Rabbi Dr. Yossi Kastan, our Head of School grew up in North Miami Beach. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Business from Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, his semicha from Rabbi Ari Kahn, and his Master’s and Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in South Florida. He is a graduate of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) and the Harvard Principal’s Center. Prior to coming to Berman, he was the Head of School at Brauser Maimonides Academy in Hollywood, Florida. He is married to Kara, and they have four children, Anaelle, Netanel, Lielle, and Gavriel. When he is not at school or spending time with his family, Rabbi Dr. Kastan can be found reading, cooking and baking, or exercising.
Rebecca Gautieri, our Preschool Director, grew up in the Washington area in a family that was always active in the Jewish community. She earned her Bachelors degree in Nursing from Boston University. She completed early childhood lead teacher training with the State of Maryland and she holds a Certificate of Early Childhood Leadership through the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Saul Zaentz Early Childhood Initiative. She is an active participant in the Jewish Federation’s Early Childhood Directors’ Council and is an alumna of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute. She co-facilitated the Mesorah Community of Practice of orthodox early childhood leaders from around the country. Morah Rebecca lives with her husband Joe in Olney, Their three grown children all attended Berman.
Rachel Handloff, our Lower School Principal, grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan where she attended Hillel Day School. Rachel graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and a minor in Judaic Studies from the University of Michigan. After a one-year fellowship at University of Michigan’s Hillel, Rachel moved to Maryland to be the full time youth director at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. While working at Beth El, Rachel attended The Johns Hopkins University and graduated with a Master of Science in Counseling. Rachel was a middle school guidance counselor at The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and The Potomac School prior to joining Berman in 2009 as the Lower School Guidance Counselor. Rachel lives with her husband Rich and daughters Hannah and Sophie in Rockville.
Suzy Israel, our Lower School Principal, was born in Israel and raised in Toronto, Canada. She attended Midreshet Moriah in Jerusalem after High school. She obtained her BA from York University in Toronto, after which she returned to the teachers’ program at Midreshet Moriah for an additional year. Suzy earned her MA from State University of New York while living in Rochester NY. While in Rochester, Suzy taught 3rd Grade in an elementary school as well as resource classes in a girls’ high school. Since moving to Maryland in 2003, Suzy has been an Educational Support Services teacher and Director at our school. Suzy is passionate about finding the appropriately challenging educational program to meet the academic and spiritual needs of every Jewish child. She lives in Kemp Mill with her husband and children.
Batsheva Atlas, our Middle School Dean of Students, was raised in Baltimore and graduated from Stevenson University. She received state certification in Special Education from Goucher College. Mrs. Atlas was previously a guidance counselor at Bais Yaakov Middle School and vice principal of the boys’ division of Yeshivat Rambam. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and children and enjoys baking, painting scenery, reading historical fiction and watching musicals.
Melanie Eisen, our Middle School Director of Teaching and Learning, grew up in the Montreal. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies from McGill University MA in Rabbinic Literature from McGill University, and MA in Education and Human Development from GW University. After 22 years of classroom teaching, Mrs. Eisen has spent the last six years coaching teachers and directors, most recently in her role as Director of Educational Innovation at Prizmah, and before that at the YU School Partnership. She has provided professional development for schools and \communities around the country and has guided curriculum implementations at every grade level. Melanie lives in Northern VA with her husband, 2 children, and dog.
Mrs. Malka Popper, our Rabbi Moshe H. Levinson Upper School Principal, grew up in Seattle, Washington. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies from Stern College (Magna Cum Laude), received her Master’s in Biblical and Talmud Interpretation from Yeshiva University and was a Senior Fellow in the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud Study. In addition to her academic studies, Mrs. Popper has been an Educational Fellow at the Jewish Center of Manhattan, Visiting Scholar at Congregation Ohev Shalom in Washington, DC, and has served as the Director of Operations for The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. Most recently, Mrs. Popper served as the Assistant Head of School at Northwest Yeshiva High School in Seattle. She is a veteran educator who has traveled throughout North America teaching Jewish text study. Mrs. Popper lives in Kemp Mill with her husband Danny, and children, Ami (Berman ’30) and Shira (Berman ’32).
Ms. Dita Cooper, our Upper School Dean of Students, grew up in New Jersey. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Religion from Barnard College of Columbia University. She is a graduate of the Pardes Day School Educators Program in Jerusalem where she earned her master’s degree in Jewish education and a certificate in day school education from Hebrew College, as well as a certificate of advanced Jewish studies. Prior to coming to Berman, Ms. Cooper served as a Judaic Studies teacher and grade level coordinator at SAR High School in Riverdale, New York. In addition to her work in Jewish day school education, she has served as a senior staff member at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack and co-created the teen track at the 2017 JOFA Conference. Ms. Cooper lives in Potomac with her husband and two sons, Noam and Itai.
Shmarya Gasner joined our school in 2020. He previously served as the Executive Director at Kohelet Yeshiva. Prior to working at Kohelet, he was the Director of Development, Marketing, and Communications at Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia. He has also held administrative and teaching positions at Westchester Day School, Yeshiva University High School for Boys, and the New York City Teaching Fellows program. He received his Bachelor of Science from Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business with a concentration in Business Management, a Master of Science from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration (Yeshiva University), and a Master in Public Administration from Penn State University with concentrations in Nonprofit Management and Human Resources. Shmarya will be joining our Berman community with his wife, Julia, and their three children.
Ellie began her career as an elementary school teacher. Following the completion of her Master’s, Ellie worked as the Data Analyst for the University of Chicago Charter Schools. While at the University of Chicago, Ellie developed and executed research projects that studied student and charter school performance; coordinated strategic planning for K-12 campuses and promoted data as a tool for informing and improving decision making. Most recently, Ellie was a Program Manager at Measuring Success where she worked with independent schools on recruitment, retention and data-driven enrollment growth. Ellie earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Brandeis University. Ellie lives with her husband and 3 kids in Potomac, MD and originally hails from the great state of Minnesota.
A passionate marketing professional, Sarah has spent nearly 15 years working with startups, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses. While working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, she found a love for marketing and worked to enhance the brand, messaging, and performance for the organization. Prior to joining Berman, Sarah served as the Managing Director at ignite: action, a boutique marketing firm that focuses on helping purpose-driven organizations. She has experience leading projects including brand and messaging development, website design, as well as digital campaigns and initiatives. As a Berman parent of three, Sarah is excited to help showcase the amazing stories that occur every day in our school.
Faina Stepensky, our Finance Director, was born in Kiev, Ukraine on Yom Kippur. She moved to Moscow, Russia after getting married and attended Moscow University. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree in English and a Masters Degree in Economics. She immigrated with her family to the United States in 1979. She worked as the finance director for The Cardiovascular Research Foundation in Washington, D.C before coming to Berman in August of 1999. She is a veteran among the Berman senior administrative team members. Faina lives in North Potomac, MD with her husband. They have 2 wonderful children of whom they are very proud; their son is a physician at Shady Grove Hospital and their daughter is a program director at a day program for adults with disabilities.
Jennifer Zukerman, our Director of Institutional Advancement, was born and raised in Southeastern Virginia. She obtained her BA from George Mason University, after which she spent a year learning at Nishmat in Jerusalem. She was working toward a MA in Psychology when she turned her attention to Jewish communal service. After moving to Maryland Jennifer worked for the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at the University of Maryland for 3 years and developed a very favorable impression of the Berman Hebrew Academy graduates she met there. In 2002, Jennifer joined Berman as the Director of Development, where she filled roles both in development and in marketing/communications. In 2014, Jennifer became our first Director of Institutional Advancement, with responsibilities focusing on building use, development and external affairs. She lives with her family in Silver Spring, and she and her husband are the proud parents of three Berman graduates and one current student.