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.
Michael C. 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.
Herut Gez is excited to begin her second year as the shlicha for the Houston community. She grew up in Haifa and was a counselor and a young tribe (branch) coordinator, for the Israeli Scouts. After school, Herut took part in a gap year program called Mechinat Nachson which gave her the opportunity to learn about Israeli society, to volunteer and to travel throughout the land of Israel. Herut served in the IDF as an infantry instructor. For her significant contribution to the military system, she received the President’s Award for excellent soldiers. After her military service, Herut worked in a variety of informal education programs. She believes that through education and dialogue people can enrich their knowledge, be exposed to different attitudes, and form their identity. This strong belief in education led her to choose in the Shlichut path. Herut has a BA in education and political science, from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, where she also met Miki – her life and Shlichut adventure partner.
Rabbi Joshua Herman
Rabbi Josh Herman is the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. Rabbi Herman enjoys working with teens, helping to make Jewish tradition and texts relevant to their lives. His passion is teaching and learning about Israeli politics, culture, and society. In his free time, Rabbi Herman likes to run, spend time with his wife, Aviva, and he is a sports fan who loves the Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Green Bay Packers, and is quickly developing an affinity for the Houston Astros and Texans, especially his fellow Badger J.J. Watt.
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.
Anna Blum was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Anna attended Robert. M. Beren Academy for middle school and high school before traveling to Israel for Young Judaea's Year Course gap year program. Anna recently graduated with a degree in Political Science from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. During her time at Clark, Anna founded an Israel advocacy club on her campus in order to provide a safe space for Jews and non Jews to discuss Israeli history, culture, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She is passionate about Israel and her connection to Judaism.
Rabbi Chase Foster
Rabbi Chase Foster is the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. Chase has been engaged Jewishly since a young age, and he views working with youth and teens to be his life's passion. Chase was born in Cincinnati, graduated from Purdue University, and has lived in New Jersey, Jerusalem, and New York City. He loves most sports (Wait. You haven't watched competitive darts on ESPN2?!?!), and he loves being tormented by his teams' (Bengals, Reds, Boilermakers) persistent ineptitude. Chase lives in Upper Kirby with his wife, Sarah. In his free time, he loves to listen to music and attend concerts, play soccer, ski, and eat delicious food.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Simcha first left his hometown at age 18 to explore the land of Israel. He received a degree in creative writing from SUNY Binghamton and worked as the Education Director for Camp Ben Frankel. After he graduated from university, he spent two years studying at Yeshivat Darche Noam before moving to Houston in 2016. Outside of running Houston’s Jewish Student Union (JSU) chapters, he also teaches Jewish philosophy at Beren Academy.
Alyssa Weinstein is the Communications Manager at Congregation Beth Israel. She comes to Kehillah High after years of teaching Hebrew School, and at the college level. Her passion is helping teens and young adults figure out their answer to the question, “What does being a good ‘World Citizen’ mean to you?” Alyssa is currently studying at Gratz College, where she will earn her Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the Pennsylvania State University, and holds a Certificate in Strategic Communication from University of Texas, Austin. Alyssa is thrilled for the opportunity to work with the future leaders of the Houston Jewish Community, and looks forward to inspiring thoughtful dialogue that is rooted in Jewish values, amongst her students.
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.
Nancy Pryzant Picus
Nancy Pryzant Picus recently retired after twenty-nine years as the Director of Jewish Learning at The Shlenker School. During her years at UT, she discovered that her passion for teaching matched her passion for Judaism. She combined them in her choice of careers, and received her Masters of Arts in Hebrew Education (MAHE) from Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and Los Angeles. In her long career, she has served as a Jewish educator in Los Angeles, Austin, Indianapolis, and, of course Houston.
Nancy is an avid reader, enthusiastic opera-goer, aspiring gardener, passionate environmentalist, creative cook, and committed volunteer. In her spare time, she relaxes with her loom and her needlepoint. Her greatest delight is spending time with her husband, three children, and most of all, her grandson.
Michael (Miki) Plotkin is excited to begin his second year as our community Shaliach at the ERJCC. He was born in the former USSR and made Aliya with his entire family when he was three years old. As a teenager Miki lived in Bet-Shemesh and studied in Jerusalem at 'Havat HaNoar HaTzioni', a unique school that he probably will tell you about. After high school, he served three years in the IDF as a commander in the Air Defense Forces. In recent years, Miki serve in the Iron Dome unit as part of his reserve duty. After his military service, he visited the United States as a Jewish Agency counselor in Tel Yehuda camp. This experience was very meaningful, and influenced his motivation to work with Jewish communities abroad. He started to work as a counselor in different training programs in the former USSR and Russia (even in Siberia), and chose to deepen in this sphere and work as a Shaliach at the Houston J. Miki has a B.A. in Education and Political Science from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, where he also met Herut – his life and Shlichut adventure partner.
Rabbi David Rosen
Rabbi David Rosen has been the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun since 1996. A native of Houston, Rabbi Rosen grew up at Beth Yeshurun, attended the synagogue’s Hebrew School and became a Bar Mitzvah there. He was a journalism major in college and edited the Jewish student newspaper, the University Jewish Voice. He loves Israel and spends extended time there every summer. Rabbi Rosen has a variety of interests including old TV shows such as westerns and Perry Mason mysteries and is a fan of great animation. He is married and is the father of two children.
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.
Rabbi Ariel Sholklapper
Rabbi Ariel Sholklapper, a Los Angeles native, recently moved to Houston with his wife, Rabbi Sarah Fort, Beth Yeshurun's newest clergy member. Rabbi Sholklapper trained as a Jewish mindfulness meditation teacher through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. He loves to teach in a variety of settings including businesses, schools, nonprofits, and religious organizations. Ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, he also holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management. Rabbi Sholklapper works remotely for the newest Camp Ramah located in Northern California as Director of Development and Communications. He's excited to be in Houston and contribute to the community here!
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.
David Scott is the Executive Director and the Director of Lifelong Learning at Congregation Beth Israel. After thirteen years as a litigation attorney, David left the practice of law to pursue is passion for Jewish education. He recently received his Master's Degree in Jewish Education from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He enjoys music, playing piano, performing magic, and is a licensed hypnotist. David is married to Rabbi Adrienne Scott; they have two children, Beryt and Ezra, and they are always looking for great babysitters!
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. She has been 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 a Master’s of Public Health. Since returning to Houston, she served as Upper School Principal at Emanu El from 1992-2012. During the week, Lisa is a research coordinator at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, focusing on decision-making for end of life care. She is very happily married to Scott Cantor, an enthusiastic karaoke singer and volunteer at Congregation Beth Israel, and together they have three wonderful adult children. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys 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.
Wendy Warren is the Senior Associate Director of Education at Holocaust Museum Houston. She earned her M. Ed. from the University of Houston and has been an educator for twenty years. Prior to joining the museum, she taught a variety of social studies courses and held leadership positions at the campus and school district level. Additionally, she developed and implemented the first Holocaust and Genocide Studies course in Alief ISD. Wendy and her students also created an Upstanders Club to promote social justice and community involvement. She is passionate about working with teens to support their development of empathy, inclusiveness, and active citizenship. Originally from New York, Wendy has made Houston her home. She enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her husband, 4 children and two dogs.
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.
Rabbi Zally Lazarus
Zally was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. After years of studying in Israel, New York and Argentina, he spent a year in Atlanta, GA, where he received his Smicha, Rabbinic ordination. Zally moved to Houston with Houston native wife Esti, in 2013, and has been a part of the Friendship Circle of Houston, where he currently serves as the Associate Director of the Youth Division. His time spent with children and adults with disabilities, has taught and shown first hand the importance of Inclusion in the Jewish Community, where he looks to educate others too. While not participating in the Friendship Circle or teaching, Zally loves sports and the outdoors, and is an avid runner. He resides in Houston with his wife and 3 children.