Keneseth Israel has engaged Yonatan Yussman to serve as the congregation’s executive director with responsibility for working as a team member with clergy, other professionals and lay leaders in building and managing the congregation’s resources.
He is responsible for day-to-day operations, finances, administrative staff and facilities, as well as managing relations with congregants and the entire community.
A native Louisvillian, Yussman left Louisville for college. He spent his first year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, then returned to the U.S. to earn his B.A. in psychology from Boston University.
“I really wanted to get back to Israel,” he said, “so I made aliyah and stayed for six years.” During that time, he served in the Israeli Army, earned an M.A. from Hebrew University and studied for three years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Daniel Landes.
Yussman has a B.A. in psychology, an M.A. in Jewish Education and an Ed.D. in educational leadership. He has also been a teacher and administrator in pluralistic Jewish Day Schools for the past 15 years, and has collaborated with top leaders at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Bar Ilan University’s Principals’ Center and the Hartman Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
He met and married his wife, Lisa, in Israel. She grew up in Indiana. When they had children, the Yussmans returned to the U.S. They still feel a strong connection to Israel and “want the kids to feel like Israel is home,” he said. The Yussmans plan to make visits to Israel an important part of the lives of their children, Gefen, 11; Aviva, 9; and Noa, 7.
Yussman is enjoying his job and looks forward to community engagement, membership recruitment and event planning with the help of KI’s “amazing committees.”
Within the congregation, he will do some teaching and plans to lead High Holy Day family services with his wife.
“It’s great to be back at KI, where I grew up,” he said, and where his family has its roots – stretching back to include some founders of the congregation. He’s enjoying reconnecting with “people who knew me as a kid” and is looking forward to meeting the new generation and reaching out to the entire community.