Jennifer Mollenhauer

Teacher, Dancer, and Nature Lover

by Courtney Cummings

We sat down with Jennifer Mollenhauer to learn a little more about her life outside of Temple Israel.  Jennifer began teaching Jewish dance at Temple’s religious school when Rabbi Bodney-Halasz was developing new curriculum for the school.  The material was something that Jennifer loved, so she continued to teach for 15 years, finding joy in all of the ways that the students connected to the class and seeing which aspects of the movement inspired them the most.  Her life began in Northern Virginia, and when she was in high school, Jennifer had the chance to study dolphin behavior at the Dolphin Research Lab in Grassy Key, Florida.  It was a truly unique experience and one that she cherishes to this day.  Her love of nature takes her and her husband of 26 years, David, out on hikes to different parks, and (when permitted) travel.  When asked about her dream travel destination, Jennifer said, “I want to go see the Mach Loop in the United Kingdom where jet fighters fly through the mountains at high speed.”  That would certainly be a sight and sound to hold.

An art lover at heart, she delights in attending the ballet and the opera, but also finds a creative outlet in decorating her house and creating flower arrangements.  This quarantine period has shown Jennifer that she was already home a lot and appreciates her time with family. One thing that she thinks people would be surprised to know is that she really hates mushrooms.  (So don’t offer her any!)

Looking back on her teaching time at Temple, she laughs at a moment when one of the older grade students quoted her choreography instructions as they performed Tzaddik Katamar on the bimah.  One might say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and it’s always nice to share a little laugh together.

Thank you, Jennifer, for your service to our Religious School and for infusing all of our students with the movements and steps of our people.  This embodiment and expression of Judaism is something they can carry with them wherever they go.

We Thank You, Teachers

A Message from Rabbi Sobo

May 19, 2020

On Sunday, May 17, we completed our religious school year.  It was a year that brought ingenuity and creativity to its finest.  While for our classroom teachers and most of the madrichim (teen aids), this last day was a ‘l’hitraot’ (see you later), I would be remiss to not recognize the incredible service of our specialist team who brought the best of themselves every week.  We will miss you next year:

Jennifer Mollenhauer has taught Jewish and Israeli dance, along with the history of its development for 15 years at Temple, from basic movement and step patterns with our younger students, to more detailed steps with our older students.  She has been an integral part of the education for an entire generation of Temple Israel students.  Dance has been a part of her life for a long time, with 12 years of ballet and over 18 years of belly dance experience.  She is the founder and leader of the Shimmy Cats, a local Middle Eastern Belly Dance troupe that performs at festivals and special events.  

Rachel Evans, after 7 years of teaching, and most recently as our Art specialist, will also being stepping down.  She has brought creativity and passion to our Hebrew students, younger grades, and into art over the years.  We hope she enjoys spending her Sunday mornings with her precious newborn son and bonding as a family.

Dakota Saul has taught middle school and music over the last 4 years at Temple, after many years as a student and was part of the team of madrichim, bringing his love for Judaism and music to our school.  He lives in Columbus and we are grateful for the years that he commuted to remain with our school here in Dayton.

Newer to the scene, but none-the-less will be missed, Jese Shell taught 3rd/4th grade last year and debuted our cooking rotation this year, with a special focus on non-Ashkenazic foods.  Much of North American Judaism is centered around Ashkenazic (Eastern European Jewish origins), and Jese helped bring a broader view of our history, culture, and foods to our students.

It is with deep gratitude for their service to the school and with sadness that we say goodbye to our team of specialists, and wish them all well wherever their journey takes them.

2020 Jewish Cultural Festival Cancelled

Temple Israel Cancels 2020 Jewish Cultural Festival

10th Annual Jewish Cultural Festival will be postponed to summer 2021

DAYTON, OH  (May 18, 2020) – Out of an interest for public health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple Israel has canceled the 2020 Dayton Jewish Cultural Festival, originally scheduled for Sunday, August 9, 2020. The 10th anniversary celebration of Jewish music, art, food and ritual will now be postponed to summer 2021. 

“The health and safety of our community is our top priority,” said Courtney Cummings, music and program director at Temple Israel. “Although we cannot gather this summer, we are looking forward to coming together again next year to celebrate and share our Jewish culture and tradition with the entire Miami Valley.”

The Oy Vey 5k run/walk, which traditionally kicks off the Jewish Cultural Festival, will be held in a virtual format. Participants can register online and create a route in their own neighborhoods. All proceeds from the Virtual Oy Vey will benefit Temple Israel’s Social Action Fund, which supports programs and activities designed to positively impact the entire community. For updates, visit the Temple Israel Facebook page. 

The Jewish Cultural Festival is a free, family-friendly festival featuring traditional Jewish food and drink, live music and dance performances, children’s activities, artisan crafts and goods, artwork and interactive presentations by local and national speakers. The festival opens the door to Judaism for all who wish to learn more about Jewish traditions and faith. 

About Temple Israel

With a rich tradition that spans more than 150 years, Temple Israel is proud to be the largest Reform congregation in greater Dayton. Our religious, cultural, educational, social and social action programs build on the legacy of those who have come before with innovations guaranteed to create a fulfilling and vibrant future for the congregation. For more information, visit

Bloom Where You Are Planted

A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz-Halasz
May 12, 2020

As the weather warms up and the chance of frost has supposedly passed, it is a great time to start a vegetable garden.  
Watching something grow and thrive during this quarantine has helped me find joy and hope.  The smell of something earthy and alive rejuvenates me.  It is an easy way to enjoy the fresh air, avoid supermarkets, and appreciate God’s gift of creation.  You can start small and you don’t need to have a yard.  Consider a container garden or an herb garden!
Working in the garden also reminds us we are approaching Shavuot.  Agriculturally rooted, Shavuot marks  the harvest of first fruits in Israel, such as wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.  These were then delivered to the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks to God.  
It has been a long 8 weeks or so and we are all ready to fly the coop. However, even as quarantine restrictions are gradually lifted the threat of this coronavirus is still very real and none of us should unnecessarily put ourselves as risk.  
Instead, let’s continue to find creative ways to enjoy our time.  Perhaps, like in ancient times, it is the perfect time to  prepare for a harvest.  Wishing you may sunny days ahead.

Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations

Special Film Screening

Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m.

Join CET, ThinkTV, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton and Temple Israel on May 20 at 7:00 p.m. for an advance online screening of a new documentary, Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations. This documentary explores the recent rise in antisemitism, which is increasing in ways not seen since the 1930s. Hear firsthand accounts from victims, witnesses and others who have experienced it. The film makes it clear that hate, like a virus, thrives with a receptive human host. Stay with us after the film for a Q&A panel discussion, including the filmmaker, Andrew Goldberg, and Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz from Temple Israel, Dayton.

Find more information on Facebook.

Register for the virtual screening event and discussion here.

Stay Connected!

Be sure to check your email!  

A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz
May 8, 2020
When this quarantine began, I chose to produce TIDBITS myself.  I wanted to communicate more directly and more regularly with you during these difficult times.  To call attention to these changes, my TIDBITS emails did not specify TIDBITS in the title and were sent from my email, not “Temple Israel.”  
As we know, change is never perfect.  It has come to my attention that for some of you, this has had the opposite impact.  You may not be seeing my communication at all now. Our computers are used to filtering out important messages in certain ways and this change may have altered the efficacy of this system.  So, our TIDBITS email today is in the more recognized format so that you might see the message and begin to look for TIDBITS on Tuesdays and Fridays (for Shabbat). 
Each of these TIDBITS is filled with unique and time-sensitive content and I don’t want you to miss out on what is happening at Temple.  Mention this to anyone who feels they haven’t heard from Temple in a while and please pay attention.  If you haven’t received TIDBITS by Wednesday or Saturday, be sure to run a search for any messages from my email address.
The several weeks have been incredibly hard for all of us.  Know that you are not alone.  You may always send an email to or call the Temple office at 937.496.0050. Your Temple is here for you.  

Teacher Appreciation

Together We Thank Our Teachers

On Friday, May 1, we honored our teachers and madrichim for the amazing role they have played in shaping the Jewish identities of our youth.  This year has proven even harder than others with the sudden disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak.  We are forever thankful for their continued creativity to engage our students in learning.  Enjoy a short video from Rabbi Tina Sobo with musical guest, Grant Halasz, as they thank and honor our educators.  

The Summer that Could Have Been

Heartbroken for a Summer that Could Have Been

A Message from Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz
May 1, 2020

Like the beginning of one of Rose’s stories on an episode of Golden Girls, I can picture it.  Kansas City, 1985.  It was 35 years ago and I was only a year older than my oldest son is now.  I reluctantly boarded a flight to Indianapolis, hours from arriving at what would soon become my “home away from home,” Goldman Union Camp Institute.  Every summer since, I have sorted through memories of this life-changing experience.  The friendships I made, the values I learned, the music we sang, and the moment I first contemplated a life of service to the Jewish community.   

Jewish camping is more than just a summer of fun and games.  It is transformational.  Children mature before our eyes as they navigate their own feelings and decisions and begin to understand what it means to live in a community grounded in Jewish values.  Those are the very same values at play right now, the prioritization of pikuach nefesh, preservation of life and health.  I know that this decision by the Union for Reform Judaism was exceedingly difficult to make, but I am grateful for such responsible leadership.   

Unfortunately, knowing it was the right decision doesn’t change the grief that both kids and parents feel right now.   This, compounded with all of the other losses we are all experiencing, makes for a heavy load.  Our home, and the homes of those in our Jewish community, are filled with pain and disappointment.  For all who have looked forward to summer camp all year long, we are heartbroken.   We mourn the summer that could have been.  I know that in time we will be able to find the blessings, to move from strength to strength, but today it hurts.  A lot.  

Know that I and your Temple Israel family are here for each of you, as you process this news with your children/grandchildren.  If you are overwhelmed, please contact us.  Camps have provided us with exceptional resources.  In the meantime, the phenomenal URJ camp staff will be brainstorming ways to create meaningful summer activities that will connect campers online.

A Message from the Rabbi

With Gratitude and Appreciation

April 28, 2020
For the past few weeks, we have included a “Look for the Helpers” section in our TIDBITS email newsletter. As we near the end of the school year, we turn our appreciation this week towards our teachers and madrichim, who have dedicated themselves to creating fun and memorable lessons all year. Our teachers haven’t stopped developing creative ways for our children to continue their learning online. It has been tough on all of us – parents, teachers and students of all ages. While parents and teachers miss daily routines and adult interaction, our children miss their friends and are anxious about a dangerous virus they can’t even see. How lucky we are to have such a dedicated group of educators to serve as the glue keeping us together during these tenuous times. Their efforts have brought a sense of normalcy and intrigue into our lives. At a time of many questions, our Jewish educators remind us of eternal truths and sacred beliefs, drawing us closer to God and to one another. We are blessed by all that they do and all that they are. 
Be sure to check out our Shabbat TIDBITS on Friday, May 1 when we will shower our appreciation on teachers in music and prayer.