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A Team of Dedicated and Talented Professionals

Monica Saff, Executive Director

Monica grew up in New Jersey and lived in Colorado for 10 years before settling in the Baltimore area about 22 years ago. She spent many years as a stay-at-home mom and returned to the workforce in 2010. For eight years, Monica worked at Har Sinai Congregation in various roles, including Director of Communications and Temple Administrator. She also served as Executive Director of B’nai Shalom of Olney and Administrator at Bolton Street Synagogue.

Monica has a BA in English. She is a graduate of the Darrell D. Friedman Institute’s L’Atid Leadership Program. She is a member of NAASE (North American Association of Synagogue Executives) and a Senior Member of NATA (The National Association for Temple Administration). She served on the Editorial Board for the NATA Journal. Monica considers it a privilege to do meaningful work in the synagogue setting and to be part of a team that is inspired by Jewish values and a sense of community.

More than anything, she loves spending time with her three kids, Sam, Sophie, and Rachael, with her stepsons, Alex and Robert, and with her husband, Jeff.

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:

Rabbi Batya Glazer, Director of Lifelong Learning

Batya Glazer was ordained as a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1998 where she also studied at the Davidson School of Jewish Education. She has decades of experience in Jewish education at all levels and in both formal and informal settings. She identifies her first experience as a Jewish educator was as an eight-year-old consultant for her mother who taught 3rd graders in Hebrew school. Working in Jewish Community Relations Councils, Batya built relationships through designing and leading educational programming, dialogue, and coalition-building. She is committed to listening deeply and developing an understanding of the concerns and the cultural context of diverse communities and working closely with lay leaders to bring together representatives and diverse perspectives of the Jewish community. Rabbi Glazer has a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University, a Master of Hebrew Letters degree from The University of Judaism, and a Master’s degree and Rabbinic Ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Batya is the proud mother of Elana, Noah, and Meirav.

Direct Line: (240) 450-0676    Email: 

Wilhelmina Gottschalk, 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:

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:

Dennis Concepcion, Facility and Technology Manager

Dennis joined Ohr Kodesh in November 2011. Among his immediate priorities are 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:

Molly Zatman, Communications Manager

Molly is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, where she received a B.A. in journalism with focuses in investigative journalism and features writing. In her free time, Molly enjoys completing the New York Times crossword, painting in acrylics and oils, and expanding her music taste.


Melanie Winick, Administrative Assistant for Education

A native of the area, Melanie Winick is the Administrative Assistant for Education at Ohr Kodesh Congregation. In her childhood, she was a part of almost every youth program that OKC offered. Melanie attended the ECC as a toddler, graduated from and taught at the religious school, and was on the Board for Ohr Kodesh’s USY chapter. After graduating from Towson University with a B.S. in Mass Communications in the spring of 2022, she is back to work at the synagogue. Melanie is a very positive person and possesses great organizational, research and communication skills. In her free time, she enjoys finding new restaurants to visit and researching new recipes to cook.


Mia Kaufman, Young Children Engagement Specialist

Mia Kaufman is excited to come back to the Ohr Kodesh team as the Young Children Engagement Specialist. In the past, she taught seventh grade at ABRS and has helped with High Holiday youth services. She grew up in Baltimore County and currently resides in Washington, DC. During the week, she is a special education teacher in Montgomery County. In her free time, she enjoys long-distance running, playing board games, hiking, and trying out new recipes for Shabbat. 

Sydney Spanier, Teen Engagement Coordinator

Sydney is originally from Minneapolis, but has been on the East Coast since 2019 after moving to New York to attend Barnard and JTS. Sydney moved to the DMV one year ago after graduating, and is always looking for recommendations on good ice cream and hikes in the area. During the day, she works full time for George Mason Hillel engaging college students, and is excited to expand her Jewish community engagement with the youth at Ohr Kodesh! In her free time Sydney loves pottery, baking, and rock climbing. 

Laila Akselrad, Shaliach (Israel Emmisary)

Laila was born in La Plata, Argentina, but her family moved to Spain soon after, where they lived for 10 years. When she was 12, Laila’s family made aliyah and lived in Kfar Saba. In 2019, she enlisted in the Israeli army and served as a commanding officer in the first phase of training for air force troops, a role in which she taught the soldiers values and love for the country. Her passions are education, dance, and exploring the world and different cultures. She is excited to bring her fields of knowledge to this wonderful community.


Fri, May 24 2024 16 Iyyar 5784