Rabbi Adam Zeff has served the Germantown Jewish Centre community since 2002, as Student Rabbi, Assistant Rabbi, and now as Rabbi. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2007. In addition to his other responsibilities, Rabbi Zeff enjoys bringing music and storytelling into his rabbinic work at GJC, where he also serves as the hazzan and choir director. He has trained as a singer and musician for many years, studying western classical music, South Indian classical music, and diverse Jewish musical traditions. Rabbi Zeff holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Cheryl, a physician, live in Mt. Airy with their three sons, Zeke, Avi, and Mati.
Daniella Forstater is a music educator and Jewish songleader/prayer leader in the Greater Philadelphia area. In her experience, music has the ability to teach, heal, and inspire, and can be a powerful vehicle for connecting to our Jewishness…and humanness. She is thrilled to begin her second year as a member of the teaching team at Germantown Jewish Center and is eager to collaborate with students, families, and classroom teachers to make joyful noise!
Michael Pollack is originally from Rockville, Maryland, and has lived in Philadelphia since 2012. He recently graduated from RRC, and he works for his nonprofit startup March on Harrisburg. March on Harrisburg exists to heal our wounded democracy by passing pro-democracy, anti-corruption bills through lobbying, marching, and nonviolent civil disobedience. Michael enjoys long hikes, engaging in cross partisan dialogue, and reading long books while sitting under a tree.
Toviah Botwinik (he/him) grew up in Havertown, and attended Akiba/Barrack Hebrew Academy, where he enjoyed studying Jewish studies and philosophy. Today he lives in Germantown, and is in his last year of university at Jefferson, studying Industrial Design and minoring in Engineering. Every summer since 2006, he has been going to HabonimDror Camp Galil, and has worked as a counselor there since 2013. This past summer, he served as educational coordinator at camp, and he’s so excited to bring what he developed and learned to GJC!
Lee is a life-long Mt. Airy resident. He grew up and became bar mitzvah at GJC, and he and his family have now returned as members. In his day job he is an attorney for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, where he is a trial attorney and supervises the Southeast Regional Office for the Office of Chief Counsel.
This is his eighth year teaching at GJC. This year he will be teaching the 6th Grade and will also be part of the Teen Tuesdays (7-9th grade) program. He began teaching more than thirty-five years ago and he is very proud that his oldest is also teaching at Germantown and that his youngest was a member of the 2017 Confirmation class.
Penina Hoffnung is a veteran Jewish educator, just back to Philadelphia after 2.5 years as a Director of Congregational Learning at a Conservative synagogue in Memphis TN. By day she works as a Senior Manager of Community Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. She’s a visual artist, wild food hunter, vegan chef and Ema to four globe-trotting children ages 17-29. She holds a MA in Jewish Education from Gratz College and Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from SUNY College at Purchase.
Karen was born in Manhattan and grew up in Spring Valley, New York. Upon graduating from Boston University, she moved to Philadelphia to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received an M.A. in Art History. Karen taught high school English and later received a J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law. As a religious school teacher for over 27 years, Karen is devoted to helping students find positive and meaningful connections to their Jewish heritage. In addition to teaching, Karen has worked for many as a grant writer and volunteer coordinator for the Hospitality Network at GJC. She is married to her beshert, Ned Kripke. Together they have two wonderful sons, Joe and Ben, who grew up at GJC, and a new grandson, Jordan.Now that the boys are officially on their own, the Kripke household has been taken over by their beloved bichon fries, Chase, and their twin kittens Oliver and Charlie.
Melanie is delighted for her fourth year of teaching at the GJC Religious school, and to be administering our new Wednesday Hebrew program. Having traveled from place to place for many years, she came back to Philadelphia a few years ago, and returned to the congregation that was her second home for all of her childhood and adolescence. She is a proud graduate of the GJC Religious School and a special intensive program at Gratz College, and served as a Torah reader, B’nai Mitzvah tutor, madricha, and leader of Junior Congregation services – way back in the 1960’s! She holds a BA in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College and an MA in Education from American University. She has served as a teacher, Education Director, Head of Jewish Studies, and Head of School at a variety of congregational schools and Jewish Day Schools throughout the United States. She served as Conference Chair and member of the Board of Directors of CAJE ( Coalitions for Alternatives/Advancement of Jewish Education), and was the author of Jewish educational materials for Torah Aura Productions. She is eager to share her expertise and her love of Jewish learning with a new generation of students and their families.
Dove is returning from a year long Sabbatical. He spent the beginning of it last June 2016 in Europe for three weeks attending two retreats one outside Amsterdam and one in London. He returned and led the High Holiday services for k-2 in September of 2016 as he will again this year. Dove was at Insight Meditation Society in Barre MA for a 6-week silent retreat from October 22 to December 3 and is still wondering since no one will tell him who won the election?
Dove returns to us full of energy and ready to be back in the classroom with second graders. They will be working on becoming Menches. The class will continue to learn to decode and read Hebrew this year with a 50 sight word vocabulary. They will use yoga, text books and conversation/discussion, art and the Israeli Garden planting and harvesting in connection to the calendar and the holidays through out the year to learn about Judaism and what it means to be a good kind person.
Ariel Silverman is very excited to return this fall for her third year as the Gan (kindergarten) teacher at the Germantown Jewish Centre Religious School. Before coming to GJC, she taught first grade at another congregation for five years, and worked in the classroom as a teen aide for six years. When she’s not in the classroom, she is a student working towards an education degree.
Rabbi Alanna Sklover began working at GJC as Student Rabbi in 2011, and joined the staff full time as Director of Lifelong Learning in 2013. She received her rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College with a specialization in the congregational rabbinate. A believer in the transformative power of youth group, Jewish summer camp, and experiential learning models, Rabbi Sklover brings her enthusiasm for creative Jewish education and passion about working with mindful Jewish communities to her work at GJC. Prior to rabbinical school, she served as Youth Director at Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, DE. Rabbi Sklover holds a BA in Theater and Religion from Goucher College and has also studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Conservative Yeshiva. She lives in West Mt. Airy with her wife Rebecca Kirzner, and their daughter, Bina Yael.