Meet Our Faculty

Our Kulanu Faculty is made up of a diverse group of individuals that includes members of Temple Isaiah and those from the Howard County community and beyond with a passion for teaching.  Many of our teachers are full time or professionally trained teachers, while others  work in a wide variety of fields including legal, medical, IT, real estate and more. Each teacher brings a commitment to Judaism, a love of teaching, and truly enjoy spending Sunday mornings (or evenings) with our students.

Our 2022–23 Faculty Members are:


  • PreK: Wendy Balentine
  • Kindergarten
    • Dara Glenn
    • Sara Rubinshteyn
  • 1st Grade
    • Ilene Gruber
    • Caryl Winter
  • 2nd Grade:
    • Lisa Chinn
    • Judith Golub
    • Rachel Leavey Plotkin
  • 3rd Grade
    • Rebecca Feldman
    • Erica Rutan
    • Sarah Sherman


Our Olim teachers work with students in all grades during Limmud and Ivrit.  For Chavurah and Tefilah they divide into grade teams:

    • Ellyn Becker Kaufman

    • Kevin Brown

    • Deborah Cope

    • Norah Goldstein

    • Karen Jablon

    • Mina Pertman

    • Laurie Stinebaugh

    • Shekoofeh Sussman

    • Stephanie Gurwitz Zurier

Sunday Morning Specialists

  • Music/Tefilah: Pam Axler
  • Hebrew Through Movement: Leor Bleier
  • Office: Joanne Brazinski

Gesher (7th Grade)

  • Justin Regan
  • Amy Weissenberger

Next Dor (8th–12th)

Our full time educators and clergy – Rabbi Craig Axler, Rabbi Amanda K. Weiss, Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, and Rachel Petroff Kessler serve as the Next Dor Faculty along with guest teachers from around the community.

Registrar: Beth Luntz

Kulanu Educators and Administration:

Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, RJE – Rabbi Educator

I truly love being at Temple Isaiah. Since coming here in 2016, I have worked with our amazing staff and faculty to ensure that our Kulanu at Temple Isaiah program is one that truly reflects our core principles of Jewish Literacy, Family, Engagement, and Community.

I am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, graduating in 1997. During those years I was privileged to learn from and work with multiple outstanding educators and began to form a vision of what I wanted Jewish education to be for the next generation. My student pulpit work during my years at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem and Cincinnati moved my career more in the direction of pulpit work. After serving Temple Beth Tikvah just outside of Houston and B’nai El Congregation in St. Louis for a total of nine years, I turned my focus back to Education.

I came to Howard County as the Education Director at Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia. During my five years there, I gained the knowledge and skills I needed to move on to the more expansive role of Rabbi-Educator here at Temple Isaiah. I have continued my education with a Graduate Certificate in Jewish Educational Leadership from the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University in 2019, and in 2021 I was recognized with the title of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE) by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators. I will be a member of the 11th cohort of the Mandel Teacher Education Institute beginning in March of 2024.

Outside of my love for what I do at Temple Isaiah, I am an avid sports fan, never forsaking my Wisconsin-based sports teams, but I have adopted the Orioles as my own as well. I enjoy participating in sports, playing pickleball, and engaging in walking and light hiking whenever I have the time. I am an active reader, more so non-fiction, especially books about American History. When possible, I still pick up my trombone and various other instruments.

Above all else is family. I live in Pikesville with my wife, Rachel, who is a Pikesville native and serves as the Operations and Program Manager for Na’aleh Baltimore, along with our two sons Ari (born 2007) and Joshua (born 2009), and our insane dog, Shushan.

Rachel Petroff Kessler, RJE — Director of Lifelong Learning

I have been at Temple Isaiah since 2010, working with kids and adults of all ages and stages as Family Educator. I’m also honored to service as a volunteer leader with the Association for Reform Jewish Educators, chairing the Inspiring Excellence committee. Originally from Syracuse, New York, I’ve worked as a Jewish educator in a variety of settings, including Hillel at Binghamton, Kutz: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens, and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan. I received my Bachelor’s in Middle Eastern Studies from Binghamton University and my Master’s in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York School of Education, where I was awarded prizes for excellence in Jewish education and Modern Jewish Thought.

I live in Columbia with my husband Marc, and three children, Hadas, Judah, and Nathan. I love keeping up with Daf Yomi, curling up with a good book, listening to Podcasts while working in the kitchen, and spending time with my amazing family.

Contact me for information about Jewish learning and engagement at Temple Isaiah, particularly programming for Families with Young Children and Adult Education.

Joanne Brazinski — Education & Youth Assistant

I grew up in a really small town with only a handful of Jewish families; the closest temple was a 45-minute drive away, but I enjoyed being in youth group when I was a teen. At NFTY events, it was amazing to meet so many other Jewish kids. I definitely feel that the post-B’nai Mitzvah religious school classes were the most valuable to me, which is why my family joined Temple Isaiah after my older daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. At our previous congregation, youth programming ended after b’nai mitzvah, and I wanted her to have the education and experiences I had, including youth group. Both of my kids joined SYTI, with the older one becoming president her senior year. Both also worked as madrichim at TI, so they got exactly what I had hoped for when we joined. I’m looking forward to helping kids grow at TI.

I have a BA in Drama and Psychology, but spent most of the last 28 years as a computer programmer. The past 16 years I’ve also volunteered at Girl Scout camp, first as a unit counselor and for the last six years as the Program Director. I began when my kids were young; now one has graduated college, and the other is a Junior at Towson. It’s hard to believe — my husband and I still feel like college was yesterday! Purim and Passover are my favorite Jewish holidays; I love making and wearing costumes and I enjoy the challenge of cooking for Passover. I attend a couple of anime conventions each year, wearing costumes I’ve created. More traditionally, I also quilt, belong to a local quilt guild, and teach it part time.

Contact Joanne for any questions related to the Temple Isaiah Youth Groups.