Teaching Faculty

Meet Our Teachers


Rabbi Ben Chaidell

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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.


Lowell Lustig


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.

Jonathan Jackson

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Jonathan Jackson is a 4th year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College. He comes to Cincinnati most recently from Jerusalem and before that Philadelphia. Jonathan has studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the New York and Jerusalem campuses of HUC. He has an academic background in biblical studies, ancient Near East, and Semitic languages, as well as cultural anthropology.

Jonathan has spent much of his professional life in education. In Philadelphia, he taught both Hebrew and religious school for Mishkan Shalom, as well as biology, physics, and environmental science in the Philadelphia Public School system and Spanish, Latin, and Greek at Girard College, a boarding school for underprivileged and at-risk youth. He worked as a lecturer in religion and anthropology at Delaware Valley College and at Ithaca College. Jonathan loves teaching as well as encouraging curiosity and learning at all levels and stages of life, and looks forward to joining the Mercaz program this year

Zak Lempert


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.


Darya Solomon

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Darya grew up in a small town near Netanya, where she lives with her mother. She is passionate about the Arts and plays the piano, guitar, ukulele, and saxophone. She is part of the Tzofim, the Israeli Scouts youth movement, where she explores Israeli culture and builds team work and leadership skills. She majored in Physics and Biology and is part of an Israeli National Championship robotics team. She hopes to deepen connections between Netanya and Cincinnati that will last a lifetime.

May From

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May is 18 years old and lives just three minutes from the sea in Netanya. She is an avid surfer and surfing instructor, and she loves food. She lives with her parents, twin sister Gal, and her two dogs. Her majors in school were Theatre and Biology. She gets inspiration from Israeli actress Gal Gadot, qualities of whom she hopes to emulate. She knows this year will be a special experience and bring her new family and friends.

Stephanie Kogan


Dr. Deborah Netanel


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.


Austin Zoot


Austin Zoot is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College. Born in suburban Chicago, Austin was very involved in NFTY in high school, and discovered his dream of becoming a rabbi. He attended Indiana University where he studied Jewish Studies and Telecommunications, working on his passion of bringing Jewish religion and culture into modernity and beyond. Austin's passions include reading, writing, and, most of all, the Chicago Cubs.

Samantha Schauvaney

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Samantha grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree in human development and family studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. Sam has served pulpits in New Iberia, Louisiana, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As a fellow, she has worked with Rockdale Temple, where she taught fourth grade, and Adath Israel, where she assisted in creating a supplement for the school’s Hebrew curriculum. She currently works at Northern Hills Synagogue.


Meet our Director of Education


Dr. Jennifer Grubbs is a Cincinnati native, and former teacher at Mercaz High School. Jennifer has worked in higher education for over 13 years as an educator and administrator. Jennifer has worked on campuses in Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. in the social sciences. She holds a doctorate in Anthropology, specializing in race, gender, and social justice, and two Master’s degrees (Communication and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies). Jennifer spent five years working at Rockwern Academy, Cincinnati’s community Jewish Day School for five years before transitioning back into a full-time role in higher education. She is currently a professor at Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.