Chicago Jewish Day School
 
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About

Faculty and Staff

Our faculty and staff are central to implementing the mission of our school. All members of the faculty are experienced certified teachers and are passionate about teaching and learning. They are skilled in teaching students at each particular stage of development and encouraging each child to reach his or her full potential. At each grade level, teachers and specialists plan enriching and challenging activities, and our staff works collaboratively to ensure success for every student. Teachers participate in continuing education such as professional conferences in General and Judaic Studies and educational methodology.

Head of School

Judy Finkelstein-Taff

Judy Finkelstein-Taff
Head of School, Email
B.S. Sociology - Arizona State University; Certification Jewish Family Educator - College of Jewish Studies; M.A. Education & Human Development - George Washington University; M.A. Jewish Education - College of Jewish Studies; Recipient of the 2013 Covenant Award
 
"Every member of the CJDS community contributes to the life of the school. Community is a key word. When you choose Chicago Jewish Day School for the education of your child, you are also choosing a community for your family."
 

Educational Leadership Team

Jill Kushnir LeVee

Jill Kushnir LeVee
Assistant Head of School, Grade Six Humanities, Email
B.A. Speech Communication - University of Illinois, C-U; M.A.T. Curriculum and Instruction - National College of Education
 
"The CJDS Mission and Vision and Educational Philosophy Statement inspire me! The student-centered focus and emphasis on the whole child integrated with Jewish values and a strong connection to Israel inspires me to educate our students to be well-rounded, deep-thinkers who are inspired themselves to give back to their communities and make a difference in the world." 

Rachel Pickus

Rachel Pickus
Director of Middle School, Grade Six Humanities Email
B.A. English - University of Wisconsin Madison; M.S. Early Adolescence - Bank Street College of Education

“My education philosophy is that learning should be much bigger than the four walls of a classroom. Students should understand that what they are learning inside their classrooms should matter in the world.” 


 

Tamar Cytryn

Tamar Cytryn
Director of Jewish Studies and Campus Life, Grade Three and Eight Judaic Studies Email
B.A. History & English Literature - Yeshiva University; Orot Israel College Teacher's Certificate - Hebrew University; Melton Educators Senior Fellow
 
"The multi-denominational Jewish community. I love learning about how other people in our community live their lives and I love being asked about mine! I believe our differences only strengthen us, so let’s explore them!"

Penina Berdugo

Penina Berdugo
Director of Hebrew Curriculum; Kindergarten, Grade One, and Grade Two Hebrew/Judaic Studies, Email
B.A. - University in Israel; Certificate in Early Childhood Development - Israeli Department of Education; Certificate in School Administration - Israeli Department of Education

"I love teaching at Chicago Jewish Day School because I like to see how the kids absorb the information and learn to love the texts that I teach. I get to see them feel a connection with the past, present, and future of the Jewish world with the hope to see my students grow up and become leaders in the community." 


Lower School Faculty

Deborah Barack

Deborah Barack
Grade Four General Studies, Email
B.A. Psychology - University of Michigan; M.A. Educational Studies with Elementary Teacher Certification - University of Michigan
 
"I grew up in a very busy and unique household. Being a twin and having twin brothers caused loud dinner conversations, crowded bedrooms, and homework challenges. More importantly, it caused permanent best friends, even teams for family game night, and collaborative partnerships. From an early age it became clear to me that although the four of us grew up in the same household, we think, act, and learn very differently. Just like the learning differences within my family, there are learning differences within my students. I believe that all children can and want to learn. As an educator, it is my job to discover the learning processes that helps each student be the most successful."

Moriah Bradley

Moriah Bradley
Junior Kindergarten Assistant, Email
B.A. Liberal Arts, Minor in Coaching - Southern Illinois University; M.S.W Child, Youth, and Families - Southern Illinois University
 
"My favorite part of working at CJDS is being a part of a progressive educational environment which embraces teaching for each child's individual needs. At CJDS, you are truly a part of a community of colleagues, family and friends where beautiful things happen everyday!"

Claudia Edwards

Claudia Edwards
Grade Four General Studies, Email
B.A. American Studies - Yale University; Non-degree graduate coursework in theory of teaching reading and writing - Teacher's College at Columbia University; M.A.T. Elementary Education, Endorsements and M.S. English & Social Studies - National Louis University
 
"I love the collaborative spirit of teaching as CJDS. Every day is an opportunity to exchange ideas and work together as a team."

Sarah Fielkow

Sarah Fielkow
Grade Two General Studies, Email
B.A. Jewish Studies with Concentration in Education, Minor in Education Policy Studies - University of Wisconsin; M.A. Education - DePaul University
 
"I am inspired by the hands-on, experiential learning that happens at CJDS on a daily basis. I love that my students are always engaged in activities that expand their horizons and allow them to discover a love of learning for themselves."

Levana Freund

Levana Freund
Grade One Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Email
 
"I am so lucky to be a part of the Chicago Jewish Day School community, I love teaching the next generation Hebrew and seeing how much they grow."

Mor Gamlieli

Mor Gamlieli
Grade Five Hebrew, Email
B.A. Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice - University of Illinois, Chicago; Currently pursuing a certification to be a Drug and Alcohol Addictions Counselor
 
"What inspires me to teach at CJDS is to be able to inspire children to love learning and Hebrew! I am also inspired by the ability to teach CJDS's Grade 5 lessons that they can carry on to their future and apply them for success!" 

Lianne Gross

Lianne Gross
Grade Five and Grade Six Judaic Studies, Email
B.A. History and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies - Brandeis University; M.A.T. Secondary Education, History - Brandeis University; SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) Endorsement, State of Massachusetts
 
"I am inspired by the celebration of diversity found in the students, faculty, and staff at CJDS through the multi-denominational atmosphere. The drive to find purpose and meaning in Jewish practice energizes me to lead a classroom which promotes respectful discourse and curious exploration through student-based inquiry and hevruta (partner) style learning. I am devoted to inspiring a rich appreciation and love for Judaism and Torah study that resonates with students beyond the classroom, helping the students take ownership and pride in their heritage."

Jessica Silverman

Jessica Glick
Grade Two General Studies, Email
B.S. Child Development, Elementary Education, Language Arts - Michigan State University; M.A. -National Louis University, Library Media Specialist Endorsement
 
"Part of my philosophy is a quote that has stuck with me and stimulated my love of teaching since I decided to become an educator: 'The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.' -William Arthur Ward."

Lauren Israel

Molly Goldstein
Kindergarten Assistant, Email
B.A. Education - University of Illinois; Middle School Endorsement with a focus in Language Arts; M.A. Reading-National Louis University
 
"I strongly believe in a hands-on, student-centered approach to teaching. In following the Reggio Emilia inspired approach for the past three years, I have learned the importance of listening to the voice of each child and creating lessons around their areas of interests. Working at a private Jewish school provides a strong sense of community, a close bond between the faculty, administration, parents and children and the ability to teach Jewish ideals along with all content."

Lauren Israel

Lauren Israel
Kindergarten General Studies, Email
B.S. Human Development & Family Science (Early Childhood Development and Education Program), summa cum laude - Ohio State University; M.A. Educational Studies with Elementary Teacher Certification - University of Michigan
 
"The educational philosophy I bring to CJDS emphasizes citizenship. As an educator, I value the creation of classroom communities that develop students’ awareness of their responsibilities to themselves and to each other. I believe in transforming the learning process into a purposeful and relevant experience that trains students to extend and apply what they know to make the world a better place."

Jennifer Katz

Jennifer Katz
Grade Five General Studies, Email
B.A. Communication Studies and Psychology - University of Michigan; M.A.T. - National Louis University
 
"My favorite part about working at CJDS is facilitating the experiential learning that takes place. The students gain different perspectives and see multiple points of view through their hands-on exploration of a variety of historical concepts and subject matters. I also love working in such a warm community environment!"

Amy Levine

Amy Levine
Grade Three General Studies, Email
B.S. Elementary Education - Illinois State University; M.S. Language Arts - Northeastern Illinois University; English as a Second Language Endorsement - National Louis University, Working on M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction - American College of Education
 
"I am excited to join the CJDS family and work in an environment that helps students develop lifelong learning strategies by strengthening social and academic skills. I am honored to be a part of a school which provides students academic choices for learning within a positive and supportive setting."

Irit Levy

Irit Levy
Grade Four Hebrew, Email
B.S. Math and Science, Tel Aviv University
 
"I'm so grateful to work at Chicago Jewish Day School. These students develop a strong Jewish identity and truly become a community of Jewish learners. It's wonderful to teach the next generation of Jewish leaders."

Susie Lorge

Susie Lorge
Kindergarten General Studies, Email
B.S.W. - University of Wisconsin, Madison
 
"Education is at its best when it is fostered in an environment that values the individuality of each student and recognizes that students learn best when they feel secure, nurtured and challenged. This is at the core of my teaching philosophy and it is amplified through Jewish values and Jewish living. CJDS empowers and supports a commitment to this teaching vision."

Jackie Moss-Blumenfeld

Jackie Moss-Blumenfeld
Grade Two Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Email
B.F.A. Art - Bezalel Academy of Art and Design
 
"I have a deep love and passion for Judaism and Israel and my goal is for my students to feel that deep connection to the language and the land of Israel."
 

Hannah Okonow

Hannah Okonow
Grade One General Studies, Email
B.A. Elementary Education - University of Michigan; M.S. Special Education - DePaul University
 
"I am inspired to work at CJDS because from the moment I walked in the door, it was obvious that CJDS is more than just a school- it is a family. Being a product of a Jewish day school myself, I understand the importance of being part of a school community that makes it hard to leave at the end of the school day. I am who I am today because of my day school experience, and I want to be a part of that experience for my students at CJDS."
 

Sarah Palmer

Sarah Palmer
Grade Four Judaic Studies, Email
B.A. Fine Arts - Brandeis University; Certificate in Experiential Jewish Education - Pardes Center for Jewish Education
 
"My educational philosophy is a mixture of understandings from John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. My goal as an educator is to facilitate engaging experiences for learners that will empower them to challenge themselves, take risks, and try on different roles in a safe classroom community while developing skills that translate to practical life experiences."

Ortal Redansky

Ortal Redansky
Grade Three Hebrew, Email 
 
"CJDS inspire me in so many ways! I fell in love with the school from the very first moment! The first thing that captured me was the warm and loving environment! The values of friendship and acceptance of the other, the strong community the school build and cherish. The support and love towards Israel. My goal as an educator is to give each of my students the confidence to be themselves, to explore, to be curious, to love the Hebrew language and be proud of who they are."

Dana Solomon

Dana Solomon
Junior Kindergarten, Email
B.A. - Bar Ilan University
 
"CJDS is the only place that can make me feel complete by giving me the opportunity to share my love to kids, passion to Judaism, the land of Israel and the Hebrew language."

Erez Solomon

Erez Solomon
Kindergarten Hebrew/Judaic Studies, Email
B.A. Accounting and Minor in Economics - DePaul University; B.A. Website Design - Devry University
 
"I love that the school is small and at the lower and middle school it seems that everybody knows everybody; it really makes you feel like you teach in a kehila (community)."

Rachel Warach

Rachel Warach
Grade One General Studies, Email
B.A. - University of Texas; M.A.T. Teaching, Elementary Education - National Louis University
 
"I am inspired by CJDS's commitment to the whole child. I believe that social/emotional learning is as important as academic learning. I love getting to know my students and their parents and families so well. It is such a warm and welcoming community."

Katherine Weil

Kathy Weil
Grade Three Assistant, Email
B.S. Economics - University of New Orleans, B.A. Education, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade Six - Old Dominion University
 
"The educational philosophy that I bring to CJDS is one that foremost acknowledges our deep rooted tradition in the importance of educating our children, which establishes the foundation to continually seek knowledge and understanding throughout our lives. It is my belief that this education should encompass not only secular knowledge but a knowledge and appreciate of our Judaism and Israel. When educating children, it is important to recognize each child's unique individual needs by providing a stimulating, caring, and secure environment in which they can grow and mature emotionally, physically, intellectually and socially. My role as a teacher is to provide that environment through guidance, by allowing a child's natural curiosity to direct his/her learning and to carry on our tradition by imbuing affection and appreciation for learning."
 
 

Samantha Worth

Samantha Worth
Grade Five General Studies, Email
B.S. Elementary Education, Area Concentration: Language Arts, Humanities: Spanish, - Indiana University
 
"I am constantly inspired by the creative and enthusiastic teachers and students who bring positive energy to our school community. I believe that in order to fully immerse yourself in the educational process, students must engage in experiential learning. Here at CJDS it is one of our rudimentary educational philosophies. My favorite part about teaching at CJDS is our community, which truly feels more like an extended family. I can always count on my colleagues and the families at CJDS for support both inside the classroom and in my personal life."
 

Middle School Faculty

Susan Balmes

Susan Balmes
Middle School Science, Email
B.A. - Southern Illinois University; M.A. Education - Depaul University

"I really enjoy teaching at CJDS! It’s a wonderful community atmosphere with motivated learners and supportive staff. I believe that science should be taught through hands-on investigations. These activities can link real-world situations, and students evaluate the trade-offs when learning about current societal issues. My favorite part about teaching at CJDS is that moment when you see students made real-life connections. They get so excited, more confident, and really motivated to learn even more."

Henry Bernstein

Henry Bernstein
Middle School Judaic Studies, Email
B.A. Jewish Studies & Studio Art, Minor in Art History - Indiana University; M.A. Jewish Professional Studies - Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership
 
"The open community that welcomes Jews of every type of background inspired me to be a part of it. Anyone can learn Torah, no matter where they come from. It's just a matter of reaching them on a personal level and connecting them to text study."

Kate Burstein

Kate Burstein
Middle School Math, Email
B.A. Psychology - Washington University; M.S. Genetic Counseling - University of California-Berkeley; M.A. Teaching - National Louis University
  
"One of my favorite parts about teaching at CJDS is how excited the students are about learning and how engaged in and responsible they are for their studies."

Mira Gelman

Mira Gelman
Middle School Hebrew, Email
B.A. Hebrew & Literature History - University of Haifa
 
"At CJDS, I love how I get to work with caring and creative staff of CJDS and to inspire the students to love Hebrew language. I do believe that all students can learn Hebrew and enjoy the process of learning while being fully engaged in all our class activities."

Sara Goodman

Sara Goodman
Middle School Hebrew and Music Specialist, Email
B.A. Anthropology - Northeastern Illinois University
 
"I love being a part of the CJDS community. From teaching Hebrew in the Middle School to singing music with the Lower School, I get to experience all different age groups at CJDS and are truly touched by their passion and drive for learning."

Hadar Markin

Hadar Markin
Middle School Hebrew, Email
B.A. Middle Eastern Studies, Honors Program and Political Science - Hebrew University of Jerusalem; M.A. Holocaust Studies - Hebrew University of Jerusalem; M.A. Jewish Professional Studies - Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership 
 
"I am inspired by CJDS strong sense of community and commitment to Jewish living. I am excited to be part of an environment that embraces deep thinking and creativity."

Jennifer Saba

Jennifer Saba
Grades Seven and Eight Humanities, Email
B.A. Political Science, Minor: History - University of Delaware; M.A.T. Secondary Social Studies Education - University of Pittsburgh
 
"My favorite part of teaching at CJDS is the close connections we foster with the students. We learn their comfort zones, their challenges and what makes them smile. "

Jill Schwartz

Jill Schwartz
Middle School Math and Humanities, Middle School Arts, Email
B.A. History, Minor: Education - University of Illinois; M.A. History and Geopolitics, Literature - Northwestern University; Talmud & Theology - Pardes Institute Israel
 
"My educational philosophy rests upon the notion that students should question, explore, and analyze the world in which they live."

Specialists

Rachel Treister

Rachel Treister
Art Specialist, Email
B.A. Anthropology, Jewish Studies, African Studies - Indiana University; M.A. Early Childhood Development - Erikson Institute; Melton Program
 
"The educational philosophy I bring to Chicago Jewish Day School is one that emphasizes an evolving and emergent curriculum. Children are naturally inquisitive about their environment, and it is rewarding to be able to provide them with projects that help them more broadly discover the world around them."

Brian Ploof

Brian Ploof
Athletics Director, Email
B.B.A. Business Management - Robert Morris College
 
"The collaborative community and tremendous support from teachers, staff, administration and students is a constant reminder to me that a positive outlook yields positive outcomes. If students love what they are doing they will do it more often and continue to improve."

Rachel Jaffe

Rachel Jaffe
Music Specialist, Email
B.S. Psychology & Music - University of Illinois; Ed.M Music Education - Teachers College at Columbia University 
 
"I love teaching at CJDS because the enthusiasm and eagerness that the students display makes the teaching of music a joyous experience."
 

Student Services

Michael Gladstein

Michael Gladstein
Psychologist/Learning Specialist, Email
B.B.A. Indiana University; Ed.S. School Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago
 
"The favorite part of my day at CJDS is seeing and hearing the diverse learning which includes highly engaged students singing, laughing, working on group projects, working independently, sharing experiences with their peers, and the overall excitement when learning."

Rachel Sollinger

Rachel Sollinger
High School Admissions Coordinator, Email
B.A. - The Ohio State University; J.D. - Kent College of Law; M.S. Education - Northwestern University
 
"I enjoy helping our Grade Eight students and families on their educational path to find the best-fit high school for them. Like our educational philosophy says, 'At Chicago Jewish Day School, we take our cue from the students — and are particularly attentive to student individuality.The question, “What is best for the student?” is at the core of all decisions.'

Sarah Sparber

Sarah Sparber
Reach Learning Specialist, Email
B.S. Elementary Education - University of Illinois, M.A. Curriculum Studies, Reading Focus - DePaul University
 
"I love working at Chicago Jewish Day School because our educational philosophy extends beyond our classrooms and into the culture of the faculty and staff. Just as we hope for our students to be a community of learners, faculty and staff are also encouraged to become a community of learners, allowing for successful collaboration and professional growth. Just as we establish safe and supportive environments that foster risk taking for our students, teachers are also supported in this way, enabling all members of our community to rise to challenges and strive for excellence."

Mickey Silverstein

Mickey Silverstein
Reach Learning Specialist, Email
B.S. Elementary Education - University of Oklahoma; M.Ed Advanced Reading Specialist Program - Lesley College 
 
"My favorite part of teaching at CJDS is the group of people I interact with everyday. Their full engagement, dedication and commitment to every child, to say nothing of how they make school fun, is a pleasure."

Nina Harris

Nina Harris
School Social Worker, Email
B.S. Psychology, Magna Cum Laude - Drake University; M.A. Social Work, Concentration in Children and Family - The University of Chicago; Licensed Clinical Social Worker
 
"Success does not look the same for everyone. I strongly believe that children, teachers, and parents are empowered to be "successful" and the best versions of themselves in an environment which values empathy, relationships, and collaboration." 

Carrie Weber-Greenberg

Carrie Weber-Greenberg
Middle School Learning Specialist, Email
B.S. Special Education Learning and Behavior Disorders, minor in Metalsmithing - Murray State University; M.A. Curriculum & Instruction for ESL/Bilingual Education - National-Louis University
 
"My educational philosophy is to assist students in reaching their goals by finding their abilities, and never allowing a disability to interfere with their academic and social progress."
 

Operational Leadership Team and Support Staff

Wendy Kline

Wendy Kline
Director of Operations, Email
B.A. Elementary Education - American University; M.A. Special Education - American University
 
"I’m honored and inspired to be able to participate in the growth of tomorrow's leaders. Teaching to the whole child and meeting them where they are has always been key to what I value in education. These are staples in what can be seen in all of what CJDS does. The community at CJDS is so warm and supportive. Working collaboratively has been so natural here. I also love that I can be a part of the learning that happens here. Leaning and teaching with my colleagues is wonderful, but I love that I learn SO much from the kids too!"

Liz Erlich

Liz Erlich
Director of Finance, Email
B.S.B.A. Finance and Accounting - University of Arizona
 
"My inspiration to join Chicago Jewish Day School was to be part of a mission that promotes and respects the differences in our Jewish community. I look forward to being involved in programs and activities that will help make a difference in the future of our children."

Naomi Shapiro

Naomi Shapiro
Director of Institutional Advancement, Email
B.A. Sociology and Hebrew-University of Wisconsin, M.A. Psychology, Organizational Leadership-The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
 
"CJDS's focus of the whole child while simultaneously instilling a love of Judaism and Israel community is inspiring. I am proud to be part of the unique, special community that the school has established among the students, teachers, and parent."

Cortney Stark Cope

Cortney Stark Cope
Director of Admissions, Email
B.A. Honors Philosophy & Spanish - Wellesley College; M.B.A. Kellogg Graduate School of Management - Northwestern University
 
"I believe that CJDS ensures the continuity and strength of the next generation of Jewish adults. I am proud to see children who are infused with Jewish knowledge, values, and spirituality while also learning how to be critical, deep thinkers who can make a difference in our world. That inspires me and drives me to help keep this school strong."

Abbe Roth

Abbe Roth
Director of Marketing & Communications, Email
B.A. Journalism & Second Concentration Studio Art - Indiana University
 
"I'm so inspired to work at Chicago Jewish Day School because every faculty and staff member is so passionate about the school's success, and they strive to always think creatively to educate our children in the richness of their past, the diversity of their present and the possibilities for their future. I love working for Chicago Jewish Day School because the community is very inviting, warm and heartfelt. It's not just a place to go to work every day; it's another place to call home."

Esther Solooki

Esther Solooki
Director of Annual Giving, Email
B.A. Journalism - Indiana University
 
"Knowing that what I do every day is helping children access a Jewish education is what inspires me to work at CJDS. The community is unlike any other. Chicago Jewish Day School is truly a unique and special place to work."

Aleksandra Treyger

Alex Treyger
Director of Technology and Digital Learning and Middle School Science Teacher, Email
B.A. Honors Elementary Education & Biology - National Louis University
 
"My position allows me to explore a variety of technology tools and meaningfully integrate them within the CJDS classrooms. The right technology tools have the ability to augment the learning process for the student and have the ability to transcend beyond the classroom walls and time."

Tamar Shapira

Tamar Shapira
Assistant to Admissions, Bus Coordinator and Art Specialist, Email
B.A. History & History of Jewish Culture - University of Wisconsin Madison; B.A. Graphic Design - Columbia College
 
"At Chicago Jewish Day School, I am blessed to work as part of a community of amazing teachers and staff who inspire CJDS students to be curious, kind, responsible, confident and engaged students with a focus on cultivating a rich Jewish experience and a passion for life-long learning."

Paulette Herbstman

Paulette Herbstman
Administrative Assistant to Head of School and Middle School, Email
B.A. - Grinnell College, M.P.P.M. (Masters of Public and Private Management) - Yale University, School of Management, Master Teacher's Certificate - BJE Chicago, Teacher-Mentor Certification - BJE Chicago
 
"The people we work with are real "members" - helpful, caring, genuine and friendly. I'm impressed with the Educational Philosophy of the school, and the effort they have made to build a multi-denominational Jewish community."
 

Barbara Gordon

Barbara Gordon
Receptionist, Email
B.F.A. Graphic Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
 
"I am looking forward to becoming part of this amazing community of faculty, staff, and families and supporting the learning, creativity and connections that happen at CJDS."
 

Nurses

Nurse Kathi

Nurse Kathi
Nurse, Email
B.S. Nursing - University of Illinois at Chicago
 
"Since healthy children learn better, I’m glad to be part of a team at CJDS that tries to insure optimal health for the students learning here. It is an engaging community to be a part of with great kids and great attitudes! So grateful for the opportunity to be on board here!"

Rebecca Mermelstein-Tessler

Rebecca Mermerlstein Tessler
Nurse, Email
B.A. Nursing - Touro College, B.S. Nursing - Touro University of Nevada
 
"Our children are our future. I, as a part of the CJDS faculty, am fortunate to help shape, mold, and influence the next generation- our future. By providing wholesome physical, emotional, and spiritual care to every student, we can help them reach their full potential- we can help impact our future."
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