Ross Helford, Principal, Vov & Hey lerer (teacher)
Ross Helford is a writer and teacher. He holds an MFA in creative writing, as well as a Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, and has written a few produced movies as well. 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 and Hey (7th & 8th grades) since 2020, 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.
Rebekka Helford, Vice-Principal, Alef/Beys Lerer, Bagels ’n Blox Coordinator, Klezmer Band Leader
When Rebekka isn’t busy running Alef/Beys or performing her duties as vice principal at Sholem, she is conducting psychotherapy in her private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, leading parent/toddler groups for Cassidy Preschool, or supervising therapists in training for Well Baby Center. Rebekka is a graduate of Sholem’s secular yeshiva and certified vegvayzer, enabling her to serve as a b’mitsve mentor and officiant for life cycle events. A member of the Sholem faculty for over 20 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. Check out her musings on parenting and humanity and learn more about her psychotherapy work at https://www.rhelfordmft.com
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.
Hershl is currently serving as vegvayzer emeritus, but we love him, so he stays on our staff page.
Giml – Uma Kolesnikow
Uma Kolesnikow will be working as the Giml lerer this year, continuing her ongoing commitment to the Sholem community. Graduating Sholem in 2018, she completed her Bat Mitzvah program by examining different types of Judaism through passover traditions and learning about social justice through speakers and activism supporting the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. Uma is attending Santa Monica College with plans to transfer with a major of early childhood education. Sholem has always been such an important place for her both in education and community, and she is very excited to get the chance to instill similar values and a sense of belonging in the Giml students!
Daled – Benjamin Kersten
Benjamin/Binyomen Kersten (he/they) is a graduate student in UCLA’s Department of Art History. His research focuses on the visual art of Yiddish culture, including how artists participated in transnational networks of Yiddish culture and imagined Jewish diaspora. While his research is inspired by ongoing efforts in Yiddish culture to create new models for Jewish identity in diaspora, he is passionate about fostering Jewish life that is inclusive of many different Jewish histories and experiences beyond Yiddish and Yiddish culture. Outside of his graduate studies, Benjamin roots himself in progressive Jewish community and activism, so he could not be more thrilled to be a part of Sholem.
Assistant Principal – Mavi Kolsenikow
Mavi has been a part of Sholem for over 15 years as a student, belfer, and now staff. His barmitsve project explored Jews and other disciminated groups during WWII, which paired well with the class’s social action project focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. In previous years, Mavi mostly ran the cafe. This year, Mavi is going to be your contact person for all things Sholem during school hours, helping to keep the school running, overseeing our belfer, and much more. He’s always here to help and hopes you love Sholem as much as he does!