Blog Archive

At the Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School, we recognize the importance of strong home-school connections to reinforce the learning that children do here in weekday classes and on Shabbat. In order to improve connections and communications with our families, we have started a blog to showcase some of the programming we do here. Please follow our updates to better understand our program and to learn more about what your children are doing!

Click here to jump to the blog for each grade level.
All Grades
Grades K-2
Matan (Special Needs) Younger Class
Grades 3-5
Grades 6-7
Matan (Special Needs) Older Class
Hebrew through Movement

 All Grades


Look what fun we had during Parent and Grandparent Visiting Days this past week!


Shabbat Experience Program – Grades 3-6 Reminder about Drop-off & Pickup Information

We are looking forward to our Shabbat Experience program this Saturday, October 22.

Below is a review of the information about the drop-off and pick-up procedures for grades 3-6. Please note that your child's health and safety is our number one priority. 

Drop-off: There will be a welcome table with name tags in the lobby each week.

  • Grades 3 and 4: name tag table will be when you first walk in, outside the chapel. The room listed on your child's name tag is where they will start their day.
  • Grades 5 and 6: name tag table will be past the first set of elevators, outside the Sanctuary. Children in grade 5 begin their day in room 508, and children in grade 6 begin their day in room 408. 


  • Grade 3: inside the chapel. When services are over, we will open the chapel door for adults to enter for pickup. Note: this is a new pickup location!
  • Grade 4: room 508 on the 5th floor
  • Grade 5: room 308 on the 3rd floor
  • Grade 6: the lobby hallway outside of the chapel

Meet Our Teachers for the 2016-2017 Year!

Get to know more about our wonderful teachers here:

Marla Alt has been teaching for most of her adult life, and this is her 12th year at Park Avenue Synagogue. She thoroughly enjoys educating the young generation about our rich traditions and beautiful Jewish customs. When Marla is not teaching, she is running her own home organizing business that specializes in moving. Marla is proud to be a wife, Mom/Step-Mom and Savta.

Sherry Ashkins is a first year law student at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and a graduate of Binghamton University. She lives by Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This is her fourth year teaching in the Shabbat Experience Program and she is excited to be a part of the PAS team.

Ben-Or Avgee was born and raised in Israel until the age of 14. He graduated with a degree in business administration. He has been part of the Park Avenue Synagogue community for five years, leading youth groups for the High Holidays and a 2nd year teacher in first grade.

Max Beede is excited to spend his first year living in New York City with PAS! Max teaches and tutors learners in grades two, five, and six. He attended Binghamton University and is very grateful for the welcome he has received from the PAS community. Max enjoys taking walks in the city, meeting new people and playing board games.

Molli Ben-Gal is excited to be part of the wonderful team at Park Avenue Synagogue, where she will be teaching 2nd grade! She recently graduated from NYU, receiving a BFA in Drama. Having grown up in an Israeli home, she is excited to pass along her experiences and passion for the Jewish culture to the learners. In her free time, Molli loves writing comedy, reading historical fiction novels, and baking for her friends and family.

Elan Bortniker is a proud graduate from Solomon Schechter Day School (Golda Och Academy). He was the student council president of his high school, and spent the summers at camp in the Poconos, and studied jazz piano and Bluegrass guitar at the Berkeley College of music in Boston. Elan studied at NYU, and majored in music business. He was actively involved in Jewish life at NYU and was responsible for many programming activities for Jewish life at NYU. Currently, Elan resides on the Upper West Side and enjoys walking across the park on Shabbat mornings to teach at PAS. He spends his days studying and going back to school for the sciences, and spends the weekends playing guitar and piano in the park.

Ilana Burgess was born in Hungary and educated in Israel and the United States. She started her career as a social worker in Israel and came to the United States as part of an international program for social workers. For the last 40 years, she has taught in Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools, serving as a Hebrew School principal for 20 years. Ilana embraces the opportunity to work with students at Park Avenue Synagogue. She finds it very satisfying to see the dedication of the students and their love for Israel.

Rebecca Kramer Campbell is new to PAS this year. Originally from Pittsburgh, she has lived in New York for two years. Rebecca is a postdoctoral research fellow in Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University, where she studies undernutrition and growth in young children. In her free time, she loves to travel, take pictures, read novels, cook and try new restaurants. Rebecca is excited to join the PAS congregational school community as a member of the Shabbat team!

Tali Cohen is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar, pursuing her MS in Special Education at Bank Street Graduate School. She has worked with students with disabilities at several public and private schools in NYC, and is currently teaching at the Rebecca School, a therapeutic school for children with autism and related disorders. Prior to Bank Street, Tali worked as the Director of Tikvah Vocational Services at Camp Ramah in New England, planning family retreats, training staff, and implementing a multifaceted summer program for children and adults with disabilities. Tali is passionate about Jewish special education, and has worked with youth with disabilities in a variety of contexts including Hebrew schools, camps, inclusive youth groups, and private tutoring. She currently works at Park Avenue Synagogue, and previously worked with Gateways: Access to Jewish Education in Boston.

Marla Daniels has been teaching at PAS for four years, and she loves it! During the week, she’s a book editor at Simon and Schuster, and when she’s not reading, you can find her cheering on her favorite college basketball team, the Kansas Jayhawks!

Alana Davis graduated from Binghamton University with a degree in psychology, and a minor in education and Judaic studies. While in school, she worked for two years at the Institute for Child Development using the Applied Behavioral Analysis approach to teach children with autism. She also worked at Bergen County Special Services, as a teacher and one-to-one throughout programs in Bergen County for children with special needs, behavioral difficulties, and hearing impairments. Alana is interested in speech/language pathology and hopes to enroll in a masters program in that field.

Aaron Drelich is returning for his 4th year with the PAS family. He is passionate about Jewish education. When he’s not teaching, he’s pursuing his nursing degree at Hunter College. He also works as an EMT and is a producer of the only Shabbat-observing music festival on the planet.

Jodi Eliasson grew up by the beach in Belle Harbor, NY and received her BA in History and Near Eastern Judaic Studies at Brandeis University and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. This is Jodi’s third year teaching 7th grade at PAS. Prior to teaching at PAS, she was the Director of Ben-Gurion University’s Overseas Student Program, promoting the program as a study abroad option for university students in the U.S. and Canada. Today when she is not taking care of her two small children, she is teaching at other Jewish institutions in the neighborhood, sharing her knowledge and love for Judaism and the state of Israel.

Rebecca Forer is in her third year at PAS, working as a Shabbat Teacher. She is currently in her first year at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College to obtain an MSW. She has worked at Ohel, a Jewish Family & Children Service’s agency, the 92Y as a residential camp counselor, and spent ten months in Israel teaching English to elementary school aged children. She enjoys reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and mindful meditation.

Zack Friedman is an award-winning writer, performer, and teacher. His work has appeared in the New York International Fringe Festival, the Bleecker Street Theater, 59 E59, the DR2, and Bryant Park. He has been working with children in New York as a teacher, coach and tutor for Hebrew, writing, acting, improvisation, public speaking, and B’nei Mitzvah tutor since 2010. Zack holds a BA in Theater Arts & English from Brandeis University and is a participant of the Einhorn School for the Performing Arts at Primary Stages.

Dror Galamidi is in his third year at PAS, working as a Hebrew Through Movement Teacher and a Gan/Kindergarten teacher. He is studying for his MA in Brooklyn College in School Building Leadership and worked as a Hebrew and Judaic Studies teacher for 8 years in a Brooklyn day school. Dror enjoys swimming, practicing yoga and working on his gymnastics skills.

Wendy Gibilisco is so excited to be a part of a great team of teachers at PAS! She teaches 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades, leads Rosh Chodesh programming for teens, and tutors in Hebrew. She comes to PAS from Brooklyn, where she was a full-time educator at Congregation Beth Elohim. Wendy started teaching while writing and doing research at JTS and HUC for her thesis as a major in religion at Trinity College. Since then, she has taught and run social programming for all grades ranging from 2nd grade through seniors in high school at Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist synagogues. She grew up in the Reform Movement, studied abroad in Israel during high school, and is so excited to share her knowledge of Jewish history and biblical tradition with the students at PAS! She enjoys helping prepare food with her co-op at the local soup kitchen, reading, ramen, and relaxing on Shabbat.

Jon Goldstein earned his BA in History at Columbia and his MA in Land of Israel Studies and Archeology at Bar Ilan University. When he’s not teaching at PAS, he splits his time between NYC and Israel leading Jewish Heritage tours through these places rich in history. He is very excited to start his third year at PAS.

Danielle Goss is in her first year at PAS teaching 3rd grade. Currently Danielle is working for an MS in Child Life from Bank Street College of Education, and has spent many years and summers at Jewish summer camps, such as Camp Ramah. Danielle enjoys traveling, hiking, snowboarding, and football, and is very excited for this upcoming year.

Jason Graf hails from Minneapolis, MN but currently resides in Manhattan, NY. He is a sophomore at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary studying psychology and Talmud. This is his second year working at Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School and could not be more excited for all the inspirational learning moments which excite him and keep him returning to Jewish education.

Temi Hason is a New York based Cellist/Musical Theatre Performer and Teacher originally from Istanbul. She has earned her BA in Music Education, Cello and Musical Theatre. As a result of her studies, Temi founded "A Musical Home" ( which offers custom music lessons for kids. Before coming to Park Avenue, Temi worked at various public and private schools developing their music curriculum. Temi is currently developing the Children’s Programming at Congregation of Magen David and teaches 1st Grade at 92Y. To learn more about Temi, visit her website:

Josh Jacobs teaches 4th, 6th and 7th grades and is in his second year as an Assistant Director at the Congregational School. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary with an MA in Jewish Education and modern Jewish studies. Josh spent many summers as the Assistant Director at Eden Village Camp and Camp Galil and led service-learning programs for Jewish students in Africa and Central America with the American Jewish World Service. He enjoys recycling, teaching adults how to ride bikes and tutoring math.

Steven Kane is seriously thrilled and super grateful to be returning to PAS for his second year, teaching Alef and Gimel classes. He holds a BA in Acting/Musical Theatre from Marymount Manhattan College, and while not at PAS, he spends time as an acting/vocal coach for pre-college/professional tweens, teens, and adult enthusiasts. Besides being on stage or in the classroom, Steven is happiest hiking up a mountain or sitting at its peak. Oh, and he’s a yoga teacher!

Emily Kagan developed her excitement for Jewish education while supporting college students as they explored their own Jewish identities and their own connections to Israel through her work for Hillel. She has worked at both Columbia University and Northwestern University, during which time she led six Birthright trips. Emily is currently the Assistant Director at Jeff Lake Camp in New Jersey where she has spent multiple summers taking care of and nurturing children. She is excited to join Park Avenue Synagogue for her first year of teaching, combining both her passion for Jewish education with her love of working with young people!

Tova Lejtman is in her second year at PAS. This year, she is teaching Bet. She is a senior in Stern College for Women, majoring in Biology. Through working for various organizations and Jewish summer camps, Tova has gained much experience in educating children. Tova enjoys reading, going for a walk, and teaching. She is looking forward to another year with PAS.

Phyllis Marmer is delighted to be returning for another year of teaching at Park Avenue Synagogue. Her love of sharing Jewish experiences began with her parents and was fostered by the teachers she had while attending the Ramaz School. She attended CUNY Lehman College, where she attained her undergraduate and graduate degrees, majoring in English and Elementary Education. She began working in her family’s business, but couldn’t stay away from teaching, so she started teaching part time in a Hebrew school program near her home. She enjoys encouraging her learners to explore their Jewish heritage. Additionally, she teaches Jewish history to a class of senior citizens who are also eager to learn, like her PAS learners!

Renana Nerwen is excited to join the Park Avenue Synagogue community this year as a shadow and Hebrew tutor. Renana graduated from Yeshiva University and spent many summers at Camp Ramah. Renana is currently studying at Pace University for Clinical Child Psychology in a PsyD program. When not thinking about child psychology, Renana loves reading fiction, baking, and spending time with friends.

Jaffa Nishli currently teaches 2nd (Bet), 3rd (Gimel) and 5th (Hey) grades and is in her sixteenth year as a teacher at the Congregational School. She studied Education and Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Jaffa studied Computer Programming in Queens College, New York. Jaffa teaches at Park East Day School, a Jewish Day School, as a computer teacher and spent many summers as a computer teacher at the NYIT– Horizon Camp in Old Westbury, NY. She worked in The Israeli Mission to The United Nation for six years prior to teaching. She loves and enjoys teaching in Jewish schools.

Shaya Oster is a new member of the teaching team, working as a tutor for 6th grade students. He is currently a sophomore at the Joint Program between the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, and previously spent a gap year in Israel before starting college. He loves to read and can be found watching football games on Sunday afternoon.

Zoe Pinter is in her second year at PAS as a member of the Shabbat team. She is a graduate of List College, the joint program with Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary where she received a BA from each institution. She is now in her second and final year of social work school at Hunter College. Zoe enjoys reading, watching movies, spending time with friends, and volunteering her time supporting different social justice causes.

Lisa Pitkof has been teaching The Shabbat Experience with 3rd and 4th graders for the past 4 years. She is an elementary school teacher and has taught 2nd and 4th graders at Cheder Chabad Girls Elementary School. She is passionate about teaching and loves integrating music, art, and theater into everyday learning experiences. Lisa also has a passion for helping others. She went back to school to become an RN, where she currently works nights as an ER nurse at a nearby hospital! On weekends and days off, Lisa enjoys hiking, bike riding at the beach, and visiting friends in different states!

Mike Rediker is in his third year at PAS, working as a Shabbat Teacher teaching 3rd and 4th graders. He attended the Goizueta Business School at Emory University for undergrad. There he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and a minor in Spanish. Mike enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee, board games, and exploring new neighborhoods or cuisines.

Mickey Roth has been an integral member of the PAS community for 6 years. He majored in Judaic Studies and Hebrew at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Mickey then spent six months in Israel, working and studying on a kibbutz. Mickey is a committed educator who gives learners the opportunity to formulate new opinions on a wide variety of Jewish topics. Outside of the synagogue, Mickey works downtown at a litigation support firm.

Israeli-born Eti Rozen has been a music educator for over 25 years. She has worked at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan for 10 years. She has taught in K-12 settings, including international schools both in Holland and Israel. Eti graduated with a Bachelor of Music from NY College of Music, which later became the music department of NYU.

Dena Rubanowitz grew up in Los Angeles, CA, where her father is the rabbi of Pacific Jewish Center on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Dena recently graduated from Yeshiva University with majors in Political Science, History, and Jewish Studies, as well as with a minor in Women’s Studies, and hopes to pursue the field of law in the near future. She works during the week as a paralegal in a general practice law firm near City Hall. She also has extensive experience with children, tutoring kids of all ages for years as well as teaching Hebrew at various institutions. She has also volunteered her time at Kids Count, an organization that provides free childcare to low income families. Dena is passionate about social justice as well as community service, and feels blessed to be a part of the Park Avenue Synagogue and Religious School, where she hopes she can contribute to the growth of the congregation.

Guy Shahar is a shaliach (Israeli Emissary) from the Jewish Agency working at Park Avenue Synagogue. For the past six years, Guy has worked in various capacities at the Ramah Day Camp in Nyack. He currently serves as the director of their Hebrew Immersion program, Sha’ar. Guy holds a BA in Psychology, Sociology and Human Resources from the Tel-Aviv Jaffo Academy. Prior to coming to the United States, Guy worked as the Director of Human Resources and Customer Experience for a company that tutored Israeli students with learning disabilities and ADHD in the psychometric exam. In his free time, Guy enjoys hanging out with friends, attempting to win Broadway lottery tickets, and enjoying life as much as possible. He’s super excited to teach at Park Avenue Synagogue this year and to bring his love of Israeli culture and Judaism to the students here.

Betty Soibel is super excited to be one of the Gimel teachers this year! She is currently a Senior in the Joint Program between the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, studying Jewish History and Urban Studies. She has spent her college experience working in several different Jewish educational settings, ranging from summer camps, leadership programs, and Hebrew schools. Bringing environmentalism, social justice, and intentional learning into the educational experience of her students is her greatest passion, and brings her so much joy in her work. She can't wait for this year at Park Avenue Synagogue!

Justin Spiro is entering his tenth year at the PAS Congregational School! When he’s not at Park Avenue, he serves as the school social worker for a public high school in Queens. In his free time, Justin enjoys dining with friends and cheering on his beloved Rangers.

Cara Stoll is entering her fifth year as a Shabbat Experience teacher and she absolutely loves it. During the week, she is a third grade general studies teacher at Mazel Day School in Brooklyn. She is looking forward to a great year at Park Avenue Synagogue.

Avichai Vazana is in his first year at PAS, working with Kitot, Alef, and Bet. He has a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Queens, and started a company, Tutor Tactics, with the mission of expanding the circle of independent learners. Avichai enjoys teaching, learning, chess, and any sport with a board!

Eryka Velazquez is currently in her second year of cantorial studies and Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary and her second year with PAS. She finds the Jewish prayers and music an inspirational way to connect with the past and tradition. She aspires to be a part in blending the beautiful Jewish traditions with today’s future innovation and vision in our community. In her spare time, you can find her taking pictures in Central Park, singing on the subway or on her phone trying to win the Hamilton lottery. Looking forward to a great year of learning for all of us!

Jonah Weinstein is a Gimel teacher and Hebrew tutor and is very excited to join the PAS community. He recently graduated from Columbia University with a degree in History. Jonah enjoys traveling and spent one semester in Valparaiso, Chile, where he engaged with the Chilean Jewish community. Jonah is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and attended Gross Schechter Day School and worked at Camp Ramah in Canada as a camping trip leader. Jonah is also an actor and loves seeing theater and comedy around New York.

Jennifer Weisbord, a professional photographer, is the Photo Elective instructor for the Zayin class. This is Jennifer’s 5th year working with Zayin students using photography to focus on their Jewish identity. She enjoys seeing the creativity and ideas that emanate from her learners. When she’s not teaching she specializes in documenting family celebrations; Mitzvahs, weddings and all parties as well as family portraits. You can view her work at

AJ Yablonsky was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a first year student at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is looking to study Political Science and Jewish Studies, and is involved with Columbia Mock Trial in his free time. During the summer, he work as a counselor at a Jewish overnight camp in Wisconsin.

Isaac Yager is currently completing his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary H.L. Miller Cantorial School and William Davidson School for Jewish Education where he will be invested as a cantor this coming May. This is his fourth year teaching in the Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School. During his year of study in Israel, Isaac had the privilege to sing in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue choir and study hazzanut with Raymond Goldstein and Hazzan Naftali Herstik. Presently, Isaac serves as the cantor at Adath Israel in Middletown, CT. He holds a BA in theater from Bard College and a Masters in Music in vocal performance from Boston University.


Wendy's Bet class got into the spirit of the High Holidays by making New Year Mirrors. The mirrors have green, yellow and red circles. On the green circles, learners wrote goals for the new year. On the yellow circle, they wrote behaviors they want to improve upon or new skills they hope to gain in the new year. In the red circle, they wrote about behaviors  from the past year they wanted to apologize for. The mirrors helped our learners take a good "look" at themselves. 

Our Bet students hard at work on their New Year Mirrors.

Meet our Teachers
We are so excited to introduce you to our amazing teaching staff! We will add new bios every day. Today meet:

Molli Ben-Gal, Bet Teacher

Molli Ben-Gal is excited to be joining the wonderful team at Park Avenue Synagogue, where she will be teaching 2nd grade! She recently graduated from NYU, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama. Having grown up in an Israeli home, she is excited to pass along her experiences and passion for the Jewish culture to the learners. In her free time, Molli loves writing comedy, reading historical fiction novels, and baking for her friends and family.

Welcome Back! Baruchim Ha'Baim!
We are excited to see everyone for the beginning of a new school year! In  eager anticipation of this week all summer, we have been working hard to get ready for your arrival- beautifying our hallways, preparing  curriculum and training teachers. Amy Martin, Assistant Director, getting ready to welcome our students.
Amy Martin, Assistant Director, preparing our hallways for students' arrival.

Rabbi Cosgrove welcoming teachers to the new school year.

Assistant Director Rachel Singer leads teachers in a professional development session.

Grades K-2


The Kindergarten class met with all of the Rabbis at Park Avenue synagogue to learn more about what it means to be a rabbi.


Kitah Alef learned about Birkot HaShachar, morning blessings. They created skits for each blessing, discussed their meaning, and then chose one blessing that they related to the most and created a visual interpretation of it.


Gan learned about Psalm 150, Halleluyah, where we praise God with instruments and song. They used instruments to create their own songs to express praise of God.


Kitah Alef celebrated their class successes with a hora!


Our Hebrew Enrichment Wednesday class learned Hebrew vocabulary around food and utensils by eating some fun foods!


For Hanukkah, Alef classes considered what makes someone a hero and learned about Judah Maccabee.


The Gan classes created a Bereshit (creation) book as a culmination of their studies of the story of Bereshit. They created a page for each day of the week, with artwork reflecting what happened on that day, and labels with the Hebrew words and English words of what God created. The beautiful page below was created by Reese, one of our Gan students.


Jason and Guy’s Alef class learned about Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of a new Hebrew month. This month is Cheshvan. The class had a party to celebrate Rosh Hodesh and listened to special prayers we sing on Rosh Hodesh called Hallel.


Matan (Special Needs) Younger Class

Grades 3-5

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Masquerading is a major theme of Purim. In addition to the usual dressing up - there is a special idea "hidden" behind the masks we wear on Purim. Our dressing up commemorates the fact that the miracle of Purim was not clear, but rather hidden and masqueraded in natural events. In our classes we talked about the hidden and revealed aspects of the characters in the Purim story and how that connects to the tradition of dressing up for the holiday. We made special Purim story masks in a workshop with Artist in Residence, Ellen Alt.


We had a wonderful scavenger hunt at the Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week with our Hey (5th grade) class! We invite families who would like to visit the exhibit to download our scavenger challenge to enhance their experience.


For our 5th and 6th Family Shabbat Experience on Shabbat Bereshit we learned about man’s role in caring for the environment according to the text in Genesis 1

“And God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

and Genesis 2 “And God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to serve it and to guard it.”

Is it our role to dominate or to serve and to protect the earth? We followed these questions through learning about present day environmental challenges in Israel including development, waste management, water management and food waste. To see our four challenges and go over them with your family, click here!

Grades 6-7

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Vav students try their hands—and heads—at tefilin. It was a challenging concept to wrap their heads—and hands—around. Or vice versa.

Matan (Special Needs) Older Class

Hebrew through Movement


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