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Leadership and Staff


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.

Haim Asa

Rabbi Asa, the senior rabbi of Orange County, was born in Bulgaria to a family with Sephardic origins; his ancestors escaped the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries and found refuge in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

In 1944, during the Nazi domination of Bulgaria, the Asa family fled Bulgaria and made Aliyah. In Palestine, Rabbi Asa was educated in Aliyat Hanoar Schools and the famous Mikve Israel AgriculturalSchool. At the age of 15, he was admitted to the Gadna-Youth division of the underground Haganah, andhe was sent to Platoon Commanders School in the summer of 1947.

After graduation from the Mikve Israel School, Rabbi Asa enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces and graduated from the Israel Officers Academy. In 1950 he was one of the founders of the "NACHAL” division of the Israeli Defense Force, and in 1952 he was the first "NACHAL” officer to graduate from the paratroopers academy and bring back his experience and knowledge to the "NACHAL MUTZNACH' (anindependent paratroopers unit which was part of the NACHAL CO S). Following his army career RabbiAsa served in the "MOSSAD' until coming to the United States in 1954.

After ordination from Hebrew Union College in 1963 and until 1966, Rabbi Asa was the Latin AmericanDirector of the World Union for Progressive Judaism with headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina .In1966 Rabbi and wife Elaine returned to California, and Rabbi Asa became the rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah until his retirement in 1996. He is now Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah and remains very much involved in the synagogue and its members. Since retiring he has also worked as a senior chaplain with the State of California Department of Mental Health serving Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalkand Fairview Hospital in Costa Mesa, California.

Rabbi Asa is the past president of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, a past president of the Orange County Board of Rabbis and the Fullerton Interfaith Ministerial Association. He was the North Orange County United Jewish Welfare chairperson while Elaine completed a 3 year term of chairing theWomen's Division Campaign for the Orange County United Jewish Fund in 1980. During the early 70’s,Rabbi Asa was a member of the Department of Religious Studies at California State University, Fullerton,and while teaching there he was involved on the local level as the spiritual leader of the Jewish students.

In 1980-81, Rabbi Asa was instrumental in the efforts to acknowledge the role of the Bulgarian people and nation in the saving of the entire Jewish population (50,000) residing in Bulgaria during the SecondWorld War. In 1993 Rabbi Asa was part of an international committee which honored the state and people of Bulgaria as part of the 50th anniversary celebrating the saving of the only Jewish community in Nazi Europe.

The Asas have four children and 14 grandchildren. Aviva and her husband Daniel and their threechildren live in Efrat, Israel. Aviva is a fund raiser, social worker and grant writer and divides her timebetween family and work. Daniel is working in the world of hi-tech. Ariel is married to Michele and theylive in Atlanta, Georgia with their four children. Ariel is a rabbi, teacher, "mohel”, (ritual circumcizer) andscribe and Michele is a nurse. Liora and her husband Michael and their three children live in Har Halutz, a community founded by the Reform Movement in the mountains of the Galilee above the city of Karmiel, Israel. Liora is a trainer for non-profits in the north of Israel and has recently completed her studies for an MBA at Haifa University. and Michael is a technical writer for the hi-tech world of Israel. Eliana and herhusband Jeff live in the Los Angeles area with their four children. Jeff owns a pharmacy and Eliana is a full time mom.

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