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Meet the Religious School Staff

MEET OUR AMAZING RELIGIOUS SCHOOL STAFF

 
CHAYA SILVER - EDUCATION AND YOUTH DIRECTOR

Chaya Silver has been working as a Jewish professional full time since before the dawn of time. She was the Program Director at the JCC in Tulsa, OK and has worked as the Education Director at Heska Amuna Synagogue in Knoxville, TN and at Adat Shalom in Bethesda, MD. Chaya has worked as a bar and bat mitzvah tutor as well as a classroom teacher, youth group director, and even as a children’s librarian! She graduated with her BA from Brandeis University, has an MFA from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is PhD, abd from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Chaya has three amazing children and a lovable English Setter named Rosie.

 
REBECCA HALLORAN - GAN (KINDERGARTEN)

Rebecca Halloran remembers her first day of Kindergarten at Agudas Achim like it was yesterday, and she is so happy to be back teaching Gan. She grew up in the synagogue and attended Gesher Jewish Day School, and even got to perform the HMS Pinafore in Hebrew. She met her husband, Jim, while working at Arlington County summer camps as an art teacher. Her current day job is graphic designer, and her newest gig is Ema to her son Jacob.

 

DR. JODI WITTLIN - ALEPH (1ST GRADE)                                                                               Jodi is entering her 12th year of teaching first grade at AAC.  This is her 21st (!) year teaching in a religious school, having taught third, fourth, fifth, and seventh grades as well as serving as a youth group advisor. She has taught all these years because she loves teaching and loves Judaism. Jodi grew up in Reform (Bat Mitzvah) and Conservative (Confirmation) synagogues in Dix Hills, NY and Charlotte, NC and is a proud alumna of USY's Israel Pilgrimage. Jodi holds a BS, MS, and Phd in Physics and a BS in Mathematics, and in her "real" life works as research staff focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles, airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, and air to air missiles at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria. 

 

     

SARAH BLUMBERG - BET (2ND GRADE)                                                                         Hi there! My name is Sarah Blumberg and I’m a new member of Agudas Achim in addition to being a new religious school teacher. I will be teaching second grade this year and I’m looking forward to a fabulous year! I have a background in special education, having obtained my Masters Degree from Lesley University, and my B.S. in Child and Family Studies from the same institution. While I loved being apart of the Jewish and young people’s scene in Cambridge Massachusetts, Washington DC has and always will be home, and I decided to return after completing school. When I’m not teaching or working with kids in some capacity, you can find me engaging in my favorite hobby, singing! I will be a member of the Sisterhood Ensemble this year and I can’t wait for my first performance. You may also find me rooting for the Redskins, or rather crying about it (not in public I promise), rooting against any NY team (sorry Rabbi), or spending time at the Ballston Farmers Market on a Thursday afternoon. I look forward to meeting many of you around the shul this year. Shana Tova!

 

DANIELLA BIENSTOCK - 3RD AND 4TH GRADE JUDAIC STUDIES                                     Daniella has taught Religious School at synagogues in Los Angeles and the D.C. Area, and currently teaches third and fourth grade Judaic Studies at Agudas. She spent six years teaching environmental science to students on field trips in Yosemite and Prince William Forest National Parks. She is excited to incorporate experiential education and a sense of play into her Judaics curriculum. Daniella is a graduate student in School Counseling at UMD College Park. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, beekeeping, making pottery, and reading.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Barbara Katz - 3rd and 4th Hebrew and Prayer

 Barbara Katz joined the teaching staff at Agudas Achim as a substitute teacher two years ago and loved it so much she decided to make it permanent! Raised in a Conservative synagogue, she became a Bat Mitzvah before relocating with her parents to a new area, where they joined a Reform synagogue. Barbara continued her training through Confirmation and post-Confirmation classes and studied the Hebrew language for two years in college as well. Her daughter, Rachael Shulman, attended religious school at Agudas Achim throughout her elementary and teen years, became a Bat Mitzvah here and was a Madricha through her senior year in high school. I continue to be so proud of her. When not working at the synagogue, Barbara is a professional tutor of high school students, and an avid sailor; she loves traveling with Rachael and her husband Eric and spending time with extended family and friends.

 

 
 
 
 

JAMES PHELPS - 5th AND 6th GRADE JUDAIC STUDIES                                          James Phelps was born and raised in Occoquan, Virginia. He studied Philosophy and history at the University of Virginia and Vermont College, and education at American University. He has lived and taught in Egypt, Lebanon, and China, and here in the good old USA. He is an historian, teacher, principal, and never ending student of Judaism. James enjoys woodworking, cooking, and, when time permits, travel.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Deb Gilman - 5th and 6th Grade Hebrew and Prayer

Deb Gilman is a licensed clinical psychologist.  Most recently, she worked in the Arlington Public Schools for 17 years, providing individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, case management, and classroom lessons/interventions for students in pre-K through high school. Deb lived in Israel for a year when she was 9yo, for 8 months during college, and speaks Hebrew. She taught religious school when she lived in Brooklyn, NY, is a bar/bat-mitzvah tutor at Agudas, and previously served on the Agudas Youth and Religious School Committee. Deb and her husband, Michael, are appreciative of the religious school education that Agudas provided to their three children. Deb enjoys being part of the religious school team and helping to sustain that same positive learning experience for other Agudas children and their parents.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Marion Wachtel - Hebrew Chevruta Program Coordinator

 

 
 
 
                                                                           Barbara Klestzick - Hebrew Chevruta Instructor

Barbara Klestzick teaches in the Hebrew Chevruta program in our Religious School. Barbara was born in the Bronx and moved to West Hempstead where she began first grade in Hebrew Academy of Nassau County.  She started college at SUNY Albany where she majored in Judaic Studies minored in Psychology. She studied at Yeshiva University for a year and at Hebrew University’s One Year Program.

After graduating SUNY University she worked in the New York City Public school middle school where she worked as a Family Assistant with Multi-handicapped (disabled) students. After her teaching time, she fulfilled a long-standing dream to live on kibbutz.  Barbara was one of the founding members of Kibbutz Gezer. She lived there for three years, eventually working as a tractor driver, a job she loved. When she moved back to the States, she decided to move to DC, a favorite city of hers. (Barbara’s uncle was the Rabbi of Agudas in the 60’s.)  Her first job was Religious School Director at Temple Micah, a part-time position that was augmented by working at the DC Rape Crisis Center. She started as a volunteer and eventually was promoted to Director of Counseling. Barbara also worked as a pre-school teacher and Hebrew teacher. Barbara is a talented cyclist and when she isn’t riding she really enjoys being a teacher at Agudas Achim.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

LINDA LICHTMAN - HEBREW CHEVRUTA INSTRUCTOR                                                   Linda has been an educator in the Jewish community of Northern Virginia for over 20 years. She has taught students of all ages, from preschoolers to adults. She currently teaches in the Hebrew Chevruta program, tutors b’nai mitzvah students, as well as teaches preschool at a nearby synagogue. Previously, at AAC she has taught both first and second grades in religious school, third and fourth grade Hebrew, and has tutored individual students in Hebrew. She enjoys making learning fun and tailors her approach to meet the unique needs of each student. Outside of work, she enjoys keeping fit with yoga and other classes and spending time with her family.

 

DAVID LIPNICK - INCLUSION SPECIALIST                                                                      David grew up at Agudas and has enjoyed many family Simchot (celebrations) there.  He attended AAC religious school as well as having his Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation in his younger years.  After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BA in Art History he decided to go into his true passion, Special Education.  He taught in Alexandria City Public schools in a Preschool Special Education classroom.  During his years there as a PARA (Teacher’s aide) David learned the importance of individualized attention for students so they could meet their full potential.  David looks forward to helping make AAC religious school a great experience for all learners.  In his free time David enjoys doing pastels and getting his hands messy.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

DOUG FAGAN - LIFE CYCLE SEMINAR INSTRUCTOR                                           Doug Fagen is a clinical child psychologist who earned his doctoral degree at the University of Rochester. He has worked with children and adolescents with learning and emotional difficulties for over twenty years. Doug currently serves as Director of the Reservoir Psychology Group at The Lab School of Washington, a school for students with learning differences in Washington, DC. Doug and his wife Suzanne Smith have been active members of Agudas Achim Congregation since 2000. Doug has served on the board as Membership co-President and more recently, as Youth Services Vice President. He enjoys discussing Jewish values and ideas with kids and teens, and finding ways to make Jewish learning relevant to kids’ lives.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

KYRA SCHUSTER - KADIMA & USY ADVISOR                                                                 Like many kids, Kyra first joined Kadima because her mom, an alum of USY, signed her up. A few years later, Kyra became an active member of USY, and it changed her life.  As a USYer in Miami, FL, she was on chapter board and also attended USY Poland Seminar/Israel Pilgrimage. After moving to DC, it was important for Kyra to give back to an organization that gave her so much, which is when she began staffing USY in Northern Virginia and Seaboard region. For the past 24 years, Kyra has staffed USY on the chapter, regional and international levels doing everything from designing regional regalia, planning chapter programs, and running Shmira for International Convention. It was through staffing USY that Kyra met her husband Mike, a fellow USY alum, and their son is now also an active member of the organization.  When not working with Kadima & USY, Kyra can be found at her "real job" as a Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she has worked since 1994. She can also often be found watching the Washington Nationals, creating with her sewing machine, or curled up with a cat (sometimes all three at the same time).

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun, January 26 2020 29 Tevet 5780