Beth Chai: The Greater Washington Jewish Humanist CongregationBeth Chai: The Greater Washington Jewish Humanist Congregation

Officers & Directors, 2015-2016

POSITION/NAME (* = Board Member)  

Dr. Arthur Blecher

Education Director
Roni Rosenthal
Brandon Hemel*
Vice President
Rob Rosenberg*
Past President
Matthew Schneer*
Oona Stieglitz*
Ela Koniuszkow*
Communications Chair
Yevgenia Nusinovich*
School Parents Council  
Liturgy Chair
Joshua Lubell*
Membership Chair
Julie McCormack*
Music Chair  
Adult Education Program Chair
Josh Starr*

Social Action Chair
Asya Haikin 

Social Action Co-Chair
Rachel Weisz

Bookkeeper & Accounts Payable
Diane Page
Newsletter Editor  
Sunday School Volunteer Coordinator  
Director of IT and Webmaster
Nate Weisz
Pastoral Care  
Event Coordinator
Mark Israel*
Mitzvah Coordinator  
Development and Volunteer Coordinator
Maddy Ellis*



Board Member Bios

President Brandon Hemel is now in his fourth year on the Beth Chai Board and his first year as president. When not busy with Beth Chai, Brandon is an active Boy and Cub Scout leader and enjoys leading camp outs and hiking adventures. Professionally, Brandon is the leader of the Data Strategy and Management Team at WETA-TV / FM.

Vice President Rob Rosenberg is a former President of the Beth Chai board returning for another round.

Past President Matthew Schneer has previously served on the board as President, Vice President and Liturgy Chair. A native of New York State, he has lived in the Washington area at least part time since 1992. He works in the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Matt lives in Takoma Park with his wife, Sara, and their two children Sylvia and Sasha (Alexander). The family joined Beth Chai when Sasha was in pre-school and began asking about what it meant to be Jewish and about Hebrew. An interfaith couple, with little or no religious inclinations, Sara and Matt searched for a congregation that could meet their beliefs and interests. Many years later, Sasha has now had his Bar Mitzvah and Sara and Matt found a like-minded, stimulating community that they are thrilled to have joined.

Secretary Oona Stieglitz and her husband Lee Arbetman will begin their 6th year as Beth Chai members in September.  She is a past member of the Social Action Committee where her favorite project was using Tzedakah funds to buy a mountain of socks for Bethesda Cares to distribute to homeless people. She has a fondness for rugelach. Originally from New Jersey, she has lived in the DMV area since 1978.  Her family celebrated the Bat Mitzvahs of daughters Amy and Gwendolyn on the first day of spring 2015

Treasurer Ela Koniuszkow is in her fourth year on the Board.

Communications Chair Yevgenia Nusinovich and her family have been members of Beth Chai since 2005. She lives in Rockville and has two children: Solomon (11) and Hadassah (9). Yevgeniya was born in Ukraine but came to the United States as a child and has lived in the Washington, DC area ever since, except for a brief stint in Boston. She works as an editor of a scientific journal, which means that her primary occupation requires ensuring clear and accurate communication of important information, making the role of communications chair a natural choice. Her family's hobbies are reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), musical theater, board games, travel, and music (especially Klezmer and Sephardic Jewish music). Her family is not at all religious, but feels a strong connection to Jewish culture and history, which has proven to be a great match for the mission of Beth Chai.

Membership Chair Julie McCormack is serving her first term on the Beth Chai board.

Adult Education Program Chair Joshua Starr is new to the Beth Chai board. Josh and his wife Emma and their children Eliza, Harrison and Graham have been Beth Chai members since 2011. Josh is a lifelong educator who recently served as Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools and is now the CEO of PDK International. Josh and Emma are native New Yorkers who have found a wonderful new home and community in Bethesda.

Liturgy chair and long-time Beth Chai member Joshua Lubell lives in Rockville with his wife Jennifer and son Alex. Josh is a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he works to improve cybersecurity for digital manufacturing systems. Josh is happy to belong to an inclusive, supportive, and intellectually curious Jewish congregation.

Social Action Chair Asya Haikin has been a member of Beth Chai, along with her husband Leonid Kopylev and their two children, Sam and Rina, since 2009. She and her husband are originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, but have lived in this area for many years. Asya homeschools her kids and also works as a Yoga Teacher and a Yoga Therapist. She is happy to have found Beth Chai to maintain a connection to her and her husband's families Jewish roots, and the Jewish culture.

Social Action Co-Chair Rachel Weisz is serving her first term on the Beth Chai board.

Director of IT/Webmaster Nate Weisz has been a member of Beth Chai, along with his wife, Rachel, since 2011. They live with their daughter Sofia and son Milo in Bethesda. They are both local yocals and probably will never move from this area. Nate is an IT guy in real life as well and loves the business of software development. He is happy to serve Beth Chai's surprisingly interesting IT needs in his first term on the board. 

Event Coordinator Mark Israel has been a member of Beth Chai for around 25 years. His son Andrei was one of Rabbi Blecher's earliest bar mitzvahs. Mark  was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and his family were members of the Isaac Meyer Wise Congregation - Rabbi Wise founded the Reform movement. Mark went to Oberlin College in Ohio, and was admitted to Hebrew Union College. He then went into social action, first as an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, then to law school at Columbia thence into civil rights. Mark was the first professional employed by a former Confederate state to work for the civil rights of African Americans, as director of the Tennessee Commission on Human Rights in 1964 and 65. He continued his career as the Assistant Director of the Jewish Community Council in Boston, back to civil rights in Washington at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the War on Poverty at the Office of Economic Opportunity running a program to get more food to the poor. Then for over 30 years Mark was a public-sector lobbyist representing cities and other public bodies, connected to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mark is now a full time organic farmer.

Development and Volunteer Coordinator Maddy Ellis along with her husband Jim, are pleased to be returning members to Beth Chai after living abroad for three years. Maddy is an immigration attorney and a proud native of Madison, Wisconsin who now lives in Northern Virginia. Her oldest son, Max, is going to have his bar mitzvah in 2016 and her twins, Levi and Bram, also attend Beth Chai's Sunday School program. Although new to the Board at Beth Chai, Maddy has served on several other boards, including as current Co-Chair of the Churchill Road Elementary School PTA advocacy committee, as the former Vice President of the Board of Trustees at the American Community School in Amman, Jordan, and as a former legal advisory board member of the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition.