Brukhim Haba-im: Welcome to our New Staff!

By Siân Gibby | Issue Date: Winter 2015

Anyone who has been a BJ member for even a short period of time knows that the shul has a knack for hiring great staff people—and our latest crop of hires is no exception. New positions allow us to tailor duties to the specific needs of the synagogue as it changes, grows and explores new facets of our responsibilities in the Jewish community and the world in general.

We look forward to enhancing our relationships with our new staff members as we head into BJ’s future together.

Esther BedollaEsther Bedolla — Administrative Assistant, Education Department
In Esther’s own words: “I grew up in San Antonio, but I was born in Mexico and just got my U.S. citizenship in August. I did my undergrad work at the University of Texas at Austin and then a master’s degree at University College London in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. After moving back from the U.K., I got a job at a start-up in Texas. When that start-up relocated, I moved to New York because I wanted to work at a nonprofit, and there are more opportunities in that area here.” As to what she likes to do in her free time, Esther replies: “I like watching movies, reading books I wish I’d been taught in school (e.g., Tolstoy, Lawrence, etc.), drawing and embroidery.”


Suzy BursteinSuzy Burstein — Director of Operations
Suzy is too quick-witted, warm and funny to capture in just a few words, but to focus on a few facts: She is a Midwesterner who grew up “high Reform” in the Chicago and Pittsburgh areas before going to American University to study Communications. She spent 18 years at Hadassah; among her duties was organizing their annual convention. Her main interest is travel. When I asked her for travel favorites and highlights, she rattled off a mind-boggling global list: Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, among others. Bonus fact: She is a mere two states away from visiting every one of the United States of America.


Eran CohenEran Cohen — Jr. Staff Accountant, Finance Department
Eran told me: “I was born and raised in Nahariya, Israel. I moved to the U.S. two years ago. I studied at Ruppin Academic Center in Economics with a concentration in Accounting. How did I arrive at BJ? I searched so I could continue with my accounting career, and I saw an opening at BJ. I preferred to work in a Jewish environment because it reminds me a little bit of home. My hobbies are playing basketball, doing sports, and watching movies.”


Daniel LeDonneDaniel LeDonne — Marketing Communications Associate
Daniel says: “I grew up on Long Island, and got my bachelor’s degree from NYU. After graduation, I traveled to Israel for a year as a volunteer English teacher at an elementary school, which is where I was put in touch with Stephanie [Berger] who was looking for a new hire. By the grace of some minor miracle, that hire became me. I got back stateside in July and started work at the end of August. For pastimes, I enjoy reading, writing and playing guitar. Guilty pleasures include dark chocolate, action movies, and practicing my Hebrew while I watch my Israeli friends wince.”


Jo IcazaJo Icaza — Program Coordinator, Rabbinic Office
Jo told me: “I was born in Ecuador. I moved to Naples, Florida, in 1999 looking for something different. Then I moved back to Ecuador in 2001, but found that ‘you can’t go home,’ so I returned to Naples in 2003 and lived there until August 2014, when I moved here. I always heard about BJ from the rabbis and educators at the synagogue where I worked in Naples: its energy and ruah. So, I visited BJ for Kabbalat Shabbat services a few times when I was in NYC, thinking, ‘This would be a great place to work!’ I saw the ad for a Program Coordinator on, and here I am. I like martial arts, walking in parks, taking online courses on anything that captures my curiosity, and reading.”


Allison KapustaAllison Kapusta — Assistant Director of Education for Early Childhood
Allison went to Binghamton University and got an M.A. in Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary. In grad school, her study focused on Shabbat and holiday programs for infants and young children. She worked in Jewish education and community engagement at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in DC and Romemu in New York City. At BJ, Allison supervises staff and current programs for families with young children, including Bim Bam, PJ Library and Children’s Services. Her favorite things include chocolate and Post-It notes (not necessarily in combination), and ice hockey. “I am a huge NY Rangers fan!”


Nina LoftspringNina Loftspring — Assistant Director of Education for Curriculum and Learning
Nina got her master’s degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. Before coming to BJ, she worked in development on HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus. Nina is a 2009 graduate from Indiana University with a triple major in Jewish Studies, History, and Non-Profit Management. She grew up in Cincinnati. Her hobbies include drinking coffee in Central Park, traveling and spending time with her family.


Rena NasarRena Nasar — Intern, Communications Department
Rena says: “I’m from Brooklyn. I’m a student at Baruch College majoring in Journalism and Middle East Studies. My family is Syrian- Jewish. This job opportunity was sent to me from the Executive Director at the Hillel at Baruch. I started in summer and am loving what I’m doing at BJ. For fun, I like to write. And I also sing in a band. We perform gigs in the city— one is coming up in February.”


Leah MichelsonLeah Michelson — Assistant to Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon and Executive Director Steven Goldberg
Here’s what Leah had to say: “Though I was born here in New York, I grew up in Cleveland. As an undergraduate, I studied Psychology at The College of Wooster and earned my master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Animal Behavior and Conservation from Hunter College. I have worked for a variety of organizations, including The Bronx Zoo and The Nathan Kline Institute/New York University. After dedicating much of my academic and professional career to science, animals and research, I was looking to become a part of a community where my work would have a direct positive impact on its members. As a social justice-minded woman, I jumped at the opportunity to work for such an inspirational synagogue.” As to hobbies, Leah says, “I love to listen to NPR, see live theater, and play with my chihuahua, Hunter. I belong to a book club that always has me reading on the subway, but I also love to spend my commute listening to podcasts like This American Life and The Moth.”

Sian Gibby is a writer/editor at the Calandra Institute and Tablet Magazine’s copy editor.