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A Team of Dedicated and Talented Professionals

Jerry Kiewe, Executive Director

Jerry has served as Executive Director of Ohr Kodesh Congregation since October, 2007. Jerry began his professional career serving as staff for the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) in Baltimore, then South Florida and then New Jersey. He went on to serve in various roles at PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, as Executive Director of a Baltimore-based Israel agency, and as Building Director for one of the two JCC facilities in Baltimore. Since 1995, Jerry has also maintained a part-time position as Educational Director of the Columbia Jewish Community School (CJCS). Jerry has participated in and led numerous Jewish educational trips to Israel, the former Soviet Union, Russia, and Poland. Jerry earned his B.A. in Social Work and Sociology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in 1983. He went on to obtain three Masters degrees; in Social Work from the University of Maryland (1985), and in Judaic Studies (1985) and then Jewish Education (1997) from the Baltimore Hebrew University. Jerry resides in Baltimore with his wife, Suzanne, and two young adult children, Micah and Tamar.  An older child, Zephan Blaxberg, is married and resides nearby in Reisterstown, MD. 

Direct Line: (240) 450-3486    Email: 

Joanie Smeltz, Director of the Ohr Kodesh Early Childhood Center

Joanie has been the Director of the Ohr Kodesh Early Childhood Center since 1991. She received a B.S degree from West Chester University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Joanie lives with her husband Bruce in Columbia, Maryland. She has three married children and is the very proud and joyful grandmother (“GJ” Grandma Joanie) of six grandsons. The Ohr Kodesh Early Childhood Center (OKECC) in 2008, under Joanie’s leadership, was chosen as one of 12 pilot schools in the country to be awarded a three-year-grant to elevate the quality of Jewish Early Childhood Education.

Direct Line: (240) 450-3488     Email:

Rachel Lang, Director of Teen and Community Engagement

Rachel grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with honors from Towson University with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. After graduating from college, Rachel worked for an educational non-profit in Baltimore City before moving to California. While in California, she entered into the world of Jewish Education when she went to work at Congregation Kol Shofar, in Tiburon, as a Hebrew school teacher, youth group adviser, and eventually the administrative assistant for the education department. Rachel became a member of the OKC staff, as the Director of Youth and Family Programming, in the summer of 2016. She currently lives in Rockville with her family.

Direct Line: (240) 450-0676    Email:

Wilhelmina Gottschalk, Interim Education Director

Wilhelmina Gottschalk has worked at Ohr Kodesh in a variety of roles since 2014, including four years spent as the pedagogical coordinator for the OKC Early Childhood Center (ECC). She has a master’s degree in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. As the Alvin Browdy Religious School returns to in-person learning, Wilhelmina is interested in finding ways to emphasize community building and a sense of belonging among the students at Ohr Kodesh.

Direct Line: (240) 450-3487    Email:

Ilana Meltzer, Ner Tamid Fellow 

Ilana grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and joined Ohr Kodesh in 2010. Ilana is currently a junior in college at Montgomery College. Ilana has a passion for the Jewish community and childhood education. Ilana joined the the Ohr Kodesh staff in 2012 as a teen Shabbat crew member and also volunteered with the Alvin Browdy Religious school. Since 2018, Ilana has been leading Shabbat Youth programming and as October 3, 2021 has begun the role as the Ner Tamid Fellow assisting Youth, Family, and Religious School programs as well as many more administrative and design tasks for the congregation.

Direct Line: (240) 450-3483

Rachel Evenson, Communications and Development Associate

Rachel joined the staff of Ohr Kodesh in June of 2018. She is a graduate of East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, NC where she got her bachelor of science in applied sociology. While at college she was the president of the student board of Hillel at ECU, and actively worked to grow the Hillel’s participation on campus.  She was involved in Jewish activities in and around Durham, North Carolina, and has a passion for work that will benefit the Jewish community.

For the last three years, Rachel has worked at Ohr Kodesh as the Ner Tamid Fellow assisting Youth, Family and Religious School programs as well as many more administrative and design tasks for the congregation. Beginning July 2021, Rachel starts her new role as Communications and Development Associate as she continues on her path of nonprofit management, fundraising, and helping the Ohr Kodesh community. 

Direct Line: (240) 427-5376   Email:

Laura Smolar, Administrative Assistant to the Clergy

A native of Baltimore, Laura is a highly trained administrator with a background working in the nonprofits, including in philanthropy, fundraising, and legislative research. Laura also has over twenty years of experience teaching students with a wide range of learning styles. In addition to her expertise in organizational and administrative management, Laura has an extensive Jewish educational background and experience in Hebrew language instruction. Laura holds a B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University, a Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and a postgraduate degree in Education from George Washington University. Laura is excited to be working with Rabbi Helfand and Cantor Labovitz and getting to know the members of the Ohr Kodesh community.

Direct Line: (240) 450- 3489    Email:

Ellen Feldman, Financial Manager

Ellen has extensive experience in all aspects of accounting operations, budgeting, analysis, and project management. As a Vice  President and divisional controller at Bank of America, Ellen continually focused on efforts to improve operational efficiency and also successfully implemented many acquisitions and divestitures. In addition to the banking industry, her career has included finance positions in advertising, investment banking, and property management. Ellen studied accounting at the University of Maryland, and has degrees in Economics and Psychology from the University of Rochester. Outside of the office, Ellen is involved with the leadership development and mentoring of young adults and also volunteers her time in Montgomery County schools. Ellen and her family live in Rockville, Maryland.

Direct Line: (240) 450-3484    Email:

Dennis Concepcion, Facility and Technology Manager

Dennis joined Ohr Kodesh in November 2011. Among his immediate priorities will be furthering efforts to upgrade our website and database, streamlining many of our routine event planning and helping to move forward a number of facility improvements. 
Dennis has had 14 years of experience in event management and customer services. His career included the successful delivery of a variety of events for organizations like the American Healthcare Institute and American Society of Appraisers. He also served as the Client Services Manager for a leading national provider of fundraising/membership database software and support services for the not-for-profit community. 

Direct Line: (240) 450-0672    Email:

Wed, May 25 2022 24 Iyyar 5782