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Meet the Religious School Staff


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.
Alexandra Weil - GAN (KINDERGARTEN)
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.

DC Sachs - 3rd and 4th Grade Judaic Studies

Daniel “Moreh D.C.” Sachs has been teaching religious school for more than twenty-five years in Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee.  He has taken to heart the commandment, V'shinantam l'vanecha, to teach one’s children.  His approach to teaching has two goals: 1) treat the children with respect and 2) let them explore their interests and understanding of Judaism.  Discussion, questioning and even dismissing concepts are all encouraged in his classroom.  D.C. is trained as an attorney in his professional life and recently started a new job as a Magistrate within the Virginia judiciary.

DANIELLA BIENSTOCK - Teen Program Coordinator
Daniella has taught Religious School at synagogues in Los Angeles and the D.C. Area, is our Teen Program Coordinator at Agudas. She spent six years teaching environmental science to students on field trips in Yosemite and Prince William Forest National Parks. 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, VA. 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 U.S.A. He is a 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 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 9 years old, for 8 months during college, and speaks Hebrew. She taught religious school when she lived in Brooklyn, NY, is a b'nai-mitzvah tutor at Agudas Achim, 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 Achim 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 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, Barbara 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 1960s.)  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 talent led cyclist and when she isn’t riding she really enjoys being a teacher at Agudas Achim.
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 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. David taught in Alexandria City Public schools in a Preschool Special Education classroom. During his years there as a para-professional (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 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 20 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, D.C. 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-Vice 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.
Sun, January 29 2023 7 Shevat 5783