Judaic Studies

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. This is Rabbi Azoulay’s first year teaching at Or Chaim and he is excited to join the Yeshiva!

Ms. Miriam Bessin

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

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 is in her seventh year with the Bnei Akiva Schools where she teaches Tanach and Physical Education and is the Athletic Director at Ulpana. Lovingly referred to as “Prof” by her students, she also serves as the grade 12 Mechanechet.

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. Currently in her 10th year teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools, Mrs. Erlich is the head of the Ivrit department and teaches Hebrew classes. Over the past few years, Mrs. Erlich has developed the curriculum for her department, incorporating important elements of the Hebrew language. Sara 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.

Mrs. Yael Gelernter

Assistant Principal

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Mrs. Yael Gelernter previously taught Chumash, Navi and Jewish Philosophy at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls (SKA), in New York. She also coordinated their admissions office and played a significant role in many student activities and student programs. Mrs. Gelernter has also been a Camp Director and teacher in numerous other formal and informal institutions. Mrs. Gelernter has a Bachelors degree with honors from Stern College at Yeshiva University and a Masters of Science degree with honors from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University. Most recently, Mrs. Gelernter successfully completed an advanced program in educational leadership from the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education. At Ulpana, in addition to teaching, Mrs. Gelernter oversees student activities and admissions, as well as focusing on the positive spiritual and religious development of our girls.

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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Prior to joining Bnei Akiva High Schools, 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 three children, Yonina (12), Yosef (10) and Gila (8) 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

Sgan Menahel and Limudei Kodesh Teacher

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 (3 years), an Israeli high school 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 two children, Ohr-Eitan and Adiel.

Mrs. Tanya HaLevi

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Tanya graduated from optometry school at Hadassah University in Jerusalem. While working at a private clinic and working on her research study she continued to be involved with youth and aid activity. Although she loves her profession, the past few years have pulled her strongly towards education. She directed the OU Israel center youth groups as well as working at the Koby Mandell Foundation which serves terror victims. She spent 5 years working at both Midreshet Lindenbaum and Midreshet HaRova, overseeing student welfare and educational programming. Tanya puts her soul into her work with her students and is very excited to be teaching and working at Ulpanat Orot. Tanya, her husband Yair and two children, Ohr Eitan and Adiel, are excited to be part of the Bnei Akiva Schools community.

Mrs. Shyndee Kestenbaum

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Shyndee 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. Shyndee 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 looking forward to 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 Ephraim Kleinberg joins us as Director of Religious and Academic Growth this year. A proud Or Chaim graduate and Toronto native, Rabbi Kleinberg returns to BAS after teaching in the Upper School at Ramaz in New York. 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 is a grade rebbe at YOC. He is also further developing our rebbe and mechanechet programs, supporting greater tfillah connection in both schools and assists in the continued development of our Judaic studies curriculum. Rabbi Kleinberg also supports our teachers in integrating educational technology and promoting 21st century learning and skill-building.

Mrs. Goni Kraus

Ivrit Teacher

Mrs. Goni Kraus is excited to be teaching at both school this year, after joining Ulpana as an Ivrit teacher last year. Mrs. Kraus was born in Israel, served in the IDF and as a Lieutenant in Israel’s Air Force Rehabilitation and Casualties department. Mrs. Kraus has formal and informal education experience, having taught at Makom, Kachol-Lavan School, worked as a private tutor and volunteered for Hillel of Greater Toronto. Students connect well with Mrs. Kraus’s love of Ivrit and Israeli culture.

Rabbi Yosef Kurtz

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Yosef Kurtz is a graduate of Bnei Akiva Schools and is excited to be returning to Yeshivat Or Chaim. 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 7 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.

Mr. Jonny Lipczer

Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Jonny Lipczer is in his fourth year as the Shaliach for Bnei Akiva of Toronto. He was raised in London, England and made Aliyah to Israel in 2006. He studied at Yeshivat Hakibbutz Hadati in Israel, and has served as Mazkir of Bnei Akiva UK, Executive Director of Mizrachi UK and Development Director of the UK Friends of Laniado Hospital. In Israel, Jonny coordinated World Bnei Akiva’s long-term Israel programmes for participants from the UK, South Africa and Australia. As a Holocaust educator, Jonny regularly leads educational trips to Poland. He has taught at YOC for the past two years and is excited to be teaching an options course at Ulpana this year. Jonny is married to Belinda, a teacher at Netivot HaTorah Day School, and they have two children, Eitan and Ayala.

Rabbi Elan Mazer

Mashgiach Ruchani and Limudei Kodesh Teacher

Rabbi Elan Mazer comes to us with his family from the Old City of Jerusalem, where he had the incredible opportunity to both live and learn at Yeshivat Hakotel. Rabbi Mazer is well-versed in a wide range of Judaic subjects, from in-depth Gemara to Jewish Philosophy, to Tanach. While completing the steps towards Rabbanut Smicha and a Bachelors of Education at Lifschitz College of Jerusalem, Rabbi Mazer was an integral part of the HaKotel staff, guiding the students through the morning Gemara shiur, preparing many insightful shiurim, and connecting to the students on a personal level. In addition, he taught Jewish Thought and Parshat HaShavua at Baer Miriam Seminary for girls. Living in the Old City also enabled him to meet, host, and work with a wide range of Jewish people, from students on birthright trips to the weekly Rova women’s shiur. Rabbi Mazer has also served in the Combat Engineering Corps of the Israel Defense Forces. Rabbi Mazer, a Shaliach and limudei kodesh teacher, is devoted to instilling a passion for Torah and deep connection to Eretz Yisrael in the hearts of the students at Bnei Akiva Schools. He is also currently the National Director of Mizrachi Canada.

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.

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

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 third 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 has been instrumental in integrating technology, new media and creativity into YOC’s Ivrit program.

Mr. Hillel Rapp

Director of General Studies and Educational Growth

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Hillel Rapp comes to Bnei Akiva Schools 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 Educational Enrichment and Academic Systems

Rabbi Sonenberg has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools for twelve years and has taught Torah, Halacha, Philosophy and Gemara. He is the head of the Gemara department and has developed a four year 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 Yair Spitz


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Rabbi Yair Spitz joined the administration of Bnei Akiva Schools in July 2012. A third generation Bnei Akiva’nik, Rabbi Spitz was born in the U.S. but grew up in Efrat, Israel, after making Aliya at a young age. Rabbi Spitz studied for eight years at Mercaz HaRav affiliated Yeshivot – five years in Dimona and three years at Kollel Meretz, Mevaseret Tzion and obtained his Smicha from Rabbi Riskin through the Rabbanut Hareishit. He holds an M.A. in Jewish History and a B.A. in Jewish Education. Rabbi Spitz served in the IDF artillery corp, including a tour in Lebanon. He holds the rank of First Lieutenant and, until recently, served as a battalion chaplain in the reserves. Before joining Bnei Akiva Schools, Rabbi Spitz served as the Executive Director of The Shoshana Educational Campus under the tutelage of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Rabbi Spitz has over 15 years of extensive experience working with and giving Shiurim to North American teenagers in Israel and North America. At Or Chaim, Rabbi Spitz focuses on our Judaic Studies curriculum, Tefillah, mentoring our new Judaic studies teachers, and providing religious and Israel guidance for our students.

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 will be teaching Limudei Kodesh at Ulpanat Orot and launching a women’s Beit Midrash at Ulpanat Orot 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.