Pre K & Kindergarten
Jeni Byers is the PreK/K teacher at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills. She works in the Toddler program at Central Synagogue in Manhattan and before that worked in the Toddler and the Stay-n-Play programs at the Forest Hills Jewish Center.
During the summer Jeni works as the Health Center Coordinator at Camps Blue Ridge and Equinunk in Pennsylvania giving support to the nurses and lots of TLC to the children.
Jeni and her family have been members at The Reform Temple for over 7 years. She is active in the Temple Tots Shabbat Program and volunteer in many other programs here. Both of her daughters had their Bat Mitzvah here and are still involved in the ToFHY programs.
She loves to work with children and looks forward to painting, collaging and doing many hands-on and creative projects to help introduce Jewish Learning to your child.
Danielle Gilman is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During High School she was involved with NFTY and her local youth group. She spent every Sunday morning during High School volunteering here at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills as a Madricha in the Pre-k/K classroom. She is excited to be taking the lead position in the classroom and working with the First graders this year.
Rachel Blaifeder graduated from Binghamton University with a BA in History in May 2017 and will be teaching Second grade at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills this year. Rachel loves to read, spend time with friends, run, and travel. Her most recent trip was to Israel, and she is looking forward to incorporating everything she learned there in her classroom!
I am thrilled to be returning to The Reform Temple of Forest Hills for my 17th year. For my “day” job, I am an elementary school teacher at PS86 in Jamaica. I enjoy working with the older students. I find that I learn as much from them as they do about Judaic Studies. Learning is one of the important Jewish Values and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with the students.
Leah Frankel is the 7th Grade Judaics teacher at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, with an emphasis on Middot and Mitzvot. She comes to RTFH with Hebrew School teaching experience, as well as experience as a United Synagogue Youth Leader. Leah attended both Religious School and Hebrew High School as a young adult, and is now extremely active in her own synagogue as the chair of its monthly Mitzvah Project Program. In this capacity, she has led initiatives to support local shelters, collect eyeglasses for the needy, and collect cell phones that were donated to local police precincts for distribution. In addition, her committee collected school supplies and sent them to various military installations around the United States.
Leah currently works as a Sales Operations executive in the Beauty Care industry, and is excited to be part of the professional staff at RTFH. She is looking forward to using her volunteer experience in Middot and Mizvot to provide positive examples for the students.
Oron Gabay was born and raised in Rishon Le-Zion, Israel. He recently received his B.Ed. (in Education) from Seminar Ha-Kibbutzim in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with his wife. He loves discussions about politics, history, and religion. Oron is looking forward to being a part of The Reform Temple of Forest Hills. He is excited about sharing with students his passion about Judaism and Hebrew language.
Shana Fruchter is the music teacher at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills. She values the warm and welcoming RTFH community and loves to teach her students the Jewish values, traditions, and the Hebrew language through songs. She earned her Masters of Science in music therapy at SUNY New Paltz and has experienced working with a myriad of different populations. Currently, she works as a music therapist with children who have special needs. She looks forward to another great year at RTFH!
As an educator of 36 years, I had the privilege of working with kids of varying ages and abilities. For the past 19 years at Kesher LD (Miami, FL), I cultivated students’ minds and developed a program. During that time, as a teacher and later department chair, I worked and established Elementary, Middle, and High School curriculum for the Hebrew Department, and was responsible for all respective teacher trainings.
Aside from teaching Hebrew as a second language, a core value I hold dear through the years is ensuring the children grow with strong Jewish values. My mission is to instill the love of Israel, teach the Hebrew language, and strengthen the Jewish roots of our students.
Prior to my years at Kesher LD, I worked with Kindergarten age children for 17 years both in Tel Aviv and Miami.
As with any successful venture, I was fortunate to work with colleagues which through collaboration, helped ensure my vision came to life. To that end, with my move to NY, opening a new chapter near my family, I look forward to a strong collaborative partnership working in The Reform Temple of Forest Hills.
Julie Smelansky joins the Forest Hills family from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Julie has a passion for Jewish teen engagement, creative programming and leadership development. Her involvement in the Jewish community started in middle school where she began as a youth group member, eventually being elected to regional board in high school. Julie has spent many summers attending and working at Jewish summer camps where she was not only a counselor but also held positions as an art specialist, play director, Jewish programming specialist and worked with staff on professional development and programming. While in college, Julie continued working in Jewish informal education as she assumed the role of Youth Director and Hebrew high school teacher in her home town of Minneapolis. Julie has since fulfilled her dream of moving to New York City and is very much looking forward to working with the ToFHY teens and bringing her experience and enthusiasm for Jewish learning to The Reform Temple of Forest Hills. In her free time, Julie loves to travel, go to the beach and study art. Julie says, “I have a passion for Jewish teen engagement, creative programming and leadership development, and cannot wait to get to know you and your families!”