Our Staff

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MERRIL FEINSTEIN

Director

Merril has been involved in early childhood education for her entire professional life. Before coming to Brotherhood, Merril worked at the All Soul's School and the AJ Heschel School, both in Manhattan. She served as a mentor for students at the Jewish Theological Seminary and as a literacy staff-developer for the NYC Board of Education. Merril was also a member of the education department at Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University. When Merril is not functioning as Director of the Brotherhood Synagogue Nursery School, she serves on the board of the Jewish Early Childhood Association. Recently, Merril helped train UPK staff in mathematics for young children. On the national level, Merril has been involved in professional advocacy issues for early-childhood professionals as a staff member for the Coalition for Advancement on Jewish Education (CAJE). Merril holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from the Bank Street College Graduate School of Education.

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STEPHANIE VILASUSO  
Teacher

Stephanie was born just over the GW bridge and lived in NJ before moving to Tampa Bay for 16 years.  She earned her B.A. in International Affairs at the University of South Florida.  She came into childcare upon returning to the tri-state area by becoming a full time nanny for a Manhattan family.  This relationship bridged the connection to Chelsea Day School where she became a floater for the 2’s classes.  She was then promoted to associate teacher of a 2’s class. Stephanie is currently earning her Childcare Management Certificate at NYU.  

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ABIGAIL FRANKFURT
Teacher

Abigail received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University while teaching at The Greenwich House in the West Village. She continued to work in early childhood education while furthering her studies at Hunter College and finally getting a Master’s from The New School of Social Research. She was born and raised in Manhattan and is one of six children.

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LAURIE PULTMAN
Teacher 

Laurie was born and raised in Sharon, Massachusetts, and received her BS in Psychology from Boston University. She then moved to New York City where she earned her Masters Degree in Early Childhood General Education from Bank Street College of Education. Laurie has taught children ages 3-5 in various school settings in New York, Massachusetts, and Israel. She joined the Brotherhood team in 2018 in the Blue Room and has enjoyed being a member of the Brotherhood community! This year Laurie is looking forward to teaching the 3 and 4-year-olds in the Red Room! 

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NAOKO MORIYAMA-ROBBINS
Movement

Naoko was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan. After arriving in the United States in 1988 she established the Japanese parenting and nursery school program for Japanese-American children at the Educational Alliance. At the same time, she established her Creative Movement and Ballet at Peridance. Now she teaches at several venues including the 92nd Street Y, Park Avenue Synagogue, and Peridance. Naoko is also a master trainer and owner of Gyrotonic® on Broadway.

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SARA COHEN 
Assistant to the Director

Sara grew up in an Orthodox home in Brooklyn, NY. Her parents, one a Holocaust survivor, both immigrants, stressed the importance of Jewish education, strong family units, and hard work. Their devotion to Judaism and its traditions, unwavering and deep-rooted, has guided Sara throughout her life. Sara came to Brotherhood Synagogue with her husband, Stephen, to celebrate their aufruf in 2004. Not long after, with two young children, they became members of the community. Sara studied buying and merchandising at FIT, simultaneously working as a buyer. For the past 25 years, she held various positions both in retail and wholesale markets. Sara hopes to bring her management and customer service skills to her present role. She is excited to be further involved in the Brotherhood community.

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RIVKI DIAMONT
Teacher 

Rivki began teaching preschool in Center City, Philadelphia, after studying in a girls' teaching program in Jerusalem. She moved to New York in 2007 and resides in Brooklyn with her husband, Yossi, and their four wonderful children, Mendel, Henna, Dovid, and Ari. Rivki went to Touro College where she earned her B.A. in Liberal Arts (concentrating in psychology, early childhood, and special education) and later received an M.A. in special education. No stranger to the Brotherhood Synagogue Nursery School, Rivki has worked here since 2007. For her first three years, Rivki worked as Director's assistant, after which she started teaching in the Yellow Room. 

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ANNABELLE MARTIN
Teacher

Annabelle was born and raised in NYC. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she received her BA in sociology and her certificate in social work. Upon graduating, she traveled abroad working with children ages 4-17. Annabelle returned to New York in the summer of 2017 and has been teaching children ages 2-4 since. She is currently entering her second year at Bank Street College of Education where she is working towards her Masters Degree in Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention. This will be Annabelle’s first year at Brotherhood and is excited to become a member of the community!

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AREEFA AIRAN 

Assistant Teacher

Areefa was born and raised in Guyana, South America before settling in New York. Areefa has worked in child care for the past 15 years and she loves children. In her spare time, Areefa loves to cook, listen to music, dance, and read. She recently joined the Brotherhood team and is looking forward to working in the Yellow Room.  

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LISA Y. KARLIN L.C.S.W. 
Early Childhood Consultant

Lisa Karlin, a clinical social worker, comes to the Brotherhood Synagogue as our Early Childhood consultant. Lisa has worked with highly respected schools and programs around New York City. She has a degree in social work degree from NYU. Lisa has done course work at Bank Street and she studied family dynamics at The Ackerman Institute as well. A lifelong New Yorker, Lisa's post-graduate education has focused on child development and special education and she maintains a private practice in Brooklyn Heights. She loves nothing more than spending time with children and teachers in the classroom, and meeting with parents. Lisa looks forward to getting acquainted with you and is delighted to be a part of the Brotherhood Community.