Camp Yavneh Leadership

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 – Assistant 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 foodservice. Jeff has an MBA from Babson College and has held various marketing and technology positions in the business world for the past 20 years. Jeff is married to Barbara and has 3 children who are all alum of Yavneh, with two on staff for summer 2015.


Lisa Rubins – Assistant Director, Director of Programming

Lisa has been attending Yavneh for 39 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 20 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 9th 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 10 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

Efrat Assulin – Family Camp 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.

charlie comtois

Charlie Comtois – Facilities Director

This is Charlie’s 11th year at Camp Yavneh. Charlie is a professional mason who is skilled in all aspects of construction and facilities management. Charlie has 5 children, many whom work at Camp Yavneh. He is responsible for building many of the beautiful structures at camp including the Beit Midrash, girls and boys Kerem bunks, the new Ben Zvi, Gilboa- the Amphitheater and rebuilding the agam/waterfront.


Summer Leadership

Riki Arberman

Riki Arberman – Art Specialist

Riki got her first degree in teaching Arabic and Hebrew and has a second degree in educational management as well as a certificate for teaching art. She splits her time in Modiin, Israel teaching in a Jewish religious and secular high school and running art workshops for girls and women in her studio. She loves using beads, fabrics, wood, paint, paper and polymer clay. Riki is married to Rabbi Paul Arberman and is mother of three returning campers Ziv, 10 and twins Noa and Gilad, 8.5.

Mica Felsztyna

Mica Felsztyna – 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 4th summer at Yavneh. Mica is recently 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.


Daniel Hoffman – S’gan Rosh Tochnit (Assistant Program Director)

“Hoffman,” as he is known around camp, has been at Yavneh since 1993 in a variety of roles – camper, counselor, Rosh Ayda (unit head), and assistant programming director. After graduating Yale in 2008, he worked as a teacher at Akiva School in Nashville and now studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School in New York. His favorite parts of camp involve mentoring older campers and counselors taking on leadership roles, especially in Maccabiah. He lives in [Jerusalem/New York] with his wife Eliezah.


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.

Julie Leshem

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 7th 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.

Marcelo Marianoff

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 5th summer at Yavneh. Marcelo is recently married to Mica.

Ashley Marx

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) last summer. 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 15th 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, one who met her fiancé at Yavneh.


Seth Pertain – Sgan 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 10th summer at Camp Yavneh.


Rabbi Yehudah Potok – Machgiach 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. One summer he was the madrich for Na’aleh where he met his wife Shira. They have 4 children.


Scott Rubins – Head of Safety & Photography

Scott returns for his 20th 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.


Netanel Spiegel

Netanel Spiegel – Food Service Director

This is Netanel’s 4th 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

Benzi Thee – Rosh Muzika (Head of Music)

Benzi is celebrating his 10th 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.

Morim – Educational Staff

Paul Arberman

Paul Arberman

Rabbi Paul Arberman is a congregational rabbi for the Hatch End Masorti Synagogue in London, England. He visits there once a month and lives in Modiin, Israel with his wife, Riki (Omanut specialist at Yavneh) and three children. He studied Gov’t at Wesleyan University and then got smicha at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. This is his third summer at Yavneh.

David Bratspis

David is a native of Albany, New York but has been living in Israel since 2003. Currently he resides in Alon Shvut with his wife and two children. This will be David’s 11th summer as a tzevet member having worked as a Madrich, Rosh Aydah (K’09), Moreh, Naaleh Madrich and most recently as the Moreh Derech (tour guide) and Rosh Otobus for Naaleh ’13. David has a degree in education and an Israel Ministry of Tourism guiding license. In addition to guiding families and groups, David is a founding partner and Director of Experiential Education at Mechinat El-Ami a gap year program to be based in Eilat and launched in September 2016.

Joanne Caman

Joanne Camann

This will be Joanne’s 9th summer as a teacher at camp. She is currently a first grade teacher at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham, Massachusetts. Joanne brings a wealth of teaching experience and just plain love of teaching to Camp Yavneh. She has taught for many years in a variety of Jewish settings including Jewish preschools, afternoon Hebrew schools and day schools. Joanne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Brandeis University as well as 3 Masters, one in Education one in Social Work and  another in 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 second year counselor.

Yonit Cohen

Yonit Cohen

Yonit has been teaching formally for 28 years but really for her whole life! Yonit was taught at SSDS in Newton for 9 years and now enjoys her new job as a morah l’ivrit (Hebrew teacher) at Barak Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia. This is Yonit’s 6th 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 Hebrew language and Jewish education for the last 22 years in various settings; as a home teacher, a teacher’s coordinator in Israel, Rosh Ivrit in a variety of Jewish overnight camps, a freelance writer for an Israeli children’s magazine and currently as a specialist teacher for Judaic and Hebrew studies in Maimonides school as well as a 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 6th summer working at Camp Yavneh.

Rachel Davenport

Rachel Davenport

Rachel Davenport is returning to Camp Yavneh for her 9th 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. This will be Rachel’s first summer at camp without her two sons (one of whom is traveling with Yavneh’s Na’aleh Israel trip). During the year, Rachel is a teacher at the Atrium School in Watertown, MA.

Yoav Ende

Yoav Ende

Rabbi Yoav Ende, from Kibbutz Hannaton, is the executive director of the Hannaton Educational Center and the head of the Hannaton Mechina, pre-army program, located in the Galilee. Rabbi Ende was ordained by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem. He has a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and an M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Management. Rabbi Ende will be coming to camp with his wife, Shira and four children, Tomer, Elah, Itai and Nadav.

Jeanie Horowitz

Jeanie Horowitz

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.


Chana Israel

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.

Shira Loewenstein

Shira Loewenstein

Shira Loewenstein has been coming to camp for a long time. She started in Maalot and has served in many roles throughout the years, she even met her husband here at camp! During the year Shira works for the Yeshiva University School Partnership where she runs a program to support new teachers coming into the field of education and works with teachers to help support ongoing 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 and their four children.

Josh Micley

Josh Micley

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.

Amy Newman

Amy Newman

Amy is a graduate of Drisha Institute of Jewish Education, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She teaches Judaic Studies at Gann Academy: The New Jewish High School of Greater Boston. Previously, she taught at the Ramaz School in New York, and served as Director of Informal Education for Drisha Institute’s High School Programs. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband David and their two little boys Ezra and Jesse, who are also excited to be at Yavneh this summer.

Marla Olsberg

Marla Olsberg

Marla Olsberg is excited to return to the Tzevet Morim for her 5th year at Machneh Yavneh. Marla has worked in various Jewish Educational settings for the last 25 years. Presently, she is employed by the Boston- Haifa Connection (CJP) and serves as the Project Manager for the School to School partnerships between Boston and Haifa- her work revolves around Jewish Identity and Peoplehood. Previously, she both taught and was an administrator at South Area Solomon Schechter Day school for 20 years. Marla will be joined by two of her three children as Yavneh campers. Marla also serves as the tutoring coordinator at Yavneh.

Josh Pernick

Josh Pernick

Josh is very excited to be working at Camp Yavneh for the first summer. He teaches 1st and 2nd grade Judaic Studies at the Atlanta Jewish Academy in Atlanta GA, and will be leaving the classroom to pursue Semicha at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah this coming year. 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. He can’t wait to return to camp after having spent 17 years in the world of Jewish camping as a camper and counselor.


Seth Pertain

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 10th summer at Camp Yavneh.

Richard Polirer

Richard Polirer

Rabbi Richard Polirer, aka Rabbi Richie, has been a Moreh at Yavneh since 1992 — a span of two centuries! An ordained pulpit rabbi since 1977, he brings to Yavneh his wide array of teaching expertise. He also coordinates Torah readers for the Egalitarian Minyan, delivers the news from Israel, and has helped prepare children for their B’nai Mitzvah. Residing in South Florida since 1996, his interests include: everything historical; linguistics; and chazzanut — all of which he presents in the humorous Rabbi Richie style that is his forte. Rabbi Richie is accompanied each year at Yavneh by his wife, Nurse Suzi; they live in the Marp.

Mordechai Rackover

Mordechai Rackover

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover is a veteran educator who has worked with students aged 6 to adult. Rabbi Rackover is currently a 6th grade Judaic Studies teacher at Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon. With a particular interest in interdisciplinary education Mordechai’s work fits well into the informal educational environment at Camp. Mordechai will be at camp for the second time this summer and he will be coming with his four kids.

Isaiah Rothstein

Isaiah Rothstein

Isaiah J. Rothstein is expecting to complete his studies at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) June 2015, and works as the Spiritual and Experiential Educator at Carmel Academy in Greenwich, 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.

Dan Savitt

Dan Savitt

Dan Savitt is excited to join Camp Yavneh for his first summer. During the year, Dan teaches 7th and 8th grade Judaic studies at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston. He is looking forward to coming to camp with his wife, Lieba, and their two sons, Eliyah and Adiv.

Roshei Aydah – Unit Heads

Gurim (Grades 2-4)

Micah Ezekiel

Micah Ezekiel (K’11, N’12)

Micah has been a counselor in Kfirim for the past two years. Micah is a sophomore at NYU, studying Business and Political Economy.  Micah enjoys traveling, and as part of his studies, has spent the year in London and will spend next fall in Shanghai. This is his 10th summer at Yavneh, and is very happy to be returning to camp as it is truly his second home–one filled with joy, friendship, and ruach!

Aliza Abolafia

Aliza Abolafia (K’11, N’12)

Aliza has been a counselor in Gurim for the past three years. This is her twelfth summer at Camp Yavneh. After high school, Aliza spent a year living in Israel and is currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying English and Hebrew. She is also studying civic engagement through a service learning certificate program. Aliza can’t wait to spend another summer with her favorite Aydah in camp!

Kfirim (Grades 5-6)

Herschel Singer

Herschel Singer (K’09, N’10)

Herschel was Rosh Gurim the past two summers. This is his 13th summer at camp. Herschel is very excited to be moving up to be Rosh Kifirm this year, as well as taking on a new and exciting role as S’gan Rosh Banim (assistant head of the boys). Herschel is currently a junior at Yeshiva University, studying Psychology and Business. He has also been working this year at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, where he has learned all about the ins and outs of the Jewish Camping world! Herschel is looking forward to bringing this newfound knowledge back to Yavneh for our 71st summer!

Aviv Baavur

Aviv Baavur

Aviv joined the Yavneh family two years ago, as a part of the Israel Mishlachat. Aviv lives in Kibbutz Yizrael, which is located in northern Israel. Aviv completed her IDF service in April 2012, and these past few years has mostly worked in Israel and traveled to AMAZING places in the US and South America. This coming October, Aviv will be starting university in Jerusalem, studying English and education. Aviv is thrilled to be coming back as Co-Rosh Kfirim!! I wish us all an amazing and unforgettable summer!

Arayot (Grade 7)

Avi Wechsler

Avi Wechsler (K’11)

This is Avi’s 8th summer at Machaneh Yavneh. Avi is currently studying at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., studying for a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice. He can’t wait to be a part of another summer at Machaneh Yavneh and hope to make it the best summer yet!

Arianna Turk

Ariana Turk (K’11, N’12)

Ariana has been going to Yavneh for 12 years. This past summer she was a madrichah for Arayot. Arianna took her gap year studying in Israel at Machon Maayan and is now at McGill University studying Cognitive Science. “Yavneh is a special place to me it is a place where I have made my best friends and shared my favorite memories. I am so excited to come back this summer as a Rosh for Arayot!”

Leviim (Grade 8)

Jeremy Tibbetts

Jeremy Tibbetts (K’10, N’11)

Jeremy will be celebrating his eighth year at camp this summer. Jeremy is a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying Public Health and Philosophy on the Premed track. Jeremy enjoys reading and hiking with friends. He is super excited to come back to camp and have the best summer as a Rosh Ayda, with great people and exciting activities!

Talia Schwartz

Talia Schwartz (K’10, N’11)

Talia is a sophomore at Binghamton University majoring in Human Development and Judaic Studies and minoring in Education. This is Talia’s eleventh summer at camp. She is so excited to be returning to camp this summer with Tibbetts as her co-rosh for Leviim 2015. She cannot wait for yemei achla, Shabbat, and of course Zimriyah!

Maalot (Grade 9)

Shai Weener

Shai Weener (K’10, N’11)

Shai will be celebrating 15 summers at Camp Yavneh this year. He is currently studying Statistics and Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland in College Park, as well as doing state-funded research on morality in America. Shai is super excited to be a member of the best aydah ever this coming summer, Maalot 15!

Dani Pikoff

Dani Pikoff (K’11)

Dani will be returning for her 10th summer at Camp Yavneh! She is currently a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, studying in the Writing Seminars program and minoring in Judaic Studies. At school, she works on programming committees for both campus wide and Hillel events, and hold shifts on an emergency help hotline. Dani is counting down the days until this summer to be a part of the goofy, chipper, and stupendous Aydat Maalot ’15!!!

Kerem (Grade 10)

Alanna Wolf

Alanna Wolf (K’08, N’09)

Alanna is a recent graduate of the Masters of Occupational Therapy program at Boston University, but more importantly, a true Yavneh lifer! This summer will be her 14th summer at camp, and definitely one of the most special. Alanna was a madricha for Kerem ’12, and is this year’s Rosh Kerem ’15, Alanna has certainly found a home at Yavneh. She also feels quite confident in her Yavneh trivia, and she will willingly take on anyone who tries to stump her.


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.