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Be.Wise Staff Bios

Be.Wise Administration

Arielle Branitsky 

Acting Director: 3rd-8th Grade

Arielle is a consultant supporting community organizations in achieving their goals from her home in Toronto. She has Masters degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Nonprofit Management from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and a Masters Concentration in Israel Education from The iCenter. Since embarking on her journey as a Jewish professional, Arielle has lived in Jerusalem, Los Angeles, New York, Halifax, and Winnipeg. She has had the opportunity to build communities and help them to thrive through her work at Hillels and Jewish Federations. For the past two years, Arielle has been actively honing specializations in experience design, strategic planning, project management, and leadership development. Arielle is most actively involved as a Consultant at CORIPHERY Holistic Consulting Solutions, Curriculum & Hebrew Coordinator at Temple Emanu-El in Toronto, and Assistant Producer for Vanier College Productions at York University. 

Arielle has been supporting education programming at Temple Beth El since the fall of 2019. She helped implement the interim program as the Curriculum Coordinator and a Hebrew teacher. She is very excited to be a part of printing BE.WISE to life overseeing the 3rd-8th grade components of the program. 

Mandi Warner

Director: K-2nd Grade

Mandi Warner is currently the Director of Early Childhood Education at Beth El. She began her career in early childhood education back in 2003 when she graduated with her undergrad in Elementary Education and a minor in Social Studies from Fredonia State University. Mandi worked at a Preschool in Victor, and then moved on to the JCC of Greater Rochester when she began my Masters’ Degree in Literacy Education (birth-6th grade certification). Mandi fell in love with teaching early childhood Jewish Education while at the JCC, she realized that that was her passion. While she was there, back in 2011, Mandi had her son, Brayden. When Brayden went to kindergarten, and after ten years there, Mandi realized that she wanted to do more with her career. Temple Beth El has been the absolute perfect fit. Keshet is by far the warmest preschool Mandi could have ever imagined. She has always believed that children learn best when they feel good about themselves, and she bring that philosophy to Keshet every day. In her spare time, Mandi enjoy's spending time with her husband Paul, her son, and her two pugs/ pug-mixes.  Mandi also enjoys hiking, playing board games, and watching comedy movies.

Emma-Rose Bacall

Teachers Assistant & Programming Support

Emma-Rose Bacall is a current junior at the University of Rochester studying International Relations. Her Jewish involvement started in 1st grade Hebrew School and continues today on campus, as an active member of the Chabad community and as the President of both the Students for Israel club and the Students' Association for Interfaith Cooperation. She has also worked for and taken classes at both Chabad and Hillel. Prior to college, Emma spent a gap year in Israel on Young Judaea Year Course, studying Hebrew, Zionism, and Judaics, volunteering on a farm and in a local school, and doing a two month Israel Defense Forces program. This summer, Emma worked as a camp counselor at the Rochester JCC, and she is excited to continue her Jewish educational involvement at Temple Beth El.

Jade Selch 

Teachers Assistant & Programming Support

Jade Selch is a student at the University of Rochester, studying Computer Science and Jewish Studies. They grew up by Chicago, at Congregation Beth Emet, and going to camp OSRVI, eventually working at both places with youth of all ages. Going forward, they're excited to help teach the STEM class, expanding on the connections between science and Judaism. 


Rabbi Rafi Hirsh

Core: K-2

Rabbi Hirsh spent most of the past 11 years in Jerusalem, where he originally studied in the old city at the Aish Hatorah College for Jewish Studies under the guidance of Rabbi Noah Weinber. Since having moved, he has become greatly involved in the Jewish education, learning Torah with individuals throughout the community as well as teaching in Temple Beth El, Hillel Day School, and tutoring students at the University of Rochester. Since COVID-19, Rabbi Hirsh has been teaching several series to adults on Hebrew reading and comprehension via Zoom, as well as Torah classes to teens throughout the neighborhood. 

Mark Lazar

Jewish Heritage

Torah Values

Mark Lazar has been involved with informal Jewish Education since the early 1970's beginning as a drama specialist in schools and camps. After years of freelancing for numerous synagogues, day schools, camps and institutes such as the University of Judaism (AJU), Camp Ramah and the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, Mark served  as Director of Youth and Education at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills. He moved to Israel with his family in 1993, where he was based in Jerusalem and worked for numerous gap year programs, summer teen programs and institutions such as the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution Committee and Archaeological Seminars. Mark guided over one hundred journeys in Israel including Birthright as well as guiding over sixty journeys to Poland dealing with the Holocaust. Mark moved back to the LA area in 2016 to be closer to his mother. After serving a few years as the Director of the Center for Jewish Life at the Merage JCC of Orange County, he returned to teaching live and on zoom at several southern Californian JCC's, synagogue schools across the country and Camp Ramah in Northern California.

Paula Pepperstone

Tfillah & Rituals

Torah Values

Cantor Paula Pepperstone is passionate about delving into Judaism’s depths for its soul-feeding beauty and wisdom, and sharing that knowledge with others. She currently serves Ahavat Achim - Hebrew Congregation (Wichita, KS), and has previously served Congregation Beth Sholom - Chevra Shas (Syracuse, NY), and Keneseth Israel Congregation (Louisville, KY). Educationally, she has taught extensively in all three congregations and beyond, from Pre-K through the oldest members of the community. She also was the director of the Epstein School of Jewish Studies, a supplemental school for grades 7-12 in Syracuse, NY. 

Cantor Pepperstone earned her Master of Sacred Music and Diploma of Hazzan (Cantor) from the Jewish Theological Seminary while receiving several prizes and awards. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance, a Jewish Studies Certificate, and as a member of the Singing Hoosiers. 

Cantor Pepperstone grew up in New Jersey very involved in her congregation, and made her singing debut at Grossinger’s. She still loves to perform Jewish music of all kinds, as well as classical music, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook. She and her husband, a rabbi, are also well engaged in raising their three children, ages 21, 17, and 13.

Gil Stern

Social Justice

Gil grew up in a household where both his parents were Jewish Educators, Jewish Education is part of his DNA.  That said, it became part of Gil's formal work history in 1993 when he decided to go back to school to obtain his Master’s degree in communication, and moved to Brockport.  While in school, Gil began teaching 7th grade at Temple Sinai.  After that, he taught at Temple B’rith Kodesh for 15 years.

Gil has taught Jewish Ethics, Holocaust, Introduction to Aleph-Bet and Prayer.  He has also tutored students and spent years teaching a technology enrichment course where he worked with grade level teachers in finding websites and finding/creating computer games that reinforced material they were covering. Judaism remains a passion of his and he enjoys passing that passion to future generations! Gill is thrilled to now be teaching at Temple Beth El.

Shmuel Stern


Tech Support

Shmuel Stern has worked in Jewish education for close to five years. As someone who is studying automotive, and grew up both as a part of the Beth El community and surrounded by yidishkite, he's very excited to work with the new STEM curriculum