Andy Starr Owner, Executive Officer
Andy has a knack for business, but has always wanted to use that talent to serve people at critical times in their life, whether suffering from an injury, dealing with aging & frail parents, or enduring the loss of a loved one. Accordingly, before getting involved in the funeral business, Andy was a Co-Founder and Senior Executive with Hearthstone Assisted Living, which he helped grow from scratch to over 30 communities in 10 states. Before Hearthstone, Andy was a Senior Member of the Founding Management Team for U.S. Physical Therapy, which he helped grow from scratch to over 75 clinics nationwide, and transitioned the business from a private company to being publicly traded on the Nasdaq exchange. As a prelude to his business career, Andy was a Real Estate & Banking attorney at the Houston firm of Hirsch & Westheimer, after graduating with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law. Andy also received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Andy grew up in Tennessee, but married a native Houstonian (Wendy Kosberg), with whom he has three grown children, all of whom attended The Shlenker School (Jewish elementary) and the Emery/Weiner School (Jewish Junior & Senior High) in Houston, where Andy and Wendy each served on the respective boards. For many years, Andy & Wendy were also active members at Temple Beth Israel in Houston, and Andy was a Trustee of The Seven Acres Jewish Campus for the Aged in southwest Houston.
Zane Belyea Owner, Community Relations
From an early age, Zane wanted to help people in need, so when he attended Southern Illinois University, he decided to study Social Work & Psychology. During his first year after graduation, Zane worked with abused and neglected children, before spending eleven years in the education industry, eventually becoming Vice President of Recruitment for a large education firm. In 2011, after many years of business travel, and a growing family in Dallas, Zane followed the advice of one of his mentors, and began a new career in the funeral industry. True to his roots in social work, Zane finds it deeply rewarding to help families during one of the worst moments of their lives, and he has instilled that passion for service through-out the organization. “Every member of our team has a solemn commitment to serve all our families well beyond their expectations. We absolutely won’t let them down.”
The Jewish community is extremely important to Zane and his family, and he continues to be involved daily. Whether it’s playing softball in the Temple Shalom Brotherhood Softball league, or putting on Tefillin with one of the Rabbis, every experience is beyond meaningful.
In 2018, Zane had the fortunate experience of joining Dallas Area Torah Association on the Momentum trip and experiencing Israel for the first time. This was certainly a trip of a lifetime full of laughter, deep reflection, and at times tears. Growing up, Zane didn’t have the traditional Jewish household and unfortunately never had a Bar Mitzvah. During the Momentum trip, this important Jewish tradition was fulfilled on Masada!
In 2019, Zane returned to Israel this time to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of his oldest son, Dylan. To see your children go through this experience at the holiest site on Earth can never be expressed in words.
Zane is married to a Dallas native (Jill Liberman), and has two sons, Dylan & Zachary. Although members of Anshai Torah, Zane and his family have a strong connection to Rabbi Block and Chabad Plano as well as Rabbi Zakon/Rabbi Nissel from Dallas Area Torah Association. We will forever be grateful to Rabbi Nissel and his efforts in tutoring Dylan in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah.
Liz Vargas Owner, Human Relations
Liz Vargas is the VP of Accounting at Jewish Funerals USA where Liz has full responsibility for financials, procedures, budgets and human resources for multiple locations.
Liz has worked as an accounting professional for over 25 years in different industries and specializes in the direction and setup of accounting systems and establishing policies and procedures for financial and operational activities for startup companies.
Liz enjoys working in her garden and watching her favorite sports team the Houston Astros in her free time
Shawn E Simon Location Manager/Funeral Director
Shawn is a 1993 graduate of Commonwealth Institute and holds an Associate’s Degree in Funeral Service and is currently licensed in the State of Texas as a Funeral Director. He is a member of the Texas Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association. Shawn brings over 25 years of experience serving as a funeral director and manager. He has served thousands of families at some of Houston’s finest funeral homes and cemeteries, including Geo. H Lewis & Sons Funeral Directors, Forest Park Westheimer, Forest Park Lawndale, J.B. Earthman – Tanglewood Funeral Directors and Memorial Oaks Funeral Home.
Shawn is originally from South Louisiana and moved to Texas in 1988. In his spare time, he enjoys landscaping, hunting, traveling, napping and spending time with his family. He has one daughter, Kristin and 3 awesome grandchildren, Layne, Jaxon and Rylan.
Eric Bishop Funeral Director
While not a native Houstonian, Eric Bishop moved to Houston at the age of 12 from Detroit, Michigan (and a short stint in Beaumont, Texas). Outside of going to school in Austin and working at the New Orleans JCC for two years, he never left and considers Houston his home. The Houston Jewish community is very important to Eric. In middle school and high school Eric spent most of his time at the JCC, especially when It came to being a camp counselor and being a member of Cyrus Adler AZA. In college at The University of Houston and The University of Texas, Eric was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and Hillel, where he was president of both organizations while continuing working summer camps at the JCC and was a Federation Pilgrimage leader in 1994. After graduation, he continued on at the JCC as the summer camp director, teen director, and sports director for 18 years until deciding to make a career change on the recommendation of Jeff Friedman, founder of Houston Jewish Funerals. Eric has been a funeral director since 2019 and loves to share his two passions helping families and being active in the Jewish community.
When not at work, Eric loves spending his time with his family, which includes his wife Dr. Rachel Bishop, son Dylan Bishop, and daughter Marissa Bishop. He loves his Houston sports teams, enjoys watching movies, loves live music, live theater, and travelling (especially Walt Disney World, his happy place). He also currently is an officer in The Hebrew Order of David, serves in the Fine Arts Booster Club at The Emery Weiner School, and a board member of Houston Hillel (where he is a Past President).
Margaret Little Funeral Director
Margaret Little was born and raised in Kemah, TX and spent summers in Port Aransas, TX with her parents and older sister whom she is very close with. She eventually made Houston her home in 2015.
Margaret originally obtained an Associate Degree in American Sign Language Interpretation in 2016, but after an unexpected loss of a dear friend she followed her true passion of working in the funeral business. In 2020 she graduated with honors from Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service with an Associate Degree in Funeral Directing. She is a member of the Texas Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association. Margaret truly feels it is a calling to help families honor the lives of their loved ones.
In her spare time, Margaret enjoys spending time with her fiancé, Andy, and their two dogs, Abby & Crow. She enjoys sailing, watching movies, and visiting with family and friends in Kemah, Kerrville, and Port Aransas.
Jane Shapiro Pre-Planning Advisor
Houston Distinctive Life Funeral Homes is proud that Jane R. Shapiro has joined our team. Jane will be working as our Executive Planning Advisor, assisting families with making funeral pre-arrangements. She has been a part of the Houston community for 35 years.
Formerly with Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services and The Medallion Assisted Living residence
Member of the Houston Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Josh Reinitz Pre-Planning Advisor
Since childhood, Josh has been instilled with the Jewish value of chesed, or loving kindness. This emphasis on caring for others and the community, led Josh to pursue a career in the funeral industry. Josh’s heartfelt approach to educating individuals and families about their end of life decisions brings ease and comfort to difficult conversations. Josh feels privileged to work alongside families to ensure that they have an exceptional experience when preparing for the inevitable. In joining Houston Jewish Funerals, Josh brings several years of experience as a pre-planning advisor and a friendly face to the Jewish community.
When Josh is not working at Houston Jewish Funerals, he is serving the Houston community as an HFD firefighter at Station 37 on Stella Link. Being a firefighter has further strengthened Josh’s passion as a helping professional. Josh is the co-founder and director of The Captain Renaud Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance Houston firefighters and their families after a line of duty death, catastrophic injury, or work-acquired cancer diagnoses.
Though they’ve known each other since Hebrew school, Josh married Houston-native, Sarah Goldman, in 2013. Josh and Sarah love living and raising their family in the neighborhood where they grew up. They are members of Congregation Beth Israel and have two sons, Henry and Bowen, who attend The Shlenker School.
Lu Dorfman Pre-Planning Advisor
Lu Dorfman has a passion for all things Jewish. Following a 30 year career in private industry, Lu served as Executive Director of Congregation Beth Yeshurun for 17 years, retiring at the beginning of 2019. Prior to his entrée into the professional Jewish world in 2002, Lu established a 23 year “career” in leadership in Jewish volunteering in local, national, and international organizations. During his 40 years in organized Jewish life, Lu has counseled families with their life cycle needs from births to deaths, including officiating at brisses, funerals, and unveilings. Lu is married to Robin for nearly 49 years. They have 3 children and 6 grandchildren in Atlanta, Memphis, and Houston.
“I knew when I was retiring as Executive Director at Beth Yeshurun that I wanted to stay somewhat busy with something, most likely to stay involved in the Jewish community. That’s where my passion is. But first I wanted to take some time off and do nothing. Not a lot of time, but some time. Thinking about how to stay involved, I thought about what gave me the most satisfaction during my years at Beth Yeshurun, and that was helping people in their time of most need – when they had a life cycle need, and mostly when they had a death or serious illness in their family. That’s when people need someone to talk to, someone to guide them, somewhat to help them navigate along an uncertain path they may not have been on before. It was those opportunities that gave me maximum satisfaction. Realizing that, it just made sense to associate with Houston Jewish Funerals. This, I think, will give me the opportunity to continue to connect with the Jewish people in a meaningful way.”
Cindy Kaplan Pre-Need Advisor
Cindy Kaplan is a second-generation native Houstonian whose business career expands across many industries. She has a diverse range of experience in multiple arenas, such as fashion and insurance, to name a few. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Cindy has been a fixture in Houston’s Jewish community throughout all moments of her life. She was part of the first graduating 6th grade class of Beth Yeshurun Day School, continued on to Pershing Middle School, Bellaire High School, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, and ultimately earned her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Houston. Cindy has served on the Board of Trustees of Congregation Beth Yeshurun, is a past Vice President of membership for Congregation Beth Yeshurun’s Sisterhood and is a life member of Hadassah. She most recently brought her talents and relationships within the community to The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston where she served as Philanthropic Officer. Cindy was married for 25 years and has two sons and two grand-dogs. Through the passing of her husband, Cindy became intimately familiar with the hospice and funeral processes and is passionate about bringing her own experience and empathy to Houston Jewish Funeral as a Pre-Need Advisor.
Houston Jewish Funerals (HJF) is owned by over twenty active members of our Jewish community (some of whom are pictured below), who came together with the belief and commitment that our community shall always have a Jewish-owned and operated funeral home to serve our families at their most difficult time, with full knowledge and respect for the rituals and traditions of our faith. Our community owners represent many congregations and all levels of observance, and come from a variety of backgrounds. In addition to their involvement with HJF, our owners have made Tikkun-Olam a priority in their overall life, and have served in leadership roles with a variety of organizations that care for all facets of the Jewish community. As such, our community owners set the tone and mission for the whole team at HJF, and we strive on a daily basis to fulfill their vision, and meet the needs of every family who honors us with the care of their loved ones.