From the celebration of new life to the saying of Kaddish, Congregation Ner Tamid is your spiritual family for honoring life cycle events as well as the Jewish Holy Days. Rabbi Akselrad, Cantor Hutchings, our members and our staff assist in the preparation and celebration of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Confirmations, weddings, brit and baby namings and sitting shiva. During the year, you will enjoy participating in our ritual services, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Passover, Purim and other events which honor and celebrate the history of our people.
CNT is a diverse community that embraces Reform Judaism’s willingness to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, to accept diversity while asserting commonality and to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt.
The mission of Congregation Ner Tamid is to provide meaningful religious services, life-long Jewish learning opportunities, cultural programs and social activities in order to perpetuate and advance Reform Judaism.
To foster a warm, caring and inclusive environment for a diverse community, including individuals, couples and families of all types.
To provide a variety of opportunities for congregants to connect with the three pillars of Reform Judaism: Torah, Avodah, v'Gimilut Chasadim (study, worship and acts of loving kindness).
To support the State of Israel and K'lal Yisrael (the Jewish community) through membership in the Union of Reform Judaism and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
To promote a positive relationship with members of other religious traditions.
MEET OUR CLERGY
Rabbi Sanford Akselrad
Our Rabbi is the spiritual leader of our Congregation and a leader in creating a vibrant Jewish community in Southern Nevada.
Sanford Akselrad has served as the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Tamid since he came to Las Vegas in 1988. During this time, the Synagogue grew from approximately 60 to over 600 families, becoming the largest Reform Synagogue in the State of Nevada. In his 30 years of service to our Congregation, Rabbi Akselrad has served on a wide variety of community boards including the Humana Hospital Pastoral Advisory Board, the Jewish Nevada, Jewish Family Services and the National Conference of Community and Justice.
A firm believer in K’lal Israel and building a strong Jewish community, Rabbi Akselrad has spearheaded many community-wide Boards, Commissions and organizations that have helped shape the Jewish community we live in today. He is a founding member and current President of the Clark County Board of Rabbis. He is also a founding member and past Chair of the National Conference of Community and Justice’s Interfaith Council and of the Federation’s Community Relations Council (CRC). Rabbi Akselrad also spear-headed the effort to bring the Interfaith Hospitality Network model of sheltering homeless families to Las Vegas. Now called Family Promise, this model uses the facilities and volunteers from local faith communities to shelter, feed and encourage homeless families to live with dignity and hope, and ultimately end their period of homelessness.
In the wake of the Great Recession of the late 2000’s, Rabbi Akselrad envisioned Project Ezra, a partnership between the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas, the Board of Rabbis, and Jewish Family Service Agency. Project Ezra helped over 600 people of all faiths secure new employment during this challenging economic climate.
Rabbi Akselrad is currently a board member of the Anti-Defamation League of Las Vegas and the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada. Rabbi Akselrad has served on the National Commission on Jewish Living, Worship and Music for the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) for over ten years. He has also served on the Outreach Committee (to interfaith families) of the URJ.
Rabbi Akselrad was ordained from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1984. His rabbinic thesis dealt with the moral implications of the Holocaust and how the Holocaust is taught in public and private schools. Because of his expertise, Rabbi Akselrad helped form the Governor’s Council on Holocaust Education, and he faithfully served as a member of that Board for over twenty five years.
Upon ordination in 1984 Rabbi Akselrad served as the associate Rabbi of one of the largest Reform Congregations in the mid-west, Temple Israel of Columbus, Ohio. In 2009, Hebrew Union College-JIR awarded Rabbi Akselrad an honorary doctorate of Divinity upon his 25th year in the rabbinate. Rabbi Akselrad also served as President of the Pacific Area of Reform Rabbis, one of the largest rabbinical organizations in North America.
Through his involvement in the interfaith community, he has been a constant presence in Interfaith forums, and the co-founder of the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service.
Rabbi Akselrad’s community contributions and leadership are the best example of Congregation Ner Tamid’s commitment to Tikkun Olam and Social Justice.
Rabbi is married to Joni and has two children, CJ and Sam. His daughter-in-law is Ana and his granddaughter is Genevieve.
Cantor Jessica Hutchings
Cantor Hutchings has worked as a Hebrew and post-B’nai Mitzvah teacher at Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), a Cantorial Soloist at Valley Outreach Synagogue (Las Vegas, NV), a B’nai Mitzvah coordinator at Temple Shalom of the South Bay (Hermosa Beach, CA) and as the Youth Director (grades 3-12) of Congregation Tikvat Jacob (Manhattan Beach, CA). A long-time educator and Guest Cantor at Temple Israel (Long Beach, CA), she also was a Guest Instructor there teaching an Adult Education class entitled “Contemporary Jewish Music.” Between 2010-2014, Cantor Hutchings served as the Cantorial Soloist and Director of Music Programming and Education at Temple Menorah (Redondo Beach, CA). In addition to co-leading all Shabbat and holiday services as well as the B’nai Mitzvah, Cantor Hutchings established and directed the Kol Hakavod youth choir, established Jews Next Dor, a young adults social chavurah for singles and couples ages 21-36, an adult choir and band, and worked with the Director of Education to develop and implement music curriculum. Cantor Hutchings’ renown as a superlative Jewish educator received national validation in 2009, when she won the national Grinspoon-Steinhardt Excellence in Jewish Education Award for being an “Exceptional Teacher, Mentor and Leader.” That same year, she also received the Smotrich Family Foundation Educator Award. Cantor Hutchings has performed in a number of major concerts all over the world, from Carnegie Hall in NYC to historic venues in Europe, of both Jewish and secular music. And she also proudly sang the National Anthem at a Los Angeles Dodgers game as well as at two games of the Los Angeles Kings.
In July of 2014, Jessica, her husband Jeremy, and their two dogs: Matzah Ball and Latke, moved back to Las Vegas so that she could begin her tenure as the first ever ordained Cantor at Congregation Ner Tamid, Las Vegas, her childhood synagogue.
Warmly welcomed by our Congregation, Cantor Hutchings joined the synagogue in 2014.
A national award-winning educator, Cantor Jessica Hutchings has spent almost a decade conveying the beauty of Jewish music to children and adults in Southern California as well as Las Vegas. Cantor Hutchings did her undergraduate work at California State University, Long Beach’s Bob Cole Conservatory from which she received a Bachelor of Music degree with an emphasis in Vocal Performance and a concentration in Opera. She then continued her studies at the American Jewish University’s Fingerhut School of Education, receiving a Bachelor’s in Literature in Hebrew Letters as well as a Master’s of Arts in Education. In May 2014, Ms. Hutchings was ordained as a Chazzan/Cantor and received a second Master’s in Jewish Sacred Music from the Academy for Jewish Religion, CA.
Congregation Ner Tamid Welcomes
“Resident Rabbinic Scholar,”
Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein
Henderson, Nevada – August 17, 2020 – Congregation Ner Tamid, the oldest and largest Reform Jewish Congregation in the state of Nevada, is welcoming Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein as its “Resident Rabbinic Scholar.” Joining the only Reform synagogue with both a fully ordained Rabbi and Cantor, Rabbi Olshein will be focusing on adult education and special projects, with a special emphasis on deep-dive learning, interfaith issues, and enhancing spirituality in our everyday lives. She has already completed teaching one series on “Responsa Literature,” and is currently co-teaching her signature “High Holy Days’ Boot Camp” with Rabbi Sanford Akselrad and Cantor Jessica Hutchings in preparation for the Days of Awe. Her teachings will be featured during CNT’s Yom Kippur afternoon programming.
OUR GOALS ARE
An award-winning liturgist, Rabbi Olshein has been the Scholar-in-Residence and Rabbi-in-Residence for multiple faith-based organizations (both synagogues and churches), allowing her to develop expertise regarding the intersection between Jewish law and the American legal system. She is currently writing her first book on the subject.
While completing her rabbinical school training at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and Los Angeles, Rabbi Olshein served as CNT’s Rabbinic Intern for four full-time summers and two academic years. She returns to Las Vegas after completing 8 years of service as the solo Rabbi at Temple Israel of West Palm Beach, Florida, where she was the first female Rabbi to lead an established congregation in Palm Beach County, as well as the first woman to be the President of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis.
A passionate worker for equality and justice, Rabbi Olshein received the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s first Social Justice Award in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 2016. She was also selected to be a member of the first cohort of the Rukin Family Rabbinic Interfaith Fellowship for 18Doors.org (previously known as InterfaithFamily.com).
Rabbi Olshein is known to be a compelling storyteller, leading her to become a popular speaker on the Jewish lecture circuit. She has led educational sessions for both the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism at their conventions, and taught many times at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, and for numerous Hadassah chapters.
Before attending rabbinical school, Rabbi Olshein was a practicing civil litigation attorney in Las Vegas for almost 11 years, including a year as a Judicial Law Clerk for Judge Addeliar D. Guy, III, of the Eighth Judicial District Court. She was also active in the State Bar of Nevada, becoming the youngest statewide Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee.
Rabbi Olshein said, “After being a member, and then a Trustee and later a Vice President on the Board of Directors, it was a difficult decision to leave my home synagogue, Congregation Ner Tamid, to attend rabbinical school and continue on my Jewish journey. Now, knowing so many people here gives me a ‘soft landing’ as I return professionally to my spiritual home in Las Vegas. I am excited to be working with Rabbi Akselrad again, as well as Cantor Hutchings, as we create new opportunities for learning and spiritual growth for the members of CNT and entire the Las Vegas valley.”
Rabbi Akselrad shared that “Rabbi Olshein’s story is both compelling and inspiring as she was an unaffiliated Jew who not only found her way to synagogue life, but embarked on a career change, leaving a successful law practice to serve the Jewish people. It is a joy to welcome Rabbi Olshein back to our community. As a synagogue of eager learners everyone is looking forward to her course offerings this year!”
Congregation Ner Tamid is the Las Vegas Valley’s oldest and largest Reform Jewish congregation. Located at 55 N. Valle Verde Parkway (at the I-215 and Valle Verde exit), CNT is a synagogue known for its spiritual leadership, innovation, care, and education for all ages. More information about CNT can be found at or by calling (702) 733-6292.
Rabbi Sanford D. Akselrad
Cantor Jessica Hutchings
Executive Vice President
Co Vice President Youth & Education
Vice President Membership Recruitment
Vice President Membership Retention
Vice President Social Action
MENSch Club President