MEET OUR AMAZING RELIGIOUS SCHOOL STAFF
Rachel Albert - ATID Program Director
Rachel has been a Fairfax County teacher for the past 19 years. She was trained as an art therapist and works as an art teacher at Bryant Alternative High School. Rachel also has a degree in Educational Leadership. At Agudas, she has experience as a classroom religious school teacher, USY advisor and an active preschool parent- all way back when. She is the proud mom of 2 great kids and lives near the JCC in Annandale VA.
Doug Fagen - Life Cycle Seminar Instructor
Doug Fagen is a clinical child psychologist who earned his doctoral degree at the University of Rochester. He has worked with children and adolescents with learning and emotional difficulties for over twenty years. Doug currently serves as Director of the Reservoir Psychology Group at The Lab School of Washington, a school for students with learning differences in Washington, DC. Doug and his wife Suzanne Smith have been active members of Agudas Achim Congregation since 2000. Doug has served on the board as Membership co-President and more recently, as Youth Services Vice President. He enjoys discussing Jewish values and ideas with kids and teens, and finding ways to make Jewish learning relevant to kids’ lives.
Deb Gilman - Bet (2nd grade) 5th and 6th Grade Hebrew and Prayer
Deb Gilman is a licensed clinical psychologist and a board certified behavior analyst. Most recently, she worked in the Arlington Public Schools for 17 years, providing individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, case management, and classroom lessons/interventions for students in pre-K through high school. Deb lived in Israel for a year when she was 9yo, for 8 months during college, and speaks Hebrew. She taught religious school when she lived in Brooklyn, NY, is a bar/bat-mitzvah tutor at Agudas, and previously served on the Agudas Youth and Religious School Committee. Deb and her husband, Michael, are appreciative of the religious school education that Agudas has provided to their three children. Deb is looking forward to joining the religious school team and helping to continue that positive learning experience for other Agudas children and their parents.
Nancy Hailpern - Life Cycle Seminar Instructor
Barbara Katz - 5th and 6th Hebrew and Prayer
Barbara Katz joined the teaching staff at Agudas Achim as a substitute teacher two years ago and loved it so much she decided to make it permanent! Raised in a Conservative synagogue, she became a Bat Mitzvah before relocating with her parents to a new area, where they joined a Reform synagogue. Barbara continued her training through Confirmation and post-Confirmation classes and studied the Hebrew language for two years in college as well. Her daughter, Rachael Shulman, attended religious school here throughout her elementary and teen years, became a Bat Mitzvah here, and is currently a Madricha. I am so proud of her.
When not working at the synagogue, Barbara is a professional tutor of high school students, and an avid sailor; she loves traveling with Rachael and her husband Eric and spending time with extended family and friends.
Barbara Klestzick - Hebrew Chevruta Instructor
Barbara Klestzick teaches in the Hebrew Chevruta program in our Religious School. Barbara was born in the Bronx and moved to West Hempstead where she began first grade in Hebrew Academy of Nassau County. She started college at SUNY Albany where she majored in Judaic Studies minored in Psychology. She studied at Yeshiva University for a year and at Hebrew University’s One Year Program.
After graduating SUNY University she worked in the New York City Public school middle school where she worked as a Family Assistant with Multi-handicapped (disabled) students. After her teaching time, she fulfilled a long-standing dream to live on kibbutz. Barbara was one of the founding members of Kibbutz Gezer. She lived there for three years, eventually working as a tractor driver, a job she loved. When she moved back to the States, she decided to move to DC, a favorite city of hers. (Barbara’s uncle was the Rabbi of Agudas in the 60’s.) Her first job was Religious School Director at Temple Micah, a part-time position that was augmented by working at the DC Rape Crisis Center. She started as a volunteer and eventually was promoted to Director of Counseling. Barbara also worked as a pre-school teacher and Hebrew teacher. Barbara is a talented cyclist and when she isn’t riding she really enjoys being a teacher at Agudas Achim.
Rachelle Kromash -Gimel / Dalet (3rd and 4th) Hebrew and Prayer/Machar Shoresh Youth Group Leader
Rachelle has had a passion for teaching the Hebrew language, Jewish values, and practices since she became a Bat Mitzvah. Since Rachelle became a Bat Mitzvah she has been involved in the Jewish community as a Hebrew School teacher, B’nai Mitzvah tutor, Meor member at the University of Maryland, and USY President. Outside of the Jewish community, Rachelle is a Lab Manager at George Mason University where she assists in the development of intervention and prevention programs for individuals who are soon to be released back into the community from adult detention centers. She also loves to paint and hike (last summer I hiked 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail)!
Linda Lichtman - Hebrew Chevruta Instructor
Linda has been an educator in the Jewish community of Northern Virginia for over 20 years. She has taught students of all ages, from preschoolers to adults. She currently teaches in the Hebrew Chevruta program, tutors b’nai mitzvah students, as well as teaches preschool at a nearby synagogue. Previously, at AAC she has taught both first and second grades in religious school, third and fourth grade Hebrew, and has tutored individual students in Hebrew. She enjoys making learning fun and tailors her approach to meet the unique needs of each student. Outside of work, she enjoys keeping fit with yoga and other classes and spending time with her family.
James Phelps - 5th and 6th Grade Judaic Studies
James Phelps was born and raised in Occoquan, Virginia. He studied Philosophy and history at the University of Virginia and Vermont College, and education at American University. He has lived and taught in Egypt, Lebanon, and China, and here in the good old USA. He is an historian, teacher, principal, and never ending student of Judaism. James enjoys woodworking, cooking, and, when time permits, travel.
DC Sachs - Gimel / Dalet (3rd and 4th) Judaic Studies
Moreh D.C. – strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Moreh D.C. – who can change the course of non-trivial discussions, interpret halacha with his mere words, and who, disguised as Daniel Sachs, mild managing attorney for a small Virginia law firm, fights the never ending battle for Truth, Justice and Jewish Values.
Kyra Schuster - Kadima & USY Advisor
Like many kids, Kyra first joined Kadima because her mom, an alum of USY, signed her up. A few years later, Kyra became an active member of USY, and it changed her life. As a USYer in Miami, FL, she was on chapter board and also attended USY Poland Seminar/Israel Pilgrimage. After moving to DC, it was important for Kyra to give back to an organization that gave her so much, which is when she began staffing USY in Northern Virginia and Seaboard region. For the past 24 years, Kyra has staffed USY on the chapter, regional and international levels doing everything from designing regional regalia, planning chapter programs, and running Shmira for International Convention. It was through staffing USY that Kyra met her husband Mike, a fellow USY alum, and their son is now also an active member of the organization. When not working with Kadima & USY, Kyra can be found at her "real job" as a Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she has worked since 1994. She can also often be found watching the Washington Nationals, creating with her sewing machine, or curled up with a cat (sometimes all three at the same time).
Chaya Silver - Education and Youth Director
Marion Wachtel - Hebrew Chevruta Program Coordinator
Dr. Jodi Wittlin - Aleph (1st grade)
Jodi is entering her 11th year of teaching first grade at AAC. This is her 20th (!) year teaching in a religious school, having taught third, fourth, fifth, and seventh grades as well as serving as a youth group advisor. She has taught all these years because she loves teaching and loves Judaism. Jodi grew up in Reform (Bat Mitzvah) and Conservative (Confirmation) synagogues in Dix Hills, NY and Charlotte, NC and is a proud alumna of USY's Israel Pilgrimage. Jodi holds a BS, MS, and Phd in Physics and a BS in Mathematics, and in her "real" life works as research staff focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles, airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, and air to air missiles at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria.