Sheryl Eskowitz is the Education Director at Congregation Beth Yeshurun. She is a native Houstonian and has loved coming full circle to work at the synagogue she grew up in. After graduating with a degree in Elementary Education from The University of Texas at Austin, she attained her Master's Degree in Reading Education and her Mid-Management Certification. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in public school. She served as the Elementary School Principal at The Shlenker School for fourteen years and held a dual position of Acting Head of School/Elementary Principal for two of those years. She later became the Regional Director for Lonestar Region BBYO, where she worked for five years. In her spare time, she enjoys playing mah jongg and spending time with family and friends.
Gil Brav, our new Houston Shaliach was born in Kibbutz Ga’aton in the northern part of Israel and moved to Prague at the age of 6 and returned to Israel a few years later. Gil served in the army for three years as a commander in regiment 932 of the Nachal Brigade. After his army service, Gil studied to become a tour guide and received his official license in 2015. Since that time, he has been showing Israel to a variety of Jewish communities from around the globe. Gil fell in love with schlichut seven years ago when he worked as a song leader at the JCC in Nashville, TN. He enjoyed experiencing different streams of Judaism and exploring a new atmosphere, while getting the opportunity to bring Israel to the J through music. His dream was to return to shlichut and he is excited to now be in Houston with his partner, Hadas Levy. Instead of bringing people to Israel, he is excited to be here and bring “his” Israel: the multicultural, diverse, musical, beautiful Israel to this wonderful community of Houston.
Michael Duke is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist for Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper. Michael joins the faculty of Kehillah High with more than a dozen years of teaching experience, ranging from the college undergraduate level to high school and middle school. Beyond the traditional classroom setting, he has helped guide teen trips to Israel, Poland and Washington, has run journalism and photography workshops, and is a curriculum developer and presenter for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston’s Teen Israel Ambassadors program. Born in Tehran, Iran, two years before the Islamic Revolution, Michael regards himself as an unapologetic Zionist, who is passionate about helping students find their own connections with Israel as a means of strengthening their Jewish identities. Outside of work, Michael pursues street and documentary photography. He enjoys collaborating with his wife, Rachel, an art historian, who works in the Latin American Art department at Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
Sacha Bodner is a grateful dad, husband, and licensed master social worker in Houston, TX. He was inspired to pursue his career after experiencing transformative alternative break trips in El Salvador, Mexico, Ukraine, and Ghana. With graduate degrees in Social Work and Law and Social Policy, he has dedicated his profession to advocating for vulnerable children and families across schools, communities, and cultures. He has recently served as a Trainer with Fuel Ed, a Houston based non-profit organization that fuels schools with the power of empathic relationships, as well as a Regional Facilitator with New Politics Leadership Academy, a national non-profit dedicated to creating opportunities for service veterans to engage with policy and politics. Since shortly after Hurricane Harvey, he has managed Act Now Houston, a volunteer initiative that engages the local and national Jewish Community in rebuilding a greater Houston through service. Creative as well in artistic pursuits of music, photography, and cooking, Sacha is passionate about building inclusive community and empowering individuals to maximize positive social progress.
After 20 years working in professional sports and entertainment, Olga enrolled at the Jewish Theological Seminary and graduated in 2014 with a Master's Degree in Jewish Education. She holds an B.A. Degree in Sociology from Princeton University.
Sarah Yonas is the Regional Director for BBYO Lonestar Region. Originally from Ohio, Sarah attended The Ohio State University, Kent State University, and most importantly, graduated with high honors from her hometown’s community “Hebrew High”. She taught religious school for a variety of ages in Austin, and was a 2012 recipient of the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Sarah has truly missed teaching since moving to Houston a few years ago, and can’t wait to be back in the classroom! When Sarah isn’t working, she loves to bake (ask her for some challah!), read, cheer on her Buckeyes, and explore Houston.
Jennifer Quick is the Assistant Principal of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas. Before coming to Texas, Jennifer was the Youth Program Manager for Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California. She has worked in various roles in Jewish education over the past 10 years including family educator, youth group advisor, Hebrew tutor, retreat coordinator, and classroom teacher. Jennifer is a proud recipient of The Smotrich Educator Award from the BJE of Los Angeles (Builders of Jewish Education). She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University, Northridge. She is currently enrolled in the Executive Masters Program for Leadership in Jewish Education through Hebrew Union College. Jennifer is also a certified Yoga teacher with a focus on teen and children yoga.
Alyssa Weinstein-Sears is the Summer Learning Experiences Manager for Holocaust Museum Houston. She also works on their Educator in Motion team to bring Holocaust, genocide, and social cruelty curriculum to schools in the Greater Houston area. Alyssa has a BA in English and Creative Writing from the Pennsylvania State University, a certificate in Strategic Communication from University of Texas, and is completing her Masters in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College, in Pennsylvania. She believes that utilizing the past to understand the present can help young people build a better future. When Alyssa isn’t teaching, she likes to spend time with her husband, their two children, and her two dogs.
Cantor Mark Levine
Cantor Mark Levine is the Director of Education at Congregation Brith Shalom. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the State University of New York and a Judaic degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he earned a master's degree as a Chazan at the Manhattan School for Cantors. Cantor Levine has taught in Religious Schools, Day Schools, and The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning programs across the country. He has led several teen trips to Israel and worked for more than 15 years at Camp Ramah. Cantor Levine brings a burning passion for Jewish learning, psychology, and professional sports, all of which he utilizes in his teaching.
Rabbi David Lyon
Rabbi David Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. He is an advocate for Israel, promotes interfaith relations in greater Houston, and serves the Reform Movement as a board member of the CCAR. He is the author of “God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime” (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011). Every Sunday morning at 6:45am, he can be heard on the radio at KODA 99.1. At Kehillah High, Rabbi Lyon is eager to teach and inspire, and he welcomes time with students over coffee/latte/chai tea to talk about their concerns and interests. On vacation, he loves to hike in the Colorado Rockies and fly fish on the Roaring Fork River. Rabbi Lyon is married to Lisa and they have four children.
Rabbi Steven Morgen
Rabbi Steven Morgen is an Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun. He graduated from UCLA School of Law and practiced corporate and securities law in Los Angeles for over nine years. Rabbi Morgen was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1998. He has written action papers for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism on "Courtesy and Civility" and on "Organ Donations" and wrote and edited the text for a CD ROM on Kashrut for the Conservative Movement. Rabbi Morgen coordinates Adult Education programs at Beth Yeshurun and runs the Conversion Program for those interested in joining the Jewish faith and people. He is married to Cantor Diane Dorf. Their son Daniel is a Kehillah High alum.
Sarah was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her BA in English at Union College in upstate New York. She minored in Art History. In college, she served as an admissions tour guide which sparked her interest in higher education. Sarah has worked in the admission offices at Sarah Lawrence College, Marymount Manhattan College, and Rice University where she served as Assistant Director of Admission. She now helps guide students through their college application process and serves as the Director of College Counseling at Xavier Educational Academy in West U. Sarah earned her certificate in College Counseling at UCLA. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the Houston restaurant scene and museums, spinning, cooking, and volunteering with dog rescue groups.
Katelyn Bleiweiss is a 4th generation native Houstonian, who is proud to be serving her community. She attended HSPVA and then went on to do Young Judea Year Course in Israel. Upon her return, she attended the University of Texas at Austin and received a BA in Anthropology with a minor in Jewish Studies. After a few years in Austin, she returned to Houston to attend the University of Texas Health Science Center- School of Public Health, and earned her Masters of Public Health with a focus in program planning, implementation, and evaluation. As the need for suicide prevention was increasing, Katelyn was recruited into the new mental health programs department to serve as a mental health program coordinator. She is now the first and only certified Sources of Strength instructor in Texas, and is very passionate about finding the positives in life. In her free time, she likes to hike, pet dogs, play music, and create crafts.
Rabbi Sarah Fort
Rabbi Sarah Fort is the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun. She graduated from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California in 2017, and holds a BA in Government and International Politics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. A native of the DC area, Rabbi Fort spent years working in Jewish formal and informal education: as a youth group advisor, religious school instructor, Hillel president, and assistant preschool teacher. While in rabbinical school, Rabbi Fort was awarded the Jacob Pressman Award in Homiletics, interned at Shomrei Torah Synagogue, and had the opportunity to travel to Birobidzhan, Russia to serve as a camp rabbi at the JDC Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Camp, alongside her husband, Rabbi Ariel Sholklapper. Together, both rabbis enjoy binging on TV shows, cooking, and traveling the world.
Emily is a senior at the University of Houston, majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders and minoring in Education. She plans to attend graduate school and become a Speech-Language Pathologist. At school, Emily has been active with the University of Houston Hillel, and will be serving as a board member for the second year. Emily has been working closely with Celebration Company, first as a Job Coach and then as a Co-Coordinator for the Summer Transitions Program. She is extremely excited to be a Kesher Teacher at Kelliah High!
Sarah Goldberg is the Youth Programming Coordinator at Congregation Beth Yeshurun. Sarah grew up outside Philadelphia, PA and attended Tulane University, where she studied Psychology, Sociology, and Jewish Studies. She worked at Camp Ramah for five summers which sparked her passion for experiential Jewish education. Sarah moved to Houston in 2016 and enjoys traveling, going to concerts, and exploring the diverse local food scene.
David M. Scott, RJE is the Executive Director and Director of Lifelong Learning at Congregation Beth Israel. He has served the congregation full time since January 2014, after practicing law for thirteen years. In 2017, he graduated from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Executive Master’s (EMA) Program with a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education in 2017 and subsequently received his RJE certification in 2018. He also serves as a national Board Member of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE). David completed his undergraduate studies with a major in Government at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 followed by a law degree at the University of Houston Law Center in 2001. David is also an alumnus in the Wexner Heritage Foundation class of 2006. David enjoys music, playing piano, performing magic, and is a licensed hypnotist. He also enjoys working with his wife, Rabbi Adrienne Scott, who is Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, and they have two children, Beryt (11) and Ezra (8).
Samara Schwartz is the Principal of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center at Congregation Beth Israel. Samara’s passion for Jewish education started early - she was that student who loved Sunday school. She learned all she could during college and graduate school, and even continuing further, earning BAs in Applied Philosophy and Jewish Studies from Columbia University, a Master’s Degree in Bible and the Ancient Near East from Brandeis University, and certification in the teaching of Advanced Jewish Texts from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. She has taught in Jewish synagogues and schools for 15 years, including schools in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Alaska. Rumors that half her students in Alaska were, in fact, moose, are completely exaggerated. Samara loves to read, cook, knit, sing, and spend time with her family.
Rabbi Adrienne Scott
Rabbi Adrienne Scott is the Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, she received her B.A. with Honors in Judaic Studies in 1998. Rabbi Scott served a one-year fellowship with the Hillel Foundation of Greater Houston, working as a Jewish Campus Service Fellow focusing on outreach programming for the undergraduate students at Rice University and the University of Houston. She received her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and served student pulpits in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and Florida. Additionally, she was very involved in both choral and orchestral groups. Rabbi Scott has been recognized as a Woman of Influence by the National Council of Jewish Women.
Dolph Simon has been teaching religious school for 15 years. He was recognized as one of the 2016 Irving L. Samuels Outstanding Teachers for Judaic Studies award recipients. When not teaching religious school, he works for a steel company where he trains personnel, manages sales representatives, develops large accounts and directs change management. Dolph is married and is the proud father of four children, three turtles, two dogs, and one snake. His hobbies include: golf, tennis and cooking.
Lisa Stone is a native Texan and a Jewish educator since age 14, when she became a teaching assistant at Congregation Emanu El. Lisa graduated from Yale with a BA in “Literature and Society” and later a Masters in Public Health. Since returning to Houston, she served as Upper School Principal at Emanu El from 1992-2012. She now works for ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, which has been fighting prejudice and hate since 1913. She is very happily married to Scott Cantor, an enthusiastic karaoke singer, volunteer at Congregation Beth Israel and professor of medical decision making; together they have three wonderful adult children. In her spare time, Lisa really enjoys being in the mountains, yoga, exercise while reading science fantasy by women writers, and knitting while watching movies or traveling!
Rabbi Brian Strauss
Rabbi Brian Strauss joined Congregation Beth Yeshurun in July 2001. He is the author of the new book, “To Life, To Family, To Me: 6 Keys to a Good Family Life,” an Amazon.com #1 Category Best Seller. Rabbi Strauss grew up in Dallas and was very active in BBYO serving as the president of the Dallas Council. He is a graduate of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Mu and president of the UT Hillel. He is still a huge Longhorn fan. Rabbi Strauss was selected as the winner in the men’s spiritual leader category in Houston’s city-wide “Gen Next” contest, which recognizes Jewish professionals in their twenties and thirties. He was also a member of the prestigious program Rabbis Without Borders, sponsored by the National Jewish Center for Learning & Leadership (CLAL). Rabbi Strauss is married to Lisa Shapiro Strauss, a practicing attorney and a previous fellow in the Wexner Heritage Program. They have three children.
Rabbi Ranon Teller
Rabbi Ranon Teller is the rabbi at Congregation Brith Shalom. He graduated from Columbia College with a B.A. in Television Writing. Rabbi Teller earned a Master's Deggree in Education from the Fingerhut School of Education and his rabbinic ordination from Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. He served on the board at Jewish Family Service and is the President of the Houston Rabbinical Association. Rabbi Teller has a beautiful wife, Vicki, and four beautiful children, Ariella Pearl, Maya Naima, Jake
Aaron, and Nava Liba, and a dog named Jessie Afikoman. He plays guitar and loves Jewish music, blues, folk and any music with deep roots.
Dr. Stephan Wexler
Dr. Stephan Wexler has been a member of Congregation Beth Israel since the 1960s. After retiring from Plastic Surgery practice in 2001, Dr. Wexler went on to receive a masters degree in Theatre, an MBA and a JD. He has been teaching religious school since 2002. Among the many hats he wears, Dr. Wexler practices Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law working with authors, artists and musicians, teaches Art Law at Glassell School of Art, is Chief Medical Officer for Arcos, a local startup designing software for critical care medicine and he started a legal aid clinic for patients at Legacy Community Health.
Lisa Brooks has been working in Jewish education for 13 years. She works both at Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism as a teacher in their high school, and as a speech coach for students preparing for their b'nai mitzvot at Congregation Emanu El. She has taught a variety of grade levels from first grade through high school. She has worked as a journalist and photojournalist, and still pursues photography as a hobby. She works as a tutor, helping students in high school with reading comprehension and writing, and younger children with learning differences. She also works as an executive function coach for people of all ages. Lisa has a BA wit a double major in Psychology and Drama from Franklin & Marshall College. Lisa is a mother of 4 almost grown up children, and when she isn't busy with work or her favorite job of being a mom, she serves on the Franklin & Marshal College Alumni Board and the Board of Trustees. Lisa also enjoys cooking, reading, taking advantage of Houston's vibrant arts community, and has a passion for the Houston Astros.