Hanhallah - Head Staff
Debbie Sussman - Director
Debbie has been the director of Camp Yavneh since 1991. She attended Yavneh as a camper and counselor for four years, and was in Kerem ’68. Debbie has three children, Ari (married to Jessica Gray-Yavneh alum), Jonathan (married to Sarah Seewald- Na’aleh alum) and Mera, who all attended Yavneh as campers and were on staff. Debbie’s husband Joel helps camp out in many ways including the Camp Yavneh band. He can be seen parking cars on opening days! The Sussman’s live in Newton and happily summer in Northwood, NH.
Jeff Weener - Associate Director, Director of Operations
Jeff has been at Yavneh since 2001. Jeff oversees the operational and financial aspects of camp, and guides areas such as marketing, technology and food service. Jeff has an MBA from Babson College and has held various marketing and technology positions in the business world prior to joining the Yavneh family. Jeff is married to Barbara and has 3 children who are all alum of Yavneh, with two on staff for summer 2016.
Lisa Rubins - Assistant Director, Director of Programming
Lisa has been attending Yavneh for 40 years (really!) as camper (K’85) and counselor. She has held a variety of positions, learning about camp from many perspectives. During the school year, Lisa teaches at the Solomon Schechter School in White Plains, NY. She holds a masters degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). Lisa comes to camp with her husband Scott who is Head of Safety at Yavneh and son, Jack who loves camp as much as she does!
Davida Amkraut - Rosh Banot (Head Girls Counselor)
Davida is celebrating 21 years at Yavneh this summer. Davida is a graduate of Columbia University Teachers College and currently teaches at The Solomon Schechter Day School in Cleveland, Ohio where she lives with her husband Brian and 3 children. She has served as a principal of a Hebrew School and has taught 5th-8th graders in public school. Davida won the Gross Schechter Day School teacher award. Additionally, Davida is the recipient of the Jewish Cleveland community day school teacher award called the Steiger Award for Teaching.
Meir Deutsch - Rosh Banim (Head Boys Counselor)
This is Meir’s 10th summer as Rosh Banim. Meir grew up in Gush Etzion, Israel, and has served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Israeli Army in charge of 150 soldiers in the Givati Brigade. He has extensive experience with children including the youth groups B’nei Akiva and Shalva. He is currently working in “National Protection Trust”. Meir comes to camp with his wife Adina and their 3 daughters.
Year Round Staff
Shani Winton - Registrar
Shani has been working for Yavneh as Registrar/Office Manager for the past 11 years. All our families communicate with Shani throughout the year and “know her” by her frequent emails and phone calls! Shani also spends each summer at camp with her 3 children, Eli, Nava and Ari. Erik, her husband comes to camp for Shabbat and is an avid participant in Shabbos Ball. Shani holds a BA from Brandeis University and a Ed.M from Harvard University.
Melanie Gerard - Director of Advocacy and Development
For the last ten years, Melanie has been self-employed as a business consultant. Melanie holds an MBA in Marketing and a BS in Economics-Finance. She serves on the Executive Board for the Boston Chapter of Hadassah. Her family has attended Yavneh Family Camp for seven years and her husband, Michael, is a Yavneh alum. Melanie has two of her three children enrolled at Camp Yavneh
Efrat Assulin - Family Camp and Retreats Director and Office Administrator
Efrat hails from Israel where she held a variety of jobs in conference and event planning, and marketing and administrative roles in high tech companies. Efrat has a BA in communications from University of Michigan and an MBA from the IDC center in Herzliya, Israel. Efrat has two young boys who are very excited to join her at camp this coming summer.
Amiel Abir - Rosh Teva V'Hisardut (Nature and Survival)
Amiel is excited to join Camp Yavneh for the first time! Amiel is from Jerusalem, and is a veteran of the Israeli army (IDF) and an archaeology and history enthusiast. Amiel hopes to enable each and every chanich to connect with the natural environment and to appreciate past generations and attempt to understand their interactions with the natural world by exploring how they lived. He will also touch on the history and archeology of ancient Israel during the course of the summer and learn how these crafts pertain to our ancestral heritage.
Rachel Davenport - Rosh Drama
Rachel Davenport is returning to Camp Yavneh for her 10th summer. A long-time Boston area resident, Rachel is a graduate of Prozdor, and received her Bachelor’s in Jewish Education and a Certificate in Jewish Special Education from Boston’s Hebrew College. Rachel received her Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching (Elementary Education) from Brandeis University. During the year, Rachel is a teacher at the Atrium School in Watertown, MA.
Mica Felsztyna - Co-rosh Sport (Head of Sports)
Mica is from Cordoba Argentina and has a degree from the Institute of Physical Education and a diploma in Aerobic training. Mica’s specialty as an Air Aerobic teacher has been a hit at camp. This is Mica’s 6th summer at Yavneh. Mica is married to Marcelo.
Estelle Lajmer Gomolka - Rosh Agam (Head of Waterfront)
Estelle is a 5th grade teacher at The Greater Boston SSDS. She is a graduate of Maimonides school. She is celebrating her 40th summer at Yavneh (K’79). She has held many positions at Yavneh including Rosh Banot (head girls counselor). Estelle has well over 20 years teaching swimming and holds her WSI, lifeguarding CPR and First Aid instructor. She is married to Guy and has 2 children.
Moishik Hoch - Co-rosh Sport
Rabbi Moishik is very excited to join the Camp Yavneh family! Currently a Judaic Studies teacher at Atlanta Jewish Academy, Moshik grew up in Elkana and studied at Mechinat B’nei David. Moishik served in the Golani army unit in the IDF and has a bachelor’s degree from Bar Ilan University in logistics and economics. Rabbi Moishik’s favorite sport to play, watch, and coach is soccer. His favorite team is Macabbi Tel Aviv.
Julie Leshem - Ceramic Artist
Julie has been creating and teaching ceramics for over 25 years. Her studio, Golden Lights Pottery is in Efrat, and her work focuses on integrating Judaic themes with usable and aesthetic pieces. Julie is returning to camp for her 8th summer and looks forward to encouraging creativity while at the same time teaching basic skills working with clay, and using the potters wheel. Julie lives in Efrat with her husband and enjoys her 6 children and many grandchildren.
Miriam Loren - Yedidut Inclusion Coodinator
This is Miriam's first summer at Camp Yavneh. Miriam is a graduate of Columbia University Teachers College and worked for many years in Early Childhood Special Education, running classrooms for developmentally delayed children and their parents. Miriam has also worked as an evaluator, diagnosing children and evaluating them for special services. Miriam lives in New Rochelle, NY with her husband Ari and her five boys, three of whom will be joining her at camp.
Marcelo Marianoff - Rosh Rikud (Head of Dance)
Marcelo is the Israeli Dance Director of Maccabi in Cordoba Argentina, and the choreographer of their Leahaka “Sinapzia”. He regularly guest teaches Israeli dance around the world including Peru, Switzerland, New Zealand, England and Israel. This is his 6th summer at Yavneh. Marcelo is married to Mica.
Ashley Marx - Yoetzet (Social Worker)
Ashley Marx is a clinical social worker and has worked with children and adolescents in schools and private practice since 2005. She was born and raised in Nashville, TN, came the Boston area for college and stayed for 18 years, before returning to the South (Atlanta, GA). Ashley is coming to camp with her two daughters, Noa and Tali, and her husband Eli Geller (K’ 94) who will return to camp for Shabbatot.
Jayne Miller - Rosh Omanut (Head of Art)
This is Jayne’s 16th summer bringing her craft to Yavneh. Jayne is skilled in and has taught spinning, quilting, enameling, jewelry and other subjects. She has taken and taught numerous art workshops over many years. She is married to Barry and has 3 children at Yavneh.
Scott Rubins - Head of Safety & Photography
Scott returns for his 21st year and was previously Rosh Banim. Scott has worked in the public safety world as a Peace Officer and for almost 30 years as an EMT with the Scarsdale Ambulance. He holds a Masters degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, teaches Forensic Science at New Rochelle High School and is an Adjunct Professor for Syracuse University. Scott comes to camp with his wife, Lisa and son, Jack.
Itzik Shalem - S'gan Rosh Tochnit
Itzik Shalem has been part of the Yavneh family since 2004 when he came to camp as a shaliach. Since then, he has played many different roles at camp, including video guy, counselor, unit head, rosh mishlachat, and now as assistant to the program director. A native of Holon, Itzik currently resides in Haifa, where he teaches media studies for middle and high school students.
Tali Silverman - Mumche Chinuch (Programming Specialist)
Tali is excited to be returning to Yavneh this summer after a five year hiatus. She spent 13 summers as a camper and counselor and she couldn’t resist coming back to Yavneh for another awesome summer. During the year Tali works as an experiential educator at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA.
Netanel Spiegel - Rosh Mitbach (Food Service Director)
This is Netanel’s 5th summer at Yavneh as the foodservice director. Netanel is a graduate of the professional Israeli chef college. Netanel lives in Jerusalem and works in the food business along with his university studies of business management. He’s in charge of feeding your kids, so don’t worry, they won’t be hungry.
Benzi Thee - Rosh Muzika (Head of Music)
Benzi is celebrating his 11th year at Yavneh and comes from Israel with his wife Yonina, and 6 children. Benzi holds a B.A. in music and a masters in Music Therapy and plays in a simcha/wedding band.
Kristi Wivagg - Kerem Play Director
Kristi received a BA in theater from University of Denver and an MA in directing from Emerson College. She has been an actor, stage manager, and director in places around the globe such as New York, LA, Boston, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Kristi is the proud mom of two Yavneh alums! This is Kristi's 11th summer at Camp Yavneh.
Educational Staff - Leadership
Chana Israel - Rosh Chinuch (Head of Education)
Chana is currently the lead teacher for Kindergarten and First Grade Judaics at the Hebrew Academy of the Capital District. She has directed Jewish educational programming over the past 20 years for students from pre-school through high school. Chana has been a member of the chinuch staff at Camp Yavneh for the past three years. She is married to Mark and they have four children – all of whom have attended Camp Yavneh and will be at camp this summer.
Seth Pertain - S'gan Rosh Chinuch (Assistant Head of Education)
Seth Pertain is a high school Talmud teacher at the Schechter High School of Westchester. Seth has a B.A. in Judaic Studies from Binghamton and did his graduate work on the Melamdim Program – a joint program between the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. This is going to be Seth’s 11th summer at Camp Yavneh.
Rabbi Yehudah Potok - Mashgiach Ruchani (Spiritual Advisor)
Yehudah returns to Camp Yavneh to teach Kerem once again. Yehudah has smicha (Rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Hamivtar and has served Yavneh in many capacities over the years including Assistant Director, rosh banim and as a counselor. During the year, Yehudah is the head of school of Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, MA. One summer he was the madrich for Na’aleh where he met his wife Shira. They have 4 children.
Educational Staff - Morim (Teachers)
This is Rabbi Elad’s first summer at Camp Yavneh. Growing up in Ashdod, Elad studied at Yeshiva in Karnei Shomron. In the IDF, he was in the paratroopers unit and then began working in Educational Development in Israel. Currently living in Atlanta, Elad teaches Tanach at the Atlanta Jewish Academy. During his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, photographing nature, and making sushi. Elad will be joined at camp by his wife, Yifat, and their four children.
We welcome Yifat for her first summer at Camp Yavneh. Yifat grew up in Yavneh and studied at Yeshiva in Talpiot. Currently living in Atlanta, Yifat teaches first grade Special Education at the Atlanta Jewish Academy. During her free time, Yifat enjoys baking. She was an artisan baker in Israel! Yifat will be joined at camp by her husband, Elad, and their four children.
Alexa is very excited to spend her first summer at Camp Yavneh! She holds a BA in English, with a minor in Jewish Studies, from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MA in English Education from Columbia Teachers College. During the year, she teaches English at Beacon High School in New York City. Alexa has taught Hebrew School at West End Synagogue in Manhattan, and while a student at Penn, founded and ran Hillel's Jewish Short Story Club.
This will be Joanne’s 10th summer at camp. Joanne currently teaches first grade at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham, MA. She has taught for many years in a variety of settings including Jewish preschools, afternoon Hebrew schools and day schools. Joanne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Brandeis as well as 3 Masters, in Education, Social Work, and Jewish studies. Joanne will be joined by her daughter Elianna, who was a camper at Yavneh for many years and will be returning this summer as a fourth-year counselor.
This is Nachshon’s first summer at Camp Yavneh. He recently relocated to the US after living in Jerusalem for the last decade. Nachshon currently teaches Jewish studies at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton FL. Following his army service, Nachshon was the senior educator for summer groups of American teenagers visiting Israel. Nachshon brings to camp many areas of knowledge, including: Torah study, prayer, Jewish spiritual practice, Hebrew, Israeli folk dancing and more. He will be coming to camp with his wife Ilene, a fellow morah, and their two children.
Yonit has been teaching formally for 28 years but really for her whole life! Yonit teaches at Barak Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia as a morah l’ivrit (Hebrew teacher). This is Yonit’s 7th summer at Yavneh. She has three children. Her youngest will be attending Yavneh this summer for her sixth summer and her two eldest are in the Israeli army.
Limor Cohen Mellul
Limor is a native Hebrew speaker and has been involved in Jewish education for over two decades. Limor currently teaches Judaic and Hebrew Studies at Maimonides school, as well as mentoring teachers at Brandeis University. Limor strongly believes that knowing Hebrew can deepen one’s connection to Jewish identity and to Israel. This is Limor’s 8th summer working at Camp Yavneh.
Michal is very excited about joining her husband, Moishik, and kids, Yuval and Ori, for the first time at Camp Yavneh. Michal is currently a 3rd grade teacher at Atlanta Jewish Academy. She grew up in Elkana and moved to Atlanta in August of 2015. Michal has a bachelor’s degree from Ariel University in behavioral sciences. She also has a teaching certificate. In Israel, Michal was a 5th grade teacher. Unlike her husband, Michal is not an avid watcher or player of sports.
Jeanie Horowitz has been teaching at Yavneh for the past seven summers. Raised in New York, Jeanie lives in London with her husband and three children who all attend Yavneh. Jeanie is the Hebrew School Principal at Belsize Square Synagogue in London. She is active at New North London Synagogue and is an avid participant in their adult education programs.
Shira Loewenstein has been coming to camp for a long time. She started in Ma'alot and has served in many roles throughout the years. Shira works for the Yeshiva University School Partnership. She runs a program supporting new teachers and works with teachers on professional development. Shira also teaches fifth grade Mishnah at the Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, MA. This summer Shira will be at camp with her husband Yehudah (whom she met at camp) and their four children.
Josh, the third generation in his family to be attending Yavneh, is excited to spend his 16th summer at camp. After being a camper, counselor, Na’aleh Counselor, and Rosh Aydah, Josh is thrilled to have found a home on the Tzevet Morim for the second year running. During the year Josh works as a high school teacher in New York City.
Marla Olsberg is excited to return to the Tzevet Morim for her 6th year. Marla worked in various Jewish Educational settings for the past 25 years. She is employed by the Boston- Haifa Connection (CJP) as the Project Manager for the School to School partnerships between Boston and Haifa. Her work revolves around Jewish Identity and Peoplehood. She both taught and was an administrator at South Area Solomon Schechter for 20 years.
Josh is very excited to be returning to Yavneh for his second summer. Josh is pursuing Smicha (Rabbinic Ordination) at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York. Josh got his training as a teacher both at the DeLeT Program at Brandeis University, through which he received a Master’s Degree in Jewish Day School Elementary Education and at the Pardes Center for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Richard Polirer, aka Rabbi Richie, has been a Moreh at Yavneh since 1992. A pulpit rabbi since 1977, he brings to Yavneh his wide array of teaching expertise. Rabbi Richie coordinates Torah readers for the Egalitarian Minyan, delivers the news from Israel, and helps prepare children for their B’nai Mitzvah. He comes to us from Florida where we pursues his interests, including: history, linguistics, and chazzanut. Rabbi Richie is accompanied at Yavneh by his wife, Nurse Suzi.
Ilene is a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University. She taught creative writing at Machon Pardes, where she also facilitated a weekly creative writing workshop based on the weekly parsha and themes from Jewish holidays. She is an internationally recognized speaker about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. She hosted a radio show on TLV1.FM, an English radio station broadcasting from Tel Aviv. Her most recent work was published in TIME magazine, the New York Times book review and the Haaretz newspaper. Ilene is coming to camp with her husband, Nachshon, and their two children.
Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein completed his studies at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) last year. He works as Mashgiach Ruchani at Carmel Academy in Greenwich, CT along with being the Youth Director at Young Israel of Stamford, CT. Isaiah was born and raised in Monsey, NY and is the product of a mixed-race marriage, and proud Jew of Color. Additionally, Isaiah is a world traveller, song writer, story teller, bonfire builder and grateful citizen of the world.
Roshei Aydah – Unit Heads
Gurim (Grades 2-4)
Max Pomeranz (K'10, N'11)
Max is a junior at The University of Mass, studying Business Operations & Information Management. Max is currently studying abroad, in Melbourne Australia at Deakin University. Some things he’s doing now are, playing for two different local Melbourne rugby clubs and hiking in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand. He’s really excited to come back to his camp family and spend some nice long Yavneh Shabboses catching up. He’s also excited to problem solve and find the best way to pack the most fun into the smallest time frame. This will be his 10th year at camp.
Danni Lovich (K'12, N'13)
Danni is a sophomore at Barnard College studying psychology and child development. At school she is producing her very first show with the Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Danni is counting down the days until she can spend another fantastic summer with the goofiest aydah in camp. This is her 11th summer at camp and 4th with Gurim!
Kfirim (Grades 5-6)
Micah Ezekiel (K’11, N’12)
Micah was a counselor in Kfirim for two years, and last year was co-Rosh Gurim. Micah is a Junior at NYU, studying Business and Political Economy. He enjoys traveling, and spent three semesters abroad in London and Shanghai as part of his studies. This Spring he is an intern with UJA-Federation of New York. He is excited to show each camper how special Yavneh is, because it is a place that has truly become his second home–one filled with joy, friendship, and ruach! This is his 11th summer at camp.
Aliza Abolafia (K’11, N’12)
Aliza is a junior at UMass Amherst, studying English and Hebrew. She took a gap year in Israel and is excited to be back with the best chanichim in the world as well as the best co-rosh..She can’t wait to be back on the agam and in the beautiful nature of New Hampshire whether it be hiking saddleback or planting vegetables in the garden but mostly spending time with her chanichim. She spent a lot of time this year collecting different Jewish songs and tunes and can’t wait to share them with the whole camp this summer! I love music and singing! This is Aliza’s 13 years at camp!
Arayot (Grade 7)
Josh Schwartz (K'12, N'13)
Josh is a sophomore at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY majoring in Art History and minoring in Creative Writing. At school, he works at the museum on campus, called the Loeb, and is on the board of the Vassar Jewish Union and the J Street U chapter. This summer, he’s most excited to spend time with his campers and staff, and to create a summer mishpacha together! This will be Josh’s 10th summer at camp.
Tara Hanau (K'11, N'12)
Tara is a sophomore at Binghamton University majoring in human development and taking nursing prerequisites. She loves traveling, playing sports and can’t wait to just hangout in the bunk! Tara is super excited to be co- Rosh Arayot and see camp from an entirely new lens! This will be Tara’s 12th summer at Yavneh.
Leviim (Grade 8)
Avi Wechsler (K’11)
Avi is a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC studying Criminal Justice and Political Science. He’s really excited to see the new and old faces of the chanichim and can't wait for "relish" on Shabbat ! This is Avi’s 9th summer at camp.
Emma Hanselman (K'12, N'13)
Emma is a sophomore at Brandeis, Art History major, French and Linguistics minor. She is so excited to come back as a (first time) rosh and be able to help her chanichim and tzevet have a wonderful, impactful summer together. This coming summer will be her 9th at Yavneh.
Maalot (Grade 9)
Jeremy Tibbetts (K’10, N’11)
Jeremy is a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst studying Public Health with a Philosophy minor. He is most excited to be back at camp this summer and to start being real leaders with aydat MAALOT!!!! This coming summer will be his 9th summer at Yavneh.
Talia Schwartz (K’10, N’11)
Talia is currently a junior at Binghamton University majoring in Human Development and double minoring in Judaic Studies and Education. She is so excited to be returning to camp to spend another incredible summer in Northwood working alongside Tibbetts for the 3rd summer as co-roshei aydah! Talia cannot wait to spend time with her incredibly hilarious chanichim, to enjoy Shabbat at Yavneh, and of course to (hopefully winning) Zimriyah! This is her 12th summer at camp.
Kerem (Grade 10)
Shai Weener (K’10, N’11)
Shai is currently studying at the University of Maryland in College park, majoring in Statistics and Jewish Studies. Outside of the classroom, Shai likes to host Shabbat dinners, draw, scroll through youtube, run, and teach himself guitar. In addition to all these things, he is planning and leading a Hillel Alternative Spring Break trip to rural Mississippi - focusing on racial issues and its relationship. This summer, Shai will be celebrating his 16th summer at Camp Yavneh and his 5th with the best aydah ever. Shai and Dani could not be more excited for #Kerem16 even if they wanted to!
Dani Pitkoff (K’11)
Dani is proud to be a part of the Kerem '16 mishpacha this summer as Co-Rosh with Shai! Dani is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University studying Writing. On campus, she is on the board for Jewish Students Association and Sexual Assault Resource Unit. She could not be more thrilled to see her outstanding chanichim and chanichot become the leaders of camp this summer!! It will be her 11th summer at Yavneh.
More about staff…
Bunk counselors for each age level are selected for their sensitivity and ruach (spirit). You might be interested to hear that every one of our counselors have attended Yavneh for many years and now want to give back by returning as counselors. Yavneh prides itself on its outstanding camper to counselor ratio of 5:1. Aydot (units) are supervised by leaders who are chosen for their experience in camping, Jewish background and problem solving skills. In addition, our Boys & Girls Head counselors are professionally trained with years of combined camp experience. Specialty counselors are selected for their expertise in drama, waterfront, arts and crafts, tennis, basketball, and dozens of other activity options. Jewish educators are invited to camp to serve as role models and to teach an array of Hebrew and Jewish topics and, to lead informal discussion groups. Licensed physicians and three nurses staff our well-equipped Health Center.