Religious School Faculty and Staff

Dr. Roberta Goodman, RJE - Education Director

[email protected]

Dr. Roberta Louis Goodman, RJE, is in her fifth year as Education Director at NSCI. She earned her Masters in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College’s (HUC) Rhea Hirsch School of Education and a Doctorate in Adult Education from Teachers College/Columbia University. She serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Jewish Education for Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland. Roberta has worked in Jewish education for over 25 years in a wide variety of roles and organizations including as a consultant. Her publications include curricular materials for students and teachers, research, and articles in the areas of faith development and spirituality, evaluation, adult education, Jewish educational personnel, grant writing, and early childhood education. She is a past president of NATE (National Association of Temple Educators), past chair of the HUC Alumni Association, and served on the URJ and HUC Boards of Directors. Roberta is a product of NSCI’s religious school and TYG and OSRUI. She lives in Glencoe with her husband, Bob and two children, Shoshana and Evan.

Jennifer McKeag – Youth and Family Community Administrator

[email protected]

As YFC Administrator Jennifer McKeag runs the day-to-day office operations, keeps students records and maintains school programming and registration.  Jennifer and her husband, Charles, grew up in Omaha and moved to Highland Park in 2001.  They live in the Ravinia area with their two daughters, Rachel and Kate.  

Alon Axelrod – Hebrew Plus & [email protected] Unit Head

This is Alon’s 3rd year teaching at NSCI.  He teaches Hebrew Plus and is one of the Unit Heads (teachers) for [email protected]. Alon has degrees in Jewish Education and Teaching. He was born and raised in Israel where his mother and siblings still live.  Alon lives with his wife and three wonderful sons in Northbrook.

Ellen Blank – Music Specialist

Ellen Blank has been song leading and teaching Jewish music in synagogues, schools and camps for 35 years. This is her third year with us at NSCI.  Previous Chicago area synagogues where she taught, and led children’s choirs and services include: Congregation Solel, Lakeside, Anshe Emet, Am Shalom and B’nai Torah.   Ellen has a B.A. from New York University in Educational Theatre, and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University.  She has song lead for URJ summer camps, including OSRUI, and has taught Great Beginnings, Toddler Camp and Preschool for the JCC’s. Having had careers in Marketing and Sales, she has followed her heart back to teaching. Now Ellen is working with children with Autism, tutoring Hebrew, and is looking for additional opportunities to work with children.  She is a single mom of three, the youngest of whom is in our NSCI religious school. They live in Highland Park.

Perri Courtheoux – 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 8th grade Judaica Teacher

Perri Courtheoux is a trained teacher and reading specialist. Born in Connecticut, she is a graduate of The Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut, has a B.A. in English and French from Connecticut College in New London, CT and a Masters in Education from Duke University in Durham, N.C. She has taught at St. Mary's Country Day School in N.C., The Harris School in Chicago and The University of Chicago Laboratory School in Chicago. She also supervised student teachers in the MST program at the University of Chicago. When her older daughter was born, she decided to work part-time and began teaching religious school. She taught at K.A.M. Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park and here at NSCI for the past 26 years. She and her husband, Rick, are Temple members and for 19 years, they volunteered as the Deans of the Faculty of Karav, an outstanding youth program at N.S.C.I. They have 2 daughters who grew up in Glencoe, were educated and confirmed at this Temple and were leaders in our youth program.

Andrea Dalinka – [email protected] Director, Youth Group Director

Andrea Dalinka has been the Young Youth Group advisor at North Shore Congregation Israel for the past ten years. This is her fourth year teaching in our religious school and she is excited to be continuing her work as Camp Director of our Camp @ NSCI program. Andrea has a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Masters in Educational Administration from Northwestern. She lives with her husband Joel and three kids, who are all enrolled in our religious school program, in Northbrook.

Susan Ellenby – Youth and Family Community Coordinator

Susan is so excited to be involved in programming for families again this year.  She has been the family education assistant at NSCI for the past four years and has worked with family programming thru JCC Chicago and other Jewish institutions. Susan has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin and is also the program coordinator for North Shore Congregation Israel.

Beverley Freedman – 2nd grade Judaica Teacher

Beverley Freedman has a BA in Education and is accredited for grades K-3. She has taught in other North Shore Synagogues as well as North Shore Congregation Israel. She has taught in the Chicago Public and Dayton, OH, Public school systems as well as mentoring first year teachers. She has taught 3 and 4 year olds in the Glencoe Park District Pre-school for many years. She and her husband were staff members on KARAV which is a special NSCI program for high school students. All her children were active in the Temple Youth Group. Her sons and daughters had their B'nai Mitzvah and were confirmed at NSCI and now some of her grandchildren are following the same path.

Eileen Friend – Art Assistant

Eileen grew up at NSCI going to Religious School, becoming a Bat Mitzvah, being Confirmed, and a Machonick in high school. She was also involved in TYG. She got her degree in Arts Entertainment Media Management from Columbia College Chicago. This will be her 3rd year doing Art. 

Lynn Friend – Art Specialist and Individualized Instruction Coordinator

Lynn Friend has an MSW from Loyola University and a BS elementary education from University of Illinois. She has been teaching for 30 years everything from art to Hebrew to Jewish studies. Lynn developed this individualized class to meet the needs of any student who is in need of a more individualized approach to learning.

Ashley Gildenberg – Chaverim (Kindergaten – 1st grade)

Ashley Gildenberg recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Architectural Studies and also has a background in various forms of design. Learning about and practicing Judaism has always been an important part of her life. She started Sunday School in 3rd grade and continued until she graduated high school (as well as being in Hebrew classes until her Bat Mitzvah and two years in college).   She’s very excited to work with your children and hopes they will enjoy going to Sunday School as much as she did when she was their age. 

Alan Goodis – Song Leader

Alan Goodis is a National touring Jewish musician playing over 150 events a year. Born and raised in Toronto, Alan is a proud product of URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute. Noted for his dedication to building relationships and community through music, Alan travels throughout
North America to serve as an Artist-In-Residence and performer at Temples, Youth Conventions, and Jewish summer camps. His self-titled debut CD, produced by and performed with Dan Nichols and Mark Niemiec (Grammy Nominee) elevates Jewish music with its powerful vocals and bold melodies. Alan is a strong presence in the Reform Jewish movement and works tirelessly to engage and empower Jewish youth and adults through music. Alan has been a featured performer at URJ Biennials and The Wexner Foundation. Alan has served as Musical Director for NFTY International Convention, on faculty at NaShir: NFTY Teen Songleading Conferences and serves on faculty at Hava Nashira. Alan and his music have become a fixture at Congregations, URJ Camps and Youth events from coast to coast. Alan lives in Chicago, IL with his wife Codi and their dog Wally. For more information about Alan visit

Orit Gordon – 5th & 6th grade Conversational Hebrew Teacher, 3rd & 4th grade Parent / Child Hebrew Teacher

Mrs. Gordon was born in Tel-Aviv when Israel was a young country.  Her father served in the “Haganah” and helped protect the Jewish civilians from mob attacks by the Arabs trying to prevent the creation of the Jewish state. Mrs. Gordon served in the Israeli army and then came to America in 1974 after the Yom Kippur war.  She earned a degree in Special Education at Northeastern University in Chicago.  She also has a masters degree in Bible Studies and School Administration.  She’s been a teacher and B’nai Mitzvah tutor for 37 years.  Mrs. Gordon and her husband have one son, Jason.  He and is wife, Caroline, live in Des Plains with their two children.

Betty Hainsfurther – 5th & 6th grade Hebrew Teacher

Betty Hainsfurther has been involved in education for more than 30 years, and this is her 18th year teaching at NSCI. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Betty earned her Bachelors of Science in Education and Dental Hygiene degrees from The Ohio State University. She also holds a Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University. In addition to her long-time commitment to Jewish Education, Betty also continues to be active in many Jewish community volunteer activities. Betty and her husband, Tripp, have been members of NSCI for 28 years. They live in Highland Park and have two children, Sara and Adam, who are graduates of the NSCI religious education programs.

Lisa Howard – Chugim & 8th grade Program Coordinator

Lisa Howard serves as Experiential Educator for NSCI. She also works as Curriculum Specialist for the Marshall Jewish Learning Center. Lisa has a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Judaism, and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northwestern University. Lisa is the author of Jewish textbooks including The Madrichim Manual, The Teacher Training Manual, The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Manual, and The Explorer’s Bible Lesson Plan Manual. Lisa and her husband Jason live in Deerfield with their three children (ages 10, 8, and 8) and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (ages 11 and 2).

Ellen Holtzblat – Individual Instruction Hebrew Teacher

Ellen Holtzblatt has been working in Jewish education for twenty years as a teacher, B'nai Mitzvah tutor, mentor to new teachers and administrator.  Her degrees include an M.Ed. in Special Education, B.F.A. in Visual Arts, and graduate certificate in Art Therapy.  She also maintains an active studio practice, and brings her passion for creative modalities into the classroom.

Arlene Horwitz – 6th grade Judaica Teacher

Arlene Horwitz graduated University of Illinois with a degree in education. She taught special education for 8 years followed by 27 years in Jewish Education from pre-school thru 7th grade.

Renee Kahn – Sunday Preschool Teacher

Renee Kahn is honored to have the opportunity to share her love of Jewish education with the Sunday preschool class here at NCSI.  Renee’s degree is in early childhood education and she has been teaching, and learning from, children for over 20 years. Thankfully, she still finds the work as rewarding as the day she began.  Renee sees her role in your childrens' lives as enhancing a love of Israel, Judaism, and Jewish ethics, that have a foundation in your homes. Each week, the children talk about ways in which their tzedaka money can help others in our community. As part of our goal to become members of a caring kehila, the children have planted vegetables for the hungry and made a blanket for a child in need.  Renee looks forward to a year filled with laughter and discovery. Her goal is to assure that each child appreciates the unique gifts she or he brings to our synagogue, our classroom, and their world.

Paul Kerman – 7th grade Teacher

As one member of the 7th grade staff at NSCI, Paul is looking forward to the start of my eleventh year teaching at our temple. This has been a remarkable experience.  When he’s not working here, he is the Math and Science coordinator at a CPS elementary school . Paul’s hobbies include playing guitar, writing parodies (to use in class), and reading spy novels.  His most important role is as a Papa to two amazing granddaughters. 

Stacey Kirchheimer – [email protected] Unit Head, 4th grade Hebrew Teacher

Stacy Kirchheimer is delighted to be at NSCI! Stacy has BA in secondary education and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She taught Juniors and Seniors for almost 10 years at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park. In addition, Stacy has a very strong Jewish background as she studied abroad at Tel Aviv University, attended summer camp at OSRUI, and studied Hebrew and Judaic studies at Skokie Valley Traditional Synagogue. Recently, she has taught 5th grade Hebrew School at Solel Congregation, and is thrilled to be apart of NSCI! Stacy lives in Highland Park with her husband Mike and three children. Her oldest, Harrison attended NSCI and had his Bar Mitzvah in 2012. Her daughter Hanna will have her Bat Mitzvah this October, and her youngest Hope will start Religious school in the fall. Stacy Loves cross country skiing, biking, and attending the theatre.

Marla Landsman –[email protected] Unit Head

Marla has taught at North Shore Congregation Israel for 10 years.  Her positions have included teaching Kindergarten, second, and third grades, as well as a couple years as the Technology Coordinator.  Jewish education is a bit of a family inheritance: Marla’s mom taught Judaica for many, many years.  Marla received her B.A. at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and her M.Ed. at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  It was a research assistantship at UIC that led to her relocation from New Jersey to the Chicago Area at the age of 21.  Marla is currently in her third year as a full-time special education resource teacher at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Glenview District 34.  She is in her 5th year as a special education teacher, and 15th in education overall.  Marla and her husband, Jeff, have two children who are students at NSCI’s religious school.  She spends her spare time reading, carpooling, helping with homework, playing games with her kids, working out in the basement, and, here and there, catching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Happy Endings, and, admittedly, the Vampire Diaries.

Danny Mason – 8th grade Mitzvah Corps and Jewish Chicago Teacher

Danny Mason and Rachel O’Hara both grew up at NSCI and now they are in their fourth year as the leaders of our 8th grade program both the Mitzvah Corps and Jewish Chicago segments. Danny was the captain of the Highland Park High School Football team. Rachel loves the arts and continues to work at a Jewish camp in California as the arts specialist.

Dr. Rana Matteson – 3rd grade Hebrew Teacher

Dr. Rana Matteson is a special education aide in the Winnetka public schools. She has taught at B’nai Torah for many years. She is masterful in her teaching approach and classroom environment for those starting their Hebrew studies. Rana also teaches piano and loves music!

Hollee Meged – 3rd grade Hebrew Teacher

After teaching 4th grade for many years at North Shore Congregation Israel, I moved with my husband and 3 children to Tel Aviv, Israel. We are now back living in Highland Park, and I am excited to be teaching 3rd grade Hebrew this year!   In my free time, I enjoy running, yoga, spending time with family and traveling. 

Rachel O’hara - 8th grade Mitzvah Corps and Jewish Chicago Teacher

Danny Mason and Rachel O’Hara both grew up at NSCI and now they are in their fourth year as the leaders of our 8th grade program both the Mitzvah Corps and Jewish Chicago segments. Danny was the captain of the Highland Park High School Football team. Rachel loves the arts and continues to work at a Jewish camp in California as the arts specialist.

Neil Rigler - 9th grade & 10th grade Confirmation, North Shore Seminar Teacher, 8th grade Machonik Training Teacher, and Youth Advisor

Neil Rigler is entering his 22st year as the youth advisor for North Shore Congregation Israel.  He has been working with teenagers in a variety of Jewish camps and synagogues for over 25 years, including the URJ's OSRUI and Camp Harlam, and leading 3 NFTY Israel trips.  He earned a bachelor's degree from Duke University and two master's degrees (English and Education) from Northwestern University, where he wrote a thesis about the power of informal and experiential education.  Neil is also an active member in Bard College's Writing and Thinking Institute and the National Council of Teachers of English and is a regular presenter at their yearly conferences.  Neil is also a full time English teacher at Deerfield High School where he sponsors the improv theater club and literary magazine.  He met his wife, Tammy, when they were hired together as youth advisors at NSCI.  You can usually see Neil's two children, Asher and Gideon, running around the synagogue and hanging around with the youth group kids whenever they have the chance. 

Renee Stern – Hebrew Tutor

Renee Stern has a double Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois in elementary education K-9 and special education K-12. She is certified in learning disabilities for K-12 levels. She has an extensive Hebrew background having attended Jewish day schools and spent one year of her college career studying Hebrew in Israel. She is an experienced teacher having taught intermittently for the last 25 years and most recently for North Shore Congregation Israel.

Dena Swidler – Kindergarten – 1st grade Program Coordinator, Retreat Director

Dena Swidler (aka Dena Gilman) has been apart of the NSCI since she was born.  She grew up going to religious school and synagogue at NSCI and later in High school became Youth Group president and Rosh Karav.  NSCI is home to her and she was so glad that after she finished her Education degree at Drake University that she was able to come back to teach the 8th Grade Mitzvah Corps that she had earlier helped create.  She then taught K/1 and was the machonik supervisor.  Now Dena is the Chaverim Coordinator which allows her to write, create and implement a new and improved Chaverim curriculum.  With the help of Roberta, Rachel Goldstein, and Deborah Bloom she is able to give Kindergartners and 1st Graders and great 1st religious school experience.  Dena is also the 5th/6th Grade Retreat Coordinator and when she is not at temple she is teaching 1st Grade at Todd Hall Elementary in Lincolnwood, IL or with her husband and dog, Frannie at their home in Deerfield!

Ronna Weinstock - 7th grade Teacher

A graduate of Yeshiva University (BA) and New York University (MA), has been a teacher at NSCI for over fifteen years. Ronna has been a teacher and assistant principal at Shalom Sunday, for children of Russian immigrants, and a Jewish educator at the JCC’s Pritzker Center for Jewish Education. She now provides academic support for college age students with special needs. Ronna lives in Lincolnwood with her husband, David. They have seven grandchildren, all living in the Chicago area.

Judy Weiss – Hebrew Tutor

Judy Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for all of her professional life, teaching Hebrew and Judaica to both children and adults. For the past 18 years Judy has been the Hebrew Coordinator and Assistant Education Director of NSCI.  She currently is a member of the teaching team at NSCI, teaches a course in the Adult Florence Melton Mini School, and is involved in family education in other local synagogues.  She has a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and completed the Master Teacher Program from the Chicago Board of Jewish Education.  She is married to Rabbi David Weiss.  They have three married sons and eight grandchildren.

Janet Klein Wright – [email protected] Unit Head

Janet Klein Wright is a graduate of a confirmation class of NSCI.  Since those days, she graduated from Lawrence University with a BA in Psychology and Elementary Education K-9 Certification.  She began her teaching career at Roycemore in Evanston, got married, and attended Northeastern Illinois University for graduate work in Special Education.  From 1896-1990 she had three beautiful boys.  In 2000 she moved to Austin Texas.  While there, she taught special education, fourth grade religious school, and was an active member of Temple Beth Shalom in Austin.  She recently (July 2013) completed a M.Ed. in Administration at Concordia Texas-Austin. She have now moved back home! My parents, sisters, three sons, and a daughter-in-law are all back here as well!  She is so excited to be back where her roots are!

Dayna Zelniker – Chaverim (Kindergarten -1st grade) Teacher, Individual Instruction Teacher

Dayna Zelniker has a BS in Program Management and a BFA in Dance Performance from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.  She has taught special interest classes to children in the park district setting for more than 6 years. She and her two beautiful children have been members at NSCI for the past 4 years with her son recently achieving his Bnai Mitzvah and currently pursuing his confirmation with her daughter attending NSCI’s 4th grade religious/hebrew school.  Dayna also leads Israeli Folk Dancing in the public schools and religious schools. Dayna was a Preschool Teacher for NSCI last year and this is her 2nd year teaching in the Individualized Instruction program.  She lived in Israel for 4 years and speaks Hebrew fluently.  Monday through Friday Dayna works at her other profession as a Human Resources professional.