Craig H. Axler
Shalom! It’s my pleasure to welcome you to Temple Isaiah (virtually at least).
I came to serve as rabbi of Temple Isaiah in July of 2012 and, together with my family, have found here a congregation that I can honestly say would be the synagogue I would choose for my family and myself. What we’ve discovered here at Temple Isaiah is a place that is friendly and warm; where the values and traditions of Judaism come together with an open and progressive vision for the future! Ours is a community that spans the generations (MiDor La’Dor); where joyful song resonates off the walls of our sanctuary; where hands are joined together in the sacred task of repairing our shattered world (Tikkun Olam); where we come together to study, wrestle and draw inspiration from the sacred texts of our people (Limmud).
A few things about me that might be of interest:
I’m a native of the Philly area, and served as a rabbi at Congregation Beth Or for nine years before I arrived at Temple Isaiah. I was ordained at the New York campus of the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in 2003, having been awarded an M.A. in Hebrew Letters in 2002.
Before I entered rabbinical school, I studied and worked for a number of years in the field of Music Therapy, completing my B.S. in Music Therapy at SUNY—New Paltz. My love of music connects with my love of Judaism. I was a songleader at the Union for Reform Judaism‘s Kutz Camp and Camp Harlam, where I have the great pleasure of serving on faculty every summer!
Among my other joys are cooking and baking, reading, enjoying the great outdoors and (above all else) spending time with my family. My wife Pamela is also a Music Therapist, and we are the (tired) parents of Lev, Eliana, and Noam. Additionally, my parents, Barry and Leslie, have recently moved to the area and become members of Temple Isaiah. We live in Clarksville and are very happy to be making our life in Howard County.
If you’re intrigued by any of the above, you’ll find a little more here in the Vision Statement I prepared when I interviewed to become the rabbi of Temple Isaiah. You can also find some of my writings on the Rabbi’s Sermons page. You can also find an archive of some of our LiveStreamed services here.
Contact me by phone at 301.317.1101 or by using our Contact Page.
Shelley Engel, FSA
As Executive Director, I oversee the daily operations of the synagogue, and am responsible for various duties that expand across all aspects of congregational activities. I serve as a liaison between congregants and the Board of Directors.
Prior to coming to Temple Isaiah, I was the Executive Director at Har Shalom in Potomac and B’nai Shalom in Olney, as well as Administrative Director for the Religious Action Center (RAC), the social justice arm for the Reform Movement. Additionally, I serve on the Board of Governors of the North American, and a certified fundraising professional through the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). I was the chair of the 2020 NAASE International Conference.
I have a B.S. from the University of Maryland in Management and Community Studies. I grew up in Bowie, Maryland and now live in Columbia, where I have been for more than 30 years, with my husband Todd. We are the parents of two daughters, Randi z’l was married to Richard Leshin who lives in the area, with their two boys, Landon and Ilan, while Jayme is living in North Carolina with her husband Justin Boling and their two children Piper and Dax.
Please contact me if you want to know more about membership or Temple Isaiah in general.
Amanda K. Weiss
I am thrilled to originate the role of Assistant Rabbi at Temple Isaiah, finding my home in Howard County immediately after my ordination in May 2023.
During my time at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I honed my love of a relational rabbinate through my work at Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester NY, Temple Shaaray Tefila of Westchester NY, Temple B’nai Chaim of Georgetown CT, and Temple Sinai of Summit NJ.
A lifetime lover of learning I have also received an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, graduate certificates in Jewish Education Specializing in Adolescents and Emerging Adults and Pastoral Counseling from HUC-JIR and Jewish Nonprofit Management from Gratz College, and a BA in Psychology and Judaic Studies from The George Washington University.
I have worked in the field of experiential Jewish education for over two decades, from directing high school programs to creating middle school curriculum, to six years in the Hillel field, working for Hillel at Cornell University, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State University. With a passion for Judaism, leadership, innovation, and building relationships, I believe in the power of meaningful and memorable engagement.
Some fun facts about me include:
You can use our Contact Form to reach me for anything I can help with.
I have been leading Temple Isaiah in song since 2010. Born and raised in Alexandria, VA, I attended the Madeira School before heading off to Vassar College, where I earned a B.A. in Religion. After working in San Francisco for a few non-profits, I enrolled in graduate school, earning a Master’s of Social Work from Columbia University, with a focus on families and children. I spent three years working as a social worker and school-based mentoring coordinator at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, before taking the leap to answer my true calling — becoming a cantor! I attended Hebrew College in Boston for two years and earned a Certificate of Jewish Sacred Music. I was thrilled to be hired as the cantorial soloist at Temple Isaiah and to move back home to the Washington, D.C. area.
I met and married my husband Aaron in D.C. and we now have two delightful boys, Hershel and Milo. I love leading Temple Isaiah congregants in prayer and singing my heart out. I also love working with children, and spent many years teaching early childhood music.
Rachel Petroff Kessler, RJE
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.
Rabbi Daniel Plotkin, RJE
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.
My family and I have been members of Temple Isaiah since 2019 and we were thrilled that our daughters were able to attend TIPS. They are now continuing their Jewish education through Kulanu. Originally from outside of Philadelphia, I attended Penn State and received a B.S. in Elementary and Kindergarten Education in 2005. After college, I attended the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC as a student in the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, receiving my MA in Jewish Education in 2008.
Throughout my career, I have worked as both a Jewish and secular educator. While in college and graduate school, I worked in several religious schools, staffed youth group events, and worked as a counselor and unit head at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and Camp Ramah in New England. After moving to DC in 2008, I taught for four years at JPDS, now known as the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School. While teaching Kindergarten and 1st Grade, I learned about the Reggio Emilia philosophy and implemented components of it in my classroom. After meeting my (now) husband, Matt, we moved to Howard County in 2011 where I worked at Bet Yeladim with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. I also taught Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd Grades for several years in Baltimore County. After welcoming our daughters, Abigail and Isabel, I began working at the Jewish Federation of Howard County as a Program Associate. My focus was PJ Library and engaging families with young children. I also worked as their Marketing and Communications Associate. I am thrilled to bring my career to Temple Isaiah and have the honor of working at this incredible preschool. I look forward to meeting all of our families and working closely with this amazing team of educators.
Contact Allison if you have any questions about our Preschool classes, TIPS for Tots, or enrollment.
I have been a teacher at Temple Isaiah since 2017. The first year I worked with 3-year-olds, and have been with the 4-year-olds ever since. I absolutely love teaching and nurturing your children. I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1990 with a degree in English and journalism. I spent 25 years working for The Humane Society of the United States. During that time, I began taking Early Childhood Education classes, because it knew it was something I would want to pursue. I worked as a substitute teacher for the Howard County Public School system for six years before starting at Temple Isaiah. My husband and I were married in 1996 and have three children (who aren’t really children anymore!) — Zack, Ashley, and Samantha. I love watching children learn and grow, and am humbled to think that I am responsible for a small part of that. In my spare time, I love to walk my amazing dog, Brody, as well as read and bake.
Contact Eileen if you have any questions about our Preschool classes, TIPS for Tots, or enrollment.
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.
I am thrilled to bring the new role of Behavior & Learning Specialist to the Temple Isaiah Preschool Team. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-C) with eight years of experience working under the umbrella of mental health. I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Maryland, School of Social Work. I am very passionate about what I do. Working with children and families has been my niche for as long as I can remember. Prior to joining the TIPS team, I spent time as a child, adolescent, and family therapist, as well as an early childhood behavior consultant with TIME Organization, a nonprofit servicing Baltimore City and surrounding counties.
I grew up in Germantown, Maryland. After earning my Bachelor’s from University of Maryland, College Park, I spent time in Baltimore City where I ended up meeting my now-husband, Max. We currently live in Columbia, Maryland with our son, Anthony and doggo, Otto. We are also members of Temple Isaiah, joining in 2020.
I am excited to join the awesome TIPS team and am looking forward to getting to know all of our families!
Contact Jenny for any questions related to the Preschool.
At Temple Isaiah, I serve as the Communications Coordinator, where I maintain our website, post to our social media accounts, edit and design The Prophet Magazine, and other printed marketing materials. I moved to Maryland from Indiana, where I was the Marketing Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Program Director for the Indianapolis Bureau of Jewish Education, and operated a small print and web design company, alephMEDIA, working primarily with non-profits and small business owners. I have also been an adjunct professor at the Indiana University School of Journalism teaching visual aesthetics, photography, and print and web design. I have a BS in Media Production and an MFA in Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts, both from Florida State University, as well as another BS in Graphic Arts Technology (Photography and Graphic Design) from Florida A&M University. I’ve done additional Doctoral coursework in Art Education and in Journalism. My husband Jeremy is the Rabbi at Machar: The Secular Humanistic Jewish Congregation of Greater Washington. We live in Ellicott City with our teenaged son, Shaye.
I joined the Temple Staff in June 2015, after working many years at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore as an Administrative Assistant. Prior to the JCC, I was the Office Manager of Beth Shalom Congregation of Carroll County. I find it enormously satisfying helping the B’nai Mitzvah families every step of the way. To be honest, I am as excited as they are when the big day finally arrives. I am also Rabbi Axler’s administrative assistant; working with a man that I respect and admire, in our dynamic work environment, is very rewarding. My husband Howard and I have two grown sons, one of whom is married. When I’m not at work, I enjoy taking exercise classes at the local gym, spending time outdoors and traveling with my family.
I began working at Temple Isaiah 2005 as an assistant preschool teacher. In 2009 I also became the Assistant to the Religious School Director, finally “graduating” from the preschool in 2010 when I became the Temple Isaiah Administrative Assistant. My daughter was a student in the very first Temple Isaiah Preschool class, Mommy and Me, taught by Morah Renée Panoff at The Meeting House. My son was a Bar Mitzvah with Rabbi Mark Panoff, Emeritus and a member of Rabbi Craig Axler’s first Temple Isaiah Confirmation Class. I live with my husband and two children in Clarksville.
Contact me if you have questions about billing, school registration.
Rabbi Mark J. Panoff
Rabbi Mark J. Panoff grew up in the Boston area and received his BA from Hamilton College in 1967. He was ordained as a Reform rabbi from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati (1973). During rabbinical school he studied in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University and HUC.
Rabbi Panoff has a MS in Marriage and Family Counseling, and has done graduate work at Yale University, NYU and The Baltimore Hebrew University. In 1998 he received his honorary Doctor of Divinity from HUC.
Arriving at Temple Isaiah in 1986, Rabbi Panoff led this congregation until his retirement when he became the congregation’s Rabbi Emeritus in 2012. Prior to leading Temple Isaiah, he was a rabbi at Central Synagogue (NYC), Congregation B’nai Abraham (Hagerstown, MD) and Congregation Mishkan Israel (Hamden, CT).
Rabbi Panoff, together with his beloved wife Renée (of blessed memory), left an indelible mark on this congregation with over 26 years of leadership and vision. He now resides in Boca Raton, FL.