Rabbi Michele Paskow leads our Congregation in worship services with Cantor Michael Russ. Our clergy are available to perform all life-cycle events, including Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, baby-namings, weddings, and funerals. Both the Rabbi and Cantor are committed to the ethos that all are welcome at CBE. This includes the young and the not-so-young; the very Jewish, Jew-ish, Jew-adjacent, and interfaith; members of the LGBTQ+ community; and people of all backgrounds, races, and ethnic identities. The Rabbi holds office hours by appointment.
Rabbi Michele Paskow
Rabbi Michele Paskow has served as the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Emet in Simi Valley since 1992. She also teaches Jewish Studies courses at California State University, Northridge.
Michele attended high school for one year in Israel, and later returned for graduate work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She received her B.A. in Hebrew Literature from UCLA in 1986, her M.A. in Hebrew Literature in 1989 from the Hebrew Union College, and was ordained a rabbi in 1991 from the Hebrew Union College in New York. While attending Rabbinical School, Michele was the student rabbi in Morgantown, West Virginia, traveling there on the weekends for three years.
Following in the footsteps of her father Shimon Paskow, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks, Rabbi Michele enlisted in the Army Reserves as a chaplain. They became the first father-daughter chaplains ever to serve in the US military. They led tours of Israel together for both congregations until Rabbi Shimon's retirement.
When not absorbed with her work, Rabbi Michelle loves hiking and all outdoor activities. She is the proud mother of two sons.
Cantor Michael Russ
Michael Russ has served as Cantor at Congregation B’nai Emet since 1987. He has also been associated with Temple Beth Shalom of Tustin, Temple Solael of Woodland Hills, Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Arleta, Stephen S. Wise Temple of Bel Air, Temple Isaiah of Los Angeles, and Temple Beth Torah of Sepulveda.
Michael was born in New Haven, Connecticut to parents of Russian-Jewish descent, one of five brothers and sisters–and the parallels to The Jazz Singer don't stop there: his father was also a cantor. Michael had the opportunity to absorb a wide variety of American perspectives as the family moved first to Brooklyn, New York, then on to Dayton, Ohio; Shreveport, Louisiana; San Jose, California; and Jerusalem, before finally settling in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
Michael graduated from California State University, Northridge, majoring in Theatre and Psychology. Having grown up in an environment of Jewish observance, he began studying to become a rabbi, shying away from music for a long time. (He even worked as a Good Humor Man at one time!) He could really sing, though, and his untraditional voice inspired those around him. After years of people nudging, “Could you? Could you?” he decided he would, and did!
Cantor Russ has performed before many organizations in the Los Angeles area, as well as on local television. With a versatile band directed by David Kamenir, Michael Russ’ concerts have entertained audiences with a diverse repertoire (covering genres from Broadway to Country to Pop) that always leaves the audience with a smile! For more than seventeen years, Michael also hosted a Sunday-morning radio show on KCSN 88.5 FM – “L’Chayim” where he played Yiddish, Hebrew, and other Jewish music for his listeners.
Cantor Russ has been married to wife Merle for over 40 years. They have two daughters, Adina and Shoshana, a son-in-law, Scott, and several fish that shall remain nameless. Michael is an avid skier and camper, and enjoys walks along the beach, music, and parties.