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Our Staff and Officers

Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer, Ph.D., D.D.

Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1972, and, together with Chicago deaf leaders, he established Congregation Bene Shalom/Hebrew Association of the Deaf in 1972. For the past 39 years, he has been the only full-time rabbi serving a deaf Jewish community in the United States. In 1992, Rabbi Goldhamer founded the Hebrew Seminary of the Deaf, where he currently serves as President and Professor of Jewish Mysticism. Goldhamer has also served as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Gallaudet University, Washington, D. C. He has lectured on philosophy, Jewish mysticism and prayer throughout the United States.

Together with Melinda Stengel, a licensed social worker, Goldhamer wrote This is for Everyone: Universal Principles of Healing Prayer and the Jewish Mystics, published by Larson Publications, in 1999. He is currently working on his second book on Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, Secrets of Kabbalistic Healing. He periodically writes for the Chicago Jewish News.

Rabbi Goldhamer received his Bachelor of Hebrew Law, Master of Hebrew Letters and Doctor of Divinity degrees from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Sir George Williams University, Montreal. His Ph.D. is in Medieval Philosophy from University of Chicago. He was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1945, and became a citizen of the United States in 2003.

The rabbi began painting about 15 years ago. He focuses on Jewish mystical and Biblical themes. His works have been exhibited at Judy Saslow Gallery and Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago; Joy Moos Gallery, Florida; and at the National Jewish Museum, Washington, D.C., Creighton University Art Gallery, Omaha; Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Michigan City, IN and Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago.

During 1972-76, Rabbi Goldhamer served as NBC newscaster for the deaf on Chicago’s local Channel 5. In 2007, he was named one of the “Ten Outstanding Jewish Leaders in Chicago,” by the Chicago Jewish News.

Rabbi Goldhamer is a member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, Chicago Association of Reform Rabbis and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He is married to Peggy Bagley.

Rabbi Shari Chen

Rabbi Chen is Congregation Bene Shalom's Assistant Rabbi. She was ordained at the Hebrew Seminary for the Deaf in 2005. Rabbi Chen has served as the Director of the Esther Knapp Religious School at Bene Shalom for over 12 years. She has taught and served as a school board member at Congregation Bnai Emunah and participated in interfaith services at Sedgebrook Communities. Rabbi Chen has lectured at the Bernard Horwich JCC and led worshops at the Chicago Association for Young Children's Education. She has also lectured and is an Inclusion Training Specialist with National Louis University's Leadership Training Program. Rabbi Chen teaches our Bnai Mitzvah students and adult Hebrew classes.

Cantorial Soloist Charlene Brooks

Charlene Brooks has served as the Cantorial Soloist of Bene Shalom for the past eleven years. In addition to leading the congregation in the traditional liturgy, she has enhanced our services with her own original songs. She has created an original musical Purim Program each year that is enjoyed by young and old alike.
Ms. Brooks also teaches Jewish songs in the Esther Knapp Religious School and leads the Children’s Signing Choir. This is a group of youngsters who learn to sing and sign liturgy as well as other related music. They participate in the High Holiday services as well as many other services during the year.
She is proud to have led Passover Services at the Evanston Council for Jewish Elderly for many years. Ms. Brooks studied voice with renowned teachers such as Ed Farran, Gillian Kelly and Peggy Skarry, and she is well known in the Chicago and Midwest area for her theatrical and cabaret performances. She also sings professionally with major Chicago area orchestras at corporate events.


Nona Balk, Congregation President

Ms Balk has served as President of Congregation Bene Shalom - Hebrew Association since 1996 She is also the Director of the Bene Shalom signing choir which interprets all of our Shabbat and holidays religion services.
Ms Balk serves the Hebrew Seminary of the Deaf as administrative dean. She is in charge of the daily operations of the school. It is a program that trains deaf and hearing to become rabbis serving the Jewish Deaf and hearing communities.



Peggy Bagley, Congregation Executive Director

Peggy Bagley has been the executive director of Congregation Bene Shalom since 1993. She is also the editor of the temple newsletter, The Shalom. Peggy schedules Rabbi Doug’s appointments and maintains the temple calendar. She works closely with temple president Nona Balk and the temple board to implement the necessary programs and keep the temple running smoothly. At Purim, she joins Cantorial Soloist Charlene Clinkman in singing the untraditional holiday songs. Peggy has her Master of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana. She has been married to Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer since 1980.


Ava Eres, Congregation Executive Assistant

Ava is a true professional. Although new to the job, she is handling a diverse range of needs with a smile on her face and a friendly personality. No one can truly do honor to her versatility.



Executive Board

President Nona Balk  
Executive Vice President Richard Tanzer  
VP of Finance Ken Clickman


VP of Finance Scott Kroman  
VP of Building Bill Donets  
VP of Membership Rita Carroll


VP of Membership Keith Liscio  
VP of Public Relations Wendy Farber  
Recording Secretary Ilene Collins  
Financial Secretary Linda Joseph  
Financial Treasurer Faye Campbell  

Board of Directors

Facebook & Technology Keith Liscio  
President-Parents' Group Dr. Louis Kaufman email
Outreach Ivy Kroman email
Legal Committee Howard Rosenblum  
Technology Mike Shuwal email