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Meet our Rabbis and Pastors

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Lead Rabbi Jim Appel

Rabbi Jim Appel has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Shema Yisrael since 1996 and a Jewish follower of Yeshua since 1977. He is ordained by the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues. Rabbi Jim previously worked for Xerox Corporation in Webster, N.Y., for 24 years as an optical engineer and engineering manager. He holds more than 45 patents in the areas of copier imaging systems and laser printing. Rabbi Jim received a bachelor’s degree in optical engineering from the University of Rochester in 1967 and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Southern California in 1970. Rabbi Jim decided to follow Yeshua after a long spiritual search. He grew up with parents who taught him that G-d did not exist and organized religion deceived and oppressed people. In 1967, after completing college, Jim became disillusioned with life as an atheist.  He rejected his parent’s teachings and began his search for spiritual reality. This search took him into the world of mind-altering drugs and yoga meditation, and ended with a dramatic encounter with Yeshua the Messiah, who revealed himself to Rabbi Jim in the privacy of his bedroom without the assistance of any other person. Rabbi Jim and his wife, Diane, live in Brighton, and they have two grown children. 

Rabbi Jim's Books


Is God tugging your heart to learn more about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the Jewishness of the Bible? These books will cover all the basics while also feeding and blessing your soul at the same time.

This course is mostly written by Rabbi Jim Appel who has been teaching it at his Messianic synagogue for nearly two decades. 


Click on the pictures to purchase

Rabbi David Levitt

Pastor Tom Burgo

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Pastor Tom Burgo has been a pastor at Congregation Shema Yisrael for many years. He works diligently with the discipleship counseling ministry 'Freedom in Messiah'. In addition to helping keep the services livestreamed and the nuts and bolts of ministry demands Pastor Tom dedicates himself to serving our community and outreach through prayer and counseling. 

David is the lead Bible teacher at Ammudim Ministries and associate rabbi for Congregation Shema Yisrael. He has served in numerous roles during his 13 years of ministry, but none has he enjoyed more than helping people grow closer to God by helping them understand the Bible. He has a way of taking some of the most complex and seemingly controversial truths of the Bible and breaking them down in a simple, understandable way. David believes that the solution to mankind's problems is found in the Word of God. We just have to be willing to seek the answers out and then put our faith in those answers when He reveals them.  

Not only is David a Rabbi, but more importantly, he is a dedicated husband to his wife Kassy, and father to their five children Brooke, Khloe, Joshua, Asher, and Ivan.

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