Meet Our Faculty Members:
NEXT Program Director
Rabbi Erin Hirsh, MAHL
Rabbi Erin Hirsh is the Director of NEXT: the Professiona Learning Program for Supplementary School Teachers. Rabbi Hirsh has worked with Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Reconstructionist and secular communities throughout North America. A graduate of Vassar College and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Hirsh has dedicated her rabbinate to ensuring that Jewish education is engaging, relevant and meaningful for everyone involved.
Rabbi Hirsh directed two congregational schools in the greater Philadelphia area for more than a decade. In addition to school and congregational environments, she has taught and worked in informal Jewish settings such as overnight camps and youth groups. Most recently, Rabbi Hirsh served as Director of Education for the Reconstructionist Movement. In that capacity, she trained and mentored dozens of rabbis, Jewish educators, and communal leaders. Rabbi Hirsh also writes both formal and experiential curricula for elementary age children, teens, families and adults.
NEXT Faculty Members
Dr. Gloria Becker is the Program Director for Educational Technology at Jewish Learning Venture. She is an Adjunct Professor at Gratz College. Dr. Becker worked as a synagogue educational director for 13 years. She holds a B.A. in accounting from Muhlenberg College, an M.A. in Jewish Education (teaching and supervision) from Gratz College, and an Ed.D. in Instructional Leadership K-12 from Argosy University. Dr. Becker’s areas of specialty include instructional design, curriculum design, school management, teacher training, and educational technology.
Anita Block is a life-long Jewish educator. She has a degree in Elementary Education from Saint Joseph's University, a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from Arcadia University and a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies from Gratz College. She has taught children from infant through 7th grade in a variety of settings including early childhood centers, Jewish day schools and synagogue schools. Anita was the founding director of the Early Childhood Center at Main Line Reform Temple and continued in that role for 14 years before becoming the Director of Education for both the Early Childhood Center and the Religious School for an additional 7 years. She was the principal of the Perelman Jewish Day School, Forman Center before assuming the position as the Director of the NESS (Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools) Initiative for the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education/Jewish Learning Venture. Anita is currently the Director of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Early Learning Center, administered by Federation Early Learning Services, in Ambler.
Linda Block-Love, M.S.M., M.Ed., is the Director of Educational Leadership at Jewish Learning Venture in Philadelphia. Ms. Block-Love is responsible for programs that enhance all aspects of congregational learning. Her work with educational professionals and lay leaders includes providing consulting services for congregations that are in the process of exploring and implementing new educational models, building supportive and collaborative relationships among education directors, and arranging professional development for education directors and their faculties. Ms. Block-Love is also the Philadelphia consultant for the Shinui: Igniting Change in Jewish Education consortium. Immediately prior to joining Jewish Learning Venture Ms. Block-Love was an educational consultant working with Intermediate Units and school districts across Pennsylvania in the areas of curriculum design, instructional approaches, professional staff development, program evaluation and redesign, and gifted education. In addition, Ms. Block-Love has worked with both not-for-profit and for-profit institutions in strategic planning and management.
Peter Eckstein serves as the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth David in Palm Beach Gardens and is also the Technology Integration Educator for the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education. Having earned his Masters in Elementary Education from Nova Southeastern University and in Jewish Education from Hebrew College, Peter also has certificates in Education Technology Integration, as well as in Online and Blended Learning Design from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education. He has earned the title Reform Jewish Educator (RJE) from the Reform Movement and Conservative Jewish Educator (CJE) from the Conservative Movement. He tweets as @redmenace56.
Rabbi Richard S. Fagan, MAHL, is an Education Consultant specializing in creative practices in Jewish teaching and curriculum development, and in the uses of technology to benefit learning. He was a National Consultant for PELIE, working with the CIJC change initiative and developing webinars on using digital media in the classroom.
From 1996-2010 “Rabbi Richie” served as a consultant at the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education, in the areas of curriculum, teacher training, moral education, adolescent learning, and as the agency Jewish content specialist. As part of Philadelphia’s NESS initiative, he led the team which created the Professional Development for Teachers and the Curriculum programs, and was a primary facilitator for teachers and lay leaders both in Philadelphia PA and in San Francisco CA.
Growing up in the Reform movement, ordained a Conservative rabbi, now in the Orthodox world, he has a deep personal appreciation for Jewish diversity.
Rabbi Richie has led congregations in Georgia, Florida, and New Jersey and is the author of the original “Take the MTV Challenge” curriculum, combining classic Judaic texts and popular media. He continues to be a mentor to students and teachers, and a regular speaker, Scholar-in Residence, facilitator, online presence, and storyteller for religious and educational groups.
Rabbi Jeff is the Founding Director of Camp JRF and Noar Hadash. In over 36 years as a rabbi, he has served congregations in Plantation, FL, Philadelphia and State College, PA, directed Hillel at Penn State and has also run summer camps, youth programs, family retreats and family trips to Israel. He received his Masters in Education from Temple University and is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Jeffrey Eisenstat and his wife, Rabbi Sarah Messinger, created Congregation Shireinu, outside of Philadelphia, where they use their experiential skills in creative prayer.
While at RRC Rabbi Jeff created an alternative Jewish high school program which was the genesis of experiential learning which guided his work with youth and camping and was featured at the very first CAJE Conference in 1976. At RRC Rabbi Jeff has taught courses for Rabbi as Educator, Merging Formal and Informal Jewish Learning and at present is facilitating Transformative Text Experiences. Among his writings are studies in creating family davening experiences, teaching the Civilization Approach and The Values of Spiritual Peoplehood. Rabbi Jeff has also made some musical recordings.
Rabbi Jeff is a recipient of the Ira Eisenstein Lifetime Achievement Award from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
Mimi Polin Ferraro is an alumna of the Gratz Hebrew High School and received her MA and EdD Jewish Education from Gratz College. Last spring, she became the first graduate of Gratz’s doctoral program in Jewish Education. Dr. Ferraro's research is entitled The Development of Special Needs Programs in the Philadelphia Jewish Community 2006- 2011. Since 1995, Dr. Ferraro has served as Director of Education at Old York Road Temple Beth Am. Dr. Ferraro’s school was among the first cohort of the Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools (NESS) initiative and continues to focus intensively on professional learning for its staff. Dr. Ferraro is an active member of the education community in Philadelphia, leading workshops in a variety of settings and serving on the Special Needs Consortium of Jewish Learning Venture.
Rabbi Robyn Frisch is the director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia and the rabbi of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai, the oldest synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia. Rabbi Frisch graduated from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 and New York University School of Law in 1991. After practicing as a corporate lawyer in a large Philadelphia law firm for several years, Rabbi Frisch decided to follow her passion and become a rabbi. She was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2000. Since her ordination, Rabbi Frisch has worked as a congregational rabbi, hospital chaplain, religious school director, family educator, adult education instructor, Rosh Hodesh group leader for teens, and Jewish day and overnight camp rabbi. Rabbi Frisch loves teaching and helping to make Judaism come alive for individuals, couples and families and empowering them to make Jewish rituals, practices and teachings a valuable part of their lives. She especially enjoys working with interfaith couples and families to create personal and meaningful life-cycle events.
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, MAJS
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is Program Director for Special Needs at Jewish Learning Venture, as well as Program Director for Family Engagement in the Kehillah of Center City. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at Gratz College. Ms. Kaplan-Mayer is an experienced Jewish educator, having worked as a Supplementary School education director, curriculum writer, teacher, and youth director/advisor for over 20 years. Gabby is the author of two books of plays for young people including Extraordinary Jews: Their Lives on Stage. Ms. Kaplan-Mayer’s nonfiction books include The Creative Jewish Wedding Book and The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner. She created an award-winning Shabbat family education program called Celebrations! for children with special needs and their families. Ms. Kaplan-Mayer’s most recent book, The Kitchen Classroom, is a cookbook for children with special needs, based on the inclusive cooking classes that she has taught for six years. She is a popular writer and blogger about Jewish topics and special needs topics. Ms. Kaplan-Mayer holds a B.F.A. in theatre and creative writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Pippi Kessler is the Program Director at Ma'yan, a feminist educational program at The JCC in Manhattan, where she designs programs for teen girls and conducts professional training seminars. She is also the Director of Rowe Young People’s Camp, a summer program for 8-11-year-olds in western Massachusetts, and leads conferences for parents and educators including “The Ethics of Working with Youth” and “Rules That Make Sense: How to Set Boundaries That Empower Kids.” She is currently completing her Masters Degree in Social-Organizational Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Deb Krivoy, MEd, is the director of Avoda Arts, a nonprofit organization that advances the arts in Jewish education through advocacy, leadership and professional development. She brings more than 20 years of broad-based experience in curriculum design, staff development and arts program management. At Avoda Arts, Ms. Krivoy co-founded the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists and the New York Jewish Student Film Festival. She and her team also created the Reel Learning film initiative, which uses powerful short films to explore issues of Jewish identity, culture and history. Ms. Krivoy’s professional interests include visual literacy and community building through the arts. She presents regularly at educational conferences and has written numerous articles on integrating the arts in Jewish educational settings.
Lynne Lieberman is the Senior Director for the Lorraine & Jack N. Friedman Commission for Jewish Education of the Palm Beaches (Friedman CJE). Lynne earned her Master's Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College of Boston, Massachusetts and a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University with a major in Hebrew Language and Literature and minor in Jewish Studies. Lynne is a graduate of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI) and holds a teaching certification from the state of Ohio. She also holds the Principals' "A" National Board of License (2002-2010). A master teacher and curriculum designer, Lynne has taught preschool, Jewish Studies and Hebrew language in afternoon religious schools, day schools, and adult education programs for over twenty-five years. She was Principal of Education for Temple Israel of Dayton, Ohio, a congregation of 800, before moving to the Palm Beaches. Prior to that Lynne taught third, fifth, and sixth grade Judaic Studies at the Hebrew Academy of Toledo, Ohio. Lynne's community service has included facilitation of the Interfaith Dialogue Series of the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians & Jews from 2003-2010 where she received the Palm Beach Fellowship for Christians & Jews’ Award for Excellence in Contribution to Education in 2008. Other awards include: The 2005 Jewish Community Relations Council Volunteer Award and the Brandeis University National Women's Committee Award for Appreciation, 2009. Lynne volunteers at her synagogue to send college students care packages for the holidays. In 2014-15, Lynne will act as field supervisor for a local Hebrew College masters in Jewish Education candidate's practicum. Lynne consults on a wide array of academic, community relations, and interfaith issues for schools, and congregations locally and nationally.
Rabbi Sarah Messinger received her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1987. Sarah has served congregations in Wilmington DE, Plantation FL and Lock Haven PA. She received her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 1997. Rabbi Sarah and her husband Rabbi Jeffrey Eisenstat have created Congregation Shireinu, outside of Philadelphia, which embodies the philosophy of "learning with laughter." Rabbi Sarah’s professional identity is defined by creative programming for families, camps and community programs. Her programs are multi generational, interactive and educational with a focus towards Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).
Rabbi Sarah has served as the Director of Education in both Reform and Reconstructionist congregations. She has developed family education programs and workshops in a number of community settings. Rabbi Sarah helped to create the educational program at Camp JRF (the National Reconstructionist Camp) and she served on the faulty at Eisner Camp (URJ camp) for many years.
In addition to programing for children, Rabbi Sarah has had extensive experience in presenting and creating adult education courses, teacher trainings and interactive adult programs. Rabbi Sarah team taught a course at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College on "Creating Transformative Text Experiences." As a rabbi, a systemic family therapist, and as an educator, Rabbi Sarah brings a unique focus to all educational opportunities.
Dina Maiben, MAJS
Dina Maiben has worked extensively in the field of Jewish Education, in both formal and informal settings. She has served as a Hebrew School director, classroom teacher, youth director, camp counselor, program director, and consultant. She was the founding chair of Monmouth County’s Commission on Jewish Education. Dina has authored nineteen books and more than two dozen journal articles and stories. Nationally recognized for her work in the area of Hebrew reading instruction, her Hebrew primer, Alef Bet Quest, won the Association of Educational Publishers’ Distinguished Achievement Award for World Language in 2010. Her most recent book, Ready, Set…Go Alef Bet!, is the first fully integrated multi-media Hebrew pre-primer. She also co-authored Z’man Likro and Z’man L’tefilah.
Dina holds an M.A. in Jewish Studies and an Advanced Certificate in Jewish Education from Gratz College, and a B.A. in Middle East Studies: Hebrew from the University of Utah. She also studied at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel. Dina is currently a doctoral candidate at Gratz College.
Mary F. Meyerson has worked with Jewish supplementary schools and preschools for over 20 years. Ms. Meyerson is the owner of Morah Mary Consulting, LLC, which focuses on professional development for supplemental school teachers, classroom modifications for students with special needs, the development of teen leadership, and curriculum review and design. Ms. Meyerson directed two religious schools and was the founding Director/Teacher of a Jewish cooperative preschool. Ms. Meyerson has served as a consultant to supplementary schools independently and as a staff member at a central agency. Ms. Meyerson, who has a B.S. in Social Work, has received the following awards for her educational leadership skills: Master Educator Award (JRF, 1998); Commendation Award (Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning, Rockville MD, 2005); and Hero in My Eyes Award (The ARC of Howard County, MD; 2007). Ms. Meyerson is a founding member of RENA (Reconstructionist Educators of North America).
Meredith Englander Polsky, MSW and MA in Special Education
Director of Training and Advocacy at Matan*
Ms. Polsky was one of the co-founders of Matan. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan, a Masters degree in Special Education from Bank Street College and a Masters degree in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University. In 2001, Ms. Polsky was one of eight national recipients of the first fellowships awarded by Joshua Venture: A Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurs. She conducts professional development seminars all over the country on inclusion in Jewish education environments, and she oversees The Matan Institute, Matan's nationally recognized flagship program for training current and future Jewish leaders on matters of inclusion. Ms. Polsky resides in Gaithersburg, Maryland with her husband and three children.
* For a 5th time, Matan has been selected as one of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in North America and one of the 18 leading Jewish organizations committed to fostering inclusion of people with disabilities!
Rochelle Rabeeya, MARE
Rochelle Rabeeya is a Jewish Education Consultant specializing in curriculum development and professional learning of teachers. She has been a consultant to lay leaders and education directors in areas of school organizational development and has been a coach, mentor and consultant to the education directors in areas, such as, supervision of teachers, working with a school committee, curriculum development, and creation of a professional development plan for teachers. She works for NEXT on a regular basis.
Previously, Ms. Rabeeya was the Educational Program Manager at The Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education (PELIE). She served as Director of Educational Services at the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education for 23 years, including working with the NESS Initiative in Philadelphia as a facilitator for the Program for Organization Development in the NESS schools. Ms. Rabeeya has served as a JSASIP assessor (Jewish School Assessment and School Improvement Process) in Philadelphia and has trained assessors to use it in Baltimore, San Francisco, Houston and Miami. She was also a member of the NESS replication team in San Francisco. Prior to working for ACAJE, Ms. Rabeeya served as an education director of two supplementary schools, a counselor and member of the education staff in Jewish summer camps, and a teacher for the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College.
Ms. Rabeeya earned a Masters in Jewish Religious Education from Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion where she also received an honorary degree of doctor of Jewish Religious Education. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and did post graduate studies in Educational Psychology at Temple University.
Rabbi Stacy Eskovitz Rigler was appointed the Director of Religious Education at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in July 2003. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Emory University, Rabbi Rigler earned her Master of Arts degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles in May 2001 and was ordained as a rabbi in New York in May 2003. Prior to her arrival at KI, Rabbi Rigler worked at Camp Harlam, the Union of Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Education and the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. as well as teaching and interning at synagogues in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles. Rabbi Rigler has continued her professional growth through participation in the HUC-JIR/JTS Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals, the ACAJE Laskow Fellow program for Special Needs Education, is a Board Member of the National Association of Temple Educators.
Mollie Sharfman holds a Master of Arts in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of Jewish Education of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was part of the second cohort of the Experiential Learning Initiative. In addition to studying at JTS, Mollie taught at the Park Avenue Synagogue Congregational School in Manhattan and was an Education Fellow at the Yeshiva University Museum, where she had the opportunity to bring Jewish history to life through museum exhibitions for students and to make it relevant to their lives. This past summer, Mollie ran the teen program at a Lauder Foundation summer camp in the Austrian Alps for Jewish campers from Russia and the Ukraine. Mollie is looking forward to the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with fellow supplementary school educators about bringing Judaism to life in supplementary school settings through experiential techniques. In her spare time, Mollie loves attending zumba classes and hopes to become a zumba instructor one day!
Rabbi Alanna Sklover is the Rabbi Educator at Germantown Jewish Centre (GJC) in Mount Airy. She received her rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in 2013 with a specialization in the congregational rabbinate. A believer in the transformative power of youth group, Jewish summer camp, and experiential learning models, Rabbi Sklover brings her enthusiasm for creative Jewish education and passion for about working with mindful Jewish communities to her work at GJC and throughout the Philadelphia region. During rabbinical school, she held many student positions and internships including as Student Rabbi at Or Haneshamah in Ottawa, ON, Program coordinator for No’ar Hadash: the Reconstructionist Youth Movement, and Rosh Tefillah (worship coordinator) for Ramah Day Camp in Philadelphia. Prior to rabbinical school, Rabbi Sklover served as Youth Director at Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, DE. In addition to an MAHL from RRC, Rabbi Sklover holds a BA in Theater and Religion from Goucher College and has also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Conservative Yeshiva. She and her wife Rebecca Kirzner live in Germantown.
Rabbi Amy Joy Small created the newly founded Deborah's Palm Center for Jewish Learning & Experiences in Morristown, New Jersey, to help Jews and fellow seekers access the riches of Jewish tradition for meaningful spiritual living. Her passion is helping others find their way through the enduring heritage of Jewish learning and living. Deborah’s Palm Center offers diverse Jewish experiences for adults through programs that emphasize the questions we face in our everyday lives, by exploring Jewish ideas, texts and practices that convey Judaism’s rich wisdom. Rabbi Small has served congregations in New Jersey, Michigan and Indiana. She is a past president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, is a fellow of Rabbis Without Borders and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute. She is a Storahtelling Maven, and was awarded a Doctor of Divinity, Honoris Causa, from RRC in 2012. She is the Board President of The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life and serves on the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, NJ. She is on the Board of the Gottesman RTW Academy and the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She was a Vice Chair for the National JNFA Rabbinic Cabinet, and has often represented the Rconstructionist movement on many national and local boards for Jewish and interfaith organizations. Among her varied interfaith activities, she co-taught Building Abrahamic Partnerships at the Hartford Seminary and recently visited Pakistan with the US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium. She was ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1987 and received an M.A. in Hebrew letters, and an M.A. in Education from Villanova University, following a B.S. in Education from Temple University, summa cum laude.
Publications include a chapter in A Women’s Haftarah Commentary (edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein), and a story in the collection, Three Times Chai: 54 Rabbis Tell Their Favorite Stories (edited by Laney Katz Becker). Her blog, “Raviva” is found at: http://www.deborahs-palm.org/blog
Dr. Solomon is the creator of www.jewish-education.org and the blog richarddsolomonsblog.blogspot.com, each of which empowers Judaic Studies teachers, administrators, trainers, professors and consultants to integrate web technology into their instruction and teacher training. In partnership with his wife, Elaine Solomon, they write “Tech Tuesday” for Behrman House’s BabagaNewz. They co-authored Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors: Lesson Plans for Pre-Service and In-Service Judaic Educators (2010); Toolbox for Teachers and Mentors: Moving Madrichim to Mentor Teachers and Beyond (2009), as well as numerous other books and articles.
Dr. Solomon has been an adjunct professor at Baltimore Hebrew University and Gratz College, teaching supervision and staff development, instruction and classroom management for Jewish educators, staff developers, rabbis and cantors. Earlier in his career, he taught elementary school for children with special needs, middle school for students with limited English and high school social studies. He then served as a consultant with the Maryland State Department of Education working with at-risk schools. Dr. Solomon was the coordinator of Professional Development Schools, a collaborative teacher training and mentoring program between the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park and ten Maryland secondary schools.
Brianna Spatz is a graduate of Brandeis University, where she majored in Psychology and Near Eastern Judaic Studies with a minor in Hebrew Language and Literature. During the summers, she can be found enjoying her time in the Pocono Mountains at Camp JRF as a unit head for the seventh and eighth grade campers. Currently, Brianna is in the second year of the Masters in Jewish Experiential Education program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to being a student, Brianna taught in a Supplementary School and works at the Ramah National office as part of a practicum placement. She is passionate about bringing experiential education to all types of environments and settings and believes this type of education can enhance many programs, including the supplementary school.