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Leadership and Staff


Rabbi Nico

Temple Beth Tikvah is honored and delighted to welcome our new rabbi, Rabbi Nicolas Socolovsky.

Rabbi Nico, as he likes to be called, was born in Buenos Aires where he became involved in the Jewish youth movement, eventually advancing to become director in Buenos Aires and later in Nahariya and Haifa. He moved to Israel in 2002 when his family made aliyah and attended the University of Haifa. Rabbi Nico graduated with his BA in Education and Jewish Thought and his MA in Jewish Thought. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in 2013 after completing his final year of studies in New York.

Rabbi Nico has worked in many different social frameworks, with teenagers, immigrants, ex-prisoners, underprivileged families, and others. In addition, in 2010, Rabbi Nico initiated the "Shchuniya," a Jewish community in a neighborhood in Haifa, out of the belief that Jewish life should be created where life is. At the Shchuniya, Nico was initiator, rabbi, music director, guitar player, and fundraiser. This minyan has grown organically to be a thriving reform synagogue in Haifa today. Rabbi Nico dedicates his rabbinical work as a community leader and educator to "facilitating values and connecting Judaism everywhere."

The last two years Rabbi Nico has lived in Singapore with his wife and two children, leading services and study within Singapore and its surroundings. Nico is also the founder and managing coordinator of his blog Po Ve Sham (

Cantor Michael Avdee

Cantor Michael Avdee has been the Cantor at Temple Beth Tikvah since 1987. During his tenure, certainTemple traditions have evolved.

While year-around adult choirs are not common in Orange County synagogues, our Kol Tikvah adult choirparticipates in our Friday Shabbat services on the third Friday of almost every month. The music theyperform ranges from camp song unison melodies to four-part compositions. Kol Tikvah also leads High Holy Day services, enhancing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with renderings of traditional and non-traditional liturgy. The music at our Kol Nidre service is well-known and draws people back year after year.

The Jr. Chaverim youth and teen choirs participate in monthly family services (first Friday of the month) and holiday services. Most children in the Temple’s Religious and Hebrew Schools are members of ouryouth choirs, which gives them additional time to be immersed in Jewish culture. The adult membersof our congregation enjoy their performances at the monthly family services. Chanukah songs, Sukkotsongs, Purim songs, Shavuot songs, and other holiday songs are in their repertoire and are performedevery year at holiday family services. At Shabbat family services, a variety of Shabbat music is regularlyperformed. Our youth choir also performs annually at the Nixon Library and Orange County Israel Expo.Participating regularly in family services helps our youth choir members feel comfortable on the bimahwhen they become Bar/Bat Mitzvah and beyond.

Our Bar/Bat Mitzvah services feature our Bar/Bat Mitzvah child, who leads most portions of the Saturday morning service in addition to chanting from the Torah and haftarah. Six to eight months is our standard preparation time for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs during weekly sessions with Cantor Avdee. Students are coachedto learn their Torah and haftarah portions using the musical trope that they learned in sixth grade tropeclass taught by Cantor Avdee. At High Holy Days teens and interested adults have participated in the chanting of Torah and haftarah. Often, fifty or more congregants have participated in a given High Holy Day season, with a vast majority being middle school, high school and college students. This is a special and unique tradition at our congregation!

Cantor Avdee leads the Kol Tikvah adult choir and Jr. Chaverim youth choir and accompanies them both on piano. Along with Rabbi Milhander, Cantor Avdee leads all Shabbat evening and morning services,High Holy Day services, and festival services occurring throughout the year. Most services feature a special musical meditation which Cantor Avdee plays either on flute or piano. These meditations enhance our worship and are a highlight of our services.

Cantor Avdee attended the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music as a flutist and performed with youth andadult symphony orchestras for many years. He graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and also obtained his teaching credential there. He has taught in elementary education for most of his adult life. He lives in Laguna Niguel with his wife Stephanie and sons Daniel and Eric.

Van Raalte

Miriam Van Raalte’s journey towards her career as educator and Temple administrator began when herfamily moved to California in 1959.

She always loved her Jewish studies, which were part of her family’srich Jewish life. Being the child of Holocaust survivors, Miriam knew that living as a Jew was a gift, andthat it was a responsibility to be an active part of the Jewish community.

At age 13, Miriam’s family joined Temple Beth Tikvah, and Miriam found her niche by joining the junior choir and getting involved in the junior youth group. Miriam’s parents also became active Temple members and served as strong role models for Miriam and her sister by serving on the Temple boardin a variety of positions over the ensuing years. In junior high school Miriam helped to lead the juniorcongregation that met during Religious School. In high school she became a teacher’s aide. Theneducator Sam Silverstein (z’l) offered Miriam the job of Religious School secretary, which gave Miriam thehands-on training on how to manage the school.

Miriam began teaching Hebrew & Religious School while still in high school, and branched out to teach a variety of grade levels in various Orange County synagogues to gain experience with different agegroups. Favoring the techniques of teaching young children, her greatest challenge came when sheaccepted the invitation to teach Confirmation in 1995. One of the students from that year’s class is nowon the teaching staff of our Temple, and several others throughout the years have gone on to becomecommunity leaders and educators.

In 1975 Miriam was awarded a double Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Fullertonin Religious Studies and Sociology. In 1979 Miriam was offered her first position as a Religious Schooldirector at a local synagogue. Shortly thereafter she returned to school at the University of Judaism (nowAmerican Jewish University) in Los Angeles, and in 1984 she received an Master of Arts in Education.

In 1989 Miriam’s long-time dream came true – to return to her home synagogue as the Director ofEducation. In 2000 she took on the additional responsibility of being the Temple Administrator, andreturned once again to school to earn a certificate in Early Childhood Education.

Since 1978 Miriam has been an active member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education as well as the Orange County Jewish Educators’ Association, serving as secretary, treasurer, as well aspresident (twice).

Miriam looks at her work in our congregation as part of a legacy that was handed down from her parents, through her, and now on to her children Rachel and Eric, who are both teachers in synagogue schools.

She infuses her work with a passion for Judaism, our children, their parents, and our congregation.

She sees Temple Beth Tikvah as her extended family, and finds great fulfillment in all she does for our congregation and the Jewish community beyond.

Natalie Wirtzer

Preschool Director

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