Religious School Staff

Rabbi Lia Bass has been teaching in a variety of Jewish Day Schools and afternoon Religious Schools for the last 36 years, which is a good Jewish number — twice the numerical value of the Hebrew word Hay, 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.

Rebecca Benoff has been teaching at Etz Hayim for two years. She works full-time at the Edlavitch DCJCC and is originally from the Philadelphia area. She attended The George Washington University where she studied Psychology and Judaic studies. Rebecca teaches our Kitah Zayin (7th Grade) class and is also our Youth Group Director.

CJ Burka spent all of high school working as a madricha at Etz Hayim, before leaving the area to go to New York where 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’ll be bringing creative ideas and fun activities to our 1st and 2nd Grade students on Sundays.

Melissa Kaps teaches Judaics and Hebrew for Kitah Dalet (4th Grade). She has been teaching at Etz Hayim for over 5 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 5 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, and 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 Kitah Gimmel (3rd 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 third 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 fourth year of teaching at Etz Hayim. He is originally from the Chicago area, and is currently a senior at American University, where he studies international relations and Russian language. He recently returned from a semester abroad in Russia and a summer as a camp counselor 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. Hannah teaches a Jews and Film elective and continues to help with our younger students. She is also active in BBYO.

Amanda Sky is originally from Herndon, Virginia and moved to New Bedford, MA in 2013. She is a sophomore at American University and has been involved in either teaching or being a madricha (classroom aide) in a Hebrew School for 4 years. Amanda teaches our Kitah Hey (5th Grade) class and her students especially enjoy the prize auctions!

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 3rd year teaching at Congregation Etz Hayim and looks forward to helping a new group of 3rd graders explore and develop their Jewish identities.

Adam Cohen has been a member of Etz Hayim for over 10 years and has two children who started in Etz Hayim’s pre-school (and who fortunately have moved on to the upper grades from there).  He went to the University of Virginia as an undergraduate and is a lawyer practicing tax law.  He also practices extreme sarcasm and will co-teach the Jews and Comedy portion of the 8th and 9th grade class.

Ron Rosenberg and family have enjoyed 12+ years in the Etz Hayim community, from the kids’ pre-school through b’nai mitzvot (one pending).  A native of South Florida, Ron was born and bred to retire, wear guayaberas, and inveigh with Yiddish.  As such, he is particularly excited, if only marginally qualified, to co-teach Jews & Comedy to our budding comedians in the 8th and 9th grade class.  He’s a lawyer, his mother would add.

David Altman is a sophomore at American University and is studying for a BA in Criminal Justice. He is from Randolph, NJ. Growing up, David attended URJ Camp Harlam, even going back in the summer of 2016 to be a counsellor. He also worked at his home temple for five years, both teaching and helping in the religious school’s office. David is extremely excited to begin working at Etz Hayim and can’t wait to see what the year holds!