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Our Staff

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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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Valerie Baez

Valerie was born and raised in NYC. She is a mother to a young toddler and is excited to return to the classroom after taking some time away to raise her son. Valerie has over 13 years of experience working at the preschool level with children ranging from ages 6 months old to 4 years old. She recently completed a summer program at Chelsea Day School, and prior to that spent 9 years at the West Side YMCA working as a lead teacher in the infant/toddler classroom. Valerie is a current student at CUNY School of Professional Studies where she is in her final year completing a Liberal Arts degree. She intends to continue her studies at CUNY SPS for a Masters in Psychology. Valerie is very excited to join, learn and grow from the Brotherhood Community!



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. 



Annabelle was born and raised in NYC. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she received her BA in Sociology and certificate in Social Work.  Upon graduating, she spent time abroad working with children ages 4-17. Annabelle returned to New York in 2017 and has been teaching children ages 2-4 since. She earned her MA from Bank Street College of Education in Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention. Annabelle is thrilled to be back teaching at Brotherhood Nursery School. 



Danielle was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She got her undergraduate degree in speech language pathology and audiology at the University of Texas at Dallas. She worked as a nanny through college and upon graduation gave a year of national service with the AmeriCorps program City Year, serving as a tutor, mentor and role model in a 6th grade math class. After a brief stint in a cubicle land office job, she joined the ECE at Akiba Academy, a modern orthodox day school in Dallas. She was a toddler teacher there for 5 years. New York is her latest adventure where she is pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is absolutely thrilled to be joining the Brotherhood team!



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.


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.

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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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Claire Bassett

Claire was born and raised in New York City. She attended Purchase College where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in photography.  She has worked with children for over 25 years, including having worked in several independent progressive schools in NYC.  As well, Claire lived abroad working with children in Brazil and Italy. Passionate about progressive education Claire is excited to be a part of the Brotherhood community!

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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 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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Jillian was born and raised in New York City. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated in 2021 with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a certificate in Disability Rights and Services. After graduating, Jillian worked at a local preschool in Wisconsin as a 3’s Head Teacher and upon her return to NYC she worked as a head teacher for the Turning 2’s Program at the JCC. This fall, Jillian will begin her Master’s Degree at Hunter College, where she will work towards a MSED focusing specifically on Early Childhood. Jillian has worked with children ages 2-8 in a variety of settings for over 7 years and is so excited to start her journey at Brotherhood this coming fall!



Music Specialist

Widely regarded as one of the top clarinetists and composers of his generation, Etkin was recently voted #1 rising star clarinetist in DownBeat Magazine’s Critic’s Poll. He has recorded numerous albums including a GRAMMY Award Winning compilation.

His passion for music started early and by the age of nine, he was playing piano, guitar, violin, and saxophone. After falling in love with the music of Louis Armstrong, Etkin’s parents took him to visit New Orleans where the legendary Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen briefly took the young Etkin under his wing. Etkin’s passion for teaching springs from his gratitude to the teachers and mentors who shared the gift of music with him, including jazz masters such as Dave Liebman and Yusef Lateef, classical icons like Charles Neidich, Klezmer innovators such as Dave Krakauer, and griot musicians from West Africa. As Etkin tours the world, he gathers melodies, rhythms, stories, and songs that he then shares with the Timbalooloo students and audiences, helping to connect children from diverse cultures through music.

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