Professional Leadership

Aviva Walls
Head of School

Aviva Walls believes deeply in the transformative nature of Jewish day school education and in the communities they create. After attending day schools in Seattle, she received her Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and her Masters in Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business with a concentration in Leadership and Change Management. Her diverse background ensured a commitment to Jewish pluralism and professionally, she has worked with a wide variety of Jewish communities. She was drawn to Gesher for the warmth of the community and the commitment to service seen throughout our families and faculty.

Before joining Gesher as Head of School, she served as Dean of Academic Affairs at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, California. In that role, she helped the school transition toward faculty-driven independent advanced curricula and away from an AP-based curriculum all while maintaining a reputation for student agency and academic excellence.

Aviva believes that the goal of education is to fan the sparks of divinity that live in every human being and help our children recognize those sparks in others. She believes that experience and reflective practice are the keys to learning and growth. As a life-longer herself, she is a current Wexner Field Fellow and has received certificates in Jewish Educational Leadershipfrom YULEAD and the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI). In her spare time, Aviva loves to travel, cook and listen to podcasts. She is the proud aunt to seven nieces and nephews.

Molly Bernfeld
Executive Assistant

Molly Bernfeld has supported executives for nearly ten years at organizations ranging from higher education to architecture. She served as an Executive Assistant in the George Mason University School of Music, earning her an employee of the month award out of 5,000+ employees. Molly later worked in operations at Rockwell Group, an award-winning architecture and design firm in Manhattan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s in arts management from George Mason University.

Fran Besalel
Director of Early Elementary Education

Fran has over 33 years of experience in education in Northern Virginia working as a classroom teacher, a reading specialist, and a learning specialist. She joined the Gesher “mishpacha” (family) in 2016 and currently serves as the Vice Principal for Gan Katan through second grade and a learning specialist.

Fran believes deeply in people, relationships, and community. She finds nothing more rewarding than providing support, guidance, and encouragement to children and their adults. She values children and all the ways they are similar and different from one another. She believes in each individual and in teaching children that they can do hard things.

She has a BA in Psychology from Clark University and an MEd in Reading Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. She earned National Board Certification in 2008 in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood. She is the proud mother of two. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, cooking, reading, spending time with friends and family, and participating at Congregation Beth Emeth.

Leah Blasko
Manager of Communications

Leah joined Gesher in the fall of 2021 after a decade working in the sports industry including four years in social media at the Little League World Series. You’ll see her taking names at dismissal illustrating her passion for genuine connection and commitment to having room at the table for everyone.

She spends most of her time at Gesher using her B.A. in Public Relations from Penn State creating emails, posting on social media, and doing graphic design. “Ms. Leah” is our Yearbook adviser and has a passion for working with our older students. In her free time, she enjoys crafting, watching Pittsburgh sports, Kpop, Harry Potter, reading, and spending time with her cat, Sullie.

Brendan Dowd
Director of Facilities and Operations

Brendan Dowd brings 8 years of facilities management experience at an urban public boarding school to Gesher. He has dedicated his career continuing to build and improve the school environment for the scholars that he has had the honor of serving. Educated at Bowie State University, he prides himself on diversity and believes that communities thrive through the exchange of ideas and culture. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor activities with his spouse and friends

Melanie Eisen
Principal for Teaching & Learning

Morah Melanie began her career in Jewish education at Gesher where she taught Hebrew and Judaics in our elementary school for 22 years.
She earned both her Bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies and an MA in Rabbinic Literature from McGill University (Canada), as well as an MA in Education and Human Development from GW University.

Melanie has spent the past four years working at Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy. Prior to that, she spent six years coaching teachers and working with schools as the Director of Educational Innovation at Prizmah and with Yeshiva University School Partnerships. Melanie lives in Northern, VA with her husband, two sons (both Gesher alums), and her dog, Bacus

Sarah Golden
MS Humanities & MS Grade 8 Dean

Sarah Golden has been teaching for more than 15 years in a wide variety of school settings. She holds a M.S. from American University in Health Promotions Management with a concentration in Community Education and a B.A. in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies from Kent State University. Sarah is an active member of the Virginia Association of Teachers of English, iCivics Educator’s Network, and is a master educator with The National WWII Museum.

Sarah is passionate about building empathy in students through studying social studies through multiple perspectives and Tikkun Olam. She fervently believes in providing students with tools for critical thinking and self-advocacy. Sarah loves reading with students, encouraging middle schoolers to be civically engaged, and is an Oxford comma enthusiast. When she is not kvelling over her students, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband, their daughters (both Gesher students), and their dog Norman.

Jonnel Hector
Director of Guidance

Jonnel Hector has a M.A. from the University of Maryland in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a B.A. in Counseling Psychology from Washington Adventist University. Since 2014, Jonnel has been a member of the diverse team at Gunzburg and Associates in Bethesda as a mental health therapist. He specializes in working with adolescents and their families as well as with couples and families. In his free time, Jonnel enjoys playing and watching sports, traveling, photography and finding new bugs with his daughter Savannah.

Jodi Hirsch Rein
Principal for Culture & Student Success

Jodi Hirsch Rein joined the Gesher faculty in 2014 and his been an educator for over 20 years. Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Jodi is blessed to have returned to the community to grow the next generation of Jewish leaders. Jodi has devoted her career to Jewish Education, spending many years in the day school classroom as a teacher, reading specialist, teacher mentor, and now as a day school leader.

Jodi graduated from List College, earning her BA in Psychology from Columbia University and a BA in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She went on to become a DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) Fellow earning her Masters in Jewish Education from Brandeis University. Jodi also received her certification as a Reading Specialist and most recently received a certificate of school leadership and management from the Harvard Education and Business schools. Jodi loves art, swimming, cooking, games, vacation and her family. She is married to Rabbi Steven Rein and enjoys spending time with her boys (both Gesher students).

Nicole Holzman
Director of Student Support

Originally from Puerto Rico, Nicole went on to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in History and German. She later earned an MA from American University in Special Education. Nicole has been an educator for 23 years, both in private and public schools, in the United States and abroad. She has worked as a Reading Specialist, Learning Specialist, Special Educator, and an ESOL teacher. She has received a certification of mentorship from the Jewish New Teacher Project. Nicole joined the Gesher faculty in 2016 and has been committed to creating passionate readers in her students. She loves teaching students to capitalize on their strengths and challenges in order to advocate and be the most successful versions of themselves. Outside of Gesher, Nicole enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and hiking. You can often find Nicole spending time with her husband, two children(one a Gesher graduate), and their dog Rosie.

Abby Kerbel
Director of Jewish Life; MS Judaics

Abby Kerbel has been a professional Jewish Educator in a variety of settings in the Greater Washington area for 10 years. She is a proud graduate of both Barnard College (BA, Middle Eastern Studies), and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary (BA, Jewish History), as well as the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, (MA, Jewish Education) and the first cohort of iCenter Graduate Fellows (Certificate in Israel Education).

A lover of Jewish texts and experiences, Abby brings joy, energy, curiosity, and a distinctly Jewish lens to everything that happens both in the classroom and outside of it. Building on work in synagogue, youth group and camp settings, Jewish values are brought to life through engaging with Jewish texts, our community, and the world around us. Both at school and outside of school, Abby is an avid Israeli Dancer, performing with the Mavrik & Keff Israeli Dance Troupes, co-directing the Israeli Dance Festival DC, attending many local weekly dance sessions, as well as national & international Israeli Dance camps & workshops.

Bev Kramer
Accounts Manager

Since joining Gesher’s administrative team in 1997, Bev Kramer has maintained senior oversight of the school’s daily financial operations in concert with the school’s Finance and Development Directors. Bev brings years of knowledge of Gesher’s history and inner workings, having served under 4 of Gesher’s Heads of School, having close communications with its founders and supporters since its near beginnings and as a proud parent of two Gesher alumni.

Extremely detail- oriented and a known multi-tasker, Bev’s abilities were born out of her early professional experiences as an education researcher for the Organization of American States, as a proofreader for Northrop Grumman and from having served 12 years as a senior paralegal for the Federal Election Commission.

Bev was born in Chicago, Illinois and resides with her husband, Neal (former Gesher VP of Fundraising), in Alexandria, Virginia. She is a graduate of Beloit College and holds multiple certificates in legal research and writing.

Taylor May
Director of Admissions

Taylor May is our Director of Admissions. She comes to Gesher after working for the last six years for BBYO in Northern Virginia. Taylor loves connecting with people and helping them find new ways to get involved with the things they are passionate about. She graduated from George Mason University with a degree in History and a minor in Nonprofit Studies. While at George Mason, she was active in Hillel in a variety of positions including President. Taylor lives in Reston, with her husband Nick, and their cat Lola.

Colleen Richardson
Director of Finance & HR

Colleen Richardson has 13 years of experience in finance and operations management in the education sector, and is very excited to be joining the Gesher JDS in June 2023. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus.
Throughout her career, Colleen has worked in both public charter schools and independent schools in the DMV area, where she has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the school environment for the students she serves. She has a proven track record of success in managing various programs and initiatives, ensuring the satisfaction of stakeholders including students, parents, and faculty.
Outside of work, Colleen enjoys spending quality time with her loved ones. She cherishes moments with her husband, children, beloved cat, and tending to her flock of backyard chickens.

Maddie Rosenwald
MS Leadership team; Science Teacher

Mrs. Rosenwald has been at Gesher for 9 years. She has a masters in Education from Marymount University and has completed an Advanced Graduate Program in Educational Leadership from Brandeis University.
Her goal is to give students the ability to understand the complexities that surround everyday science. As a teacher, she feels as though it is imperative that young individuals are given the tools and resources to think critically and to see that science, although maybe unfamiliar, can be exciting and fun.

Shiri Rozenberg
Director of Advancement

Director of Development, Shiri Rozenberg brings more than 15 years of fundraising experience to Gesher. Shiri received her Bachelor’s in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from San Diego State University. In college, she began her professional journey as the Marketing and Outreach Intern for Areyvut, inspiring and encouraging B’nai Mitzvah students to increase their involvement in Chesed, Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam. Following graduation she joined the Manhattan Jewish Experience, overseeing the social, educational and fundraising events for the organization’s Upper East Side location. Before joining Gesher, Shiri managed fundraising events for the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association. Throughout her time working in the health charity sector, she has taught Hebrew School and worked with USY and Kadima through her synagogue.