Religious School Staff

Beth Parker
Shabbat Chai Kindergarten

Beth has been an educator with Temple Beth El for over 15 years. She has enjoyed teaching many grade levels at Shabbat Chai, as well as a variety of ages at the Early Childhood Center. Her two daughters, Ashlyn, a recent college graduate and Emily, a sophomore in college, also enjoyed many years attending both the religious school and the ECC at Temple Beth El. She hopes that each student will enjoy coming to the Temple on Friday to see old friends and make new friends that follow their same set of values and religious beliefs. Beth looks forward to creating a fun, festive and joyful setting, while creating a learning environment that will help teach and cultivate the students to find new ways to care for the world and care for others around them. She looks forward to seeing all her sweet new and old friends each Shabbat Chai and at each of the family involved events.


Nikki Spearman
Shabbat Chai Kindergarten

Nikki was born and raised in San Diego. She has traveled and lived all over, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa, where she attended law school. She is active at TBE and the greater OC Jewish community, including PJ Library, the OC Mega Challah Bake committee and the Jewish Collaborative of Orange County. She is passionate about Jewish interfaith community connections, equality and her daughters Reese (10) and Rylie (7) and Rhea (5). Nikki is married and lives with her family in Aliso Viejo. 


Debbie Grinacoff
Shabbat Chai 2nd Grade

Debbie has over 25 years of teaching experience in both public and private education where she taught nursery school for 6 years, 5th and 6th. She has a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and a Bachelors of Science degree in Textile and Apparel Marketing. After relocating from New York in 2015, her and her husband found a warm and caring environment at Temple Beth El South Orange County. Debbie is on the BE Sisterhood Board where she actively participates in various committees and programs. She is also a member of the Women’s Retreat Committee and the New Membership Committee. Outside of TBE, she is a member of her HOA Board of Directors and board liaison to the Landscape Committee. In addition, Debbie is currently substitute teacher in the Irvine Unified School District. This will be her second year teaching Shabbat Chai at Temple Beth El South Orange County. She truly enjoys enriching the minds of children as they learn about Judaism. Developing innovative and creative lessons where every child touched, is of great importance.


Yael Weinberger-Butler
Shabbat Chai 3rd Grade and Hebrew Alef

Yael Weinberger was born and raised in Israel near Haifa. She had training as a Hebrew teacher in the Israeli Army where she taught immigrants how to read and write Hebrew. After completing her time in service, she attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where she received a degree in social work. Yael is married and has one adult daughter named Maya. They both had their Bat Mitzvah together right here at our temple. Yael has been teaching Hebrew, Judaic studies and movement to all ages since she arrived in the US.


Jesse Arzt
Shabbat Chai 3rd Grade and Hebrew Alef

Jesse Arzt grew up n New Jersey. He received his undergrad in film and media studies and a masters in Elementary education form Cal State Fullerton. Jesse has been working with children for over 10 years and loves the enthusiasm that they bring into the classroom. He is looking forward to being a part of the TBESOC family, working together to teach the Jewish future.


Ilana Rogel-Wieder
Shabbat Chai 4th Grade and Hebrew Bet

 Ilana Rogel-Wieder received her M.F.A. in Theatre and Dance.  She has worked in L.A. as a motion-capture and theatrical actress for over ten years.  During that time, she has also been teaching Hebrew and yoga lessons.  As a student of Torah, she integrates Jewish teaching in her classes and her background in Theater comes in handy when teaching Hebrew in fun and creative ways. 


Sandy Rothberg
Shabbat Chai 5th Grade and Hebrew Gimmel

Sandy has been a member of TBE since Congregation Eilat merged in 2010. In addition to teaching Hebrew and Shabbat Chai she is a substitute teacher and tutor in local area school districts. She is married with three grown children. Her youngest son had his Bar Mitzvah at TBE, was in the first class of the 8th grade Tzedakah Board and was active in BESTY. You are sure to see Sandy around TBE preparing weekly Shabbat meals, reading Torah in the Conservative Services, dancing in the annual women’s service, and participating in the Women’s retreat and in the Purim Shpiels. Sandy is really looking forward to a wonderful year getting to know you all!



Michal Elkyam
Shabbat Chai 5th Grade and Hebrew Gimel

Michal Elkyam was born and raised in Haifa Israel, served in the Israeli air force and graduated from Haifa university with a BA in social work. She worked with families, kids and teenagers in distress in northern Israel. Shortly after Michal got married and relocated with her husband to the US where I worked as a preschool teacher in Irvine. She graduated from Cal State Fullerton with an MA in Counseling. Michal has 3 children, 17, 14 and 9. The two older ones were in the Temple Beth El program and had their Bar/Bat mitzvah while the youngest is following in their footsteps. Working with kids has always been Michal’s passion. Being a teacher at the temple is one way to accomplish that.

Chavva Olendar
Shabbat Chai 6th/7th Grade, Dalet and Hay Hebrew  

Chavva has been privileged to work in Jewish education and at Temple Beth El of South Orange County for nearly twenty years. Helping students find their personal connection to Judaism is among her highest ideals, as is imparting the language, culture, and values that accompany our heritage. In addition to her work here and at other local synagogues, Chavva homeschools her fifteen and eleven-year-old daughters and is in the process of finishing a degree in philosophy.

Barbara Rheingold-Gerlicki
Hebrew Specialist

Barbara has shared her enthusiasm about Judaism as a Religious School and Hebrew teacher for more than forty-five years. She has taught children and adults about Jewish holidays, history and culture, prayer book Hebrew, Torah, music and folk dance. Students of all ages enjoy the mnemonic devices and “corny jokes” she uses to help them learn to read Hebrew and chant prayers and Torah melodies. Barbara also teaches Hebrew at Temple Beth El in San Pedro. In addition, here at our synagogue Barbara participates in the Jewish Life and Rituals Committee, chants Torah on many a Shabbat and holiday mornings and coordinates the Volunteer Greeters Program.


Shira Greenbaum
Shabbat Chai Support Specialist

Shira’s many summers at URJ Camp Swig/Newman first lit her fire to teach Jewish education. She always looked forward to heading to camp each summer and remains close friends with many of her camp friends today.

Russel Winkler
Having been participating in the teachings and traditions of Temple Beth El Of South Orange County since 1998, Russel is looking forward to his first year as a Jewish educator. Being able to share knowledge and experiences with the next generation allows him to return to the temple what it gave me, a Jewish identity. He looks forward to helping our students shape their own Jewish identities while connecting to the TBESOC community in a new way.

Lauren Gelb
Lauren Gelb, a 9th grade student at TVT has been attending Temple Beth El since preschool and is looking forward to working with the Shabbat Chai kindergartners this year! In her free time Lauren is a dancer at Pacific ballet Conservatory where she has studied ballet since she was four years old.

Ethan Cortes
Ethan Cortes has been involved at Temple Beth El for just over three years. In these three years he says he has found a family and a community that he feels very connected to and grown to love. Ethan is currently a student at Aliso Niguel High School and enjoys playing golf and spending time with friends. He is looking forward to strengthening the bonds that he with the members of our Temple over the next year!

Arad Elkayam
I am a senior at Trabuco Hills Highschool. I babysit in my neighborhood and help other scholars master concepts in school. I use this experience to teach the students at Temple Beth El and make sure that everyone is involved. My favorite things to do outside of school are playing the bass and planning Dungeons and Dragons campaigns with my friends. I was born here in America, but I speak fluent Hebrew. My mom also works at the temple, and we plan lessons together. I love all the stories I hear from our students.

Lilith Lainer
Lilith is in high school and homeschooled. She enjoys photography, literature, and psychology. Lilith also loves teaching and volunteering.