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CAI Leadership

Rabbi Ari Lucas, Senior Rabbi, joined the community as Associate Rabbi in 2018. He is passionate about deep Jewish learning and practice, and enthusiastic about building Jewish community one relationship at a time. Born in Ventnor, NJ and raised in Roslyn, NY, he received his rabbinic ordination in 2012 from the Jewish Theological Seminary, in addition to earning his MA in Talmud and Rabbinics. Rabbi Lucas graduated magna cum laude from Brown University, receiving a BA in International Relations. While at Brown, he served with distinction as Bruno the Bear, the university mascot. Ari is also an alumnus of Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island and Camp Ramah in the Poconos, where he was a camper for eight summers, a staff member for three, and spent an additional five summers on staff of Ramah Israel Seminar. After college, he worked in Congressional politics - first for Congressman Steve Israel (NY-02) in NY, and then for Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) in Washington, DC. Rabbi Lucas and his wife, Talya, live in Caldwell, NJ with their three children, Gideon, Shalev, and Reya. Email Rabbi Lucas at
Read Rabbi Lucas' Blog

Rabbi Sara Blumenthal joined CAI on July 1, 2022 as the community’s first assistant rabbi. She delights in helping people find meaning through Jewish practice, ritual, text study, and spirituality. Rabbi Blumenthal received ordination and a Master’s in Jewish Education from Hebrew College in Newton Centre, MA in Spring 2022. She was awarded the Betty K. and Philip Memorial Prize in Jewish Education. Rabbi Blumenthal previously served as rabbinic intern at The Boston Synagogue, Boston University Hillel, and Congregation B’nai Jacob in Woodbridge, CT, as well as completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education. She has also studied at the Conservative Yeshiva, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Rabbi Blumenthal worked in market research for snack products prior to pursuing the rabbinate. Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Rabbi Blumenthal graduated with High Distinction from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a BA in Psychology and Hebrew and Jewish Cultural Studies. She is an alumna of Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago. In her spare time, Rabbi Blumenthal enjoys singing, reading, and biking. Email Rabbi Blumenthal at

Alan Silverstein, PhD, Senior Rabbi Emeritus has been a religious leader of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ since 1979. From 1993-1995, he served as president of the International Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement. From 2000-2005, he was president of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues. He served as chair of the Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel from 2010-2014. He currently serves as the president of Mercaz Olami. He is the author of It All Begins With A Date: Jewish Concerns About Interdating; Preserving Jewishness In Your Family: Once Intermarriage Has Occurred; as well as Alternative to Assimilation: A Social History of the Reform Movement in American Judaism,1840-1930.
Read Rabbi Silverstein's Times of Israel Blog

Cantor Joel Caplan grew up in Iowa City, IA, and has served as CAI’s cantor since 1982. In addition to his many daily responsibilities at CAI, he conducts four CAI choirs, and has led the Kol Dodi Community Jewish Choir (along with Cantor Erica Lippitz), the HaZamir NJ Teen Choir, and the New Jersey Cantors Concert Ensemble. He has created choral arrangements of more than 100 Jewish songs, and has toured Europe and America as part of the Zamir Chorale of Boston. Cantor Caplan was sent by Jewish groups to teach refuseniks in Moscow, and to Israel to raise morale during the Iraqi Scud attacks. He served for several years on the staff of Camp Ramah, the staff of the North American Jewish Choral Festival, and since 1994 has been an instructor at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H.L. Miller Cantorial School in New York City. He and his wife, Nancy, are proud parents and grandparents. Email Cantor Caplan at

Susan Werk, MA, Education Director, arrived in Caldwell in 1990, a graduate of The State University of New York at Oneonta. Susan received her Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). Having held leadership roles in the Jewish Education Association’s Principals Forum, the Conservative movement’s Jewish Educational Assembly, and the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, she took a giant step forward when she received national recognition by winning the most prestigious Covenant Award in 2008, for excellence in Jewish education. In November 2015 she received an honorary Doctor of Pedagogy degree at an academic convocation at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Susan has been a board member of the Golda Och Academy and remains a member of the advisory board of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Other awards received are the JEA’s Hoffman Award for her creative God curriculum, the Leo Brody Jewish Communal Service Award for professional excellence given by the New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Service, B’nai B’rith “Champion of youth” award and the Camp Ramah in the Berkshires’ Ramah Award. Susan is also a faculty member of The Academy of Jewish Religion. Email Susan Werk at
Read Werks Words of Wisdom

Lina Shuster, Executive Director, was born in Ukraine to a small Jewish family that knew very little about their Jewish heritage. Her family moved to the USA in July 1991 and lived in Brooklyn where Lina attended Prospect Park Yeshiva and later Brooklyn College, earning a BA in Psychology and an MA in Organizational Development. She started her professional career as an IT Recruiter and transitioned into the non-for-profit HR world which allowed for greater professional satisfaction. Passion for the Jewish community led to her joining the BOT of Congregation B’nai Israel and becoming a founding board member of Staten Island Hebrew Academy and working in the field of education. For the last 10 years, she worked as a school administrator in a NYC charter school and in Jewish day schools, most recently working at Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School, in Oakland, NJ as the Executive Director. 

Lina and her husband, Alex, live in Kinnelon, NJ with their four children, Joshua, Liora, Matthew, and Felix. Lina is excited to join the Agudath Israel family and is looking forward to getting to know everyone. Email Lina Shuster at

Geula Zamist, Early Childhood Center Director, joined CAI in August 2012. She has a BA from Baruch College and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Before coming to CAI, Geula worked as the ECC Director at the Westchester Jewish Center and the ECC Director at Ramaz. Geula is passionate about early childhood education and has been called on to consult for a number of different Jewish institutions around the world. She enjoys getting to know families and working with teachers.

Geula is proud of all of her children and their many accomplishments and is most honored to carry the title Savta, (grandmother). She looks forward to getting to know all of the ECC children and providing them with a wonderful education. Email Geula Zamist at
Read Geula's Blog

Debbie Lurie is our Membership Director and a member of our congregation since 2002. Debbie and her family are involved in many areas of synagogue life. Debbie's professional experience in customer service and human resources is a most appreciated quality second only to her love of our community. She looks forward to speaking with you and introducing you to all that is Congregation Agudath Israel, and considers it a privilege and pleasure to establish a relationship with every prospective and new congregant. Tour our building with Debbie, get to know us better. She's got so much to tell you about our community including ways to get involved, study, and meet new friends.

Debbie and her husband David are the proud parents of Sam and Michael. Together, the Lurie family all have found a second home at CAI. Want more information about Congregation Agudath Israel? Email Debbie Lurie at

June 9,2023 /  20 Sivan 5783