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.

Daniel Ben-Chitrit is a young Jewish Tech Professional in the DC area who has taught at Etz Hayim in the past.  He has been cooking and baking traditional Ashkanazi and Sephardic Jewish and Israeli food for the past 20 years but is known for his cakes and cupcakes.  He has traveled to Israel over a dozen time (and 20 other countries) and has studied Jewish history and food culture and laws around the world.

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.

Hi, my name is Lital Burr and I was born and raised in Israel. Thirteen years ago I moved to the United States, and I’ve worked in Jewish education ever since. I have 15 years of teaching experience and I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s in Judaic Studies.

It is a goal of mine to share my love of Israel and the Hebrew language with all of my students. I will incorporate themes and integrated units, projects, art, group work, individual work and hands-on learning in order to make children active learners. In the last fifteen years, I taught children aged 3 to 13. I am a Special Education teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools.  I look forward to meeting my students, parents, teachers and staff and being a part of this community. In my free time I love to read and cook great Israeli food.

Melissa Kaps teaches Judaics for Kitah Dalet (4th Grade). She has been teaching at Etz Hayim for over 6 years. When she is not teaching she works on environmental policy and incorporates environmental and community themes into class lessons. She loves manatees and introducing these beautiful, gentle animals to students in Northern Virginia.

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 Kumin is a food writer, cooking coach and the creator of MotherWouldKnow, a website that encourages and helps readers to become confident home cooks, and The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating & Entertaining in Hamilton’s World (Post Hill Press, 2017). She is not embarrassed by the number of spatulas, graters and cookbooks that she owns, or the fact that she buys chocolate in one-pound (or more) bars.

Julie Margolies is originally from the Boston area and graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in Child Development. She has experience working with youth of all ages and is excited to use her passion for youth-centered education to make an engaging experience for Etz Hayim’s 8th/9th class. Julie moved to Washington D.C. to be a Service Corps member with Avodah and is looking forward to bringing this experiences and her knowledge of Jewish social justice work to her classroom this fall. In her personal time, Julie loves to cook, dance and practice yoga. She also enjoys volunteering at her local farmer’s market.

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.”

Stuart Portman is delighted to be back for his fifth year of teaching at Congregation Etz Hayim. This will be his fourth time teaching Kitah Zayin, which provides an important curriculum on ethics, identity, and Torah. He graduated from GWU with a Master of Public Health degree in 2015, and currently works as a health policy advisor in the U.S. Senate when he is not teaching on Sundays. He is looking forward to a fantastic year!

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.

Hannah Rosman is a Junior at Washington-Lee High School. She has been a madricha (classroom aide) and trope tutor at Etz Hayim for the past two years.

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 Stuart Portman 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 for 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 10 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, providing educational and programming support to 15 congregations. Adam is going into his 4th year teaching at Congregation Etz Hayim and looks forward to helping a new group of students explore and develop their Jewish identities.

Sharon Beth Bronheim (Morah Sharon Beth) has been attending services at Congregation Etz Hayim since approximately 2012 and was on the Board from 2014–18.  She currently chairs the Emergency Preparedness Committee. Additional roles at Congregation Etz Hayim include gabbai, greeter, Torah reader, and occasional service leader. Currently a lawyer, Morah Sharon Beth has previously taught science for non-science majors at John Jay College, and coached the Rockville High School It’s Academic team from 1994-96.

Shaina Morrel is a student at The George Washington University majoring in International Affairs.  Shaina is passionate about Jewish living and learning.   She spent a semester studying in Israel and is continuing her studies in Hebrew and Judaic studies.  During the summer months, Shaina spends her time at Crane Lake Camp in Western Massachusetts where she will take on the position of Jewish education programming specialist this summer.

Shaina is from Central Massachusetts where she loves spending time with her 3 siblings.

In her free time, Shaina enjoys volunteering, being in nature, and spending time with family and friends.