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Mark Flaxer serves as Executive Director and COO of Temple Beth Sholom. Born in Orlando, Florida, Mark earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Florida.
After graduating college, Mark moved to Atlanta, Georgia and began his career in public and private-sector companies. He has worked at The Walt Disney Company, Macy’s Southeast, SED International, and eventually used his entrepreneurial spirit to create and grow several companies.
Mark has been active in the Atlanta Jewish Community as a member of Temple Emanu-El since 1992. There he served as a Board member, Executive Board member, and finally as Executive Director and COO. He was a member of SEDAR; involved in the PAL Program through Jewish Family and Career Services; and with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Mark was also active with Just People Inc, a program focused on services for adults with developmental disabilities. Mark was a youth and high school lacrosse coach and referee certified by US Lacrosse and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Mark is married to Staci, and they have two daughters attending college at the University of Southern California. Mark and Staci made the move to Miami Beach to join Temple Beth Sholom in November 2016.
Director of Congregational Engagement
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Mark Baranek was born in Toronto, Canada and attended the Associated Hebrew Day School of Toronto followed by the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. He completed his undergraduate work in International Relations at York University in Toronto. Later, he achieved his Master’s Degree in the Horenstein Program from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
In 1983, Mark launched his career as Assistant Director of Education at Temple Emanu-El. He then spent eight years as Director of Education at Temple Samu-El or Olom in Kendall. In 1997, Mark came to Temple Beth Sholom as the Director of Education and Youth; encompassing education programs from “birth to college.”
Mark has been active in the community for many years. He has been a member of the Coalition on Advancement of Jewish Education since 1988 and was on the national board for two years as the Southern Regional Representative. He is a member of the National Association of Temple Educators, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Council of Education Directors and Hebrew Educators Alliance. Mark holds a permanent principal’s license from JESNA and a continuing Hebrew teacher’s license from the Miami Board of License. He continues to grow professionally by attending conferences both locally and nationally.
Mark has visited Israel twenty-six times and has chaperoned numerous teen and adult groups. He lived in Israel in Jerusalem and on Kibbutz Tel-Yitzchak. Mark served seven times as a bus captain on the March of the Living, a two-week journey to Poland and Israel.
Mark has been a volunteer basketball coach at Miami Senior High School since 1988. His teams have won seven state championships during that time. Numerous players have gone on to play at the college level and even the NBA. Three of his players are active in the NFL. Mark loves his work and gets the most satisfaction from seeing the smiling, nurtured and positively impacted children of Temple Beth Sholom.
Director of Early Childhood Education
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Margie Zeskind holds a Master of Science Degree in Pre-K/Primary Education. She started her tenure as the Director of Early Childhood Education at the Foundation School in July 2007.
Prior to this position, Margie was the Director of the Helene and A.B. Wiener Early Childhood Department for the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, Florida. There she provided professional resources and consultation for staff development, mentoring and leadership development for early childhood education directors and educators for twenty-one Jewish early childhood programs. Prior to this position, for nine years, Margie was a Jewish Early Childhood Educator and a Religious School Educator at Temple Beth Am, a reform synagogue in Kendall.
She authored two simultaneously awarded National Covenant Foundation Grants for the Jewish south Florida early childhood community. Additionally, she is co-author of the, “I Went To My Cousin’s Crispening,” and “The S.A.G.A. Approach,” which is a resource guide for Jewish early childhood educators working with issues surrounding religious diversity, funded by The Jim Joseph Foundation. She is one of the co-developers of the Kesher L’ Yisrael Initiative that was designed for early childhood educators to partner with children and families to build connections to Israel, the land, the people and the state.
Director of the School for Living Judaism
School for Living Judaism
Barb Shimansky joined Temple Beth Sholom as the Director of the School for Living Judaism in June, 2017. A native of suburban Detroit, she is a graduate of Michigan State University and earned a Master of Social Work from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in Religious Education from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Barb has been granted the coveted title of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE).
Formerly, Barb was a social worker with a focus on children in school, foster care, and juvenile justice settings. She also has extensive experience in Jewish youth education at both the elementary and secondary levels, previously teaching and directing youth programs at congregations in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Barb worked in the area of congregational support for the Union for Reform Judaism, and most recently served as the Director of Education at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee.
Raised in the Reform Movement, Barb is an alumna of NFTY and the URJ Kutz Camp and has served as a faculty member of the URJ Kutz Camp and Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI). She has facilitated workshops on topics such as informal education and junior youth programming at both regional and North American URJ gatherings. Barb has published several articles regarding the engagement of youth and families in Jewish learning experiences, and she serves on the leadership team of the Association for Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE).
Barb and her husband, Jake, live in Bay Harbor Islands with their three sons, Ethan, Aidan, and Caleb.
Ilana Saposnik Gilat
Director of Advancement
Ilana graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, with a concentration in painting and minors in both Business Administration and Art History. During college, Ilana worked at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Florida and participated in one of the first Birthright Israel trips in 1998. After graduation, Ilana was a Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Texas, Austin.
For several years afterwards, Ilana’s career focused on the for-profit sector. She served as a regional property manager for a national student housing developer on college campuses, focusing on marketing, sales and property management before circling back to her true passion, the Jewish community.
Before moving to Miami in 2012, Ilana was the Create a Jewish Legacy Program Director at the Jewish Community Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida. Most recently she worked at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and successfully launched and ran the Create a Jewish Legacy initiative in Miami. Ilana joined Temple Beth Sholom in June 2014 as the Director of Advancement; helping grow, nurture and sustain the Legacy Endowment Campaign.
Director of Communications
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Over the past seventeen years, Nerissa has immersed herself within communications, marketing and events. Nerissa attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1999 from the University of Maryland, in 2001 she received a certification in Digital Design at the Denmark Design School in Copenhagen and in 2002 received a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute.
The majority of her career was spent working within marketing and advertising in New York City servicing clients including American Express, Pepsi and Diaego. Nerissa began transitioning into the non-profit space in 2008 when she was recruited to join the Board of Directors of International Special Events Society as the Vice President of Communications. Nerissa spent three years developing their volunteer-based communications department and oversaw all communication outlets, along with managing her own thriving event design and planning business located on Madison Avenue in the Flatiron District.
In 2012, Nerissa moved to Miami Beach to continue her focus in non-profit communications and joined the National Parkinson Foundation as the Director of Marketing. There she was tasked to oversee all marketing for national programs. Nerissa joined the Temple Beth Sholom team as the first Director of Communications in July of 2015. When Nerissa is not working she enjoys spending time with her husband Michael and their son Eli Asher.
Director of The Tribe
Director of Shalom Baby
Director of Shalom Family
Greg has been the Director of The Tribe since July 2014. He came to the position with more than five years experience as a Jewish professional. In addition to being Membership Liaison at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco and Site Manager at Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, New York; Greg cultivated his expertise in creating a thriving Jewish community outside the walls of a synagogue as a lay leader in Wilderness Torah in the San Francisco Bay Area. His positions as Hebrew school teacher and Jewish teen educator are too innumerable to mention here. Greg has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Psychology and Neuroscience and an Elementary Education certification from Brandeis University and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California. Greg lives in Hollywood with his wife, Rachel Dawn, and his daughter, Hazel Glow.
Director of Finance
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Lorna has been leading the finance department since 2001, working closely with the budget and finance committee and professional staff on all budgetary and financial matters of the Temple. Prior to joining Temple Beth Sholom, she worked at Congregation Bet Breira for fifteen years with Executive Director Emerita, Alice Miller. She decided to make the commute from Kendall to Miami Beach to be part of the Temple Beth Sholom team.
Lorna was born in Cuba, the daughter of an overseas engineer and educator, and lived in several countries before making Miami her final destination. She attended Southwest Senior High and later Florida International University where she majored in Business Administration. Lorna and her husband, Luis, have raised two amazing children, Melissa and Daniel, and are now the proud grandparents of Brianna.
Director of Building and Facilities
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Michael Svayg is the Director of Facilities and Building Operations. He came to Temple Beth Sholom in 1997 from Cleveland, Ohio where he managed the Building Operations for Suburban Temple for over 17 years. Michael was born in Chernovits, Ukraine and came to the United States in 1980. He earned his B.S. Degree in Civil Engineering from Chernovits State University and a Master’s Degree from Kiev University in Plant Operations of Military and Civil Buildings and also holds an Equivalency Degree in Civil Engineering from Cleveland State University. While in Ukraine, Michael was a Head Manager of Plant Operations and an Assistant General Director of The Republic Gas Company. Michael is married to Michelle, and they have four children and five grandchildren.
Assistant to the Executive Director
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Lois Kotzen has been working at Temple Beth Sholom since 1990. She is a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High School, attended the University of Florida and George Washington University. She is also a graduate of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School and had her adult bat mitzvah at Temple Beth Sholom. Lois’ children are Rabbi Andrew and Michal Koren, Stacy and Robert Budowsky and Dean and Dr. Rosa Kotzen. She also has six grandchildren. Max, Avishai, Shiri, Ethan, Mia and Rex.
Assistant to Cantor Segal
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Scott Wenders is a graduate of Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School and attended Miami Dade College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in Business Management and Supervision. He was previously the Tenant Support Services Assistant at the Hazel Cypen Tower assisted living facility at the main Miami Jewish Health Systems campus. Scott is the Assistant to Cantor Lisa Segal and Bnei Mitzvah Coordinator.
When Scott is not at work he enjoys reading western novels by William W. Johnstone and The Wall Street Journal. Other interests include keeping up to date on the telecommunications, banking and retail industries.
Assistant to Clergy Office
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Noemi joined Temple Beth Sholom in May of 2015 and has spent the last fifteen years working within various Jewish organizations. She was born and raised in Chile and moved to Miami when she was twelve years old. Noemi attended ITT Tech were she graduated with a Degree in Computer Science and is currently back to college pursuing an Ocean Engineering Degree. She loves staying active and practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In her spare time she enjoys outdoor activities, especially surfing.
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Bio to come.
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Miriam started working at Temple Beth Sholom in April 2015. Born in Bolivia she made Miami her home in 1982. Miriam received her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from FIU and a Master’s Degree in Accounting from Barry University. She has been in the accounting field for over 20 years. Her primary joy is being mother to her son, Christian.
Graphic Designer/ Communications Assistant
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Ariane joined Temple Beth Sholom in May of 2002. She was born and raised in Miami Beach, where she graduated from The Hebrew Academy. After High School, she spent a year studying abroad in Israel, and then traveling throughout Europe. When she returned to the States, she continued her education at Florida International University and received a Bachelor of Arts from IFAC. She has one son, Marley, who has been an active member at Temple Beth Sholom for 13 years. He recently had his Bar Mitzvah in February 2016. She considers Beth Sholom her home away from home.
Membership Engagement Associate
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After graduating Florida State University, Buffy embarked on a 15-year career as a fashion executive in New York City, working for a number of well-known fashion brands such as French Connection, B.C.B.G. Kenneth Cole, and Nautica. Buffy lives in Bay Harbor Islands with her husband Fred and two boys Mason (11) and Hudson (10) Although Buffy continued freelance fashion and marketing related work in Miami, it was not until she began helping at Holy Grounds did she realize that Temple Beth Sholom was the place she wanted to be. She is excited to be part of the TBS community and looks forward to learning from Mark Baranek, with the hope that she can make other families feel just as much at home, as Mark did for the Koczwara family. In her free time, Buffy and Fred enjoy watching their sons play baseball (4 games every weekend!) and she also enjoys spending time with her two rescue dogs Shiloh and Willow.
305.538.7231 ext. 277
Ana Sheridan recently joined the Temple Beth Sholom Family in February 2017. She was born in Rochester, New York and moved to South Florida at two years old. Ana is married and has three amazing boys. She has worked at various Jewish organizations and businesses throughout the years including Temple Emanu-El of South Beach and Executive Kosher Caterers. After giving birth to her third child, Ana decided to enroll at ITT Technical Institute to study Software Development. During her free time, she loves spending quality time with her family, friends and exercising but her true passion is music and dance. Ana’s goal is to make a positive mark in the Jewish Community.
305.538.7231 ext. 100
Kayla joined the Temple Beth Sholom family in June 2017. She grew up in Miami Beach and has been part of the community for 15 years. She attended school in Miami and worked at camps running children’s programs at the temple close to her home. Kayla loves working with children and helping others. In her spare time, she loves to eat pizza and go rollerblading with her husband. She is ecstatic to be part of such a welcoming and friendly team.
Social Justice Fellow
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Lea Alonso is a recent graduate of Florida International University, where she earned a BA in International Relations with a focus on the Middle East. Having participated in Hasbara Fellowships and Shalom FIU (FIU’s pro-Israel organization) during her time in college, she is passionate about Israel, Zionism and justice, as well as her Jewish faith. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and crafting. She hopes to go to Israel to pursue her Master’s degree in Government.
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Bio to come
Rudolph (Rudy) Wilson
Head of Security
Rudolph (Rudy) Wilson joined the Temple Beth Sholom security department in 2007 and is now the Head of Security. He is a graduate of DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology. Rudy worked as a Field Engineer in both the mid-west and tri-state regions before relocating to Miami. When Rudy is not at work he enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarudzayi and twin boys Joshua and Benjamin.
Howard Broad joined Temple Beth Sholom as our security guard in 2014. He came to Miami from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1976. He holds a Degree from West Virginia University in Sociology with a minor in Business Administration. Prior to joining us, Howard worked within multiple industries in a sales capacity. Howard has one son who lives in Miami.
Heriberto Cardona came to the U.S in 1997 from Colombia where he was working for a funeral home. He joined the Temple Beth Sholom maintenance department in 1998 as an outstanding floor supervisor. Heriberto is married and has two children and two grandchildren.
Jesus Parra came to the U.S. from Colombia where he was working as a clerk in a bank in Bogota. He joined the Temple Beth Sholom maintenance department in 2003. He has three grown children in Bogota.
Antonio Rojas came to the U.S. in 1993 from Colombia, where he had been a professional boxer for many years. He started working for the Temple Beth Sholom maintenance department in 2006. He and his wife, Maria Claudia have three children.
Luis Abreu was born in Havana, Cuba on December 1951, where he studied Electromechanical Engineering and worked at the Cuban Port. He moved to the United States on 1994 and started working independently at first. He became a handyman and worked at Brickell Bay Club Association. He has two children. Luis joined Temple Beth Sholom on March 2017.
Alvaro Campos came to the U.S. from Colombia in 1998, where he had been working for a building maintenance company. He continued to pursue this field over the years, joining the maintenance department at Temple Beth Sholom in 2014.
Jeannette Santamaria, joined our maintenance department in 2015. She came to the U.S. from Nicaragua having worked for the Miami Herald for fifteen years prior to joining the Temple staff. She is married and has two grown children.
Alba Giraldo hails from Bogota, Columbia and joined our maintenance department in 2010, prior to working in the hospitality industry in Miami for over fourteen years. She is the proud mother of one son who lives in Columbia.