MEET THE STAFF
Mara Braunfeld, Director of the Bert and Sandra Wasserman Center for Family Life and Director of Programs for
Infants + Young Children
Originally from Texas, Mara's identity and early Jewish experiences were strongly influenced by her family, participation in youth groups, and summers spent at the URJ Greene Family Camp. She earned a BA from Brandeis University and a Masters in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. For eight years she was the Director of Education at a synagogue in Westchester and oversaw the Religious School for over 600 students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.
Patria Diaz, Associate Director of Programs for
Infants + Young Children
As a teen intern from the Beacon H.S, Patria volunteered in various Young Families classes at the JCC in 2004. While attending Lehman College, Patria returned to the JCC as assistant teacher for toddler programs such as ballet, cooking, science and art. She later became administrator of programs for the department and lead teacher in 2s Together, My Little Clubhouse, and My Art Studio. She continues her work in the office overseeing and developing programs for parenting and children 4 & under. Patria's son Anthony is a proud alumni of the JCC Nursery School, and a fan of all school age programs and camps. For the past 10 years, Patria has been devoted to creating community and meaningful programming for Upper West Side families.
Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, Director of Jewish Journeys
Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi has worked in Jewish education for over 25 years, heading both a community congregational school and two Hebrew high schools. She is the co-editor of Sacred Intentions: Morning Inspiration to Strengthen the Spirit, Based on Jewish Wisdom. Lori has rabbinic Ordination from JTS and is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley. She lives in Teaneck with her husband, Simcha and daughter, Maya.
Gabriella Kula, Director of Havurah
Gabriella has been the Director of Havurah since 2013. She attended Jewish day school and then earned her BA in Art History from the University of Michigan and her MSEd, with a focus in museum education, from Bank Street College of Education. Gabriella has worked in classrooms, art studios, and museums with children of all ages, but especially loved teaching at Havurah prior to becoming the program’s director. In addition to working at the JCC, Gabriella is an educator for youth, family, adult, and access audiences at The Jewish Museum, The Noguchi Museum, and The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Tal Magaril, Director of School-age Programs
Tal recently graduated from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College where she majored in Sociology. During her time at school, she interned at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and completed social research on the biking habits of NYC cyclists. A long time camp counselor, Tal is an avid believer in positive youth development and leading by example. At the JCC, the highlight of Tal's day is picking up the nursery school students and hearing them chatter excitedly about going to Clubhouse and their After School classes.
Michelle Wexler, Center for Family Life Tween Coordinator
Michelle Wexler joined the Center for Family Life in 2017 after a year-long social work internship with Adaptations in the Center for Special Needs. Michelle graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in American Studies and in Social Justice, Social Change. She graduated with her MSW from Columbia School of Social Work with a focus on advanced general practice and programming in 2017. Prior to coming to the JCC, Michelle worked with children, teens, and adults of all abilities in recreational and educational settings. Michelle serves as the tween coordinator in the Center for Family Life and a Unit Head at Camp Settoga over the summer. Michelle also currently serves as the coordinator for Boost! and Transitions in the Center for Special Needs.
Jon Zeftel, Director of BBYO
Jon grew up in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from Penn State University in 2009 with a BA in sociology and French, he spent a year working as a mental health specialist in a residential treatment facility in Buffalo. After that, he worked for 10 months in Montpellier, France, teaching English to high schoolers. After moving to New York City in 2011, he taught summer camp sports at New Country Day Camp of the 14th Street Y for three summers, then spent a year at Manhattan Youth, a community center in TriBeCa, as an assistant after school director. Before coming to the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, he worked at YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood 2013 until June 2017. Jon received his master's degree in Urban Policy and Leadership at Hunter College in December of 2015. He is excited to be a part of two amazing organizations: BBYO and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan!
Genna Singer, Director of JCC Camps
Genna Singer joined the staff at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in June 2002, assisting the day camp director during the first summer of camp. Genna grew up attending day camp and overnight camp, and worked as a staff member in overnight camp for 5 years. In September of 2002, Genna became the Director of After School Programs at the JCC, while maintaining an active role in the summer camps as well.
In September of 2006, Genna became the Director of Camps. She developed our outdoor camp, the Day Camp @ Pearl River while also maintaining our programs at the JCC: the Day Camp @ the JCC, and Summer Stock Theater Camp. Genna combines a love of children, a passion for camp, and a desire to help families find their place at the JCC as she plans for the summer. Whether outside in Pearl River, visiting the pool deck on the 6th floor, or wandering in and out of classrooms on the 2nd floor, Genna marvels as each child finds a new bit of his/herself at the JCC Summer Camps.
Nessa Geffen, Program Director, Camp Settoga
Nessa has an M.A. in Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. She graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in both Music History and Jewish Social Studies. In her Sophomore year of College she studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rothberg International School. While in her M.A. program, she taught Hebrew language to 3rd and 5th graders at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue on the upper west side of Manhattan. Before coming to Camp Settoga, Nessa lived in Jerusalem, and worked for KIVUNIM as the Associate Director of Community Outreach and Alumni Engagement. Prior to that, Nessa worked as a Graduate student intern at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) writing a curriculum for their short-term college-age service learning trips around the world. Nessa went to Camp Ramah in Canada for seven summers, and then worked there as a counselor and unit head for seven summers. Nessa loves camp and is so excited to spend her summer at Camp Settoga!
Adam Metzger, Director, Camp Settoga
Adam began working at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan 6 years ago as a floating teacher and a coach for after school sports. He was also a coach at the Day Camp @ Pearl River for 2 summers (2010 and 2011). He has spent most summers as a camper, counselor or specialist at various camps around the country and feel very much at home in the camp environment. He is currently a Head Teacher in the Nursery School and on the Leadership Team. He received his M.S.T. in Early Childhood General and Special Education from The Graduate School of Education at Fordham University. Adam believes that children are capable and creators of their own knowledge, and that community is at the heart of what we do both as Early Childhood Educators and members of a Day Camp Staff. Adam is excited to move our campers and staff to our new home at Camp Settoga.
Sari Lipschitz, Site Director, Day Camp @ The JCC
Sari Lipschitz began working at the JCC 6 summers ago at the JCC Day Camp in Manhattan. In previous summers, Sari worked as the art specialist, and for the last two summers, has taken on the role of snack specialist. Sari currently works as the Atelierista in the Saul & Carol Zabar Nursery School. In this role, she helps to supply the children with a creative learning environment to further explore new and old materials in various ways. She received her Masters degree in early childhood general education and special education from Fordham University. Sari is looking forward to spending the summer with you and your children!
Aquatics, Arts, Athletics, Cooking,
Gymnastics + Performing Arts
Darren Michel AKA Coach Darren,
Senior Director of Athletics
Darren Michel has been coaching children of all ages on the Upper West and Upper East Sides for the past 25 years. He studied finance at New York University, and after spending one year working on Wall Street, he realized his passion for working with children, and has being doing so ever since. Darren is the youngest of seven children, and was raised in a home where sports were omnipresent. He played many sports throughout high school and college, but he specializes in playing and teaching tennis and lacrosse. Darren has worked at the JCC since January 2002. He is currently the Senior Director of Athletics and also acts as the sports specialist for the Saul and Carol Zabar Nursery School and the 2’s Together program at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.
Director of JCC Aquatic Programs
Kathy originally moved to New York to be a journalist and TV announcer. After working at Mirabella Magazine, New York Newsday, Sports Illustrated for Kids, ABCSports.com, ABCNEWS.com, Good Morning America, and NBCSports.com, she came back to her first love...swimming. She began working at the JCC in 2002 where she taught swim lessons to children of the JCC Summer Camp. Since then, Kathy has taught many, many swim lessons to children and adults of all ages. Kathy still swims herself and loves the fact that she helps make swimming fun for kids and their parents.
Mary Beth Roe,
Health Club + Athletics Operations Coordinator
Mary Beth, who initially joined the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2008 teaching summer tumbling classes, was a gymnast and cheerleader throughout her life. She began as a tumbling toddler and ended as a Syracuse University Cheerleader, where she cheered on the Orange basketball and football teams and competed in the UCA National Championships. After graduating in 2011 and working in a financial institution for one year, she decided to continue her love of gymnastics and working with children. She returned to the JCC in the fall of 2012 and became director in early 2013.
Carolina Stapleton, Director, Infants & Young Children Aquatics + Settoga Aquatics Director
Carolina was born and raised in Brazil. She came to New York as an international correspondent and end up staying for good. Looking to add an extra job and some fun into her reporting career, Carolina became a lifeguard and certified swim instructor in 2009. She joined the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in 2012 as a swimming instructor and short after became part of the Aquatics Department, she worked as an Aquatic Director for the JCC Day Camp in 2014 and Day Camp in Pearl River in 2015. Today Carolina is still teaching kids to swim, to be safe and love the water. She has two young kids and lives in Pearl River, NY.
To learn more about our coaches, visit Meet the Coaches page.