Meet Our Amazing Team

Samara Schwartz 2

Samara Schwartz, Director of Youth Learning & Engagement

Samara Schwartz comes to us from a career in Jewish education in synagogues and day schools all over the country.  Most recently the Director of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas, she has taught middle school in Atlanta, high school in Las Vegas, pre-school in Anchorage, Alaska and people of all ages in many places, including Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New York.  Her responsibilities have ranged widely, from revamping Hebrew programs to meaningful Holocaust education, lifting up Jewish history to diving deeply into Jewish texts.  She is proud to have been entrusted with the learning and community building from learners from 9 days to 90 years old.

Samara holds BAs in Bible from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Philosophy from Columbia University, a Masters Degree in Bible and the Ancient Near East from Brandeis, and a Certificate in the Teaching of Advanced Jewish Text from the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.  She is also pleased to be a member of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute, which helps educational leaders transform their schools into places where the teachers learn together in community over their whole careers, building cultures where both Jewish content and understanding of teaching and learning are at the core.

After her long sojourn across the nation, Samara is happy to be back in North Jersey where she grew up, and where people understand what pizza should taste like.  You can find her singing, cooking, knitting, reading, and waiting in line for theater tickets.

Contact Samara

Jill Cimafonte 2

Jill Cimafonte, Early Childhood Education Director

Jill received her BS in Business Administration from Rutgers University and Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Hunter College, graduating with high honors. Before joining Temple Emanu-El, Jill was a Head Teacher at the Ring Nursery School at the Jewish Community Center of Delaware Valley in NJ. She has a NJ and NY elementary teaching certification. Throughout her career she has participated in extensive Jewish early childhood learning opportunities as both a learner and a teacher.

Jill is a founding member of the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ), an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, where she served on its Executive Board for 7 years and continues to assume various roles where needed in the organization. She recently travelled to Israel to learn and study with her colleagues. Jill is also a member of the National Association for the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC) of which she has successfully guided the school multiple times through its national accreditation process. Jill is also an active member of local early childhood organizations as well.

As Early Childhood Director, Jill has led the program through an ongoing transformative process, continually striving to incorporate best practices in Jewish early childhood education while meeting the changing needs of the community.

Jill is the proud mother of 3 boys: Zachary, Jeremy, and Lucas. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and biking.

Contact Jill

Kathleen Stovall

Kathleen Stovall, Controller

Kathleen earned her CPA (with high distinction) at Price Waterhouse Coopers in NYC where she spent two years working on clients as diverse as General Foods, J.P. Morgan and The New York Daily News. She then spent 12 years at Morgan Stanley as a Controller for the Stock Index /Futures trading desk and later for the Investment Banking Division.

Kathleen and her family moved to Fanwood, NJ where she raised her two daughters, performed accounting & tax  work for local businesses and volunteered as PTA Treasurer, PTA President, and as a Religious School Teacher. In 2009, Kathleen accepted a position as Accounting Manager at Bonnie Brae, a residential treatment center in Basking Ridge which serves as a haven for young boys in crisis. Kathleen spent four years at Bonnie Brae and made significant progress in automating the accounting systems. She also realized the immense satisfaction that results from working for an organization that enriches the lives of others.

Kathleen is thrilled to be working at Temple Emanu-El which is well known and respected in her community, just a few miles from her home.

Contact Kathleen

Jackie Grussgott 2

Jackie Grussgott, Communications and Membership Manager

Jackie joined Temple Emanu-El in August of 2017 as the Communications and Membership Manager.

Jackie went to James Madison University where she founded a Jewish sorority and became the President of Hillel. About two weeks after graduating with her Bachelors of Science degree in May 2012, Jackie moved to Holon, Israel and made Aliyah. During her time in Israel, she worked for two startup companies in the technology industry as their Web Marketing & Community Manager.

After moving back to the United States in 2014, Jackie became a Partner Marketing Manager for one of the world’s leading technology companies, VMware. In 2015, she accepted a position at Zoey, an ecommerce startup company in Manhattan, where she founded and managed their partnership program.

Jackie is extremely excited to join the Temple Emanu-El family and community. She currently lives in Bridgewater with her husband, daughter Mia, and their two dogs, Annie and Adele.

Contact Jackie

Samantha Eichert

Samantha Eichert, Assistant Director of Youth Learning and Engagement

Samantha Eichert is so proud to be expanding her role at Temple Emanu-El as our Assistant Director of Youth Learning and Engagement. Currently, Samantha co-leads our 11th and 12th grade Gesher l’Kesher program during HaMakom on Tuesday nights. Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Samantha began her leadership within the Reform Movement at a very young age. While still in high school, she attended Gratz College, completing the Isaac Mayer Wise Reform Teaching Certification program. She earned a BA from the University of Hartford in Judaic Studies and Sociology with a minor in History. Samantha has also completed the Union for Reform Judaism’s Youth Professional 101 Program.

During her college years in Connecticut, Samantha continued to further her synagogue involvement, serving as the Principal for the Lower School at Congregation Kol Haverim in Glastonbury. After graduating from college, Samantha made her way to New Jersey with her now-husband, Matt, and continued to serve in various roles in the Jewish community. Samantha’s recent leadership roles include the Judaic Curriculum Coordinator at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Sinai in Summit, and the Temple Administrator at Temple Emanu-El in Edison.

Samantha and Matt currently reside in Edison with their two dogs, Thor & Ariel.

Samantha is eager and excited to get to know everyone who comes through our doors and work with our community. 

Contact Samantha

Mike Kenny

Mike Kenny, Director of Facilities and Operations 

Michael has been the Building Supervisor for 24 years. In the past, Michael worked in the catering industry and owned a Deli in Long Island.

Michael is very involved in community non-profit organizations. Currently he is the fundraiser for Tourette’s Syndrome of New Jersey. Michael serves on the Executive Board of the Healing Community at Fairview Lakes in Newton. The Healing Community is a camp for children and their families living with HIV/AIDS and family members who have recently lost a family member to AIDS. For four years he also served as President of ABCNJ, AIDS Benefit Committee of New Jersey. Michael, as busy as he is, always makes time to assist others in the Temple and the community at large.

Michael is the father of three daughters and one son. He is also the proud grandpa of three grandchildren.

Contact Mike

Nan Honig

Nan Honig, Early Childhood Operations Manager

Nan joined the Temple Emanu-El Early Childhood Education Program staff in July 2018. Prior to joining the staff, Nan spent eight years on the Temple’s board of trustees where she served as the Vice President for Education for six years. In this capacity she worked closely with the ECE and YLE programs in visioning and strategic planning.

Prior to TEE, Nan spent her career as a management consultant for a “big four” accounting and consulting firm, providing strategic and financial planning services to health care and other non-profit organizations. She earned her Masters of Public Administration in Public and Non-Profit Management from NYU and her Bachelor of Science in Management from Tulane University.

Nan “grew-up” in the Reform movement, holding board positions on her regional NFTY board, attending URJ’s camp OSRUI and teaching Hebrew at local synagogues in both high school and college. She and her husband Dave live in Westfield with their son Benjamin and their fluffy dog Sophie.

Contact Nan

Meet the rest of our team!

Jackie Master

Office Manager

Laurie Zinberg

Executive Assistant

Carol Jassin

Clergy Assistant/Tributes

Joanne Pass

B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator

Claire Bernstein

Early Childhood Administrative Assistant

Not pictured:

  • Adele Mambach – Accounts receivable
  • Jackie Hernandez – YLE Administrative Assistant

Photo credit: Josh Levine Photo

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