Meet the Leadership Team of Congregation B'nai Israel

In an intimate congregation, everyone has a chance to take on a leadership role, investing themselves in the betterment of our Congregation and our community. Presently, this is the leadership team of CBI, including our Executive Committee and our Board of Trustees.

Please get to know us, as we are eager to get to know you:


Rabbi Matthew Cohen

Congregation B'nai Israel Rabbi -

Rabbi Matt Cohen was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended The Ohio State University where he was graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1999. He was ordained a Rabbi from The Hebrew Union College, in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2012. Rabbi Matt served Congregation Ahavath Chesed – The Temple, in Jacksonville, Florida from 2012-2015 as the Assistant Rabbi and from 2015-2018 as the Associate/solo Rabbi. During his tenure at The Temple he created various musical worship experiences. He led a monthly Shabbat evening service with a teen band and a monthly Shabbat service with his Friday Night Live band made up entirely of congregants. Rabbi Matt oversaw the B’nai Mitzvah program and the youth group. Throughout the year, he offered many learning opportunities such as a weekly Torah study, a weekly discussion with our older population on current events and Jewish teachings, a bi-monthly Pirkei Avot class, Introduction to Judaism, and various other classes which focussed on holidays and worship. In addition to Rabbi Matt’s rabbinic duties such as lifecycle events, pastoral care, and supervision of committees and staff, Rabbi Matt was an active member in the Jacksonville community at large, serving on The Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, a regular participant at an Interfaith program at University of North Florida, and a speaker on interfaith panels and discussions throughout the Jacksonville area.

Rabbi Cohen is a blues guitarist by trade and loves to jam with his 10 year old son, Ayden, who plays a mean blues guitar. When he is not at Congregation B’nai Israel, jamming with Ayden, spending quality time with his wife, Erin, or playing with their dog, Lucille, he can be found exercising at his CrossFit Gym or watching Ohio State Buckeye football.

Rabbi Matt, Erin, and Ayden are proud to call Galveston their home and look forward to enjoying many more years with our Congregational family.

Rabbi James (Jimmy) Kessler

Congregation B'nai Israel Rabbi Emeritus -

Rabbi James “Jimmy” Kessler is a native Houstonian and a graduate of the University of Texas. Ordained from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972, Rabbi Kessler went on to found the Texas Jewish Historical Society in 1980 and wrote his first doctorate on Texas Jewish History in 1988. For 32 blessed years, Rabbi Kessler served as the Jewish spiritual leader for Congregation B’nai Israel as well as the city of Galveston, participating in countless charitable causes, social action initiatives, and civic groups. He continues to honor our congregation with his knowledge and presence as Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Kessler is married to Shelley Nussenblatt, a native of Galveston. Together, they have two children and three grandchildren, who bring them immense joy!


Rabbi Todd Doctor

Interim Education Director -

Rabbi Todd Doctor, a Houston native, is a dedicated educator who passionately believes that knowledge empowers individuals and shape lives.  He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Rabbi Doctor went on to earn his Rabbinical Ordination from Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies, Masters of Arts Degree in Rabbinic Studies, and Masters of Arts Degree in Education from the Fingerhut School of Education at the University of Judaism (AJU).

Rabbi Doctor has served as a teacher, consultant and educational leader for a number of Jewish schools and agencies, across the country.  Rabbi Doctor founded Minds of Tomorrow to mentor and coach a variety of age groups and those of diverse religious backgrounds. He is committed to creating innovative approaches designed to enable children, adults, families, and groups to achieve their full potential by becoming conscious of who they are as a person through the process of mentoring and coaching to consciousness.

Rabbi Doctor moved to Galveston in 2011. He is married to Sarah Shabot and they have two fabulous children, Caleb and Jacob, and their dog, Dudley. Rabbi Doctor also serves as a Chaplain for the Galveston Police Department and lectures on Violence in Sacred Spaces.

Rabbi Doctor is excited for the upcoming Religious School year.


Congregation B'nai Israel Executive Committee

Todd Masel



Ann Masel



Jon and Nancy Sheiman

1st Vice President

Randi Betts



Benjy Shabot

2nd Vice President

Steve Hoffman

Past President (ex officio)


Congregation B'nai Israel Board of Trustees


Steven Cohn

J Levy 11-7-19.jpg

Jayson Levy


Fredell Rosen


Allison Cowan


Kelly Masel


Joseph Sonstein


Suzanne Klimberg


Hal Rochkind


Susan Steinberg

Congregation B'nai Israel Program Chairs


Nancy Sheiman

Membership Chair

Robert Goldhirsh

Cemetery Chair


Debbie Shabot

Caring Committee Chair


Tom Cowan and Esther Mckenna

Special Projects co-Chairs


Margie Wardian

Inclusion Chair