marleneMarlene Beraha is a native of Cincinnati and holds a Bachelors Degree in Education and a MAED in Administration and Supervision from the University of Cincinnati. Marlene began her teaching career as a TA for Mrs. Bernstein when she was in High School. She taught for the Cincinnati Public Schools at Hoffman and Schiel Schools and was a Demonstration Teacher for U.C.’s Education Department. Marlene taught kindergarten in our Religious School for years and taught at the Adath Israel Pre-School for years as well.  She has also volunteered and worked in the school office for more than forty years.                             


Sydney Holt is from St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Indiana University in 2018 with a degree in Religious Studies and a certificate in Jewish Studies. She spent years as a counselor and program director at Herzl Camp in Webster, Wisconsin, and was very involved in USY in St. Louis throughout high school. Her Jewish education from camp and USY led her to study abroad in Jerusalem on The Nachshon Project. She lives with her family and two dogs, Suki and Tanner, in Loveland. Sydney is  passionate about Judaism and very excited to continue working at the Adath Israel Religious School office!




Phylicia was born in Baltimore and moved to South Florida in 2000 where her love for Kadima and USY began! Phylicia loved learning the ins and outs of temple life which led to her leadership roles in USY. She received her B.A. in English from Florida Atlantic University in 2013, but her passion for USY continued as she became the Youth Director at Temple Beth Am in Margate, Florida, during her senior year of college through 2016. A year later, she moved to Cincinnati and completed a certificate program from Hebrew Union College in Emerging Adolescence, and is currently the Treasurer on the Jewish Youth Director Association Board. Phylicia is thrilled to be the CYFP for a third year at Adath Israel! In her spare time, she loves cooking and spending time with her husband, Jason!  



tobyToby Samet, a Cincinnatian by birth, graduated from Hughes High School and the University of Cincinnati College of Education (with high honors). She has taught at Adath Israel since 1966, while also teaching kindergarten at Yavneh Day School (Rockwern), preschool at the Jewish Community Center, and was Director-Teacher at Adath Israel Preschool. Her family includes son Mike, grandson Danny and daughter Michelle & husband Sam, ( both of blessed memory).  Hobbies are gardening, animal conservation (volunteered at the Zoo for 25 years), classical music, and mah jongg. The Resource Room is where you can find her, supporting the needs of Religious School children.


Jourdan Stein is excited to be joining the Adath Israel Religious School team! She recently moved to Cincinnati from Dallas, Texas, were she taught Hebrew for three years. When she is not teaching Hebrew, she works at the Mayerson JCC as the Teen/Tween Coordinator. In her free time she enjoys walking her dog Sadie, reading, and practicing yoga.






mitchMitch Cohen has been teaching music at the Jarson Education Center for several years. He is Adath Israel’s High Holy Day Choir Director and enjoys composing original music. He started in the choir as a congregant when he was 16 and became Director in 1991. Mitch also directs Adath Israel’s Friday Night Live band, Shir Ami, and other synagogue music programs. He also enjoys teaching at the Mercaz Hebrew High School. Mitch is a graduate of Walnut Hills High School, and earned a BA with high honors in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati, where he received the Claire E. Hubert Award. He runs an Internet dot com company he started with his wife Sherry. Mitch is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah teacher for Adath Israel  & regularly davens, and chants Torah and Haftorah. He is married to Sherry and has three children, Jeff & Emily, and Ben all Jarson Education Center graduates.




sherrySherry Cohen grew up in Amberley Village Ohio. She earned her Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education at U.C. She taught preschool, daycare, and finally Kindergarten where she received the Martha Holden Jennings teaching award for excellence. Sherry left teaching to raise her own 3 kids, but also runs an internet company with her husband Mitch Cohen. Now that Sherry’s kids are grown, she returned to teaching at Adath Israel. Sherry received the Walter Hattenbach teacher of the year award her first year back in the classroom. Her interests are walking, watching HGTV, playing Candy Crush, visiting Disney World and her Corgi.


Sarah Wasniewski was born in Mountain View, California and has lived in Cincinnati since fourth grade. Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2018 with a Bachelors of Arts degree and Teaching Licensure in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. She also is endorsed in teaching ELL (English Language Learners) and speaks Spanish. Sarah has been substitute teaching since January in Sycamore, Lakota, and Princeton public schools. Her hobbies include painting, music, dance, and cooking. She has been to Israel twice and loves traveling. Sarah is very excited to be teaching Pre-Gan!




debbieDebbie Lempert grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She earned her B.A. in Elementary Education and Masters in Literacy from the University of Cincinnati. Debbie taught first and second grade over 8 years at the Wyoming City Schools in Wyoming, Ohio. She left Wyoming to teach two very special students, Zachary and Hannah Lempert. Currently Debbie teaches Kindergarten at Adath Israel Religious School. Among her many interests, Debbie spends a lot of time volunteering at Adath Israel and is currently serving as the synagogue president.  She also is learning to play the guitar.  In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and enjoys cooking, making scrapbooks and playing games.




deenaDeena Abernathy was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. She graduated with a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of South Florida. She moved from Lexington, Virginia with her husband Brett Schwartz and their daughter Gracie, and has since had daughter Sadie and son Oliver.  She worked as an Ophthalmic Technician as well as a substitute teacher. Deena enjoys being a part of the Adath Israel community and teaching 1st grade. 




Allison Lester is a Midwestern-Western hybrid from California and Indiana. Her M.A. is in Educational Studies with a concentration in project-based learning (PBL) curriculum design. She is currently finishing up her PhD in education, focusing on creating learning spaces that spark the joy to learn through play. She has taught in a variety of educational settings, including teacher education at University of Cincinnati, Kindergarten-5th grade special education in North Carolina, early childhood education in Ohio, and English Language Learner education (ELL) in Israel. Allison is the Director of Curriculum and Evaluation at Breakthrough Cincinnati, a 6th-9th grade academic enrichment program. She also works for the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute, supporting professional development for Jewish educators. Her hobbies include volunteering, hiking/being outside in nature, all things art, and doing DIY science experiments.




Zahava Rendler earned a teaching degree from the Pedagogical Institute in Israel and a teaching certificate of Jewish Study from Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  In Israel Zahava taught Hebrew as a second language to immigrants.  Zahava has taught for over 30 years in different capacities in Cincinnati, including at Yavneh day school, Cincinnati Community Hebrew schools, and Adult Education. Zahava has also served as a Yavneh Ambassador at large over the years.  She started the Hebrew enrichment program at Yavneh.  As a Holocaust survivor she is active in the Holocaust and Humanity center. Currently, Zahava teaches at Adath Israel’s Hebrew school.  In her spare time she likes to read, knit and cook. Zahava will be teaching 3rd grade. Zahava also holds her teaching license through the state of Ohio.




  Zak Lempert is a Judaic Studies major at the University of Cincinnati entering his second year. After 8 years of attending Religious School at Adath Israel and 5 years of serving as a teaching assistant, Zak is very excited to join the teaching staff. Apart from his time teaching fourth grade, he teaches high school students at Mercaz, the Conservative Hebrew high school. During the year Zak can be found helping with risk management and inclusion for AEPi, the Jewish Fraternity at the University of Cincinnati. When he’s not in school, Zak enjoys spending time with his friends and family. 




Ashley Englander is a 2nd year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. She grew up in the Tampa bay area in Florida. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from the University of South Florida. After spending a semester at Hebrew University during college, and a year in Israel at HUC, her passion for Israel and Judaism is very strong and constantly growing. Her joy for song leading and music allows her to create a prayer space that is sacred for herself and everyone around her. She finds Abraham Joshua Heschel to be a great inspiration to her Judaic studies. She spent the summer as an Adamah fellow, where she learned how to farm and its connection to Judaism. Also, her passion for environmentalism and ecology is strong and continuing to evolve.


 Fulfilling a middle school dream, Chelsea Simon moved to Cincinnati from New York in 2015 to pursue a Ph.D. in Second Temple Jewish History at HUC-JIR after several years spent in the finance and investment sector. Her interfaith background and family provided her unique perspective and range of knowledge in religion and spirituality. Last year, Chelsea taught Comparative Religions at Kulanu. At HUC and UC, you can find her studying, archiving as a Research Associate at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center, or working on a Nabatean and Nelson Glueck exhibit for the Cincinnati Art Museum (UC/HUC). Her hobbies include playing clarinet and saxophone, genealogy, visiting museums and historic houses and cooking.




Leslee Lisnek is a fifth-year student at HUC. Raised in a Reform Jewish household in Charlotte, NC, she grew up in a Jewish community that highly valued collaboration between Jewish denominations. Leslee continues to value collaboration across boundaries, as in the last year she worked to strengthen interfaith connections in Cincinnati, and for the past two years served Reform and traditional Jews as the student rabbi for United Hebrew Congregation in Joplin, MO. Leslee looks forward to working at Adath Israel this year as a Fellow and learning from the talented leadership at this synagogue.




Brett Schwartz, orginally from Philadelphia, earned M.S. in Organizational Development and Leadership and has been working in Jewish communal settings for the last seven years. Brett started off his career at Adath Israel as the Youth and Family Programming Director and is excited to be back with this wonderful community with his wife, two daughters and son. Brett will continue teaching 7th grade.





Gail Jacobs has been a life long member of Adath Israel Congregation. She became a bat mitzvah here and attended Adath Israel Religious School. She was also a teaching assistant when she was in high school. She was active in Kadima and USY and attended Camp Livingston and Camp Ramah. She also traveled to Israel. She studied Elementary Education/Early Childhood Development at the University of Cincinnati. Gail is returning for her 13th year teaching at Adath Israel. She is the mother of five, all Adath Israel and Mercaz graduates. She lives in Wyoming with her pit bull Moses and her chihuahua Skitch. Gail will be lending her expertise in the classrooms this year.


Elliot Draznin is a student at the University of Cincinnati studying Entrepreneurship and Marketing. They grew up reform in Northern Virginia and was a madrichim in their religious school for six years before coming to college. They assisted in a wide range of class settings, including music, office, and classroom. Being in a classroom at Adath Israel is a true joy for them to be able to connect with Judaism further.





barbaraBarbara Morrison-Bresler grew up in Dallas, Texas and holds a Fine Arts Degree from the University of Texas and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia. She was a  librarian at the University of Nebraska, the Archivist/Director for the Nebraska Jewish Historical  Society, and a consultant archivist with the Jewish Women’s Archive in Boston. Since moving to Cincinnati, Barbara has served as the Librarian at  Adath Israel.  Barbara is married to Scott Bresler and is mom of Lenny, Elka and Micah.




Dara Wood holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Cincinnati and a Montessori certificate. She spent time substitute teaching with Lakota schools and then served as head teacher at a local Montessori pre-school for 4 years. Dara served six years as the Director of Mercaz Conservative Hebrew High School. She has been an active volunteer at Adath Israel and served as an officer for many years. She had previously served as the chair of the religious school board, the membership committee and religious services committee.  She is married to Rob and has two grown children, Brittany and Becca, both Adath Israel Religious School and Mercaz graduates.




Chrissie Blatt