We are thrilled to introduce the newest Matan Institute Cohort! These talented educators are participating in a year-long professional development experience with Matan, helping to ensure that their communities will be inclusive of all learners.
Read more about this impressive group below.
Claudia Isler Mazur is a native New Yorker who has lived in Tidewater (Norfolk, VA) for ten years. She has been a professor, a writer, a (bad) ESL instructor, an editor, and a magazine copy editor, and is now focusing her energies on Jewish special education. She has an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing, a number of published books for kids and young adults, a couple of published short stories, and a blog, IslerInk. She also has thirty years of teaching experience, and two kids with a variety of special needs. She has no background in special ed, other than coping with her own children and accommodating college kids as instructed, so she is more than a little excited about being surrounded by so many experienced educators as she begins her position as chair of the inclusion committee at her shul and as a resource to the teachers of the religious school.
Amy Shapiro Kessler became Greenburgh Hebrew Center’s Director of Education in July 2017. She is thrilled to be involved in aspects of all of GHC’s programming for children and young families, and guide GHC’s Early Childhood Center, Religious School, and Hebrew High School. Amy is a licensed social worker and educator with an M.S.W. from Hunter College. Amy’s Master degree in Social Work included a dual concentration in Administration and Community Organizing, with a specialization in Children & Families. Amy’s own positive experience in religious school led her to join youth group, attend Jewish summer camp, and volunteer in religious school on Sundays as a teenager. She has worked in religious schools for over 15 years and has taught every grade. Amy lives in Dobbs Ferry and is proud to be part of such a diverse, vibrant community. In her free time, Amy enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time outdoors walking her dogs, hiking, and camping.
Naomi, Founding Ritual Leader and Associate Director, is a Brooklyn-based, internationally celebrated singer/songwriter, ritual worship leader, musician and experiential educator. Circling the globe with her half-Israeli, half-American music ensemble, Naomi shares stylistically diverse original music–from spiritual ballads to high-octane, celebratory rock. Through her deep passion for ritual, education and worship in 2000 Naomi connected with Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie and began her Storahtelling and then Lab/Shul journey as a founding Storahtelling company member, Director of Education and Training and now, as a founding Lab/Shul ritual leader and Associate Director. In her other time, Naomi runs music programming for youth including her signature initiatives: Jewish Chicks Rock and Jewish Kids Rock band programs. She is an activist, volunteer and consultant for causes such as Bring Back Our Girls NY; Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys; Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and other causes that promotes the safety, development and empowerment of young girls around the world. Much of this work is in collaboration with other passionate leaders of different faiths. Naomi received training in spiritual leadership, music, facilitation/training and education from the following educational institutions: Northwestern University, Jewish Theological Seminary Davidson School, Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University, Institute for Jewish Spirituality, ChangeCraft (formerly Center for Leadership Initiatives). You can hear Naomi’s music on YouTube, Soundcloud and NaomiLess.com.
Jacqui was born and raised in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences and two majors – Jewish Studies and Psychology. She moved to Rochester, New York with her husband in 1995 and immediately began working at Temple B’rith Kodesh as Family Education Coordinator and teacher – a position she held for ten years. In 2006, Jacqui joined Hillel Community Day School as Kindergarten Judaic Studies teacher. In 2011, she helped to launch PJ Library at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. She then graduated from Hebrew College in 2016 with a master’s degree in Jewish education and moved to Temple B’rith Kodesh as Director of Education. Jacqui’s passion is to reach each and every person in our community and help him/her to find his/her Jewish spark…!!
Neshama grew up between Washington, DC and rural North Carolina. They are deeply connected to the Southern Appalachian mountains through lifelong involvement in Camp Celo, a Quaker camp on a working farm. Neshama holds a BA in Music from UNC-Chapel Hill, and has continued their education through early childhood courses, non-profit management workshops and paralegal studies. Neshama rediscovered Judaism as an adult through involvement with the campus Hillel and teaching at a secular humanist Jewish Sunday School. They fell in love with both traditional Jewish practice and queer Jewish communities while farming and studying as an Adamah Fellow at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in the Berkshires. Working as a nanny for infants and toddlers for families on both coasts has given Neshama a deep respect for very young people and the families that nurture them. While living in Appalachia, Neshama created and ran a playgroup program for children 0-5 and their families through an early childhood non-profit. They are thrilled to have moved to Atlanta in early 2017, and to have the opportunity to be part of the incredible JKG team. Neshama is also the program manager for Limmud Atlanta + Southeast, and in their free time, loves to discuss Torah and dinosaurs with their preschooler.
Dina Newman is the Assistant Director Youth & Teen Engagement at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For the last three years she has run engaging informal youth programs for grades 2-7, along with formal Religious School programming for 7th grade, and Post-B’nai Mitzvah retention and engagement. Dina received a B.A in Judaic Studies from The George Washington University where she completed her undergraduate thesis under the supervision of Professor Max Ticktin on Inclusion practices in the greater Jewish Community of the United States in 2013. In 2015 she received her Master’s in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rabbi Anne Persin joined Am Shalom as Associate Director of Education in 2017. She has been teaching Hebrew School and tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students with Am Shalom since 2013. Rabbi Persin was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2003, and has previously served as a Rabbi, Education Consultant and more at a variety of different congregations. Rabbi Persin is an amazing teacher and educator who we are proud to add to our team at Am Shalom. Nothing excites her more than when she sees the lightbulb go off over someone’s head or when someone is truly transformed by a new understanding from information that she was able to share with them! She has a passion for Judaism and Am Shalom and aids in running our religious school, our redesigned 6th grade curriculum, Hebrew School and more!
Amy Pincus holds a dual Masters in Social Work and Jewish Studies. Her career began in geriatric social work, and then shifted into Jewish Teen Leadership programs. She was the Program Director at Yale Hillel, staffed “Operation Understanding” a Jewish/Black Relations Teen Program, directed a Teen Leadership Program in Healthcare Awareness and designed and directed a B’nei Mitzvah program at a synagogue. Amy spent over six years working at the Jewish Federation in Connecticut, first as the Assistant Director of Jewish Education, then as the Director of Jewish Family Education for the community. While at the Federation, she directed programs for teens, families, Holocaust educators, Jewish educators and adult learners. Amy spent the next nine years in Jewish Day School education where she taught Jewish Studies, served as tefillah specialist and created social-emotional learning programs including community service initiatives. For the past two and a half years, Amy has been at Friendship Circle of Cleveland where she serves as the Community Support Specialist and the Principal of their Kulanu: Inclusive Jewish Education Program. Amy has been married to her husband Stephen Pincus for 25 years and is the mother of three children, Sarah, Miriam and Jacob.
Jennifer Saber is the Education Director of the School of Jewish Studies. Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in Sociology and Judaic Studies, with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Service, with a concentration in Jewish Education, from Brandeis University. She has been involved in Jewish education since 1997, holding Director positions in the Boston area in synagogue and JCC settings. She has been teaching in and managing Jewish formal and informal educational programs in the Milwaukee area since 2006. Jennifer lives in Mequon, with her husband and three children.
With an undergraduate degree in Jewish Philosophy, an Executive Masters in Jewish Educational Leadership, and a Master’s Concentration in Israel Education, Shara has been involved in Jewish education for nearly 25 years. After spending many years teaching in the Day School in which she grew up, in Albany NY, she jumped into the position of Director of Education at Congregation Beth Emeth, the fourth oldest Reform congregation in the United States. In addition to working with learners of all ages at Beth Emeth, she spends summers as the Rosh Hinuch, Head of Education, at Camp Ramah New England, in Palmer Massachusetts. Outside of work, Shara enjoys spending time relaxing with her husband and four children ages 10-16.
Sharon Solomon has been Temple Beth Sholom’s Religious School Director since 2006, bringing with her a dynamic vision and commitment to the pursuit of “Lifelong Jewish Learning”. With a core emphasis on interactive education and enacting the principal teaching of the Torah, Solomon has created an environment where to be a student at Temple Beth Sholom is to do more than learn about Judaism. It is to embark upon a hands-on, spirited journey towards Tikun Olam (repairing the world) though individual and collaborative acts of Chesed (good deeds). As an educator, school director and principal at Temple Beth Sholom, Solomon has been instrumental in growing the school, spearheading such programs as Mitzvah-of-the-Month and Yedidim, a program inspired by Jewish summer camps in which students of various grades work together in a fun, educational and social environment. Project based learning is a strong emphasis of our curriculum. Furthermore, Sharon has worked to forge lasting relationships between Temple Beth Sholom, the local community and Israel, organizing numerous festivals such as Zimriah and fundraisers to support this expanding network of friends. Born in Haifa, Israel, Solomon earned her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Queens College, and a Master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Adelphi University. A graduate of the Principal’s Leadership Institute where she focused on developing innovative Jewish programs and fostering Jewish culture in a community, Solomon has also worked as a second language educator in NYC public schools as well as in day schools for the past twenty years. Solomon is the co-President of the Conservative Principals Council of LI and Queens for the past four years. She is also on the Board of the Israeli Tzofim Scouts. Sharon Solomon is married to Yoram Solomon, and they have two wonderful daughters, Daphne and Nicole. Both girls were avid participants in religious school and Machon High School at TBS. Daphne currently attends UMass-Amherst and Nicole is a gap year student in Israel – Young Judea year course and will be attending Ohio State University in the Fall.
Forrest Yesnes is the Director of Youth Education and Programming at Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received his Bachelor of Science in Youth Studies from the University of Minnesota and his Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. As an alumnus of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Forrest is passionate about the environment and outdoor education. He enjoys backpacking and canoeing, as well as running and reading. At Shir Tikvah, Forrest is responsible for the engagement and education of all young people in the community. Forrest is honored to be part of Matan’s 9th Cohort and looks forward to learning more about including every Jewish learner in all aspects of congregational life.