Senior Staff Bios
RABBI ANDREW BUSCH | RABBI ELISSA SACHS-KOHEN | CANTOR BEN ELLERIN | CANTOR ANN G. SACKS | RABBI REX D. PERLMETER, EMERITUS | RABBI GUSTAV BUCHDAHL, EMANUEL EMERITUS | CANTOR ROBBIE SOLOMON, EMERITUS | RACHEL OPATOWSKY | JENNIFER PLATT | JO ANN WINDMAN | ANNETTE G. SAXON
Rabbi Andrew Busch joined Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 2008. His many areas of focus include prayer, counseling, life cycle events, education and more. Rabbi Busch received a B.A. from Brandeis University and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College.
Before arriving at BHC, Rabbi Busch served as Rabbi at Touro Synagogue in New Orleans. He also previously worked as Assistant and then Associate Rabbi at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh and as Rabbi at Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, PA. Additionally, he has worked as Rabbinic Faculty for many summers at Union for Reform Judaism camps. Rabbis Busch is currently an officer on the Baltimore Jewish Council. He has also served as a board member on Baltimore’s Center for Jewish Education, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Joint Reform Jewish Commission on Worship, Synagogue Music and Religious Living and New Orleans’ Common Good, where he was a founding board member. He was a participant in the Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies interfaith clergy exploration of Israel
Rabbi Busch is married to Rabbi Debbie Pine, who serves as the Vice President for Strategic Philanthropy at The Associated. They have three children, Johanna, Ben and Ethan. Rabbi Busch’s favorite thing about BHC is our congregants, but he also loves that our history dates back to 1830, when it first became legal in Maryland to organize a synagogue.
Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen has served for 16 years as one of the rabbis at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. In addition to all the lifecycle, teaching and preaching responsibilities which she shares with Rabbi Busch, she is the Director of BHC Cares and advises BHC Justice, concentrating in recent years on racial justice, immigration, poverty, and environmental issues.
Rabbi Sachs-Kohen annually leads Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars at Oregon Ridge Park, BHC’s Erev Rosh Hashanah service which is free and open to the public. During its 13 years of existence, the service has attracted as many as 6000 participants and has continued to grow.
Rabbi Sachs-Kohen has recently completed the Clergy Leadership Program with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, an 18-month fellowship bringing together early Chasidic wisdom, mindfulness meditation, yoga, chant and prayer. The fellowship has renewed her rabbinate and her own spiritual life in remarkable ways, and she is grateful to have had the opportunity.
Rabbi Sachs-Kohen has had the honor of serving on several community organization boards and task forces, including Habitat for Humanity, The Center for Jewish Camping, Pearlstone Sustainability Coalition and others. She was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley to serve a term on the Maryland Commission for Women.
Before coming to Baltimore, Rabbi Sachs-Kohen served for 5 years at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, CT. She was ordained in 1999 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati. She earned her BA in theater and drama at the University of Michigan. Rabbi Sachs-Kohen grew up at Temple Beth El in Harrisonburg, VA. She lives in Tuxedo Park with her son and daughter.
Cantor Ellerin joined Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 2018. His passion for building a vibrant Jewish community extends to his work both on and off the bimah. He can be found teaching adult and youth education programs, officiating at life cycle events, visiting homes and hospitals, and leading worship services. Cantor Ellerin was ordained at the Hebrew Union College and completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in Vocal Performance and Choral Conducting at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
Prior to joining the BHC community, Cantor Ellerin served as Cantor and Music Director at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester in Croton on Hudson, NY and formerly served the pulpits of Park Avenue Synagogue and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan, and congregations Darchei Noam and Tzur Hadassah in Israel. In addition to his work within the synagogue, Cantor Ellerin has appeared as a guest soloist in concerts throughout the wider Jewish community, featuring repertoire spanning a wide array of classical, Israeli, Jewish, Yiddish, American folk, and contemporary music, as well as his own original works. His compositions have been performed by the URJ Biennial Choir, at the Hava Nashira Songleading Workshop, and in Jewish communities and camps across North America, Europe, and Israel. His work is published by Transcontinental Music Publishing, where he serves as an active member of their review committee, and contributed to the American Conference of Cantors’ recently published Ruach 5777 Songbook.
Cantor Ellerin and his wife, Lily, live in West Towson with their son, Samuel and dog, Larry. One of Cantor Ellerin’s favorite things about BHC is the variety of beautiful artwork on display throughout the building.
Cantor Sacks has served at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation since March of 2000. Aside from assisting the other clergy in leading services and life-cycle events, she is the primary tutor of BHC’s B’nai Mitzvah students. She also teaches adult Hebrew and works with adults in preparation for adult B’nai Mitzvah. Cantor Sacks received a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She received Cantor Certification from Hebrew Union College in 2007.
Mother of three grown children and proud grandmother of four, Cantor Sacks lives in Mt. Washington with her husband, Joel, and their two dogs. Cantor Sacks’ favorite thing about BHC is its passion for tikkun olam, hasadim tovim and tzedekah, repairing the world, reaching out in loving-kindness, and addressing social justice. She is grateful that through her work as an educator and sh'liach tzibur, leader of prayer, she has the opportunity to support and ensure the future of these Jewish values.
Rabbi Rex Perlmeter is Rabbi Emeritus of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, having served here from 1996 to 2008. The vision driving his years as a pulpit rabbi was one of creating multiple options for people to connect effectively with their Jewish identity. Prior to BHC, he served as associate and senior rabbi at Temple Israel of Greater Miami from 1985-1996.
Rabbi Perlmeter was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in 1985, after graduating from Princeton University. He has served nationally on the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Hebrew Union College and as the Rabbinic Chair of the Reform Jewish Commission on Religious Living. He was president of both the Miami and Baltimore Board of Rabbis and he served on the Executive Committee of The Associated.
In 2008, following his years at BHC, he moved with his wife, Rabbi Rachel Hertzman, and family to New Jersey, where he began work for the Union for Reform Judaism. In 2012, he founded the Jewish Wellness Center of North Jersey, a holistic program designed to help synagogues and individuals strive for wholeness in body, heart, mind and soul. Rabbi Perlmeter is a trained Jewish Mindfulness teacher and Spiritual Director, and is working toward a Masters of Social Work degree at New York University. His favorite thing about BHC has always been the passion of our leaders for their congregation.
Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl is now serving as Emanuel Emeritus Rabbi at BHC. He served Temple Emanuel of Baltimore from 1963 to 2000 and Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel from 2000 to 2016. Since 2000, he has been teaching Judaic Studies at the University of Maryland/Baltimore County. From 1972 to 1989, Rabbi Buchdahl was also a Professor of Religious Studies at Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University).
In addition to his ordination from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Rabbi Buchdahl earned an M.L.A. from Johns Hopkins University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. For 20 years, he was on the Clinical Review Board at Sinai Hospital as well as on its Ethics Committee. Similarly, he was on the Ethics Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). He served two terms as President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He also served as President of the Baltimore Branch of the American Jewish Congress.
Rabbi Buchdahl’s poems have been published in Aufbau, the CCAR Journal and the New Kehilla Machzor. He has several other interests, including Jewish roles in detective fiction, BWI’s Pathfinder program and making periodic trips to his native Germany. Rabbi Buchdahl and his wife, Sheila, are the parents of Micah, Ezra and Hannah and the grandparents of Max, Sara, Lily and Benjamin. His favorite thing about BHC is just being here.
Cantor Robbie Solomon served as BHC’s Cantor from 2008 to 2017, since then serving as our Cantor Emeritus. In addition to leading worship, teaching and sharing in pastoral work, he coordinated all music programs and directed our choirs along with Choirmaster Jimmy Galdieri z"l. He also oversaw the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Cantor Solomon received his B.S. from Gettysburg College and his B.H.L. from Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, and also studied at The Rubin Academy of Music, Berkelee College of Music and New England Conservatory.
Cantor Solomon previously worked as cantor for Temple Isaiah in Lexington, MA, Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, MA and Temple Sinai in Sharon, MA. He has served as a board member of the American Conference of Cantors (ACC), and as president of the Jewish Cantors and Ministers of New England.
Cantor Solomon grew up in Baltimore and is married to Helen, with two sons, Byron and Sam, and three grandchildren, Nicolas, Leo, and Luciana. His favorite thing about BHC is the historic breadth and scope of the music sung and loved by the congregation.
Director of Education
Rachel Opatowsky combines her background in Jewish and youth education with her passion for community-building as BHC’s Director of Education. Rachel spent many of her summers at URJ Camp Newman and became active in her local Temple Youth Group and NFTY in high school. These foundational experiences led Rachel to pursue her passion for Jewish education and engagement after earning her Bachelor’s degrees in Modern Jewish Studies and Religious Studies from California State University of Northridge in California. She then earned her Master’s in Education with a concentration in Judaic Studies from American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
Prior to joining BHC, Rachel has spent ten years filling various roles in the Jewish community as an educator and youth professional. Rachel participated in the Young Professionals Fellowship for NewCAJE 5 and was a presenter for the conference. She then learned at the Pardes Sumer Program in Israel in 2015. In 2018, Rachel was chosen to be a part of the Youth Professional 101 Fellowship with the Union of Reform Judaism. Rachel has served on the Professional Learning team for the Association of Reform Jewish Educators since 2018 and has been chosen to co-chair the 2021 Annual Gathering.
The scope of Rachel’s work includes Youth Education, family education, camps, youth groups, NEXTGEN: The Millie and Alvin Blum 8-12 grade program, and adult education. Rachel has spent almost six years filling various roles in the Jewish community as an educator and youth professional. She lives in Parkville with her husband Joshua, their son Natan, and their cat Yzma. Rachel loves that BHC is a community that feels like family even though its membership is so large.
Director, E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center
Jennifer Platt joined the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center in August 2011 as one of the original teachers of the newly established E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center Infant/Toddler Program. When Jennifer interviewed for the position in 2011, she knew this was a special place to work. Prior to becoming Director, Jen served as Assistant Director for two years.
Jennifer earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Towson University, and she is currently completing her Master’s in Leadership in Jewish Education and Communal Service from Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. In addition to work at the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center, Jennifer was chosen to participate in the Center for Jewish Education’s First Community of Practice with other educators from local Jewish Preschools. Last year, she was awarded a Friedman Fellowship from the Darrell Friedman Institute.
For many, this is a home away from home, and Jennifer works hard to make sure that the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center is a warm and welcoming place for current and future children and families. Jennifer enjoys visiting all the classrooms and spending time with the children and teachers. The years 0-5 are very important in the growth and development of children, and Jennifer makes sure the entire faculty stays current with trends in Jewish Early Childhood Education.
Jennifer has two sons and lives in Owings Mills with her husband, Mike and their dog, Buster. During the summer Jennifer and Mike can be found traveling around Maryland to watch the Orioles and the other minor league baseball teams.
Jo Ann Windman has served as Executive Director since 2005, and in the summer of 2018 celebrated her 30th year working at BHC. Her job involves efforts in membership, building management, cemetery management and much more. Before becoming Executive Director, she served as Assistant to the Executive Director. She graduated from Milford Mill High School here in Baltimore.
Jo Ann serves on the Jewish Cemetery Association and is a Senior Member of the National Association of Temple Administrators. Before working at BHC, Jo Ann enjoyed the work and perks of being a travel agent.
She was born and raised here in Baltimore and has been married to Harry for 44 years. Jo Ann’s two children are Ilene and Beth. She is very proud of her grandchildren, Madden and Briar. Jo Ann’s mother, Betty Meyers, was a long-time BHC employee as well. Jo Ann’s favorite thing about BHC is the Hoffberger Chapel when the sun shines on the stained-glass windows and there are color reflections all around, especially on the ark.
Director of Development
Annette Saxon has worked as BHC’s Director of Development since 2010. The scope of her work here includes annual giving, strategic planning for development, planned giving, Night of the Stars and other fundraising. Annette holds a Bachelors in Journalism from the University of South Carolina.
Before working at BHC, Annette worked in various places such as The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Atari and The Saxon Agency. She currently serves on the Board of the JCC Association of North America. Her board and leadership involvement have included Chair of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, Chair of the Associated Women’s Campaign and Co-chair of the Associated Campaign. She also served as President of the Center for Jewish Education in addition to a Board member of Port Discovery and the Baltimore Tourism Association.
She was born and raised in Columbia, SC, and is married to Michael. They have two children, Jake and Sarah. Sarah is married to Randall Rentfro. Annette’s favorite thing about BHC is our beautiful collection of historic Torahs, one of which is 400 years old.