Our Congregational School Staff

Image previewRivka Jarosh, Principal, Congregational School
Dalet Teacher (4th Grade); B'nai Mitzvah Coordinator; Tot Shabbat Coordinator



Rivka has been with Mishkan Shalom for 24 years. She was a teacher with the Philadelphia Public Schools for 36 years. She loves to teach! She joined the staff of Mishkan's Congregational School and right away knew that the School -- and the synagogue -- was the right place for her.

As head of the school, Rivka writes curriculum and programs that fit our Statement of Principles and philosophy, meets and helps all the families get what they need from the school and works with teachers. She believes that children who are cared about, and taught well, will enjoy Hebrew school. She also believes in trusting children to interpret what they learn to fit something that they can believe. She also enjoys helping the B'nai Mitzvah families through the process.

Rivka loves being a synagogue member also. She coordinates both the scheduling of Torah reading by members for Shabbat and our participation in feeding the homeless once a month at the Eastern Delaware Valley Life Center. (also known as the 63rd Street Shelter). She has served on many committees and on our synagogue Board.

She shares her life with her partner, Craig Cohen, in Havertown. They have two grown sons. She is especially excited to talk about her two grandchildren. Rivka enjoys working on political issues both locally and nationally. She does puzzles, sees her friends and goes to baseball games and car shows.

Image previewGabrielle Kaplan-Mayer
Gan, Alef Teacher (Kindergarten, 1st Grade)
Food for Thought (Teen Program); Coordinator, Celebrations! & Mitzvah Mensches


Gabby has worked in Jewish education -- as an education director, curriculum writer, teacher, author and youth director/advisor -- for over 20 years.

At Mishkan Shalom, she created Celebrations! -- an award-winning Shabbat family educational program for children with special needs and their families -- and directs Mishkan's chapter while expanding the program throughout the region, including the development of a social and social action group for young adults with special needs, Mitzvah Menshes. She teaches our very popular teen cooking program, Food for Thought and is a long-time teacher in our school (now in her 15th year!) and a cherished staff member, having served most recently as Youth Director.

She serves as Director, Whole Community Inclusion at Jewish Learning Venture, with roles as Program Director for Special Needs and Program Director for Family Engagement in the Kehillah of Center City.

Gabby is the author of two books of plays for young people including Extraordinary Jews: Their Lives on Stage. Her nonfiction books include The Creative Jewish Wedding Book and The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner. Gabby's most recent book, The Kitchen Classroom, is a cookbook for children with special needs, based on the inclusive cooking classes she has taught for six years. She is a popular writer and blogger about Jewish and special needs topics.

Gabby holds a B.F.A. in theatre and creative writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Image previewJulia Weekes
Gimel Teacher (3rd Grade)


Julia has been at Mishkan for years as both a teacher and parent. She is the mom of Judah and Isaiah, who are both in the teen group. Julia has served as Gimel teacher for three years, the Bet Hebrew teacher, a substitute, and occasional tutor.

Julia, her husband Iggy, the boys, and cats live in West Mt. Airy. Julia is an artist and certified art teacher and is Director of Moonstone Preschool. She partnered with Iggy, a horticulturist and urban farmer, for nearly fifteen years to transform vacant lots and school yards in disenfranchised neighborhoods into parks, gardens, farms, outdoor laboratories and art galleries, while transforming children, teens, and adults, and connecting people to their communities. Julia loves teaching, using her skills in experiential education and cooperative learning in the classroom.

Julia structures the class as a Kehillah -- each person being integral in creating the most joyful and productive learning environment. She utilizes cooperative and experiential learning for all aspects of the curriculum.

The Gimel class engages students through exploration of Torah stories and Jewish cultural history, enabling them to 'step into the shoes' of our ancestors in order to make connections with our history, our present and each other. Gimel students also begin to master Hebrew reading, modern vocabulary and conversation, and traditional prayers, songs and blessings.

Image previewCantor David Acker
Dalet, Hay Teacher (4th/5th Grade)


David holds a Masters in Cantorial Studies and Jewish Music from Gratz College as well as music degrees from Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music and Swarthmore College. He is also a candidate for a Masters in Jewish Education at Gratz College. David challenges his students to invest their own creativity, imaginations and intelligence into the development of their Jewish identity. Through experiential learning, he facilitates his students' discovery of the relevance of Jewish customs, literature, prayers and ideas. He also believes that students feel much more comfortable in the synagogue when they know they are competent in Hebrew, so he designs games and engaging exercises to help them learn.

Prior to teaching at Mishkan Shalom, David served as cantor and music specialist at Congregation Ohev Shalom (Wallingford, PA) and Or Shalom (Berwyn, PA). At Mishkan he has led clubs that created and performed plays and raps for Hannukah, Purim and Passover, as well as storytelling and trope clubs. He enjoys singing all kinds of music: opera, musical theater and lieder as well as liturgical music. David is drawn to teaching in the synagogue, because within it he experiences the whole gamut of Jewish life: prayer, education, b’nai-mitzvah preparation, lifecycle and community.

Jonathan Jackson
Vav Teacher (6th Grade)

Jonathan is a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College studying for rabbinic ordination.  He is based in Philadelphia, PA, and has an academic background in comparative religion, ancient Near Eastern languages and cultures, and cultural anthropology. He has worked as rabbinic intern to his current congregation, Temple Beth El in Oneonta, NY.

Most recently, his work in higher education has been as a Lecturer of World Religions and Jewish Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ithaca College.  Before this, he taught in the departments of religion, Islamic studies, anthropology, and LGBT studies at Syracuse University.  At the pre-college level, Jonathan has taught natural sciences in the public schools around the Philadelphia area, including  Audenried, Edison, Fels, and Gratz, and held an appointment to the world languages department  at Girard College, where he taught Spanish, Latin, and Greek in the Middle and Upper Schools. At Girard, he also worked on the curriculum and academic evaluation committee for Middle States. 

Chana/Ann Ellen Dichter
Zayin Teacher (7th Grade)

Chana (known as Ann Ellen outside of the Jewish education world) is thrilled to return to the Mishkan Shalom school, having previously taught here for 10 years. She is a founding member of Mishkan Shalom, and her two sons had their B'nai Mitzvah at Mishkan. She has worked in Jewish education for many years, as both a teacher and education director, both in K-7 supplemental schools and at the high school level and is looking forward to sharing her knowledge and passions with our students. Chana believes that every child can find a personal connection to our Jewish tradition, history, practice or culture, and it is the teacher's job to guide each student towards their connection point.

Chana holds a Master's Degree in Communication Disorders, and spent many years as a clinical audiologist, hearing therapist, health care administrator and early intervention specialist

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / office@mishkan.org Site map