Faculty Bios


Scott Pic

Scott Newman
Director of Youth and Family Education

Scott joined the Beth El team in July of 2015, a year following his family’s relocation to the greater Boston area from Stamford, CT.  Having grown up in a small but impactful Jewish setting in Monroe, NY, Scott’s life experience has 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 that offered him guidance, community, and support.  He became determined to convey Judaism to others in this way.

Scott’s college experience included a year abroad in Israel on the Hebrew Union College “College and Kibbutz” program which more deeply 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 to date.  Subsequent 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’ lens.

Scott says, “Journeys are not necessarily physical movements, although they can be.  They are experiences which include memorable moments that affect us deeply and continue to resonate with us.”  A favorite quote of his comes from Martin Buber:  “All Journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”   Scott feels that good Jewish teachers  extrapolate learning from both the intended  and unintended parts of a journey.  He is very proud of his faculty and encourages them to use their many varied gifts and authentic teaching styles.

Scott loves playing  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.  (His wife disagrees!)

Scott presently lives in Natick with his wife Andrea, son Gabriel (7) , and daughter Eliyana (6).  They have a cat named Simba, and the children are enrolled in the BE InSpirEd Education Program here at Beth El.

Scott’s door and phone line are always open.  You can email him at snewman@bethelsudbury.org .

kyle herman

Kyle Herman
High School Director
7th 8th Grade Teacher
WASTY Advisor

Kyle moved to MA from Fort Collins, CO three years ago.  This is his third year at Beth El.  Kyle graduated from Western State Colorado University with a double major in Economics and Business Administration, but found a passion for Jewish Education that currently directs his professional path.  He is a proud Coloradoan and especially enjoys hiking, rafting, skiing, and any other outdoor activity.  Kyle loves sports:  Go Broncos (football), Mariners or anyone other than the Yankees (baseball), Avalanche (hockey), Nuggets or Pacers (Basketball)!  He’s open to having a conversation about adopting some New England teams into his shuffle.

Kyle spent the last 10 years of his life working in Jewish Youth Education, at summer camps and religious school teen programs.  Shwayder Camp in Colorado, Camp George in Parry Sound, Canada as a counselor, Unit Head, Program Director, Food Facilities and Logistics Coordinator, Director of Counselors in Training, Teacher, Youth Group Director, and Madrichim Director.

Kyle’s passion for Jewish Education comes from an overlap in his personal values and the traits which Judaism considers important.  Values like Empathy, Honesty, Debate and Analysis, Acceptance of all people/cultures, etc., to name a few.

Kyle is very excited to have his vision for a High School program continue to grow to fruition this year.

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Hillary Landau
Pre-K Lead Teacher

 Hillary Landau has been a teacher and member of Beth El for over 3 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 piloting 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 enrolledin the Be InSpirEd program!



 joan makepeaceJoan Makepeace
Special Education, 2nd Grade Family Hebrew

This is Joan’s 10th 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 and a wide variety of special needs. In addition, she has the pleasure of tutoring b’nei mitzvah students (of all ages and abilities!). In addition to her work as a Hebrew Reading Specialist, Joan is the Hebrew teacher for Beth El’s 2nd grade students and their parents.  “When not jumping out of airplanes (see pic), Joan enjoys writing music for Beth El’s Shabbat Rinah musical services.”


dummy place holderRoberta Unger
K,1,2 Hebrew, Holidays and Judaica Teacher

 Morah Roberta has a love of education and young children.  She cares deeply about the success of the program and building up of young Jewish souls.  Roberta is a critical thinker and loving mother of Rena, newly away at college after having grown up at Beth El. Roberta has a vested interest in facilitating our youngest families’ experience at Beth El, because she wants everyone to have the rich experience that she had.

dummy place holderGretchen Marks Brandt
3-6th Grade “Stories of The Torah” Teacher

A fifth generation Californian and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Gretchen Marks Brandt lived, learned and taught in Israel for several years prior to doing graduate work in Social Psychology with a focus on Jewish identity at Boston University. For decades, a Jewish educator in the Greater Boston area, she has held leadership and teaching positions at the New Jewish Academy (formerly the Solomon Schechter Day School of Worcester), Striar Hebrew Academy and the MetroWest Jewish Day School. Most recently, she has been spotted teaching at Temple Israel of Natick, Congregation Or Atid (where she is the TELEM coordinator/educator) and at the Chabad Center of Natick (where she is the Family Enrichment coordinator). On Wednesday mornings, she can be found with her Hebrew hevruta discussing Hebrew fiction and poetry. She is the proud mother of Emma, Jacob and Aaron Brandt and Ilana and Adam Bernstein, and Aviya’s savta. A life-long learner, she shares Rabbi Hanina’s reflection: I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and the most from my students. (Ta’anit 7a) Gretchen resides in Natick at what is lovingly called ‘The Brandt Bed and Breakfast’ with her husband, Stewart and her cat, Bucky.


dummy place holderDebbie Percher
3rd-6th Grade
 Hebrew / Tefila Teacher

Debbie Percher has joined our faculty this year as our 3-6th grade Hebrew teacher on Sundays and Thursdays.  Deborah 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.

rabbi with shofar program 1 (2)Rabbi Charni Flame Selch
7/8th Grade Eilu D’varim
10th Grade Comparative Religion
Documentaries & Discussion Elective (HS)

A rabbi who believes that Judaism is meant to be engaging, personal and do-able. An award winning educator, she combines her experiences and depth of knowledge with the traditions of Jewish life and learning. She spent two Summers at Camp Tel Noar, served in the IDF, has taught all over the world, and loves interacting with amazing students of all ages who teach her as much as she tries to teach them about how to live a Jewish life in the twenty first century

Jessica Weinberg Picture Jessica Weinberg
3rd-6th Grade

A new resident to Massachusetts, Jessica and her husband moved to Worcester from New York City. With a love for learning and helping children grow and succeed, Jessica taught at an elementary charter school in Manhattan for several years. She most recently pursued her passion for Judaism while working for a Jewish non-profit community center and pre-school. As a proud Terp, Jessica graduated from the University of Maryland and loves spending her free time baking and exploring Massachusetts.

Rabbi Rabbi David Thomas

Our Rabbi, 12th Grade ‘Siyyum’ Facilitator

Click here for Rabbi Thomas’ Bio





lorel3_022510Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler
9th Grade Core: “Underpinnings of Judaism and Israel”, Our Cantor

Click here for Lorel’s Bio





Coming from a reform Jewish background with an emphasis on ethics, my understanding of Torah and ritual has been enriched at Beth El. The fact that my grandchildren are more observant than I is a source of great comfort.
— Paul R