Our Professional Staff
Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School
Deborah R. Starr has a B.A. in American History and Elementary Education from the State University of New York at Stony Brook; a M.S. in Early Childhood Education from the City University of New York at Queens College; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. She has done post-graduate work at the Principals' Center at Harvard.
Dr. Starr's 30-plus years of experience includes teaching in the New York City Public Schools and teaching and administrative positions in Jewish Day Schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She received a New York Alliance for the Public Schools Outstanding Teacher Award and has published a variety of educational articles and gifted curriculum. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an American G.I. she values her Jewish heritage and the gift of living in a free and democratic society. Dr. Starr has adopted twin daughters from South Korea and is married to a “Brooklyn Boy.”
Susana Novak, M.Ed., Elementary School Director
Susana Novak is a Florida certified educator with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Miami and a Master of Education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After working in the Miami Dade Public School System and for many years in International Banking, Susana found a home at Temple Beth Am Day School, where she combines, on a daily basis, her love for Judaism with her passion for education.
She believes in life-long learning and feels privileged to be part of an administrative team that fosters continuous professional development for a fabulous faculty that guides young people in both their Judaic and academic journeys. Susana loves to jog, bike, read children's literature, and critique movies and Broadway plays. Her husband, two children (Beth Am graduates), and her entire family are mirrored in the smile on her face every day.
Mara Berger, M.A., Early Childhood Director
Mara Berger began her career as a Founding Educator at the Blue School in New York City, where she spent five years building the Pre-primary program and two years as a Kindergarten educator. Her time at Blue School was spent establishing programming, collaboratively setting the vision and mission, working alongside parents, and teaching three-year-olds through six-year-olds. Following Blue School, Mara founded AltSchool Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, New York, and served as the Head of School where she contributed to AltSchool Brooklyn's design and build out, established a vision, recruited teachers and students, built a school-based community, supported families and oversaw school wide pedagogy. Most recently, she served as the Head of School at Hudson Lab School in New York, a project-based, intergenerational school.
Throughout Mara’s career she has built a deep understanding of curriculum design through emergent and project-based lenses as a classroom educator and school leader. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont where she studied Early Childhood Education, and Human Development and Family Studies. She also holds a Masters in Educational Leadership as a School Building Leader from New York University.
Rabbi Rachel G. Greengrass, M.A.H.L., M.A.R.E, Jewish Life Coordinator
Rachel Greengrass is our Jewish Life Coordinator and plays a large role in Day School, Religious School and Early Childhood programs. You can find her on the pulpit Friday nights, leading Munchkin Minyan Saturday mornings, in a classroom almost any day of the week and celebrating lifecycle events with our congregants and their families.
Rabbi Greengrass was ordained from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 2008. She holds a Masters of Arts in Hebrew Literature (HUC), a Masters of Religious Education (HUC) and is a certified PREPARE counselor for pre-marital and marriage counseling. In 2011, she was granted the title of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE) by the Reform Jewish Educator Title Granting Commission. A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, she earned a B.S.B.A. in Marketing at Washington University in St. Louis. Rabbi Greengrass was married in October 2007 to John Crary, who recently returned to the classroom as a math teacher. They are the parents of Henry, who was born on March 18, 2010 and has been a fixture at the Temple ever since, and Ezekiel, who was born on May 4, 2012.
Lenore C. Kipper, D.H.L, R.J.E., Judaic Studies Director Emerita
Lenore Kipper began her educational career in Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Education from National Louis University in Evanston and began teaching public school. At the same time, she attended the College of Jewish Studies (now called Spertus), and received a teaching certificate in Jewish Studies. She married Rabbi Morris Kipper and attended classes at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.
Lenore came to Coral Gables in 1964 when her husband became the Rabbi at Temple Judea. She has been engaged in Jewish education in Dade County, teaching in religious school, Day School and serving as Judaic Studies Director at Temple Beth Day School for over 30 years. She developed the Hebrew/Judaic Studies Curriculum for the school under the guidance of a Hebrew Union College pilot program, Day Schools for the 21st Century. Lenore and her husband moved to Israel in 1973 to establish the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. They developed the core curriculum, which is still the foundation for the program. That program is now 45 years old, with over 30,000 who have attended.
Lenore received the title of Reform Jewish Educator from the Union for Reform Judaism, was a founder of the national Reform Day School organization, PARDeS, and was awarded the title of Doctor of Humane Letters from HUC-JIR for her outstanding pioneering leadership in Reform Jewish Day School Education.
A mentor/coach to many teachers and consultant to schools, Lenore continues to teach at Temple Beth Am and Temple Judea. She received the Hebrew/Judaic Studies License from the Board of License, through CAJE, and was selected to be trained as an assessor for JSASIP. She has written several textbooks and teacher guidebooks for UAHC (now URJ) and Behrman House. Recently she attended the seminar for Melton teachers, and is teaching adults in the program. A lifelong learner and teacher, Lenore is an advocate for excellence in Jewish Education for the young and adults, and has made it her mission in her personal and professional life..
Cari Altman, M.S.Ed., Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs
Cari Altman holds a Master's of Science in Education from the University of Miami and has a background in family counseling, education, marketing, recruitment and event coordination. A Pinecrest native, Cari has a lifelong personal and family history at Temple Beth Am, with deep roots in the South Florida Jewish community. She has worked with families at South Miami Hospital's Addiction Treatment Center, as well as the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service, formerly housed at The University of Miami.
Prior to returning to Miami, Cari worked in psychiatric research in mood and anxiety disorders at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Cari is delighted to combine her knowledge of education, children and families with her enthusiasm for Temple Beth Am Day School. She is proud to have a daughter who is a graduate of Temple Beth Am Day School, and a son enrolled in the Elementary School.
Jennifer Carey, M.A., Technology and Innovation Director
Jennifer Carey has a B.A. in History and Anthropology from the University of Miami, and earned her M.A. in Archaeology (with an emphasis in Classics) from the University of California at Los Angeles. In a nearly two-decade career in education, she has served as a classroom educator and administrator in both higher education and K–12 independent schools.
Jennifer is a nationally-recognized leader in education and educational technology. She has contributed articles to numerous organizations (EdWeek, Edudemic, KQED MindShift and more), spoken at national and international conferences, and is a recognized thought-leader in her field. She has served as Board Chair for the Independent School Educator's Network (ISEN) for the International Society for Technology in Educator (ISTE) and is a member of the Executive Board for the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS).
Michelle Bortnik, L.M.F.T., R.P.T., School Counselor
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Michelle Bortnik is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Registered Play Therapist and Certified Infant Mental Health Specialist. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Yeshiva University in New York City, and then returned to Miami to complete her Master's Degree at Carlos Albizu University. Michelle has worked in several local Jewish Day School and is also a therapist for Jewish Community Services. She strives to make a unique connection with each child, and provides a safe space for parents and students to share openly. In her free time, she enjoys baking and traveling to different countries around the world. As a graduate of Temple Beth Am Day School, Michelle is excited to take on the new position of School Counselor.
Nancy Berry, R.N., School Nurse
Nancy Berry received her associate's degree from the University of Florida and bachelor's degree in Nursing from Florida State University. She is passionate about her nursing career. She has over 15 years of experience as a certified peri-operative nurse prior to becoming a school nurse. She has had the pleasure of being the Beth Am school nurse for over 10 years. During the summers she enjoys working as a sleep-away and day-camp nurse.