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Ashley Barrett is a current second year rabbinical student at HUC. She recently returned from Jerusalem after studying there for a year and is excited to be living in Cincinnati. She is originally from the Akron, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University in 2014 with a degree in History and Jewish Studies. Most recently, Ashley served the Jewish community of St. Louis MO. She was the Program and Engagement Associate at the Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis! Ashley and also lived in the Moishe House in St Louis, where she led programs for the young adult community. Ashley is serving her student pulpit in Bryan, Texas this year, and can’t wait to be part of the Mercaz community this year!!



Rabbi Ben Chaidell is excited to begin his rabbinic career at
Adath Israel Congregation. He recently graduated in May 2018 with rabbinic ordination and a master's degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Jewish community has always been close to his heart. Growing up in New York, he attended another Adath Israel- a Conservative Synagogue in Riverdale. Rabbi Ben majored in religious studies at Yale College and co-coordinated the egalitarian minyan there as well as became active in AEPi, the Jewish fraternity on campus. After college Rabbi Ben spent two years as an Education Fellow with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), where he traveled to Jewish communities across the South. Rabbi Ben is excited to teach the senior seminar this year and to create a special space to carry this year's seniors through this big moment of their lives.


Mitch is excited to return to the Mercaz classroom this year. He was the recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for excellence in Jewish education and the Walter Hattenbach Teacher of the Year Award.  Mitch is a former Mercaz Board member. He is on staff at Adath Israel Congregation as their Bar/Bat Mitzvah Teacher. He also teaches Music and Trope in the Adath Israel Religious School and directs the Adath Israel Choir and band.   He is married to Sherry and has three Mercaz graduates: Jeff, Emily and Ben.


Phylicia Dashoff is a Cincinnati transplant who recently moved from South Florida. There, she grew up in a Conservative shul where she was very involved in her religious school, Hebrew High, and USY. Phylicia works at Adath Israel and is the Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs, and is very excited to expand her capacity to teach teens in the formal setting. She lives in Hyde Park with her fiancé, Jason, who is a third year Rabbinical student at HUC.


Stephanie Kogan created and led the Teaching Assistant Program (T.A.P.) for the Bureau of Jewish Education and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati for 13 years. She has  trained and supervised over 200 teaching assistants for Cincinnati’s synagogues and temples through T.A.P. and Mercaz. Many graduates of the programs work as religious and Hebrew school teachers during their college years and continue to serve Jewish communities across the country as education directors, teachers, communal workers, and lay leaders. Stephanie is looking forward to continuing her work with the madrichim (teaching assistants) at Mercaz.  Stephanie taught at Yavneh Day School (now Rockwern Academy) for many years.  She is a graduate of UCLA and the University of Cincinnati, earning a B.S.Ed. and M.Ed., and also studied for one year at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.



Zak Lempert is a second year Judaic Studies major at the University of Cincinnati. A MERCAZ graduate himself, Zak is excited to share his experiences and knowledge with his students. When not at MERCAZ, Zak teaches fourth grade at Adath Israel Congregation, and works on safety, inclusion, and diversity in the Fraternity community at the University of Cincinnati. Zak also works at local Summer camps as a theater educator.


Lowell Lustig holds a Juris Doctor degree from Capital University Law School in Columbus, OH.  He is a graduate of Hunter College where he studied Jewish History and Adolescent Education with a specialization in Social Studies. He also studied Archaeology and Talmudic Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and learned in the Beit Midrash as part of the Jewish Studies Program of the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, IL.  Lowell is a puppeteer and founder/director of Saturday Torah Live  which has been widely used by BBYO.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Robert H. Jackson Center located in Jamestown, NY. Justice Jackson served as the Chief Prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg in the years after WWII. Lowell returns to Cincinnati from Syracuse, NY where he served as Associate Dean for Advancement at the Syracuse University College of Law and Executive Director of Hillel at Syracuse University. Lowell currently serves on the national staff of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science as Executive Director, Leadership Giving.


Dr. Deborah Netanel holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Rubin Academy of Music-Jerusalem, and the University of Cincinnati with areas of specialization in music, Jewish music and Judaic Studies, contemporary Israeli issues, and Holocaust Studies. She has presented papers and lectured at both national and international conferences, and performed as a cellist and pianist all over the world. She is also an acclaimed composer with recent debut performances in London and New York City. Dr. Netanel joined the faculty at Rockwern Academy in the fall of 2011 as a member of the the Judaic Studies and Hebrew language department where she teaches Judaic Studies, Hebrew language, Israel studies and Torah trope to the middle school students. She is passionate about the idea of connecting American Jewish teens with their Israeli counterparts, and helping each student find their personal connection to Israel. In 2016, Dr. Netanel was a recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.


Erica Riddick is a current JewV’Nation Fellow and is excited to join the talented staff of Mercaz in facilitating Jewish engagement. Originally from Chicago, Erica enjoys the natural beauty and arts communities of Cincinnati. When not at Mercaz, she works as a Project Designer for a residential architecture firm and feels blessed to be invited into people’s homes to create the stages upon which families play out their lives. An enthusiastic lifelong learner, Erica seeks engaged conversation, has a penchant for asking “why” and believes in the power of play. With free time, she is usually torn between taking a walk, having a snack or napping. Erica is an avid reader, competitive ballroom dancer and improv performer.                   



Asaf grew up in Tel Mond. In school, he studied geo-globalisation and theatre. He has studied at the Agency Association for Holocaust Survivors in New York City and has volunteered with a boarding school for troubled children. He is very close to his family, which includes his parents, his twin brother Dan, who is also a ShinShin, and his older sister. Asaf is looking forward to giving himself to the army next year and is eager to both teach and learn from the Cincinnati community this year.


Adi is 18 years old and from Netanya. She likes to dive, read, and hang out with her friends. She is interested in history, politics, physics, movies, and video editing. She has two siblings, Ori (15) and Michal (7). Her majors in school were physics and Arabic. She’s not sure yet where she will serve in the IDF, but she’s looking forward to a meaningful service. For now, she hopes to bring her Israel to Cincinnati, and by doing that, learn as well.






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Mercaz is a product of the Conservative Synagogues in Cincinnati and the USCJ.
Mercaz Director - Ari Finkelstein, 792 5082 ext. 123
, ari@mercazhs.org