Alice Miller, FTA, Executive Director
Alice Miller came to Temple Beth Sholom as the Executive Director on October 15, 1999, the day that Hurricane Irene surprised Miami, and coincidentally, Corey Reiter’s Torah portion that weekend was Noah. After losing power at 1:30 in the afternoon, Alice learned that “the show must go on at TBS.” While we closed the office, the Shabbat dinner and service went on as planned, very romantically, by candlelight.
Alice was raised in New York and attended Temple Israel in New Rochelle from Kindergarten through the 12th grade. Reform Judaism was always an important part of her upbringing.
A graduate of the University of Vermont in Burlington, Alice worked for JCPenney in the corporate office in Manhattan. In 1972, she moved to Florida and worked for Jordan Marsh Department Store for 15 years as an Assistant Controller. She became the Executive Director of Bet Breira Congregation in Kendall in 1987-1998, and spent almost a year at Temple Beth Orr in Coral Springs prior to coming to Temple Beth Sholom.
Alice earned her Fellow in Temple Administration (FTA) in 1992, after completing a series of tests and writing a thesis entitled “The Pre-school as a Synagogue Marketing Tool".
Alice has served on the national board of NATA and has been the President of the local chapter of FASTA (Florida Association of Synagogue and Temple Administrators) since 1998. She is one of the founders of Mothers' Voices of Florida, an educational AIDS organization, where she was the treasurer for three years.
Alice feels blessed to work at Temple Beth Sholom with its dynamic staff and lay leadership. In 2003, Alice and Fran Levey, her Life Partner, went on the Magical Mitzvah Tour to Israel. Although having been to Israel two times before, nothing could compare to this trip led by Rabbi Gary Glickstein and Cantor Steven Haas--to be guided through Israel as part of the Temple Beth Sholom family and what has come to be – a very special extended family.
In 2006, Fran and Alice had the first commitment ceremony ever held at Temple Beth Sholom, conducted by Rabbis Glickstein, Davis, Pomerantz, Cantor Haas and special guest soloist, Debbie Friedman (זצ"ל) In 2011, Fran and Alice legally wedded in Connecticut in a private ceremony.
Mark Baranek, Director of Education & Youth
Mark Baranek was born in Toronto, Canada. He went to school at the Associated Hebrew Day School of Toronto followed by the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. Mark did his undergraduate work in International Relations at York University in Toronto. Later, he finished his Master's Degree in the Horenstein Program from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
In 1983, Mark got his first position as Assistant Director of Education at Temple Emanu-El. He then spent eight years as Director of Education at Temple Samu-El or Olom in Kendall. Finally in 1997, Mark came to Temple Beth Sholom and holds the title of Director of Education and Youth. He is responsible for all education programs from "birth to college".
Mark has been active in the community for many years. He has been a member of the Coalition on Advancement of Jewish Education since 1988 and was on the National Board for two years as the Southern Regional Representative. He is a member of the NATE (National Association of Temple Educators), ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), CED (Council of Education Directors), H.E.A.(Hebrew Educators Alliance). Mark holds a Permanent Principal's License from JESNA and a continuing Hebrew Teacher's License from the Miami Board of License. He continues to grow professionally by attending conferences both locally and nationally.
Mark has visited Israel 26 times and has chaperoned numerous teen and adult groups. He lived in Israel in Jerusalem and on Kibbutz Tel-Yitzchak. Mark has also been a Bus Captain on the March of the Living, a two-week journey to Poland and Israel, 7 times. Mark has been a volunteer Basketball Coach at Miami Senior High School since 1988. His teams have won 7 State Championships during that time.
Numerous players have gone on to play at the College level and even the NBA. Three of his players are active in the National Football League. Mark loves his work and gets the most satisfaction of seeing the smiling, nurtured, and positively impacted children of Temple Beth Sholom.
Margie Zeskind, Director of Early Childhood Education
Margie Zeskind holds a Master of Science Degree in Pre-K/Primary Education. She started her tenure as the Director of Early Childhood Education at the Foundation School in July 2007. Prior to this position, Margie was the director of the Helene and A.B. Wiener Early Childhood Department for the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) in Miami, a Reform Jewish Early Childhood Educator for nine years and a Religious School Educator for seven years.
Margie authored two simultaneously awarded National Covenant Foundation Grants for the Jewish South Florida Early Childhood Community. Additionally, she is a co-author of the, “I Went To My Cousin’s Crispening,” a resource guide for Jewish Early Childhood Educators dealing with issues surrounding religious diversity. She is one of the co-developers of the Kesher L’ Yisrael Initiative that was designed for early childhood educators to partner with children and families to build connections to Israel, the Land, the People, and the State.
Margie was a validator for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a trainer for the state of Florida certificates awarded by the department of “Children and Family Services,” and an Adjunct Professor of Early Childhood Education at Miami-Dade College. Additionally, she served on the Miller Early Childhood Initiative Advisory Board for the National Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Early Childhood Education Academic Advisory Board for Miami-Dade College. She co-authored the curriculum guide for the ADL publication, All Kinds Of… a Multicultural Early Childhood Work. She served on the State of Florida task force that developed Learning and Developmental Standards for Florida’s Youngest Children, Birth through Three Year Olds, sat on the Early Learning Coalition as the legislative-appointed “Faith-based” provider representative and served for three years as co-president of the National Jewish Early Childhood Network.
Samantha Bratter, Director of Advancement
Samantha Bratter has served as our Director of Advancement since December 2011. She is committed to strengthening the financial reserves of our congregation to ensure that future generations are able to continue our legacy and current members have access to financial assistance when needed. Her professional experience includes business management and philanthropic development.
A graduate of Hamilton College in New York, she also attended the Plekhanov Economic Institute in Moscow, Russia. Formerly of Stephen Wise Synagogue in New York City, Samantha and her husband, Joshua, moved to Miami in 1995 and live on Miami Beach where Joshua has an Immigration Law Firm. Their son, Maximo, enjoyed five wonderful years in the Foundation School and now attends Hebrew School at Temple Beth Sholom.
For more than 12 years, Samantha managed luxury retail businesses such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace and Emilio Pucci in Bal Harbour before transitioning to Development. Prior to joining the Temple Beth Sholom professional team, Samantha was a Development Officer at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation on Miami Beach and managed their Community Partnership Program as well as coordinated their Founders and Young Presidents Boards.
Samantha is a member of the Reform Synagogue Development Professionals Group, Planned Giving Council of Miami-Dade County, the National Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Miami Chapter of Fundraising Professionals. She has been very active in our community for over 17 years. Samantha's work in Miami's philanthropic community has included involvement on various committees and Boards including the Hadassah Galim Chapter Board, Women's Cancer League, North Beach Elementary PTA, North Beach Elementary Friends Board, Miami Children's Hospital Foundation, Jackson Memorial Foundation Metropolitans Board, City of Miami Beach Fine Arts Board, City of Miami Beach Safety Board, NBC6 Women of Tomorrow Advisory Board, Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Representative, Chai Lifeline Foundation, Mount Sinai Young Presidents, Gary Hall's Circle of Champions Diabetes Foundation, NCJW and co-founding the American Jewish Committee Young Professionals Network.
Samantha feels it is a great honor to be assisting our Temple Beth Sholom family in planting the seeds to protect our community's future, l'dor v'dor, from generation to generation.
Shula Ben-David, Director of Bar/Bat Mitzvah Emerita
We wonder if Rabbi Leon Kronish knew the treasure he brought to Temple Beth Sholom when he added a young Israeli to our teaching staff in 1964. Since then, Shula Ben-David has introduced our children to the Hebrew language, to the culture and history of Israel and, most important, to a love of our religion.
Shula's own love of tradition is a result of the loving and religious home from which she came. Her father was a scholar of Talmud, Zohar and Kaballah and his wonderful and enlightened teaching nourished her love of tradition. In turn Shula was able to pass this beauty of Judaism to our children. Once in Miami, she continued her learning with three great men who were her teachers, her mentors, and her spiritual advisors: Ruchama Marshak Redberg, Dr. Shlomo Kodesh and Rabbi Leon Kronish. It is important to acknowledge their presence in her life because of the influence they exerted upon her.
Shula has been involved with every level of Jewish education, from early childhood through adulthood: she has been Principal of the Hebrew School of Beth Sholom, has taught Ulpan to the adults, and has guided future Hebrew teachers. Today, we recognize her as the Director of Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation at Temple Beth Sholom. Teaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah has very special meaning to Shula. It gives her great joy to be the key in a student's feeling of accomplishment. She is the key to her students understanding of Torah and pride in their heritage and tradition. Shula loves to teach. It is her life. Every student is a new challenge because every Jew is different. This is what makes her task intriguing. She loves the sound of the Hebrew language.
In her words, "A Jew without Hebrew is like a body without a soul."
Lois Kotzen, Office Administrator
Lois Kotzen has been working at Temple Beth Sholom since 1990. She is a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School, attended University of Florida and George Washington University. She is also a graduate of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School and had her Adult Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Sholom.
Lois' children are Rabbi Andrew and Michal Koren, Stacy and Robert Budowsky and Dean and Dr. Rosa Kotzen. She also has six grandchildren. Max, Avishai, Shiri, Ethan, Mia and Rex.
Sharon Hoffman, Director of Member Services
Sharon Hoffman has been working at Temple Beth Sholom since 2006 and has been the Director of Membership since May 2008. In January 2011 Sharon assumed additional accounting responsibilities for Billing and Receivables. Sharon previously worked in accounting for a Miami apparel company.
A graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School, Sharon attended Miami-Dade College.
Sharon has one daughter, Jamie, who was a Bat Mitzvah and Confirmand here at Temple Beth Sholom. Jamie is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Tamara Donnenfeld, Program Director
Tamara Donnenfeld has been a Jewish educator since 1982. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tamara immigrated to the United States in 1988. Ms. Donnenfeld received degrees in Judaic Studies and Hebrew Education and earned a degree as a System Analyst.
She taught at day schools and religious schools in Los Angeles and Miami and later became a Family Education Director.
In 2001, she started her own Family Jewish Education consulting business developing curricula for day schools, Jewish community centers, religious schools and synagogues and in 2003, Ms. Donnenfeld moved to France, where she worked with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to develop educational programs for web-based activities.
Upon returning to South Florida in 2005, Tamara joined Temple Beth Sholom as the Program Director. Her passion for Jewish education, culture and Israel is infectious. She has dedicated her work to acts of kindness and strengthening the Jewish identity of teens and families.
Lorna Rodriguez, Director of Finance
Lorna has been leading the Finance Department since 2001, working closely with the Budget and Finance Committee and professional staff on all budgetary and financial matters of the temple. Prior to joining Temple Beth Sholom, she worked at Congregation Bet Breira for fifteen years with Executive Director Alice Miller and decided to make the commute from Kendall to Miami Beach to be part of the TBS team.
She was born in Cuba, the daughter of an overseas engineer and educator, and lived in several countries before making Miami her final destination. She attended Southwest Senior High and later Florida International University where she majored in Business Administration. Lorna and her husband, Luis, have raised two amazing children, Melissa and Daniel, both currently attending college.
Michael Svayg, Director of Building and Facilities
Michael Svayg is the Director of Building And Grounds. He came to Temple Beth Sholom in 1997 from Cleveland, Ohio, where he managed the building operations of Suburban Temple for over 17 years.
Michael was born in Chernovitzi, Ukraine and emigrated to the United States in 1980. He earned his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Chernovitzi State College and a Masters Degree from the University of Kiev in Plant Operations of Military and Civil Buildings. While in the Ukraine, Michael was a head manager of plant operations and an Assistant General Director of The Republic Gas Company.
Michael is married to Michelle, has a son Alexander, and two grandsons.