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Hebrew Educators

Tzipora Crandell
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


As a Needham native, I grew up attending Temple Beth Shalom and am so happy to be returning home as a Mayim Jewish Learning Guide. The foundation for my interest in Jewish Education was laid as a student at TBS and strengthened during summers at URJ Crane Lake Camp and a high school semester abroad in Israel.


As a teacher, I believe that children grow and learn at their own pace, and I fully embrace each child’s individuality.  As someone who continues to learn through music, play, and experimentation, I strive to create an inviting and curiosity-inspiring environment in the classroom. 

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Hannah Elbaum
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


I’m a recent graduate of Smith College, where I studied American culture and museum education. I love visiting museums, and I also enjoy reading, baking gluten-free treats, and practicing yoga. Over the past few years, I have also worked with children of all ages at overnight and day camps, and as a Jewish educator.

In teaching, I believe that questions are the foundation of meaningful learning, and I strive to empower students to find their own answers with guidance and support. My goal is to create a classroom community that inspires exploration of ideas, fosters deep relationships, and values the perspectives and experiences of each individual. I am thrilled to start my first year at TBS with Mayim and as the Mini BESTY advisor!

Matt Emmer
Pronouns: He/Him/His


After working with Mayim as a t’filah and song leader, I am excited to join the team as a 5th Grade Educator. I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York, and am a proud alumni of URJ Eisner Camp, spending 14 summers as a camper, counselor, and eventually head song leader. In the spring of 2016, I graduated from Clark University in Worcester, where I studied English and Jewish Studies. I’m passionate about making the classroom a space for exploration and helping students find their connection to Judaism and the world around them. 

Rena Gray Fein
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I have always enjoyed the richness of Jewish life. I live by the rhythm of Jewish holidays, am an enthusiastic student of Hebrew and Jewish texts, enjoy spending time in Israel, and am inspired by Jewish arts, especially music. My love of Jewish life and learning has been nurtured by: my family, Jewish camping and youth group, Jewish life on campus, teaching in Jewish programs, and both my formal and informal studies.


In Mayim Tamid, I seek to create an atmosphere where children find elements of Jewish life that excite them, too. No matter what the topic, I find that their ability to ask probing questions deepens each conversation, and their creativity expands and reinforces their learning. It’s a pleasure to partner with TBS families in guiding my students’ Jewish learning.

Jess Green
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


I once heard a writer explain that the reason they chose that vocation is because they believe that we are all tools of G-d and once we figure out what kind of tools we are, we’d better get to work. This philosophy resonates deeply for me, for both myself as an educator and for my students. All children have strengths, callings, aptitudes, interests, and potentials that are unique to them. I highly value teaching with a focus on inclusion, independence, and social emotional learning. I am personally drawn to nature, cooking, creativity, community, and books and the power and joy of these experiences are deeply reflected in my classroom.

I am in my fifth year at TBS and bring an additional ten years of experiences working with children in camps and schools. My undergraduate degree is in Women's Studies from the University of Maryland and I am in my second year of the Master's in Jewish Education program at Hebrew College. I have lived in Boston for over thirteen years and am deeply connected to my Jewish communities and chosen family here.

Emily Kestenbaum
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I always felt that the best educators I had were the ones who were continuously learning and growing. I strive to follow their path and learn from my colleagues and students every day. I believe that building a rapport with each child allows an educator to help that child access the curriculum in a way that is meaningful to them. Each year, I take the time to get to know each child personally - their backgrounds, theirs interests, and their families.  This helps me to bring highlight pieces of the curriculum for each child, where he/she may connect most to Judaism. Working at Temple Beth Shalom provides me the opportunity to be a part of a team that values the fostering of connections between children through our shared history and values, and to build on those relationships each year so they can continue to develop.

I joined the Mayim family in September 2016, and am thrilled to continue learning from this amazing group of educators and professionals on a daily basis. I am originally from Stonybrook, NY and come with experiences as a full time public school teacher, Hebrew school teacher, and youth group director. I also spent five summers working as the Waterfront Director at Eisner Camp. I live with my husband, Ben, in Northborough and enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading, and swimming!

Carla Kopikis
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


I am thrilled to be joining the team, teaching small group Hebrew! 


As a Psychology and Education student at Clark University, my first teaching position was teaching small group Hebrew at Temple Emanuel  in Worcester, and I feel like I am coming full circle!


After college, I went on to teach Hebrew at Temple Israel in Boston and over the years, I worked as an inclusion support staff to students at Temple Emanuel in Newton.


While working in Jewish education I earned my masters in Special Education at UMass Boston, and went on to teach almost 8 years as a Learning Center Teacher in the Newton Public Schools.


As an educator, I believe in meeting each student and family where they are. Through open communication, a warm connection, and a very special learning community, we can accomplish anything!

Didi Poliak
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I am so excited to continue my journey as a Jewish Learning Guide at TBS this year! I have a Bachelors Degree in Human Services from the University of Delaware and have always been passionate about Jewish learning. I grew up at URJ Eisner Camp and have worked there for many years, strengthening my connection to the Reform Jewish community. I love being a part of the JLG team and cannot wait to continue inspiring our fourth and fifth grade students to deepen their connections to Judaism and Jewish learning. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to work with our amazing teens in Etzim! I am looking forward to another great year at TBS! 

Liron Riess
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


As an educator at TBS I am committed to creating an environment that welcomes each individual child with warmth, joy and a feeling of safety and acceptance.
I provide structure, I encourage an interest in learning and I always look for ways to support each child in feeling successful, in a surrounding that meets all needs.

I work tirelessly to connect with parents and sometimes with school so all are on the same plan for success. Family engagement and communication is essential in creating a home away from home in Mayim Tamid Shanah Alef.

During the year we will foster a sense of a family like, tight community, respect for each other and respect for all that’s around us, and we will focus on ways we can contribute to our world.

Raised in Israel, I am passionate about sharing experiences and memories from my upbringing, and I find myself using content I remember enjoying as a child. I grew up on Kibbutz Ginnosar, right on Lake Kinneret. The Jewish education I received was centered on love for the land of Israel, the history of the people, and had a strong focus on celebrating the holidays and the traditions that kept Judaism alive all around the world for all these years.

I had gained incredible experience working with children at the Kibbutz, as well as teaching young women during my service at the Israeli Army, so when I arrived to the US over 20 years ago, I began working with children in a Children’s Center in Cambridge and then in Foxboro.
My college courses focused on Child Psychology and Child development and added to my passion in continuing working with children at TBS. Here I found a warm community, that is open and inclusive.

I feel fortunate to have been a part of developing and delivering The Mayim Education for KG/1st Grade, Kindergarten Enrichment on Fridays , Hebrew learning and Mayim Tamid.

Sheira Rosenfield
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


As a young girl, I loved my summer experiences at Camps Yavneh and Ramah.  Being Jewish has always been an integral part of my life. My parents and their extended families were all in Jewish education.  Our house was filled with Yiddiskeit; music, books and art and my passion for continuing to learn more about Judaism thrived. I went to the Prozdor, which was the high school program at the Hebrew College in Brookline and loved both the social and academic atmosphere there. It was there that I became more interested in learning about the Holocaust.

I then attended UMASS Amherst where I received my B.A., and was privileged to learn more about the Holocaust with the world renowned Holocaust professor, David Wyman.  I then went to Wheelock College where I received my Master’s Degree in Education.

Combining my background in education with my passion for Judaism and the Holocaust, I have found a home at TBS where I get to teach these important and meaningful subjects every day.   Watching B’nei Mitzvah students become excited on their journeys towards Jewish adulthood, seeing the excitement on students’ faces when they learn new Hebrew letters and teaching the Holocaust and Human Behavior Class reinforces for me that I am right where I am meant to be doing what I love most.
I currently live in Acton with my husband Mark and our dog Ruby.   We have a son, Ben who is currently following his dreams and we are very proud of him!

Sabrina Shemesh
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


As a native Israeli I joined the IDF when I was 18. I served in the   Intelligence branch and then earned a certificate in accounting.


Six years after leaving the IDF, my husband and I and our two boys, Nir and Lior moved to California.  It was at that time that I discovered within me a passion for working with and teaching children. I then earned a certificate in child development and I became a preschool teacher.  After nine years and one more child, our daughter Tal, we moved to Massachusetts where I then put my skills as a teacher to work in Jewish education.


I joined the TBS "family" eighteen years ago, and it has been the best career choice for me.  Teaching Hebrew, becoming a Mayim JLG, tutoring for bar/bat mitzvah and supervising madrichim is all very fulfilling for me.


I live in Newton with my husband Sasson, my dauhter Tal, and our dog Uzi, and love spending time with my three grown children, Lior, Nir and Tal.

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Ianne Sherry
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


I am passionate about instilling a love of learning and a love of Judaism in the children with whom I have the honor to work. Originally from Fairfax, VA, I recently graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Education Studies and minors in Judaic Studies and Economics. I plan to use this education as well as my experience working with children in both classrooms and experiential settings to create engaging learning experiences at TBS. I am excited to work as a JLG to build relationships with my students, create community in and out of the classroom and forge connections for the next generation to the Jewish community. 

Carl Shulman
Pronouns: He/Him/His


Since getting my first job at summer camp in 2006, teaching and experiential education have been foundational in my career. Graduating from UMass Amherst with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in Art History, concentrating on protest art: 1950-present, solidified my interest in advocacy and action. Professionally, I am involved with NFTY-NE, American Jewish summer camping, as well as high school experimental curriculum development for a grant program in the southern MetroWest. 

Ilana Streit
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I grew up in a small synagogue that was as old as I was, and as an adult, I have participated and led in a number of grassroots Jewish communities. I have also taught in supplementary religious schools and led workshops and religious services for children and adults.


The small learning communities at TBS are a great fit for me. I love being part of a faculty that knows, respects and empowers our students, and I love having the freedom to follow the needs and interests of a particular group of students.


I bring to my work at TBS my learning in Jewish communal service and mission-driven management (at Brandeis University); embodied Jewish women’s spiritual leadership (at the Kohenet training program at Isabella Freedman Jewish retreat center); the Feldenkrais Method of somatic awareness; peer counseling; Waldorf education; Nonviolent Communication; and Permaculture.


As a teacher, I meet children’s enthusiasm with my own; I nurture children’s relationships with each other and with Jewish traditions; and I make space for physical movement and creative expression. I am passionate about living and teaching a Judaism that is relevant, meaningful, deeply rooted, and transformative.

Zoe Summit
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


I am so excited to be a part of the Mayim family again this year. I feel strongly that, as educators, it is our job to meet each child where they are and foster a love for learning and for Judaism from there. As a special educator, I am a firm believer in individualizing education. I never assume every kid in the room needs the same things or can access the same things in the same ways. I love how many access points there are to each concept in the Mayim curriculum and how small the groups are so we can always make this happen!


During the week I teach in an autism program in Boston Public Schools and over the summer I serve as the Inclusion Coordinator at Eisner Camp. My favorite part of this work is building relationships with amazing teachers, students, and parents. I love learning from and growing with everyone in this community!

Earnest Vener
Pronouns: He/Him/His


I cherish the opportunity to build a learning community of young people at TBS that is centered on our shared Jewish culture, community building, and personal growth. I see each child as a stakeholder of Judaism and work to create opportunities for them to take ownership over our stories, traditions, and language. I bring a deep love for Jewish texts, storytelling, and theatre to the classroom.

In my eight years working as Jewish educator, I continue to find that my favorite part of this work is developing personal relationships with each young person and their family. I am inspired by the passions, interests, and growing edges of my students and integrate my knowledge of them into our instructional time together.I utilize my M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union, B.A. in Hebrew from UC Berkeley, and my time at Svara Yeshiva to instill in my students a love for Jewish learning that is rooted in history, cultural arts, and social justice.

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