about creating engaging, transformative experiences through the power of Jewish music and prayer.
Melissa Berman has been the cantor of West End since 2019 after living in Hong Kong and Arizona. With classical vocal training and a B.A. in music from Duke University, Melissa went on to her cantorial studies, receiving a Master's in Sacred Music from the Jewish Theological Seminary, coupled with an M.A. in Jewish education. She has a unique style, blending the best of Jewish tradition with a modern flare. Cantor Melissa is passionate about enhancing Jewish life cycles and rituals for people of all backgrounds. Her favorite part of being a cantor is the opportunity to make meaning of, and be a part of, sacred moments in people’s lives.
Cantor Melissa has a passion for pastoral counseling and social justice. She completed four intensive units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at New York hospitals. She also worked as an on-call chaplain with Jewish Family and Children’s Services while serving as cantor at Congregation Or Tzion in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Before coming to West End, Cantor Melissa was the Cantor and Programming Associate at The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong where she served for three years. While at the UJC she was an integral part of the progressive Jewish leadership in Asia, creating innovative programming for young professionals and Jewish youth in Hong Kong and across Asia.
In her free time, she enjoys travel, photography, baking, literature, and pilates.
“West End Synagogue embraces the transformative power of music in Jewish life. As the universal language, music elevates our joy, serves as a balm to our sadness, and connects us to the members of our community when we join together in prayer. Our music is always evolving, as we incorporate traditional melodies and new compositions from around the world into our services and our choral repertoire. We are blessed to have so many talented musicians and music professionals as part of our community.” – Cantor Melissa Berman
Check out Cantor Melissa singing here.