Jeffrey T. Baden

Jeffrey T. Baden, Executive Director
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For nearly 30 years, Jeff Baden has served the Jewish communities of Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Ann Arbor in a variety of leadership roles, including Executive Director of both the Cincinnati and Ann Arbor JCCs, Director of Planning and Allocations for the Greater Cincinnati Jewish Federation, Director of Early Childhood Education for the Indianapolis JCC and Director of Camp Livingston (a Jewish resident camp).  While in Cincinnati, Jeff met his wife, Rabbi Ilana Greenfield Baden, who grew up in Libertyville.  When Rabbi Baden was offered a position with Temple Chai in Long Grove, Jeff left the Ann Arbor JCC so that the family could “return home.”  Jeff and Rabbi Baden have two children and reside in Buffalo Grove.  In his spare time, Jeff enjoys practicing magic, as well as playing and recording Jewish music.

Hazzan Barbara Barnett

Hazzan Barbara Barnett, Ritual Director
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A Chicago-area native, Hazzan Barbara Barnett has served area congregations for more than 20 years as teacher, ritual director, and cantor. She received her investiture into the Cantors Assembly in 2014 and obtained her commission as Hazzan-Minister in 2018. 

For the past several years, Barbara has worked for NSS BethEl’s Cohen Religious School, running the school’s Tefilah Program and its  hugely successful Jr. Congregation (which serves NSS Beth El’s second-through sixth- grade families). Before joining Beth El’s teaching staff, Barbara served as Ritual Director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook for 13 years, overseeing its large B’nai Mitzvah program (and tutoring more than 700 students). She served for several years as the Cantor at Congregation Beth Am (Buffalo Grove), and has long been part of the Council for Jewish Elderly’s clergy rotation, leading services and interacting with residents at Weinberg in Deerfield. Barbara holds Biology Bachelor’s degree and an M.A. in Political Science, and is an award-winning author and public speaker. She has published works on a wide variety of topics, from pop culture to Jewish life and liturgy. 

Anna Besser

Anna Besser, Jack & Mildred Cohen Religious School Director
847-432-8900 x227 or 847-926-7904

Anna Besser is an experienced educator with over 20 years of involvement in Jewish Education. She is committed to making sure every child who enters the Cohen Religious School leaves with a desire to continue their learning, pride in their heritage and a love for all humanity. Anna earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Rutgers University and her Master’s in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She holds a Hebrew Teacher’s License and a Principal’s License from the National Board of License for Teachers and Principals of Jewish Schools in North America.

Most recently, Anna served as the Education Director at Congregation Beth Judea for 15 years. During her time at Beth Judea, she introduced technology, experiential learning, small group Hebrew learning, incorporated chugim into the school curriculum and developed a teacher mentoring program. She also collaborated with local congregations to develop a post-B’nai Mitzvah learning program for teens. She is one of the founding educators for jCo-op, which offers engaging study, informal social gathers and experiential learning opportunities for teens in the Northwest suburbs.

Anna was born in Russia and is fluent in Russian. She and her husband, Michael reside in Vernon Hills with their three children.

Kory Goldenberg

Kory Goldenberg, Steinberg Pre-School Director
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Kory is a graduate of the University of Arizona and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education.  Kory’s Early Childhood career began in San Francisco, CA, where she worked at Marin Day Schools as a Preschool Teacher, Toddler Teacher, Kindergarten Teacher, Infant Teacher, and Curriculum Coordinator. Kory spent her last six years in San Francisco as the Assistant Director for Congregation Sherith Israel’s Preschool program before relocating to Chicago.  After joining her husband in Chicago in 2006, Kory was thrilled to remain a part of the Jewish community as she became the Director of Early Childhood for the Florence Heller JCC in Lakeview. After ten years as the Director at the JCC, Kory and her family relocated to Deerfield. Kory is a dedicated Early Childhood Director with over twenty years of experience in the field. She is passionate about working with young children, committed to creating strong family partnerships and is enthusiastic about creating play based, Reggio Emilia inspired Jewish Early Childhood programming.


Aliza Drumm

Aliza Drumm, Director of Congregational Learning

Ali Drumm is the Director of Congregational Learning, having served the community of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El since August 2003. Ali holds a BA in English Literature and Middle Eastern Affairs from the University of Miami, a master’s degree in Jewish Professional Studies at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, and the title of “Conservative Jewish Educator” (‘CJE’) through the Jewish Educators Assembly. Ali’s background has included experiential education from youth groups to USY Pilgrimage to Camp Ramah, the board of the national Jewish Youth Directors Association and Jewish Educators Assembly, as well as promoting adult education and serving as a teacher for our adult education classes and managing our children’s services. Ali Drumm directs and supports our amazing educational team by facilitating collaboration, cooperation and coordination through the entire educational department.  She helps set strategic goals and makes sure the vision of the synagogue finds expression in the implementation of those goals in the everyday life of our educational initiatives. Ali directly supervises our (Miriam and Bernard H. Sokol Hebrew High School) Jewish Teen Project. She and her husband Michael live in Highland Park, and have four children.


Sarah Topal

Sarah Topal, Director of Youth and Family Engagement
847-432-8900 x214 or 847-432-2040

Sarah Topal joins our staff as Director of Youth and Family Engagement. Sarah was the Youth and Family Coordinator at Adas Israel in Washington D.C., and has served as the Program Director for Camp Ramah Darom. She holds degrees in Elementary Education and Education Technology from the University of Florida and a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Her work has given her opportunities to interact with students from all ages and in a variety of Jewish settings

Rachel Kamin

Rachel Kamin, Director of Lifelong Learning
847-432-8900 x242 or 847-926-7903

Rachel Kamin has been a synagogue librarian for over 20 years, serving as the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center since 2008.  She serves on the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award Committee and contributes articles and book reviews to BookLinks, School Library Journal, Jewish Book World, Judaica Librarianship, Library Journal, and AJL Reviews. She facilitates our Sisterhood Torah Fund Book Club and also leads book groups at several other area synagogues.  A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel contributed a chapter to The Tot Shabbat Handbook: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young Families in Congregational Life edited by Paula Feldstein (URJ Press, 2010) and is currently working on a chapter about Jewish children’s literature for a book about using diverse nonfiction children’s literature in K-8 classrooms to be published by the National Council for Teachers of English. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.

Judy Berkeley

Judy Berkeley, Director of Development and Membership
847-432-0703 or 847-432-8900 x262

Judy joined the staff of NSS Beth El as Director of Development in the fall of 2017 and became the Membership and Development Director in the spring of 2019.

As Development Director, Judy works with staff and volunteer leadership to execute development strategy in supporting our annual giving program, major gifts, legacy giving, and Capital and Endowment Campaigns. Judy comes to us with vast Development experience in the Jewish community; including the United Jewish Communities, Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, and Am Shalom Synagogue in Glencoe.

As Membership Director, Judy works with staff and lay leadership on member recruitment and engagement. She staffs the membership committee and she is the first point of contact for all potential members. She walks them through the process of becoming a member of our Beth El family and getting them involved in our special and vibrant Beth El community. Please contact Judy for information on becoming a member of NSS Beth El!

Judy received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Double Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Services and Social Work from Hebrew Union College and the University of Southern California. A lifelong Jewish community worker, Judy is committed both personally and professionally to helping to ensure a strong Jewish future for our congregation and community; l’dor vador. She is truly humbled and honored to be working at such an incredibly strong, flourishing  and vibrant congregation like NSS Beth El.  While not at Beth El, Judy can be found spending time with her family in Glencoe, where she grew up and now resides with her husband Stephen and four children; Benjamin, Becca, Joseph, and Matty.

Abe Rotbart

Abe Rotbart, Director of Finance

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Abe is a dual American-Israeli citizen. After growing up in Chicago, Abe lived 13 years in Israel and 16 years in New York. A CPA graduate of the University of Illinois, Abe spent 4 years in public accounting, both in Chicago and Tel-Aviv, before entering the private sector. Abe has six years’ not for profit experience in the capacity of Director of Finance, managing accounting departments, and serving as a strategic planning partner to the Boards of the Rockland County NY JCC, Federation and Jewish Family Services as well as the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning based out of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On the corporate level, Abe has close to 20 years’ experience as a CFO and Controller for industries including Legal Collections, Pharmaceuticals, Textiles, Wholesale Distribution and Third Party Logistics. He is avid supporter of Israel and of Jewish Education. While living in Israel Abe was ordained by the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He has four children and today makes his home with his wife in Skokie.

Abby Lasky

Abby Lasky, Director of Communications

Abby Lasky joined the Beth El team in October of 2017 as our Director of Communications. Abby’s background is in graphic design and digital communications where she has over 30 years of experience. Prior to working at Beth El, Abby handled all of the print and communications for a small private school in Northbrook. Previous to that position, she had her own freelance graphic design business working with clients in B2B and B2C markets as well as working on-site for other agencies. Some of the specialties of the agencies included hospitality, magazine publishing, healthcare, and packaging. Abby received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and also attended University of Wisconsin in Madison. Abby grew up in Farmington Michigan, and now lives in Northbrook with her husband Ed and three children.

Laura Frankel, Chef

Laura Frankel, Chef, Director of Hospitality and Catering
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Laura Frankel is a noted Chef, author, blogger and media personality. Most recently, Frankel served as the Culinary Director for Kosher Media International. Additionally, Laura worked as the Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Catering.  Chef Laura is an avid blogger and also writes for The Jerusalem Post and Eating Well magazine.  She is the former chef and founder of the Shallots restaurants, with training and extensive experience in both savory and pastry kitchens.

After Laura had a family and began maintaining a kosher home she found that there was nowhere in Chicago serving the quality of food that she knew she could offer.  She opened her first restaurant in 1999, offering kosher fine dining with a produce-driven menu. Laura opened Shallots NY in 2000 in midtown Manhattan. In 2004, she moved her Chicago restaurant to Skokie, and created Shallots Bistro.

Chef Laura has cooked for many dignitaries, including: Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Joseph and Hadassah Lieberman, Presidential Candidate Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev, President George Bush, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Spielberg, Senator Hillary Clinton, Ivanka Trump, and many others.  Laura was honored as an innovator in Modern Kosher Farm to Table Cuisine at the 25th anniversary celebration of Kosherfest in the fall of 2014. She was the only Female Chef/Author ever to be honored at Kosherfest.

Office Staff

Kathy Stinson, Business Operations and Membership Database Manager
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Ana Igornov, Clergy Executive Assistant
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Michele Friedland, Steinberg Pre-School Assistant Director
847-432-8900 x235 or 847-432-7910

Anne Loshbough, Religious and Hebrew High School Assistant
847-432-8900 x225 or 847-432-8924

Rayna Forman, Religious and Hebrew High School Coordinator
847-432-8900 x225 or 847-432-8924

Marcie Eskin, Education Coordinator and Librarian

Elise Kline, Office Administration/Communications Associate/Accounts Payable
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John Patrascu, Facility Manager