Joan Neer has been working at Temple Chai since 1993 when she began teaching Hebrew and Judaica in the religious school and was the Chai Kids (Jr. Youth Group) coordinator. She provides administrative support for the rabbis and cantor and coordinates the b’nai mitzvah program. Joan is also the Judaica Shop manager. Joan and her husband Michael have 3 children and 4 grandchildren who live in Colorado, Washington and California, and visit with them as often as possible. They also have 4 Havanese dogs (Punnie, Pippin, Pitzie and Yoshi) whom they adore. Joan and Michael enjoy traveling, hiking and gardening.
Joan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amanda Campbell joined the Temple Chai senior staff as Principal of Administration and Curriculum just over 4 years ago and she has been a part of the teaching staff for almost 20 years. Prior to her current position, she spent years teaching 5th and 3rd grade Hebrew and Judaica here at Temple Chai. During that time, Amanda developed curriculum, served as grade-level cooridantor, ran programs for children and parents, and served on many committees involved in programming, child-development, and teacher-training. While working in Judaic education, Amanda also taught high school and middle school English in the Paradise Valley school district.
Amanda grew up at Temple Chai, starting here as a student in 1st grade and continuing through her bat mitzvah, confirmation, and madrichim years. She now is happy to have her own children growing up is part of the Temple Chai family. Amanda earned her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a Concentration in English Education from the University of Arizona and then earned her masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University. She is currently enrolled in the Hebrew Union College’s Executive Master’s program and is working toward a masters in Judaic Education and Administration.
Amanda can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Mary Passell has been the Director for the Temple Chai Early Childhood Center since 2012. Mary has a BS in Family Studies and Child Development from the University of Arizona as well as an elementary teaching certificate from Arizona State University. Mary has also been AMS certified in 3-6 year old Montessori education. She is an alumni of the JECELI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute) Cohort 3, holds a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, and is trained in Mindfulness Meditation. As well as being the Director of the Temple Chai ECC, she also teaches yoga and mindfulness to the children at her school. She has presented on Mindfulness at various conferences, including Mindfulness for Educators at the ECE-RJ Peace in our Time conference. Mary will receive an Executive Master’s degree in Jewish Educational Leadership in May 2021.
Mary can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caryn Frank has been with the Early Childhood Center since 2012. She has a degree in Sociology and has had years of experience working in early childhood programs as both a classroom educator and administrator. As the Assistant Director, she is responsible for licensing, supporting teachers and most importantly, making sure the children, as well as their parents are all happy. Caryn and her husband, Bruce, have two children. They both enjoy baseball, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Caryn can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Sheana Abrams has been with Temple Chai since 2007. As the Operations Coordinator, her responsibilities include the set up and coordination of temple events, catering and facility needs for meetings and celebrations and internal support for Chai Men's Club, and Dor L'Dor. She manages the Temple calendar, Website, Echai, Maintenance staff and Temple facility. Sheana has four children and enjoys spending time with her family and traveling anywhere there is mountains, water and a beach.
Sheana can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaylie Medansky joined the Temple Chai Senior Staff in 2020 and stepped in as the Associate Executive Director in 2021. She also acts as the Director of the Center for Social Action and Social Justice.
She is the former Executive Director at Swift Youth Foundation, an Arizona-based nonprofit that fosters positive mentor relationships between at-risk youth and college-bound teens through fun and enriching overnight camps, after school, and weekend programs. Kaylie earned both her Bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies and Women & Gender Studies and a Master’s in Public Administration concentrating in Nonprofit Management at the University of Colorado. Kaylie is a Phoenix native who enjoys skiing, traveling, hiking, and spending time with her husband David, their daughter, Harper and their dog, Avery.
Kaylie can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Debbie Blyn joined the Temple Chai staff as Executive Director in 2019. Prior to that, she had been an active lay leader, serving as President of the congregation, member of the Board, and Chair of the Religious School Committee.
Debbie is passionate about building community. She loves welcoming new families to our synagogue. Her favorite times at Temple Chai are when big groups gather for the High Holy Days, Mitzvah Mall, Peanut Butter & Fluff, and busy Sunday mornings with Religious School.
When she relocated to Arizona, it was at Temple Chai where her family met their closest friends. She and her husband Gary raised their two sons, Jared and Ethan, at Temple Chai. It was here that they attended Religious School, became Bar Mitzvah, and participated in youth groups.
Debbie was born and raised in New York. She holds a BA from Binghamton University and an MBA from New York University. She had a career in financial services marketing prior to relocating to Arizona in 2006. She lives in Phoenix with her family and Cody, their Golden Retriever. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, travel, and spending time with friends and loved ones.
Debbie can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly holds the Accounts Receivable position for Temple Chai in the accounting office where her responsibilities include all incoming funds, member accounts, and the Early Childhood Center accounts. Kelly also helps assist in a minor role with other various accounting duties. Formerly working in the property management field along with medical and law enforcement support has given Kelly a wide range of knowledge and experience in working with many different personalities.
Together with her husband Bryan, Kelly has a combined total of 5 children and 4 grandchildren living throughout California and Arizona. Kelly enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and catching up on her favorite sports teams, particularly baseball where she enjoyed watching her son play professionally for 8 years. (Now retired). Kelly and her husband also have a small catering business where her husband can expand on his creativity as an Executive Chef.
Cantor Sharona Feller's innovations began with Temple Chai's development from a tiny congregation of some 180 families. Her involvement ranged from teaching b'nai mitzvah students to creating Bat Chai, the temple's women's study program, to leading its adult and children's choirs to organizing its Thanksgiving ecumenical service.
Two of her greatest accomplishments as Temple Chai's first Cantor were the development of the temple's family school and its retreat programs as well as collaborating with Rabbi Berk to create the temple's Kabbalat Shabbat service. (Temple Chai was one of the first Reform congregations in North America to eliminate the late Friday night service and to recover the tradition of Kabbalat Shabbat.)
Cantor Feller majored in ethnomusicology at the University of California in Los Angeles and went on to study at Hebrew Union College, making connections with area rabbis and freelancing as a cantor.
Sharona and Daniel Feller were married in August 1978. They share a deep commitment to Jewish life, devotion to family, including children Rachel, Avi and Jonathan, and a love of music.
Rabbi Bill Berk grew up in southern California. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. He holds a Life-time California Teaching Credential which he earned at California State College at Hayward. He earned an MA in Hebrew and a Doctor of Divinity from the Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Berk was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati where he won awards in homiletics and social action.
Rabbi Berk served for twenty-three years as the Senior Rabbi of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona. This was a time of enormous growth and expansion for the congregation. Rabbi Berk did pioneering work in the area of recovering prayer and Kabbalat Shabbat, adult learning, assisting Jews with special needs, developing the caring/healing congregation, and using retreats to strengthen community. In 2003 he won the Covenant Award which is given to three top Jewish educators in North America. From 2004 to 2010 Rabbi Berk was the Director of the Center for Rabbinic Enrichment for the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Rabbi Berk joined Keshet, The Center for Educational Tourism, in September 2010. He serves as an educational consultant, outreach coordinator, and directs Keshet's Bar/Bat Mitzvah Trip programs.
Rabbi Berk made aliyah to Israel in 2006, and was subsequently named Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Chai. He has five children.