Who am I?

My name is Michael Ungar. I am an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and an ordained Rabbi.

I was born in Detroit in 1963 and grew up in Southfield (a suburb). I graduate from Kalamazoo College with a double-major in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Latin America Area Studies. I was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in 1992, where I also received an MA in Jewish Education, specializing in Holocaust Education.

I served as a congregational Rabbi from 1992 through 2018. When I moved to Cleveland in the summer of 2018 I became the spiritual leader at Beth El- The Heights Synagogue in Cleveland Heights; it is a small, independent, traditional egalitarian congregation with about 70 families. I also began working as a Personal Trainer at the Mandel Jewish Community Center; my clients range in age from 16 to 77.

On a personal note, I have five kids (blended family) ranging from 18 – 25, an amazing wife who supports my hopes and dreams, and a bichpoo named Belle.

I love to travel and have been all over the USA, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Israel, Egypt and the Caribbean. I speak English, Spanish and Hebrew fluently; I can get by in French, and know just enough Yiddish to get in (and out of) trouble.

Growing up, there was not a real emphasis on fitness in my family. I was typically chosen last for every team in elementary and middle school. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at age 12 and spent much of the next three decades trying to keep that under control.

In my late 30s I was given a 5-pack of personal training as a birthday gift. At my first meeting, the trainer said, “I’ll meet with you once a week, but you’ve got to get in here at least two times a week on top of that.” I did not want to disappoint this guy; after all, he could crush me! That was the beginning of my beginning to take my fitness more seriously.

I made use of the services of trainers on and off over the years, but pretty consistently once I moved to Columbus in 2002. Two trainers in particular, Todd Johnson and Carlie Snyder, inspired me to set audacious goals and work to achieve them. I competed in my first triathlon in 2011. I have competed in more 5Ks than I can count (and even won two of them in my 50s!), have completed 3 half-marathons and several obstacle course races.

After 26 years as a congregational Rabbi, I decided to focus on helping people in a different way as a Personal Trainer. I attended classes at the Ohio State University to prep for the ACE exam and passed on my first sitting–such naches! I am thrilled to be the Rabbi at BE-THS; I love the people and I love the davening. I am also thrilled to be a Personal Trainer at the Mandel JCC.

I hope to make contributions in both of these careers through this blog. I look forward to getting to know you, my readers, and allowing you to get to know me too!

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