Teachers and Staff
Ross Helford, Principal, Vov lerer (teacher)
Ross Helford is a writer and teacher with over a decade working in the entertainment industry as a screenwriter. He holds an MFA in creative writing, as well as a Black Belt in Kenpo Karate. As an educator, in any given week, Ross works with students of all ages, from four to adult. In addition to having taught Sholem’s Vov class (9th & 10th grades) since 2006, Ross teaches and tutors across multiple subject areas including karate, music, Spanish, creative and essay writing, literature, and film studies. Ross is also a graduate of Sholem’s Secular Yeshiva, a bar/bas mitsve mentor, and is a certified vegvayzer.
Hershl Hartman, Education Director/vegvayzer (leader)
Hershl has been Sholem’s education director since 1967. Between 1967 and 1985, he was also the school’s principal. He is a certified Secular Jewish vegvayzer who often officiates at weddings and other life-cycle events. Hershl holds degrees in Secular Jewish education and in Yiddish journalism, which he practiced as the first native-born Yiddish newspaper reporter.
A professional Yiddish/English translator and interpreter, he also serves on the Executive Board of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (Sholem is an affiliate) and the District Committee of the SoCal Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle, with which Sholem actively collaborates. In addition, Hershl directs the Secular Yeshiva, intensive classes in higher Jewish learning for those willing to make the commitment, as well as for those interested in certification as vegvayzer/madrikhot(im)/leaders.
Rebekka Helford, Vice-Principal, Bagels ‘n Blox Coordinator, Klezmer Band Leader
When Rebekka isn’t busy running Sholem’s parent/toddler program, Bagels ’n Blox, co-leading the Sholem School Klezmer Ensemble, or performing her duties as vice principal at Sholem, she is conducting psychotherapy in her private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or leading parent/toddler groups for Well Baby Center and the Cassidy Preschool. She loves making music with children and taught Music Together classes for three years in Santa Monica. Rebekka also teaches for Pepperdine University and Gerry Grossman Seminars, is a longtime practitioner of Kundalini yoga, and is a graduate of Sholem’s secular yeshiva and certified vegvayzer. A member of the Sholem faculty for over 10 years, Rebekka was drawn to Sholem because of her love for Yiddishkayt and passion for preserving Jewish cultural heritage in a personally meaningful and relevant way. She loves welcoming newcomers to the Sholem family, and enjoys introducing people to this unique community.
Grant Palmer, Alef lerer
After spending the 2015-16 school year as Sholem’s intern and building an ardent following amongst Sholem’s youngest students, Grant will be bringing music, performance, song, and fun to the Alef class. Grant, an alumnus of Sholem and graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, deeply grateful for the opportunity to give back to the Sholem community. Grant believes in the power of cultural education to deepen our curiosity in ourselves and in others. He’ll see you at Bagel time!
Dani Shear, Beys lerer
Dani was a Sholem Daled lerer in 2015-16 and is thrilled to be the new Beys lerer. She is a Northwestern University graduate who made it to Broadway with “Les Miserables” back in the late 90’s. Dani has enjoyed being a mommy and education blogger for FreshSchools, BabyNames, ModernMom and RedTyperwriter. She sold a pilot to Fox entitled theTRUEword. Dani wrote a children’s book called The Foodie Club, illustrated by Holly Weinstein and available on Amazon. She tutored children at Lindamoode Bell. She worked as the Westside Community Manager for HopSkipDrive, a mom-founded start-up company.
Jennifer Saparzadeh, Giml lerer
Jennifer is a film-artist and community-advocate working as an educator and volunteer at art centers and educational institutions. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA to a recently immigrated Iranian-Jewish family. She received her MFA from the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ÉCAL). More information about her film practice can be found here: jennifersaparzadeh.com. She will be teaching this year’s Giml class, which fruitfully coincides with a body of work she is currently producing about the denial of freedom of movement; the work includes documentation recorded in Palestine, Israel, Austria, and the Greek-Macedonia border.
Sarah Vac Sciver, Giml lerer
Sarah is an educator, performer, arranger, and composer – writing for film and theatre and as a singer-songwriter. She is also an avid engineer, conductor, musical director, orchestrator, sound designer, chorister, and video editor. As a music instructor, her specialties are voice, piano, harp, choir, musical theatre, songwriting, arranging, and composition. A recent graduate of the Performer-Composer MFA program at the California Institute of the Arts, Sarah has been teaching pre-K through collegiate level music and theatre for over a decade. www.sarahvansciver.com
Claire Bergen, Hey lerer, Lead lerer, Curriculum Specialist
After six years of working with some of Sholem’s youngest students, in 2016 Claire will begin teaching Sholem’s Hey class, while acting as lead lerer and continuing to research and develop Sholem’s curriculum. Claire holds an M.A in Teaching as well as a California Multiple Subject Teaching credential from USC, and spent a decade as a teaching artist in music and movement with organizations including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA), P.S. ARTS, and the Los Angeles Music and Art School. A third-generation klezmer musician, Claire has worked for the local cultural organization Yiddishkayt and has traveled to New York, Montreal, and Poland to study klezmer music and Yiddish culture. As a 2015 graduate of Sholem’s Secular Yeshiva and vegvayzer-in-training course, Claire is looking forward to taking on new leadership roles in secular Jewish celebrations and life-cycle events.
Erin Faigin – Intern & Special Projects
Erin Faigin is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, where she majored in History and minored in Native American Studies and Jewish Studies. She has been studying Yiddish for the last three years, and completed her senior thesis project on the history of the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club and their periodical Kheshbn (A Reckoning). She has been in Yiddish classrooms all over the world, as a participant of the Steiner Summer Program, the Helix Project, and the Vilnius Yiddish Institute Summer Program. During the week, she works as an Administrative Assistant for the Louchheim Undergraduate Program and the National Office of Recruitment and Admissions at Hebrew Union College. In her spare time, she likes to go on walks, eat Vietnamese food, and go dancing. As well as serving as Sholem’s primary sub, Erin will be bringing her unique expertise to multiple Sholem classes this coming year.
Linda Fisher – Music Coordinator
Linda Fisher’s involvement with Sholem goes back a long way. In addition to being Sholem’s music coordinator for the last 12+ years, she is the mother of two Sholem graduates, and, as a child, was a graduate of Sholem Sunday School herself. Linda is a classically-trained singer who performs in a variety of genres, including musical theater, folk, and light opera, for a wide range of age groups. She has worked as a music educator in children’s music for more than 25 years. For 12 of those years Linda created and ran an interactive musical children’s story-time program for a local independent bookstore, as well as provided classes and specialized workshops there, combining children’s literature and music. In addition, she has led music-in-the-classroom training workshops for pre-school teachers, and performed at literacy programs in schools around the Los Angeles area. She is a former music director and teacher, as well as board member, for WILPF Peace Camp, a project of Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom. She has performed in a number of plays and musicals locally, and, in addition, has performed in several readings of new original musicals. Her CD, called “Since You’ve Asked”, is available. Just ask her.
Ruthy Seid, Music lerer
Ruthy Seid is a third generation Jewish secularist as well as a Valley Kindershul and Mitlshul graduate. She has taught music at Sholem since 2000. Her day job is as a librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library.
Marshall Shackelford, Principal’s Assistant
Marshall Shackelford is a Sholem graduate who has worked within Sholem’s belfer program for the past three years, mostly as a teacher’s helper in the third and fourth grade Giml class. He loves music and has a Certificate in General Music Studies from Berklee College of Music Online. In his free time he enjoys playing basketball and skateboarding. As a long time student and staff member of Sholem, Marshall loves coming to work every Sunday to share his idea of Jewishness with an accepting, loving community of progressive-minded people.