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 came to Temple Isaiah in 2016, excited to be a part of a vibrant and warm community and to lead the Religious School (now Kulanu) Program, and Temple Isaiah quickly became a home for my family and me. It is my goal to help make it the same for all our families, focusing my efforts on continuing to build the Kulanu program in a way that fosters a sense of family engagement and community, while also providing a solid base of Jewish literacy for our students.

I am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I grew up attending services and Religious School at Congregation Shalom. As I went through their program, eventually serving as a teaching assistant in the Religious School, the Rabbi-Educators played a big role in my own Jewish development that they inspired me to pursue this calling as my role in the Rabbinate.

I attended the University of Wisconsin where I graduated with a double major in History and Hebrew Studies, continuing to serve in the role of assistant teacher and then lead teacher, at Temple Beth El. In addition, I was a leader in Hillel and a member of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, where a highlight was the chance to march in the 1994 Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game. After college, I continued on to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, first in Jerusalem and then in Cincinnati. During that time, I served as a Religious School teacher at Temple Sholom, Rockdale Temple and the Valley Temple, in addition to serving as a Student Rabbi at B’nai Israel of Columbus, Mississippi, Beth El of Tyler, Texas, and Beth Israel of Colleyville, TX.

Following ordination in 2002, I moved to the outskirts of Houston to serve as Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah. During my two quick years there, I met and married my wife Rachel, a Baltimore native who had moved to Houston to work for the Hillel there (she is now the Family Engagement Coordinator at the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore). We then moved on to St. Louis where I served for seven years at the Rabbi of B’nai El Congregation. During this time, Rachel and I welcomed our sons Ari and Joshua into our lives.

We moved back to the Baltimore area in 2011 when I took the position of Education Director at Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia. During my years there, I gained the knowledge and skills I needed to move on to the more expansive role of Rabbi-Educator, the role I initially went to school to pursue. My family and I were indeed fortunate when the opportunity at Temple Isaiah was the first to come our way. Working with Rabbi Axler, Rachel Petroff Kessler, the rest of the staff and the lay leadership is a true blessing for which I am grateful each day.

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 basketball and engaging in walking and light hiking whenever I have the time. I am an active reader, especially biographies of American historical figures, having completed a project of reading a biography of every U.S. president from George Washington to George HW Bush. I live with my family in Pikesville, along with our insane dog, Shushan.

More recently, in 2019 I was awarded a Graduate Certificate in Jewish Educational Leadership from the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University and in 2021 recognized with the title of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE) by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators.

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 — Kulanu 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.