MEET THE TEAM
The Congregational School Office is located on the sixth floor of the Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center, 11 E 89th Street.
Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am–6:00 pm
Friday, 9:00 am–3:00 pm
MELISSA SILVERMAN COHAVI
DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
Melissa Silverman Cohavi has been working in the field of Jewish education for the past 25 years. She holds a master’s in Jewish education from Hebrew Union College, a master’s in social work from Yeshiva University, and a B.A. in Judaic studies from the University of Michigan. Melissa is very connected to Israel, having lived there for several years, and she believes that a Jewish education should include building a connection to and a knowledge about Israel. Prior to this position, Melissa was the Director of Jewish Identity Development at Congregation B'nai Yisrael in Armonk, New York. She spent five summers on faculty at Jewish camps and has worked with individuals of all ages in the Jewish educational sphere. Melissa considers herself to be a lifelong learner and believes that each day brings something new to learn. She lives in Stamford, CT with her husband, Ilan, and they have two adult children who visit from time to time, but it's never enough!
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
Jessie 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. Jessie 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.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
Aaron joined the PASCS team in 2021 as an intern while studying for his master's degree. He earned a B.A. in American Studies and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to pursuing his M.A., Aaron was a full-time educator at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. He spent many summers at URJ Eisner Camp as a camper, song leader, and Jewish life specialist. Aaron grew up across Central Park, on the Upper West Side. While in high school, Aaron was inspired to become a Jewish educator because of his experiences traveling on a family trip to Israel and working as a teen teaching assistant at his synagogue. As a teacher and song leader, he believes in the importance of meeting each learner at their level, as well as the power of music as a way of connecting to Judaism. Aaron is delighted to engage in Jewish learning with PAS students and families!
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL - HEBREW PROGRAMMING
Sarah Clarkson is excited to join the Park Avenue Synagogue team as the Assistant Director to the Congregational School- Hebrew Programming. She is new to New York City however originally from Massachusetts.
Sarah lived in Santa Cruz, California for the past 22 years and worked at Temple Beth El in Aptos serving as their Congregational Learning Coordinator.
Sarah ran the Congregational School k-10, began the Young Family Project engaging families with young children, and created a teen engagement program called JEI (Jewish Educational Interns). She is currently enrolled at HUC in their EMA program (Executive Masters in Jewish Educational Leadership). Sarah has two D1 athletes Maya an equestrian who competes for the University of South Carolina and Noah a soccer player who plays for the University of California Irvine. In her free time, Sarah loves to walk by the water and practice yoga.
MEET OUR TEACHERS
Morah 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.
Zack Friedman has been teaching at PAS part-time for many 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.”
Molli 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.
Jaffa Nishli currently teaches 3rd (Gimel) 4th (Dalet) 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.
Justin 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.
Phyllis 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.
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.
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 Kuznick is excited to be returning to PAS for her 4th 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 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.
Ellen 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.