Religious School Staff

Rabbi Lia Bass has been teaching in a variety of Jewish Day Schools and afternoon Religious Schools for over 36 years, which is a good Jewish number — twice the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai”, which means life. In other words, Rabbi Bass has been teaching for two lifetimes! Rabbi Bass is excited to work with Kitah Vav (6th Grade) and guide them through the life-long pursuit of learning Torah through the chanting of Torah and Haftarah.

Shayna Beyer is a sophomore at The George Washington University majoring in Biological Anthropology. She spent her junior and senior years of high school as a madricha at her home congregation in Nashville, TN, and loves being an active part of Jewish life. She’s spent 7 summers at Camp Livingston and 3 years of high school in NFTY, both of which have shaped her Jewish identity. In her free time, Shayna loves to hike, sing, and lifeguard. 

Samuel Blake is a sophomore at The George Washington University majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in the Middle East and minoring in Hebrew and Geography. At his congregation in his hometown in Colorado Springs, Colorado Sam taught Hebrew and religious school for six years. He is excited for this year co-teaching Kitah Zayin on Sundays with Amanda Sky. Aside from being active in Jewish life at GW, Sam loves to cook and bake for his friends and family, go to orchestra and choir rehearsals, reading, hiking, and attending concerts.

CJ Burka spent all of high school working as a madricha at Etz Hayim before leaving the area to go to New York. She studied Geography, Political Science and Global Studies. Four years, a BA and an ever-growing distaste for New York traffic brought her back home, where she will bring creative ideas and fun activities to our 1st Grade students on Sundays.

Sharon Kaps has been teaching at Congregation Etz Hayim for over 6 years. She currently teaches Judaics for Kitah Vav (6th Grade). She moved to the Northern Virginia area after getting her degree from Wellesley College, where she majored in International Relations and Jewish Studies. She also spent a year in Israel on a study abroad program. Sharon keeps us on trend with her sassy hair colors!

Laura Naide is the Director of Religious Education at Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington, Virginia, where she is responsible for the Religious School, the B’nei Mitzvah and Adult Education programs. Laura has taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies for over 30 years to students ranging in age from pre-K to adult. She also has written curriculum for and taught online Jewish Studies courses. Laura especially enjoys family programming and celebrating the Jewish holidays.

Robyn Norrbom has taught in our Religious School for 4 years. She teaches Kitah Gan (Kindergarten) on Sundays and Kitot Gimmel (3rd Grade) and Dalet (4th Grade) on Wednesdays. Robyn also teaches in our congregation’s preschool. Her favorite Jewish holiday is Tu B’Shevat because “trees are awesome!” Her favorite Hebrew letter is “yud.”

Will Rivlin is returning for his fifth year of teaching at Etz Hayim. He is originally from the Chicago area and recently graduated from American University with a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Russian and Area Studies. He recently enjoyed a summer as a counselor in a Hebrew immersion program at a Jewish camp in Wisconsin. Will doesn’t enjoy long walks on the beach because he doesn’t like the feeling of sand between his toes.

Kara Sherman is a sophomore at The George Washington University, studying sociology and political science. Kara was a Madricha for three years at her home synagogue in Scottsdale, Arizona and loves Jewish education. She served for two years as her temple youth group’s religious and cultural vice president and has written for the Jewish Women’s Archive. When not at synagogue, Kara loves being outdoors and reading, and she’s incredibly excited to work with Congregation Etz Hayim’s 3rd/4th grade class!

Amanda Sky is originally from Herndon, VA and moved to New Bedford, MA in 2013. She is a Junior at American University and has been involved in either teaching or being a madricha (classroom aide) in a Hebrew School for 5 years. Amanda co-teaches our Kitah Zayin (7th Grade) class on Sundays with Sam Blake and teaches Kitah Zayin’s Hebrew class on Wednesdays.

Adam Wassell hails from the great state of North Carolina. In 2012, Adam graduated with a BA in Political Science and American History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Adam has been involved in the Jewish community all his life and has taught religious school for more than 12 years. In 2012, Adam took his passion for Jewish education to Jackson, MS where he worked as a resident Jewish educator at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. In this role, Adam worked with 15 congregations to provided educational and programmatic support to their religious schools. Today, Adam serves as the Director of Development for the PIKE Foundation who mission is the provided educational, leadership, and personal development opportunities to more than 16,000 college students nationwide. Adam is going into his 5th year teaching at Congregation Etz Hayim.

Natasha Bryan is an experienced child care provider who also happens to be a pre school teacher here at Etz Hayim. She has been working with children for over 20 years. She holds an A.A.S in early childhood education from northern Virginia community college and a B.S in Applied behavioral science from Ashford University.