Our Clergy


Rabbi Jeffrey M. Arnowitz

“I believe that the rabbi’s role is to plant seeds of inspiration and identity and to find imaginative ways to bring spirituality to diverse members of the congregation and community.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz became the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Norfolk in 2011. He came to Norfolk from Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, New Jersey, where he served as the Associate Rabbi from 2003 to 2011. He received his Bachelor of Science degree Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Child Development and Child Care, a social work degree.

While studying, he worked with special needs students at local Hebrew schools including tutoring for bar and bat mitzvah preparation. After college, Rabbi Arnowitz studied at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem before beginning his rabbinic studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained in 2003.

He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and he completed the STAR PEER Rabbinic Leadership program. Rabbi Arnowitz has served on the Board of Directors of Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, The Jewish Federation of Tidewater and The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. He is a co-founder and leader of Hands United Building Bridges (HUBB), an award-winning organization that brings clergy and community leaders together from diverse faiths, backgrounds and ethnicities to discuss issues related to race. He is a lover of the outdoors and is particularly fond of hiking, swimming, and bicycling, and is an ardent reader of the National Geographic Magazine.

Rabbi Arnowitz is a strong advocate for Jewish camping and day schools – especially Camp Ramah. It was at Ramah in the Berkshires that he first spent time as a camper, went on to become a member of the staff, and where he met his future wife, Tami. Rabbi Arnowitz and Tami reside in Ghent with their four young sons, Elijah, Simeon, Gabriel, and Isaac.

To reach Rabbi Arnowitz by email, write to rja@bethelnorfolk.com

Reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RabbiJeff


Rabbi Arthur Ruberg

Rabbi Arthur Ruberg becae Beth El’s rabbi in 1988. He is a graduate of Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia as well as the Jewish Theological Seminary where he received a master’s degree in Jewish studies and rabbinic ordination in 1974. He was named Beth El’s Rabbi Emeritus in 2011.

Prior to coming to Norfolk, Rabbi Ruberg served congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as associate rabbi and religious education director. He also directed Camp Ramah in the Poconos, one of the youth leadership summer camps associated with Conservative Judaism.

Rabbi Ruberg is married to Miriam Brunn Ruberg. The Rubergs have two children — Jeremy, who lives in New York with his wife Rebecca, is following in the “family business” by graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary and is now an assistant rabbi at the New City Jewish Center in New York, and Adina, a graduate of Ohio State University who lives in Chicago with her husband, Ben Kozberg, and their sons.

Rabbi Ruberg welcomes calls and e-mails from those who want further information about Congregation Beth El – its religious and educational approach, ongoing activities, and programs.

To reach Rabbi Ruberg by email, write to RabbiAR@bethelnorfolk.com.


Cantor Wendi Fried

Cantor Wendi became our cantor of Congregation Beth El in Norfolk in August, 2015. She hails originally from Houston, Texas and was brought up through the Conservative movement. Being involved in the leadership of Kadima, USY, and her local synagogue Youth Chorale, she found a love and passion for Judaism and all forms of Jewish, Israeli and Sacred music.

Love of Jewish music is ingrained in her family as both her parents and two siblings sang in their synagogue choirs. She went to Israel on the Nativ program and then to the University of Texas in Austin for her Bachelors Degree. There she was a member of the prestigious Longhorn Singers. She then launched her lifetime dream of becoming a cantor, graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2004 and becoming the cantor of Congregation Shaare Tefila in Olney, MD in 2005 where she was in her position for ten years.

Cantor Wendi, as she is known, has her musical roots in choral music and the joy of seeking out new harmonies and groups began in high school and continued through college and JTS. As staff at Ramah Wisconsin, she directed and founded the camp’s first acapella group called Ramah-keyla, which is still in existence today. She was a member of the Zamir Chorale in Manhattan under the direction of Mati Lazar for four years performing in both Israel and the United States.

Being a spiritual leader in today’s complex world is a challenge Cantor Wendi understands and addresses by balancing the needs of many generations with the use of traditional and modern approaches to prayer and spirituality. She has included this approach in her daily activities as well as special programs. She formed and conducts the Beth El singers, which is involved not only in High Holidays, but throughout the year. Some examples of innovative services she has created in the past include Shabbat Unplugged, Healing Through Havdalah, and Shul Lab. Other multigenerational programs include co-writing and directing congregational Purim Spiels, organizing interfaith concerts and services, presenting to our seniors during Lunch and Learn, and teaching in our Teen Midrashah.

She is very involved on the regional and national levels in the Cantor’s Assembly and has been on  the Executive Council of the Cantor’s Assembly.  She is now heading up a national project called Davening Song Lab which will bring clergy and lay people alike closer to their davening experiences. She has been a guest speaker and performer for Hadassah and Torah Fund groups all over the United States.

Cantor Wendi and her Israeli husband, Giora Fried, met and fell in love at Ramah Wisconsin and have three boys – Nadav and twins Rafael (Rafi) and Yonatan (Yoni). Their oldest son, Nadav will spend his first full month at Ramah this summer! Their twins Rafael (Rafi) and Yonatan (Yoni) are look to follow in his footsteps in a few years.

She and her family feel very blessed to be at Beth El and are excited to help bring ruach, joy, and music to the community!

To reach Cantor Wendi by email, write to cwf@bethelnorfolk.com.

Beth El Board of Directors

President – Linda Samuels

Linda was born and raised in Norfolk and attended Taylor Elementary, Blair Jr. High and Maury High Schools. She has been married to Stanley Samuels for 55 years (himself a former Beth El president) and they have three daughters and six grandchildren. Linda attended The Women’s College of the University of North Carolina for two years and graduated from Old Dominion University with both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Medical Technology (now renamed Clinical Laboratory Medicine). She worked for over 40 years as a Medical Technologist/Clinical Laboratory Manager for DePaul Hospital, the University of Virginia Hospital, The Group for Internal Medicine and Sentara Medical Group.

Our Staff