Meet the Team

Director of the Congregational School, Jennifer Stern Granowitz, 212-369-2600, x132
Jennifer Stern GranowitzJennifer joined Park Avenue Synagogue in 2011 after receiving her Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the William Davidson School of Jewish Education at JTS. Earlier, she earned a BA in Sociology from Johns Hopkins University. Jennifer served as a unit head at Camp Ramah in New England and continues to be connected to Jewish camping as a board member of her childhood camp. Jennifer grew up on Long Island and attended the Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County and the Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island. A fun fact about Jennifer is that she is the oldest of five sisters! Jennifer’s door is always open to discuss your child and your family’s Jewish journey.

Assistant Director, Rachel Singer, 212-369-2600, x185
Rachel SingerPrior to joining the PAS team, Rachel was the head of the art and photography program and the head of specialty programming at Camp Ramah in the Rockies. Previously, she worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the European Union Designing Safer Urban Spaces project in Israel. Growing up in Jerusalem helped Rachel realize the wonderful and multifaceted aspects of Judaism and Jewish history. She holds graduate degrees in Urban Design and the Conservation of Material Culture and has a BA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rachel is grateful to be part of the exciting learning environment at the PAS Congregational School.

Assistant Director, Jessie Lavintman, 212-369-2600, x184
Jessie LavintmanJessie joined the PAS educational team in July 2018 as Assistant Director for Gan, Alef, and Bet (K–2). Jessie has extensive experience in the Jewish educational world. She has worked as a synagogue educator, a congregational school teacher, and a Hebrew specialist. She has spent summers as a camper and a counselor at Ramah Wisconsin and has staffed several Birthright Israel trips. Jessie earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and an MA in Jewish Education from the William Davidson School at JTS. As a part of her MA program, she spent a year in Jerusalem studying at Pardes Institute, where she received a Certificate of Advanced Jewish Studies. Jesse has taken courses in Torah Yoga and in Jewish spirituality. Trained as a life coach and a birth doula, she believes in bringing out everyone’s unique gifts. Jessie is thrilled to share her love of Hebrew, Torah, and Judaism with the children of PAS.

Meet some of our Teachers from last year!

Baila KrainerMorah Baila Krainer is excited and looking forward to joining an amazing year at PAS. Morah Baila has been teaching at Orach Chaim for over 20 years. She looks forward to imparting her love of Judaism to all her students.


Jason GrafAdina Golob is excited to be teaching at PAS. She teaches 4th grade at The IDEAL School of Manhattan. This past summer she spend her 15th summer at Camp Ramah as a Rosh Edah. When she is not teaching or at camp, you can find her exploring New York or cooking all different types of food! She is so excited to be part of the PAS team!


Zack Friedman has been teaching at PAS part-time for five years, growing fonder of the community every year. He has been teaching Jewish youth in Manhattan since 2008. Zack holds a BA in Theater Arts & English from Brandeis University and is a graduate of the American Theater Wing program, as well as a participant in the Einhorn School for the Performing Arts at Primary Stages. While his work as a playwright and performer has circulated throughout NYC, his pride in that achievement does not compare to the nachas he feels when he sees his bar and bat mitzvah student take to the bimah. Zack believes in the words of Golda Meir, who advised: “It is not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of life you have lived.”


AJ YablonshkyThis will be AJ Yablonsky’s third year of teaching at Park Avenue Synagogue. AJ is currently an undergraduate student in the Joint Program with the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He loves working with children and spends his summers as a camp counselor at Herzl Camp.


Naomi Kates is returning for her fourth year at PAS. She graduated from Queens College with a masters in Psychology, and then decided switch to education after teaching in a congregational school for a year. Naomi loves teaching, especially teaching Judaic studies.


Jason GrafJason 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.


Marla AltMarla Alt has been teaching for most of her adult life, and this is her 13th year at Park Avenue Synagogue. She 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.


Steven KaneSteven Kane is seriously thrilled and super grateful to be returning to PAS for his fourth year. While not at PAS, Steven instructs yoga, sharing powerful practices with folks across Manhattan. Besides being in the classroom, Steven is happiest hiking up a mountain or sitting at it’s peak. Fun fact: In his not so recent past life, he was an actor, appearing on Disney Cruise Line as a singer/shmactor/shmancer performing for thousands across the Caribbean seas, and in a much further past life was seen on L&O: SVU--blink, and you'll miss him!


Paula LaytnerPaula Laytner received her masters from Bank Street Graduate School of Education in Family Development/Early Intervention and Regular and Special Early Childhood Education. Paula has worked as a preschool teacher in Jewish day schools in Manhattan for the past 5 years. Paula loves to work with children and help them understand the world around them. In her free time, Paula loves to spend time outside, cook and read.


Daisy WaldmanDaisy Waldman is from Tel Aviv. She is a graduate of Montclair State University. In addition to being our Hebrew specialist on Shabbat, she is a Consultant Copy editor and Writer for One Table.


Molli Ben-GalMolli Ben-Gal is excited to be returning to the wonderful team at Park Avenue Synagogue, where she will be teaching 2nd, 4th and 5th grades! She 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.


Hope HalperHope Halper is excited for her first year teaching at PAS. She is a graduate of Montclair State University where she studied Psychology and Jewish American Studies. After the summer of living in Israel she is happy to be back in New York and educating young Jewish minds. You can usually see Hope out and about waking her golden-doodle Jasper.


Jaffa NishliJaffa Nishli currently teaches 2nd (Bet), 3rd (Gimel) and 5th (Hey) grades and is in her seventeenth 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.


Norman Chernick-ZeitlinNorman Chernick-Zeitlin is looking forward to  his second year of teaching at PAS, and has previously taught at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. This will be his 5th year of teaching religious school. Growing up in New York he attended the Ramaz school. He has also lived in Israel. Norman is a working artist and has won awards for his paintings and has exhibited his work around New York City. He loves to bring techniques from art making like creative interpretation to teaching religion and Torah.


Milcah BasselMilcah Bassel is an artist and educator. Raised in an Orthodox family in Jerusalem, she served in the IDF in an undercover unit before pursuing art studies in Israel and then in the U.S. Milcah earned a Post-Baccalaureate in Studio Art from Brandeis University (2011) and an MFA in Visual Art from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University (2013). Her ongoing project “Father Tongue” connects deeply with the Hebrew Alphabet and biblical stories of creation and is influenced by her father’s work as a sofer (traditional Torah scribe). She has exhibited at galleries, museums, and art fairs, both nationally and internationally and is the recipient of several notable awards including the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Artist in Residence in 2015, and a Bronx Museum AIM fellowship in 2017. Her work was recently listed on Smack Mellon’s 2017 “Hot Picks” and is part of the AIM Biennial at the Bronx Museum of the Arts In addition to being an artist Milcah is an adjunct lecturer at Rutgers University. She is excited to return to PAS.


Maria KnourenkoMaria Knourenko is a passionate educator, and an avid explorer of New York City and beyond. While this is Maria's first year teaching at PAS, she has taught fourth grade at Solomon Schechter Manhattan for the past several years. She is very excited about the opportunity to interact and learn with students who come from varied backgrounds.


Almog PailAlmog Pail is an educator and a performer of Israeli origin, with over 6 years of Jewish Education teaching experience in New York. She holds a B.A in Theater Arts from Tel Aviv University. Over the years, Almog has collaborated with several institutes in New York, promoting experiential education through theater, storytelling, and implementing the Hebrew Through Movement technique in grades K-6 . Almog has been an educator at PAS in the past 4 years, and is thrilled to return for 2017/18 upcoming school year.


Aaron WalkerAaron Walker is happy to rejoin Park Avenue for a third year. He is in the Master’s program in Jewish Education at JTS. He is a teacher and musician and has a Master's in Food History from University of Toronto, leading to “Aaron's Time-Traveling Jewish Kitchen” at B'nai Jeshurun, a global food history survey. Aaron has been Director of Jewish Education at JCC Camp Interlaken and directed the education program onboard the historic sailing ship Lady Washington, used in "Pirates of the Caribbean." He created a Pokemon-based Hebrew curriculum and makes motion-based games and simulations to engage the Jewish past and present.


Justin SpiroJustin Spiro is entering his 11th 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.


Jodi EliassonJodi 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 children, she is teaching at other Jewish institutions in the neighborhood, sharing her knowledge and love for Judaism and the state of Israel.


Jennifer WeisbordJennifer Weisbord is a professional photographer specializing in celebrations; mitzvot, weddings as well as family portraits. She is excited to return for her 7th year as the Photo Elective Zayin teacher. Jennifer enjoys watching students create and explore their Jewish Identity through photography.


Phyllis MarmerPhyllis Marmer is excited to be starting her fourth year teaching at Park Avenue Synagogue. She is looking forward to helping learners start reading Hebrew. Phyllis enjoys helping each child appreciate their Jewish heritage, and loves listening to their stories and opinions.


Eti RozenIsraeli-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.


Eran SaboEran Sabo was born and raised in Kfar-Saba, Israel, and in 2012 moved to New York City to complete his studies at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. After graduating with excellence from the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts (Givataim/Israel) in 2009, Eran served 3 years in the Israel Defense Force. Eran has played in a wide variety of venues in the US and abroad. In NYC he teaches music and Judaic studies at the New Shul and at JCC Manhattan, and has worked closely with Jewish institutions such as the Community Synagogue of Rye, the Israeli American Council and UJA.


Max BeedeMax Beede is excited to spend his third year living in New York City with PAS! Max has taught and tutored learners from grades 1 through 8. He attended Binghamton University and is very grateful for the continuously welcoming atmosphere the PAS community provides. Max enjoys taking walks in the city, meeting new people and playing board games.


Ilana BurgessIlana 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.


Molly ChessMolly Chess is returning for her 2nd year at PAS as a Shabbat teacher. Molly is an Occupational Therapist working at a Jewish school for children with learning disabilities. She is passionate about teaching Jewish Values and traditions and enjoys the interesting conversations that arise from this. In her spare time, Molly enjoys going to spin class, doing word/logic puzzles, and cooking/baking.


Rebecca KuznickRebecca Kuznick is excited to be returning to PAS for her 2nd year of teaching. She loves being a part of this wonderful Jewish community. When she's not at PAS she is pursuing her career as an actor.


Joshua MarmerJoshua Marmer is excited to be joining the team and is looking forward to enjoying Shabbat services with PAS learners. He has previously served as the resident adviser for students in the 92nd Street Y Summer Passport Program and worked with children at Temple Israel of Putnam Valley, his home synagogue. He looks forward to teaching the students about their Jewish faith and values, and getting them in touch with Jewish identity.


Hinda WeissHinda Weiss is excited to start teaching at the PAS this coming school year. Hinda is an Israeli artist who recently moved to the city to attend the MFA Visual Art program at Columbia University. Besides her studio practice, Hinda enjoys teaching and creating socially engaged art projects.


Jacob ZieperJacob Zieper is very excited to begin another year in the PAS community. He is a second-year graduate student at the Jewish Theological Seminary studying for his MA in Jewish Education. Jacob is a proud University of Florida alumnus (Go Gators!) and has a Jewish joke for just about every occasion.


Ellen AltEllen Alt is an artist, educator and community art facilitator. Her mixed media artwork has been exhibited in the U.S, Israel, Germany, Russia, China and England. She is a faculty member in the Education Department at Brandeis University, the Artist-in-Residence at the Park Avenue Synagogue and the art coordinator at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan. Her global community projects focus on social change.