Board of Directors

Rusty Russell – President

Rusty RussellLike many members of Temple Beth El, I come from a mixed religious background. My father’s grandfather Adolf Israel was Jewish, but he married a Catholic, so his son my grandfather also became Catholic and changed the family name from Israel to Russell. My mother’s parentage was also mixed. After my parents left the Catholic Church, they told me that I should join the religion of my choice. Because I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, by age thirteen I knew that “the religion of my choice” was going to be Jewish. Everywhere I have ever lived, most of my friends have been Jewish. Since I married Judy Lehr in 1976, most of my family has been Jewish as well. In 1989-1990 I spent a semester on the faculty of Tel Aviv University, and I have returned to Israel for research purposes many times since. Increasingly, my whole world has been Jewish. After living for many years as the most Jewish Gentile that my Jewish friends and family had ever met, I finally converted to Judaism at Temple Beth El in 1996. Joining Temple Beth El has turned out to be one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I will always be grateful to Temple Beth El for giving me so many wonderful friends.

Aimee Perlstein – Vice-President

Aimee has been a member and involved with TBE for almost 30 years. With her husband Adam, and two sons Jeremy and Brian, she has been active in the Religious Education Committee. She joined the Board of Directors as the CDC Representative before accepting new position. She converted to Judaism in 1995. She has been an upper grade elementary teacher, staff developer and mentor for 24 years in the Riverside Unified School District. She has two sons who both had their Bar Mitzvahs here at TBE. One was confirmed and the other is going through that process now. Jeremy is a freshman at UC Santa Barbara and Brian is a sophomore at Riverside Stem. She enjoys live music, scrap-booking and hiking in the mountains.

Harry Freedman – Past President

HarryHarry has been a part of TBE since his family moved to Riverside in 1960. He, his wife Sandy, and son Josh have celebrated many lifecycle events at TBE, and are very grateful to be a part of the  TBE community. This is Harry’s third stint on the Board since the 1980’s – he previously served as Youth Liaison, Finance Director, and Treasurer.


Tim Beld – Treasurer

TimTim was a born and raised in Riverside. He converted to Judaism in 1983 at Temple Beth El. Tim has been a member of TBE ever since. He has served the Jewish community in the past by sitting on the board of B’nai Brith as President and was treasurer of TBE for 6 years in the early 90’s. During that time he and his wife Janna set up a Temple management system and handled all payables and receivables for the Temple. Tim was the first recipient of the Shofar Award and received the award again in 2018 for his service to the Board. Tim looks forward to keeping the Temple a vibrant and productive part of the Riverside community.


Jerry Sturmer – Finance

jerryJerry Sturmer grew up in Anaheim, where he studied with and sang under the direction of Cantor Philip Moddel.  After graduating from CSU Fullerton, he began his career teaching, first in Los Angeles, and then in Rialto.  After 14 years teaching history and music he transitioned into administration in 1992, both at the site and district levels, retiring at the end of 2016.  Jerry has been married to Nancy for over 43 years, and their son Daniel sounded the shofar at Temple Beth El from 1994 to 2011.  Jerry is completing his 8th year on the TBE Board and serves as Finance Director.

Jason Winston – Secretary

JasonJason has been a member of Temple Beth El for more than 15 years, has served on the Board as Communications chair and as Secretary, and serves on the temple’s Religious Practices committee. Jason was born and raised in Los Angeles and has lived in Riverside since 1998. He is a student of Mussar, facilitates study groups at TBE, and participates actively in the chanting and meditation group.


Kevin Akin – Senior Chavurah

KevinKevin Akin has been a Temple Beth El member since 1983. He and his wife Margie sent their four children through the TBE religious school, and they recently attended a granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Kevin previously served on the Board from 1985 to 1992 as Property and Grounds Director (now Facilities Management Director), and he more recently served several years as Social Action Director.  Since early 2019, he has been the Senior Chavurah Representative on the Temple Board. 

Martha Miller – Religious Education

Martha moved to Riverside with her family about 20 years ago, and joined Temple Beth El soon after arrival. She and her husband were born on the East coast, and moved slowly westward in incremental steps from Philadelphia to Ohio to Maryland to Texas to Escondido to Hemet to Riverside, affiliating with many different Jewish institutions along the way.  Her children got an early exposure to religious education through a Hillel based program designed and run by community members in a southeastern Ohio university town.   Martha was active in developing curriculum and hiring/ monitoring teachers at that time.  In Fort Worth, Texas she spent a few years as Principal of the Religious after -school program of Temple Ahavat Shalom, and then about 28 years teaching elementary school students after moving to California.  Her interest in education ,  children, and Judaism led to involvement  in the Religious Education Committee in Temple Beth  El, where she was subsequently asked to be co-chair and a representative member of the Temple Board.

Eric Sbar – Religious Practices

Eric Sbar had a wandering Jewish youth, growing up in the Southwest, Texas, England, and Michigan.  He eventually settled in Los Angeles and lived a skinny but happy life as a musician for about 10 years.  In 2004, he was swept off his feet by a young woman from Riverside and the rest is history.  Eric, Missy and their 4(!) kids have been members of TBE since moving to the area in 2009.  Eric volunteers regularly as a musician, children’s song leader, adult chant leader, Ba’al Tekiah, and Religious Practices committee chairperson.  Always drawn to experience the divine in nature, Eric became a certified TorahTrek Guide in 2014-15 under the guidance of Rabbi Mike Comins and works to share this passion with with his Riverside Tribe.   

Sherri Cruz – Fund Development Director

Sheri Cruz has been a member of Temple Beth El for almost 19 years. She has served on the board as chair of the Open Arms Committee, and is currently serving as fund development chair. All three of her children have been through religious school at TBE, and she is proud to say that all three continue to work with the religious school!  She has been married to John for 30 years. 


Eric Lesser – Facilities Management

Eric has been a resident of Riverside since 2002 when he moved from the San Fernando Valley to be closer to visit his mother and her vineyard in Temecula wine country.  A member of the temple since 2012, Eric served on the Board as Buildings and Grounds Director (now Facilities Management) between 2014 and 2017.  He is now back on the Board–focusing on the upgrade project for the temple’s bathrooms as well as other projects.  Professionally, Eric is a Landscape Architect and arborist.  He designed the Temple’s Central Ave lawn conversion landscape installed in 2016.  He is a classical ‘cellist and performs in several community orchestras. 

Andrea Shuirman – Youth Groups

Andrea grew up in Orange and moved to Riverside to attend U.C. Riverside. She and her husband, John, have been members of Temple Beth El since 2005. Their two teens have grown up in Temple Beth El and have celebrated many simchas with the congregation. Andrea is serving her second term on the TBE Board.

Lore Magnus – Sisterhood Representative

Lore grew up in Palos Verdes and came to Riverside in 1967 to attend UC Riverside.  Her family joined the Temple in 1980 at her behest.  Her husband and what remained of his family were Holocaust survivors and Lore felt that it was important for the family to practice Judaism.  In 1981 Lore converted and have always been glad that she did so.  She has been active in Sisterhood over the years, serving as co-president twice.  Like Rusty, Lore is grateful for all the wonderful friends that Temple has given me. 

Dan Straus – Social Action Director

Dan grew up in Milwaukee and attended religious and Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun. He joined the faculty at UC Riverside in 1976 as one of the founding faculty members of the UCR-UCLA Biomedical Sciences Program. Over the years he taught human genetics and molecular biology to undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. He is currently a Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Sciences in the UCR School of Medicine. He and his wife Darleen, a Professor Emerita of Botany at UCR, have two children and one grandchild. At TBE Dan has served as President of the Senior Chavurah and Chair of the Social Action Committee.

Missy Sbar – CDC Representative

Missy Sbar was born and raised in Riverside, and she and her beautiful family joined TBE in 2009. Missy is the Child Development Center Representative for the board, a Religious Education committee member, Sunday school snack-master, and also an expert baker of whole wheat challah. Her four children are involved in the Religious School and on most Sundays Missy can also be found lending her beautiful voice to help lead the TBE chanting group.