Meet Our Students

Emily Besthoff is currently the youth Director for Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh. She has been a part of the youth life there for 6 years.  In the temple, she oversees multiple youth programs, including the senior BNTY high school youth group. Teaching 5th grade in the religious school is one of the many ways she finds love for youth engagement. She is a Long Island native, and loves to go anywhere to see more of it. A recent graduate of SUNY Old Westbury, she received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature.  An avid reader, she was the editor of her graduating class’ literary magazine “Harmonia”. It was a love for books that steered her adult education to youth programing. Emily was a recent participate in the first “Tikkun Olam Germany Trip” where she and two other adults staffed a teen trip to Germany for the pleasure of exploring German Holocaust roots, and has the pleasure of planning to return the favor, as the German teens are expected to come and learn in America. She has a love for youth engagement, and encourages Jewish Identity growth through leadership and social action. Emily loves to travel, buy records, and read books. She is thrilled to be part of cohort 4, and the experience that comes along with it!
 
Brad Cohen is the Director of Education at acclaimed Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Brad is passionate about Jewish education and believes that family, camp, youth group, retreats and religious school are integral components to building Jewish identity and inspiring life-long learning. Brad creates programs that get students out from behind the desk and provides them with the tools to make knowledgeable Jewish choices in their lives. Prior to coming to Baltimore Brad, received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder where he majored in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Brad went on to receive his Masters in Jewish Education from one of the most respected institutions of Jewish professional education, the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Brad has worked to form professional learning communities amongst his teachers and created a program that focuses on every aspect of education.  Brad has created a Family Jewish Outdoor Education program and is always looking at ways to be innovative in his programs.  Brad has chaired the Baltimore Reform Community High School Board (BARJE-CO) and the Baltimore Area Reform Principal’s Council. Brad has been working as faculty at Camp Harlam for three years and strives to serve as role model and mentor for campers and counselors. Brad is married to Claire Cohen, a Vegan Chef and they have two sons, Elie (3.5 years old) and Zev (9months old). Brad is looking forward to learning from the other member in the cohort, taking advantage of all of our experiences and infusing them into the learning with our professors. Shifting his paradigm in working with the teen and emerging adult population.
 
Rebecca Cohen is a Program Associate at BBYO’s International Headquarters. Rebecca works with hundreds of BBYO’s top teen leaders to create innovative programs that connect teens to Jewish values and the discovery of their Jewish identities. She works closely with BBYO Stand UP, a grassroots movement of Jewish teens across the globe, helping teens implement campaigns at the local, regional and international level.  Rebecca supports BBYO on Campus programs giving teens an opportunity to further explore their commitment to community leadership in the areas of service, advocacy and philanthropy while living on college campuses. Through coordinating J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Youth Service, Rebecca works with Jewish professionals throughout the world developing meaningful service projects within their communities. Rebecca grew up in Orlando and attended University of Florida, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology and minors in Education and Leadership. Before moving to Washington, D.C., she spent three years in Jacksonville, FL working as a kindergarten and first grade teacher with Teach For America. In her spare time, Rebecca loves exploring the many delicious treats and eats D.C. has to offer and taking trips to the beach.  As a member of Cohort 4, she is most looking forward to learning from a diverse group of professionals in the field.
 
Carly Coons is a Colorado native, born and raised in Denver. She has been involved in and connected to the Jewish community since a young age. She was a leader in the local Youth Group, TSYG, as well as the Missouri Valley Region. Carly attended the University of Colorado at Boulder where she double majored in Jewish Studies and International Affairs with a focus in the Middle East, and minored Religious Studies. Her passion for working with youth started at a young age when she began volunteering at youth events at her Temple. Her love of working with children and youth has only grown over the years. After graduating, Cary moved back to Denver where she started as the Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Sinai. Working at Temple Sinai has been an incredible journey for Carly because it is the synagogue where she grew up. Youth Group was such a transformative experience for her and it has been amazing to give back to a program that helped shape her. Carly is looking forward to networking with the Jewish professionals in her cohort and learning together collaboratively over the next year.
 
Jessica Dangott recently joined the full-time staff at URJ Greene Family Camp as an assistant director. She oversees all Jewish educational programming and ritual at camp. She will soon be making her way to Dallas, Texas where her winter office will be located. Jessica also recently earned a Master of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology this past May from Texas A&M University, accompanied by a Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her thesis focused on understanding and analyzing youth identity formation processes at GFC through an interdisciplinary theoretical approach of anthropology, recreation and heritage studies, and communication studies. During her undergraduate career at Trinity University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies, focusing geographically in the Middle East with a minor in Religion. Jessica has been a member of the Education Staff at Greene Family Camp for four years, to which she attributes her love for and interest in Jewish experiential education. She is hopeful that this certificate program will continue to feed her interests and provide her with more tools for her tool belt in Jewish education.
 

Jennifer Luskey is the Union of Reform Judaism’s Youth Engagement Specialist in Houston, Texas.  She spent many summers at Greene Family Camp as a camper, counselor, Cornerstone Fellow and a member of the Leadership staff as the Niviim (4th and 5th graders) Unit Head. This past year, Jennifer spread her love for Judaism to younger children by participating in the URJ’s Service Corps program. She worked with Temple Beth Shalom, in Austin, to mentor students and raise the number of children who attend URJ camps. Jennifer graduated from The University of Texas at Austin this past May, with a B.S. in public relations and a Business Foundations Certificate. She was a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi and spent a semester in Sevilla, Spain where she learned to adapt to new situations and undertake unfamiliar and challenging tasks. Jennifer is looking forward to this unique experiential learning opportunity, as well as working collaboratively with others in the cohort to increase her knowledge of working with children of all ages. 

 
Maura Koenig was born and raised in Syracuse where she was actively involved in NFTY and her Temple youth group.  She spent 13 summers as a camper, Machon, counselor and Development Intern at URJ Eisner Camp in Great Barrington MA where her passion grew for working in the Jewish world. Maura staffed the NFTY in Israel trip in 2011 after graduating with a BA in Theatre from SUNY Oswego and was hooked. She eventually packed her bags to seek her fortune and passion in New York City. She worked under Hope Chernak, Director of Youth and Informal Education at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Maura then landed in Scarsdale, NY, spending the last year as the Director of Youth Engagement at Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-El.  (SSTTE). AT SSTTE, Maura developed creative programming that resulted in a significant increase in youth involvement and parent satisfaction. Because of that she feels more empowered to pursue the next steps in her life, which includes a move to New York City to pursue additional challenges in Jewish youth engagement. This certificate program at HUC-JIR will absolutely help her in the next crucial steps on her Jewish journey. Maura is a lover of all cats and everything pink.  
 
Ryan Leszner is currently the Youth Director at Temple Emanu-El in Toronto, facilitating youth programs for participants from the ages of 12 to 18. Within the Toronto community, Ryan has been active with multiple synagogues and youth programs, including BBYO, as a music specialist and songleading, providing participants with engaging musical sessions that connect them to their culture and history. Over the summer, Ryan works at the URJ Kutz Camp as the Co-Songleading Major Teacher, teaching high school songleaders skills through a structured ciriculum, and previously, he worked at URJ Camp George as the Head Songleader, running all musical aspects of camp. Ryan's passion lies in youth work. As a product of the URJ camping and youth movement, it has become a deep rooted passion to provide a similar experience for Jewish teens. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys playing and listening to music, watching the Toronto Maple Leafs, and exploring different countries and cities of the world.  
 
Celia Livshin is a BBYO Regional Director from the Great Midwest Region, which spans across the Chicagoland area.  She has worked for BBYO for the past year, and has previous experience in the event planning and marketing industry. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing.  Growing up in Akron, Ohio – Celia had a fully encompassing Judaic Education background spanning from her years at Camp Wise and Temple Israel.  Celia is most looking forward to networking with colleagues across a broad spectrum of organizations, while learning new tools to bring back to her work with teens, advisors and stakeholders in the Chicago area.
 
 
Debbi Morin grew up at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She entered Cornell University as an engineering student but graduated with a BA in Jewish Studies.  She and her daughters joined Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westboro, Massachusetts, four years ago, and last year she became its Youth Educator.  After 20 years as a religious school teacher and B’nai Mitzvah tutor, she is happy that this new position includes teaching and tutoring.  In addition, she oversees the senior youth group advisor, runs the younger youth groups, manages the madrichim, and organizes the high school class trips.  This year she will also plan another trip, supervise a URJ Camp Service Corps Fellow, and start a College Connections program.  She is grateful to have been accepted into this Certificate Program which will provide invaluable tools to help her.  In her “spare time” Debbi enjoys rock climbing, bike riding, and since 2007 has spent her summers as an office assistant at URJ Crane Lake Camp.  She will soon become a temporary empty-nester as her daughter Eve will be a sophomore at Hofstra University Honors College and her daughter Micali will be on EIE for the Spring 2015 semester.
 
Taylor Poslosky is the Director of Youth Engagement at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Arizona where she creates social programming for grades K-12, teaches in the Ma’ayan High School program, and is the advisor for Beth Israel Temple Youth. She is excited about the opportunity to build a youth culture at Beth Israel. She grew up in Kansas City attending Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, Kansas. During that time, she was extremely engaged in synagogue life. She went through the religious school program and Hebrew High, as well as serving on her local TYG board as the Religious and Cultural VP. Prior to becoming the Director of Youth Engagement at Congregation Beth Israel, Taylor graduated from William Jewell College with a BA in Religion. She has worked with Jewish youth in many capacities including teaching religious school, working at summer camp as the Judaics Director, and as the advisor for a NFTY Southwest TYG. Taylor is a proud alumnus of NFTY MV, URJ camp GUCI, URJ Kutz Camp, and the Brandeis Collegiate Institute. She is looking forward to participating in the Certificate program, sharing with and learning from her Cohort, and furthering her background of formal educational knowledge to enhance programming for Jewish youth. 
 
Rebekah Sedwin has been the the Director of Teen Life at Temple Sholom, in Scotch Plains, NJ since July 2013. As the Director of Teen Life, she runs the post-b'nei mitzvah education program for 8th-12th graders and the Temple Sholom senior youth group, SPICY. Before becoming the Director of Teen Life, Rebekah had served as the youth group advisor for Temple Sholom's youth group, taught in their Hebrew School, had taught both music and Judaica at JCC Camp Yachad, and was very active in NFTY-GER, serving as both her youth group President, and NFTY-GER Religious and Cultural Vice President. Rebekah attended the University of Maryland as a Judaic studies major, and graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Sociology. When she's not working with teens at Temple Sholom, Rebekah is running her company, Platinum Rose Events, planning weddings, bar mitzvah celebrations, and other parties. Rebekah is incredibly excited to be a part of Cohort 4, and is looking forward to learning all of the skills she needs for her job as Director of Teen Life, and other skills to help her reach her goal of one day acting as a director of a college Hillel.
 
Rabbi Dena Schaffer is originally from Rochester, New York.  She is a graduate of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH, where she was ordained in 2010. Prior to her rabbinic studies, Dena earned her Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and her Bachelor of Arts in East Asian History at Brandeis University ('05). During her years at HUC-JIR, Dena served as a student rabbi in Texarkana, Texas, the Culver Academies (a boarding school for 9th-12th graders) in Culver Indiana, and as a rabbinic intern at Temple Israel in Dayton, OH.  She spent her first year in the rabbinate at Cornell University Hillel in Ithaca, New York as the Reform Rabbinic Fellow where she aimed to enhance and strengthen Reform Jewish life on campus and led social justice initiatives as part of the pilot year of Repair the World's  campus initiative and travel immersion experiences with the JDC and AJWS to places such as Ukraine, Nicaragua, and the Jewish Farm School in southern California.  She has continued this work in her current position as the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, in West Hartford, CT.  She leads a congregational service learning trip each summer to Haiti.  In addition to her Judaism, Dena is also passionate about martial arts, which she has pursued since the age of 3.  She spends her free time, when she can find it, hanging out with her dog, Darby, cheering on the Washington Capitals and Redskins (#changethename), and trying to hone her skills in the kitchen.  Dena is thrilled to be a part of HUC-JIR once again and this fabulous cohort of Jewish educators.  She is most looking forward to gaining insight and knowledge that will enhance the work she currently does in informal education with the youth of her community.  
 
Max Schwimmer is the Youth Advisor at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut. He works with high school students to develop social, religious, and cultural programming, helps implement similar age-appropriate programming for middle school students, and serves as CBI's Synagogue Camp Ambassador with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. In the 2014-2015 school year, he will help develop and teach CBI's new b'nai mitzvah preparation program.  Max is looking forward to learning from great teachers and colleagues in HUC-JIR's certificate program. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Max completed his Bachelor of Music at Arizona State University's Herberger Institute. While there, he received ASU Hillel's Joan Frazer Memorial Award in the Arts, funding him to compose and perform an original piece of music exploring American-Jewish themes. Max also holds a Master's of Music in Saxophone Performance from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. Currently, Max performs with the Asylum Quartet, an award-winning chamber ensemble playing classical, indie rock, and klezmer music, and maintains a private saxophone studio in the Hartford area.  
 
Juliane Wolfberg was born in Philadelphia but grew up in sunny South Florida.  She has been the Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton since 2012.  Jules oversees all youth initiatives for students in kindergarten through college including 5 youth groups, educational retreats, and Teacher Assistant program and is always looking for new programs and to start new traditions.  She has brought several new programs into the temple such as the MAPS mentoring program and Jewish College Seminar.  Jules graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2003 with a BA in Sociology and has completed a number of graduate classes at Nova Southeastern University. Jules has worked as a youth group advisor in NFTY-STR since 1999, has taught numerous Religious School classes of all ages, was a staff member at Camp Coleman, and was the Assistant Director of a Jewish overnight camp in CT.  As a student in the HUC-JIR Certificate Program, Jules is looking forward to learning from the faculty and from the cohort to help her better serve the teens and young adults at Temple Beth El.  Jules has a passion for music, Jewish camp and all things NFTY.  Her greatest love is her husband Jay and daughters Noa and Mya.