Our YEP! and Education Team

Renee Joffe – YEP! Administrator

Renee joined the staff of Congregation Kehillah in February 2015, after taking a brief break from Jewish non-profit work.  In 2016 she also took on the role of YEP! Administrator.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Renee moved to Phoenix in 1998 where she started to pave her path in the Jewish non-profit realm.  She is a familiar face in the Jewish community, as she has held some wonderful positions at other non-profits in the Valley.  She has brought with her a vast number of innovative ideas and is full of energy.  Renee feels laughter is truly the best medicine and you will always see a smile on her face, even when under pressure.

In August 2017, Renee met her “perfect match” Tom and they got engaged in July 2020.  Tom is a tremendous help and “assistant” to Renee.  Her other “assistant” is her mom, Marsha.

Renee loves going out with friends and laughing.  She also enjoys spending time with her Mom.  The Joffe women are both known for their beautiful nails!  Seriously, make sure you take a look!

In May 2017 she fulfilled her dream of visiting Israel and traveled with Rabbi Sharfman and several congregants, as a gift to herself for her 50th birthday, which was in November 2016. 

Got a minute or ten?  Give Renee a call, she’d love to talk to you and tell you more about Congregation Kehillah.

 

Stephanie Kirklin – Kehillah’s Online Learning Center (OLC) Director

Shalom!  I am the Director of Curriculum for the YEP! program at Congregation Kehillah.  I bring diverse experience in religious school leadership, classroom teaching, curriculum design and supervision, and teacher mentoring. I have worked in synagogue schools, Jewish day schools, and a public school. My work with children spans preschool through middle school grades and includes planning for students experiencing a range of learning needs. During the pandemic, I created and directed an online school for young children.  I am skilled in curriculum design, teaching all learners, and supporting teachers.  
I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Allegheny College, a Master of Arts in Elementary Education with a specialization in Jewish day schools from Brandeis University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Edgewood College. My Master’s thesis is entitled “If You Can Hear Me, Clap Once: Capturing and Maintaining Students’ Intellectual Engagement in the Classroom.”  My Doctoral dissertation is entitled “Muddy Flipping: Teachers’ Experiences with the Flipped Classroom Model in a STEM Middle School.”
 

While, I am not physically in Phoenix, Arizona, I support our teachers and administration behind the scenes and have been doing this since 2015.  I currently reside in Verona, WI with my husband and my two daughters (Alana age 6 and Zoey age 2.5). 

Please reach out if you have any questions about our curriculum!  

 

Erica Erman – Middle School Judaics Teacher, Music and More!

I am so excited to be able to teach and work with our Middle Schoolers! Together with Moreh Jared, I teach 6-8th grade Judaics. You’ll also see me for Tefillah (prayers) and Music sessions. I’ve been teaching at YEP! since 2016 and you’ve probably heard me singing at Congregation Kehillah on the bima as one of our cantorial soloists. Please reach out to me with any questions you have at any time! My goal is to help make Jewish learning sweet, meaningful, and fun and to help give you some of the tools you’ll want and need as you navigate middle school, high school coming up soon, and life in general.

In 2020, Moreh Jared and I welcomed our first child, Debbie.

 

Jared Erman – Middle School Teacher and B’nai Mitzvah Tutor

Jared may have an in with the Rabbi since he’s married to her daughter Erica, but his resume in Jewish education has much deeper roots. Jared attended Heschel Day School in Los Angeles, where he studied Hebrew and Judaica from K-8th grade. While studying business at the University of Arizona in Tucson, he taught 6th grade at Congregation Or Chadash, focusing on Jewish immigration to the United States and preparation for Bnei Mitzvah. He also had the opportunity to live in Israel and work for a food tour company before moving to Phoenix in 2017! Outside of the synagogue, Jared is a manager at Charles Schwab and has a passion for teaching and training in martial arts.

 

Mara Gossack – K-3rd Grade Teacher

I am honored and thrilled to be taking over as the YEP! K-3rd grade teacher!  Our family joined Congregation Kehillah last year when it was time to enroll our son in Hebrew school, and we could not be happier with our choice.  I am originally from New York City and I have a master’s degree from Boston University in theatrical lighting design.  After working as an LD in NYC and the Boston area, I realized that neither the theatre nor the East coast was where I wanted to be.  So, in 1999, I became a certified Montessori teacher and moved to Arizona.  I then built and ran my own Montessori school until my focus once again changed; this time to motherhood, which has been my favorite thing to do by far.  As well as being a stay-at-home mom, I am a stained glass artist.  I practice yoga and I maintain the administrative side of my husband’s pedicab business.  I am so excited to bring my experience and creativity back into the classroom.  I am looking forward to getting to know your kids and you and being more involved in the Kehillah Community!

 

Bob Bessen – 4th & 5th Grade Hebrew Teacher

I was first inspired to teach religious school to spare my children from the numbingly boring experiences from my own childhood religious school memories. Some 20 years later, in addition to trying to make learning Hebrew more fun, I still embrace the opportunities to help our youth nurture their spirituality, understand what God means to them and their peers, and think about the influences that God has in their lives. Overhearing a child say, “I really like coming to YEP!” is what inspires me now.

 

Debbie Sobel – 4th & 5th Grade Judaics Studies Teacher

I am excited to be teaching Judaics Studies to the 4th & 5th grade students once again.  I am a former Elementary School Teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education.  I have been teaching Religious School since I was in college.  I grew up in Omaha, NE  and attended the U of A.  I moved to Washington, D.C where I worked on Capitol Hill, but I always wanted to move back to sunny Arizona.  My daughter, Whitney is a Sundevil following in my footsteps, where she graduated in May in Elementary Education and is attending ASU for graduate school.  I am delighted that Whitney will continue to teach with me.  I enjoy baking, gardening, creative projects, traveling and spoiling my dog.

 

Madeline Dolgin and Mat Sherman – CK Young Adult and Teen Initiative Programs

Madeline Dolgin grew up here in Arizona.  She attended Pardes Jewish Day School where she first met Rabbi Bonnie. 

Madeline discovered a passion for Jewish learning and community building while serving as an intern at Hillel during college.  She continued to follow this passion, beginning her professional career at Hillel at ASU (This is also where she met her husband Mat!).  At Hillel, Madeline launched several new programs including a 10-month Jewish learning class, a weekly bagel club called The Shmear Society, and an interfaith fellowship. 

Madeline is also passionate about health, wellness and sustainability.  She is a Yoga Alliance 200-hour registered yoga teacher and completed her Master’s in Natural Resources where she researched ways to reduce our environmental footprint.  Madeline works full-time as a graduate advisor at ASU’s School of Sustainability but she always has her hands in some kind of Jewish leadership program.

Mat’s roots in Judaism go back to Temple Chai, where he got bar mitzvah’d.  He spent his early summers attending Jewish summer camps like Hess Kramer and Camp Pearstein (now Stein). 

In high school, he was involved with NFTY and served as President of the SW region.  In college, he was involved with ASU Hillel and spearheaded the creation of the student board.  Throughout all of high school and college, he was also an active song leader for Shabbat services. 

Post college, Mat developed an interest in startups and created a few of his own businesses.  Currently Mat is the founder of Seedscout, which is a professional networking program for the tech industry. 

 

Whitney Sobel – 4th & 5th Grade Teacher

I graduated in May 2022 from ASU with a degree in Education.  This fall, I will be attending ASU for Graduate School to further my background in Education.  Some of my hobbies include fitness, traveling and hanging out with my dog, Koogle.  I am excited to be one of the 4th & 5th grade teachers for YEP this year.

 

 

 

Ilene Malka – the Education Chair on Congregation Kehillah’s Board of Directors

I am the connection from our school programs to the Board. Along with Rabbi Sharfman and our wonderful teaching staff, I am always looking for ways to improve our delivery of all things Jewish!

Most of my life has been spent supporting and encouraging Jewish education for young children, to give them a sense of who they are, where they come from, and to be proud of their very rich Jewish history. I am also a believer in adult education, because there is so much to learn and understand about our people, our history and our Torah. Developing a strong Jewish identity will help us all keep our values alive for future generations.

 

Vicki Bertch – B’nai Mitzvah Tutor

Jewish Education has been a part of my career in education for over 40 years and more than 30 of them spent with Rabbi Sharfman working as a classroom teacher for many different grades over the years, teaching Hebrew to adults and running a preschool for almost a decade.  It’s really exciting to be one of the B’nai Mitzvah tutors for Congregation Kehillah.  Teaching is my profession but working with children in Jewish education is a passion.  I love working one on one with each child and really getting to know who they are, as well as how they learn.

I look forward to continuing in this important, interesting and fun journey with Rabbi Sharfman, Renee Joffe, Ilene Malka and the rest of the YEP! team!