Rebecca and David Yazel have both been very involved in synagogue life and the consolidation of Temple Beth Shalom in Peabody and Temple Tifereth Israel of Malden into Temple Tiferet Shalom located in Peabody. The couple, who live in Lynnfield, have been married for 28 years and are the proud parents of two impressive young women. Rebecca has held leadership positions in the synagogue, and David, as Building Project Chair, has overseen building renovations. Four and a half years later and 10 months after breaking ground, the temple was able to reopen many activities in early January 2023.
Where are you both originally from and what brought you to the North Shore of Boston?
David was born in San Jose, Calif., but was raised on a farm in West Newfield, Maine. David became a software engineer for the finance sector and has lived on the North Shore all his adult life. Rebecca hails from the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Rebecca’s professional background is in marketing and she moved to Boston in her late twenties for a change and to pursue new job opportunities.
How did you initially meet each other?
We had a mutual friend who was fairly relentless in trying to have us meet each other. Eventually, we gave in and had a phone conversation that lasted 4 hours and which led to more phone calls and eventually a first date. That was 28 years ago and clearly our mutual friend had good instincts!
Rebecca, can you speak about your time as president of Temple Beth Shalom and later as president of Sisterhood of Temple Tifereth Shalom? What challenges did you face in those roles?
I was president of Temple Beth Shalom from 2012-2014. Every leadership cycle is unique. I had a wonderful, supportive board, and support from many immediate past presidents, who provided tremendous guidance. At the time, our daughters were 9 and 13. I had no idea how much my leadership role meant until my older daughter said in her bat mitzvah Dvar Torah that she hoped to be the president of her temple someday. Lead by example, you never know who will follow.
I have been the president of TTS Sisterhood since June (I served as treasurer from 2000-2002). As Sisterhood numbers declined, a number of past dedicated board members reached out to me and several of my peers and asked if we would work with them to revitalize the Sisterhood. We worked together over the past two years and have seen a dramatic increase in membership and participation in Sisterhood events. I’m proud to now be president and continue to help reach out and engage as many women from TTS as possible. Our membership spans generations of temple members, and we are working to develop engaging programming to continue to attract participation.
Were you both involved in the consolidation of Temples Beth Shalom and Tiferet Israel? Can you tell us a little about how that process unfolded?
Rebecca was already a past president of TBS at the time when the consolidation became official, but she had worked closely with the consolidation committee, which included members of both congregations to make sure that both communities would feel represented as they joined together. At that time, David hadn’t yet taken on any leadership roles. When the two congregations began to discuss consolidation, the current TBS and TTI leadership saw an opportunity to bring the two temples together and forge a strong combined future together. It has been so long since the merger that it is hard to even believe we were once two distinct temple bodies. David now chairs the Finance Committee as well as sitting on the general and executive boards, along with many former TTI and TBS members. He has become very close to many people in both former temples and counts many as mentors, colleagues and friends.
David, I understand that you are the Building Project Chair and have been involved very closely with the renovations for Temple Tiferet Shalom. How has that been moving forward, and did the pandemic affect the timing and process of the project?
I don’t think we really understood how much work the project would be, how long it would take or how much it would cost. I was asked to run the project in September of 2018 and it has been quite a journey. Four and a half years later and 10 months after breaking ground, we reopened many of the temple activities by January 4. The biggest impact of the pandemic was the massive increase to the cost of materials and the supply-chain issues. The pandemic ended up costing us about 15% more than it would have in any other year. We really could not have delayed the project any longer because the capital campaign had been in full swing for 18 months and we felt we owed the families who sacrificed so much to make this a reality in the timelines we had presented to them.
How has your background in engineering and software management enabled you to help with the decisions alongside the temple’s architect and designer?
It is always hard to find the right skill sets in a volunteer organization to fit with what is needed. What usually works best is to assemble a team with complementary skill sets. I had a small group that had experience in construction, security, electrical engineering and more to help get the project done. My experience as a software engineering manager provided skills in planning, tracking and finance that translated well to the building project.
Besides all your volunteer endeavors, we’d love to know more about your family.
Our older daughter went to Emerson College majoring in Theater Design Technology, with a concentration in costumes. The pandemic disrupted her college plans and she ended up taking a gap year between junior and senior year. She now works in the entertainment industry supporting TV, theater and theme parks in costume construction. She loves to work with fabrics and dyes.
Our younger daughter is currently a biomedical engineering major at the University of Connecticut. She just started a semester abroad studying at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland. This summer she will be interning at Mass General Hospital in Boston helping out with a study of a portable MRI machine.
Both of our children went from preschool to religious school to bat mitzvah and confirmation at TTS. They also summered at Camp Tevya, culminating in a trip to Israel through the Cohen Camps. We are proud of the young Jewish women they have become and can’t wait to see their lives unfold.
In addition to your work commitments, what do you both like to do for fun?
David is an avid gamer and voracious reader, but also enjoys spending time with friends watching action movies and talking about the meaning of life. Rebecca has come to love mahjong and plays regularly with her friends. David has been told he should not learn the game as it is “her thing” and he is too competitive, anyway. Rebecca is a foodie and every trip, vacation, weekend or night out will involve pre-reading menus, reading reviews and planning meal selection. She is also our family vacation planner and executive household director. Θ