Education Staff

Scott Newman

Director of Youth and Family Education

Scott joined the Beth El team in July 2015. Having grown up in a small but notable Jewish setting in Monroe, NY, Scott’s life experiences have prepared him well for his current position.

Scott discovered his Jewish professional path after graduating from SUNY Albany with a BA in Communication and a double-minor in Business and Hebrew Language.  Initially, he went out into the advertising world, but quickly found that his work was not fulfilling in the way he imagined.  Upon reflection, he discovered that Judaism was a meaningful and common theme in his history. It offered him guidance, community, and support.

Scott’s college experience included a year in Israel at the Hebrew Union College “College and Kibbutz” program. This program ignited his love for Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) and Am Yisrael (the Jewish people).  Scott founded ‘RUACH!’, a Reform Chavurah (group) on campus that still exists. Similar successes in building two youth programs motivated him to continue what he considers to be the holy work of fostering Jewish community and continuity through a “Jewish Journey” model. It is this model that he brings to our  youth education program at Beth El.

Scott loves utilizing Jewish music and his guitar as a teaching tool for families and children alike. He is also an avid technophile and cannot get enough gadgets and techie toys. Scott is a resident of Natick where he lives with his wife Andrea, son Gabriel, and daughter Eliyana. His children are enrolled in the BE InSpirEd Education Program at Beth El.

Joan Makepeace

Special Education Tutor

This is Joan’s 11th year as a teacher at Beth El. She is a teaching member of the Sudbury Valley Jewish Special Education Initiative, teaching at several area temples and working with both typically developing students as well as students with learning disabilities with a wide variety of special needs. She has the pleasure of tutoring b’nei mitzvah students (of all ages and abilities!). Joan also enjoys writing music for Beth El’s Shabbat Rinah musical services.

Hillary Landau

Pre-K

Hillary has been a teacher and member of Beth El for over three decades with a proven track record of being an excellent early childhood educator. Hillary has recently been co-leading J-Start Tot Shabbats once per month and is thrilled to be teaching the newest Pre-K class. Hillary’s daughters Elena and Jana grew up at Beth El and Elena is now an active member of the Youth and Family Education Committee. Hillary’s granddaughter is currently enrolled in the BE InSpirEd program!

Roberta Unger

Kindergarten

Roberta has a love of education and young children. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and spent her junior year in Israel. Roberta is a lifelong Hebrew learner who loves transmitting her love of Hebrew and her pride in being Jewish to her young students. Roberta has been teaching elementary school-age students, many with needs for specialized learning and behavioral support, for more than 15 years. She is a critical thinker with a keen interest in facilitating our youngest families’ experience at Beth El. She is the loving mother of Rena, who, having grown up at Beth El, is newly away at college. Roberta is eager for young students and their families to have the rich experience that she had as a student in the Beth El education program.

Judy Azer

1st & 2nd Grade

Judy is delighted to be teaching grades 1 and 2 at Congregation Beth El.  She has been teaching in area religious schools for many years.  Always seeking to increase her knowledge, she has taken workshops in Godly Play, differentiated learning, and Jewish themes.  With her love of children, Judy believes that the two most important things we can give them are roots and wings—roots to discover who they are and wings to confidently explore the world.

Outside school, Judy is a former history and English teacher.  Now she enjoys substituting at the elementary level.  She facilitates the Shalom Readers’ group at her library. Judy loves working with young children because of their creativity and eagerness for learning.

Debbie Percher

3rd-6th Grade Hebrew/Tefilah

Debbie is in her second year as our 3-6th grade Hebrew teacher on Sundays and Thursdays. Debbie is an exceptional educator who exhibits Jewish values in all she does. She is kind and genuinely cares about her students’ lives and success. Deborah holds a Masters Degree in Jewish History from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and has taught at several area congregations in different roles.

Jaime Brody

3rd-6th Grade Hebrew/Judaica

Jaime is a highly experienced educator in both classroom and experiential settings. She uses her background in museum education to build a creative, experiential teaching and learning environment. Jaime is currently working as the Student – Teacher Coordinator at OnlineJewishLearning.com where she is exploring the intersection of technology and Jewish education. She is currently on maternity leave from MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham where she has been a Middle School Lead Teacher and the Community Educator for the past six years. Jaime was most recently the Youth Educator at Temple Beth Am in Framingham, the Education Director at the Old South Meeting House Museum in Boston and the Assistant Director of the Holocaust Resource Center & Archives in Queens, NY. Jaime received her Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Buffalo in English & Classics and her Master of Science Degree in Education, specializing in Creative Teaching and Learning, at the College of New Rochelle. She won the Creative Teaching Award from the Rockland Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education in 2004. Jaime lives in Wellesley, MA with her wife Meghan and their two young children Emmie and Ellis.

Coming Soon

7th & 8th Grade

Info coming soon

Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler

9th & 10th Grade Core: Underpinnings of Judaism and Israel

Lorel has served as the cantor of Congregation Beth El since 1990]. In that time, she has led countless kiddush blessings, named babies, taught more melodies for “Adon Olam” than could be imagined, danced around the bimah as Belle in “Beauty from the East,” helped numerous young people become B’nai Mitzvah, served potato latkes to the masses, brought theater and live music and dance to our four walls, and missed only one Shabbat evening service because of inclement weather. With the help of the wonderful and participatory Beth El community, she has learned that all music serves as a pathway to inner growth, community strength and, hopefully, to God.

Lorel has also taught many workshops in the Boston area focusing on the music of the soul and the joy of communal song. She has led women’s seders, is an active member of the Women Cantor’s Network, and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She has studied Jewish Music Education at Hebrew College. Her husband, Arnie, is former head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston. The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts honored Lorel with a Community Service Award in 2012.

Rabbi David Thomas

11 Pre-Siyyum & 12 Siyyum

At Congregation Beth El since 1991, Rabbi Thomas has supervised the implementation of Project HiBuR, an exchange program for Beth El high school students with students from Chugim High School in Haifa, Israel, Boston’s sister city. He has enabled the launch of the award-winning MetroWest Free Medical Program and the Beit Midrash program (a community of adult learners), and has led the community to a vote declaring the congregation a Sanctuary in Support of Immigrants in 2017.

Rabbi Thomas is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, an intensive three-year program that trains an elite cadre of North American rabbis to serve as religious and educational leaders in their communities. He has been a board member for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.