The Spotlight

Leslee Lisnek

CJEC, Jewish Education Coordinator


Leslee Lisnek is a 29-year-old queer Jew from Charlotte, who made Cincy her home 6 years ago. Growing up in the Reform tradition, she received her M.A.H.L. from HUC; today, she is happiest considering herself a non-denominational Jewish professional. Leslee is engaged to be married in the Fall of 2020!


Q: What drew you to Jewish education?

A: I fell in love with Jewish folktales as a child. As I grew older, I delved into Jewish history, and it's still one of my favorite topics to teach.

Q: Provide a brief overview of your Jewish work in Cincy.

A: I am the new Jewish Education Coordinator for the Council! I also teach 6th grade at Adath Israel, and have taught at multiple Cincy congregations, and conduct pastoral care work for the community.

Q: What do you see as the purpose/vision of Cincy Jewish Education Council?

A: I believe the CJEC's purpose is to ensure educators set aside deliberate time for professional growth, and to provide the resources and collaboration for us to successfully grow.

Q: For what resources/insight should Jewish educators come to you?

A: Teaching Jewish history to children, LGBTQIA* language and issues, and interfaith situations.

Q: What is your #1 piece of advice for Jewish educators?

A: Have 1-on-1 talks with each student at some point throughout the year, giving each a private opportunity to be heard.


Carol Hershenson

Northern Hills Synagogue, Spark School Principal

I divide my time and intellectual attention between Jewish education at Northern Hills Synagogue and prehistoric Aegean studies at the Department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati. I have spent most of my adult life in Cincinnati and raised my son here.

Q: What drew you to Jewish education?

A: I want to provide the students in our (Northern Hills Synagogue’s) supplementary religious school with both a love of Jewish observance, identity, and values and the concrete knowledge to be comfortable and confident in Jewish settings and services – in short the educational attainments my Jewish education bestowed on me and that the same school gave to my son.

Q: Provide a brief overview of your Jewish work in Cincy.

A: I have worked at Northern Hills Synagogue-Congregation B’nai Avraham for over a decade, largely in the school and with the youth and family programs.

Q: What do you see as the purpose/vision of Cincy Jewish Education Council?

A: I think that the professional development offered by the CJEC is of great value, both for new teachers and for veterans. I also value the opportunity to get together with other professionals in Jewish education and learn from their experiences.

Q: For what resources/insight should Jewish educators come to you?

A: I bring a perspective on Jewish history and practice from the perspective of comparative study of other ancient civilizations, and a rigorous understanding of historiographic method as applied to Jewish as well as other ancient texts.

Q: What is your #1 piece of advice for Jewish educators?

A: Don’t dumb it down in the name of making it “fun”. Students achieve a deeper level of enjoyment from genuine accomplishments achieved in an encouraging atmosphere of collaborative learning, and they know when we’re condescending to them.

Zak Lempert

Adath Israel/Mercaz, Teacher

Zak Lempert is a third year Judaic Studies major at the University of Cincinnati, and currently teaches Fourth Grade at Adath Israel Congregation and High School at MERCAZ. During the year Zak can be found helping with risk management and inclusion for AEPi, the Jewish Fraternity at the University of Cincinnati, leading Shabbat services at Cincinnati Hillel, and watching too much Netflix. Zak teaches theater at local summer camps, and is currently interning at the Jewish Women's Theatre of Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati this year, he hopes to enter Rabbinic school.


Q: What drew you to Jewish education?

A: For me, there was no question that when I entered 8th grade, I would be a Madrich at Adath Israel. My mother, Debbie Lempert, teaches Kindergarten, and I spent five years as a teaching assistant in Zahava Rendler's and Phyllis Binik Thomas's (of blessed memory) classrooms. Two years after Phyllis passed, I had the opportunity to step into her classroom and teach fourth grade. Her amazing work inspires me to be a creative and engaging teacher. She is definitely why I came back to teaching after my freshman year of college.

Q: Provide a brief overview of your Jewish work in Cincy.

A: Most of my Jewish work happens on campus at the University of Cincinnati. I'm a brother of AEPi, the Jewish Fraternity, and will be serving on Hillel's board this year alongside the incredible Emma Duhamel, who is also a Jewish educator in Cincinnati. I was also one of the students who helped plan the campus vigil for the victims of the the Tree of Life shooting. Off-campus, I'm a regular Davener at Adath and sing in the choir, along with helping lead Family Services on the High Holidays.

Q: What do you see as the purpose/vision of Cincy Jewish Education Council?

A: As a new teacher last year, I got to attend the New Teacher Series, which really helped because I am a young teacher, and not a "trained" teacher. I think this year with new kids I'm going to miss being able to workshop with this group so frequently. I've also met several friends through the Ed Council. I've especially enjoyed some of the more upbeat workshops. For me, its about professional development and having the resources I need to succeed in my classroom.

Q: Who is your Jewish education mentor, and why?

A: There is no possible way I can name just one person. As I said earlier, Phyllis Binik-Thomas is probably the person I am inspired the most by, I literally think of her every time I'm in my classroom. Mentor-wise, Dara Wood constantly finds ways to help me put out fires and grow as a person. And, of course, my mother Debbie who has had the biggest influence on me in so many ways, but certainly Jewish education being one.

Q: What have you found challenging as a Jewish educator?

A: I think one of the biggest challenges I had this year was being so young as the teacher in the classroom, with only four years of age between myself and my oldest Madrich. I ended up using this to my advantage, and I brought in a lot of technology. We built the ancient temple on Minecraft, used the school's iPads for flashcards and videos, and watched a lot of short videos, instead of me talking. I think it was a challenge to find ways to balance everything, but in the end it worked out really well.