Kehillah High’s faculty includes a variety of unique professionals from the greater Houston community including local clergy, Jewish, and secular educational professionals. Take a look at our amazing Kehillah High faculty!
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.
Sophie is a housing and environmental justice researcher and advocate at Texas Housers. She derives her inspiration to work for community equity from the Jewish value of b’tselem elohim, the idea that we all exist in the image of the divine. Prior to working on housing justice issues, she did corporate accountability research and studied biology and public health. In her spare time, she provides educational workshops on topics related to Judaism and social justice as an Avodah Justice Ambassador. Some other interests of hers include intentional communities, hiking, dancing, and folk music.
Rabbi Sarah Fort
Rabbi Sarah Fort is an associate 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: 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. She loves binge-watching TV, cooking, and traveling the world.
Manizeh Mirza-Gruber, M.D.
My name is Manizeh Mirza-Gruber, M.D., and I am a licensed, board-certified psychiatrist with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. I work in community mental health and am the founder of my private practice, Mindful in Practice™. As an individual, parent, and psychiatrist, I follow a holistic approach to life. I believe in connecting mind, body, and spirit for healing. I am “mindful in practice”, taking one moment at a time to help others on their journey to becoming their true and authentic self.
I focus on wellness – healthy lifestyle, stress management, exercise, and nutrition. I am a Certified Mind-Body Skills Facilitator with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. I have been facilitating Mind-Body Skills groups and workshops since January 2018 to bring healing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and now through the pandemic. I am also a Certified Yoga Teacher with the National Association of Certified Yoga Teachers.
I am happily married to my husband and we have two adult children. I am an avid runner, a marathoner, and ultramarathoner. I have a daily practice of running, yoga, and meditation. I love to read, cook, spend time with my family and friends, and volunteer. I am a forever learner.
McKenzie currently serves as an Assistant Director at URJ Greene Family Camp focused on hiring and supporting the best counselors and staff members. Residing in Houston during the year and working with the Houston Jewish community, McKenzie feels fortunate to be able to create camp magic all year long! Prior to her current role at Greene, McKenzie was a student at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!) studying elementary education and Religious School Director at the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation. During her free time, McKenzie enjoys yoga and exploring the best of Houston parks!
Randi Sonenshein, Social Action Strategist for the Educational Excellence Resource Group, provides strategic direction, planning and implementation for a range of initiatives that promote deep civic engagement with issues of identity, race equity and social justice. She’s been a Houstonian for 15 years and held a variety of positions in corporate settings, including Chief Merchandising Officer for Blinds.com, a Home Depot Company, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Finance, Stage Stores, and Vice President Investor Relations and Finance, francesca’s. Randi combines 20 years of corporate strategy and leadership experience with a passion for racial and social justice and community building. Having been shaped by her refugee family that survived the Holocaust, and affected by social forces at odds with her values, Randi felt summoned to leave her corporate career and focus her attention on social justice struggles. She serves as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis text line and she co-founded and is active in the Houston Jewish Collaborative for Racial Justice. Randi passionately works towards community change and societal reform and is animated by the vision that every Houstonian will have a fair chance to build the life they want, without being held back by systemic obstacles or discrimination.
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.
Rotem Cohen is originally from Modi'In, Israel. After completing her military service in the Israeli Air Force Rotem moved to Houston to be the Israeli Shlicha (emissary) at the Jewish Community Center. In her work she is creating a bridge between her home community of Israel and her adopting community here in Houston through different programs for all ages.
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.
Sarah is the Program Associate at Congregation Beth Yeshurun and the Marketing and Communications Assistant for Kehillah High. 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, doing Zumba, and finding the best iced coffee in Houston.
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.
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.
JR (they/them) is a queer nonbinary activist from Jackson, Mississippi. JR has expertise in sexual health, sexual and domestic violence prevention, and LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. They are currently working as an Assistant Director at the University of Houston and as a consultant for their company, I Believe You, LLC (jessicarubinsky.com). JR is extremely passionate about building community for LGBTQ+ Jews, educating youth on age appropriate sexual health, and Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. JR uses margins of center, intersectional, and student centered approach in all the work they do, believing that all oppression is connected. JR believes in continual lifelong learning or the ability to continually acquire, fine-tune, and transfer knowledge and skills throughout life. JR is always dedicated to learning new information, perspectives, and brainstorming innovative ways to foster healing and learning in the community. They received a Master’s in Social Work with a focus on Violence and Injury Prevention from Washington University in St. Louis and their Bachelor's in Psychology and Marketing from Tulane University. In their free time, JR enjoys board games, exploring Houston, and playing with their cat, Lilith.
David M. Scott, RJE is the Director of Lifelong Learning & Engagement 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 and Ezra.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Rabbi Gideon Estes
Rabbi Gideon Estes is the Rabbi of Congregation Or Ami, a Conservative Synagogue in West Houston. Rabbi Estes was Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2010. He got his BA from UCLA in 2003 in Jewish Studies. He is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is very excited to be teaching at Kehillah High.
As the Lead Rebel for The Quiet Rebel, LLC, Tracie Jae actively centers lived experience as a way to foster better human to human interactions. In her work, she seeks to incrementally and organically shift the status quo using conversations as instruments of change. Whether working in communities or organizations, she works to ensure that voices are heard and thoughts are respected. Tracie holds a BA in Business Management and MA in Strategic Communication and Leadership. Her commitment to service spans over two decades of volunteerism and vocation in Houston’s non-profit sector; including 5 years in education. Now that her three daughters have matured to adulthood, she delights in hot coffee, blowing bubbles and recharging so she can slay new dragons.
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 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.
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.
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 Kenny Weiss
Kenny hangs out at Houston Hillel as the Rabbi and Executive Director, and teaches a Jewish Studies course or two each semester at the University of Houston. Prior to arriving at Houston Hillel in 2001, Kenny was a congregational rabbi in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., but that's so long ago he wonders why he still includes it in his bio. Kenny earned a degree in Communication from UC San Diego, a Secondary Social Studies Teaching Credential from CU Boulder, along with a Masters Degree in Hebrew Letters and Rabbinical Ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Kenny is married to Rabbi Amy Weiss, Founder and Executive Director of Undies for Everyone. Amy and Kenny enjoy spending time with their sons, Eli and Josh, both of whom participated with Houston Hillel while in college. It seems that having your father as the Hillel director isn't a deterrent to participation. Let's not talk about both parents being rabbis. Most mornings you can find Kenny running a lap or two around Rice University in preparation for the Houston Half-Marathon.