Jeffrey T. Baden, Executive Director
For nearly 30 years, Jeff Baden has served the Jewish communities of Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Ann Arbor in a variety of leadership roles, including Executive Director of both the Cincinnati and Ann Arbor JCCs, Director of Planning and Allocations for the Greater Cincinnati Jewish Federation, Director of Early Childhood Education for the Indianapolis JCC and Director of Camp Livingston (a Jewish resident camp). While in Cincinnati, Jeff met his wife, Rabbi Ilana Greenfield Baden, who grew up in Libertyville. When Rabbi Baden was offered a position with Temple Chai in Long Grove, Jeff left the Ann Arbor JCC so that the family could "return home". Jeff and Rabbi Baden have two children: a daughter who is finishing her freshman year at Stevenson High School, and a son who is currently a 5th grader at Ivy Hall Elementary School in Buffalo Grove. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys practicing magic, as well as playing and recording Jewish music.
Mark Stadler, Ritual Director
Mark has been the Ritual Director of Beth El since 1996. He is responsible for daily minyan, ritual supplies, and memorial plaques. Additionally, Mark tutors our b'nai mitzvah students and teaches in our religious school. He also leads our Jr. Congregation on Shabbat and is our Mashgiach (Kashrut Supervisor) Prior to his arrival at Beth El, Mark served many years as a Youth Director in a conservative congregation in Virginia.
Karee Bilsky, Steinberg Pre-School Director
847-432-8900 x248 or 847-432-2830
Karee joined Beth El in the summer of 2016 with a wealth of education and expertise in early childhood education. Karee most recently served as The Director of the Linda and Fred Wein Center for Gan Ami Early Childhood Education which is a program of the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC in Milwaukee, WI. A graduate of Indiana University (BS - Early Childhood Education), Karee is a past fellow of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute and is an active board member for the National Jewish Early Childhood Network. She is a current member of the Coaches Catalyzing Change Community of Practice comprised of fourteen Jewish Early Childhood Professionals from across the country. A published author in the field of Early Childhood Education, Karee previously served as the Director of Early Childhood Programs at Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, IL. A career early childhood educator over the past 17 years, she has also served as a Director, Assistant Director, Lead Teacher, and Kindergarten Teacher at a variety of organizations, including Bernard Weinger JCC, Gan Shalom Early Childhood Center, and the Mannheim School District. Karee is deeply familiar with and supportive of the Reggio Emilia inspired approach to early childhood development upon which our preschool curriculum is based.
Dr. Alicia Gejman, Director of Formal Education
847-432-8900 x227 or 847-432-8924
Alicia is a native of Argentina and lived in Israel for many years. While in Israel, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Education Counseling from Bar-Ilan University and then a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology from The Hebrew University. Alicia completed an Educational Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from George Washington University. She is also a Doctor of Science in Jewish Studies. Alicia held a number of professional education positions in the United States. She served as the Principal at West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest for thirteen years and was the Director of Makor Or, Special Needs Center of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago for five years. Alicia was awarded the title of "Conservative Jewish Educator" ('CJE'), and she holds a Principal’s License from the National Board of License for Teachers and Principals of Jewish Schools in North America.
Alcia has a degree of Doctor of Science in Jewish Studies from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Her Doctoral dissertation was on Judeo-Spanish proverbs and on how to teach these proverbs to elucidate a deeper understanding of the Sephardic worldview. Reflecting on her studies, Alicia feels more grounded in learning, more equipped to develop curriculum and hopes to inspire lifelong learners.
As well as serving as the Director of Formal Education, Alicia is the Director of both the Jack and Mildred Cohen Religious School and the Bernard H. Sokol Hebrew High School and she supervises the Steinberg Pre-School.
Aliza Drumm, Director of Informal Education
Ali has served the Beth El community for 10 years, working with youth, families, and on membership and engagement initiatives. Ali graduated with a BA in English Literature and Middle Eastern Affairs from the University of Miami and she recently completed her masters in Jewish Professional Studies at Spertus College, focusing on the evolution of synagogue life and programming. Having served on the board of the Jewish Youth Directors Association and the planning committee of the Chicago Informal Jewish Educators' conference, her commitment to the field of experiential education is strong. She has worked in all forms of informal education from Camp Ramah to USY Pilgrimage to year-round youth work and is excited to bring the energy of the youth and family programming to her work with the entire congregation.
In December 2013, Ali was awarded the title of "Conservative Jewish Educator" ('CJE'), a new credential which the Jewish Educators Assembly (JEA) introduced to recognize select educators for attaining a standard of achievement in the field of Conservative Jewish education. To attain this certification, individuals must have advanced formal education, at least 5 years of administrative experience, a demonstrated commitment to Conservative Jewish education, contributions to the field such as curriculum or program development, projects; and/or continued academic learning.
Tovah Goodman, Youth Community Director
847-432-8900 x214 or 847-432-2040
Tovah Goodman is coming to NSS Beth El after working for the last two years as an Engagement Associate for Israel Initiatives at the Jewish United Fund in Chicago, recruiting for and organizing Masa Israel programming. Among her primary responsibilities were staffing trips to Israel and planning a curriculum to educate youth about Israel for Birthright and Ta’am Yisrael. She has worked at Jewish summer camp and taught in Conservative congregational religious schools. Her skills in prayer leadership, song, theater, arts, digital media and photography enhance her talents as a Jewish educator and assist her in connecting with teens and Jewish youth. In addition to her main responsibilities as our Youth Community director and in view of her Conservative background, we hope Tovah will eventually join in the effort to reinvigorate Junior Congregation. During her rigorous on-site interview, she created and led an activity for our Kadimaniks. Complementing her well-rounded experience with a wide-range of age groups and Jewish activities, her enthusiastic, vivacious and dynamic personality won over the search committee and all who met with her that day. Tovah hails from California, has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Strategic Communications and Music Education from the University of Nevada, Reno. At the Hallelujah Jewish Singing Competition, sponsored by the Israel American Council, she was a semi-finalist to represent the Los Angeles Jewish community as an ambassador for Judaism and music. She has staffed several trips to Israel for Birthright, Ta’am Ysrael and participated in the Taglit Fellows program.
Rachel Kamin, Gray Cultural and Learning Center Director
Rachel has served as the chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, a national committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries that presents awards to the best Jewish children's books each year, and frequently gives presentations and workshops about Jewish children's literature at education and library conferences around the country. She has authored articles for BookLinks, Jewish Book World, and Judaica Librarianship and also writes children's book reviews for School Library Journal, Jewish Book World, and the Newsletter of the Association of Jewish Libraries. Kamin holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.
Nancy Kekst, Director of Development and Communication
847-432-0703 or 847-432-8900 x262
Nancy joined the Beth El staff as our new Development Manager, working with staff and volunteer leadership to execute development strategy in supporting annual giving and major campaigns -- managing all giving related activity at the synagogue. She has a long career in Jewish communal service and experience as a marketing communications, development, computer and administrative professional. Born and raised in Winnetka (as Nancy Kleine), Nancy graduated from New Trier West and Northwestern with a degree in Communications before moving to Cleveland, Ohio where she raised three daughters and worked as a Day School Administrator at The Agnon School and as the Executive Director of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah, both in Beachwood. In 2008, she had the pleasure of returning to the Chicago area with her family, where she most recently served as the Executive Director of the Save a Star Drug Awareness Foundation.
Abe Rotbart, Director of Finance
Abe is a dual American-Israeli citizen. After growing up in Chicago, Abe lived 13 years in Israel and 16 years in New York. A CPA graduate of the University of Illinois, Abe spent 4 years in public accounting, both in Chicago and Tel-Aviv, before entering the private sector. Abe has six years’ not for profit experience in the capacity of Director of Finance, managing accounting departments, and serving as a strategic planning partner to the Boards of the Rockland County NY JCC, Federation and Jewish Family Services as well as the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning based out of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On the corporate level, Abe has close to 20 years’ experience as a CFO and Controller for industries including Legal Collections, Pharmaceuticals, Textiles, Wholesale Distribution and Third Party Logistics. He is avid supporter of Israel and of Jewish Education. While living in Israel Abe was ordained by the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He has four children and today makes his home in Skokie.
Avram Pachter, Director of Hospitality
Certificate in Culinary Arts - Jerusalem Culinary Institute, 2009
Associates in Applied Sciences - Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, 2011
Avram has combined his love of Judaism and his passion for cooking in a variety of settings. He has interned in kosher kitchens in Jerusalem (Olive Restaurant - now closed - in the German Colony) as well as mid-town Manhattan (Abigael's On Broadway with James Beard Winner Chef Jeffrey Nathan). Avram has spent many summers in Jewish camping, most recently working as the Head Chef at Olin-Sang Ruby Union Institute in Wisconsin and serving as a Sous Chef/Mashgiach at Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado. Avram has served as a Youth Advisor for Beth El's Youth Community and as a regional staff member for CHUSY Region. He has also taught kosher cooking and provided kosher catering to a variety of settings around the Chicago area. Avram is currently the Catering Manager at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.
Beth El Office Staff
Lennie Kay, Executive Assistant to Rabbi Kurtz
847-432-8900 x210 or x219
Ana Igornov, Clergy Assistant to Rabbi Schwab and Hazzan Tisser
Kathy Stinson, Executive Assistant the Executive Director
Jeff Dreifus, Accounts Receivable
Ava Nussbaum, Steinberg Pre-School Assistant
847-432-8900 x213 or 847-432-2830
Anne Loshbough, Religious and Hebrew High School Assistant
847-432-8900 x225 or 847-432-8924
Rayna Forman, Religious and Hebrew High School Cooridinator
847-432-8900 x225 or 847-432-8924