We are so excited to welcome a wonderful new group of faculty and staff to Kehillah. We are honored to have these outstanding professionals bring their talent and experience to our community. Be sure to introduce yourself if you get the chance.
They will officially get started in August.
Amy Cole-Farrell, Drama Teacher
Amy Cole-Farrell is Kehillah’s Drama Teacher. With a background as a professional actor, director, and theatre company co-founder, Amy has spent the past 15 years creating theatre curriculum and teaching with such organizations as SF Shakespeare Company, University of California, Davis, Berlin International Youth Theatre, Spindrift School of Performing Arts, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and K-12 schools throughout the Bay Area. She studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic, holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Drama and Anthropology from the University of Washington, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting from the University of California, Davis.
Francisco Barajas, Facilities Technician
Francisco is originally from Nueva Italia in Michoacán, Mexico. He and his father, whom he was named after, are both musicians; Francisco plays the drums, while his father plays the keyboard. Outside of work, he loves going on annual Disneyland trips with his wife Elisa and their five children – Francisco Jr., Brenda, Brisa, Yvonne and Kimberly – as well as their grandchild, Jayden. He also loves playing soccer and spending time with his three dogs, Bayley, Body and Koda.
Brian Egdorf, English Teacher
Brian Egdorf joined Kehillah after teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is completing a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures. He has also taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder and at the Lycée Tristan Corbière in Morlaix, France.
His current research focuses on the interaction of brain science and literature in the context of the psychological novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. His scholarly work has most recently appeared in Tolstoy Studies Journal and The Dostoevsky Journal. In addition to his studies at Berkeley, he received an M.A. at the European University at St. Petersburg (Russia), an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a B.A. in French and English from Illinois Wesleyan University.
His teaching interests include Russian literature, Francophone literature, queer literature, and literature for STEM students. In his spare time, he enjoys riding his bicycle, swimming in the bay, and participating in the Bay Area literary and arts scene.
Rabbi Dennis Eisner, Director of Institutional Advancement
Rabbi Dennis brings a 37-year career to the Kehillah Jewish High School community. Rabbi Dennis has directed several national and local Jewish initiatives and institutions, increasing participation and affiliation and developing innovative educational programs and social justice initiatives. Rabbi Dennis has always been a voice for pluralism, interfaith outreach and communal diversity. He has worked in sacred partnership with lay leadership to raise critical funds, improve and strengthen governance, develop leadership programs and leadership education, and create strategic plans. Now, he is thrilled to join the outstanding team at Kehillah, and looks forward to being part of the school’s amazing community.
Rabbi Dennis’s decades in the Jewish community have afforded him great opportunities for professional and personal development. Whether in the context of involvement in Jewish day schools, national and local educational programs, Jewish summer camps, Israel travel and education, Jewish Community Federations and JCCs, or 20 years as a pulpit rabbi, Rabbi Dennis has been passionately committed to the growth and sustainability of our Jewish communal experience.
Rabbi Dennis is married to Mandy Eisner, who is Director of Development at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. They have two children: Max, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Sadie, a student at UC Berkeley. They also have a new puppy named Lucy who is without a doubt their most difficult child.
Ane Esplana, Learning Center Assistant
Pic & Bio to come
Joseph Gindi, Jewish Studies Teacher
Joseph Gindi is a pluralistic Jewish educator and scholar of modern Jewish studies with over fifteen years of experience teaching Jews of diverse ages and backgrounds. He has a Bachelors in Anthropology from Wesleyan University, Masters in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Jewish Professional Leadership from Brandeis University, and a Masters in Religious Studies from UNC, Chapel Hill, where he wrote a thesis entitled Greening the Torah: The Use of Classical Texts in Jewish Environmentalist Literature. Joseph has also studied in batei midrash at the Pardes Institute, Mechon Hadar, and The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Most recently Joseph was the Senior Program Officer for International Education and Jewish Engagement at American Jewish World Service (AJWS), where he ran a human rights education fellowship for rabbis and cantors. Prior to AJWS, he taught at Prozdor at Hebrew College, the Slifka Center at Yale University, and a variety of synagogues across the denominational spectrum.
Joseph’s scholarly interests focus on the transformations of American Judaism in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the Jewish environmental and social justice movements, Jewish feminism, changing Jewish relationships to the nation-state, and the evolution of Syrian Jewish Orthodoxy. In his teaching, Joseph uses historical, anthropological and religious studies frameworks to help students understand how Jewish culture operates and inspire them to craft lives of meaning.
Joseph grew up in the Syrian Jewish community in Deal, New Jersey, and now lives with his wife in Oakland, CA. Though he loves life in the Bay Area, he deeply misses lachmagine and east coast bagels.
Aviva Kasowski , English Teacher
Aviva Kasowski is a dedicated writer and educator. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, an M.F.A. from the University of California, Riverside, and an M.S. in Education from Touro College. She is currently completing her doctoral work in English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. Prior to joining Kehillah, she taught English and writing at the University of Georgia and UC Riverside, and worked as a learning specialist at Rodeph Sholom School, SAR High School, and Success Academy in New York City. An accomplished writer, she has published poetry in peer reviewed journals and is currently working on a novel. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, aerial arts, and hiking.
Peter Kistler, English Teacher
Peter Kistler teaches English at Kehillah and has been a high school English teacher since 2005. He is a Bay Area native, and holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.S. in Mass Communications, both from San Jose State University. He is passionate about teaching argumentation, rhetorical studies, and media literacy, and has coached high school parliamentary debate for the last eight years. He and his wife Lindsay live in San Jose, and enjoy cooking, camping, playing video and tabletop games, and the San Jose Sharks.
Josh Krug, Director of Jewish Life & Learning
Josh Krug has facilitated teen and adult Jewish learning and meaning-making in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Jerusalem. He has served as a Jewish Studies teacher at Milken Community High School, a Madrich with gap-year program, KIVUNIM: New Directions, a retreat planner with Moishe House, and an educator with Kevah. He seeks to empower diverse young people to experience Jewish texts and contexts as powerful resources as he strives to build sacred community.
Josh double-majored in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Humanities and received his B.A. with Honors and Distinction from Yale. He completed his Masters of Divinity from Harvard, and his PhD in Education and Jewish Studies from NYU.
He is a poet, an aspiring mensch, and the founder of Opening Doors.
Sarah Lesser, School Counselor
Sarah believes every student deserves a safe and nurturing environment in order to grow their best selves. Her work integrates mindfulness and expressive arts therapy as a means to help students find and develop their unique strengths. Sarah is a committed advocate for social justice and equity and is passionate about Jewish service learning, having started her career at Moishe house and Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Most recently, she worked as a school therapist in Palo Alto and San Jose. Sarah grew up in Berkeley, CA and is fluent in Hebrew.
Sarah received a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in International Relations and an M.S.W. from Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University. She is currently training to become a certified Mindfulness, Social Emotional Learning and Yoga Instructor. When not at school, you can find Sarah watercoloring flowers or playing on the beach with her two daughters and partner.
Anna Michelle, Spanish Teacher
A native from Spain, Anna Michele holds a Law degree from Public University of Navarra and an MBA from University of Deusto, both Spanish institutions. After working in finance in Spain at several companies -both small and multinational corporations-, she moved to the Bay Area a few years ago where she made a successful transition to a career as Spanish instructor after discovering serendipitously a passion for teaching the Spanish language. Prior to joining Kehillah, Anna taught Spanish to high school students at several centers located in the extended Bay Area, both in a traditional classroom setting as well as a one on one tutor. In every case, Anna has the best interests of students in mind and seeks optimal strategies to ensure that they make the best of her teaching. She is delighted about joining Kehillah in its educational mission.
Dale Pagano, Dean of English
Dale Pagano teaches English at Kehillah and will be serving as the Dean of the English department. He holds a B.S. in Secondary English Education from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s degree in Urban Education from John Carroll University. Dale comes to Kehillah with twenty years of teaching experience in both public and private settings and a strong passion for school reform, curriculum design, and literary analysis. When he’s not teaching, Dale enjoys reading, dining out, going to the theater, and playing the guitar.
Audra Robinson, School Counselor
Ms. Robinson was born and raised in Silicon Valley. She holds a Master of Arts in Education from Bethany University and a Bachelor of Science in Christian Leadership from William Jessup University.
She has dedicated her career to helping students achieve their fullest potential. She is a dynamic learning specialist with extensive experience in neurotypical and neurodiverse students. She is an Orton-Gillingham Practitioner with experience in evidence-based pedagogies and Universal Design for Learning. Ms. Robinson is committed to the success and well-being of each student academically, socially, and emotionally. She is an authentic educator who believes that developing strong relationships with students, families, and teachers will support the development of a flourishing lifelong learner.
When she is not working at school, she is a passionate equestrian. She loves spending hours at the stable with her horse and attending horse shows. She is also an avid European traveler.
Luis Velasco, Facilities Manager
Originally from El Salvador, Luis emigrated to the United States in 1987 due to the civil war in his country and now considers the USA his home. Luis has three kids, Valeria, Luis Jr, and Levi who give him all of the strength to continue his journey through life. His American dream is to support and see his children go to college. Luis always tries to do his job with great pride and respect. Luis enjoys fishing and riding his old road bike while feeling the warm wind on his face, especially on a hot summer afternoon.
Eric Weller, Director of Development
Eric is dedicated to building relationships within non-profit communities, while developing cultures of philanthropy to support program and campus enhancements, resources for faculty and staff to perform at the best of their ability, and funding to support an economically diverse community. He brings over five years of Advancement office experience from Independent Schools in Los Angeles.
A Northern California native, Eric grew up spending summers at Donner Lake, seeing concerts and baseball games in San Francisco, and continues to enjoy these activities. Prior to working in Independent Schools, he worked in writers’ rooms on scripted comedies. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a graduate of California State University, Long Beach.
Elaine Wilhelm, Administrative Assistant
Elaine graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor’s in American Studies, and Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University with an MBA. She took 10 years off to raise her kids in Australia, and while she was there she volunteered for LifeLine Australia, the telephone crisis hotline. She has a rescue cat, an orange Maine Coon named Jeffrey, who is very finicky about what he eats.