Who We Are

Our Mentors work one-on-one with students, often supplemented by group and family sessions. Mentors come from varying backgrounds, from educators to camp counselors to writers and actors. All Mentors have formal training in Jewish education and Hebrew language and are skilled in teaching Torah and Haftarah chanting. As part of our personalized approach to learning, Hebrew Helpers will match families and students with the best guide for their experience.

Todd Shotz

Todd Shotz

Founder & Executive Director

Todd is the Founder and Executive Director of Hebrew Helpers. After many years as a Jewish educator in both New York City and Los Angeles, Todd started Hebrew Helpers in 2005 with the mission to create authentic and meaningful Jewish learning experiences without boundaries or restrictions while at the same time, paying tribute to tradition. Raised in Elkins Park, PA, Todd studied with Cantor Charles Davidson at Congregation Adath Jeshurun. He is an alum of the University of Pennsylvania, Alexander Muss High School in Israel and Project Otzma. In his spare time, he produces independent feature films.
Debbie Jaffe

Debbie Jaffe

East Coast Director

Debbie is the East Coast Director of Hebrew Helpers as well as serving as its Director of Training & Curriculum. Debbie has been teaching kids how to read Torah since she was 15 years old, and she’s mentored hundreds of kids for their bar and bat mitzvahs in Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles since 2000. Her mission is not just to teach kids about Judaism and prepare them to become Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, she wants to show kids that Judaism can be fun and interesting, and relevant in their lives. Debbie also has an M.F.A. in Acting and works in film and on TV.
Robyn Altman

Robyn Altman

Mentor

Robyn was one of our first mentors and currently serves as our Director of Community Engagement in addition to her teaching. A mom of two, Robyn sees her role as a mentor to both nurture and guide her students (and their parents) through the process of becoming Bar/Bat mitzvah. In addition to her work as a mentor for Hebrew Helpers, Robyn runs the day camp for Temple Akiba every summer. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Robyn’s Jewish education began in Pre-School. It continued throughout High School and while studying at Penn State University. She also studied for a semester at Tel Aviv University. There is always more to learn when it comes to our Heritage and Traditions, which is what she always tells her students. “I never expected to learn so much while teaching; each and every student has taught me something!”

Adi Eshman

Adi Eshman

Mentor

Adi is a playwright, screenwriter, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He has mentored students for Hebrew Helpers for almost 8 years. He also taught classes at B’nei Jeshurun, Sutton Place Synagogue, Town & Village Synagogue, Congregation Habonim, and LabShul. He also leads services, and has been officiating b’nei mitzvot for Hebrew Helpers since 2017. His fields of study include American history, sociology, literature, and art history.

Asher Levy

Asher Levy

Mentor

Asher is an LA native who is passionate about sharing the joys of Jewish learning in its many forms. The son of a rabbi and a product of Jewish day schools, he graduated from USC, where his work in ancient Semitic studies led to publication of a paper on the digital reconstruction of Dead Sea Scroll fragments. Asher currently serves as the musician in residence at Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue, and performs traditional music of his Sepharadi and Judeo-Arabic heritage with various ensembles.
Aliya Stuart

Aliya Stuart

Mentor

Aliya has been working in Jewish Education for the past eleven years, focusing on music and singing. A former camp counselor, Camp Assistant Director, and a long-time Songleader, Aliya loves instilling fun into Jewish education, adding “ruach” into every prayer, reading, and song. After graduating from UCLA, Aliya has been pursuing musical theatre (you’ll often find her singing at Disneyland!) while still continuing her work as a Songleader in the South Bay, and now Culver City’s Temple Akiba. Whether teaching pre-schoolers their “alef bets” or leading Bar or Bat Mitzvah services, it’s truly a joy instilling Jewish values and traditions through song.
Andrew Paskil

Andrew Paskil

Mentor

Andrew is originally from Huntington Beach, California and moved to New York City in 2013 to go to a musical theatre conservatory and then pursue a career in theatre. He is back in Los Angeles as of Summer of 2020! He has been teaching Hebrew school and privately tutoring for over 10 years and has been a camp director at both Jewish day camps and special needs day camps where he was also a song leader. He has also lead many services over the years for different synagogues in California.

Ben Wacks

Ben Wacks

Mentor

Ben has made Washington, DC his community where he teaches in the Gan HaYeled program at Adas Israel Congregation. In addition to mentoring for Hebrew Helpers, he also teaches a weekly Hebrew High school program for 7th-9th graders where he leads discussions on Jewish values in pop culture and American Jewish history.  He cares deeply about connecting with young professionals in DC through his leadership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and serves on the Steering Committee of Washington Hebrew Congregation’s young professional network called 2239. Ben grew up in South Florida where he graduated with his BA in Political Science and Jewish Studies at Florida Atlantic University.

David Schwartzbaum

David Schwartzbaum

Mentor

David is a teacher and comedian living in Los Angeles. He was born in Miami Florida, has lived in Philadelphia and recently moved to Los Angeles from Chicago Illinois. David has been working with Jewish students for a decade as a teacher and administrator. He currently works for several Jewish organizations in Los Angeles where he focuses on weaving the values of performing arts in with Jewish tradition. When not working with Jewish students, David is a working actor/comedian in Los Angeles. He has toured the country teaching improv, sketch and creative writing to thousands of people of all ages. David spends his free time either on stage, watching the Miami Heat or professional wrestling. The most impressive fact about David is he has proudly attended the past eight WrestleManias.

Deanna Neil

Deanna Neil

Mentor

Deanna is a writer, performer, Jewish educator, ritual leader and facilitator. She has served as officiant and cantor at high holiday and shabbat services nationwide, and creates highly personalized and innovative Jewish-based lifecycle rituals for families and individuals seeking deeper meaning and interaction with tradition. She has visited numerous synagogues, universities and camps as a workshop facilitator, scholar and creative artist in residence. She plays the ukulele, was trained in opera, and loves to hike and salsa dance.

Jeremy Borison

Jeremy Borison

Mentor

Jeremy Borison is from Cleveland by way of Michigan (Go Blue!), and has a wide background in Jewish learning and experiences. Beginning with Jewish Day School, continuing with a year of Judaic studies in Israel, and ongoing immersion in programs like The David Project, Eshel, and Birthright, where he has created and staffed programs that allow people of all ages to find their own Judaism. Jeremy has taught at Reform Hebrew School, as well as tutored Conservative and Orthodox Bar Mitzvahs. Aside from his mentoring for Hebrew Helpers, Jeremy works in television writing and can also be seen singing in the Jewish a cappella group Pella.

Leah Buckwold

Leah Buckwold

Mentor

Leah has been with Hebrew Helpers since its inception. Originally from Canada, Leah has lived all over the US, including San Antonio, Seattle, Salt Lake City. She lived in Israel for 3 years on various programs which helped her to become fluent in modern Hebrew. In Los Angeles, Leah has taught students of all ages in a variety of topics including modern Hebrew, Prayers, Jewish Ethics, Bible Stories, Jewish History. She has worked with many private students and synagogues include Stephen S. Wise Temple, University Synagogue, Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Temple Akiba, Adat Shalom, Beth Shir Shalom, Malibu Jewish Center and IKAR. She also worked as a Judaica Teacher at Camp Ramah Ojai and created and taught an interactive curriculum for the 10th graders about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Leah is a member of the IKAR Davening team, helping to lead and inspire participants through prayer. Leah’s passions include speaking Hebrew, farmers markets, and her adorable dog, Moxie. Purple, as anyone who knows Leah can attest, is her signature color!
Marnina Wirtschafter

Marnina Wirtschafter

Mentor

Marnina hails from Berkeley and moved to LA to study Communications and Theater at UCLA. Her Jewish education ranges from Jewish Day School, to organizing for justice with Bend the Arc, to studying historic Jewish culture on the ground in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus. She is passionate about making Jewishness accessible, meaningful, and joyful. Marnina also works as an actor, violinist, singer, and teacher at the Jewish Learning Center.
Melissa Raub

Melissa Raub

Mentor

Melissa Raub hails from the bustling town of Scranton PA (yes, like The Office!). She went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she received her BFA in Acting. Need a voice? When Melissa is not mentoring students, she can be seen behind the microphone doing voice overs! She received her MA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2017. Melissa loves to educate young Jews in the richness of the religion, as well as cook any type of food (especially Jewish food)!
Michael Schatz

Michael Schatz

Mentor

Michael is thrilled to work on managing Hebrew Helpers on the East Coast as the East Coast Coordinator. Michael holds a doctorate in Jewish Education from Gratz College and an honorary doctorate from JTS.  A longtime Jewish educator and administrator, Michael also works as director of curriculum and instruction at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley,  and lectures and conducts tours of historic Jewish Philadelphia.  Michael spent many years as a USYer and USY director, and a Camp Ramah counselor and Rosh Edah (Poconos). In addition to his Jewish education work, Michael is an avid reader, and a pretty awesome baker specializing in challah, banana bread, and hamantaschen.

Natasha Cooper Benisty

Natasha Cooper Benisty

Mentor

Natasha Cooper-Benisty was raised in London and Long Island, but now calls New Jersey home. She holds a Bachelors in Drama from Vassar and a Masters in Jewish Communal Service and Nonprofit Management from Gratz. Natasha attended Jewish Day School and lived in Israel after college, where she became fluent in modern Hebrew. She currently teaches 3rd grade Judaics and Hebrew at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, NJ and 5th and 6th grade Hebrew at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, NJ. Natasha enjoys sharing her enthusiasm about Judaism with her students, as well as watching them learn and express their excitement about their faith.

Rachel Moran

Rachel Moran

Mentor

Rachel Moran is a Jewish educator with many years of experience in religious school teaching, songleading and one-on-one B’nai Mitzvah lessons both in Philadelphia and now in Los Angeles. A graduate of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Rachel has worked with Society Hill Synagogue in Philadelphia and Temple B’nai Abraham in Massachusetts. A singer/songwriter herself, Rachel loves to connect to Judaism through music. Rachel wants to show her students that preparing for their B’nai Mitzvah doesn’t have to be stressful and scary, but can be an amazing and fun experience. In her spare time, Rachel loves cooking, gardening, hiking and playing guitar.

Rachel Olshin

Rachel Olshin

Mentor

Rachel Olshin hails from the home of the best schnitzel sandwich on the East Coast, (Chickies, if you’re ever in Teaneck, NJ!). She has twelve years of Jewish day school education, spent a year studying in Jerusalem, and prefers matzah with cream cheese to matzah pizza. During her time at Queens College, City University of New York, she received a double BA in Media Studies and History and served on as Religious Coordinator and the Shalom Hartman Migdalim Fellow at Hillel. When she’s not teaching Hebrew school and mentoring students, Rachel’s a screenwriter, screen watcher, and gym-avoider.

Ronit Aranoff

Ronit Aranoff

Mentor

Ronit loves working one-on-one with Bar/Bat Mitzvah students and has so since her own Bat Mitzvah! A graduate of NYU School of Drama, Ronit ran the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program at the Park Avenue Synagogue for 5 years. The daughter of a cantor, Ronit has Jewish music in her genes and brings her love of singing and all things Jewish to her work with students. In addition to her work with Hebrew Helpers, Ronit is the assistant to the Cantor and oversees the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program at Adat Ari El in Valley Village. She is an actor, writer and web series producer and brings a fun, energetic spirit to her work.

Sarahann Goldstein

Sarahann Goldstein

Mentor

Sarahann currently serves as a Director of Admissions at The Jewish Theological Seminary and has been working in the world of informal Jewish Education for over 10 years working in various communities. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, she taught in various religious schools and worked at the Ramah Day Camp in Philly. She moved to NYC to serve as the Assistant Director of Education at a congregation on the Upper West Side. Sarahann values making Jewish education meaningful and relevant by asking critical questions of why our traditions are significant in our lives today. When Sarahann isn’t mentoring her students, she can be found running in Central Park or checking out a new eatery in the city.
Sarah Gronlund-Jacob

Sarah Gronlund-Jacob

Mentor

Sarah grew up very active in the Jewish community. She has taught Kindergarten, 3rd Grade and 6th Grade in different schools in New Jersey, Boston, and now Los Angeles. She thinks that learning should be both challenging and exciting.
Shana Caplan

Shana Caplan

Mentor

Shana Caplan recently graduated from Thomas Jefferson University with a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy. She attended Camp Ramah in the Poconos as a camper and staff member for many years. Shana’s love of teaching goes back to her teens, when she assisted in Hebrew School classes, and she continued as a Hebrew School teacher during her undergrad years. During her free time, Shana enjoys figure skating, playing sudoku puzzles, and eating at local Philly restaurants.

Sigi Ravet

Sigi Ravet

Mentor

Sigi Ravet is an actress and performer who has mentored kids all over the Los Angeles area for the last decade. She has taught at multiple Hebrew schools and worked closely with teenage girl groups. Originally born in Jerusalem, Sigi is a fluent Hebrew speaker and triple-citizen who grew up on both US coasts. She spent her childhood in Jewish day school and Camp Ramah in Ojai. Sigi has been lucky to combine her passions for acting and love for kids as a mentor at Hebrew Helpers — guiding her students toward an animated, thrilling, and exciting overview of all things Jewish. When she’s not mentoring, you can find Sigi performing on stage, often in Jewish shows (The Diary of Anne Frank, Bad Jews, and The Immigrant are a few recent productions). Sigi loves comedy and uses it in all elements of her work. She is grateful to have found a dual career pursuing her craft while mentoring kids and even more grateful to her parents for raising her with a love for Judaism so that she wouldn’t need to take a restaurant job.

Zohar Fuller

Zohar Fuller

Mentor

Zohar is a theatre director and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. She has worked in Jewish education for the past fifteen years. This has included teaching at synagogues and Jewish day schools throughout Boston and NYC, being a counselor at Camp Ramah in New England, and privately tutoring students. She has an M.F.A. in Directing from Boston University and loves cats, biking, and cooking.