Professional Staff

 Rabbi Howard Tilman

Rabbi Howard Tilman joined Congregation Beth Israel, in Scotch Plains, NJ, in July 2017. He was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in May 2014, where he received the Eliezer Slomovic Award in Talmud. He previously served as a member of the clergy team of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, where he served in a variety of roles, including supervising Shabbat and Holiday programming, teen educational programming, Israel advocacy, and other rabbinic responsibilities. While in Jacksonville, Rabbi Tilman became a leader among the clergy of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality and its push for an expanded Human Rights Ordinance in the city. He spoke at City Council meetings and at events around the area in support of this cause.

Prior to the rabbinate, Rabbi Tilman graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, and spent three years working as a producer for Sporting News Radio alongside the likes of Troy Aikman, Tony Bruno and Tim Brando. A passionate sports fan his whole life, he appeared on and won an episode of Sports Jeopardy! in August 2016.

Rabbi Tilman has extensive experience working with youth of all ages in multiple synagogues, schools, and at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. He has also worked with college students and serves as a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi‘s Council of Rabbis. He enjoys teaching students of all ages, focusing on literary and critical perspectives of rabbinic texts and their modern applications. For his Capstone Project in rabbinical school, he analyzed the similarities between the Talmud and modern social media as well as their educational potentials.

He is married to Naomi, who works on the Talent Team for Hillel International. Together, they enjoy baking, baseball, and the Big Bang Theory. Their son, Micah was born in the Summer of 2017.




Rabbi Emeritus George Nudell   

Rabbi George Nudell was the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel from August, 1982 – July 2017.  He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1953.  After a brief stint as a drummer in a folk-rock group, Rabbi Nudell pleased his mother to no end by cutting his shoulder-length hair, selling his drum set, and graduating from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Hebrew. He minored in History and Anti-War protesting.  He also received a B.S. in Secondary Education, and he taught Hebrew and other Jewish studies courses at the Minneapolis Talmud Torah for five years.  

Rabbi Nudell moved to New York to begin studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1977. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Rabbinics and was ordained in 1982. He met and married his wife, Linda Casson, also known as “Liba,” who was then completing her doctorate in Physical Chemistry at Columbia University.  Liba currently works as an Applications Scientist at Horiba Industries in Edison.  Rabbi Nudell, by the way, never took Chemistry or Physics, and has no clue what his wife does for a living.

Rabbi Nudell is a Past President of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Ministerial Association.  He and Liba helped to found a local chapter of the Spina Bifida Association, which has grown to become the Spina Bifida Association of the Tri-State Area.  Rabbi Nudell served as an ethics advisor to the Infant Care Review Committee of Overlook Hospital, and has served on the Board of Directors of Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside.A vegetarian since 1971, Rabbi Nudell is an accomplished gourmet cook and baker. He and Liba reside in Scotch Plains and have three children Elazar,  Yoav and Talia.

Rabbi Nudell is the author of There Ought to Be a Clearinghouse: A History of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee of Jewish Law and Standards, from its inception through 1980.  

In 2009 he received the Keter Torah Award from the New Jersey Region of United Synagogue.

Cantor Matt Axelrod 

Cantor Matt Axelrod was born and raised in the Boston area. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and received his Masters of Sacred Music and Investiture from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1993. While studying at JTS, he came to our synagogue as the latest in a series of student cantors. Upon graduating from the Seminary, Cantor Axelrod remained at Congregation Beth Israel and became our first full-time cantor. He has proudly served in this community ever since.

Active in both the Jewish and interfaith communities, Cantor Axelrod serves as a national officer of the Cantors Assembly and is a past president of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Ministerium, comprising clergy of various faith communities as well as leaders of local civic organizations. Additionally, Cantor Axelrod has served on the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education and is a past president of the Cantors Assembly New Jersey Region. He sings with the New Jersey Cantors Concert Ensemble, which performs throughout the state and helps to raise scholarship funds for cantorial students.

Cantor Axelrod has been a regular columnist and contributor to the online Bar & Bat Mitzvah Guide, and is the author of Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide, and Your Guide to the Jewish Holidays: From Shofar to Seder. He has been a frequent presenter at synagogues, Jewish community centers, and conferences to speak to groups of parents and teens about the process of preparing for their b’nei mitzvah and how to successfully navigate that period.

Cantor Axelrod is also an avid aviation enthusiast, and is a licensed pilot and flight instructor. When not flying over New Jersey in his Piper Cherokee, he is likely out running and training for his next marathon. He is married to Tali, superintendent of schools in Alpine, NJ, and they are the proud parents Judah and Josh.


Executive Director Davida Berkowitz

Davida joined Congregation Beth Israel in 2005 as Executive Director. She came to CBI with many years of synagogue administrative experience and a strong background in Conservative Judaism.  She is a native of West Orange, New Jersey. She attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union and attended college at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is responsible for the overall management and day-to-day operations of the synagogue.  

Davida lives in Cranford with her husband and their two sons, Daniel and Jeremy.

Director of Congregational Learning and Engagement

Lev Metz grew up in Los Angeles, California where his favorite Jewish activities revolved around doing things with his hands: building the sukkah, baking challah for Rosh Hashanah and making his bubbe’s chicken noodle soup. Attending college at UC Berkeley, Lev traveled to Israel for the first time and was inspired to have his Bar Mitzvah at Berkeley Hillel at the age of 19.  He studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, earned MAs in Jewish Education and Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College and deepened his learning of text, tradition and prayer at the Conservative Yeshiva. Lev most recently taught Judaic Studies at Golda Och Academy, focusing on the Hebrew Bible and modern Jewish history.  He lives in Perth Amboy with his wife Sara and their three children – Doron, Eitan, and Dina.