Judaic Studies

Rabbi Dovid Appelrouth

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Rabbi Appelrouth was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Post high school, Rabbi Appelrouth studied for 10 years in Yeshivot and Kollelim in Jerusalem. He earned a Bachelor’s of Talmudic Law and received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Shlita, of the Jerusalem Beit Din, during that time. Since 2007 Rabbi Appelrouth has served as the Educational Director and Associate Rabbi of the Forest Hill Jewish Centre, a blossoming young shul at Spadina and St. Clair, where he has taught hundreds of classes on Chumash, philosophy, and Talmud, and has been instrumental in creating vibrant and dynamic educational and social programming for the FHJC. Rabbi Appelrouth holds a Masters in Judaics from the Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies, and is very excited to join the staff at YOC.

Rabbi Messod Azoulay

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Rabbi Azoulay was born and raised in Toronto and is a graduate of Or Haemet Sephardic School and Yeshivat Ner Israel Toronto. Post high school, Rabbi Azoulay studied in various Yeshivot and Kollelim in Eretz Yisrael while living there for 9 years. He received his Semicha from Dayan Hacham Amram Assayag of Toronto and from the Posek, Rabbi Yitzchak Kaufman of Yerushalayim. After serving as the Assistant Rabbi of the Sephardic Kehila Centre for 3 years, Rabbi Azoulay has recently started a new position as Rabbi of Magen David Congregation. Rabbi Azoulay is excited to return for his second year at YOC!

Rabbi Gal Ben-Meir

Sgan Menahel

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A dynamic and creative educator, Rabbi Gal has extensive experience in formal and informal education. He has served as a school Rabbi and Music Director in Israel and was the Vice Principal of Judaic Studies and Director of Jewish programs for the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas. He is a HaKotel Hesder Yeshiva graduate and received his Smicha from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Gal is a graduate of the Straus-Amiel Institute which provides practical training for Rabbis and educators for the Diaspora.

Mrs. Talyah Ben-Meir

Limmudei Kodesh Teacher

Mrs. Ben-Meir has extensive educational experience, most recently as teacher and head of informal programs at the King Solomon school in Israel. She has served as the head of the Ulpan department at the Ariel School and was a teacher at the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas. She taught at HaRova and at the Nitzanim special education school. Mrs. Ben-Meir has a Teaching Diploma and B.A. in Special Education from the Efrata Teachers College in Jerusalem. Mrs. Ben-Meir is excited to bring her warm and caring personality to Toronto and connect with different types of students. In her spare time, she enjoys music, nature walks and storytelling.

Ms. Miriam Bessin

Student Activities Coordinator and Athletic Director

Ms. Miriam Bessin was born and raised in Toronto. After graduating from Ulpana, Miriam spent a year pursuing Judaic Studies in Midreshet Harova in Jerusalem. She returned to Toronto where she completed her B.A. (Honours) in Religious Studies as well as a B.Ed. in Education at York University. Most recently, she obtained her certificate in Experiential Jewish Education from Yeshiva University. She has been teaching Tanach and Physical education at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2009.  Lovingly referred to as “Prof” by her students, she also serves as the Athletic Director and Student Activities Coordinator. 

Mrs. Sara Erlich

Ivrit Teacher

Mrs. Sara Erlich graduated from Telma Yelin School with a degree in Musical Studies, and obtained her Bachelors degree in Hebrew Literature and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University after completing her military service. Prior to working at Bnei Akiva Schools, Mrs. Erlich taught literature and language to grades 7 to 10 in Israel. In addition to teaching, she has held administrative positions at Maccabi Health Services and Bank Leumi, with responsibilities ranging from employee recruitment and training to lecturing at seminars. Before arriving in Canada, Mrs. Erlich received an award for “Above and Beyond” achievements at her workplace in Maccabi. Mrs. Erlich has been teaching Ivrit at BAS since 2006. Over the past few years, Mrs. Erlich has developed the curriculum for her department, incorporating important elements of the Hebrew language. Mrs. Erlich has a great passion and devotion for the Hebrew language which she enjoys passing on to her pupils, emphasizing the language to be a fundamental requirement at BAS. She has had many students contact her from Israel thanking her for the level of Hebrew mastery that she has been able to instill.

Mr. Avichai Geldzahler

Limmudei Kodesh Teacher

Mr. Geldzahler learned in Yeshivat Shavei Chevron in Hebron. He served in the IDF Givaty combat unit. After that, he continued his studies at Yeshivat Machanaim in Gush Etzion. He has experience in informal education with Bnei Akiva and Mashatzim, as well as as a counselor in a basketball camp. Mr. Geldzahler enjoyed writing poetry and plays piano, guitar and drums. He looks forward to joining Bnei Akiva Schools as a shaliach.

Mrs. Emanuelle Geldzahler

Limmudei Kodesh Teacher

Mrs. Geldzhaler managed Bnei Akiva’s Amishav program, integrating French Olim in the movement’s branches. She has a degree in Special Education and Literature from Efrata College. Prior to that, she served two years of Sheirut Leumi: first in Zichron Menachem, a non-profit organization aiding children with cancer; and secondly as an educational counselor in the Masa program in Midreshet Yeud – Beit Gesher. She Mrs. Geldzahler enjoys creating art and music and looks forward to contributing to the Bnei Akiva Schools community during her shlichut.

Rabbi Moshe Goldberg

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Rabbi Moshe Goldberg was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Telshe Yeshiva High School – Chicago Branch, and afterwards Telshe Yeshiva, Wickliffe, Ohio where he received smicha from Rav Mordechai Gifter and Rab Boruch Sorotskil z”l.
His career began as a Rebbe in Miami Beach in the Mesifta program, and in Rabbi Yochanan Zweig’s Yeshiva. He moved to Toronto in 1984, teaching at Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah, then at the Mesifta of Yeshiva Gedola Zichron Shmayahu, where he continues to teach today. He has taught the senior class at Yeshivat Or Chaim since 1996. Rabbi Goldberg has authored the Seforim “Bikurei Moshe” on the Shas and on the Torah U’Moadim.

Rabbi Seth Grauer

Rosh Yeshiva/Head of School

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Rabbi Seth Grauer has been the Rosh Yeshiva / Head of School at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2013. Prior to joining BAS, Rabbi Grauer served as the Assistant Principal at Yeshiva University High School for Girls (“Central”) in New York, where he played an essential role in managing the day-to-day operations for this 300-student girls high school. Before that Rabbi Grauer was a leading educator for 9 years at Ramaz Upper School (“Ramaz”) in Manhattan, NY. In addition, for eight years, Rabbi Grauer worked with teenagers at various summer camps in a leadership capacity. Most recently he served as Camp Rabbi and Director of Education at Camp Lavi and Rosh Kollel and Head of Chinuch at Camp Moshava (Wild Rose). Rabbi Grauer was trained in teacher mentorship and supervision through the Jewish New Teacher Project and has a certificate in Israel education from the Israel Center of Education. Rabbi Grauer also received the prestigious Grinspoon-Steinhardt award for excellence in Jewish education. In addition to his roles in educational institutions, Rabbi Grauer served for five years as the Associate Rabbi at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan. Rabbi Grauer studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion (“Gush”) in Israel for two years, served as their Director of Alumni Affairs for nearly five years, is a member of their Board of Directors and is the current Chair of their Rabbinic Committee. Rabbi Grauer was also honoured as the Yeshivat Har Etzion Alumnus of the Year in 2010. Rabbi Grauer received his B.A. in history (honours) from Yeshiva University and was a founding member of their varsity golf team. Rabbi Grauer received smicha from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University and received his doctorate in Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. He also earned a J.D. from Fordham Law School and served as editor of the Environmental Law Journal. Rabbi Grauer was a Rabbinic Court Intern (summer) at the Beth Din of America and a Legal Intern (summer) at the New York State Supreme Court and the New York State Office of the Attorney General. Rabbi Grauer lives with his wife, Leba and his four children, Yonina (13), Yosef (11), Gila (9) and baby J.J. in Thornhill, ON.

Mrs. Lori Grysman

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

During the week, when Mrs. Lori Grysman is not teaching her Monday Mishpacha class to the Grade 12 girls at Ulpanat Orot, she is teaching Chumash and Navi in the middle school at Netivot Hatorah. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba, a teaching certificate from the province of Manitoba, and a Master of Arts degree in Hebrew Literature from New York University. She is proud to have been in the first Gemara class taught to women at Stern College, and was profoundly influenced by her Torah studies in Israel with Nechama Leibowitz, z”l. Mrs. Grysman is also active in adult education and teaches a weekly Torah class.

Rabbi Yair Halevi


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Rav Yair HaLevi received his rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinate of Israel and Yeshivat Hamivtar as well as a B.Ed and M.Ed Degree in Talmud and Tanach from the Herzog College. Rav Yair taught Gemara at Orot Yehuda Yeshiva High School (3 years), and was the a Ram of grade 11. Rav Yair served as the Director of the Overseas Program at Yeshivat Hesder Otniel. In addition to directing the program, Rav Yair served as a Ram to both Israeli and Overseas first year students and taught Gemara, Tanach and Chasidut. Rav Yair then continued to Yeshivat Orayta (4 years), where he served as Director of Informal Education, a Ram and Rosh Kollel in the yeshiva. During the summers Rav Yair has been involved in Bnei Akiva programs, and also served in the Infantry Corps in the IDF. Rav Yair and his wife, Tanya, have three children, Ohr-Eitan, Adiel and Roni Shirat Yocheved.

Mrs. Shyndee Kestenbaum

Limudei Kodesh Teacher and Coordinator of Religious Guidance and Growth

Mrs. Kestenbaum has been working in the field of formal and informal Jewish education for the last nine years. She worked at NCSY and Torah High, as a city director for Toronto NCSY and teacher of Jewish Philosophy, Jewish Ethics, Religious Studies and Israel Advocacy. She also spent many summers as an assistant director of Camp Etz Chaim in Moscow, Russia as well as Director of Jewish Programming in Camp Northland Bnai Brith. Mrs. Kestenbaum manages a graphic and media company and is in middle of completing her MBA in marketing. She lives in Toronto with her husband Uri and three sons and is teaching Judaic Studies and Media Arts at Bnei Akiva Schools.

Rabbi Ephraim Kleinberg

Director of Educational Technology and Religious Growth

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Rabbi Kleinberg has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2015. Prior to that, Rabbi Kleinberg taught at SAR High School and served as Rabbinic leader at the Ohr Torah Congregation of Edison, New Jersey. Rabbi Kleinberg studied at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem, received his B.A. in Religious Studies from York University, smicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and an MS in Jewish Education from The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration (AGS) where he continues to pursue his doctorate in Education. In addition to teaching at both schools, Rabbi Kleinberg supports greater tfillah connection and assists in the continued development of our Judaic studies curriculum. Rabbi Kleinberg also oversees the integration of educational technology and 21st century learning skills.

Rabbi Yosef Kurtz

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Mr. Yosef Kurtz is a graduate of Yeshivat Or Chaim and has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2015. After graduating from Or Chaim, Yosef studied at Yeshivat Hakotel for two years and completed his degree at York University. While at York, Yosef discovered his passion for Jewish education and begun working with NCSY Canada. Yosef has has been teaching Jewish Philosophy, Religious Studies and Jewish Ethics at Torah High for the past 9 years. While working for NCSY, Yosef completed an MBA at the Schulich School of Business, specializing in Marketing and Finance. Yosef is still involved with NCSY Canada as well as manages a Media and Advertising firm. Yosef currently lives in Toronto with his wife Stephanie and daughter.

Ms. Lea New-Minkowitz

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Almost five years ago, Lea made the move from Brooklyn, New York to Toronto. She is thrilled to join the Bnei Akiva Schools community as a teacher of Tanach and Jewish history. Her prior classroom experience runs the gamut of Jewish day school education, ranging from Chabad institutions to pluralistic community schools. After spending a year in seminary in Tzfat, Lea graduated summa cum laude from Stern College for Women with a B.A. in history. She also holds a dual M.A. in Hebrew & Judaic Studies and Education & Jewish Studies from New York University, where she studied as a Wexner Fellow and Jim Joseph Foundation Fellow. Lea is currently completing a B.Ed at York University and expects to receive her Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) certification in the coming year. Lea lives with her husband and baby daughter in downtown Toronto.

    Mrs. Sara Munk

    Assistant Principal

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    Mrs. Sara Munk has distinguished herself as a leading educator in Judaic Studies curriculum, new teacher mentorship and pedagogy. She holds an M.A. in Secondary Jewish Education and Administration from Azrieli Graduate School and a B.A. in Jewish Studies from Stern College. Mrs. Munk taught at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School for nine years, teaching Tanach and Jewish History. She also created curriculum, acted as Israel Guidance Counselor, ninth grade advisor, and coached the basketball team. She has also worked in camp settings, as a division head and chinuch specialist. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Munk oversees the Judaic studies curriculum at Ulpana, and provides guidance to our girls in advance of seminary applications.

    Mr. Jonathan Parker

    Grade Coordinator

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    Mr. Jonathan Parker was born in Buffalo, New York, and has been teaching in Toronto since 2003, when he began at Or Chaim and Ulpanat Orot as an English teacher. He has undergraduate degrees in English and History from S.U.N.Y. Binghamton, a Master’s Degree in Teaching English from Boston University, and is a graduate of the Senior Educators Program at Hebrew University where he wrote his thesis on Tanakh education. After four years of teaching English at Bnei Akiva Schools, Mr. Parker taught Limudei Kodesh at Associated Hebrew Schools. For the last six years Mr. Parker has been a Social Sciences teacher and Dean of Students at TanenbaumCHAT, in addition to the volleyball coach, Advanced Placement Program coordinator, and supervisor of the Duke of Edinburgh award. Mr. Parker is ecstatic to be returning to YOC after his short hiatus. His wife, Rina, and their three children are also looking forward to rejoining the community.

    Rabbi Hartley Perlmutter

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Rabbi Hartley Perlmutter has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2013. Prior to that, he taught Limudei Kodesh at SAR Academy, in Riverdale, NY. Rabbi Perlmutter has extensive experience in the world of informal Jewish education including NCSY (Canada, Central East, New York and New Jersey regions), Camp Moshava Ennismore, Moshava Bai’r Toronto and NCSY Summer programs. Rabbi Perlmutter holds an Honours BA in Religious Studies from York University and Smicha from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (REITS), as well as an MSc degree from Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Perlmutter brings energy, engagement and excitement to both the classrooms and hallways.

    Mrs. Hodaya Pituchey Chotam

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Prior to joining Bnei Akiva Schools, Mrs. Hodaya Pituchey Chotam taught Ivrit and Judaic Studies at the Hebraica Hertzl-Bialik School in Caracas, Venezuela. She was also a counselor for overseas students in Midreshet Eshel in Jerusalem. Prior to that, Mrs. Pituchey Chotam taught Judaic Studies at Am Yisrael Echad’s schools. She served in Sheirut Leumi at the Halabi Syrian community in New York as well as Coordinator of the Israeli branch of Bnei Akiva. Mrs. Pituchey Chotam teaches Ivrit and ensures that our hallways are beautified with valuable Torah content and current Israeli news.

    Rabbi Aviad Pituchey Chotam

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Rabbi Aviad Pituchey Chotam is very excited to return for his fourth year at Bnei Akiva Schools. Prior to joining BAS, he and his family spent a wonderful year of teaching Hebrew and other Judaics at Hebraica Hertzl-Bialik school in Caracas, Venezuela. Prior to that, he coordinated a Tanach program in Yeshivat Har Etzion, Alon Shvut and was a counselor in Gesher Educational Center for study and dialogue of Jewish identity and Israeli society. Rav Aviad has also taught in Alon Shvut Elementary School and in OTS Neve Shmuel Yeshiva High School. Rabbi Aviad has a BEd and MEd in Education. Rabbi Pituchey Chotam coordinates our shlichim program, has developed a relationship with Herzog College and Shaanan College, and has been instrumental in integrating technology, new media and creativity into YOC’s Ivrit program.

    Mr. Hillel Rapp

    Director of Education

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    Mr. Hillel Rapp joined the Bnei Akiva Schools administration in 2016 with an extensive background in both Jewish Education and Finance. In education, Mr. Rapp was most recently the Dean of Students at the Ramaz Upper School in New York City where he managed a substantial co-curricular program featuring more than 80 after-school activities including academic clubs, publications, sports teams, drama and the arts. In his six years at Ramaz, he also designed curricula and taught courses in Economics, Business, History and Philosophy. Mr. Rapp was appointed Chair of the faculty committee conducting a comprehensive, two-year, internal review of Student Life and Culture, School Mission and Equity and Justice for accreditation by the New York Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). In finance, Mr. Rapp managed business development and investor relations, specializing in hedge fund and private equity investments, at Dunbar Capital Management in New York City and Exigent Alternative Capital in Israel. Mr. Rapp holds a B.A. in Psychology from Yeshiva University where, in addition to pursuing his degree and full-time Torah study, he worked as a Project Manager for YU’s Center for the Jewish Future. Mr. Rapp, his wife, Racheli Meister (’01), and their young son Jack just moved from Israel to Toronto and are excited to be joining the Bnei Akiva Schools administrative team.

    Rabbi Noah Sonenberg

    Director of Judaic Studies, Yeshivat Or Chaim

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    Rabbi Sonenberg has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2003 and has taught Torah, Halacha, Philosophy and Gemara. He is the head of the Gemara department and has developed a four year Gemara curriculum which works on developing the students’ ability to learn independently. Rabbi Sonenberg has a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a focus on genetics. He studied in Yeshivat Bircas Hatorah in Israel after completing his university degree. Rabbi Sonenberg is passionate about learning and teaching Gemara. In addition to teaching at our school, he also teaches adult Gemara classes in the community. Rabbi Sonenberg is married to Mrs. Rifka Sonenberg, who teaches at Ulpanat Orot and together they have three children: Tamar, Boaz and Yishai.

    Rabbi Daniel Thwaites

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Rabbi Daniel Thwaites was born and raised in Manchester, England. After making aliyah at the end of high school, Rabbi Thwaites studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion for eight years where he combined Torah study with his service as an infantryman in the IDF and also studied for Rabbinate Ordination. In addition, Rabbi Thwaites worked extensively with the overseas program of the Yeshiva as a madrich and as director of the night seder program, as well as studying History and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rabbi Daniel is passionate about Jewish education and is thrilled to be joining the staff of Yeshivat Or Chaim and Ulpana this coming year, together with his wife Yardena and their son Choni.

    Mrs. Yardena Thwaites

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Mrs Yardena Thwaites has been a mechanechet for the past five years at various ulpanot in Israel, the bulk of which was spent in Ulpanat Orot Modi’in. In addition to teaching Judaic Studies and History, she was also the Dean of Student Activities. Prior to teaching she studied at Midreshet Harova for four years and received a B.ed from Efrata College Jerusalem. She served during her sherut le’umi as a coordinator in the Bnei Akiva branch of Bnei Barak and later continued to coordinate various programs in Bnei Akiva Israel. Mrs. Thwaites spent many summers at Bnei Akiva machanot as a camper, counsellor and division head. She and her husband, Rabbi Daniel Thwaites and their son Choni are very excited to be joining the schools.

    Mrs. Ora Ziring

    Limudei Kodesh Teacher

    Ora (Shore) Ziring, an Ulpanat Orot alumna, studied at the Keren Ariel program at Nishmat to become a Yoetzet Halacha, and taught Talmud and Halacha at Midreshet Emunah V’Omanut. She has previously worked as the Shoelet UMeshiva at Stern College and has an MA from the Graduate Program for Talmudic Studies at Yeshiva University and a BA from York University. Ora teaches Limudei Kodesh at Ulpanat Orot and oversees the women’s Beit Midrash at UO in conjunction with the YU Torah MiTzion Beit Midrash Zichron Dov of Toronto and JLIC. She and her husband, Rabbi Jonathan Ziring have two sons, Meir and Aharon Yehudah.