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.
Prior to joining Bnei Akiva Schools, Mr. Mordy Sabeti served as a Department Head of Mathematics at TanenbaumCHAT. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Science (Pure Mathematics), a Bachelor of Education (Secondary Education) and a Master of Education (focus on mathematics learning, technology integration and teacher education) from York University. In addition, he holds a Graduate Diploma in Mathematics Education, as well as Honours Specialist Qualifications in Mathematics Education. As an advocate for teacher training, Mr. Sabeti mentored teacher candidates from York University and the University of Waterloo, and has led professional development workshops and seminars in the areas of student assessment, technology integration, and pedagogy at the middle school, high school and university level. Mr. Sabeti oversees the general studies programme at both Yeshivat Or Chaim and Ulpanat Orot.
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 and his wife, Racheli Meister (’01), have two children, Jack and Yakira.
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 three children, Ohr-Eitan, Adiel and Roni Shirat Yocheved.
Rabbi Sonenberg has been teaching at Bnei Akiva Schools for thirteen 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.
Originally from South Africa, Mrs. Nicky Kagan has lived in Toronto for over 30 years. She has taught at Yeshivat Or Chaim since 1999, and has held an administrative role since 2006. Mrs. Kagan teaches English and runs YOC’s day-to-day operations, overseeing attendance and other student regulations, as well as other administrative matters. She continues to provide career and post-secondary education guidance for our Grade 12 students. In 2006, she received a Teacher of Excellence Award. She has principal certification and guidance qualifications. In previous years, she has also taught History, coordinated the Model UN team and, oversaw the yearbook committee.
Mr. Gerald Lazar has worked at Bnei Akiva Schools since 2007. He has overseen Student Life at Or Chaim since 2010. Currently, his role involves supervising student activities, coordinating admissions, managing the schools’ online communications and assisting with student guidance. In previous years, Mr. Lazar supervised the yearbook committee and the Model UN team. Mr. Lazar has an Honours B.A. in History and Religious Studies, a B.Ed., and an M.A. in History. Recently, Mr. Lazar received a certificate from Yeshiva University’s Lead course and has been working toward Guidance specialist certification through Queen’s University. An active volunteer at Shaarei Shomayim, he has been involved in several committees. Known for his multi-tasking, Mr. Lazar’s office is often full of students working on multiple projects.
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 Limmudei Kosdesh at Associated Hebrew Schools. For the last six years Mr. Paker 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mrs. Shari Weinberg has been a vital part of Ulpanat Orot over the past 30 years. She has held an administrative role for the last 13 years while continuing to teach Physical Education and Careers. At Ulpana, Mrs. Weinberg oversees the running of the day-to-day operations, providing guidance to our girls on a daily basis and especially in advance of their post-secondary academic decisions. She is also head of the Art, French and Phys Ed Departments. Mrs. Weinberg has also been instrumental in the introduction and success of the Youth Philanthropic Initiative (YPI) program, as well as alumni and career days. Mrs. Weinberg has principal certification and is a Specialist in Guidance Education. Her door is always open, as students and staff alike seek her guidance and level-headed decision making skills.
Mrs. Sharon Fixler (née Weltman) is excited to return to Ulpanat Orot in what will be her twelfth year with Bnei Akiva Schools. In addition to teaching English and Writer’s Craft, Mrs. Fixler has also been active in initiating and leading programs in the school over the years, such as the annual speech contest, intergenerational book club, and the warm clothing drive to benefit United Chesed. Beyond her involvement with Bnei Akiva Schools, Mrs. Fixler has been privileged to speak at various women’s learning programs in the city for the past fifteen years. Mrs. Fixler is a proud graduate of Ulpanat Orot, Michlalah Jerusalem College for Women, and York University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in English. Most recently, she completed YU Lead, a year-long leadership program run through Yeshiva University. This past year, Mrs. Fixler was General Studies Principal at the Spring Farm campus of Eitz Chaim Schools. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Fixler looks forward to partnering with the Ulpanat Orot admin team in her new role as Director of Admissions and Academics.
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. 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.
Mrs. Temima Cohen is excited to return to Bnei Akiva Schools for her second year. Previously, she has worked as a Social Work consultant and private Social Worker in the Toronto community. In addition, she has worked as a teacher and a cognitive support worker in Tiferes Bais Yaakov. Mrs. Cohen received an honours Bachelors of Social Work from Ryerson University and a Masters of Social Work from The University of Toronto with a focus on child and family. She is a registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and a member of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. She provides valuable educational, emotional, and social guidance and support to both Ulpanat Orot and Yeshivat Or Chaim students. She is always available to listen to, counsel, advise, and advocate on behalf of all the students, parents, and staff of the Bnei Akiva Schools.
Mrs. Miriam Klein has worked as a teacher and student support staff for over 10 years. She has worked in Netivot HaTorah Day School in various grades both in General and Judaic studies. Most recently, Miriam supported students in the Middle School Department, teaching the Learning Strategies course and helping in the transition to high school. Miriam received her degree in Education and Special Education from The University of Toronto and is an active member of The Ontario College of Teachers. She believes strongly in student support and ensuring the students can meet with success academically, socially and emotionally. Miriam is looking forward to working with the students, parents and teachers at Bnei Akiva Schools to ensure an inclusive environment for all types of learners.