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
MEET OUR ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF
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!
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
6th & 7th Grade
Matt is excited to join the PASCS team as the Assistant Director for Vav and Zayin (grades 6 and 7). Matt has worked in various Jewish communities around the US and abroad. Originally from Atlanta, Matt earned his B.S. in Educational Public Policy from Georgia State University, and recently completed an M.A. in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Upon graduation from Georgia State, Matt worked as the Director of Youth Engagement for Congregation Etz Chaim in Atlanta. Following a year of teaching English abroad in Haifa, Israel, he completed the Springboard Fellowship at Penn State Hillel. He spent many years as both a camper and the head Jewish professional at Camp Barney Medinitz in Georgia. Matt believes that Jewish knowledge should be accessible, relevant, and exciting for all ages! In his free time, Matt loves to bike around Brooklyn, read historical novels, volunteer, and study Jewish texts, especially Pirkei Avot.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
Kindergarten through 2nd Grade
Sarah Clarkson joined the Park Avenue Synagogue team as the Assistant Director to the Congregational School- Hebrew Programming the summer of 2022. She is currently the Assistant Director for Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. After last year’s successful pilot, The Ritual Lab (our K-2 family engagement Shabbat program), this year she will expand the program to younger siblings. Before coming to New York City,
Sarah lived in Santa Cruz, California for 22 years and worked at Temple Beth El in Aptos serving as their Congregational Learning Coordinator.
Sarah completed her EMA (Executive Masters in Jewish Educational Leadership) from HUC-JIR last May 2023. She is currently in Cohort 13 as an ifellow with the icenter, (which focuses on Israel Education). Sarah has two children, Maya an equestrian specializing in Eventing, and Noah a soccer player who plays for the University of California Irvine. In her free time, Sarah loves to walk everywhere, ballroom dance, and practice yoga.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL SCHOOL
3rd Grade through 5th Grade
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, YOUTH PROGRAMMING
Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh
Mackenzie Haun is the Assistant Director of Youth Programming at Park Avenue Synagogue. She runs outside of Congregational School programming for 3rd-7th graders and also teaches grades 5, 6, and 7. She has a degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Kansas and has spent the last several years working for different Jewish non-profits. Mackenzie is excited to be at Park Avenue Synagogue and working with the kids!
In addition to her work as an Administrative Assistant at Park Avenue Synagogue, Heather Nover is the Executive Director of the Anshe Emeth Community Development Corporation located in New Brunswick, NJ. She has her Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University. She lives in East Windsor, NJ with her husband Rabbi Matt Nover, their daughter Jane, and their dog Jada.
MEET OUR TEACHERS
Shlicha and Teacher
Fifth, Seventh, and Shabbat Program
Raz Betser is Park Avenue Synagogue's Junior Shlicha. She is from Shoham and just finished her military service in Israel. Raz worked as a Hebrew teacher for lone soldiers who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel). She is very excited to teach 5th and 7th grades this year.
Teacher and Hebrew Tutor
Teaches Third thru Seventh Grade
Shalom PAS families! May is returning for her second year at PASCS — ready to meet the new students and reconnect with the old. You can find May around PAS throughout the year: during high holidays, in the 89th street building during the year, and swimming on the roof of the 87th building with Camp Keshet during the summer. She is looking forward to another exciting year!
Kindergarten and Third Grade
Aliza Abusch-Magder is a senior at Columbia University studying Literature and Gender and Women Studies. This will be her third year at Park Avenue and is grateful for the PASCS community which she has grown to love. She specializes in working with neurodivergent students of all kinds.
AMY ADLER RITELL
Amy lives with her husband in Ridgefield, CT and Highland Beach Fl, depending on the time of year. She has two grown children, a son who lives in Brookline MA and a daughter who recently married and is living with her husband in Scotland. Amy has been involved in some form of Jewish education for over thirty years as both a teacher and administrator for several schools in Connecticut as well as Westchester. Her favorite subject to teach is the Aleph Bet.
First grade and Shabbat Program
I was born and raised in Israel. I teach pre-K to 5th graders at PASCS and I also work in different early childhood and youth Jewish programming. I enjoy bringing my background in dance and music into the classroom as a way of teaching about Israel and teaching Hebrew. By using interactive games, songs, and art projects, I aim to make learning Hebrew and Israeli culture engaging and fun.
CANTOR MIRANDA BECKENSTEIN
Cantor Miranda "Mandi" Kark Beckenstein was born in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1985 she emigrated to the USA. She immediately entered the cantorial program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion-Debbie Friedman School of s Sacred Music graduating with a Masters Degree in Sacred Music and Ordination as a Cantor. She has served several Reform and Conservative Congregations in the Tri-State area, as Cantor, Director of Education, Nursery School Director, and most recently as a 1st thru 7th grade Hebrew teacher in our Congregational School. She loves teaching and working with our young folk, hopefully inspiring students and families to be enthused about our Jewish learning. In her free time, she knits, collects mint postage stamps, loves Broadway shows and opera, as well as reading voraciously. She is the Secretary of Kol Hazzanim, the Cantors Group in Westchester County, NY.
Fourth and Fifth Grade
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 states as part of an international program for educators.
For the last 45 years she has taught in Jewish Day Schools and Congregational Schools serving as principal for 20 years.
Ilana embraces the opportunity to work with students in grades 4 and 5 at Park Avenue Synagogue.
She finds it very satisfying to see the growth of her students.
Molly has been a member of the PASCS teaching team since 2016 and has previously taught 3rd and 6th grades and has also tutored many students. She enjoys helping students make connections to be able to decode Hebrew. In her free time, Molly enjoys creating pottery, cooking, and watching documentaries.
Rebecca Chiet (she/her/hers) is a student in The Jewish Theological Seminary's Joint Program with Columbia University. Rebecca is earning two Bachelor's Degrees in Jewish Bible and Political Science. She was born in Nanchang, China and grew up in South Florida. Raised in a multi-ethnic household as an adopted Asian-American Jew, Rebecca is passionate about embracing diversity, promoting tolerance, and ensuring equitable opportunities for marginalized groups. Additionally, in her exploration, Rebecca bridges her Asian and Jewish identities through her involvement in the Jews of Color cohort at her university's Hillel. Beyond her work on campus, Rebecca creates inclusive spaces for female-identifying Chinese adoptees and continues to explore her love for education as a Hebrew school teacher in New York synagogues.
Sarit is 19 years old and is a student at Stern College for Women (Yeshiva University). She attended Jewish day schools throughout lower, middle, and high school and spent a year learning in seminary in the Old City of Jerusalem. Sarit enjoys working with children and looks forward to helping the students of Park Avenue Synagogue improve their Hebrew skills.
Lilia Dolgopolskaia, is a Hebrew tutor at PAS working with 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders. She holds an MA in Hebrew Language and Jewish Tradition. She has more than 25 years of experience teaching Hebrew to all ages and all levels. Lilia loves to teach/tutor and believes that every student can succeed. Her approach is adaptive and based on keeping students actively engaged.
Jordi is an Early Childhood Education Consultant for the NYC Department of Health in the Bronx. She has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and has been teaching for a full decade. This is her 6th year as a Hebrew tutor at PAS and is excited to be back. Jordi enjoys running, going to Broadway shows, and hosting Shabbat dinners for friends and family.
Ezra grew up with a deep Jewish tradition and rich Jewish education. He attended Jewish day school from K-12 and then spent three years in Israel before returning to college in New York. He is now in his first year of medical school but continues to find tremendous meaning in teaching children and discussing Jewish topics at PASCS. This is Ezra's third year here and currently tutors students in Grades 1-6.
Talia is excited to be a teacher and tutor at PASCS this year. She has spent the last two years as the Teen Program Coordinator at Congregation Beth El in South Orange NJ and is now a preschool teacher in the city. She is passionate about Jewish education and excited to work with children to help them form their Jewish identities.
Danielle has been a teacher at PASCS for three years, currently teaching 1st grade. She also teaches at the PAS ECC, and has done so for nine years. Danielle has a dual MA in Special Education and General Education from Hunter College.
This is Jacob’s first year teaching at PAS and he is so excited to be teaching second grade and Shabbat classes. Jacob graduated from Webster University and in addition to teaching, he is a professional actor. Jacob worked as a camp counselor at Herzl Camp in Wisconsin and is passionate about Judaism and Jewish education.
Solomon Fox is a junior at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary studying Sociology and Modern Jewish Studies. This is his first year teaching at Park Avenue Synagogue and is working both 6th grade and 4th grade on High Holidays and Weekly Hebrew Tutoring, in addition to weekly subbing. Solomon has spent 5 summers teaching and as a counselor at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and is excited about being part of such a vibrant and historic congregational school.
Maya is excited to return to the wonderful community at Park Avenue Synagogue this year teaching kindergarten. She is currently a student at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary studying Computer Science and Jewish Texts. She grew up in Westchester, New York, and attended Jewish day schools from nursery through high school, before spending her gap year learning in the Old City of Jerusalem. Maya spends her free time practicing yoga, gardening, hiking, and learning Torah. She feels passionate about helping students connect to their Jewish identity and form a deep love of Judaism.
Teacher & Hebrew Tutor
First and Third Grade
I have been teaching at PASCS since 2015 and love being a part of ushering in the next generation of Jewish learners, teachers, and tzadiks! When not at PAS, I own and operate Steven Kane Training, a fitness business specializing in chronic pain/injury, rehab, mobility, and strength. For fun, you'll find me relaxing in Central Park or going for a hike.
Second and Fourth Grade
Joan Kantor has been working in the field of Jewish Education for over 4 decades. Her experiences range from directing her camp's teen program, to directing the after-school program at the 92nd Street Y to mentoring teenage girls during their Rosh Hodesh group and beyond.
Joan has been a teacher for every grade from kindergarten to adult Jewish mindfulness training. Joan is thrilled to be a member of the PAS team teaching fourth grade this year.
Leora Krasner is a kindergarten teacher at Park Avenue Synagogue. I am from New Rochelle NY and am currently a nursing student at NYU Rory Meyers and am so excited to be returning to PAS again this year! I am looking forward to connecting with my students and helping them find joy and meaning in their Jewish studies
Teacher & Hebrew Tutor
Kindergarten, Second, Third, and Fourth
Rebecca has been teaching at PAS for 7 years. She is currently teaching Bet and Dalet during the week, as well as tutoring and Shabbat mornings. In past years she has taught grades K-6. She also works at Shalom Shtayim. When she's not at PAS she's pursuing a career in Musical Theatre.
Missy is a Hebrew and Judaic teacher for 46+ years at the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, University of MN, and other institutions and a former Director of Education at B'nai Emet Synagogue in MN. Currently, she is in her 3rd year as a Hebrew tutor at PASCS and continues to be passionate about Israel and the Hebrew language. She spends time with her 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 4 grandchildren, and 3 granddogs who live from Coast to Coast and in Israel.
Daniel Levy is from Jerusalem. He has lived in the United States for the past 3.5 years, and loves his constant connection to Hebrew. He has been a member of the PASCS tutoring team since he moved. Daniel enjoys helping students understand the magic of the Hebrew language, decoding, and translating Hebrew words. In his free time, Daniel enjoys spending time with family, making schnitzel, and watching and playing soccer.
Phyllis is happy to be part of the Park Avenue teaching team for over 8 years. She has worked with grades 1-6 which has given her the opportunity of teaching many students and the pleasure of watching them grow and learn to become Binei-Mitzvah. Phyllis grew up in NYC and attended Ramaz School and then Lehman College, graduating with a degree in English and later an Education Masters K-6. Phyllis previously taught at Hebrew Schools in NYC and Westchester and in addition to tutoring Hebrew at PAS, also teaches Jewish American History and Culture to Retirees of DC37. She now lives in Westchester with her cat Ketzle.
First and Second Grade
Hila Naus joined Park Avenue Synagogue in 2019 as a Zman Ivrit Specialist, engaging students in Hebrew through music, singing, and movement. Hila moved to the States in 2011 to study acting and music and graduated from The American, Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC with a focus on musical theater. As a native Hebrew speaker from Israel, Hila is able to connect students of all ages to Jewish heritage from an Israeli perspective. Her expertise comes from a decade long working with children in Israel and New York. When Hila is not at Park Avenue, she pursues her acting and singing careers.
Sixth and Seventh
Madeline graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College in May 2021 and is now an MSW student at Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She looks forward to bringing some Sarah Sherman "razzle dazzle" into her first year teaching at Park Avenue Synagogue. SNL audition pending.
Nicole is honored to have made her home at Park Avenue Synagogue! As an Educator at PASCS for the past four years and Founder and Artistic Director of The Mesaper Theatre, Nicole combines her passions for acting, Jewish heritage, and education. In addition to teaching Kitah Bet, Nicole has developed and is facilitating the special Shabbat Elective: From Page to Stage - Out of the Apple Orchard! PASCS students work as members of a theatre company, learning about the unique history of the Catskills while acquiring acting skills. Nicole holds a Master's degree from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary and an MFA in Acting from The Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. She is a proud graduate of Smith College, as well as a member of the Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG).
Hannah has been working at PASCS since 2018 and will be teaching 6th grade this year. When she is not teaching at PAS, she is a substitute teacher at the Heschel School for grades N-8. Hannah enjoys cooking delicious Shabbat dinners and indoor rock climbing in her free time.
K-2 Hebrew Specialist
Eti Rozen is a Hebrew Specialist at PASCS. Born in Israel, Eti has also been a Music teacher at the Schechter Manhattan school for fifteen years. Eti graduated from New York College of Music, which later became the music department of NYU.
Callie is so excited to be tutoring 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students at PAS this year. She has enjoyed tutoring students in various subjects throughout my undergraduate years, and when she is not tutoring and participating in Jewish education, she is currently in the process of applying to medical school. She has experience in Jewish educational programming through her work at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp, where she served as the Head Counselor for her division, and through her participation in the FJC Cornerstone conference in 2019. She is so grateful to have joined the PAS family, and is very excited to meet more of the wonderful students and families in the community!
First & Third Grade
Emma grew up in Los Angeles, California, where she attended Brawerman Elementary School and began her Jewish learning. She was engaged with her Jewish community through her involvement with Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Camp Hess Kramer. She graduated in May of 2022 from Tulane University with her BA in Psychology and Early Childhood Education and Jewish Studies. During her time at Tulane, Emma developed her Jewish education skills through her work at Hillel, participation in The Nachshon Project and involvement at Touro Synagogue, both as a religious school teacher and Assistant Youth Educator. Last year, Emma worked as an English teacher at a middle school in Israel as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow and this Fall, Emma is beginning her Masters of Jewish Education at JTS Davidson!
Kindergarten and Second Grade
Hallie Shapiro is starting her first year at Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School. She comes to us from the ECC. She joined YFE on the Israel trip last June. Hallie is very excited about working with the kindergarten- Gan class and 2nd Grade –Bet class at PASCS this year.
Teacher & Hebrew Tutor
First, Third, and Fifth Grade
This is Rebecca's first year teaching at PAS and she is so excited to be teaching first, third, and fifth grade classes. Rebecca graduated from Ithaca College and in addition to teaching, she is a professional musical theatre performer. Rebecca is passionate about Judaism and Jewish education and is looking forward to helping students connect to and embrace their Jewish identity.
Teacher & Hebrew Tutor
Dov Smiley is a Davidson Student of Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, focusing on Jewish Education. He has worked at Park Avenue as a classroom teacher for five years and includes Jewish art, comic books, and media projects as unique ways to give young Jewish learners a chance to explore their Jewish identity. This year, Dov is teaching 5th grade and the Shabbat program.
Teacher & Hebrew Tutor
Ruthie is a recent graduate from Georgia Tech and a student at Kean University's PsyD program. She has 7+ years of experience in Jewish education and has worked as a camp counselor, Sunday school teacher, and after-school teacher with children of all ages. In her free time, she loves to work with cats and dogs, read mysteries, and bake. She cannot wait to meet everyone and is so excited to be a part of the Park Avenue Synagogue community!
Teacher & Tutor
Second, Fourth, and Sixth Grade
Shai was born and raised in Jerusalem and lived for 4 years in Westchester, New York when he was a kid. After going to the IDF, Shai got a bachelors of jazz performance at The New School in NYC. Shai has a lot of experience working with children from the ages of 6-12, having been an after- school program teacher in Israel and also teaching drums privately for many years. Shai worked at Park Avenue Synagogue from 2018-2020 in the Shabbat Program and now is excited to have joined again as a Hebrew school teacher and a tutor.