Wilton temple welcomes new spiritual leader

Harriet Dunkerley is the new cantor and spiritual leader at Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown.

Harriet Dunkerley is the new cantor and spiritual leader at Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown.

Temple B'nai Chaim / Contributed photo

GEORGETOWN — Come July 1, Temple B’nai Chaim will have a new spiritual leader, cantor and educator in Cantor Harriet Dunkerley.

She succeeds Rabbi Rachel Bearman, who led the congregation for the past six years. Bearman recently took a position as a rabbi at a large synagogue in St. Louis to be closer to her family.

“She made invaluable contributions and will be greatly missed, but we are so excited about the new ideas and energies Harriet brings with her,” the temple said of Bearman’s departure.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the TBC family,” Dunkerley said in a statement. “I look forward to dreaming together and working with our leadership to put those dreams into action, to building relationships and creating new and lasting bonds with all the members of our dynamic and warm community.” She added, “I look forward to raising our voices together in song, study and prayer both inside and outside of our beautiful sanctuary.”

June Mara, president-elect of the temple’s board of trustees, said Dunkerley’s qualifications were only part of what impressed the search committee.

“Her warmth, spirit of inclusion, exuberance and spirituality will serve our entire congregation while welcoming congregants back both virtually and, eventually, in person to our building,” she said.

A native of Annandale, Va., Dunkerley graduated with honors from Mary Washington College, earning a bachelor of arts in musical theater with a concentration in vocal performance and acting. She holds a master’s degree in sacred music from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion and was ordained in May 2019.

As a student, Dunkerley served as cantorial intern for congregations in Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. Her experience has been furthered by studying Jewish mystical traditions and educational travel to under-served communities in Lithuania, the Republic of Georgia, Azerbaijan and the West Bank.

Dunkerley, her husband John, a musician, and their daughter Rosella, soon to be Bat Mitzvah, are in the process of finding their new home near the temple. She can be reached at: cantorharriet@templebnaichaim.org.

Temple B’nai Chaim is at 82 Portland Avenue in Georgetown, Conn. Information: 203-544-8695 or visit templebnaichaim.org.