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Welcome (or welcome back) to JBHA!

Raphael Englander

Executive Editor

September 2021

The new teachers at Barrack (photos are in order of article interviews)

Señora Inés Gorban, Spanish Teacher

Señora Gorban was born in Argentina and immigrated to California before elementary school. She was formally educated in the United States, including obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of California San Diego and Masters in Spanish Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Señora Gorban worked in immigration law as a translator for immigration applications and then became a teacher, first at the college level and then in independent schools in the Philadelphia area.

What does she love about being a teacher?

Teaching is a creative enterprise. She imagines that planning for a class, thinking about the activities, materials, and engaging the students, is how an artist feels when creating. It is liberating. She enjoys teaching Spanish, in particular, because it is such an important aspect of her identity and it is almost biographical. She can share a part of herself and give her students a window into her world.

What are Señora Gorban’s hobbies?

She likes the beach, reading, hiking and being outdoors in general, and spending time with her family.

Is there something especially meaningful about teaching at a Jewish school?

Señora Gorban grew up in an interfaith household, attending synagogue and celebrating the Jewish holidays. So, teaching at Barrack is an opportunity to learn about herself. Many of her family members were Russian Jews who immigrated to Argentina and as a result, Señora Gorban is excited to learn more about Jewish customs and traditions.

Mr. Elliot Mitchell, Science Teacher

Mr. Mitchell grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and majored in Biology at Denison University. He taught at Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Delaware for 24 years. Although he has had many educational roles in the past, including as principal, his true love is being in the classroom. He appreciated being at a Jewish institution like Barrack and loves the students.

What about science specifically makes him excited to come to work?

It is becoming more and more essential for the average person to have a basic understanding of science, in order to make individual choices concerning a global pandemic or climate change. He hopes he can give his students that foundation. Science is also always changing so there is always something new to learn. This year he is teaching middle school, sixth-graders study earth science, seventh-graders study life science, and eighth-graders study physical science.

What was he most looking forward to when thinking about returning to Barrack?

Especially in middle school, Barrack teachers pay attention to the whole student, helping them to adjust to a new dynamic and not focusing solely on academics. Derech Eretz is also just as applicable in the science lab as it is anywhere else, honoring one another and striving for Kehillah (community). Mr. Mitchell also likes to build connections with students as people, not just in the classroom, which he can do in his role as a soccer coach.

What are Mr. Mitchell’s hobbies?

He is a beekeeper and is busy preparing his four hives for the winter. He also likes to fish and read. He has two dogs and three cats. Keeping them entertained and occupied is a second job in and of itself.

Is there something especially meaningful about teaching at a Jewish school?

It is really special to go to a school where students will not have to face questions about what a Jew or Judaism is or face antisemitism. Mr. Mitchell is excited to learn more about the traditions and holidays and connect to his Jewish roots. He appreciates the dual-curriculum, the combination of secular and Jewish studies, that students learn from.

Ms. Jaime Morefield, English Teacher

Ms. Morefield grew up in Allentown and has been a teacher for about twenty years. Most recently, she, as well as her husband, taught at Westtown School in Westchester, where she taught for sixteen years. Before that, Ms. Morefield taught for three years at Perkiomen School, the same school she spent her junior and seniors of high school attending. After high school, Ms. Morefield studied at Dickinson college and obtained her Master in Fine Arts from Bennington College.

What does she love most about what she does?

Ms. Morefield has always felt lucky to be an English teacher, believing that stories and novels are ways to encounter others’ stories, build empathy, and have discussions on the issues that arise in books, whether its big questions about life or the small details of a particular character.

Why is she looking forward to being at Barrack?

When Ms. Morefield came to Barrack to teach a sample lesson she really liked the students, finding them to be warm and welcoming, as well as both interested and interesting. Having taught at Westtown School for many years, which is Quaker, Ms. Morefield is interested in the differences between a Quaker school and a Jewish school, and how that translates into school culture. She is also happy about the part-time nature of her role.

What are Ms. Morefield’s hobbies?

She loves to read, cook, and travel, at least before the pandemic, and spend time with her ten-year-old son. She also has a French Bulldog named Moby and a cat named Coconut who she likes to play with. Ms. Morefield grew up as an athlete and used to play pick-up basketball all the time until she got hurt. Now, her preferred form of exercise is hot yoga!

What is it about being an English teacher that makes her excited to come to work?

Ms. Morefield believes that reading makes one a better person and because of this, she is inspired to help students with their abilities to read and write and to teach them that “they have a voice worth sharing.” She is excited to get to know her students and be a part of this community.

Rabbi Yoni Nadiv, Jewish Studies Teacher

Rabbi Nadiv grew up in Michigan and has lived in both New York and Jerusalem. For his undergraduate studies he went to List College, in a dual-program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), and then continued at JTS for rabbinical school. Most recently he lived in New Haven where he was a PhD candidate at Yale University. His research focused on Talmud and digital humanities and he taught undergraduate and divinity school students. Before Yale, he had experience teaching middle school students at Ezra Academy in Woodbridge, Connecticut and working with kids of the same age group as a B’nai Mitzvah tutor and at summer camp. Rabbi Nadiv is married and new to the Philadelphia area, having moved to the University City area earlier this year.

What does he love most about what he does?

Rabbi Nadiv loves Jewish traditions, especially the texts, the Torah, Talmud, Midrash, and more. He believes that the discussions that our ancestors had, and Jews across the globe continue to have today, allow people to better understand one another and work toward a better world.

Why is he looking forward to being at Barrack?

Middle school students are especially inquisitive and the passions that they discover during these years can carry through the rest of their lives. Rabbi Nadiv also finds that middle school is when students begin to challenge and push back against what they are reading, with the classroom becoming a place for two-sided conversations. As an educator, Rabbi Nadiv values dialogue over monologue and “learning from students as well as teaching them.”

What does Judaism mean to him personally?

Rabbi Nadiv grew up with a large Jewish family, half in the United States and half in Israel. As a result, the primary ways he connects to Judaism are through family life, home rituals, Shabbat dinners, holiday meals, telling stories, and saying the Shema. Due to his relatives in Israel, and his Israeli father, Rabbi Nadiv had regular trips to Israel to visit his family and the land became very near and dear to him. Growing up in Jewish day school and then studying at rabbinical school, study is also a huge part of his life, as it is a way he can maintain bonds with his friends, family, and colleagues.

What are Rabbi Nadiv’s hobbies?

He loves to bake, and during quarantine, like many others, began baking bread, specifically sourdough! He loves to play chess, although does not claim to be very good, and enjoys both board games and video games. He also has a dog named Echo who he loves to hang out with. Rabbi Nadiv is also an avid reader and is a fan of the fantasy genre in particular.

Mrs. Debra Nathans, Administrative Assistant to Head of School

Mrs. Nathans grew up in Queens, New York, studying at Tufts University as an undergraduate student and New York University as a graduate student. Before Barrack, she worked at a search firm that found candidates for top-level executive positions at educational institutions including independent schools. She feels lucky to now be working at JBHA.

What does she love most about what she does?

Mrs. Nathans has spent her career since graduate school in many different industries, including finance, technology, insurance, and education, and has met many people. Through these experiences, she has been able to narrow her focus toward what she truly values, education. Her new role at Barrack serves as a vehicle for her to help the students and other members of the community and she wakes up energized every morning because of it.

Why is Mrs. Nathans looking forward to being at Barrack?

She has been at the JBHA campus all summer to prepare for the school year and has been welcomed by the new community. Everyone is glad to answer any questions she may have and she is excited to spend her days in such a warm environment. As a parent herself, Mrs. Nathans is happy to see learning happening on a daily basis and to be in a work-space that is so friendly. Also, Rabbi Lesack is someone who she looks forward to working with every day. He is an “absolute mensch.”

Is there something especially meaningful about working at a Jewish school?

Being Jewish is a core part of Mrs. Nathans’s identity and she is thrilled to be at a school that aligns with her personal values, whether it is Derech Eretz or simply seeing Hebrew on the walls. At her past jobs, she always had to explain her identity. For example, a co-worker setting up Christmas decorations on her office, having to take them down, and then the ensuing conversation about why she does not celebrate like the rest of them. There is definitely something meaningful about not being the “office Jew” and having people understand who she is as a person. Judaism is integral to her family as well. Mrs. Nathans’s sister is a cantor and her daughter became a Bat Mitzvah last year. Her daughter is autistic and struggles in many areas, but Hebrew seems to just click with her and she now finds joy in reading Torah.

What are Mrs. Nathan’s hobbies?

When she was younger she did a lot of playwriting and theater, but when she had kids it became harder to consistently pursue her love of writing. However, she has delved back into it, and is currently writing a novel. Mrs. Nathans has two children, her daughter, Lillian, is fourteen and her son, Charles, is nine. She is involved in the autistic community and also loves to bake.

Ms. Jessica Neuman, Learning Specialist

Ms. Neuman grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and studied at Ursinus College as a first-generation college student. She combined her interests in teaching and social justice by joining Teach For America, a non-profit that enlists American teachers to work towards educational equity, and was placed in Colorado Springs where she taught English and Language Arts. Ms. Neuman noticed that she loved to modify her teaching approach to specific students’ learning styles, and subsequently pursued a specialization in special education. In 2018, she returned to Pennsylvania, missing her family, and obtained her Masters in Urban Education and Community Studies. During the pandemic, she taught individual students in virtual school with special needs who were not getting what they needed.

What specifically about specialized education makes it such a rewarding field?

Ms. Neuman appreciates that there is always a unique solution to help a student grasp the information that another student may pick up in a more traditional manner. She loves figuring out what makes each student special in the way that they learn.

What are Ms. Neuman’s hobbies?

She likes to garden, growing tomatoes and sunflowers, watch television, and has two cats, named Boy-Boy and Penny, who keep her busy. She is also an avid bird watcher, so she loves the fact that Barrack is an arboretum and looks forward to exploring the campus. If anyone wants to join her on a walk around the site, come to Resource and let her know!

Is there something especially meaningful about teaching at a Jewish school?

Ms. Neuman loves that Barrack is pluralistic, allowing students of all denominations to feel accepted. Even as an adult, she can feel as though she is not “Jewish enough” and the school’s pluralism gives students the space to explore their identity and feel confident in themselves.

Señora Laurie Reitman, Spanish teacher

Señora Reitman is from Columbus, Ohio, and stayed in the state to study at the Ohio State University. She studied abroad throughout college, spending half of her junior year in Argentina and half of her senior year at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Señora Reitman obtained her Masters from Columbia University and lived in New York for almost fifteen years. She has taught in schools in Maryland, New York, and Columbus for two decades and is happy to be at Barrack.

What does she love about being a teacher?

Señora Reitman enjoys interacting with her students, laughing and loving as they learn together. She finds teenagers especially interesting and fun to work with. She gets a lot of satisfaction from being a Spanish teacher because when students are in an immersive setting, it is a magical experience, as students learn to communicate through circumlocution, utilizing their new language as well as body language and gestures.

What are Señora Reitman’s hobbies?

She likes to run, meet new people, study languages, imitate accents, make art, and take care of the environment. She also loves to spend time with her three “yummy” children.

What is especially meaningful about teaching at a Jewish school?

She feels like she can be her full self at a Jewish school. For example, the first references and analogies that come to her mind when explaining concepts often come from her Jewish background. Señora Reitman is thrilled that at Barrack she can use her own culture and heritage in her teaching. Practically, she can also explain grammar and structures of the Spanish language vis-à-vis hebrew. She is glad to have this sense of connection with her students and wants to thank Barrack for the privilege of teaching here!

Ms. Sarit Sade, Hebrew Teacher

Ms. Sade grew up and lived in southern Israel until her mid-twenties when she moved to Philadelphia where she has been ever since. She studied design and engineering in Israel and when she moved to the United States, worked at the Israeli Consulate in the Academic Department of Colleges. She has two daughters, both of whom went to/ are at Barrack, and after they were born, she began to teach. She is a believer in the Reggio Emilia approach, a teaching philosophy based on child-centered education, experiential learning, and teaching through nature. She has taught art and Hebrew for both younger and older students and is excited to start here at Barrack.

What does she love about teaching, and teaching Hebrew specifically?

Ms. Sade loves interacting with people, regardless of their age, and finds joy in seeing the wheels turning in a students’ head or a spark in their eyes when they understand a concept. In regards to Hebrew, she loves her language and country. Hebrew is a rich language that connects the Jewish people to their roots and their ancestors. She is happy to pass it on to others and broaden students’ abilities to travel to other places and connect with new people.

What are Ms. Sade’s hobbies?

She loves to spend time with her daughters and read. She dances in both the ballroom and latin styles and finds that dance gives her joy. She likes to spend time with friends, watch historical movies, listen to music, whether it is classical, hip-hop, blues, jazz, etc.

Is there something especially meaningful about teaching Jewish students?

There is an internal connection when teaching Jewish students. Not only is there a link to the language, but there seems to be an invisible string that connects each member of the Jewish community. By tapping into that, Jewish students and teachers can talk about their shared culture, religion, faith, and what makes Judaism unique and beautiful while acknowledging and respecting all the cultures around the world. She feels there is something special about students in Jewish schools, that “Derech Eretz is etched in each and every student.”

Seeing as how she was a Barrack parent before a teacher, how has her perspective changed?

She has been able to view the “Barrack coin” from the perspective of a parent for years and now, as faculty, she can flip the “Barrack coin” over and see it from the other side. She is still new and learning, whether that is finding her way around the building or building bonds with students, but as time passes, she is hopeful she will view the school with the same appreciation she has as a parent.

Ms. Sade remembers that when she worked at the Israeli consulate, she was tasked with recruiting a few Barrack students to participate in a Yom HaZikaron ceremony. She went to Akiba and met some of the students. She was struck by “the noble way they carried themselves, their respect, intelligence, and maturity” and she remembers thinking to herself that when she has children, she would want them to be like the Akiba students. She is happy that now, that wish has come true.

Dr. Arlene Spevak, Science Teacher

Dr. Spevak grew up in Philadelphia and attended public school for elementary school. After fifth grade, she switched to Akiba, where she attended until her graduation in 1979. She obtained her Bachelor of Science from Villanova University, her Masters from Cabrini University, and her P.h.D. from Temple University. Dr. Spevak started out in biomedical research, before returning to Akiba in 1996 as a teacher. In 2003 she left Akiba, and then in 2020, retired from teaching altogether to pursue veterinary medicine. When COVID struck, Dr. Spevak left veterinary school to help her daughter with her new child. However, Dr. Spevak’s longing to be back in the classroom got the best of her, and her daughter got a babysitter. So, Dr. Spevak decided to return to teaching. She wanted to be in a school whose values aligned with her and hoped it would be a Jewish day school. She is happy to be back.

What does she love about science?

Dr. Spevak has taught every science except physics, as she has Pennsylvania licenses for biology, chemistry, and environmental science. This year, she is teaching biology, chemistry, and AP environmental science. Although she loves science and math, she was almost an English major and likes the humanities very much. However, her true interest has been science since kindergarten. She loves being in the lab and teaching, enjoying their unique challenges. The subject is also ever-changing, with new discoveries appearing all the time. She considers herself a biologist and this is particularly true in biology, which is why she believes every student should have a basic understanding of the subject. Dr. Spevak’s favorite part of being a teacher is getting a student interested in science and having them say to her “Wow! I didn’t know that.”

What are Dr. Spevak’s hobbies?

She loves animals, with fourteen pets at home, five cats, two dogs, two bunnies, a chinchilla, a finch, a guinea pig, and hens. They require a lot of care but they bring her much joy, so it’s a fair trade. Dr. Spevak loves to read and she tried to get through a book a week this summer. She also likes to garden, cook, bake, and knit (although it's been a long time since she last knitted anything). She believes that any activity where you use your hands is good for your brain and a worthwhile endeavor.

Is there something especially meaningful about teaching at a Jewish school?

Dr. Spevak embraces her Judaism and always has. She has been religious her entire life, whether orthodox or conservative, and finds it important to teach students who are infused with the same Jewish values that she holds close to her heart. If some of her students go out into the world and continue the traditions, the holidays, prayers, and more, and then pass them down to their children, then they are maintaining the connection to their identity and themselves.

Ms. Amy Yontef, Middle School Counselor

Ms. Yontef is from Maryland, right outside Washington DC. She went to the University of Arizona and stayed after graduation as Camp Director and Children and Youth Coordinator at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. She obtained her Masters in Clinical Psychology from the Arizona School for Professional Psychology and has lived in Pennsylvania since 2003. Ms. Yontef has worked in community mental health and school settings and places importance on social-emotional learning. She is happy to be here.

What does she love most about what she does?

Ms. Yontef loves being in schools, working with her colleagues and the students to help the school for the better. During middle school, students are changing and although they are growing older, still want support and help. She is there to guide them and teach them different coping skills and how to make better decisions. This is her first experience in a private school and is excited about the small setting. There are only about 130 students in the middle school, so she can get to know everyone on a personal level.

Why is she looking forward to being at Barrack?

There is a connection between Ms. Yontef’s personal values and the school values. Being at Barrack reminds her of her roots of working at a Jewish community center in Tucson. She loves the environment at Barrack, saying that it “feels like a family.”

What are Ms. Yontef’s hobbies?

She has two children, a son in eleventh grade and a daughter in eighth grade, who take up a lot of her time. She likes to work out, whether it’s riding a bike or going for a run, to organize, and to watch television, especially dramas.

What is it about being a counselor that makes her excited to come to work?

Knowing that she has the opportunity to work with students who may be struggling and help them realize there are ways to overcome their obstacles makes her job worth it. The obstacles are not the same every day, so her days are varied and never boring. Ms. Yontef could be talking about a peer issue or anger management or decision making. It is different for each student, and seeing that students be successful brings a smile to her face. Overall, Ms. Yontef is really excited to be here and looks forward to becoming immersed in the Barrack community.

Photo Credit: Faculty/Staff photos 2021-22 Google Drive folder, Señora Reitman and Señora Rozensweig (provided their own photos)


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