Meet our talented and dedicated administration team.
Dr. Dan Ahlstrom, Ed.D., Head of School, has served as a Head of School since 2014. His first appointment as a Head followed a four-year tenure as Assistant Head of School for Tucson Hebrew Academy, a K-8 community Jewish Day School in Tucson, AZ.
Dan then became Head of School for Beth Yeshurun Day School (BYDS), an infant-Grade 5, community Jewish Day School in Houston, TX. When Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017, the BYDS campus was destroyed. Dan saw the school through a multi-million dollar campaign to rebuild the campus and established an endowment.
In 2020, Dan became Head of School for The Montessori School of San Antonio, TX, rebuilding the school’s enrollment and program following the spring shut down of on-campus learning due to Covid.
Dan began his professional life as a Kindergarten teacher at a public school in Sacramento, CA. He then joined the faculty at Sacramento Country Day School, an independent PK-12 school. During his time there, Dan served as the Director of Co-Curriculum, a Department Head, and a music teacher.
Dan received his undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Music, from Case Western Reserve University. He earned a Master of Arts in Music from the University of Utah, and a Doctor of Education in Leadership, Policy, and Administration from Pepperdine University.
David Ackerman, Ph.D., Director of Jewish Living and Learning, has worked in both Jewish camp and school settings and at all levels of Jewish education, from early childhood to graduate education. He comes to Heilicher after directing JCC Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education. Previously he served as Director of School Services at the BJE of Greater Los Angeles and as Dean of the Fingerhut School of Education at the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University).
David was the founding Educational Director of the Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, California. He received his Ph.D. in special education at UCLA and was instrumental in establishing numerous programs for Jewish children with disabilities. David teaches widely on Jewish identity, Israel, prayer and spirituality, friendship, and inclusion and disabilities. Jewish music is his primary avocation: Yiddish folksong, klezmer mandolin, Israeli folk music, and baroque recorder. He is an avid road cyclist and enjoys building up his bikes himself. David currently is baking his way through the Jewish canon of mandelbrot, rugelach, kichel, strudel, and babka.
Ali Berdass, B.S., M.A., Benefit Coordinator/Advancement Associate, earned her bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology from Indiana University and master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Minnesota. Ali is a Heilicher graduate and parent of three Heilicher students and has worked as a volunteer coordinator and benefit manager for the school since 2018. Ali and her husband, Josh, live in Minnetonka with their three girls. Ali enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the pool, and keeping busy driving kids from their many activities.
Batsheva Berman, Hebrew Language Coordinator/Grades 5-8 Jewish Studies Teacher, was born and raised in Israel and served in an education unit of the Israeli Army. Batsheva teaches both Hebrew Language and Holy Studies/Limudei Kodesh/לימודי קודש in Hebrew and has pioneered a Torah study track conducted entirely in Hebrew, for which she wrote the curriculum for grades 5-7. Before coming to Heilicher she taught Hebrew Language at Torah Academy in Minneapolis for 20 years and wrote all of the holiday programs for the school. She was also in charge of the summer Hebrew program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin for 20 years. Batsheva continues her education by taking summer classes in teaching a second language at the Karla Institute at the University of Minnesota and taking Torah study classes at the Pardes and Herzog Institutes in Israel.
Ryan Bradley, IT, earned his B.S. in information systems with a minor in educational leadership and a B.S. in cybersecurity and information assurance.
Rivka Buchbinder, School's Out Program Coordinator/Substitute, earned her bachelor’s of science in elementary education and minored in film and religion at Augsburg University. She also received a certification in American Sign Language from North Hennepin Community College. Rivka is an alumna of Heilicher and had the opportunity to complete her student teaching in one of the Heilicher classrooms. She has also been a part of the HaBonim program for the past five years. Rivka enjoys photography, spending time with friends and family, reading, and watching movies.
Annie Byrne, Operations Assistant, earned her B.A. degree from St. Katherine's University, with a focus on English and studio art. She also has a Culinary Certificate from the Art Institutes International MN and assists Chef Liz in the Heilicher kitchen. Annie has worked in administration in several different fields, including restaurants, retail and her own small business: Fancy Plants Plantmongers. Annie was born and raised in the Twin Cities, and when she's not in the office, she's out exploring nature with her partner and pets.
Britton Cook, M.S., Library Specialist, earned her B.A. in English from the University of Florida and her M.S. in education from Neuman University. Britton taught at the upper elementary level in both public and private schools in Florida, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania before moving to Minnesota and joining the Heilicher faculty in July of 2015. Britton lives in Edina with her husband, Tom. They have a daughter in Minnesota and sons in Utah and Georgia. When she is not at school, Britton can be found reading, doing anything outdoors, or traveling.
Deborah Getsug, Admissions Director, came to Heilicher from the Sabes JCC’s Early Childhood Center as Assistant Director. She has an extensive background in education, and holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and Teaching from Loyola University as well as an undergraduate degree in Fine and Studio Arts. Our interview committee was impressed by Deborah’s creativity, knowledge and experience in both art and STEAM education, understanding of best practices in the field, and extensive relationships throughout the Twin Cities Jewish community.
Karen Hoppe, Director of Finance, grew up in Bemidji, Minnesota, and has been in Minneapolis since 1989. She earned her B.A. in business management from Bethel College and her Executive M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. Karen has served in various finance leadership roles in the nonprofit sector—most recently as the Vice President of Finance and Operations for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter (Association), where she was responsible for operations, finance, and HR functions as well as oversight of internal IT operations. Prior to joining the management team at the Association, Karen was the controller and the CFO at the Minneapolis Jewish Federation for 12 years. Karen and her husband, Steve, reside in Minnetonka and have a married daughter. In her spare time, Karen enjoys playing piano, spending time with her husband, doing gardening, taking long walks, and spending time with her granddaughter.
Liz Kaplan, Head Chef, studied at culinary school in Vancouver, Canada, and then spent three years cooking in Italy. Before coming to Heilicher, she was the Executive Sous Chef at Lucia’s in Uptown Minneapolis for four years. She lives in south Minneapolis with her husband, who is also a chef, and their young children. Liz spends her free time in the backyard with her family tending to her vegetable garden and raising chickens.
Mike Madigan, Security Liaison/Substitute, was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and moved to the Twin Cities in 1978. After studying business in college, Mike met his wife Becky while working for her mother's deli and catering business here in St. Louis Park. Following the birth of their children, Elizabeth and Joshua, he began his most rewarding career move to becoming a stay-at-home dad. When Elizabeth began attending Heilicher in first grade, Mike began working part-time at the JCC. Initially working at the fitness desk, he soon realized he missed working with children and took a position upstairs at Sasha's Playspace Daycare. Nearly 10 years later he transitioned to Heilicher, where he has worked as a physical education teacher, substitute teacher, and security liaison. Mike appreciates working in the same building where his children went to school and enjoys being part of this wonderful community.
Lee Metzger, Athletic Director/Physical Education Teacher, was born and raised in Sioux Falls, S.D., and holds a B.S. in health, physical education & recreation from South Dakota State University. He has been involved with athletics in many areas including: training camp for the Minnesota Vikings, coordinating youth sports leagues, coaching, and officiating. Lee enjoys going to the lake, camping, hiking, golf, and going to the movies.
N. Melegari (Mel) Newman, Logistics Director, earned her B.S. in communication arts with a major in theater and dance and a minor in music from the University of Wisconsin–Superior. Mel came to Heilicher in 1996 because she feels that facilitating the education of children (our future) is important and rewarding. Mel and her husband, Scott, have three children and have hosted several exchange students from Brazil and Germany. In her non-school time, she loves to cook and travel. She especially values the cross-spiritual enlightenment she gains by working within this community.
Katie Ruff, RN Certified School Nurse and COVID-19 Coordinator, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of St. Catherine. She was born and raised in Minneapolis but was drawn to Colorado where she met her husband and raised their two children. Katie returned to Minneapolis to be near her large family. Her nursing career has provided the opportunity to work in many areas of the health field, including pediatrics, infection prevention, and, most recently, COVID at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. When not at work, Katie enjoys outdoor winter and summer activities, baking, gardening, and crafts.
Jeremy Savran, After-School Activities Coordinator, is a graduate of Clayton High in St. Louis, Missouri. After studies in film and video at Chicago's Columbia College, he began working as a camp counselor and eventually program director at Jewish day camps in St. Louis. Jeremy joined the Heilicher team in 2020 as a full-time substitute and has loved every day of it! During the summer he worked at Camp Olami as a program director/communications manager. Jeremy is very much looking forward to taking on his new role this year as the School’s Out director.
Don Schlueter, C.P.A. (inactive), Controller, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and has lived in the Twin Cities metro since 1978. He earned his B.B.A in accounting from Loyola University in Chicago. Don started in public accounting as an auditor and has held financial positions with various nonprofit and for-profit companies. Don and his wife, Julie, live in Maple Grove and have two sons out west and four grandchildren. In his spare time, Don enjoys reading, being an avid sports fan, and working on a model of the USS Constitution.
Courtney Shaw, Director of Student Services, earned her B.S. in Latin education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, her M.A. in education from Hamline University, and a professional certificate in neurodiversity and learning disabilities with an emphasis on executive skills coaching from Landmark College. For more than 15 years, she has been supporting and empowering students to recognize and appreciate themselves as unique learners, maximizing their strengths and addressing their challenges. She has worked at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Southview Middle School in Edina, Blake, and Groves Academy. In her free time she enjoys running, searching for her textile craft talent, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.
Michael Simon, Database Manager, earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, with a major in business management and double minors in marketing and business administration. Prior to joining Heilicher, Michael was the operations manager at a local health care IT consulting firm where he handled database management, onboarding and offboarding staff, contracting, payroll, and vendor relations. Michael and his husband, Rabbi Michael Latz, have two children, Noa and Gray.
Rebecca Skelton, M.P.A, Institutional Advancement Director, earned her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her M.P.A from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining Heilicher, Rebecca served as the Director of Community Development for the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, overseeing the Federation’s allocations, strategic planning, and research activities. Prior to relocating to Minnesota in 1997, Rebecca served as Legislative Director for the Union of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she advocated on a wide range of federal policy issues and created the Reform Jewish Movement’s first grassroots, state policy structure. She also served as the Washington Representative of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, working with members of Congress and the executive branch on policy and funding issues of importance to Chicago-area Jewish agencies and institutions. Rebecca also has worked as a Legislative Assistant with the CJF-Washington Action Office.
Rebecca is married to Shepard Harris, a lobbyist with the law firm of Fredrikson and Byron and the mayor of Golden Valley. They have three children, all of whom are Heilicher alumni.
Jackie Smith, M.ED., Director of General Studies, joined Heilicher following two years as the Assistant Principal at Crossroads Elementary Montessori and Science Schools in St. Paul. After spending many years as an English Language Learning teacher in the public schools, Jackie moved into a variety of leadership roles, serving as an instructional coach and facilitator in both the Robbinsdale and St. Paul school districts. She served as a Master Teacher in the College of Biological Sciences Teacher Cohort at the University of Minnesota (UMN), and facilitated a multi-year, professional teacher exchange program in Bolivia. Jackie holds a Masters Degree in Education from UMN and an Education Specialist Degree from Concordia College, and holds a Minnesota Principals License. Our team was impressed with Jackie’s deep professional knowledge and administrative expertise, broad experience in the field, personal warmth, and commitment to values-based education.
Victoria (Vic) Thor, Art Teacher/Middle School Coordinator, earned her B.A. magna cum laude in art history and studio arts with minors in Jewish studies and Spanish from the University of Minnesota. Vic joined the Heilicher faculty in 1999. She coordinates Heilicher’s Art Adventure program, an art appreciation and history program in conjunction with the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She is particularly interested in integrating art with other areas of study, such as natural sciences and technology. Vic serves on the Sabes JCC Tychman Shapiro Gallery committee. Beyond children and art, she is interested in travel, wildlife and habitat preservation, gardening, and reading. Vic is the proud parent of two Heilicher alumni: Josef and Lily. Her family also includes husband, Marty Harris, a professional illustrator and graphic designer, and two adopted retired racing greyhounds.
Elana Warren, Marketing Associate, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in journalism, minors in English and Spanish, and a certificate in editing and publishing. Elana concurrently works as the Assistant Editor at the American Jewish World. She also substitute teaches and teaches at Sharei Chesed and Beth El synagogues. Prior to coming to Heilicher, Elana served as the Assistant Copy Desk Chief at the Minnesota Daily. Elana enjoys theater and spending time with family, friends, and dogs.