RABBI OREN HAYON
Rabbi Oren J. Hayon grew up in Columbus, Ohio and received his B.A. in English from Rice University. Following his graduation, Rabbi Hayon worked in management consulting and in the Los Angeles entertainment industry. After several years of work on studio and independent film projects, he began his rabbinical studies in Jerusalem. Rabbi Hayon received his M.A.H.L. and rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Following his ordination, Rabbi Hayon served Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and worked as the Greenstein Family Executive Director and rabbi at the Hillel at the University of Washington.
Rabbi Hayon has held a number of leadership in the Reform Movement, serving as a Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and as an editor, translator and contributor of Hebrew texts and poetry for a number of publications by the CCAR Press, including Mishkan HaNefesh, the High Holy Day machzor, and LaKol Eit, a Rabbi’s Manual for Reform rabbis.
Rabbi Hayon happily makes his home in Houston with his wife Julie and their two daughters.
RABBI PAMELa Silk
Rabbi Pamela B. Silk grew up in Farmington Hills, MI, attended the Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan for high school, and received her B.S. in Biology from The University of Michigan. Following her graduation Rabbi Silk began her rabbinical studies in Jerusalem and received her M.A.H.L. and rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Rabbi Silk began serving Congregation Emanu El in 2003, immediately following her ordination.
Rabbi Silk has held leadership roles in the Houston Rabbinic Association, served on the Board of Trustees for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and was awarded the Mae & Edmund Hecht Rabbinic Award presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. Being passionate about providing pastoral care to those in need, Rabbi Silk is frequently in area hospitals visiting temple members and their loved ones and serves on the Professional Advisory Group for Memorial Hermann’s Clinical Pastoral Education program and DePelchin Children’s Center Institutional Review Board. Rabbi Silk enjoys reading, cooking, and baking. She is married to Jeff Silk and they have two children.
RABBI Joshua R.S. Fixler
Rabbi Joshua Ron Solomon Fixler grew up in Englewood, CO. In 2007 he received a B.A. in Organizational Development and Community Leadership, a program of his own design, from the University of Maryland, College Park. After college, Rabbi Fixler spent two years exploring his interests in social justice and interfaith work as a Program Coordinator at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. He then served for three years as the Assistant Educator and Youth Director for Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, VA.
Rabbi Fixler was ordained at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in May of 2017. While in rabbinical school, he served as the student rabbi at Temple B’nai Israel in High Point, NC and at Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, NJ. He also completed a summer rabbinical residency at Temple Micah in Washington, DC and unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.
Rabbi Fixler is honored to have been selected as a Wexner Graduate Fellow and a Bonnie and Daniel Tisch Rabbinical Fellow. During his time at HUC-JIR, Joshua also completed an Advanced Professional Certificate in Management for Public & Nonprofit Organizations at New York University.
Rabbi Fixler lives in Houston with his wife, Annie, and their daughter, Ella.
RABBI ROY WALTER
Rabbi Roy A. Walter served as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu El from 1978 – 2011. He came to Emanu El following his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1970, and served eight years as Assistant and Associate Rabbi. Rabbi Walter is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. He holds a B.A. degree from Tulane University and Bachelor and Masters of Hebrew Letters degrees from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. In 1970, he was ordained a Rabbi. In 1995, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Rabbi Walter has served locally on the Boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Houston Metropolitan Ministries, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and as President of the Houston Rabbinic Association. He is on the faculty of St. Thomas University where he teaches under the auspices of the Jewish Chautauqua Society and as a Herzstein Lecturer. He also serves on the Board of the Institute for Spirituality and Health.
He is a past president of the Southwest Association of Reform Rabbis and has served on the Board of ARZA, on the Executive Board and the Liturgy Committee of the CCAR, and as a member of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the UJA. In addition, he has been a member of the Board of Governors and Board of Rabbinic Overseers of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and is currently a member of the President’s Rabbinic Advisory Council. He served two years as the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) representative to the Joint Commission on Social Action between the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and the CCAR, and served as the Co-Chair of the Rabbinic Alumni Endowment Campaign of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Walter served as President of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Inc. from 1996-1998 and has been named a Life Board Member. In 1995 Rabbi Walter served on the Blue Ribbon Committee for Hiring Practices of the Houston Independent School District and he was the rabbinic co-chair of the Commission on Jewish Continuity for the Jewish community of Greater Houston.
Rabbi Walter served as Chair of the Poetry Selection Committee of the CCAR which chose poems that were published in the 50th Anniversary Edition of the CCAR Journal from all poems published in past CCAR Journal. He is co-author of Gates of Prayer for Young People published by the CCAR and of My Prayers: A Children’s Book of Prayers for Everyday Occasions.
Rabbi Walter is married to the former Linda Cohn of Cincinnati, Ohio. They have three children, Benjamin, Michel, and Aaron and two grandchildren, Ethan and Hannah.
Cantor Rollin Simmons
Cantor Rollin Simmons grew up in Milton, MA and also at Temple Israel Boston. Cantor Simmons graduated cum laude from Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY in 2001 receiving a B.A., with a major in Art History and a minor in Italian. After college she moved to Cambridge, MA where she explored various career paths in architecture, visual arts, cantorial soloing, and education. During this time Cantor Simmons earned an M.Ed in Special Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She was also a soloist with the Zamir Chorale of Boston, performing locally and internationally. After being inspired and encouraged by her cantor, Roy Einhorn at Temple Israel Boston, and her experiences with Jewish music in the Zamir Chorale, Cantor Simmons decided to pursue cantorial school.
During her five years as a student at The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, Cantor Simmons was honored to serve as the Student Cantor at Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, TX, alongside Rabbi Oren Hayon and Cantor Richard Cohn; Hebrew Tabernacle in Washington Heights in New York City; and The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, NY. Cantor Simmons served as a Hospital and Hospice chaplain intern at Evergreen Healthcare near Seattle, WA in the summer of 2007, and as the cantorial intern at Temple Israel Boston. During the first year of cantorial school in Jerusalem, Cantor Simmons met rabbinical student, David Segal. They were married in 2009 on Martha's Vineyard.
After being ordained in 2010, Cantor Simmons and Rabbi Segal moved to Aspen, CO, where they have served as co-clergy for the past six years at the Aspen Jewish Congregation. During her time in Aspen, Cantor Simmons has transformed the worship experience through creative uses of music and liturgy. She also formed Aspen's first volunteer Shabbat band, Shir Bliss. In 2013, Cantor Simmons became the director of the Aspen Jewish Congregation's Hebrew School, creating and implementing unique hands-on curriculum. Cantor Simmons has also created, produced, directed and performed in an annual summer concert fundraiser for the congregation, inviting a team of some of the country's best Jewish musicians. In February 2016 Cantor Simmons was invited by JEWISHcolorado in Denver to open for Itzhak Perlman for a sold out crowd.
In 2013, Cantor Simmons was featured as a soloist on Noah Aronson's album The Left Side of the Page. She was the featured soloist in the Aspen Choral Society's performance of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.
Cantor Simmons just moved to Houston with her husband, David, their two children, Levi and Bea, and their dog, Olive.
David Lamden, a Cleveland, OH native, was raised in Tucson, AZ where he received his Reform Jewish education and spent many years attending Reform Jewish camps. A graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Judaic Studies, he served as a camp counselor and song leader at Camp Charles Perlstein (now Camp Stein) in Prescott, AZ, and URJ Camp Swig (now URJ Camp Newman) in Santa Rosa, CA.
Upon graduation, he relocated to Columbus OH, where he served for six years as Education Director/Family Jewish Educator at Congregation Beth Tikvah. David then became Religious School Director/Program Director and Technology Coordinator at Temple Israel, a position he held for eight years.
Recruited to Phoenix to become Executive Director of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley AZ, in 2007, David served in that capacity until July 2013 when he assumed the position of Executive Director at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach, FL. In November 2016, David assumed his role as Executive Director of Congregation Emanu El.
David was advanced to Senior Member in the National Association for Temple Administration (NATA) in 2011 and in November 2014 received his Fellow in Temple Administration (FTA) designation. He serves on its Board as well as its Web Site Committee Chair, in 2013 served as Co-Chair of the Association's National Conference, and co-chaired the 2016 National Conference.
David is happily married to Jennifer, the father of two adult children and the proud owner of two standard poodles and two cockatoos.
Jason Plotkin, a native Houstonian, attended Westbury High School before receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Radio & Television with an emphasis on Public Relations and Promotions in 2005. Jason arrived at Emanu El following seven years as an athletic administrator at the University of New Orleans, the last three as the Director of Athletic Media Relations. During his tenure, Jason ran the day-to-day operations of the athletic media relations including responsibilities associated with the web site, social media and game management. In addition to his duties with UNO, Jason worked media relations for Super Bowl XLVII, the 2012 NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four, as well as multiple NCAA postseason events. Previous work experience includes a stint as the athletic director at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center and serving as the first full-time sports information director in Dillard University history.
Jason was the recipient of the Creager Memorial Award in 2005 from SHSU given to the senior male student that has “made the most outstanding contribution to overall student life” and continues his involvement at the college level by serving as a member of the Houston Hillel Board of Directors. Jason is married to the former Aliza Herman, and together they have a beautiful son named Isaac.
DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL LEARNING
Stefani Carlson is a lifelong Jewish learner, as well as an experienced and innovative educator, leader and mentor. Since graduating from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English Language and Literature (1990), Stefani has lived, learned, and taught in communities in Virginia, Colorado, California, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio. Most recently, she served Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio as Hebrew teacher, B’nai Mitzvah tutor, lay leader, and Education Director.
Stefani is a 2017 graduate of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI), and its partnership Graduate Certificate program in Jewish Education from the University of Cincinnati’s Center for the Study of Jewish Education. She is a member of the Network for Research in Jewish Education (NRJE) and the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE), and a Fellow of the Portraits of Jewish Learning Project of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education of Brandeis University.
Stefani and her husband, Steve, have two adult sons, Alex and Evan, and are delighted to be making their home in Houston.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER DIRECTOR
Paula brings over 18 years of preschool experience to Becker Early Childhood Center. For thirteen of those years, she worked at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Houston. She taught in the classroom, headed up a Special Education Department, was the Coordinator of Lower Elementary School, served as the Lower School Principal and as the Director of Admissions. Paula received her Masters in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Counseling from the University of Houston and her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Houston graduating Magna Cum Laude.
She currently holds an American Montessori Society Certificate and has completed the Rice Literacy and Cultural Project offered by Rice University. Paula has completed and received many certificates from other continuing educational programs including the Baylor-Rice Science Program for Elementary Teachers, Neuhaus Language Enrichment Program and the Texas Certification for Elementary Education.
Professional associations in which she is involved include Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Kappa Delta Phi Education Honor Society, Union of Reform Jewish Early Childhood Directors, National Association of Education for Young Children, Southern Early Childhood Association.
For questions or concerns about the philosophy of the school, school policies, a concern about your child's development, referral information or financial concerns, please contact Paula.