BlogRabbi Emily Segal6/7/2022
Rabbi Emily Segal is passionate about engagement and building relationships. She is a dynamic and skilled teacher who makes each person feel seen and known. A vocal advocate, Rabbi Segal is a justice leader who puts our values into action. An author and national leader, she is an important and rising voice in the Jewish world.
Prior to joining Temple Chai as its Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Segal served as the Rabbi of Aspen Jewish Congregation in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado.
Previously she served as the Associate Rabbi of Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago. Rabbi Segal grew up in a small, tight-knit Jewish community in Virginia, nurtured by one of the first woman rabbis, and she is the proud product of an interfaith home. Seeing her father grow in love for Judaism and passion for Jewish learning and eventually become a Jew-By-Choice was formative in her development and her path in the rabbinate. After graduating from the University of Virginia, her studies continued at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she was ordained in Cincinnati in 2010. Rabbi Segal’s rabbinic thesis was entitled “Telling and Retelling: The Women’s Seder and Ritual Innovation.”
During her time in the rabbinate, Rabbi Segal is proud to have been a Balfour Brickner Social Justice Fellow, as well as a Clergy Leadership Incubator Fellow, focusing on leading dynamic change in congregations and organizations. She also earned an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Kellogg School at Northwestern as well as a certificate in supervision from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Segal currently serves as Co-President of the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), the international organization of Reform women rabbis which represents the more than 860 women, nonbinary, and genderfluid individuals who have been ordained in the Reform Movement and who serve Reform congregations.
Rabbi Segal’s rabbinic interests include Jewish environmental and food justice, liturgical development, ritual innovation, biblical Hebrew, Jewish feminism, Mussar (Jewish mindfulness practice) and scriptural and halakhic (Jewish law) study. Her non-rabbinic interests include strong coffee, dark chocolate, good books, escapist baking, camping and paddle boarding, and live music. She is married to Rabbi Scott Segal. You can find them cooking together, dragging their young children (Samantha, 10, and Ezra, 7) on character-building hiking expeditions, and having family dance parties.
Kelly Chaet joined the Temple Chai ECC staff in 2017 as an infant room teacher and stepped into the role of ECC Administrative & Operations Manager in May 2022.
Kelly is from Tucson, AZ. She went to the U of A, then Graduate school in California where she got her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. She worked in the Adult mental health field for 11 years in Phoenix, prior to joining the team at Temple Chai.
Both of Kelly’s sons attended the Temple Chai ECC from infant thru pre-k, and she felt very accepted and quickly became close with the staff and community. Kelly loves working with preschool-age children, and working at Temple Chai has become her happy place. She enjoys learning new ways to help children learn and witnessing their learning journey.
Kelly is currently enrolled in the B’nai Mitzvah class at Temple Chai. She has been married to her husband Steven for 14 years. They have two kids in elementary school as well as two cats. Kelly loves kids, animals, music, reading, movies, and being outside.
Kelly can be reached at email@example.com.
Chi began her role as Program Director for Temple Chai in 2022 after joining the organization as the Shalom Center Coordinator in 2021. She brings her passion for service, experience with life cycle events, and enthusiasm for youth and adult programming to this role.
Chi has a breadth of work experience from accounting, to teaching art, to her time as a HR Generalist in corporate America. She also makes custom stained glass and mosaics for homes, gardens, and businesses.
Chi is originally from Michigan, where she earned her BA in Business and Entrepreneurship from Michigan State University. She lives in Phoenix with her husband Matthew, and daughter, Ekwi. Chi is honored to be supporting the wonderful Caring Community and other committee volunteers that help keep Temple Chai more than just a place of worship, but a community.
Chi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Jim Simon7/1/2021
After earning a law degree from Hasting School of Law, Rabbi Simon attended Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1983. He spent over 20 years as a pulpit rabbi, primarily in Massachusetts and Florida. He also spent six years as the Regional Director of the UAHC (now URJ) Midwest Council. In 2009, Rabbi Simon became one of the first Rabbis to be trained as an Interim Rabbi by the Interim Ministry Network and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He did additional work to earn the Advanced Certification of Professional Transition Specialist. Rabbi Simon is also a trained mediator, which has helped him greatly, first as a pulpit Rabbi and now as an Interim Rabbi, because it taught him to be a better listener. Like a good mediator, he doesn’t see himself as telling people what they have to do, but as a facilitator guiding individuals and congregations to find solutions to their problems. Prior to coming to Temple Chai, he had served as an Interim Rabbi in Florida, New Jersey, Utah, Oklahoma, New York and California.
Rabbi Simon’s wife maintains their home base in Florida. They have 3 adult children and two grandchildren. The Rabbi’s favorite scripture verse is from the Book of Isaiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” It reminds him that a synagogue needs to be a very inclusive and welcoming place.
Rabbi Simon can be reached at email@example.com.
Leah Lyndon comes to Temple Chai Early Childhood Center with over a decade of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Leah has worked with children of all ages at, in a variety of capacities. After moving to Arizona in 2012 from South Florida. Leah began her journey at ASU studying speech pathology but ultimately knew this was not her path and landed a job at a preschool. This led to a life-time passion of working with children and families.
In 2015 Leah went on her Birthright trip to Israel, which changed her path yet again, leading her to the realm of Jewish Early Childhood Education. From that time on Leah has held positions including Lead Teacher and Camp coordinator at the Martin Pear Jewish Community Center Early Child Center. Also, at the Jewish Community Center Leah worked at Shemesh Camp at The J as their Kindergarten through Fourth grade Supervisor planning trips, implementing quality systems, supporting staff, and building relationships with students and families. For a brief time, Leah also worked at Jewish Family and Children Services as a Youth and Family Specialist supporting families and children in behavioral goals, along with working with foster care families. Leah received her degree in Early Childhood Education in 2019. She is currently pursuing a certification to become an a national certified Early Childhood Director through the National Louis University’s AIM4Excellence program.
Leah is engaged to her fiancé Stephen and loves spending time with him and her their dog Luna. In her spare time Leah can be found relaxing at home watching a funny movie, or whipping up something in the kitchen! Leah truly loves the Temple Chai and the Temple Chai ECC community. She is excited to bring her knowledge and passion for Early Childhood to this thriving, open, and inclusive community!
Leah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Sarah Knight is an experienced education professional who has served in a variety of education related capacities at the private, federal and classroom levels. Most recently she served at the Martin Pear Jewish Community Center as the Director of Early Childhood Education and served at Southwest Human Development as Program Manager for Quality Initiatives and Grants Management supporting child development managers and teachers in curriculum instruction and teacher training as well as supported planning and development of monitoring of program quality initiatives.
Previously she worked at Chanen Preschool as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher with hands-on experience in planning and conducting classroom instructional curriculum and activities for children to encourage development of their academic, social, emotional, physical, intellectual, language and communication skills. Before teaching at Chanen she recently worked as an Interim Support Person for Fairfax County Public Schools, and prior to that as an early childhood co-teacher at the Tampa Jewish Community Center.
She has served as a program manager and consultant for ICF International and Education Services Inc., managing a variety of projects and budgets related to national and state level Office of Head Start initiatives while gaining analytical and logistical planning experience for federal programs, initiatives, and national level conferences.
She has an extensive background in education stemming from her beginnings as a certified ESL teacher for children and adults, having served in classrooms in the United States, Guatemala, Mexico and Japan to include serving as a U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS) teacher. She has served in the U.S. Department of Education as a program manager for evaluation and grant review processes and as an associate manager for two Presidential Initiative Comprehensive grant competitions as well as at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Head Start.
A former elementary school teacher, Ms. Knight holds a M.S. in Community Services from Michigan State University and a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Colorado College, where she majored in multicultural classroom education.
Jessica has been married to Ray for almost 21 years and they have 4 children, Zen (16), Rain (15), Zia/Rey (9 year old twins). She is originally from Chimayo, New Mexico and has lived in many places, moving 9 times as her husband is in the Marine Corps. She is so excited about this opportunity and looks forward to getting to know our children, families and community.
Jessica can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Ann Spector has been an active congregant of Temple Chai since 1996. She came on board with 19 years of experience in the ad specialty business. As part of the accounting team, Ann processes all incoming payments and assists with keeping membership accounts up to date. Her children Heidi and Alex were students at the Temple Chai religious school and had their bar/bat mitzvahs here. Ann and her husband Norm enjoy theater, traveling and taking long walks. At home, they enjoy spoiling their cat Lily and dog Luke.
Ann can be reached via email and firstname.lastname@example.org
Deb Behrendt joined the Temple Chai staff as Shalom Center coordinator in 2021. Prior to that, Deb was a long-time educator, teaching English in high school and middle school. She has been an active participant in Temple Chai activities since 2015 including volunteering as part of the Caring Community.
Deb is currently in seminary school to become a Chaplain with her second master’s degree in theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. She has been an active member of the Jewish community for many years, serving in B’nai Brith, Hadassah, and is currently an active volunteer with Hospice of the Valley supporting their Shabbat Blessings program. Deb is passionate about supporting community and helping others.
Deb is an Arizona native and considers herself blessed to have much of her family close. Her mother, sister, and son all live in the greater Phoenix area and family gatherings happen often!
Deb holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in Educational Leadership. She lives with her wife, Rachel and their dog Maddie in North Scottsdale. In her spare time she loves to practice mindfulness, meditation and hosting game nights!
Deb can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Virginia Kelly is the Business Office Manager for Temple Chai.
Virginia can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 Feller12/16/2020
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 Berk12/16/2020
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.