Since Susie Amster became the executive director of Temple Beth Sholom in March 1992, the congregation has come a long way. Rabbi Heidi Cohen calls her “a remarkable woman and colleague who thinks outside the box and searches for hidden gems in places not always considered.”
According to Rabbi Emeritus Shelton Donnell, “Temple Beth Sholom has grown and prospered in great measure as a result of her guidance, grace, and great personality, all of which have made Susie an invaluable part of the TBS family. During my years as rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom, Susie was always a faithful support and source of good counsel. Above all, she was my cheerleader, and a constant source of encouragement and one of the main reasons why serving Temple Beth Sholom has always been such a source of blessing.”
Because – in the words of Temple Beth Sholom President Elaine Schwartz, “for eighteen years she has been a ‘chai’ (life) force for our Temple” – Amster will be honored at “Chai Light on Susie Amster” on April 24. While Amster is “humbled and flattered”, she is quick to point out that “what really matters is pride in the accomplishments of TBS that have garnered recognition throughout the Union for Reform Judaism, special relationships with the staff and lay leaders who have worked together to make these things happen, the ability to touch people’s lives, and the centrality of the temple to my family.”
A congregant before she became an employee, Amster said she has found spirituality in the workplace, and her family has grown right along with the congregation. Family members have had simchot there and have been supportive of her efforts. Susie is married to husband, Bruce, for 38 years and has three daughters, Sharon, Lisa and Julie, a son-in-law, Adam, and four grandchildren, Johanna, Brandon, Sadie and Levi.
As Rabbi Donnell said, “Susie and her husband Bruce have raised their children in the same spirit of community dedication and love of Judaism. In Proverbs 31, the Woman of Valor traditionally recited on Shabbat, in speaking of a talented and industrious woman it says that ‘Her children stand and bless her; her husband praises her.’ They do for Susie, and they will along with the whole TBS family!”
Amster has grown in her role as executive director to the point where she has become a mentor and teacher for other people and a “go-to” person with a reputation for ability and efficiency. She has developed into a nationally recognized leader in the field of synagogue management.
“Susie is the consummate professional, capably directing and supervising temple operations and compassionately taking care of the needs of our membership,” according to Schwartz. “She cares deeply about Temple Beth Sholom and considers her work to be sacred, inspiring the staff and lay leaders with whom she works. Among her greatest strengths, Susie has an incredibly positive, can-do attitude that has contributed to the excellence we all have come to appreciate at TBS. Susie provides continuity and mentoring to the Board and each incoming president, and our partnership with her has enabled Temple Beth Sholom to reach great heights.”
Rabbi Cohen added, “Her commitment to our congregational family and dedication to the Jewish community and Orange County community is evident through the success of numerous programs. It is an honor to work with her as a close partner on our professional staff. She keeps us on a solid footing while pushing all of us to approach new ideas that we might not have been considered otherwise.”
Amster has served as vice president of the National Association for Temple Administration (NATA) and president of the Pacific Association of Temple Administrators. She currently is the chair of the NATA Certification Board and chairs the NATA Institute. She earned her Fellowship in Temple Administration (FTA) in October 1998 and has taught workshops around the US, Moscow and Jerusalem.
While Amster admitted that she has been primarily involved with Jewish causes for most of her life, her experience in nonprofit organizations has been important in her role as vice president and chief financial officer for the Santa Ana Police Foundation. She is an active participant in the Santa Ana Police Business Preparedness Council. “The payback is immense,” according to Amster, because the police department keeps an eye on the temple and keeps Amster informed of potential emergency developments.
Susie has been instrumental in bringing technology to TBS. She has also been a key player in grant writing that has had a major impact on the temple in the areas of Homeland Security, the Nefesh Minyan, the Mini Minyan, “Fine Wine, Fine Art, Find Judaism” and the Special Needs Network.
Often the first contact for new members of TBS, Susie knows that the temple is about the congregants. She is quick to praise Rabbi Heidi Cohen, the staff members, and the board members – and they are delighted to honor her. “We, the congregants of Temple Beth Sholom have the incredible good fortune to have Susie Amster as our executive director,” Schwartz said. “On a personal note, working closely with Susie has been a wonderful experience and deeply gratifying for me.”
According to Rabbi Donnell, “Susie has always been a partner, working with her rabbis, lay leaders, staff, and congregants to make Temple Beth Sholom the soul-filled place and warm spiritual home that it is.”
Rabbi Cohen concluded, “It is because of her love for the TBS community that Susie is raised to an achiever of excellence.”
Temple Beth Sholom will honor Amster on Saturday evening, April 24, at 6 p.m. at Chai Light on Susie Amster. There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a dinner catered by Parties by Panache. To celebrate Amster’s love of music, the event will include a lively band. There will be a highly entertaining “Show” reflecting her many talents and accomplishments at TBS. The gala event will also include a silent auction, cash raffle, wine raffle, and more. For more information, call the temple office at (714) 628-4600.